Archive for December, 2007

Christmas Decor

December 27, 2007

I love Christmas. Even though this season has been so insane this year, I’m grateful for the little moments that I get to spend just enjoying my family and the Christmas spirit. Like my tree. I really love my tree this year. It turned out better than I could have imagined.

David and I have been lucky that most of the ornaments we’ve received in the past couple years match the generic boxes of ornaments I bought last year. The tree is covered in different sizes of white lites and different shades of gold and ivory ornaments with our special ornaments thrown in. Rather than garland I used gold ribbon.

My favorite part, however, is down at the bottom of one side. My mom always gets us kids an ornament every year. This was from 2004. It’s not so classy, but I can’t help but smile when I see it:

Yes, that’s right. Patrick of Spongebob Squarepants fame.

One of the best presents of the year was probably the wireless internet that David’s brother-in-law set up for us. I don’t know how I lived without this for over a year. I am typing this from the couch in the living room. And admiring my tree.

Oh, and also, here’s a picture of the beautiful pearl ring that David got for my birthday. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but just believe me, it’s awesome.

Oh, and by the way, hi Jeremy. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to write about Christmas dinner soon enough…

Yessss!

December 27, 2007

I got a digital camera! It is so beautiful. I love it already, and I’m sure I’ll love it even more once I finish reading all the manuals that came with it. I present, the Canon Elph SD 850:

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod

December 20, 2007

There’s no turning back now. I’m going to the Land of Smiles.

My flight to Thailand is booked. HOLY COW.

Friday, February 15

Depart: Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport, WI (MKE) Fri. February. 15 7:08 AM

Arrive: Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, MI (DTW) Fri. February. 15 9:18 AM

Cabin: Coach

Friday, February 15

Depart: Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, MI (DTW) Fri. February. 15 12:30 PM

Arrive: Tokyo Narita, Japan (NRT) Sat. February. 16 3:55 PM

Cabin: Coach

Saturday, February 16

Depart: Tokyo Narita, Japan (NRT) Sat. February. 16 6:35 PM

Arrive: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand (BKK) Sun. February. 17 12:10 AM

Cabin: Coach

Sunday, February 24

Depart: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand (BKK) Sun. February. 24 6:00 AM

Arrive: Tokyo Narita, Japan (NRT) Sun. February. 24 1:55 PM

Cabin: Coach

Sunday, February 24

Depart: Tokyo Narita, Japan (NRT) Sun. February. 24 3:00 PM

Arrive: Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, MN (MSP) Sun. February. 24 10:55 AM

Cabin: Coach

Sunday, February 24

Depart: Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, MN (MSP) Sun. February. 24 12:57 PM

Arrive: Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport, WI (MKE) Sun. February. 24 2:07 PM

Cabin: Coach

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go piss my pants with fear and excitement.

Best Day Ever

December 19, 2007

Normally my blog gets a handful of hits every day. It peaked around Halloween, for obvious reasons, around 110 views in one day.

 Already today I have 160+ hits. This is kind of freaky. Hi to everyone finding me through a search for “Thailand.” Sorry this sucks for you. Maybe check back in TWO months when I’m actually there. There might be better pictures and information then. TIA!

By the way, JL Spears is pregnant. In case you didn’t hear it from everyone and their mom yet this morning.

Sweet Dreams

December 18, 2007

Last night I walked into the bedroom after taking a shower. “My Funny Valentine” was playing on the laptop. David took me in his arms and we danced, or rather swayed while hugging for the whole song. I’ve always found this song a little distressing, with lyrics like “Your face is laughable, unphotographable,” but I ignored that and was able to lose myself in the sweet, tender moment. I’ve thought about that feeling throughout the day when I was feeling stressed.

It was a nice reminder to take time out of the day to find and make those special moments happen.

Time For More Drool

December 18, 2007

Rather recently, I have become enamored of the Chicago-based chocolatrie Vosges.
Truffle

They make the most amazing chocolate. It’s all about high quality chocolate combined with interesting and exotic flavors. My first real experience with it was on my November 2006 trip to New York City. David, Sandy, and I had about two hours to spend in SoHo and we spent an hour of it in Vosges’ Haut Chocolat boutique. It was worth it.

We each tried one of their signature drinking chocolates. They have three- the Parisienne, Aztec Elixir, and Bianca. The Parisienne is most similar to normal “hot cocoa.” It truly is drinking chocolate. We ended up buying a box of this mix and it actually has chunks of chocolate mixed in with the powder. The Aztec has a spicy chili addition and the Bianca is a white concoction of lemon myrtle, lavender, white chocolate, and vanilla. David said it tasted like fruity pebbles and the woman behind the counter said that one was also good served chilled.
v7.jpg (Bianca and Parisienne)

After this, we were hooked. We bought a boxed collection of the Exotic Truffles. These assorted truffles combine rich chocolate with typical and bizarre flavor combinations.
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Like the Budapest Truffle:
v11.jpg 
This combines dark chocolate with sweet Hungarian Paprika. Who would have thought this could taste so good?

Many of the truffle flavors in this collection also come in candy bar form. The candy bars are nice because they keep longer than the truffles. The truffles are made with fresh cream and it is recommended that they are consumed within 10 days. v3.jpgThe chocolate bars keep for about 6 months (not that they’ll last that long).

I think one of Vosges’ greatest flavors is the Naga. This is a good one to start with. Sure, you can get more classic combinations like hazelnut or walnut, but why not try something crazy? The Naga is sweet Indian curry powder, coconut flakes, and deep milk chocolate.
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I also love the Black Pearl- Ginger, wasabi, black sesame seeds, and dark chocolate. Red Fire is a Vosges staple- dark chocolate, cinnamon, and Mexican ancho and chipotle chili peppers. At Whole Foods on Prospect & North this past weekend, David and I bought two bars we hadn’t tried before. One of them is new to Vosges- Mo’s Bacon Bar. This is applewood smoked bacon, Alder smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate. I didn’t think I would like it, but Katrina proved me wrong yet again.

Next on my must-try Vosges list is their ice cream. Outpost Foods allegedly carries this. It looks absolutely decadent.
v9.jpg v5.jpg

You can order all of these yummy products on the website, or do a search for local stores that carry some of the products. Whole Foods has several of the candy bars and even a couple other specialty items (the caramel toffee is awesome comfort food.) Otherwise, if you’re in Chicago, stop at one of their two boutiques (or one of the two in NYC or Las Vegas).

I’m always on the lookout for good chocolate. This place definitely has the “exotic” award in my book. They have inspired me to seek out and bake recipes like these Chocolate Chili Brownies (or Taco Brownies, as they have lovingly been dubbed). I am thinking of making these again this week, but substituting the chili with powdered ginger, thanks to my craving for the Black Pearl bar.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas, the Grand Hatbox would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
v10.jpg

New Favorite Restaurant!

December 17, 2007

Maybe not favorite favorite, but definitely in the top 5.  Carnevor on Milwaukee Street.
Carnevor

David and I have been anxious to try this place ever since reading the late great Dennis Getto’s review. We love us some slabs of red meat, so this seemed like an ideal place to try. When he told me he made reservations here to celebrate my birthday I was so excited, and I still am. I think I can still sense the buttery, juicy taste of my 30-day dry aged New York Strip Steak. Let’s start at the beginning…

We had to eat early because of our show. I feel weird going into a trendy restaurant at 5:30, but nobody looked at us like we were totally lame, so that was nice. The hostess took our jackets and we were led to our table at the far end of the modern, lighted bar. The restaurant looks incredible. It is done earthy tones of brown and orange, the ceiling resembles a ribcage, and the entire place seems to glow with a rich warmth.

The menu is equally impressive. Especially since it said “Happy Birthday Natasha” down at the bottom! It was so cute! After ordering a martini (the European) it was time to figure out how crazy we wanted to go. We listened to our server expertly rattle through the night’s specials. There were many of them. I was really glad to hear him list the prices at the end of each description. I especially loved hearing the price following his mouthwatering explanation of the 7oz true Japanese Wagyu Kobe Beef fillet: $170.

We decided on splitting the “for the table” macaroni and cheese. Yes, that’s right, mac & cheese. Only this had perfectly al dente pasta florets coated in goat, pecorino, and maytag cheeses and spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.

We thought that splitting an appetizer justified getting a soup and salad. David had the soup du jour which was a roasted butternut squash soup. It was thick and creamy and had a pork and apple potsticker floating in the middle. The texture, temperature, and the subtle spices warmed us up from head to toe. I went with their special baby beet salad. Chunks of red and golden baby beets were scattered across a bed of fresh arugula which had been tossed in a 10-year aged balsamic vinegar. It was accompanied by a slice of deeply marinated tomato and a small slab of Gorgonzola cheese. It was so good! Those flavors go so well together. I ate every last bite.

Then it was onto the main event. The steak. Steaks are cooked to order and have a couple topping options and sauces. Sides and other toppings are available a la carte, but are big enough to share. David got the 20oz bone-in Ribeye au poivre. It came, looking massive, even on the big platter it was served on, coated in cracked black pepper. The plates are white and unadorned. There is nothing to distract from the hunk of red meat in front of you.

I ordered the 14oz 30-day dry aged New York Strip Steak. I got an herbed garlic butter to top it off. It was the perfect complement to the steak’s buttery taste and texture. Both our steaks were done perfectly to medium rare. Cutting into it was like a work of art, the barely red center contrasting against the stark white plate. We ordered an exotic mushroom medley and the haystack- fried onion strings. Both tasted perfect alongside the steak.

We could only eat about half of our steaks and I can’t wait to finish them off at home tonight. Just when I thought the meal would be over, out came our server with a dish lit by a birthday candle. Free dessert? Score!! Dessert was four puffy, crusty, fried doughnuts with three sauces to dip- wildberry, chocolate, and vanilla. These definitely lived up to the meal we just ate. The quality and flavors were perfectly fresh and sweet. It was just the right thing to follow up that hearty meal.

After tax and tip, we spent more than we realized (about $180) but we both agreed it was worth it. At our favorite restaurant, Bacchus, we have to really try to spend that much money (appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, cheese, dessert, wine) but here it was so easy. With steaks averaging $40-$50, the price tag is a hefty one. We won’t be able to return here too soon, but we will be back. Hmm… David’s birthday is in March…

 (from JSonline)

Review!

December 17, 2007

Well, maybe that should be a half exclamation point. There is a review for Holiday Punch in the Journal Sentinel. It’s about half good. The things that are good are very good. I was prepping for a terrible review, so this seems great! All I can say is that it is good enough to sell some tickets. I’m hoping for the rest of the run to be sold out!

Here it is:

Less ‘Punch’ would’ve tasted better

The first half works; the second doesn’t

By MIKE FISCHER
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 16, 2007

Wily stage veteran Dale Gutzman knows a thing or two about timing. Just as holiday-induced stress reaches fever pitch – and as some of Milwaukee’s fuzzier Christmas shows finish their runs – Gutzman is kicking into high gear with his latest contrarian brew of “Holiday Punch.” A cast of Off the Wall Theatre regulars served up the first batch Friday night.

Holiday Punch” has been around for almost 30 years, and while the recipe changes, the ingredients invariably include a song and dance mix combining a deep love for Broadway musicals with some very naughty comedy, deliberate groaners, satiric commentary and even a few heartfelt moments.

This year’s drink hits the spot when it first goes down, but a weak second act, culminating in an interminable and humorless parody of “Deal or No Deal” titled “Delhi or New Delhi,” has a nasty aftertaste that contributes to a first-class hangover.

Before getting there, the Off the Wall cast mixes its audience a reasonably funny and entertaining first act featuring stand-up comedy from Gutzman and a Paris Hilton spoof that pays homage to “Chicago.”

But nothing could outdo the evening’s highlight, a jewel of a parody late in the first act that trains the spotlight on Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s infamous visit last summer to a Minneapolis men’s room.

Starring Jeremy Welter as the plainclothes detective and Lawrence Lukasavage as the troubled senator, “Fiddler on the Roof” becomes “Fiddler in the Can.” Hilarious remakes of cherished songs such as “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition” ensure that the “Fiddler” we know will never be quite the same.

With the exception of the outrageous costumes worn in “Winter Wonderland Extravaganza” and a clever send-up of Abbott and Costello featuring Gutzman as a befuddled first-time computer buyer, “Punch” goes rapidly downhill after intermission.

Gutzman closes the evening with a welcome chaser, an earnest rendition of “Lost in the Stars” that offers a heartfelt antidote to hollow holiday cheer while preserving the message of hope that continues to give Christmas its magic.

“Holiday Punch” continues through Dec. 31 at 127 E. Wells St. Call (414) 327-3552 for tickets.

You can also check out the original link here.

It’s Opening Night!

December 14, 2007

Opening night…
It’s opening night!
It’s Max Bialystock’s latest show
Will it flop or will it go?
The cast is taking its final bow
Here comes the audience now
The doors are open: they’re on their way…
Let’s hear what they have to say!

That’s right! It’s opening night! I must admit I’m pretty excited. We’ve been rehearsing for almost a month now, and it’s getting pretty boring not having an audience. It’s hard to keep the high energy and just guessing what is funny when there’s no audience. That is the best part about performing.

I heard a rumor that we will have a reviewer there tonight! I’m not keeping my hopes up, though, because this isn’t really the kind of show the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel likes to watch.

In other news, I got some fabulous presents for my birthday. David gave me a beautiful pearl ring. My mom gave me perfume, shoes, and a Coach purse. My dad gave me money. It was great! I have pictures of the ring that I’m waiting to upload. I doubt they’ll do it justice, though- it is SO beautiful!

This weekend I am finally decorating for Christmas! I am so sad it had to wait this long, but when I’m only at my house for about an hour every night (plus sleep) decorating just doesn’t happen. Neither do dishes. I hope David will help me clean this weekend. That would be great.

Visit Off The Wall Theatre for show information!

Birthday Message

December 10, 2007

I’m seriously not obsessed with my birthday. Honestly. But I had to share this e-mail I just got from my grandpa. He lives in Iran and English is NOT his first language.

HI

NATASHA

 MY DEARST GRAND CHILDRIN,

      To day is your birtday , i think for you ,not only to day but evry day, evry time, you are always in my

       heart.

         I watch  your picture in my cumputer evry day. Nwo you,r relly a butefull lady and gentlwoman!!!.

           I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I SAY:

   HAPPY BIRTDAY

LOVE :

GRANDMA&GRANDPA

I thought that was pretty cute. And he attached this picture of us on his last visit to the U.S. He is so cute:
Grandpa