Sweet sixteen

Yeah, I know this graphic is from last year, but I couldn’t find the corresponding 2014 version. And anyway, it’s true again this year. You know what’s also the same as last year? Just like the Florida made it to the Elite 8! I just finished watching them beat UCLA so it seems I’ll be watching some more tournament basketball on Saturday. Go Gators!

Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday morning I got up and headed straight to the kitchen in my pajamas. I needed to get the meatballs in the Crockpot so they would be ready for the Super Bowl party at 3 PM. I had mixed the turkey and seasonings the night before so I didn’t have a lot to do, but the meatballs needed to cook for about 6 hours before I left for the party. Turns out I shouldn’t have bothered because the meatballs didn’t taste very good, but I didn’t know that at the time. Just before I left for Mike and Lisa’s I put both of the dishes of mac and cheese in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. After that I took the dishes out of the oven, wrapped each one in a beach towel to keep it warm, threw them in the car with all of the other food I made, and headed to the party. I certainly enjoyed watching the game and eating a lot of good food with a few friends. I didn’t pay too much attention to the game itself, or even the commercials (which were pretty disappointing), because we were talking and playing with Mike and Lisa’s the three month old son. That was a lot of fun. The homemade pizza that Mike has become famous for was definitely the star of the show, but I heard good things about the the food I made as well. Except the meatballs. Luckily I was the only one who tried them because they were kinda terrible. But anyway, the pizza was so popular that I had tons of leftover food when the game was over. So I packed it all up and drove it over to another friend’s house. They couldn’t attend the party because their daughter was sick, but I got to play with her (and their cat who was agressively affectionate) for a little while before I went home. See the photo below. It was a good Sunday. Good food, good friends, and some fairly decent football. Too bad the 49ers wouldn’t pull off the win!

Beginning of a three day weekend

I’m so glad it’s Saturday! This last week of work was long and stressful, but luckily it ended well and the weekend is here. And I worked so many extra hours last week that I can take Monday off without using any of my vacation time! I am really going to enjoy this three-day weekend. So how did I spend my first day of freedom? Cooking, mostly. I’m going to Mike and Lisa’s for their Super Bowl party tomorrow afternoon and I promised to bring a few dishes. However, I may have overextended myself because I spent about six hours in the kitchen this afternoon and evening making the following things:

Ranch Mac and Cheese (I’ve written about this one before)
Company Mac and Cheese (my mom’s most successful version)
Crockpot Italian Meatballs (a new recipe – fingers crossed!)
Toffee Chip Brownies (I left out the toffee chips this time)
My own chocolate chip cookie recipe (no link yet – stay tuned!)

Besides cooking I did a little shopping this morning. My navy blue Converse All Stars need to be replaced (they don’t look that bad on the outside, but the insides are falling apart) and I picked up a couple of new tank tops at Old Navy. I’m still waiting on the stores to get all of their spring clothes in before I spend much more to update my wardrobe. I definitely need a refresher in the clothing department sooner rather than later. When I got back from the mall I started my marathon culinary endeavours. While I was cooking I watched both of the “Fantastic Four” movies that I DVRed a week or so ago. With my love of superhero movies I can’t believe I’ve never seen either of them before. Not bad. Now it’s time for bed so I can get up at a decent hour tomorrow and finish getting everything ready for the Super Bowl party. Not that I care one way or another who wins the game, but spending time with friends and eating some good food is always fun.

Last weekend

At long last here is the weekend write up I’ve been working on all week…

On Saturday I was determined to get up and go to the gym first thing in the morning. And I did…after I stayed in bed reading a book and surfing the web for a few hours first. But I did go to the gym! I was there too early to watch the SEC championship game between Alabama and Georgia, but I saw enough of the pregame broadcast to really wish Florida was playing. I kept thinking how nice it would be if I was in Atlanta to watch the Gators play for the title, but it was not meant to be this year. The peril of being in the SEC is that losing a single game to the wrong team (i.e., Georgia) can completely take you out of the running for the season. But as every disappointed football fan says, there’s always next year. The good news is that Florida’s quarterback is only a sophomore so he has two more years to learn, improve, and potentially lead his team to a national championship. That’s a nice dream for us Gator fans. Anyway, after I left the gym I had just one thing on my mind – cookies! The guys I work with on the East Coast are always complaining that they don’t get to partake of the desserts I bake for my West Coast colleagues so I promised to send them a box of cookies right after Thanksgiving. I guess I procrastinated a little, huh? So I left the gym on Saturday, went shopping for some essential baking supplies, and barricaded myself at home. I spent the rest of the day whipping up four different kinds of cookies while catching up on all of the backlogged shows on my DVR (Glee, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Once Upon A Time, Project Runway, Top Chef, and countless made-for-TV holiday movies). Here are the festive, but a little bit off the wall recipes I used to make this latest batch of cookies.

1) Chocolate gingersnap bars – These were very interesting. Some of my West Coast co-workers loved them, but I wasn’t such a huge fan.
2) Lemon snickerdoodles – These were even more interesting (in my opinion). They needed a little more cinnamon and nutmeg, but I thought the flavor was great.
3) Applesauce bars – These turned out more like cake than cookies (some frosting on top wouldn’t have been out of place), but they were really tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy them.
4) Cornstarch chocolate chip cookies – I didn’t really use a particular recipe for this, but based on a tip from Pinterest I added some cornstarch to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to see what happened. The results were good, but I couldn’t tell that the cornstarch made any difference at all.

On Sunday I was a bit busier. I went to the gym again in the morning, showered quickly, and then immediately drove to Orange to see a movie with a co-worker. We’ve both been trying to see “Wreck-It Ralph” for weeks without success so we decided to go together over the weekend. It was a great movie. Very original and really funny. It helps that my current favorite song is “When Can I See You Again?” (the first song played during the credits) which I hear on Radio Disney at least once a day. After the movie I drove back home to change clothes before meeting some other co-workers for dinner. We went to Sevilla, a tapas restaurant in Long Beach, and the food was delicious. The company was very enjoyable too. When I got home from dinner I packed up all of the cookies I made the day before into Tupperware to mail to the East Coast. To save me from myself I packed up all of the leftovers into Ziploc bags to take to work with me. I am fully aware of my lack of self-control when it comes to sweets so I couldn’t possibly keep the extra cookies just sitting in the kitchen waiting for a snack attack to hit me. Why do you think I give away all of the desserts I make? To fit into my jeans, of course!

So that’s how I spent last weekend. And it only took my six days to get this post written and published. Just in time to start another weekend!

Celebrating more cool weather…and a Gator win!

Earlier this week I wrote about the unseasonably warm weather here in Los Angeles (yes, again – I know you’re getting tired of reading about it, but bear with me), but I’m happy to report that it did indeed cool down a few days later. Since Thursday we’ve been enjoying some glorious fall/winter weather. It even rained on Thursday, both in the morning and in the evening, which is usually a sure sign that winter has arrived. It was 65 degrees in my bedroom this morning and that was with the windows closed all night! So I’ll bet you’re wondering what kind of seasonally appropriate apparel I wore now that temperatures are as much as 30 degrees cooler, right? OK, I know you’re not really wondering, but it’s my blog so I’m going to tell you anyway. On Thursday I wore another one of the new blazers that I got when I was in Florida in September. This one was khaki and from The Limited. It fits like a glove and I love it. The sleeves are a little too long for me (I’m petite, what can I say?), but I’m not complaining too much when a size 2 jacket fits me that well! Then yesterday I proudly wore a new Gator sweatshirt that I also bought when I was in Florida. I got it at Marshall’s for $15, but I didn’t realize until I was cutting the tag off yesterday morning that was originally from American Eagle. I’ve been coveting the American Eagle collegiate apparel online for over a year so it’s funny that I got my hands on a piece unknowingly. And so cheaply!

Today I donned a different Gator sweatshirt as I lounged on my couch watching the Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette football game. I wasn’t expecting to be able to see it live until I discovered that it was being broadcast online on ESPN3. Hooray! So I set up the game on my iPad, crashed on the couch with my laptop to surf the web and my iPhone to text my dad (geez, technology runs my life), and cheered for the Gators. Florida struggled so it wasn’t easy to watch, especially since I hadn’t planned on baking any cookies during the game to keep myself occupied. (Note to self: I should always have cookie baking ingredients on hand for just such an occasion.) Anyway, the Gators were unexpectedly trailing in the second half to a team that has no business even dreaming about being a contender so I was relieved when they tied the game with less than 2 minutes left. I figured overtime was inevitable, but here’s what happened with about 20 seconds left on the clock. Paraphrased, of course. Go Gators!

Announcer #1: “I wonder why Florida isn’t calling a timeout?”
Announcer #2: “Maybe they think they’re going to get a block.”
Me: “You can never count on a blocked punt.”
Announcer #1: “Blocked punt! Gators recover! Touchdown!”
Lauren’s jaw hits the floor

Sad day in Gainesville

Today was a sad day for the Gator faithful. A horrible loss to Georgia pretty much blocked their path to the SEC championship game, although you never can tell how the college football season is going to end. But no matter how badly your football team loses, I have discovered that it is never a good idea to eat homemade chocolate frosting directly out of the bowl with a spoon while sitting on the couch, wallowing in your own misery. (And it’s even sadder when you have a quart of milk on the coffee table next to you.) In case you were wondering, your stomach will not thank you for it later. But I will forever bleed orange and blue. Go Gators!

Memorial Day weekend

There’s nothing like a three-day weekend to recharge your batteries! Especially after the crazy week I had (and I won’t even get into how much crazier things are going to get this week). Dan and I have definitely been enjoying our Memorial Day weekend. We spent Saturday at home – Dan put all of his camping gear away while I made lemon crinkle cookies. I’ll post that recipe on Friday, but for now I’ll just say that they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Then we sat down to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that we’ve been wanting to see for a long time – “The Pumaman.” I discovered a fantastic website where you can buy single discs of every episode that isn’t already available on DVD – Hayce’s MST3K DVD Shop. It’s a great deal and I’m thinking of buying a few more episodes. While Dan and I liked “The Pumaman” it didn’t live up to our two perennial favorites, “Space Mutiny” and “Time Chasers.” They are a must-see for all MST3K fans. Anyway, on Sunday morning Dan and I put on hats and sunscreen and set off on a walk to the beach for lunch. We hadn’t made the trip since his brother Bryon visited in February and I was worried about being too out of shape for it, but it turned out to be good time. We walked all the way to the Manhattan Beach Pier, about 5.5 miles from our house, before turning around and having lunch at the Hermosa Beach Pier on the way home. Despite the crowd at the Fiesta Hermosa Memorial Day event, we got a table at one of our favorite restaurants, Mediterraeno, without a problem. Dan and I had a great lunch and then walked home. My legs were killing me by the time we got to our front door, but I was really glad we’d made the 11 mile round-trip. Maybe that will be the catalyst I need to jump start my workout routine. I definitely need a good kick in the pants – especially since so many of my pants don’t fit right now! But back to my weekend recap. Last night Dan and I had Papa John’s pizza for dinner while watching game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Thunder. Since it wasn’t the Lakers (whose season ended in a whimper when they to the Thunder in five games) I didn’t particularly care who won, but it was nice to be watching basketball again. After the game I went grocery shopping. As I briefly mentioned earlier, this week is going to be crazy so I’ve been trying to do some meal planning to get ahead of the game and not have to scramble during the week. It’s always good to be prepared. I had to go to Whole Foods, Target, and Ralph’s to get everything I need for the dishes I’ve picked out, but the stores weren’t crowded at 8:30 PM on a Sunday. I’m trying a couple of new recipes this week so we’ll see how they turn out. And so we come to Memorial Day itself. Dan and I went to the car wash as soon as we got up this morning to get both of our cars cleaned. Mine definitely needed a bath after spending last weekend in the desert! Since then we’ve been spending the rest of the holiday at home. Dan worked in the garage while I whipped up a batch of chocolate mint cookies with a bag of dark chocolate and mint chips that have been sitting in my baking cabinet since Christmas. They taste a bit like Thin Mints, which is promising. I’ll post the recipe later this week. Right now I’m watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and waiting for some ground turkey to thaw before I assemble some meatballs for tomorrow’s dinner. The rest of the day will be filled with more basketball (game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals), maybe a movie, and something for dinner. Then I have to go to bed because my alarm is going to go off very early tomorrow morning to get me up for work. Let the craziness begin!