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Happy New Year! December 31, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in General.
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I’m heading off in a jet plane bright and early in the morning!
I’ll be back to regular posting upon my return next week.
Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful and happy New Year!!
Cin-cin, oh, and aloha!

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The Mini Version of Random December 29, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Shopping, Travel.
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Any time that I head out on a trip, I always keep in mind the 3-1-1 rule established by TSA which states that for carry-on baggage you can only carry 3 ounce containers that will fit in a 1 quart clear zip-top bag for every 1 passenger. In searching for travel size items, I came across a website called Minimus. This site has the most unbelievable variety of random, travel size items that I’ve ever seen…some things that I didn’t know existed (bug button) and some things that I wonder why there’s a need for a travel size version (squeezable peanut butter packets).  Needless to say, you can pretty much get a miniature version of anything your heart desires!

If you’re still not satisfied, then check out Flight 001. This store has some very chic travel gear that you probably can’t find elsewhere. I mean, who doesn’t want to spritz their face with a little Evian before cuddling up in their cashmere blanket and resting their head on a silk neck pillow. Now that’s high flying!

Getting Down to the Oats and Grains of It December 28, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Family/Home, Food.
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We celebrate Christmas with Casey’s family on Christmas Eve. This year instead of having our typical Christmas dinner again, we decided to have brunch instead. It was nice to get started earlier and feel like you had the whole day to spend together. I wanted to contribute to the spread, but deciding what to make while traveling and not having access to your own kitchen makes it a little difficult. I’m a huge fan of Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) and caught a glimpse of a recipe that was perfect to make ahead: Cherry, Almond, and Cinnamon Granola.

Cherry, Almond, and Cinnamon Granola

• 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
• 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
• 2 cups sliced almonds
• 1 1/2 cups dried cherries, chopped
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/3 cup good honey
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and cherries together in a large bowl.
Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture.
Add the cinnamon and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the liquids.
Pour onto a sheet pan.
Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.
Note: One variation to try is adding dried apples to the mix. However, if you do so, add them to the mixture after baking…otherwise they just get too hard!

You Have Quite a Lovely Silhouette December 27, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Art, Family/Home, Shopping.
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Karl Double SilhouetteI enjoy watching the various segments shown on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.  A while back they did a segment on The Return of the Silhouetteand I was absolutely caught up by the classic look. A little later I saw them talked about again in a magazine, so I did a little internet search and came across the artist, Karl Johnson. His work is quite impressive and completely done by hand. So for Christmas this year, we thought it would make a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law. We had double silhouettes done of each set of grandchildren, and they turned out absolutely beautiful! Lauren, Karl’s wife, was truly a delight to work with from the beginning to the end (when I needed a last minute upgrade on my shipping). I think this is a unique way to create a family heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation…and expanded as your family grows. He also does custom orders, like full silhouettes of wedding couples and pets. If you’re pregnant, what a great idea to have your “baby bump” transferred to a silhouette.

Happy Holidays! December 20, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Family/Home.
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Well, we’re getting ready to pack up and head home for the holidays! I’ve been so busy this week trying to get everything organized that I’ve hardly had time to post anything. Once Christmas has passed, I will definitely inform everyone of the wonderful vendors that I’ve purchased gifts from…the one’s who have made gift buying a lot more pleasant.

In addition, we are going on a little trip over the New Year’s holiday, so be on the lookout for more “Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie” entries. This time it will be the O’ahu edition!! That’s right, we’re heading to the 50th state…Hawaii! I’m ready to sport my lei and get my hula on!!

From my family to yours: Happy Holidays from DC, our nation’s great capital!
Stay safe and have fun!!

Capital Christmas

Fat Daddy Loves You December 18, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Shopping.
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At least that’s what the card said. A group of us sent some of Fat Daddy’s ‘cupcakes in a jar’ to a friend. What a great pick-me-up gift! The pictures posted by Fat Daddy’s Bake Shop make my mouth water, so I can only imagine taking a bite of the actual product.  Each ‘cupcake in a jar’ feeds 2 – 3 people.  While this Illinois mom is not taking any additional orders for the holidays, you should definitely look them up for other gift-giving options…or for a self-indulgent treat!  With a list of flavors this long and delicious, you couldn’t possibly go wrong.

* The Classic- Chocolate cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.
* Chocolate Competition- Chocolate cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
* Plain Jane in a Party Dress- Vanilla Bean cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.
* Vanilla Dream- Vanilla Bean cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
* Chocolate Chip off the Ol Block- Brown sugar Chocolate chip cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.
* Banana Butterscotch Bad Boys- Banana cake with Butterscotch chips with Golden Butterscotch Frosting.
* Happy Together- Vanilla Bean cake baked with fudge swirls with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.
* Maple Madness- Vanilla Bean cupcake with Pure Maple Syrup Buttercream.
* Bare Naked Lemon & Lime- Fresh Lemon cake with Real Lime Buttercream.
* The Nut Job- Peanut butter cake layered with thick Chocolate Fudge Frosting.
* The Jitters- Vanilla cake with Coffee/ Baked with Chocolate Chips & layered with Vanilla Buttercream.
* Fat Daddy’s Little Pumpkin- Pumpkin cake with Cream Cheese/Buttercream Frosting(limited time).
* CooKoo for Coconut- Butter cake filled with Coconut layered with Cream Cheese/Buttercream Frosting, topped with Coconut.
* Captain Carrot Cake- Carrot cake layered with Cream Cheese/Buttercream Frosting.
* Red Velvet Revolution- Red Velvet cake layered with Cream Cheese/Buttercream Frosting.
* PMS/Chocolate Overload- Chocolate cake baked with two layers of Oreo cookies and Dark Chocolate Chips, frosted with Vanilla Buttercream and topped with Oreo cookie Crumbles.
* Pucker Up Sunny- Cranberry/orange cupcake with Orange Buttercream. (limited time).
* Carmel Apple Attack- Apple cake with Carmel and Pecans. (limited time).
* Anti-EstablishMINT- Chocolate cake with Andes Chips/ Mint Buttercream.
* Drunken Johnny- Rum cake with Rum Glaze topped with Rum Buttercream. (limited time)
* Sugar Daddy Cupcake- Sweet, butter/sugar cake with Sweet White Buttercream topped with a sugar Christmas Cookie. (limited time)
* Chai Noon- Cinnamon/Vanilla Cake with Chai Spiced Buttercream.
* Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy- Chocolate cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting topped with Almonds.
* Macadamia SnowCake- White Chocolate Cake Topped with White Chocolate Buttercream and Chopped Macadamia nuts.(limited time)
* Tipsy Monkey (Bananas Foster)- Vanilla bean/Banana/ Rum cake with Vanilla bean/Banana/ Rum/sugar Buttercream Frosting.
* Fat Daddy Float- Yellow Cake made with real Root Beer and Topped with Root Beer Buttercream Frosting.
* Santa’s Secret Reindeer Snack- Caramel Cake Topped with Butterscotch/Carmel Buttercream sprinkled with Fat Daddy’s Secret Reindeer Crunch.(limited time)
* Candy Cane Christmas Party- White Cake Swirled with Pink Peppermint Cake topped with Peppermint Buttercream, Sprinkled with Crushed Candy Canes.(limited time)
* Berry Berry Dark- Very Dark Chocolate Cake Centered with Raspberry Preserves, Topped with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting.
* Irish Cream Dream- Coffee/Chocolate caked spiked with Irish cream, Topped with Coffee Buttercream and Oreo pieces.
* Orange these the best!- Dark Chocolate Cake baked with Fresh Orange Zest Topped with Orange/Chocolate Buttercream.
* Sunshine Gingerbread Gang- Gingerbread Cake Topped with Lemon Buttercream Frosting.
* Happy Hanukkah Honey!- Honey Cake Topped with Honey Buttercream.

Need a Little Air? December 17, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Gadgets.
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VinturiLooking for the perfect wine lover’s gift for Christmas? Here’s an interesting item: Vinturi Wine Aerator. It’s even more perfect if the wine lover is also a gadget lover!

Instead of using the glass decanters that have become so popular and take F-O-R-E-V-E-R, why not entertain your guests while providing them with a better tasting glass of wine instantly. It seems impossible, but trust me this thing works. You simply hold the Vinturi over your wine glass and pour the wine directly through. It quickly infuses the wine with the right amount of air as you pour. The lady from whom we purchased our Vinturi did a little before and after taste test and there was an unbelievable difference in the smoothness and finish. It’s hard to believe that something so simple can do something so extraordinary! I most recently used my Vinturi on a glass of Callaway Vineyard’s Nebbiolo Bello…YOWZAA…delicious from the first glass to the last. At a cost of about $40 (and crossing your fingers you can find one), this would make a wonderfully unique gift for anyone…especially yourself!

Getting a Little Fruity December 14, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Food.
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FruitcakeIt’s that time of year when the fruitcake rears its ugly head! Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually a fan of fruitcake…when it’s the good stuff. Trust me, there are good ones out there. My absolute favorite is made by monks at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA. I first discovered their delicious fruitcake and creamed honey at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show two years ago. I seriously can’t say enough wonderful things about it…it’s moist, full of fruit, and will turn you into an instant lover of it’s holiday goodness! If you’re looking for an alternative, my second choice is Harry & David’s Traditional Fruitcake. It’s not nearly as moist, but it is a good choice as far as fruitcakes go.

Turtles in Your Stocking December 13, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Food.
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Pretzel TurtlesThis year Casey and I have decided to really stick to our holiday budget for gift purchasing. In light of that, I’ve decided to give food gifts to certain individuals (like our hair stylist, neighbors, and postman) so that they know we are thinking of them during the holiday season. Plus, who doesn’t love to get homemade goodies?! I spotted a recipe in this month’s Everyday with Rachael Ray that I decided to give a whirl: Pretzel Turtles. They sound super easy and for the most part they are. When rolling out the caramels, though, be prepared to buff up the pipes! It was like a mini-workout. Once you’re past that part, the rest is simple and the end result is delicious.  I placed 7-10 in a cellophane bag (purchased at Michael’s) and sealed it with a Christmas ribbon. Voila!

Pretzel Turtles
• One 14-ounce bag (4 dozen) soft caramels
• One 10-ounce bag pretzel nuggets
• 12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 2 cups natural almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Unwrap the caramels, then, using a rolling pin, roll out each one into a 1/8-inch-thick oval. Wrap a caramel around each pretzel nugget, pinching the ends to seal.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt half the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Add the remaining chocolate, remove the top of the double boiler from the saucepan and stir until smooth.

Place the almonds in a shallow bowl. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a fork, dip a caramel-covered pretzel in the chocolate to coat, tapping off any excess chocolate. Transfer the pretzel to the almonds and toss to coat; place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.

Let stand until set, about 3 hours.
Makes 50.

Run, Girlie, Run December 12, 2007

Posted by smooregasbord in Fashion, Running, Shopping.
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New Adventure SkirtI’m a big fan of clothes, but not such a big fan of running. However, if you dangle cute running clothes in front of me, it’s very motivational! When I was putting together my running ensemble for the Army Ten Miler back in October, I discovered something very wonderful…the running skirt. It allowed me to experience the best of both worlds: great performance clothing combined with being an uber-girl! The one that I wore in the race was the New Adventure Skirt from Nike.

ToughGirlThen I was reading Shape magazine and discovered a company that makes running skirts their passion: SkirtSports. They offer some really cute options and cover all of the important activities: golf, tennis, cycling, and running. Their cycling skirts are especially neat because they have built-in cushioning to protect from the ever irritating discomfort caused by bike seats. I’m not much of a cyclist, so my current favorite is a pair of skirted running pants called the ToughGirl. One other neat option they offer is found on the TransitionGirl skirt: Pearl Snaps. Pearl snaps make it a “snap” to attach your race bib without damaging the fabric with those pesky safety pins.