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Tuesday
Feb142012

Playlists for those who woo or those who woe.

No matter whether you're celebrating romance tonight or burying it in a box of chocolates, here are some last minute music ideas to add to your playlist. (Disclaimer: If you are unfamiliar with something, please look it up or listen to it before you add it to your evening as I have not gone through and labeled anything with questionable material, such as profanity, in it. Not everyone has the same definition for what is okay, so I leave that to the individual)

First, I'll spare the broken-hearted reading a list of romantic songs and get right to the sad. My list starts out depressed and ends sad but not defeated, which is a nice way to do it in my opinion. Reverse the list if you like to end in wallowing sadness:

Elliot Smith

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Eddie Vedder - Ukelele Songs

Lissie - "Wedding Bells"

Blitzen Trapper - "Not Your Lover," "Furr"

Beck - "Ramona"

Beck - Sea Change

Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes

Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Ros would work nicely here, and a great spot for the wallowers to end

Ben Folds - Whatever & Ever Amen

The National

Wilco - "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," "How To Fight Loneliness," "Hummingbird," "At Least That's What You Said," "Let Me Come Home," "Leave Me (How You Found Me)," and "Was I In Your Dreams?"

Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2

Devotchka - How It Ends

Best Coast - "Boyfriend"

Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight

The Hold Steady - "Stay Positive"

Black Keys - Attack & Release

Kansas (You should be feeling pretty good about now to rock out to "Carry on")

Well Broken-Hearted, that's all I've got for you. Hope that list gets you through it.

And now for the Lovers: (from upbeat/offbeat to sweet and demure)

Flaming Lips - "Be My Head"

Arcade Fire - "Tunnels"

Wilco - "I Got You (At The End of the Century)," "Magazine Called Sunset," "I'm the Man Who Loves You," "What Light"

The Who or Pearl Jam - "Love Reign O'er Me"

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetics - "Home"

I'm From Barcelona - "Treehouse"

The Decemberists - "The Hazards of Love 4"

Spoon - "Nobody Gets Me But You," "Goodnight Laura"

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (Not really romantic but it just seems like a good one to put on for some upbeat dancing)

Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

My Morning Jacket - Z; the songs "Wonderful," and "Librarian"

Beck - "Ramona" and Sea Change (I feel that these both can be used for woeing or wooing)

Mason Jennings - if you want some specifics "The Light," "The Mountain," "Ballad For My One True Love," "Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor," could just go on and on...

Fleet Foxes

Swell Season - "Falling Slowly"

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Baby I'm Afraid" (but she uses expletives in it, so it's not for everyone)

Stereolab

Explosions in the Sky

Sigur Ros (these last two are also good for woeing or wooing)

So there you go, hopefully that gives you a few different ideas that will help you woo someone special tonight. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday
Nov212011

Thanksgiving Tips, Take 2.

I can not concentrate, I want it to be Thanksgiving today. There is snow outside on the ground, I finally broke out all my winter wear, and my cat is snuggled up on the bed behind me. I cannot wait to wake up on Thursday, watch the parade in my pajamas while listening to The Splendid Table's Turkey Confidential on MPR and dream about the meals ahead of me. In the meantime, I guess I will just eat this slice of pumpkin pie and share a little more.

Stuffing:

Do not be afraid. This is really easy. Ready?

- Make bread into smaller pieces (tear, cut or snip with scissors). Dry them out naturally or in oven at a low temperature (200s). Saute vegetables (traditional: butter, healthier: 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil), combine with bread. Add herbs. Add stock until desired consistency. Put in 9x13, bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

- The night before the big day, I put a pot of water on the stove, add: couple bay leaves, 4 sprigs parsley, salt, peppercorns, garlic, moderate sized pieces of onion, carrots, and celery; bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer while I tear up and toast bread crumbs and chop up my veggies for the next day. I use the veggie stock in my stuffing and whereelse it's needed.

- 1 loaf bread = about 6-8 cups which is good for 6-8 people.

Combinations I like:

Traditional: wheat/white bread, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, carrots, celery, garlic, onion

Cornbread, jalapenos, bell peppers, onion, corn, celery, a little cheese, cilantro, cumin, garlic, chili powder, oregano (non-veggie: add some chorizo)

Rye and wheat bread, sage, parsley, thyme, carrots, celery, quartered mushrooms, onion, garlic (non-vegan: add parmesan)

Adding chopped apples, craisins, pears, or all 3 can lend to a simple and delicious variation

- Check your stuffing during its cooking to make sure it's not too dry.

Green Bean Casserole

- Off brand french fried onions are never as good, stick to French's.

- I make my own cream of mushroom soup. Saute about a pound of mushrooms (whatever you want to use), again I use half butter/half olive oil, add some onions and garlic and let it sweat for awhile. Stir in 1 T. flour, then add 2 c. milk and 2 c. stock, simmer. You can either puree or not.

- Mix green beans (french cut are the best), cream of mushroom soup, some parmesan, and 1/2 c. of french fried onions together. Put in pan, top it off with the rest of the onions and bake 30-45 minutes depending on what's in your oven and the temperature.

- If you're using canned beans, let them sit in a strainer for a good while (20 min) to get rid of excess water.

Sweet Potatoes

- Sweet potatoes are not yams, and yams are not sweet potatoes. But most people don't know the difference.

- Orange juice, butter (if you want), a little brown sugar, little molasses or maple syrup, a tiny amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and add a little salt and ginger

- Spread in an oven proof dish and top with marshmallows. Either bake to reheat, or broil to brown marshmallows.

Mashed Potatoes

The secret to my mashed potatoes is that my husband makes them. He's a potato master.

Pie

- Martha Stewart's pie crust recipe is the best. Always use it, always have a great crust - except don't add water to the food processor. You need to work it into the dough a little bit at a time yourself so that you can tell what your consistency is.

- I use about 3-4 pounds of apples in a pie. Apple-licious. Use both brown and white sugar, even if it just calls for one. I also add a little ginger into my apple mix with the cinnamon. Also, I like a crumb top on my apple pie. Mix together some flour, sugar, and butter - sprinkle over the top.

- Pumpkin: I use the can recipe, but add the milk at the end a little at a time to make sure it's not too runny. If you fill your crust and have extra, bake a little pumpkin delight in a ramekin. It's my favorite treat.

- Whipped Cream: 1 part heavy cream to 1 part powdered sugar, a little vanilla. Use a mixer or immersion blender and in 5 minutes you have homemade whipped cream. It's that simple. Seriously.

 

One more tip I forgot - plan out what dish is going to be cooked and served in what beforehand. I put notes in the dishes so that people helping don't guess or get it wrong. Also, this helps you remember something you forgot. Like that jello salad sitting in your refrigerator the whole meal. Or the sweet potatoes you put in the oven in a plastic dish and forgot until that funny smell... 

Mmmm... Thanksgiving. What a delicious holiday.

 

 

Sunday
Nov202011

Do not fear the feast of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year - I love the food, the colors and it all makes me thankful for such a wonderful life. Every year I host an early celebration, dubbed the Prethanksgiving Thanksgiving Feast, for my family of friends as well. While in the past two years I have enlisted people to help me provide all the food and drink, I have always made the turkey, a round of stuffing, green bean casserole, and potatoes, plus a pumpkin and apple pie.

So this year, as I dine on the leftovers of another successful year, I have decided to share some of the tips and knowledge I have gained over the years through experience, numerous magazines/cookbooks and various internet resources.

In General:

- If you buy a disposable aluminum pan every year, buy the one with the rack once and then reuse the rack every year with a new pan.

- Chop vegetables, make bread crumbs, bake pies and make stock (if you are going to) all the day or night before. Put on some music you like, pour a glass of wine and have fun. All of this just makes the next day easier.

- Plan your cleaning when you plan your cooking schedule. I have 9 rooms and try to clean 2 per day (one easy, one hard to balance), which then leaves me with the day before the gathering to do all dusting and floor cleaning. I like to dust and do the floors the day before, not only does it leave less to do the day of but it seems to help my friends with allergies as well.

- Buy plain plastic cups for children and leave out stickers for them to decorate their own cups.

- Buy plastic containers at the dollar store so your guests can take some holiday grub home with them.

- Your porch may seem like a great secondary refrigerator, but just make sure that it's unaccessible to your animal neighbors. A screened porch is not going to get in the way of a squirrel and some pie. Trust me.

Turkey Tips:

- 1 pound per person is plenty for a full bird.

- Always unwrap your turkey the night before to check whether it's completely defrosted, or needs to take a water bath for awhile.

- Brining: Seriously, this is just one of those things where everyone has their own firmly held belief. I think that it's just nice to do something with the turkey. If your bird is over 16 pounds, wet brining very annoying. Dry brine by unwrapping your turkey, rub it with a bunch of salt (and I also like to rub some herbs under/over the skin as well) and let it stand uncovered in your fridge. Wet brine under 16 and I just submerge it in a big stockpot and put it on a lower shelf.

- I don't stuff because  I like to keep as many of my side dishes vegetarian or vegan as possible.

- I like to prep all the stuff I put in and on the turkey before I mess around with anything on a clean counter. That way it's easy to clean up and cuts down on contamination.

- This is what I do to my turkey: I quarter one or two onions, peel all dry skin and chop off the top of a garlic head, quarter an apple to put in the cavity. I combine dried rosemary, sage, thyme, pepper and oregano together for my rub. I peel 6-8 garlic cloves. Pour about 3-4 T. of olive oil in a ramekin. Then I bring over the turkey, rub the herbs over and under skin, rub oil over/under skin, put 1/2 garlic cloves on one side and then other, fill cavity.

- If my turkey is 18 pounds or lighter, I cook it for the first half with breast down. Any heavier and it's just scary to flip. I always foil for the first half, and take it off for the last. I don't baste and it seems to be fine.

- Always let your meat stand before carving. Full turkeys can stand for 30 minutes.

 

Okay, that's enough for today. Tomorrow I will add some of my tips for side dishes and dessert.

Gobble gobble,

Bunka

Wednesday
Sep072011

Birthday Reflections

(I accidentally posted a rough draft of this yesterday, but this is the real deal)

Once again the air is cooling down and the feel of autumn is in the air. Every year, I mark the beginning of the end of summer with my birthday. I've always been really attached to birthdays - parties, good food, and secret wishes! - but a lot of the time it was lost in the summer's end shuffle and the new school year's beginning. When everyone leaves around your birthday, it can make it hard to actually want to celebrate.

Oddly, as I have aged I have actually embraced celebrating each year more and more, especially this year when I had my Golden Birthday. I've been dreaming of it since my 5th birthday party, and while it may not have been the biggest birthday - it was definitely full of magic and wishes. Each of the 27 days leading to my birthday, I reflected on my life - the accomplishments, what I still want to accomplish, my proud moments, and what I want to improve. This year I made the conscious decision that from now on I would never shy away from my birthday again. No matter what the year is like, no matter how many candles on the cake, if I can't find something from that year to celebrate then some serious inner reflection will be needed. With each year gone by is a new ring on the tree filled with new experiences and accomplishments. While I know there will be hardships and heartache in the future there is always personal growth, times of lightness and the people past and present in our lives to be thankful for - it is our choice what to hold onto.

Of course, it's much easier just to say that I'm celebrating me.

Obviously one of my most important goals this year is to start blogging more regularly. I was excited at first, and gradually grew nervous and overwhelmed as I researched how to have a good blog. I kept running into advice to keep it simple and limited, which isn't quite me. (As a kindergartener, I had 13 careers picked out and the plan to execute them all.) I became confused whether I should limit myself to just writing about music, crafts or could I do both? But then what about cooking or dinosaurs? What about books? Could I just pick one or two things and stick to it? If I don't, will no one read?

Then it was my birthday and I calmed down. Knowing I have people in my life who love me even though I am odd and love lots of different things, then I can have a blog where I write and talk about lots of different things. Otherwise it won't be me, it'll be blog-me and that sounds like swamp burps.

I do have a plan. I'm still working on some goals. I will post at least once a week. And it won't be this long all the time either. But I might talk about dinosaurs and swamp burps every now and again. I feel better getting this out there as a fair warning though. Thank goodness for birthdays, reflection and the end of summer:

Thursday
Apr282011

A note about productivity and wearing shoes.

I have realized the oddest thing about myself: to be productive, I must wear shoes. Depending on what I want to accomplish, I need to put on the correct shoes. My running shoes are also my cleaning shoes. My slip-on shoes work for thinking, reading, really any leisurely activity. My regular shoes are a bit tricky though. Sometimes I can put them on and be really productive in anything, while other times I sit on my blue spinny chair and stare at the screen, my keyboard or out the window.

This morning, I decided to put on shoes because before that all I could do was work on this:

(That's going to be a 2000 piece Starry Night someday)

I put on my regular shoes, but it didn't really work. I did move from the dining room to the workroom, cleaned it a bit and was inspired to make magnetic notes:

But they looked so cool on the magnets, that I didn't want to cut them apart. So I decided to take this picture and write about it. And now it's time to go teach piano lessons. Another (semi)productive regular shoe day at home.

Probably should have worn the running shoes.