Friday, November 28, 2008

Our Turkey Day Yum-yums!

Thanksgiving dinner was a terrific success. There was plenty of very, very good wine (thank you Danny!), lots of scrumptious food, and the company wasn't bad either.

James made his amazing turkey again this year. Every bite was flavored all the way through with olive oil, pepper, salt, sage, thyme (just to name a few). The turkey was moist, tender and delicately flavored so that if you didn't want to put anything on top of it, there really was no need. But that's not our style at all, we add as much as we can, don't we? There was a really delicious gravy made from the pan drippings. It was thick, creamy and wonderfully aromatic. There was jellied and whole berry cranberry sauce I brought back from the States (score!). The stuffing was maybe the best stuffing I've every had in my life. It was moist, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time. It was packed full of walnuts (the crunch), sweetness (yellow raisins and prunes), salty (celery), and wonderful moist bread dripping with gravy.

The mashed potatoes were so, so buttery and creamy. They were holiday potatoes so no expense or calories were spared in the preparation of these scrumptious potatoes. They're the kind of side dish that were it not for the glorious turkey and the way it was flavored and prepared, would have completely stolen the show. The flavoring was mild, they were full of cream which made them rich and silky along with the aid of a good amount of butter. Melt in your mouth good and so easy to make it almost feels like cheating.

The veggies were a mix of 3 green beans sauteed in butter and lime. They were left slightly al dente depending on which type of bean. Since they all cook at different times they were blanched in boiling water and salt first, then sauteed. There was a buttery delight of peas and carrots. They go so well together and add a contrast for the ultimate creaminess of the potatoes. The corn on the cob was cooked with one part salt to 4 parts sugar, which brought out the natural sweetness in the corn.

The corn bread was fluffy and very flavorful. It was consistent and crumbly at the same time which made for a completely different texture from the rest of the food bringing everything together. A variety of flavors, textures, temperatures coming uniquely combined affording the diner a wonderful experience which is not easily forgotten.

Dessert was a whole 'nother story. My God! Ytala brought a chocolate pecan pie. It was chocolaty, crunchy, and had a perfect crust. It was a major success which was well deserved. The pumpkin pie was velvety, silky, almost mousse like light (but not airy), and had a perfectly flaky crust. There was a cinnamon whipped cream to go with the pie that was amazingly airy and spiced to match the spices in the pumpkin pie, so that the two could join in perfect harmony of sweetness and creaminess, rewarding the guest from beginning to end with a marriage of flavor that is unique and traditional at the same time. Last, but most definitely not least, there was an Autumn Cinnamon Apple Cake served with vanilla ice cream that was a hit last year so much so that people were asking for an encore. It has the consistency of butterscotch brownies with apples and goes so very well with ice cream, it's insane! It's autumn delight in it's best incarnation.

There was a wine to match everything we ate, thanks to our friends who know what they're doing. One of the wines was from a vineyard bought by the Rothschilds and some other strong Illuminati corporations. We joked around that it was a wine "sanctioned by Satan", that after a commercial for the wine there would be a message that said, "I am Lucifer, and I approve this message". But all joking aside, it was pretty amazing wine, so it seems yonder Illuminati people know their stuff. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you ever get a chance to try some wine from a vineyard bought or connected somehow to one of those evil wealthy families, go ahead with our blessing, because it's awesome!

One of the sad things that happened right in the beginning of the meal was that James wine cellar (those little electric thingies) burned out and shut off without his knowledge and the wine stayed in there for about a month before they figured out what had happened. So, he brought the wine knowing that there would be a good chance that the wine would be completely turned, while still holding on to the hope that there would be one or two bottles that would still be good. He started opening his prized wines which he had purchased around the world and one by one, they had unmistakably turned into vinegar. Really good, super expensive vinegar, but vinegar nonetheless. Our hearts go out to James and Greti during this difficult time. We can't begin to understand what you're going through (we don't have any wine that's even half the price of one of those - we have children instead), but if there's anything you need, or any way we can help, please let us know. From dust thou art....(insert funeral music here).

We went around and all said what we were thankful for. It was not as corny as you might think, it was kind of fun. The only one that was a little "whatever" was Fukui-san's father. We had no idea what he was saying because he was mumbling in his own dialect, so there was no way for us to cheer, say "Here, here!", and take a sip of our wine - like we did after everyone else said their thanks.

That pretty much sums up our evening. Let me know in the comments if I left anything out.

Oh, here's an important nugget I almost forgot to mention: today is Angie's birthday. Happy Birthday Angie! May you live long and prosper! Our lives would not be the same without you!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ten things I’m thankful for in no particular order are:

1) Excedrin Migraine – if it weren’t for this bad boy I would not be a happy camper

2) Hermes Hiris, Apres L’Ondee, Fumerie Turque, L’Heure Bleue – my fave perfumes right now. They make me happy.

3) Books – reading a book to me is like taking a trip to wherever, the only form of travel I can afford at the moment.

4) Sebastian Potion 9 – without it my hair would look like I never left the e80’s, and no one wants that.

5) TV- evil does come in nice packages. I am not ashamed to say that I am a fan of many TV shows. Ones I’m especially into right now are: The Mentalist, Dexter, House, Big Bang Theory, Project Runway. My list changes with the seasons.

6) My job – I have a very good job. It pays well, I work from home, and I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder. Everyone I work for is thousands of miles away and doing their thing.

7) Makeup. I would look like a haggard ho without it.

8) My family and our health – even though I’m massively overweight, I’m not a walking incubation tube for viral infection, patient zero, or a breeding ground for bacteria. My children haven’t broken any bones and I pray they never will. They are generally healthy and we can all thank God for that as I’m sure He knows we cannot afford to be sick right now.

9) My new laptop – I love it. I’d forgotten how nice it was to have a super keyboard, and I’m thrilled with all the awesome new programs. Still trying to figure out how to use the new Excel, but I’ll get it eventually.

10) My Kitchen Aid and knives – they make my life easier and I’m very, very thankful for them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Part 1

I just read a hilarious article by genius writer and comedian Dave Barry where he tries to help out his fellow man with a holiday gift giving guide. Men are really terrible at giving gifts, and being a man himself, he sympathizes and tries to do his part to make a difference – or not. He does one of these every year and they’re always fantastic. I honestly don’t know how they find so much junk to buy. You probably couldn’t give away most of those things and yet there are people making and selling them, so there’s got to be at least a couple of suckers buying them. Take the time to read his guide as it will bring much laughter to your day. Regardless of how happy you think you are, you will always be a little happier after a few lines from Dave Barry.

I’m writing a holiday gift guide of my own, but I won’t look for lunatic items and try to persuade you to purchase them with your hard earned tuppins. It won’t be hilarious, but it’ll be helpful. And given the fact that there’s no way to compete with the awesomeness that is Dave Barry, I’ll settle for a serious guide that I’m positive will be helpful if not a life saver.

This is for all of you gift challenged individuals who end up giving crazy man gifts to your sweet and sensitive wives; or to you women who give crazy gifts you buy on the sidewalk from batty old hags (you know who you are).

Here are a couple of guidelines to follow regardless of whom you’re shopping for, what you’re buying, or how much you want to spend:

Always be sure that if you’re going to be giving someone a practical gift, or something they need, that you make it as special as possible. If it’s for a woman, or girl, it should be sparkly and shiny, smell good, or at least be really, really pretty or cute. Never give something useful that is also ugly, they can buy that for themselves. No one wants to unwrap a gift and stare into a box full of brown shoe polish or some such other nonsense.

Only be creative with your gift giving if you know the person really, really well. It’s better to be one of the 4 unimaginative people who give them a T-shirt than to be the fool who embarrasses himself and the receiver by presenting them with year’s supply of condoms.

Most of the time you can make up for giving someone a simple gift by giving it to them in a pretty box or tied with a beautiful ribbon. Boxes may be a bit more costly, but paper and ribbon are not and there’s nothing more beautiful than plain colored wrapping paper with a thick contrasting ribbon, and a huge over-the-top bow.

Here are 10 practical, useful and pretty gifts you can give:

1) Incense. A box full of it. It’s nice to get incense from L’Occitane, but you don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff in order to make a nice gift. Just get a pretty box, not expensive, put some wax paper in, and fill it up with your favorite incense. Make sure to tie it with a beautiful bow and you’re all set.

2) High end shower gear. This includes a nice shower cap, a cool back brush or really awesome loofah. A fluffy towel with embroidered initials (you’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to do this), a comfy robe.

3) Toiletries. Items that fall under this category would be shampoo and conditioner the person might never splurge on and buy for their own penny pinching self, so this is the only time they’ll get some extravagant items for personal hygiene. Soap, liquid or otherwise. When buying soap, make sure it looks well wrapped (rustic old fashioned packaging is the best), comes from a good store or brand, and of course smells good. In general this is a good gift for someone you don’t know really well as a set of small soaps to decorate the hallway bathroom is an impersonal and practical gift. One massive bar is always impressive as well. Lotions are a good idea, just make sure they’re not heavily scented. Unlike soap, they don’t wash off after using.

4) Slippers. Of all kinds, really. Nice terry cloth slippers, fluffy puffy slippers, or just simple Havaianas. Make sure you take some time to wrap them well, but this a practical thing you can give. The cool thing about slippers is, it doesn’t matter how many pairs you have, they’re always welcome. Keep in mind that not everyone likes the colors you like, so keep the colors and design low key and minimalistic.

5) Alcohol. If you know your friend drinks, alcohol is a wonderful and very useful gift. When in doubt, buy spirits. Port and other liquors are best for women and gay men. Wine and whiskey are excellent for men. When you go to a store let the sales associate know how much you intent to spend and have them recommend you the best option for your cents. Many times a very good bottle of wine or liquor won’t break the bank. Even a fantastic beer basket can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Have fun and be creative. Lay the bottle in a box with contrasting wax paper or fabric, like red, burgundy, green or beige.

6) Olive oil. Really nice olive oil your friend or acquaintance would never buy on a normal basis. This is fantastic to have at any meal, and a really good olive oil can cost as much as a good bottle of wine and makes a lovely addition to a quaint dinner party. Flavored olive oils are great fun and can often be purchased in smaller bottles making it more affordable.

7) Tea. Imported, expensive, delicious tea. Here you can either go expensive or keep it light. The way to do this is the following: if you want to spend a good amount of $ on a friend who is a tea fiend, buy a tea box (nice wooden boxes with dividers and usually hand painted) -they don’t cost as much as you think – then fill it up with assorted teas, different brands and flavors. If you don’t want to spend that much, get them either just the box, or just the tea.

8) Kitchen goodies. This category is so vast, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Some things I can think of off the top of my head are: apron, tea cup with brewing filter, tea pot, kettle, coffee cup, glasses, beer stein, knife, utensils (whisk, tongs, peeler), silicone muffin tray, table cloth, kitchen hand towels and dish towels…. etc, and the list goes on.

9) Books. Used or brand new books. They don’t have to be hardcover, although that is really nice. Classics are always good and if at all possible give a book you’ve already read. This makes the gift not just a gift, but a personal recommendation as well.

10) Magazines. Everyone is into something and that something will most likely have one or more magazines geared exclusively towards that interest. You can buy one or more magazines, imported or not, you can make a one year subscription for your friend, whatever you do, make sure it’s a good magazine and has a nice sleek cover, not one of those grainy, ugly things. Take a look at it first and if you think it’s aesthetically pleasing, then by all means, go for it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Gift Guide (if I can think of a few more ideas for you).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Movie Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's

On a scale from 1 to 10 how much do you love the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's"? Few movies can boast of moving the female masses the way this movie has. It not only immortalized Audrey Hepburn as a beautiful ingenue, but it solidified the "little black dress" as the single most important fashion item a woman should own. For years to come when one thinks of the "little black dress" Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" will invariably leap to mind.

The movie is not only a happy place for lovers of fashion and beautiful things but it is also a wonderfully delightful love story. It's funny in all the right places and sweet in the others. The lead actor in the movie, George Peppard, is so dreamy and makes a perfect match for Audrey. That I know of he didn't really do anything else that's blog-worthy, and that's a real shame because I for one would have loved to have seen him in more feature length films. He got into TV later on. Have you ever seen "The A Team"? Well, that's him.

Some of the things I love most about the movie are the quirky things "Holly Golightly" does like: drink milk out of a martini glass, name her cat Cat, smoke with a huge long filter, try to cook mole, and very naively accept payment for visit a mobster once a week in jail. How many normal people do you know who would accept to do that, no matter how much they were getting paid? And she wasn't even getting paid anything significant at all.

In my humble opinion the most fabulous thing she does happens towards the end of the movie when she's about to hear some bad news. She knows what's coming when Paul hands her the letter so she tells him," Hand me the purse darling, a girl can't read this sort of thing without lipstick". How much do you love that? She's positively adorable!

If you haven't seen the movie yet I recommend you run out in all haste and get it. You won't regret it, I promise you. Here's a little taste just to wet your appetite, enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Straight No Chaser!

These guys are so amazing! I saw this last Christmas, along with 7million other people. A record company figured out that 7million views could equal a similar number of record sales so they now have an album out. There are more videos on Youtube, so if you have the time and inclination, go check them out!

Weekend Update: Terror on Av. das Americas 666

This weekend was so much work, but so much fun as well. On Saturday my sister Meury and I had to run some errands. I had to buy some little gifts for my nephews and mail it to them so that they would arrive in the US in time for Christmas. Do you want to know how stupid we were? We went to the mall to do this. The mall, of all places! And it wasn’t just one of those regular Saturdays at the mall where it’s crowded, uncomfortable and feels like you’re walking through the market in Madureira Shopping Rio, no, that would’ve been too much to ask for. This was an overly crowded day at the mall where it felt like we were pushing our way through throngs of tweens at a “High School Musical” concert, or hoards of bratty children at a Saw VIII premiere (or whatever it is kids are watching these days), and they were giving out free popcorn.

There were people running to the exits in a desperate attempt to escape the nightmare they had inadvertently gotten themselves into. There were children throwing exorcist- like fits and seizing on the floor trying to get their parent’s attention. The parents of course were paralyzed with fear, so instead of helping they were contributing to the situation. There were parents who had accidentally wandered into a toy shop and had gone catatonic, completely unable to move or think. There were fathers leaving screaming children with their mothers and running as fast as their feet could take them in an overly crowded mall – which wasn’t very far at all, poor buggers.

There were others who it seems had a lot of practice with demonic fits and were just ignoring their kids and looking at books. It looked like the right thing to do if you were the parent, but if you were the victim/customer, which was my case, it was not. For one, who brings a child to a bookstore that doesn’t have a reading corner for children? If one walks into a book store and there’s no space for small children, one automatically deducts that the bookstore is not set up to inspire infant happiness, therefore it would not be advisable to stay, but leave high tail it out of there and find another more suitable activity for your little angel (and by angel of course I mean spawn of Satan). This is all assuming the parent has all of their faculties in order, which obviously, these particular parents did not. I, of course, gave them my best “I hate you, I HATE YOU! I can’t make up my mind if I like the Prada or Mark Jacobs tote better if your child is screaming bloody murder and squirming on the floor like he’s on fire!” look, but like I said, they were ignoring the child, and it didn’t take much more effort on their part to ignore me as well.

I really hate that the mall is the only practical place to go if you need to buy something. The only reason we went there was because there was no other place we could go that had an endless variety of shops and a post office, a place that is safe and protected from the rain. I’m thrilled that I have absolutely no Christmas shopping to do this year. The reason for this is because I have no money to throw around willy nilly for no better reason other than that it’s what Santa did. This year I bought a couple of things for the babies and as for the rest of my friends and family, they’ll be getting books, used books. There’s nothing as fabulous as receiving a book someone else has read before you, beautifully wrapped, and carefully chosen (except maybe a brand new hardcover, but we’re so not gonna go there). I plan to put a whole lot of thought into each one of the books I give, which should make it acceptable if not special.

Sunday I made homemade pizza. I don’t want to exaggerate and overstate this, plus it seems odd to toot my own horn, so I’ll just say; it was the best pizza in the whole entire universe! There, I said it. It was crispy on the bottom and sides and soft on the inside. It tasted like olive oil (which makes perfect sense since I made it with olive oil), and so, so delicious you could easily eat in all on its own. There were different toppings: ham and pineapple, lombo (ham) and catupiry, sun-dried tomato and arugula, and I also made a calzone with mozzarella and apricot jam. Delish! The outside was crispy and the inside was creamy, salty and sweet. The stuff inside spilled out a bit and that caramelized in the pan, what a treat. It was definitely a meal to blog about. I must say that I’m sorely disappointed with myself for having forgotten to take pictures. I can make any number of excuses for myself (which would all be true and understandable), but in the end, I should be a more responsible blogger. The one you see above is just to make your mouth water even it barely illustrates how wonderful it was, it comes pretty close. Will you forgive me? I promise to make it again and take pictures this time. I know, I’ll post the recipe sometime this week and you can try it at home and let me know how it went. Does that sound good?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas in Connecticut

This is a deliciously fun story starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. It's about a woman who pretends to be a “domestic goddess”, a la Martha Steward, and it gets her into a lot of trouble when a war hero’s nurse/fiancé writes the magazine asking for him to have Christmas with the writer in her farm house (which she doesn’t have), with her husband and baby (which she also doesn’t have), and eat her delicious food (which she can’t cook). She’s the author of his favorite column because he’s in the hospital after having been stranded out at sea for 18 days and nearly starving to death with his buddy. He’s sick of hospital food and drools over her descriptions every week. She’s a hugely successful columnist so the owner of the magazine decides it’ll be excellent publicity for the magazine to have a war hero spend Christmas with her, her family and him.

This is a very pleasant movie that will surely have you laughing at the nonsense she comes up with. What a wonderful way to herald in the Christmas season. I wish I owned this movie as I’m sure I could watch it a couple more times. For those of you thinking that I’m a cold hearted bitch because gushing about a movie you’ll never be able to find here in our lovely - albeit culturally stale - country, no worries. If you have the patience, you can watch the whole thing on


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toilets in the News

International bathroom day in Berlin was a special occasion where the participants could choose to either sit on the toilet with the lid down or up. Comfort was not a number 1 priority at this event, number 2 was. No, I’m just kidding – number 1 and number 2 were given equal importance. You can look at pictures and read the whole article here.

While the news above is a bit off beat, I have an even better story which you can read in full here: a man stole a toilet in Argentina and then when cops stopped to check with the store he stole it from, he escaped with the police car and the toilet. This is where it turned into a real toilet car chase involving helicopters and the full strength of the Argentine police force. They went all out with their super updated GPS technology and spared no expense to catch this white porcelain criminal. The toilet thief didn’t get away a second time but was hauled off to jail much to the relief of all involved in this scary, life threatening experience.

So, what I understood from this article is that Argentina is such a crime free zone, and thievery is so random, cops are just sitting around waiting for someone to do something so they can let the dogs loose, helicopters, Robocop and SWAT to retrieve whatever it may be, regardless of how foolish they might look for doing so. God forbid someone should ever steal a bathtub or they’ll be forced to call on the British navy stationed in the Falkland Islands to join in the fray and possibly declare a state of siege until the perpetrator is caught and the goods returned. I can see it now, a naval captain with a Tommy Lee Jones complex: “Alright, listen up, people. Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed carrying a toilet over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles-per-hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Juan Paco Chihuahua Gúzman Sanches. He is armed with a flush and toilet paper, so all of you be careful out there. Go get him”.