Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Obsession With As Seen on TV Products

I don't know why but for some reason as this year comes to a close I have as seen on TV products on my mind!

I've had a bit of an obsession with them since childhood. Something about them sucks me in and I've even seen Uka watching them in amazement late at night. I think deep down I really want to create an "as seen on TV" product and become filthy rich. Each time I see a new one I think, "Ohhhh, why didn't I think of that?" I do keep a running list of inventions but who knows if they'll make it to TV.

Anyway, here are a couple products that I remember from my childhood:

The Ab Isolator - Ahhhh who could resist Tony Little? My mom ordered this, and I did it off and on in middle school. I can't say that it worked.

Topsy Tail - Yep, I had one, and I wore my topsy tail a couple times with bangs. Thankfully there are no pictures of this tragedy.

The items I'm obsessed with now are:

Photo Credit:

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Ok, one last confession: I badly want a Snuggie! 

Photo Credit:
I see them in Bed Bath and Beyond and K & G and look longingly at them every time I'm in those stores, but I can't bring myself to buy one publicly. Perhaps I'll just order it online and have it shipped in plain brown packaging!

Do our readers have any as seen on tv products that actually work? Any funny memories to share?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No New Year's Resolution for Me

I've never been one to create New Year's resolutions, but I do believe in preparing for the new year. I especially like making sure my apartment is clean top to bottom, and I'm going to be working on that the rest of this week. I HATE clutter, and I like to constantly live in a state of being ready to move. Not that I'm going to move, just that being in a ready state is a fail safe way to live minimally without clutter! Currently, I have 2 boxes of mementos that need to be filed away and organized, but those are packed away in a closet for now until I can determine what system to use (I LOVE The Container Store, but it's often very pricey apart from their big sales a couple times each year - I see the Elfa sale is going on now!)

One tradition I do want to establish is a New Year's meal. One recipe I've been holding onto for over 5 years is Hoppin' John. I had never heard about it before until I saw the recipe in The Week, one of my favorite magazines (it's like NPR in print) and I misplaced it but, I came across another version of the recipe in Hallmark Magazine in 2007 and saved it in my tearsheet binder. I like this version because it's heavy on pot likker and others I've read look more like a side dish. For those of you who don't know, pot likker is the amazing, flavorful liquid left after many soul food dishes including greens. It's best sopped up with cornbread. Yum yum!

Hoppin John has black eyed peas which is a trademark of good luck for the new year and chorizo, which is one of my favorite sausages. My dad makes Portugese kale soup with chorizo, and I can never get enough of it.

Anyway, here's the recipe for Hoppin' John:

Photo Credit: Hallmark Magazine
Makes 10 servings

Total Time: 1 hr 5 minutes plus overnight soaking

1 lb dried black-eyed peas
1 small smoked ham hock (about 1/2 lb)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
10 cups water
1/2 lb fresh spicy chorizo sausage or spicy Italian sausage
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced scallions (6 to 7)
1 large red bell pepper, diced

1. Soak the black-eyed peas overnight in water to cover by 2". Drain well.

2. In a large pot, combine the drained black-eyed peas, ham hock, bay leaves, garlic and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a high simmer, partially cover and cook until the peas are almost tender, about 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, price the chorizos in several places with the tines of a fork. Fill a medium skillet with abouot 1/8" of water. add the sausages andbring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the chorizos until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Set them aside and discard the cooking juices. When cool enough to handle, cut the sausages into 1/2" dice.

4. Add the chorizos, rice and salt to the pot, re-cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the scallions and bell pepper about 10 minutes before the rice is done. If desired, pull off any meat from the ham hocks and add to the pot. Discard the bay leaves. 

Source: Hallmark Magazine, January 2007 

I'll post an update when I make it, but if any of our readers have made it before do you have your own variation?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nia's First Christmas

Christmas morning
I was raised in Columbus, Ohio, but home for me now is right outside of Washington, D.C. where my parents have relocated to this year. I haven't been back to Columbus for Christmas since 2008, and it's strange to think I may not ever go back there for Christmas again. 

Christmas 2008 in Ohio
This past Thursday we packed up our things and headed to D.C. via bus. I was a bit nervous about how Nia would react to the bus, but honestly she did well. We packed her in her PJs and kept her well-fed. We arrived in D.C. right before midnight. 

I test-drove Nia's Christmas dress before we left NYC
When my family was here for Thanksgiving Nia was a bit unsure about them - my parents especially. She had cried the whole time Uka and I were gone while watching Harry Potter. Thankfully, this time she got more acclimated to them but still cried pretty bad when my brother held her.

The one member of the family Nia absolutely loved was Tanner, our family dog. He's 10 years old and here's a picture of when we first got him:

Nia bonding with Tanner
Tanner and Nia's tummy time
Now about that Santa pic . . .

It was taken at Tysons Corner Mall in Virginia on Christmas Eve. We were about the 30th family in line, and I actually went to get my eyebrows threaded while my parents waited in line with Nia (I could hear her shrieks about 50 feet away). Nia's used to my sister Ariane since she lives in Harlem too and sees her often, so when Ariane rescued her she calmed down. They were able to get this shot while waiting in line:

As we got closer to Santa Nia was getting more and more restless. She had a teething ring she was playing with and we distracted her with the decorations nearby while we took it away. Once it was our turn we let the photographer know Nia was nearing a meltdown and she advised us to back Nia into Santa. If we approached him face forward it might be disastrous. This completely made sense and it worked! 

We used a stuffed bear to distract Nia from looking up at Santa and to make her look at the camera and my family started singing to her. I stood to the Santa's right (left if facing the picture), and he noticed Nia kept looking over to me so he used that to his advantage and used his hand as a shield on the left side of her face to keep her gaze looking up at him. We were able to get the cutest shot of them "gazing" into each other's eyes this way, but when it came time to select the pictures although we ordered 3 copies it could only be of one pose. We decided on the forward facing shot since in the future we think it'd be best to see her head-on with Santa.

Now I don't expect to make annual visits to Santa. I think I only have maybe two pictures max with Santa during my entire childhood and waiting in line is a real pain. I can't even imagine what Macy's lines would be like! I may venture next December to ABC Carpet and home like I mentioned earlier since they have a very authentic Santa, but his visitation window is so short which caused me to miss him this year.  

The Family (LIVE!) Christmas Tree
On Christmas Day I dressed Nia in her BabyLegs and Children's Place Christmas onesie. She only lasted about one hour in her outfit before she pooped it up. We immediately washed it but when I put it back on her the same thing happened. I blame it on the disposables - we were using them on this trip and since we've been using cloth, we rarely have blowouts (an updated CD post is forthcoming . . .)

Here she is being held by Ariane:

When it came time to open presents Nia was more interested in the wrapping paper than the actual gifts! 

Video of the wrapping paper meltdown

My parents know how much I abhor electronic toys that make noise, but they gave Nia one anyway! Since then I've found the off button on the back so I think I'll keep my sanity. 

Here she is playing with her baby radio while being held by Uka:

What was very interesting to me about this toy was that it played Jackson Five! Whatever happened to Twinkle, Twinkle Little star???

Nia also received clothes and teething rings. 

For me the best part of Christmas is the food! My parents had a very yummy menu:
  • Honey baked ham (from THE honey baked ham store!) 
  • Turkey 
  • Greens
  • Green beans 
  • Candied sweet potatoes
  • Mac & cheese (although my mom objected, I doctored it with fresh ground pepper, cayenne, mustard powder, garlic and fresh bread crumbs and it came out GREAT)
  • Cornbread
  • Rolls (my dad makes THE best homemade rolls!)
  • Waldorf salad (Uka had never had it before, but decided he liked it) 
  • Christmas punch (an concoction of sparkling juice, Sierra Mist and thawed frozen strawberries)
  • No-bake cheesecake
  • An assortment of homemade Christmas cookies  
The two things that were missing were stuffing and cranberry sauce, but I guess that can be considered too Thanksgiving.  Everything was delicious!

I have a bit of a habit of taking pictures of my food, so here's my Christmas plate (I ate 2!):

After we ate everyone got the itis, even Nia! I was helping my dad out in the kitchen when we looked over to the family room and saw this:

Can you spot the baby???
Other things we did during our time in D.C:
  • Watching Lord of The Rings (it's an annual tradition, but we only made it through the first movie)
  • Playing Wii (well really only my brother and Uka!)
  • Watching Inception (my parents and brother hadn't seen it yet) 
  • Going to D.C. to "see the lights" (there actually were none to see and I stayed in the car with baby) 
I'm sure many of you heard about the awful snowstorm we got here on the east coast and yes, it was pretty bad. Our bus was one of the last to leave D.C. as the rest were canceled. It got pretty dangerous along the way and we were stuck for 30 minutes in the snow coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel but after 11 hours we made it back home. In the end we think the bus was the best way to go because Amtrak and planes ended up getting canceled too. 

Overall, Nia had a fun first Christmas!  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nia and Santa

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I'll be posting more pics and full details of our time in D.C. later this week (as well as the strategic way we were able to get this shot!).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Annual Holiday Cookie Exchange

I had my 3rd annual cookie exchange two weeks ago, and I wanted to share a few pictures and recipes:

My sisters Lauren, Ariane and me
Nia's Santa hat was too small but the bib fit!
Time for some cookie recipes!

I made chai shortbread (which I've posted about before), 

Photo Credit: Cooking Light Magazine
 but there were also cranberry-orange pinwheels:

Photo Credit: BHG
 and Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles:

Photo Credit: Post Punk Kitchen
This year I changed it up and had guests vote for the best cookie with the winner receiving a Starbucks giftcard. It was a tie between the chai and pinwheels with the Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles coming in a close second (they have a cayenne kick that is pure awesomeness!). 

Needless to say we were eating cookies around the clock! 

A few tips for throwing your own cookie party: 
  • hit up Michael's for take-home holiday themed paper bags and tins
  • instead of asking guests to bring their recipes follow-up with links after the party; if your guests are super-planners you can request them to RSVP with their cookie on the Evite to avoid duplicates
  • encourage everyone to bring something even if they don't bake (store bought cookies got votes for best cookie too!)
  • provide salty/crunch snacks to offset the sweetness of the cookies; we had carrots and dip and potato chips

What are our readers' favorite holiday cookies?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Widdle Teef!

This was my 1st attempt at capturing a picture of Nia's 1st tooth
Take 2 - 4 days later a 2nd tooth appeared!
I tried to get a better pic but Nia wouldn't move her tongue
I'm not torturing her here, but it was the best I could do!
Nia officially got her tooth on Friday, December 3 - she was 3 months and 3 weeks old! Next stop? College.


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