3.31.2009

Tutorial Tuesday: How to throw a wine tasting party


I attended my wine party this weekend and had some delicious wine and good food. We were told not to bring anything, so we showed up with a bottle of wine and a sad Juniper...I wanted to cook!

Sooo...I just made my menu for myself for lunch today so you can plan your own party! Oh, Helper Munchkin wants to go on the record as saying "You eat disgusting stuff!"

Okay, let's plan your next wine party.

You will need plenty of wine glasses on hand, of course. I have bought wine glasses at a reasonable price at IKEA.

To cut down on glassware, do what they do at public wine tastings...have a pitcher of water and a bucket (something nice, like a champagne or ice bucket) handy for guests to swish their glass before moving on to the next wine.

You could also adapt this wine charm tutorial to fit your theme. This is an easy, inexpensive way to personalize your party.

You can also have small notebooks handy for guests to note their favorites. Maybe some card stock and this notepad tutorial will help inspire you.

First things first, invitations!I found a fantastic artist from Cathy Savel's Paintings on Etsy, that has adapted her beautiful paintings into greeting cards. Aren't these cards wonderful? Such detail, and perfect for your wine tasting.



You can plan to make it a casual tasting with several bottles for friends to choose from or you can make it more formal. There are many different ways to taste in a formal setting. You can taste wines from the same year, same vintage, from white to red, Italian wines, California wines...you will have to determine which is best for your party. You local wine shop can help you out.


I prefer a casual wine party with several types of wine to choose from. You can label the different vintages with your handy Wine Cork Place Cards!



Now, for my favorite part, menu! (You can also label your appetizers with the wine cork place cards)

My wine party menu is as follows:

Pistachio'd Grapes ( might have made that word up)
Smoked Gouda Purses
Chevre with Honey, Pears, and Pine Nuts
Chocolate Glazed Grapes
and
Strawberries


Let's begin with the Pistachio'd Grapes (my spell check is having a fit right now).

Ingredients:

Washed grapes that are cold and dry
Cream cheese (cold)
Pistachios (pulsed in the food processor to a coarse crumb
)

Take a pinch of cream cheese and begin to mold it around your grape, like this: (Sorry about the pictures, I was balancing the camera on a water glass and pushing the shutter with my chin!)

Now, roll it between your palms to get a cheese-covered grape like this:

Now, roll the cheesy-grape ball in the pistachios, like this:
These are the perfect combination of salty, sweet, soft and crisp. I think they are the perfect party food.


Next, we will make the Cheese Purses.

Ingredients:



Phyllo dough
Melted butter
Smoked Gouda cheese, cut into small cubes


Begin by brushing the melted butter onto the phyllo dough, place another sheet on top and continue brushing with butter. Repeat until you have five layers.



Using a pizza cutter, cut the phyllo sheets into 3x3 inch squares and place a cube of Gouda in the center. Gather the edges of the dough together and pinch them together at the top.



Brush the outside with butter and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Mmmmmm....Crispy, melty, and smoky!



This next recipe is for Chevre with Honey, Pears, and Pine Nuts and is super simple.

Gather together the three ingredients, Chevre cheese, good honey, ripe pears, and pine nuts:



Assemble the plate with the cheese flanked by pear slices and nice crackers (I like bagel chips with sea salt).

Drizzle honey over the cheese and pears then sprinkle with pine nuts. This cheese will taste best when at room temperature. Go ahead and assemble this plate and leave it out until the party.



Finally, for dessert, Chocolate Glazed Grapes and Strawberries. Place grapes and strawberries on a platter. Melt both semi-sweet and white chocolate chips and drizzle over the fruit for a fresh, simple, sweet to end the evening.

Here are your appetizers:




3.30.2009

20 Questions

I stumbled upon Someday I'll get there this weekend and saw her post of 20 Questions...so I snatched it and ran away laughing.

Ready? Here we go...

1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From what I remember, I wanted to be a scientist or a princess in equal parts. In my small mind, either one was an exciting and totally realistic career path. I won the title of "Little Miss Lawrenceville", getting to ride the float (pulled by an ambulance) next to "Miss Lawrenceville". I was wearing a crown made of marigolds and I just knew that it had been decided...princess, it is.


2. What have you done in the past week to help someone else?

Does trying to hold the door for the grumpy old man count? Other than that, I have helped my three boys in varying degrees many times in the past week.

3. Who is the best dressed person you know?

I would say my neighbor. She isn't overly extravagant with her clothes, but she always looks polished and pulled together (For instance, I never see her in a black hooded sweatshirt, like your truly)

4. What is on your nightstand?

I have an alarm clock, a hair band, a barrette, and a book, and some dust. On the lower shelf are about 10 more books and magazines piled in a jumble.

5. If you were a cat what kind would you be?

I'd be a grumpy, itchy, sneezy, wheezing cat who was allergic to herself and pissed about it.


6. If you lived in a house surrounded by acres of trees, what particular type of tree would you want flourishing in your yard?

Well, I do live in a house just like that and I love the flowering wild dogwoods that border the woods. They are so beautiful and we come by them naturally.

7. What do you find to be very overrated?

Any book that has been made into a movie (except Harry Potter).

8. How many email addresses do you have?

Just one. I don't have time to manage much more than that. I've always thought I should get one for my business...but, obviously, I haven't.

9. Have you ever felt replaced?

Every night around 6 pm when the Big Guy walks through the door, every kid and the dog spend the rest of the night fighting over who can get closest to him for the longest.


10. Would you rather watch football or baseball?

Now, I live in Pittsburgh...what do you think?!?


11. What is the wallpaper on your phone?

A photo of The Big Guy and Helper Munchkin sitting at a baseball game, ironically. Big Guy has a problem with taking good pics and they both look so happy and relaxed. I smile every time I look at it.

12. Name a lyric from a song you are listening to right now.

Giving Up, Ingrid Michaelson

What if we stopped having a ball
What if the paint chips from the wall
What if there's always cups in the sink
What if I'm not what you think I am
What if I fall further than you
What if you dream of somebody new
What if I never let you win-- chase you with a rolling pin-- Well, what if I do?

Cause I am giving up on making
passes, and I am giving up on half empty glasses, and I am giving up on greener grasses. I am giving up.

What if our baby comes in after nine
What if your eyes close before mine

What if you lose yourself sometimes, I'll be the one to find you safe in my heart.

...for you.



13. Do you use a feed reader?

Okay, what's a feed reader???(don't laugh, Sunny!)

14. What chocolate do you always leave in the box?

Raspberry gels...shudder...gag...retch!

15. What would you do if you found out your ex was engaged?

Honey, I haven't had an ex since I was 19 years old, I couldn't give a shit what he is doing. I'd actually be hard pressed to even think of someone I'd really give enough importance to call an "ex".

16. Do words hurt you?

I have a soft center...like a raspberry gel. I do take words to heart and get my feelings hurt pretty easily by a harsh tone or mean words (crotchety old man ring a bell?)

17. Are you a talker or a listener? And is it possible to be both?

Talker, fo sho! I spend most conversations telling myself to stop and listen and ask questions. I could just GO for DAYS, baby! I don't think anyone is both naturally, but I think you can train yourself.

18. Have you ever walked on the beach at night?

Of course! Who hasn't? No, seriously, who hasn't - speak up.

19. Who is your favorite professional athlete?

I would say it's a pretty close tie between Troy Polamolu or Heinz Ward, they both play with intensity and heart...but Troy might edge Heinz out for his goodness and humility.


20. Which TV show have you seen pretty much every episode of?
LOST!!!! Man, I was hooked on the first episode and my life is measured in increments of "how long 'til Lost is on" ever since.

3.29.2009

Sunday Funny

You know those annoying telemarketers? The one's that call at dinner time on a Sunday and interrupt your life to beg for money? Well, here is the perfect way to get rid of them... Happy Sunday!


3.28.2009

My Lucky Day


Guess what? I was invited to a wine tasting tonight! Isn't that funny, I was just wishing earlier this week for a party to use my wine cork place card holders and make some yummy appetizers and the party fairy plopped one in my lap!

So, I will be cooking and taking pictures for you as I get ready. I have some good recipes for some unique appetizers to bring with me (think grapes with cream cheese and pistachios, soft cheese plate with honey, walnuts, and pears, and maybe some cheese purses with smoked Gouda, ...) I will plan your party for you on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

3.27.2009

Dear Crotchety Old Man at the YMCA,


I've said it once and I'll say it again...being old doesn't excuse you from using your manners like every other person in this world.

I understand you feel like you've paid your dues by living this long and you're cranky that you're dragging your old ass out of the house to attend your "Silver Sneakers" class that is full of blue hairs instead of all the hot chicks in kickboxing. Hey, that's not my fault.

Yes, I saw your frustration as you waited for all of the people to finish coming in and out of the building so you could push the big blue button for the automatic door. Yes, I know the automatic door button will not work unless the door is fully closed (Trust me, buddy, I know it since all three of my boys fight over it every time we go to the mall. You think life is tough? Take three boys to the mall to buy a dress for this weekend, or better yet, take them bra shopping, THEN come talk to me.)

That was the reason that I held the door open for you and asked if you'd like to walk through. Did you say, "Thank you, Juniper, I was having some trouble with the automatic door button that won't work unless the door is completely closed and all these people keep walking through and it's SO frustrating!" Did you say that? NO!

You know what you did??? HUH, do you? You scolded me (I dare say yelled at me) for holding the door open. "Would you just let the door CLOSE?" You said, kind of mean. "This button won't WORK unless the door is CLOSED and you're holding it OPEN! And I'm waiting for it to CLOSE!" You said, very mean.

Do you want to know what I said in my head? I wiped that nice smile off my face and walked away, but in my mind I was saying "Fuck you, buddy. THAT'S WHY I OFFERED TO HOLD IT FOR YOU!!!" Just because you're old, you can't go around saying anything you want...you...you... old MEANY!

Fondly,

Jennifer Juniper

3.26.2009

Smells like a man out there...

I have a pretty strong sense of smell, some smells can even trigger a migraine headache (Fortunately for me, one of those smells is a cleaning product. Sorry, can't mop the floor, Big Guy). Whether or not a smell triggers a physical reaction from me, most trigger an emotional reaction.

The Big Guy was working late this week and wouldn't be home until after dark. I must have had 10 boys over here playing football all afternoon up until dinner time. I forgot to check that the garage doors were shut until it was well past dark. The kids were in bed and I was alone and I opened the kitchen door into the garage to hit the garage door button. It was dark in the garage and the door was indeed open, but there was a smell that filled my nose and caused me to immediately shut the door and lock it before I could hit the button. I reacted in a split second, even before I fully realized what I was doing. It smelled like a man in the garage; a mixture of sweet tobacco and cologne, and I sensed danger and my body responded instantly.

We never did find anything and the smell went away once the second garage door opened but I started to think about smells and my response to them. I can smell something and be transported back to a place in time when I can see, smell and feel a moment in time.

The smell of ammonia takes me back to the days when I was still a working girl. We had gone to clean out the apartment of an elderly client that passed away. The strong smell of ammonia (urine) and the strange collections (her hair, milk jug rings, wrappers) left an impression on me. I have never been able to smell ammonia since without getting a migraine.

The smell of "Windsong" perfume and banana bread makes me think of my mom; spaghetti sauce and aftershave, my dad.

The smell of Aussi hairspray brings me back to my college days, getting ready to go out for the night with my roommates. One of the twins used this spray when getting ready and I can see and hear her whenever I smell it (incidentally, I hear the Wilson Phillips CD we used to listen to all the time when I smell it).

"Beautiful" by Estee Lauder reminds me of my wedding day and the earthy smell of moss reminds me of a childhood fort I built by a stream.

The smell of a newborn baby almost makes my chest ache with imaginary milk, I can't get enough, and the Big Guy has a smell all his own that makes me happy and safe.

Feta cheese brings me back to a college job at a Greek pizza parlor and a musty house smells just like the house I shared with friends one summer at college.

Anything plastic, (a shower curtain, for example) makes me think of a new dolly or Barbie and I HATE the smell of a new car.

Skunks make me think of a good friend I've lost track of that loved that smell, and The smell of the sea while driving over the bridge into Stone Harbor every summer brings excitement for the week ahead.

Is it just me? What smells trigger memories for you?


3.25.2009

Boring Women Have Clean Houses - Calling all slobs! Giveaway Contest



A friend of mine and I often commiserate about the upkeep of our homes. We both agree that caring for and teaching the kids is our top priority, and with 7 kids between us - the housecleaning can fall by the wayside.

Our husbands believe a cleaning lady will be the answer to our prayers, but us girls aren't convinced. We've both had some bad experiences (um, stealing and shortcuts ring a bell?) and feel like it sends the wrong message to our kids. She voiced it perfectly as she asked: We're here to work together as a family to make this home run smoothly...do we really want to leave the hard parts to a cleaning lady? Don't we want our kids to learn how to clean up after themselves, know how to do laundry, take pride and care for their belongings? Do we want them to just hire people for the yucky parts? (Husbands vote yes, moms vote no)

I'm not going to lie, I struggle with it but I can't bring myself to let someone into my home again. This is my sanctuary, I want to feel safe and if I'm doing it among crumbs...so be it.

I've mentioned the sign that rests above my kitchen sink: "Boring Women Have Clean Houses". I saw the quote one day and it just spoke to me. The sign came about as the result of an argument about the messy house, you know, stick it to the man? I'm compulsive, creative, messy...sometimes I really mean to clean the house but I get a really great idea that I. Must. Complete. I get tunnel vision and pretty soon, the floor isn't vacuumed. I can't help it! Notice the dishes in the sink, I'm keeping it real.

One of my fave blogging chicks Whimsy Girl is a kindred spirit in many ways including her struggle with the mess that tends to build up. She had a call on her blog for Couch Cooties and when I saw what she pulled out of her cushions, I knew I had a (pretend) friend for life (who has no idea who I am). I hope she doesn't mind, but I am about to steal her fantastic idea for a contest. Hey, Big Guy, it made me clean under the cushions...Bonus!

This is going to benefit us all, see, you can win your own "Boring Women Have Clean Houses" sign (to stick it to the man) and I will not feel like the only slob in the world. We will scratch each others backs on this one. Yeah. (that is actual laundry from my vacation)



This is what you have to do:

Respond to this post with a story about or picture of your own mess, it can be your junk drawer, a messy room, your own couch cooties... I don't care, just give me some messy love! If you post about this contest in your own blog I will enter your name twice (link me, baby)! If you can come up with other messy quotes for me to use I will enter your name three times, hell yeah!

I will randomly select a winner On April 7th, just in time for spring cleaning. Due to the shipping, I will have to limit this contest to those in the U.S., you understand, right? Make sure I have some way of contacting you of a win, either a link to your blog or an email address.

To get the ball rolling, here are my "couch cooties" brought out from hiding for your perusal. A pencil, a playing card, a Yu Gi Oh card that I swear my kids haven't played with in a year, a pencil, a feather (?), a tuft of fuzz (maybe from a stuffed animal), a card listing all the states and capitals, a dog chew that looks like a turd, a quarter (cha-ching!), a Chinese relaxation ball, and an hour glass from the dentist to help the kids brush their teeth long enough (Yeah, brushing on the couch? I think not, nice try Dr. McKee) and while we're at it, do you remember this post?



Good luck and happy messes! For a another contest to enter your own "green" projects, check out ChicaandJo

3.24.2009

Tutorial Tuesday: How to Make Wine Cork Place Card Holders


I just love my bloggy friends! Brightfish sent along this project for me and I loved it as soon as I saw it. I'm so excited to throw a party...and the more I think about it, I think it should be a wine tasting.

Let's get started,

Supplies:

Used wine corks, drink up! (you can always ask a local restaurant to save them for you, but what fun is that? I like the stained look of a used cork, and you are recycling something that would be tossed out.)
Card stock
Palm sander or sandpaper and a block of wood
Fine-toothed Hand saw or razor blade



The Big Guy has a handy clamp attached to his tool bench, so I used that to stabilize the cork. It isn't necessary, but it made things easier.


I chose which side would be the bottom of the cork and sanded a flat spot so it wouldn't roll on the table. If you don't have a palm sander, just wrap your sand paper around a blog of wood and sand away.


Next, using your saw or razor blade, cut a groove in the side opposite the flattened side. You will slide your place card into this groove, so experiment until it will fit.

See how the corks don't roll and have a groove? You can buy blank place cards at your local craft store or make your own with a sheet of card stock. I like paper that is aged looking with the used corks.

Set your table with your place cards. Voila!
Hmmmm.... remember my wine tasting party idea? Label the wines or the food. Love it!


I really need to plan a party now, I already have place cards for the perfect guests. Maybe I will post some great hors d'ouevre recipes soon.

3.23.2009

Vacation Awards Presentation


We have returned in one piece from the "happiest place on Earth" full of stories, fun, and family. As the Big Guy put it "This kid has been by my side for 7 days straight!". The kids love to spend so much time with him outside of the distractions of home and work and really took advantage of it...mom was left out in the cold. Yep, chopped liver.

As we flew home, I concocted some awards that should be given out for this vacation.

The "trooper" award...



It has to go to the Big Guy. I have to admit, I was worried and not sure he had it in him to really "do Disney". He is usually in class, since we go during conference, and catches up with us at the end of the day. I didn't think he would be able to get up early, eat lunch on a bench, walk 5 miles per day, and stand in long lines while entertaining kids for a whole week (all without a beer in his hand). But, he surprised all of us and really rose to the occasion. This award is for you, Big Guy.

The award for ruining the most pictures...


This award is presented to the "damn hat". The peacemaker has been planning to get this Goofy hat for a souvenir since our trip to Disney last year and couldn't wait to get his grubby little hands on it. Once he had it, he never took it off...the...whole...trip...

This giant, green, tacky hat single-handedly ruined more pictures this trip than I ever dreamed possible. "Damn hat", this one's for you.

Favorite family portrait award...

This award will be awarded to the top two favorite family pictures from the trip. I present to you Tower of Terror:

Hey! Down in front, lady! Can't you see we're trying to get a family picture here?!?


and Splash Mountain:



Most unfortunate place for a ride to break down...



Ironically, Splash Mountain wins this award also. Have you ridden this ride? Do you remember that the funny little twist is that you don't get wet on your way down the flume, you get wet watching the boat next to you go down the flume. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Yeah, so our ride broke down at 9:30 am on our second ride of the day at the base of the first hill - through three revolutions of boats and we just kept getting wetter and wetter and wetter. My phone broke, our lunch was soggy, my camera dripped, and I looked like someone had lifted me from the boat and swished me around in the river for a bit before sending me on my way. Oh, did I mention I was wearing khaki Bermuda shorts that took about 3 hours to dry? Did I? Yeah, Splash Mountain, suck it.

Most touching attraction that became the most boring...



This award goes to America in Epcot. We entered this huge building with the most amazing acoustics to hear costumed "cast members" singing a gospel version of Battle Hymn of the Republic that gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears (patriotic songs and hymns make me cry...this was beyond!). It was the single best moment of the entire trip, entertainment-wise.

Fast forward to the actual presentation (the song was just to entertain us while we waited in line). We sat in a beautiful auditorium, the lights dimmed, and animated figures acted out America's history...for...ever...

The Big Guy, #1 son, and Helper Munchkin were out like a light while The Peacemaker and I tried to figure out how this decision went so wrong?!? Where's the happy, the fun? How the hell do we get out of here and when does it end? America, whatever.

The most funnest place we ever stayed (according to Helper Munchkin)...

This award goes to the Marriott Harbor Lake. We have traveled quite a bit with these three kids and I have to say, whoever is in charge at that resort really has it going on.

At check-in we were handed a calendar for the week that was chock-ful of activities for families and children, from hula hooping contests, to DJ's, to an organized capture the flag game, to sundae bars, to mini-golf, to limbo contests...I could go on and on. We are definitely going to stay there again.




We had an amazing time at our resort when we stayed home from the parks. The kids were entertained, the pool was fantastic, and the Big Guy and I relaxed. A+

The award for the most amazing thing I've ever captured on my cell phone camera...



We were able to view our first shuttle launch one evening at the pool. They had the blast off on the TV at the bar which we watched then looked to the right and saw it rising in the sky. It was a sight to see, and I was awestruck to the point of almost forgetting to take a picture! My cell phone was handy, so I clicked before it disappeared altogether.

**sidenote: the Big Guy was mixing a drink in the room and missed the whole thing. He was mucho bummed.

The strangest souvenir award...

The winners are Chinese Relaxation Balls (yeah, I don't know either.)




and also, the largest souvenir...



this giant Aerosmith, Rockin' Roller Coaster hat that #1 son just HAD to have takes the cake. It actually transformed his personality when he wore it, I'm kind of afraid of it.

When he wore this hat, the usually shy kid became an extroverted head-banger who flashed the "rock and roll" gesture to complete strangers while nodding his head in a strange way. It was creepy.

And finally, the most hilarious comment made by a Disney "cast member" in complete seriousness...

When the Big Guy asked about the "20% of novelty hats" sign in a booth, the man responded "Yes, sir, all of our novelty headgear is 20% off. That, of course, does not include our Mickey Mouse hats, however, because they are considered essential headgear." We started giggling and he looked at us straight-faced with a puzzled look. Whoa.


Here are a few of my favorite shots from our vacation. Enjoy!






 

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