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Bikini Schmakini

Last weekend I attended H’s corporate summer party, which was a multi-million dollar fête on Randall’s Island.  There were carnival rides, free beer, tons of food, live music…basically an amusement park for adults.  It was awesome.

This week is my own office summer party.  It’s a potluck “picnic” that takes place on a Wednesday afternoon in the central hallway of our office.  There is certainly no booze, free or otherwise.  And no live music.  And the food, as I mentioned, is home-made.  Weemp womp.

I work for a very small, privately-owned company, so the ridiculous difference in Summery celebrations is to be expected.  But here is one thing H’s gigantor 10,000 person party didn’t have that mine does: Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares.  Handmade by ME.

I know it’s summer and everyone is supposed to be skinny and stuff cause of the bathing suit situation, but honestly, these things are so worth the extra pound or two.  They are addictive and easy to make.  And they are salty.  And you know how I feel about salt (hint: it’s the light of my life).

I suggest you go to the grocery store ASAP, get your materials, and get baking.  You’ll thank me later.

Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 package (8 oz) toffee bits

1 package (6-8 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 box Graham Crackers

Sea Salt

 

To Do:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Melt 2 sticks of butter over low heat (don’t burn it!)
  • As that’s happening, lay out your grahams  (I used 2 packets) on a cookie pan covered with foil.
  • Cover grahams with Toffee bits, set aside momentarily.
  • When butter is melted, add sugar, and increase heat to medium-high
  • Bring mixture to a boil, cook 2-3 minutes
  • When Butter/Sugar is a syrupy consistency, remove from heat and immediately pour over the grahams/toffee.  Don’t worry if it overflows the grahams a little.  Trust.
  • Bake in oven until bubbling, approximately 12 minutes
  • When done, remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips & sea-salt.
  • Try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting.
  • Fail.

 

 

 

Leader of the Band

I know Father’s Day isn’t until Sunday, but for a variety of reasons I am not going to be with my dad on Sunday.  So I thought I’d take this post to say: Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Here is one of my favorite things about my dad: he looooves to have a soundtrack.

Christmas Morning?  We weren’t allowed downstairs until he could cue up just the right Bing Crosby carol to join us in the present opening.

St. Patrick’s Day?  Of course we were awakened at 7AM with blaring bagpipes

Birthdays? The regular old “Happy Birthday” didn’t suffice.  We had a special Happy Birthday song (what uppp Tom Chapin, kid-song-singer-extraordinaire) that was playing as we sang along before eating cake.

It’s not even big holidays or events that get this treatment.  It’s really anything that he can think of.  And my gosh does he think of plenty.  Perfect example: this past June 6th (D-Day, you uneducated fools) every single Wood child was called up and met with the swelling instrumental score from one of our favorite Wood Family Classics, the WWII series “Band of Brothers.”   And when my brother’s Alabama-native girlfriend came to visit New York for the first time, you better believe Dad made absolutely sure he had the Crimson Tide fight song cued up as she walked in the front door.

It’s a quirky and charming trait and I have to say, I have grown to love it.  It’s sort of like living in a movie.  A movie with a totally awesome soundtrack.

It is of course one of many fun qualities that he has that makes him a entertaining guy to be around.  But the soundtrack thing is not something that everyone does (at least I don’t think so!).  His superior music-appreciation even found me a theme song: Red-haired Mary (I gloss over the naughty lyrics and focus on the red-haired! and the Mary!  Pervs.)

Anyway.  Dad, I hope you have a fabulous father’s day in Boston.  I love you!  Here’s some Harry Chapin (and no, I am not going to do Cats in the Cradle…because that is a depressing Dad-centric song) to commemorate the day.

Instead, something more topic-appropriate:

 

PS: Dad, you’d be really proud…I’m voluntarily listen to Harry Chapin at work.  Job well done!

PPS: SICK mustache, Tom Chapin.

PPPS: It appears I can’t help mentioning mustaches in every. single. post.

Oh hey guys.  How’s it going?

I know it’s been six months since I went on “hiatus” (sorry for not warning you.  My bad. Things got a lil busy.), but guess what? Now that summer has rolled around and I have a little more free time, I think I can pick this business back up.

Also, and this has NOTHING to do with it, but my little sister C. stared a blog too–not only because she wants to emulate me in every way possible but also because she’s in Hawaii for her post-grad summer. Just hanging out on the beach. Meanwhile, I got a JOB after I graduated college…but that’s neither here nor there.  I’m ecstatic for her and not even the slightest bit smug that she can’t figure out the Hawaiian public transit system.  Look, I’m so un-bitter about this whole thing that I’ll even link to it: http://summerinhawaii.wordpress.com/

She’s a doll and she’s pretty witty so you should go visit.  Also, she gets really tan and I’m sure she’ll document that heavily as I sit wasting away in pale misery in my cube.

Now, you would think that as my blog was lying dormant (it was hibernating!  There you go, that’s my excuse) it would slip through the cracks of the vast internetz.  However.  That was not so.  You see, WordPress has a handy and very entertaining feature called “Top Searches” that shows you how people found Better Off Red. And to my utter surprise, not only did my busiest day come mid-hiatus, but people stumbled onto this site in the strangest of ways even sans-updates.

So, for my grand return to blogging, I give you the list of search phrases that led people to my humble corner of the web:

Search Views
hipster glasses 44
snowpocalypse 16
ironic mustache 9
dirty hipster 9
creep stache 5
better off red wordpress 5
hipster goatee 4
wordpress better off red 4
people with mustaches 3
george leier 3
snowpocalypse new york 2010 3
beard hipster glasses 3
new york snowpocalypse 3
moustache 3
betteroffred 3
you’re doing it wrong stache 3
+”synthesize ddt” 2
ironic mustaches 2
шнауцер 2
better off red blog 2
snowpocalypse.jpg 2
turbot dill 2
tom selleck mustache eyes 2
awesome moustaches 2
snowpocalypse gizmodo 2
hipster with glasses 2
cop with mustache 2
hipster fashion 2
the ironic mustache 2
scraggly beard “angry” 2
novel red led alarm clock sports cool cubby hole design 1
winter squash canelloni 1
noodles for breakfast 1
winter squash manicotti filling 1
turbot fillets en papillote 1
turbot en papillote 1
щенки морки 1
worldpress “better off red” 1
ragey glasses 1
betteroffred.com 1
jamie oliver stuffed cannelloni 1
maryewood 1
julia child’s cookbook 1
betteroffred.wordpress.com 1
fashion disaster exercise clothes 1
your doing it wrong 1
hipsters glasses men 1
the ironic stach 1
turbot en papillot 1
dead fish apocalypse 1
red mustaches that look good 1
snopacalyspe 1
snowacalypse sanitation workers strike 1
david tutera 1
ironic moustache 1
dirty hipster glasses 1
hipster facial hair glasses 1
ferris beuler’s day off 1
snowpocalypse new york 1
snowpocalypse nyc 2010 1
tom selleck black and white 1
ironic stache 1
no no no don’t lie 1
dill papillote sauce 1
better off red 1
hipster beard hat glasses 1
subway snowpocalypse 1
dirty hipster pics 1
hipster in glasses 1
unwonderful 1
ugly hipster 1
“must grow a mustache” 1
pedophilia your doing it wrong 1
“better off red” blog 1
porn stache selleck 1
cop stache 1
mens hipster eyeglasses 1
turbot wine sauce 1
evil genius moustache 1
ironic hipster glasses 1
http://www.betteroffred.fantake 1
tribecataco 1
duxbury croakies 1
turbot en papillote recipes 1
wonderful mustache 1
tom selleck porn stache 1
ultimate hipster glasses 1
alone again naturally flip side 1
hipsters mustaches 1
squash manicotti 1

 

Let me first say that it is so stupidly ironic that the phrase “mustache” and “hipster” bring the most people to my site.  Because, as you know, both things are the bane of my existence.  Funny how life turns out, isn’t it.

A few of my favorites off this list:

– “george leier”: either my dad’s BFF is googling himself a lot OR someone has a stalker!  Sorry George.

– “щенки морки”: I am dying to know A. what language that is and B. what it means.

– “no no no don’t lie”: Okay okay…I won’t.

– “scraggly beard “angry””: Which is how I described H throughout much of college.

– “tom selleck mustache eyes”: Only because the idea of “mustache eyes” kinda freaks me out

– and finally, “red mustaches that look good” : I can answer that one for you.  Those don’t exist.

 

 

 

 

 

Friends, I realize that I haven’t posted in approximately two weeks.  And for that, I am deeply sorry.  But things have been happening in my life, and while they are blog-worthy, certainly, they also are the very things that are keeping me from hunkering down in front of my computer.  It’s a conundrum: the more you have to blog about, the less time you have to actually blog about it.

The thing is, last week I turned 25.  Actually, as of today, I have been officially a quarter of a century old for an entire week.  I guess 25 isn’t considered “old” to some people (those people are, without fail, older than 25 of course).  However, this is a big one for me.  I think it’s a big one for everyone.

I know the term “quarter-life crisis” is thrown around quite a bit by my peers (actually, there is a pretty extensive Wikipedia entry on the term here). I also know that everyone older than us scoffs at such a ridiculous idea: having a crisis at age 25? About what? What dress to wear to the bar that night?  What boy to date?  What vacation to blow all your money on?

But think about it, old people: us 25 year olds have graduated college (well jeez, most of us have, I hope), and we are now living the “adult” lives that we’ve been dreaming about and planning out for the past oh, 20 years.  It’s human nature to fantasize about the future; we all do it.  I think the crisis occurs when we realize that, at 25, we are not exactly living the life we imagined for ourselves.

I’m not saying that I’m unhappy with where I am now, because I’m not.  I’m very, very happy.  It’s just quite different from what past-me would’ve imagined.  But that’s okay.

Speaking of things that I have never imagined I’d be doing, I made a great dinner last night.  Let me just toot my own horn here for a sec, cause it was freaking awesome.  Never mind that H was the one who actually did most of the cooking because half way through my risotto preparation I chopped off an impressively large hunk of my finger (our new knives are actually sharp! It’s something we need to get used to).  The wound (which I am now further aggravating to type these very words to you–you’re welcome) was well worth it.

The star of the meal was not the gigantic Rib Eye steak that H picked out at the grocery store, much to my horror.  It was actually the side dish: baked mushroom risotto.

Now, don’t be scared.  I know risotto has a bad rep of being really hard to make and very time-consuming.  But this risotto is actually pretty easy.  Because you bake it, rather than stir it for 56 minutes straight.

Baked Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from a recipe found on thekitchn.com.

You’ll Need

1 packet (approx 3/4 of an oz.) of dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 lb of crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 cups boiling water

1/3 of a cup of Olive Oil

3 yellow onions (1 finely diced, 2 sliced for carmelizing)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large spring of Rosemary, finely chopped

1 cup of Arborio Rice (special Risotto rice)

1/2 cup of dry vermouth (or White Wine, or sherry even too)

2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

 

To Do:

– preheat oven to 350. Rinse the dried mushrooms well and place in a bowl. Pour the 2 cups boiling water over mushrooms to reconstitute. Set aside.

– Heat a hearty drizzle of Olive Oil in a dutch oven (or oven-safe pot with a lid) over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and all garlic, saute until golden.

– Push the onions to the side of the pot and add sliced Crimini mushrooms (not the dried mushrooms.  Not yet). Turn burner up to medium-high heat. Let mushrooms cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes.  Once 5 minutes is up, flip mushrooms over and cook another 5 minutes without stirring.  You want a nice crust to develop on the bottom of the pan.

– Drain the dried mushrooms, saving liquid.  Add dried (now moist) mushrooms to the pot, along with the rosemary, stirring everything together.  Season with salt and pepper.

– Add the rice, continuing to stir.  Cook until rice starts to turn transparent, about 4-6 minutes.

– Crank up the heat and add the vermouth, the dried mushroom liquid, the stock, and the balsamic vinegar, making sure to scrap up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan as it de-glazes.

– Bring the mixture to a boil

– Cover pot and put it into the oven; bake for 30 minutes.

– While the rice is baking, carmelize the other 2 onions.  Heat equal parts EVOO and butter in a pan, add onion slices and saute over low heat until onions are dark brown.  Remember to salt liberally!  You can sprinkle some sugar on them too, to help along the carmelizing process.

– Serve risotto topped with carmelized onions.  Watch mushroom-loving boyfriend fall to the floor in paroxysms of joy upon eating.

So yes, it’s a lot of steps, and yes, we didn’t eat dinner until 9pm, and yes,I was mortally wounded, but still. It was worth it!  This would be a great, cozy Sunday dinner.

 

Nice little Thursday dinner

If this is my quarter-life crisis, I think I’ll survive.  I’ll be fat, make no question of that.  But I’ll survive.

Remember when like last week I blogged about the snowpocalypse (I can’t tell you how hard that is to spell for me, by the way).  Well, I hate to dwell on one subject, but this week I feel compelled to blog about the REAL APOCALYPSE.  Because all signs point to the fact that it is actually happening.

It’s the birds, people.  This whole bird thing is freaking. Me. Out. Have you heard about this story?  8 million birds just fell out of the sky on New Years Eve in East Tumbleweed, the mid-west, DEAD as doornails. No one knows why.  All we know is that they died from “massive trauma” that made their insides explode.  Or something.  You can tell I’ve been paying close attention to the details of this story that is scaring me so terribly.  Obviously.

(Note: it was more like 4,000 birds, and in Idaho.  Whatever.)

But it doesn’t stop there.  Reports were soon coming in that a trillion (or, 30,00, same diff) fish abruptly died in a river nearby.  AND!  In the few days after the mysterious mass demise of those Idahoian (Idahese?) birds, reports surfaced that the same thing was happening in other states. Same birds. Other kinds of fish.  Just straight up dying.  For no apparent reason.

Cue Twilight Zone music here.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed yet, I am a teesny bit prone to panicking and having crazy anxiety in situations that might not warrant such intense feelings (i.e. bringing a dish to my office potluck. I cried in the grocery store.  True story).  BUT.  This is, I feel, a perfectly good time to start panicking.  I would be cool as a cucumber if it was just those birds in Idaho that randomly ate it.  However, the increasingly bizarre similar events that also happened push me into crazy freak out mode.

On the other hand, I kinda like when eerie things happen.  I get a little thrill along with my fear/anxiety/planning on where I am going to wait out the alien invasion.  Why?  I don’t know, I’m probably just a weirdo.  But I also think that the world as-is is pretty freaking boring, so anything like this, which spices it up and makes us question what exactly is really going on here, is kinda fun.  And terrifying!

I’m not saying I am a conspiracy theorist, or a loony “IT’S THE END!” kind of person.  I am generally an 85% practical, pragmatic gal (although H might put that percentage a bit lower).  But this is really, really, super weird.  It also doesn’t help that below every single news story about these events on the internet are hordes of psychotic commentators telling us to repent, for Jesus Christ is coming, the end is nigh.  That, and/or aliens.  Oh also, I learned from reading those comments that the government is trying to kill all of us.   Thank you for enlightening me, whack-job internet commentators!

My reading of these comments (and actually, even some of the articles from more questionable sources) goes something like this:

– First couple of sentences: Ha!  These people are CRAZY!  The world isn’t ending! Science has a perfectly logical explanation for this!

– Middle of the article/comment list: Hm.  That guy actually has a point.  Why just one species of bird? What did they hit?  Why is this happening everywhere? WHAT ABOUT THE FISH, HM?

End of article/comment list: Holy god in heaven.  Those birds ran into an invisible alien spaceship that was commissioned by our government to enslave us all, thereby giving all power to the Chinese.  There was, somehow, a super-secret ray gun involved. Also, the bible said this would happen!  If the word ends before I can throw myself a truly ridiculous wedding, I will be SO. PISSED.

This might actually be a genetic thing.  My parents, who are generally reasonable people, have recently let all us kids know that the world is in fact ending in 2012, and that we are all required to convene at our cabin the middle of the woods in upstate New York on D-Day (I think it’s in December) in order to remain breathing and non-radioactive (among other things).  I personally think my parents might be watching a few too many Nostradamus/Mayan Calender/Armageddon shows on the History Channel, but okay.  To each their own.

Because it seems like a very human response to envision your own (and all of mankind’s) demise.  Why do you think all those “end of the world” movies are so popular?  Why do you think people ate up TV shows like Flash Forward and V and Walking Dead?  The greatest fear of people is, of course, the unknown.  And what is more unknown than the future?  So by assigning terrible events that are obviously going to happen, maybe people make themselves feel better.

I remain on the fence.  I’m not yet stock-piling water and canned goods in my basement (I don’t even have a basement, actually), but I’m also not immune to all the doom-sayers and their crazy talk.  I have an overactive imagination and I’m prone to assuming the worst, but I also have to have some hope for the future, or else I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.  It’s a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared. Let’s hope I can remain on the right side.

Snowpocalypse

If New York City was a person, I would imagine them to be calm, cool, sophisticated, a little bit snotty.  Obviously very highly opinionated and vain, self-absorbed, definitely unflappable, and above all, tough.  Until, that is, a little frozen condensation gets in the picture.

Unless you’ve been under a rock (or perhaps on a glorious vacation in a far off land sans internet connection?), you know that NYC was hit with a pretty bad (for NYC standards) snowstorm over the weekend.  And despite its permanent placement in the Northeast, despite it’s tough-guy attitude, despite it’s bragging that NYC is the “best city on the planet,”  this place is absolutely freaking out.

Now, it’s not like we have 8 feet of snow.  We have two feet, maybe. And it’s not even the biggest snow-storm to hit the Big Apple. It’s like, the sixth biggest.  So in the large scheme of things, it’s not really a big deal.

But you’d never know that from the way everyone is acting.

Luckily H and I managed to get back into the city via the always delightful (sarcasm) Metro-North Railroad on Sunday evening, before everything really went to hell.  But upon waking up on Monday morning we discovered that not only was our subway line completely suspended (not too surprising as they are elevated tracks out in the wilds of Astoria, Queens) but the Metro-North, the LIRR, every airport in the area, the New Jersey Transit, and pretty much every other subway line and bus route was also, amazingly, not functioning.  Cabs and cars?  Don’t even ask.  You would have had better luck cross-country skiing down 5th Ave.  Which, actually, I think people did.

I’m not sure you non city-dwellers will comprehend just how ridiculous this is, but try to imagine it.  An entire city of millions of people, most of whom depend entirely (like myself) on getting around via public transit, placed into a state of suspended animation. It was, excuse my french, a complete and utter shit show.  It was like with the first few flakes people’s brains turned from regular, logical function into OHMYGODFROZENWATERFALLINGFROMTHESKYWHATDOWEDOPANIC!

Don’t believe me?  Exhibit A:

Creepy, isn't it? (image from Gizmodo.com)

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! I mean people just abandoned their cars, their MTA buses, whatever, because holy moly it’s SNOW.

Still, you might be saying, whatevs, a morning of transit delays and stuck cars, no big deal.  But you honestly have no idea.

People were trapped on subways.  Trapped! Which is terrifying in and of itself, but combined with blizzard conditions?  Woof.  Not even for a couple of hours, but for 7 hours, or 8 hours, or hey, even 15 hours. 311 (sort of like 911 for complaining here in NYC) and real 911 were shut down, paramedics and other emergency people couldn’t get to anyone who needed help, and there were power-outages galore.

And where were the MTA workers and Sanitation workers and all those other people who get paid to clean up after storms like this?

Well frankly, I have no idea.  But I do know where they weren’t: cleaning off the tracks of subways (as of today, Thursday, there are still subway lines that aren’t functioning), spreading ice on train platforms so we don’t all slip and plunge to our death, or plowing 90% of streets in the outer boroughs.

In the aftermath of this storm, people aren’t exactly calming down.  Everyone is all ragey because Mayor Bloomberg pooh-poohed the storm and suggested people “go to a Broadway show” or something like that, instead of mobilizing resources to help citizens dig out.  It also did not help ole Mikey’s cause when pictures surfaced of his block plowed down to the black top bright and early Monday morning, while the rest of us (AKA Queens and Brooklyn) languished under the drifts.

Like I said: freaking. out.

So what did I do during Snowpocalypse 2010?  Duh, what any good NYC office drone did: “worked from home” and watched 18 episodes of “My Fair Wedding with David Tutera” on TV.

The snow sure did look pretty from my balcony, though.

Accidental Oenophiles

Readers, I’m sorry I haven’t been as prompt at posting as I have been in the past. The thing is, everyone talks about how busy they are at the holidays, and for awhile I kinda went, pshhh, busy?! Not me. And then, magically, I’m an adult and I am, actually, busy as heck. So, apologies.

Much of my time has been taken up by traveling and planning on traveling and visiting everyone in the general vicinity whilst traveling, that kind of thing. Which is where today’s story begins. H’s family Christmas party in Massachusetts was last weekend, and we proved ourselves once again to be Mega Bus’s greatest customers by trekking up there.

As I was enjoying the food, festivities, and company at said party, something occurred to me. Something big. A milestone, if you will.

H and I, with really trying, have quite suddenly become “Wine People”

Let me rewind. This epiphany happened after a few important incidents. 1. I recently realized that I was a bit unusual in the wine-drinking department after my sister (who is no stranger to the fermented grape herself) thought I was insane for asking for a wine decanter as a housewarming gift. I like my wine decanted. Sue me! 2. H’s mom recruited us to go to the liquor store to buy wine because “we knew that kind of stuff” and 2. we were gifted not one, but TWO bottles of el vino. Granted, H’s mom is not a wine drinker, and bottles of wine are great gifts that I welcome with open arms. But nevertheless, there it was. Evidence that we are Wine People.

I would say I’m not sure how this happened, but I actually am pretty sure how it happened. It all started with an innocent trip to San Francisco last year. Never having been to the west coast, H and I decided that SF would be the best locale for an inaugural visit. And with vacation stretching before us, I suggested we spend one day on a wine tour in Napa Valley, a quick mini-bus jaunt from our hotel in the city.

We frolicked from vineyard to vineyard, tasting and swirling and sniffing. I discovered that H fancied himself as the owner of an (and I quote) “extremely refined palate” (and I concur that that might be the only refined thing about him. LOVINGLY.). After that day, it was official: wine was good. Two thumbs up. Actually, between the two of us, four thumbs.

Before that, my experience with wine was limited to a certain boxed variety favored by poor college students. That, and a week-long trip to Spain during my study-abroad semester where local red wine was the cheapest thing we could get drunk on. The theme of my early wine-drinking was apparent: wine was great! When there was nothing else cheaper.

But now that I am a ma-toor lady, things are different. The wine tour in Napa was the first of a few. I attempted to hone my palate (whose limit was “I taste…wine”) while H lorded his over everyone else (“I taste strawberries–no, raspberries. Deffinetly raspberries. Late summer harvest if I’m not mistaken”) and we found ourselves not just buying bottles when we felt like drinking them, but buying them to keep around, just in case.

Now I realize I tread a fine line, because Wine People can sometimes come off as, well, A-holes. Not all wine people, mind you, but you know the ones I’m talking about. The connoisseurs, the ones who wouldn’t touch a bottle of Yellowtail with a 7 foot pole. Exhibit A:

Warning: strong language. This man does not fool around with his wine.

So let me clarify, H and I are not Wine People of the pretentious, A-hole variety. I think because we just kind of fell into it rather than making a pointed effort of becoming Oenophiles. My motto, and I think H’s too is: if it tastes good, drink it. I mean, it’s not like we are subscribing to Wine Drinkers Monthly or spending an entire paycheck on a singular bottle or building our own temperature controlled wine-cellar under our apartment building. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are Wine-o’s of the slightest, most amateur degree. But I guess that’s all you really need to be.

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