Thursday, March 24, 2011

I ♥ colors

Valspar is giving away a free paint sample to the first 1000 people each day who request one!

According to their Facebook page, you will receive an 8-ounce sample, a mini-roller and tray, coordinating color chips, and a coupon for $5 off your next Valspar purchase at Lowe's.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More criminal mischief

From the Dakota County police blotter, March 14, 2011:

"Drug activity. A 45-year-old Burnsville man was arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine, indecent exposure and disorderly conduct in the 200 block of Burnsville Circle."

Naked and cooking meth is no way to go through life, son.

From the North metro police blotter, February 10, 2011:

"Disorderly conduct. Officers went to a business on the 7900 block of Sunwood Drive NW. regarding a customer who had presented an obscene picture to a clerk. Police contacted the suspect by phone and issued the suspect a citation for lewd and disorderly conduct."

So, a guy walks into a business and schleps a picture of his junk onto the counter...

From the West metro police blotter, February 5, 2011:

"Animal complaint. A man called police to report there was a weasel in the garage at his home on Trista Court. An officer was unable to locate the animal."

Yes, well, who hasn't had a weasel in the garage?

From the West metro police blotter, February 11, 2011:

"Theft. Officers responded to a parking lot on the 3800 block of Hwy. 169 regarding a theft. Someone had stolen $800 worth of meat from a delivery van that was parked in the parking lot."

And, to add insult to injury...

February 19, 2011:
"Theft. A barbecue grill was stolen from the yard of a home on the 14000 block of 37th Place N."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The diet of a business traveler

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually tired of going out to eat. I sincerely enjoyed the potato sausage and roasted carrots I had for dinner tonight, because it was food I made myself, for myself (plus, the roasted carrots were amazing). It's not that I don't enjoy eating in a restaurant, but look at what I ate while I was on my business trip:

Thursday: see my post titled "The one where Erin finally does something nice for herself"

Friday: my husband took me out to eat at the same restaurant I had been to the previous night and I had a half a rack of BBQ ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, and mixed vegetables

Saturday: a nice, normal, unmemorable eat-at-home day. Until that evening, when we got invited to go to the movie "Battle: Los Angeles" with some friends and ended up having pie and coffee at McDonald's afterward.

Sunday: oatmeal, an orange, and half a hard-boiled egg for breakfast; a low-fat cranberry-orange scone for "lunch" (traveling); and a package of beef jerky from the gas station for "dinner"; a tangerine and a piece of toast at my parent's house (yeah, this wasn't the best day, but it's hard to eat healthy food when you're traveling... I will take solace in the fact that I ate the fruit and toast for a movie snack while my brother ate potato chips and fun-sized Snickers bars)

Monday: oatmeal for breakfast; blue cheese hamburger and Caesar salad for dinner in the hotel restaurant (had a late start that day, so missed lunch)

Tuesday: ham, bacon, onion, and mushroom omelet, whole wheat toast, and copious amounts of fruit for breakfast (hotel restaurant); vegetable soup and an Odwalla bar for lunch; and a beer-battered cod fillet BLT with sweet potato fries and a Caesar salad for dinner (hotel restaurant)

Wednesday: Odwalla bar and coffee for breakfast; roast beef, smoked turkey, lettuce, and banana pepper sub for lunch (cafeteria); and potstickers, crab rangoon, mini spring rolls, and a piece of chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dinner (I had a pretty disappointing day, hence the fatty dinner in the hotel restaurant)

Thursday: scrambled eggs, bacon, English muffin, and fruit for breakfast (hotel restaurant); a huge salad with buffalo chicken for lunch (cafeteria); and sushi for dinner (from Target... don't laugh, I like theirs even though it doesn't taste like "real" sushi)

Friday (travel day): oatmeal for breakfast; Indian buffet for lunch (met up with a friend while in the area); aaaand it was pretty much all downhill from there, with "dinner" consisting of coffee, a donut, and some cheese and crackers. When I got home, I noticed that my husband had eaten all the food in the fridge while I was away, except for half a carton of eggs, a gallon of orange juice, and all the condiments in the door. The freezer was still jam-packed because he didn't feel like cooking anything.

Before anyone comments, yes, I know I ate a lot. But it was all for legitimate hunger, not boredom or anger or frustration or any other reason people eat when they're not hungry. At any rate, everything was back to normal yesterday: a bagel with PB&J for breakfast, a chicken burger with tomatoes and jalapenos for lunch, and chicken, mixed vegetables, and dumplings for dinner. I need to add more fruit, but this was the best I could do considering my husband ate everything else over the past week. And now I can't wait to go grocery shopping! Haha.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Big-time business

Well, my apologies for the lack of posts over the past week and a half... I was on a business trip! In all the years I've worked in an office setting, I've never gotten to say that. I've been to off-site meetings and conferences, but never an honest-to-God business trip. Last week, I got to stay in a hotel, eat hotel food, and take the hotel shuttle. It was a great experience -- everything was so posh and the people were fabulous. The only bad part of the entire week was not getting carded in the hotel restaurant when I ordered a glass of wine; especially since everyone seems to think I'm in my early 20s. I will chalk it up to my deportment, rather than the aging process... haha. Of course, they probably figured they'd be getting $9 out of me for a glass of $7 wine (yes, we found out later that the wine sells for $7.19 per bottle at MGM) and didn't much care how old I was.

At any rate, I had a fantastic week. Not only did I get to experience the life of a business traveler, I got to visit my family for a couple days. My Mom said it looked like all I did was shop when I was in town because I came back with a case of beer and a grocery bag full of stuff from Trader Joe's (it's true, but only because I live in the middle of BFE and there aren't many signs of civilized life around here). I'm hoping to take more business trips in the future!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The one where Erin finally does something nice for herself

I never do anything just for me. While other girls go out for drinks and manicures and hot waxes and whatever else they do, I'm cooking dinner for my husband. If I'm serving pie, I'll take the deformed, messy piece that gets cut first so everyone else can have a picture-perfect slice. I'm used to putting everyone else's needs above my own, which would be a great trait if I ever wanted to be a mother.

Last night, I got some great news about work. My husband was so non-plussed about the whole thing, which really disappointed me. I had hoped he would be as happy for me as I was, but he gave me a half-hearted, "Oh. That's great." After he left for work, I called my parents to gripe about the situation. My Mom suggested, "Why don't you go to [local restaurant] and have a glass of wine and dessert?"


So, I got dressed up and walked to the restaurant. By the time I got there, I was starting to get hungry. To start, I had a Caesar salad (which was pretty hard to eat because of my missing molar), warm bread with herbed garlic butter, and a glass of Robert Mondavi riesling. The main course was applewood-smoked salmon with cherry cheesecake mashed sweet potatoes (oh my god, were those good!). Finally, they brought out the dessert tray and I picked out a slice of French silk pie. At the end of my meal, the waitress asked if I lived around here. I thought that was sort of an odd question, but I figured she asked because I was wearing nice clothes and was very polite (there are a lot of rough characters around these parts). After I paid, I walked back home and capped off the evening by reading for a while and then trying on outfits for my upcoming business trip.

The point of this? It felt so good to actually do something purely selfish, purely for me. I needed someone to congratulate me on my good news, and that someone ended up being me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tales of crime and punishment

I've been browsing the police blotter at and found some interesting snippets....

From the North Metro police blotter, February 9, 2011:

"Suspicious activity. A woman from an apartment on the 100 block of 83rd Avenue NE. called police to report that her neighbor below was sending electrical currents through the floorboards. An officer investigated and determined that the complaint was unfounded."

Paranoid much?

From the Dakota County police blotter, February 14, 2011:

"Weapons. A customer pulled a knife on a Sonic employee at 1701 Robert St. S. The customer left immediately after the incident, but employees reported that this customer has done this to other employees in the past."

I'm not sure why they haven't had this fool arrested yet, if he's been habitually threatening Sonic employees. "Oh, that's just ol' knife-slinging Billy. He comes in here all the time waving that thing around asking for chili cheese fries."

From the Washington County police blotter, January 29, 2011:

"Loose dog. Police responded to a report of a brown dog running in and out of traffic in the area of St. Croix Trail and 50th Street. An officer finally contained the dog after 30 minutes, with the help of bystanders and a breakfast sandwich. The dog's owner was contacted."

Was it a Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit? 'Cause if I was a dog, that'd have me running.

From the North Metro police blotter, January 22, 2011:

"Counterfeit money. According to police reports, a guest staying at the LiveInn Suites, 5201 Central Av. NE., brought a pile of counterfeit money to the front desk after finding it in his room. The man said the money fell from the ceiling tiles. The bills were taken as evidence by police."

I wonder if he rolled around in it like Scrooge McDuck before turning the money over to the cops...

From the South Metro police blotter, February 2, 2011:

"Disturbance. In the checkout line of Rainbow Foods, 1660 S. Robert St., a man reportedly hit the woman in front of him twice with his shopping cart because she was 'taking too long.'"

If anyone ever did that to me in a grocery store, I'd probably end up being charged with assault.

From the Dakota County police blotter, January 29, 2011:

"Unwanted guests. Customers at the Great Moon Buffet, 1200 S. Robert St., were trying to get a free meal by saying their food was bad. The manager said they had done the same things several times before. When officers arrived, the customers were escorted out."

They Chinese/We play joke/Pretend there's pee-pee in our Coke! On another note, it looks like S. Robert Street is a hotbed of petty crime.

And finally, from the North Metro police blotter, December 23, 2010:

"Disorderly conduct. Officers were called to the LivINN Hotel at 5201 Central Av. NE. regarding a disorderly male who had been kicked out earlier in the day. According to police reports, the 43-year-old man was intoxicated and had returned to the hotel, where he passed out in a second-floor hallway with his buttocks exposed. The man had harassed guests and staff, police said. Due to his high level of intoxication, he was transported to a hospital and served with a trespassing notice."

Oh, come on. If I had a dollar for every time I've passed out drunk with my buttocks exposed.... er... I'd have no dollars.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Playing with Polyvore

I can see how Polyvore can eat up a lot of your time if you're interested in fashion. Here's the first set I made... it's just a quick and easy outfit. I saw the shirt and the shoes and thought, "Yep, those should go together somehow." What do you gals think?
Oh la la, c'est romantique

Steve Madden stiletto shoes
$68 -

Forever21 leaf jewelry
$5.80 -

Romantic Reminder Top
$23 -

As a fun aside, Shop With Me Mama is giving away an item of the winner's choice from the DownEast Basics new Spring arrivals collection. That's where I found the Romantic Reminder Top featured above. Her giveaway ends on March 9, 2011, so you'd better hurry if you want to enter!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Chocolate and summer squash

The title doesn't sound like a very appealing combination, does it? Don't worry, I'm not pregnant -- just recipe-surfing. I found a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking and thought I would try it, since I used up all the eggs making lemon lava cakes yesterday.

Changes: I used summer squash instead of zucchini, since that was on hand. AP flour instead of whole wheat; again, it was on hand. No buttermilk, so subbed in regular milk plus vinegar. Don't have allspice, so used pumpkin pie spice. Also, I made it in my trusty muffin tin.

The batter tastes sinfully good. The best part is it's eggless (so I can eat as much of the batter as I want, until my eyes go all googly) and only has 1/4 c oil for the fat.

Drink your coffee like a notorious boozer

There's an ad on my page for "Two and a Half Men mugs". I was curious, so I clicked on it.... it goes to a company selling the same mugs that the Harpers use on "Two and a Half Men". Pretty cool, I think. I'm not suggesting anyone go out and buy this; it's not like I'm getting a commission for posting this (although... if you buy an orchid from 1-888-Orchids, I do get 8%).

I could be drinking coffee out of this!

Salvaging the lemon cakes

I was complaining yesterday about how my little lemon lava cakes didn't turn out quite how I had planned. Well, I figured out how to make them uber-delicious! Instead of attempting to cook them in the custard cups, I poured the remaining batter into three of the six wells of a non-stick muffin tin, which I still buttered until it was greasier than a teenage boy. I refrigerated the muffin tin for a few hours, though I'm sure a half-hour would have sufficed. In addition to letting the cakes firm up, it also allowed the lemon flavor to perfuse the entire batter.

About 20 minutes before I wanted to put the cakes in the oven, I took them out of the fridge and heated the oven to 425 F. I put the muffin tin into a 13x9 Pyrex dish, poured water into the Pyrex until it almost reached the overhanging lip of the muffin tin, and put the whole contraption in the oven for 20 minutes.

When the timer finally beeped, I took the dish out of the oven. The tops of the cakes were nicely browned and there was a minimal amount of jiggle, much as I wish for in my everyday life. I let the muffin tin rest out of the water for about 5 minutes and then carefully inverted the tin onto a baking sheet. A few taps later, and two perfectly-formed, perfectly-cooked lemon lava cakes slid right out. What happened to the third, you may ask? It exploded. I had gotten a little bit of water in the batter when I was putting the tin into the Pyrex dish. When I tried to unmold it - BLAM - lemon goo everywhere. It was still very tasty, but it looked like if you've ever dropped a carton of eggs on the kitchen floor while putting away groceries.

The unmolded lemon cakes looked more like individual cheesecakes, since they were a pale yellow with a barely-visible browned bottom. To really amp up the lemon flavor, I made a simple syrup and imbued it with the juice of an entire lemon (the one I had zested the bejeebus out of earlier). My husband liked the syrup so much that he went back and put 3 more spoonfuls on his cake. Certainly, the cakes don't need the additional sugary calories, but it really does enhance the flavor. I have to say, too, that the colors in this dish were fab -- a soft maize-colored exterior giving way to a vivid lemon goo. I wanted to serve it with a molded spoonful of green tea ice cream (to look like a little leaf), but my husband pooh-poohed the idea. I ended up making a quick double cartwheel twist garnish instead. The cakes actually did look like the ones that Omaha Steaks sells (for $14.99 plus shipping!).

I think if I make these cakes again, I will

1. Reduce the amount of butter from a whole stick to 5-6 Tablespoons (the recipe's author claims it's "because you're worth it". I have to disagree; I'd rather preserve the integrity of my arteries);
2. Beat the sugar and eggs in a separate bowl and slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture;
3. Increase the amount of lemon zest from 1/2 tsp. to an entire lemon's worth;
4. Bake with the changes noted above.

That's a lot of revamping for a recipe that supposedly works as-is, especially when the author claims to have baked them four nights in a row. A dessert like this, with its huge amount of butter, sugar, and eggs, should be at most a once-a-month thing. I like to, you know, BE HEALTHY.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The lemon cake fiasco

All right, I'm not going to name fingers or point names, but I recently found a recipe for white chocolate lemon lava cakes on someone's blog and they were awful. Since a) today is my husband's birthday and b) he loves white chocolate and lemon, I thought I'd whip up a batch of these cakes to serve after our pot roast dinner (which, by the way, smells amazing. Never sit at home when you're cooking something in a crockpot).

I knew there was going to be trouble when the recipe called for the addition of one cup of powdered sugar to my butter and chocolate mixture, and the chocolate seized. I had a bowl full of white paste with a glistening yellow liquid on top. Already, this recipe sucked! Sighing, I plowed forward through the recipe. After I whisked in the eggs, the mixture came back together, with the addition of flour thickening it up nicely. The batter had a really nice lemon yellow color, but almost no lemon flavor. I had to use the zest of an entire lemon, rather than the measly 1/2 tsp. called for in the recipe. It still had a weak flavor, sort of like when Niles Crane orders a latte with "the faintest whisper of cinnamon."

I heavy-handedly buttered four custard cups. Sensing the cakes might not turn out well, I only filled one of the cups with batter. I baked it for 15 minutes, per the recipe's instructions, and the cake was a thin, goopy mess. So, I baked it a little longer. The center started to set up, but by that point, the outside of the cake turned into a yellow kitchen sponge.

I then tried a different tack. I filled another custard cup with batter, placed it in a larger dish, and poured water into said dish until it was halfway up the side of the cup. I had another lava cake recipe that called for this method and those had turned out flawlessly, so I figured it might work for the new recipe. Wrong again. I baked it for 23 minutes, until the top turned a medium golden brown. The entire cake was still liquid under the crust, literally making these into liquid hot magma cakes. I'm sure the mantle would have been delicious, but it was not what I was looking for. I took the custard cup out of the water bath, placed it on a cookie sheet, and baked it for another couple minutes. This turned out fairly well, though the cake still looked like I had baked SpongeBob Squarepants.

Now it's T-minus 4.5 hours until my husband gets home from work, I'm out of eggs, and there is a greasy muffin tin full of yellow batter sitting in the fridge. I plan to drench the cakes in raspberry sauce and hope he doesn't mind my utter failure of a dessert.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Like Charlie Sheen, I'm winning

The lovely Julie from the eponymous The Daily Julie informed me yesterday that I won her Amrita Singh giveaway! Soon to be in my possession is the Ray Cuff:

Hopefully, this looks as nice in person as it does online. I won something else from Amrita Singh a while back and it was just god awful (*cough*Chinolli necklace*cough*). Sorry, Amrita, but not everything you design looks good on a "skinny white girl" (as my brother is fond of calling me).

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Why, helloooo Daarling

I found these shoes at and I'm having a bit of a "not sure if want" moment:

They're cute, but I'm at a loss for what to wear them with. I don't own a single pair of shorts, crops, capris, highwaters, floods, or otherwise truncated pants, which sort of eliminates, oh, pretty much any outfit I could incorporate these heels into. Also, I hate skinny jeans because they make me look like an ice cream cone. Unfortunately, the black and natural versions of this shoe are very "meh"; not to mention, I already own about 8 million pairs of shoes like that.

They're currently on sale for $29.99, with the code "SALE50" netting you an additional 50% off.

The disintegration of Charlie Sheen

Yesterday, my husband got his renewed driver's license in the mail. He opened the envelope and shied away from me when I asked to see his picture. I asked, "What's wrong? Is everything ok?" He turned to me and exclaimed, "I LOOK LIKE CHARLIE SHEEN!" I looked at his card and holy crap, he was right. He looks like Charlie Sheen. I wish I could post the picture here, but that's just wouldn't be kosher. So, I'll post a picture of Charlie Sheen and let you draw your own conclusions.

Heck, we've got booze in the fridge, a half-smoked cigar on the desk, and more pairs of women's underwear than you can shake a stick at. It does sound like we're living in Charlie Sheen's house.

All joking aside, I have some conflicting feelings about Sheen. On one hand, I feel sorry for him: everyone on Earth except the man himself can see that he's suffering from some kind of manic delusion that he's a "Vatican assassin warlock" and a "total bitchin' rockstar from Mars" with "Adonis DNA". You can just see him dissolving in front of the whole world. After all this went down, it just makes "Two and a Half Men" read like a documentary of Sheen's life. For all any of us knows, he may have had mental problems his entire life. After all, we only know what the media tell us; we're not privy to his private life, regardless of how many of his coke-fueled sex binges are reported in the news.

On the other hand.... he brought a lot of this on himself. He's a drug addict. He's a sex addict. No one forced him to start "using", a term Sheen decries for its association with the "cult" of Alcoholics Anonymous, and no one forced him to start poking everything with breasts and a pulse. He's irreversibly altered his brain chemistry with the "7 gram rocks [of crack cocaine]" and countless other substances he's smoked, snorted, injected, eaten, and otherwise introduced into his body. He's a hedonist of the highest order.

Maybe the manic persona we're seeing in the myriad interviews is a clean Sheen, the man at his baseline. Maybe he does drugs to keep his "tiger blood" from boiling, or to quiet the Vatican assassin voices in his head. Personally, I think Sheen has always had something wrong with him -- after all, some of the symptoms of (hypo)mania are hypersexuality or engaging in risky sexual behavior, impulsiveness, use of recreational drugs, and squandering of money. He could have been hypomanic his entire life. Whatever the case, I hope Charlie Sheen gets the help he needs.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Everybody needs a little weirdness in their life

I just found the website and had to share a couple of their strange sweets with you guys (even though all 10 people who follow my blog are female, I still call you "guys").

No, these aren't my periodontal disease-ridden teeth.
This... is BUBBA GUM. They also sell a bigga blacka moustache (it's best if you imagine Chico Marx saying that), so you can look like an old-timey villain.

Hey, liquor-filled chocolate bottles! I haven't had these since I was a kid... er... wait a minute.

Stage a delicious, delicious battle with these gummy army men.
This is my rifle, this is my gun! This one's for fighting, these ones... are yum? R. Lee Ermey wouldn't approve, but he'd probably eat these.

That's just a small sampling of the outrageous goodies sells. They also have face-shrivelingly sour Toxic Waste Candy, a 4.5-inch Marshmallow Hot Dog, and the best-tasting candy urine you'll find anywhere.

Guess what? I wasn't paid, bribed, or otherwise manipulated to write this. I just thought I'd share a neat website with you.

I need gelato, STAT

Check out this recipe for creamy mango gelato, from My Man's Belly. I really wish we had an ice cream maker!


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large ripe mangoes (peeled and diced – 1 1/2 pounds of fruit)
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2/3 cup Le Crème Original Flavor Creamer


1. Prepare a large bowl or pan of ice water for an ice bath. The container you use should fit the pan used to make the simple syrup.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally, cook until all of the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear (this is simple syrup). Place the hot pan in the ice bath and stir the mixture occasionally until the mixture cools to room temperature.
3. Purée the mangoes in a blender or food processor with the lime juice and simple syrup. Transfer to a sealable container and whisk in the creamer. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 3 hours.
4. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to another container, cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

The mush chronicles

Ever since my traumatic tooth extraction, I've been eating soft, mushy foods. I constantly feel hungry because of it. I guess you never really realize how unsatisfying it is to be limited to one texture.

However, one good thing did come from my tooth's untimely departure. My husband and I found a recipe for "rustic potato-leek soup" in an America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It's basically a super-unrefined vichysoisse, served warm. When we went to the grocery store to pick up the leeks for the recipe (which calls for five pounds of leeks), we were only able to find three leeks hidden behind the kale. At the checkout, the cashier picked up the bag of leeks and said, "What are these?" I said, "They're leeks!" to which she replied, "Uh. How do you spell that?" She had also asked us about the rutabaga we bought ("Can you tell I don't eat a lot of vegetables?" she quipped, patting her ample gut).

Let me tell you, that soup was capital-A awesome. Even though I was unable to chew or taste on the right side of my mouth, the left side sure got a treat. I was even able to eat a mini croissant with dinner! It definitely surpassed all the mashed potatoes, Malt-o-Meal, and pudding I had been eating previously.

On another note, I got to use the scale at my in-laws' house the other day and was disappointed. My husband said he thought I looked like I had lost a few pounds, yet I'm still 4.5 lbs. heavier than I was when we got married (and a whopping 11.5 lbs. heavier than him, the guy who inhales frozen pizzas and McDonald's and doesn't think twice about what that might do to his waistline. Although... his waistline is almost 10 inches bigger than mine, so what do I know?). It doesn't sound like much, but it's concerning for me. He suggested that it was probably muscle, since we've been going to the gym 5 days a week and I seem to bulk up from lifting. The dentist told me to take it easy and not work out for about 4 days after the extraction, so maybe the combination of mush food and not exercising will cause me to drop a few pounds. I'm concerned that my husband said he thought my "ideal weight range" was about 140-155 lbs., and that if I got to 160, he'd think I was overweight. I can't help but think that means he wants me to lose weight, but is trying to be nice about it. I mean, there's really no other way to take that, is there? I think I'd rather have him just say, "Yeah, you need to lose about 10 lbs." so I can guilt myself into doing that.

Meh. I'm rambling and should go to sleep.