Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to host the (almost) perfect Thanksgiving: For procrastinators

PSA:  Thanksgiving is 5 days away.  That's right.  FIVE days.  If you are a regular 9-5, Monday through Friday working person, that means you have today and tomorrow to get it together.  OK, don't freak out, it'll be fine.  Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  If you are new to hosting, go checkout my comprehensive beginners guide to hosting Thanksgiving before you jump into this one.  Then come back here.

Alright, first of all, we need to talk about turkey.  Do you have turkey?  What kind of turkey do you want?  If you would like a free range/heritage/organic/fresh turkey or some combination thereof, you might still have time to order one if you haven't yet.  Here in Portland, you can order your turkey from New Seasons online (which is brilliant, why doesn't everyone do that?).  I ordered mine last weekend, but you can probably still get in on that action.  If you don't want to do that, Market of Choice and Whole Foods are good bets for quality turkeys.  A few years ago I was able to run into Market of Choice 2 days before Thanksgiving and nab a turkey, so procrastinators rejoice!  But seriously, don't wait until 2 days before because you will not be guaranteed a turkey.  Also, if you end up getting a frozen turkey, keep in mind it can take FIVE days to thaw.  Yes.  Five days.  As in, the amount of days from now until the day you need to cook the turkey.  See why you need to get your turkey, like, now?

OK, now that we have a turkey, how are you going to cook it?  If you read my original Thanksgiving post you will find several simple and delicious turkey recipes.  If you want more selection, hop on over to my Thanksgiving Pinterest board.  I highly suggest that you make a thanksgiving pinterest board to organize all of your thanksgiving recipes.  You need them all in one place.

Time to make a list of all the dishes you want to have at your table.  Delegate the ones that you don't want to deal with/don't have time for/don't have oven space for. And as you know from reading my other post, you will also need some snacks and drinks. Now make a list.  Like this:

Herb Rubbed Turkey
Cider Gravy
Simple Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce
Parsnip Mashed potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Charcuterie Board
Apple Cider

Great!  Now make a grocery list to make sure you have all of the ingredients for your recipes.  Check it twice.  Now go to the grocery store.  Like right now - trust me when I tell you that you don't want to go to the store on Wednesday afternoon. (PS, you might want to clean out your fridge before heading to the grocery store to make sure you have room for everything).

OK, what can you make ahead of time?  If you are making your own pie crust, you might want to go ahead and do that today (Saturday), then pop it in the freezer.  On Tuesday you can make your cranberry sauce, Also if you are brining your turkey you will probably want to start that. And on Wednesday you can make your pies.  You can probably do some prep work on Wednesday if you have time - chopping your veggies and things like that.  Obviously, you need to make yourself a timeline:

Order Turkey if you haven't yet
Make a list of dishes you want to serve
Ask guests what they can bring
Make grocery list
Go shopping
Write timeline for rest of week
(This includes figuring out how long your turkey will take so you know when you have to start it)

Make pie crusts
Take an inventory of your serving pieces and kitchen tools.  If you don't have something that you need, get it today.
Put the leaf in your table if you have one and are using it.
Wash your table cloth but don't put it on your table yet.  The cat is an asshole.

Check that you have movies/games on hand for entertaining the masses while you slave away in the kitchen.  Make sure you have that covered.

Probably clean your house like a crazy person.
Double check your ingredients to make sure you have everything.  It's better to go to the store today than Wednesday.

Make cranberry sauce.
Brine turkey if doing so.

Make pies
Make herb butter for turkey
All other possible prep that can be done ahead of time.
Make sure you have wine.
Drink wine (not too much.  You have to get up early tomorrow)

Make sure you get up 2-3 hours before you need to put the turkey in the oven.  It needs to sit out for 2 hours to come to room temperature.  Also, pad your timeline a little.  Add an extra half hour here and there to make sure you have enough time for everything.  For example:  I will have a 12 pound turkey, which will take 3-3.5 hours to cook.  I'm rounding that up to 4.   Also it will need to rest for half an hour after coming out of the oven. Since I need to have my turkey sit out for two hours before I cook it, I need to be up and getting my turkey ready 6 1/2 hours before I want to serve dinner.  Since I want to serve dinner at 4pm, I need to make sure I am in the kitchen by 9:30 am.  But since I want to give myself a little extra time, I should really plan on being up and in the kitchen by 9am.  It is best to write a detailed timeline of your day so that you can stay on top of things without getting stressed out.  Make sure you schedule enough time to take a shower and get ready before dinner.  I can't tell you how many pictures there are of me on Thanksgiving with bedhead still in my pjs because I woke up, started cooking and NEVER STOPPED.  Give yourself as much extra time as you can so you don't have a meltdown.

Now eat and allow yourself to slip into a blissful food coma while someone else does the dishes.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Hello October!

Leaves just starting to turn in Washington Park
Summer has flown by, and I find myself welcoming Autumn.  It has been a few years since I got to experience an Oregon October, and I am so looking forward to the things I missed while living in Arizona.  The leaves have been changing, and although we have benefited from a lingering summer, the air is starting to turn crisp.  This summer K and I decided to make an effort to do the things that we kept saying "You know, we should really do that before the end of the summer".  We made a list of things that were Must Do items.  And then we scheduled them.  It is a little amusing to me to schedule fun, but you know what?  It worked.  We had a great summer, and there really isn't anything that we are kicking ourselves about missing.  September was one of those weird hybrid months - still summer, mostly, but transitioning to fall.  We didn't have as much scheduled fun for September, but I had a few goals, one of which was to do a weekend hike every week.  We are NOT hikers, or really outdoorsy or athletic in general.  We are sort of weirdos in the Pacific Northwest, where it seems that everyone just loves the great outdoors.  Here in the Northwest, people need to soak up every ounce of sunshine that summer has to offer, to counteract the gloomy winter.  So they tend to spend the entire summer camping, hiking, running, floating the river....K and I just have never been drawn to those types of activities, despite my rugged Alaskan upbringing.  Don't get me wrong, I have done my fair share of camping, but at this point it isn't my go to activity.

The City of Portland from Washington Park (they love the Great Outdoors)

So in an effort to be more active and spend a little more time enjoying the Pacific northwest that I love, I decided that we should start a weekly hike.  Nothing crazy, mind you.  I googled "easy Portland hikes" and picked the easiest one I could find.  No need to overdo it right off the bat.  How do I know what these hiking people consider easy?  K seemed slightly uneasy about my declaration that we would now be doing weekly hikes, but being both a good sport and a loving husband, he agreed and jumped on board.  We ended up taking a hike 3 out of 4 weekends in September.  We are sticking with the easy hikes for now, but we are starting to feel more confident in our ability to love the Great Outdoors.

Oh nothing, just a hike in the woods

If you want to start checking out some hikes in the Portland area, I have found this website to be very helpful.  Last weekend we did the Washington Park hike, a beautiful hike in a park established over one hundred years ago by early Portlanders with amazing foresight.

Our most recent hike was in Tryon State Park.  This park is near Lewis and Clark College.  It is filled with amazingly HUGE trees, and even has trails for horseback riding.

But First: Waffles!
On the same day that we went to Washington Park, my BFF texted me and told me that one of my favorite restaurants from Eugene, Off the Waffle, had opened a Portland location!  She and I try to go there for breakfast every time I go to visit Eugene, so I was ecstatic to find out there was one close to me.  

We plan to keep up our weekly hikes as long as the weather stays decent.  But we have also come up with a few "Must Dos" for October.

October Must Do list

Sauvie Island Pumpkin Patch
Apple picking on Hood River Fruit Loop
Wine Tasting in Yamhill Valley
Weekend trip to Seattle to see friends

I've already scheduled our fun on my calendar.  What are your October must dos?

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Did you miss me?

OMG, you guuuuuys.  It's been like TEN MONTHS.  I know.  I'm sorry.  And I should have been blogging this whole time because so many things happened in the last ten months.  Soooooo many.  But things have been crazy, and so blogging took the back burner.  Let me list for you the major life changes that have happened since we last talked...

1. K and I got ENGAGED!  Gah!  Can you believe it!?  OK, I basically knew we were going to get married after we had been dating for about three weeks, but it was still pretty amazing.  We got engaged in San Diego because he didn't want it to happen in Arizona, due to my...less than friendly feelings toward Arizona. It was wonderful and actually I think I'm going to need to do a separate post on it.  So, on to the next thing which is...
Sedona - one of our favorite places in AZ

2.  We MOVED...away from Arizona.  And back to Portland!!  OMG!  Nothing could make being engaged to the guy of my dreams better than moving back to the city of my dreams.  We had only been engaged a few weeks when we heard that there was a position open at K's company in Portland.  I really didn't want to get my hopes up, and it took FOREVER for it to become final, but in November we hit the road and drove back to Oregon where...
On the road home

3.  We bought ANOTHER house.  One in Portland.  There were a few things we liked about Arizona (very few), but the thing we loved the most was our first house.  It was perfect for us.  It was (is) beautiful and new, and nice and bigger than anything either of us has ever lived in.  And it was just, the ONE.  Much like we knew that the other was "the ONE" when we met, we knew that our house was the one for us the first time we saw it.
Pepper likes moving for obvious reasons

Christmas decor is always a priority

 When we found out we were for sure moving to Portland, we started looking at places to live.  I was pretty adamant about living in Portland proper rather than a suburb.  I did the suburb thing - and I learned once again that suburbs are not for me.  K and I had a bit of a showdown over this issue because it may have been more practical for us to move to the suburbs.  His office is deep, deep in the suburbs, and traffic to and from there is a nightmare.  Not to mention the fact that you can pretty much always find a place to live that is bigger, nicer and cheaper in the suburbs than you can in the city.  I don't always insist on having my way, but in this case I knew that moving to the suburbs would be a mistake.  Finally K gave me a challenge:  If I could find a job in the city before we moved, we would live in Portland.  Done and done.  I'm not sure how it happened so quickly, but it did - which leads us to number four....

The Tram

4.  I got a new job!  Well, obviously.  I did finally start working in Arizona, although it was at a job that I was grossly overqualified for and underpaid for.  Seriously.  Not only did I make 1/4 of what K made, but I'm pretty sure I was the only person in my position over 30.  It was nice to finally be working again, and bringing in some sort of a paycheck, even though it was quite tiny.  After a few months I was getting pretty bored, though, so really it was a relief to start something new when we came back to Oregon.

After we found out that we might be able to move back to Oregon, I knew I needed to start applying for jobs right away.  The first time I moved to Portland I applied for HUNDREDS of jobs and never heard a peep back on any of them.  So I expected that it would be similar this time around.  Despite not even being positive that we were moving, I pulled out my laptop and started searching.  The first night I applied for a few jobs that I thought I was qualified for and also met some of my requirements (as far as pay, position and LOCATION (reference #3).  I filled out some online applications, attached my resume and sent them into the black hole of job application land, presumably to never be heard from again.  And then to my surprise, the very next day I received an email from the owner of the business I had just applied with.  He had looked at my resume and wanted me to take a personality test!  Well, OK!  I filled it out that evening.

The next day, he sent me another email - he wanted to do a phone interview!  What!?!  So, we did a phone interview, and then a Skype interview, and then I was hired!  Keep in mind that I was still in Arizona this whole time, working at my old job and waiting every day to hear if K was really and truly going to be able to get the transfer back to Oregon.  I had to take a licencing exam to be able to start my new job in Oregon, so I started studying as soon as we found out that we would be moving.  Which also explains my ten month radio silence.  After we did finally get the notice that we would be moving, I spent pretty much all of my free time either packing or studying for my exam.  And when we did finally roll into town and get the keys to our new house, guess what day it was?  It was the day before Thanksgiving.  So then the Holidays happened.  And then...?
Portland I love you

5.  We planned a wedding.  After getting engaged, I did a few basic wedding planning things.  I started a pinterest board or 4 to pin all of the amazing and fantastic wedding ideas that are out there.  I bought a few bridal magazines.  I compiled a preliminary guest list.  I started looking at wedding venues online.  In OREGON.  Because no way in hell was I going to get married in Arizona.  And then before I really had to start worrying about the logistics of all that, we learned we maybe would be moving to Oregon..  So the details of wedding planning were put on hold until after the move was final and done.  I had emailed several wedding venues while I still was living in Arizona, and one that I was quite interested in was the McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse in Hillsboro, OR.  First of all, it is a McMenamins, which is sort of an Oregon standby.  Second of all, this location has a barn that they hold weddings in.  I blame pinterest for the fact that I suddenly needed a barn wedding.  I'm not a barn person, nor is my style rustic.  And I did not envision a rustic wedding in this barn, but still, I wanted a barn.  Which is surprisingly hard to find in the Portland area.  Not only that, but it proved to be much more cost effective than most of the other venues I was interested in, as the cost of the venue is included with a food and beverage minimum.

So, a few days after Christmas, I emailed the sales coordinator of the venue.  Just kind of throwing it out there.  K and I didn't really care what time of year the wedding was.  We knew it would need to be summer if it was outside, but other than that, neither of us cared if it was spring, summer, fall or winter.  Since this particular venue is outdoor/indoor, I preferred a spring, summer or fall date.

Not in the desert anymore

"Hi, just wondering what Saturdays you have available in the spring, summer or fall in 2014?"

Turns out, the ONLY Saturday they had available between April and October was June 21st.  And that was because of a cancellation.  I immediately forwarded the email to K and said - "what do you think?"
He wrote back "YES!"  And so there you go, six months to plan a wedding.  Not the shortest amount of time that anyone has ever had, for sure.  But still, there was no time for dilly dallying.  Which is good for me, since I am such a major procrastinator.  Knowing that I had a fast approaching deadline made me much more productive.  But it also meant that once again, blogging was not a priority.

The week after the wedding, I was sort of having withdrawals.  It had been so stressful and so wonderful - there were times that I said "I can't wait for this to be over with and just be married!"  But you and I both know that we thrive on the rush that we get from stress, and this particular kind of stress is like nothing else.  And then there was no more wedding planning!   I was explaining to K that I had put so much work and energy into it that it was sort of hard to have it all just stop.  And he said:  "You should blog about it.  You should do a series or something"  My husband, he is a clever one.  And to be honest, I had been blogging in my head the whole time.  I took pictures and I composed entries in my head.  So, I will be blogging about some of the things that have happened in the last ten months.  Some DIYs and some wedding planning things.

Oh yeah, which means that:

6.  We got MARRIED!   Obvs.

So that is it.  Here I am, ten months later.  Married and living in Portland.  Still cooking, still grilling, still DIYing ( although mostly DIYing wedding decor lately).  Still celebrating Wine Wednesday (and Wine Monday and Wine Friday).  Still trying to find the best things that my city has to offer - it's just that the best that this city has to offer is just...better.  Can't wait to tell you all about it.

Back in Bridgetown

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wine Wednesday: 2011 Hedgeline Pinot Gris

This Wine Wednesday features a Washington Pinot Gris called Hedgeline.  I've never heard of this vineyard before, but then I am not as familiar with Washington wines as I am with Oregon wines.  This is quite a fragrant and fruity Pinot Gris, with a tart apple flavor as well as a some sweetness.   It was a pretty enjoyable wine.

Wine:  Hedgeline Pinot Gris
Year: 2011
Region: Washington
Purchased From: Fry's
 Price: $10
Verdict: 4/5

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

What!?!  Two red wines in a row???  I know, right?  It just happened that way, don't get excited.  Who knows how long it will be before I feature a red wine again.  I picked this up because I was making this Jacques Pepin Beef Stew, and because the stew contains an entire bottle of red wine, I thought the only appropriate drink to go with it was another bottle of red wine.   Also, I thought the bottle was pretty cool.

This is a Chilean wine called Root:1.  -  apparently Chile is one of the only places that has grapes growing on original root stocks.  A disease of the grape called phylloxera (do NOT google that, so gross) wiped out most of the grape vines in the world and so to fight the disease, most growers started grafting cuttings onto disease resistant stocks.  I'm not sure if this makes the grapes better or worse, but I just thought you might enjoy a mini history lesson with your Wine Wednesday.

This is a nice, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon.  I would go so far as to call it velvety.  K recommends that you let it breathe, and advises that it opens up nicely.  Also, did I mention the bottle is pretty cool?

Aren't my pumpkins cute?  I picked them up at Pier 1 Imports.

Wine:  Root:1 Cabernet Sauvingnon
Year: 2011
Region: Chile
Purchased From: World Market
 Price: $10
Verdict: 4/5
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Red Diamond Pinot Noir

That's right, I have a red for you this week!  I know it doesn't happen very often.  But watch out, because I'm on a roll - I have another one for you next week.  K and I picked up this one while we were taking advantage of Fry's wine sale - buy six bottles, get 30% off, in addition to sale prices!  This means that I got this bottle of wine that is regularly sold at $10.99 for only $5.59. That is crazy talk!  In case you didn't know, Fry's is owned by Kroger, so it is a sister store, sort of, to our beloved Fred Meyer.  Well, more like step-sister store.  But we take what we can get.  If you have a Kroger affiliate where you live, you can probably take advantage of a similar sale.

We bought this wine because we knew we had some grilled steaks in our future.  And we pretty much only drink red wine when we are eating steak.  It turns out that this wine might not have been the top choice to go with steak, although it was pretty great.  It was a very smooth wine, soft and mellow.  Not at all what I am used to with Pinot Noirs.  I actually said this when I first tasted it - "It's like drinking a fuzzy blanket!"  and it was.  In a good way.  I would recommend this wine if you want a nice, drinkable Pinot Noir.

Wine:  Red Diamond Pinot Noir
Year: 2011
Region: California
Purchased From: Fry's
 Price: $5.59 (Reg 10.99)
Verdict: 4/5
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wine Wednesday: King Estate Luminous Pinot Gris

When K and I were on our trip to the Northwest a few weeks ago, we did a little bit of wine tasting.  Of course I couldn't miss my favorite winery in the world, King Estate.  We decided to pick up a bottle of this limited edition Luminous Pinot Gris.  Don't be fooled by the pink color, this is not a rosé!  I am not a fan of the rosé, so I was surprised that I actually liked this wine.  That's because unlike a rosé , which is traditionally made from red grapes that are separated from their skins,  this is made from Pinot Gris grapes and is allowed to soak with the skins for 72 hours.  Traditionally Pinot Gris is separated from its skins before fermentation, because the Pinot Gris grape is actually purplish grey.

Anyway, this is a really nice crisp, dry wine.  It isn't at all sweet, but it isn't too tart.  It's nicely balanced.  The skins added tannins, which give it a tiny bit of astringency.  I realize that doesn't sound like something you would want to find in your wine, but it worked here and was not at all unpleasant.  This wine was great with spicy foods, but also it cuts sweetness nicely.  I served it with some easy happy hour foods, a  few kinds of bruschetta and also some figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto.

Because this is such a great summer wine, and figs are such a great summer fruit, I decided these two had to be on the same table.  I made my favorite fig and goat cheese bruschetta, along with pesto and sopressata bruschetta, and a new one with brie, figs and prosciutto.  

I had some figs left over, so I quartered them lengthwise, almost but not quite to the bottom.  Then I stuffed them with goat cheese, wrapped them in prosciutto and topped them with freshly cracked pepper and a little drizzle of honey.  Then I baked them for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Wine:  King Estate Luminous Pinot Gris
Year: 2011
Region: Oregon
Purchased From: King Estate Winery
 Price: $18
Verdict: 5/5
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