Category Archives: Reindeer Games

Joining Up with the B+ Life Podcast.

I know.  I know y’all are wondering, Kat, where is this going.

Me too.  So please bear with me, kittens.

Approximately four years ago, I started reading Sarah’s blog.  Three or so years ago, when Lindsay still lived in D.C., I got to pop off for brunch with Sarah while I was out on a visit.  I feel like when you get picked up from a metro station by a complete stranger in suburban Virginia you are officially friends for life because you have both officially escaped murder/kidnapping/mugging/The Worst Case Scenario.

But, like I said, Sarah picked me up at the metro station and as we worked our way through mountains of breakfast potatoes and eggs (the best) we talked about EVERYTHING.  She is just as wonderful in person as she is on her blog, y’all.  Over the years, our friendship has grown as have our writing collaborations – she is the fearless ringleader of our little Project Reverb team.

I was so honored when Sarah asked me to join her stable of recovering perfectionists trying their hardest to live a B+ life by recording a podcast with her.  Prior to the first week of April, I had never even listened to a podcast, much less thought about whether or not I would ever appear on one!

I hope that you’ll click here to listen.  If for no other reason than the fact that you want to hear what I sound like in real life.  I mean, maybe you also want to know about the moment I first realized as an eight year old that if everything went perfectly, my life would be great!  Since you know how we would do this if WE were meeting in real life, pour yourself a glass of wine, crack open a LaCroix or brew yourself a mug of tea to drink while you listen!

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#OKMHHOU

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I have never made any secret of the fact that The Blog has unexpectedly brought so many smart, funny, caring, gorgeous friends into my life.

At some point four years ago (it may have been three, but I’m pretty sure it was four), while we were cruising The Pioneer Woman’s comments section searching for future readers, Allison , Beka, Jeanne, Kirsten, Madelyn, Megan and I found one another.   And so we built friendships on comments and theme weeks.  And through the pies and the cookies, the crepes and the cakes it came to life.

To call our geographical distribution inconvenient would be an understatement.  We spent most of 2013 joking about what it would be like to meet in real life and spend a weekend together and what all of that would look like until October when we said, Duh.  We have to do this.  We talk every day.  We are one another’s humans.  At which point in very short order we booked plane tickets and called it A Plan.

So two weekends ago, Allison, Beka, Jeanne, Kirsten, Madelyn, Megan and I were finally…together.   For lack of a better term.   For the next 72 hours we talked and ate.  Period.  We did go to Brenham to visit lovely Miss Katie and go antiquing, but hand to God that was the most time intensive/planned thing that went down.

OKMHHOU - Group in Brenham

There is so much I could say about the food that Jeanne and her wonderful husband cooked for us (like the fact that seven of us destroyed 10 pounds of bacon in three days).

Actually, I know exactly what I want to say: I was in Texas and I was not at all sad that I did not go out for Mexican or BBQ or Southern-ish stuff, so high was the quality of the food that they fed us.  As in: I didn’t even think about the fact that restaurants were a thing that we could possibly need.  Home cooking will beat restaurant cooking 90% of the time.  What is going down in that house will beat restaurant cooking 110% of the time.

For this month’s box exchange, we agreed to exchange them in person.  Which I am sure was very magical except for the fact that by the time that we rolled into Jeanne’s house on Friday night, I literally collapsed from exhaustion after a very late dinner.  As in I fell asleep on the couch with the lights on, wearing my traveling clothes, surrounded by six women who were very much awake and busy exchanging gifts.

Our exchange theme was travel and while everything that Jeanne gave me was lovely (chocolate, stain wipes, nail polish, one of her favorite books, lotion, soaps), most impressive amongst all of the things were the zippered pouches that she gave me.

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Those purple oil cloth pouches that are on the right side of the snap?  Yeah, she made those.  The little pouch nests perfectly into the big pouch.  This is not accidental stuff, kittens.  She is a gifted artist.

She also made us each our own girls’ weekend pillow case.

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The tutorial (in case you need it, which I know you do) is right here.

I someday hope to have the amount of talent that she has in her pinky finger.

I think once upon a time, I thought I would have so much to say about our Houston adventures.  What we ate, what we did, what we wore.  None of that actually mattered.  What mattered is that for those precious days, we got to be us.

Until next year.

OKMHHOU - Field of Miniature Donkeys

Pizza Week: Taco Pizza

Pizza Week Badge

It doesn’t seem like Pie Week was so long ago.  But it was.  I guess, if you sort of think about it, Pizza Week is almost like Pie Week: Part II.  Pizza = Pie.  Get it?  I know – I’m so sorry.  That was pretty awful but I just couldn’t help myself.

Y’all know that when we go Up North in the summer, my main objectives are to sit on the end of the dock, run, drink a few beers and eat the Mexican Pizza at Zorbaz.

Since Zorbaz is an exclusive domain of Northern Minnesota Lake Country, that leaves me with a craving and no solution for 2/3 of the year.  Thank God, I decided to reincarnate this pizza at home a few years ago, because otherwise I just don’t know how I would cope.

Yes, I know that this would have been the perfect pizza for Superbowl Sunday.  And how would I know that?  Because I made it for one such gathering.  But really, this pizza is good for all times of year.

Nothing about this dish is pretty, but if you truly love the people you call family and friends, you will make this for them without hesitation.

Taco Pizza

Ingredients

  • One batch of Pizza Crust, par-baked for 15 minutes
  • One pound ground turkey
  • One packet taco seasoning (we prefer Trader Joe’s)
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • Three tomatoes, diced
  • One jalapeno (seeded or not), diced
  • One bunch cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One can refried beans
  • One small can tomato sauce
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees if it isn’t there already.  I’m assuming that you’ve probably just par-baked your pizza crust, but just in case.
  • Brown the meat with the taco seasoning.  Pro-tip: To maximize the taco flavor, use the whole packet and mix it directly with the meat instead of doing any nonsense with water or whatever.  It puts the flavor directly into the meat and will change your life forever.  Set aside.
  • In a bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeno.  Salt and pepper that situation to taste.  Set aside.
  • Open up the can of refried beans.  Spread that whole can across the base of your pizza.
  • Open up the can of tomato sauce.  Pour 3/4 can over the refried beans base.  Spread it gently – you do not want to mix the layers.
  • Take the taco meat and sprinkle/dump/distribute it evenly across the pizza.
  • Spread the shredded cheese across the top of the pizza.
  • Bake for 15 minutes and serve with the pico de gallo mixture.  Depending on your audience, you may consider putting the pico onto the pizza AFTER the meat, topping the whole thing with cheese and then baking.  Your call.

The pizzas are only just starting to come out of the oven this week!  For more Pizza Week fun, make sure to take a look around!

One Kitchen, Many Hearts: The Best of The Rest

Happy New Year, kittens!

I’m sure that today you will be getting bombarded by (crosses self) resolution posts and other celebratory-type stuff by The Internet.

There are no resolutions here.  Just joy and wonderful friends.

OKMH 2013

Top Row:  Allison , Beka & JeanneCenter: Moi & Kirsten, Bottom Row: Madelyn & Megan.

In December (just in time for Christmas!), Megan sent me a gorgeous box full of adorable things.

Box 1

Translation: Things that I adore.

What you see here?  All of the makings for proper mitts plus a party nail.

Box 2

We all know that it’s pretty much impossible for me to action mitts these days without some form of sparkle.  If party nails become passé?  That is not a life I want to live.

This clutch falls in-line with the Princess Kate school of accessorizing.

Box 3

AKA never carry a handbag that actually looks as though it could contain anything.  Besides air and magic.

What is not air and magic?  Fancy chocolate.

Box 4

Fancy chocolate is actually soul-filling.  Maybe I’ll eat it as a single bar.  Or, maybe, I’ll action it into a fancy s’more.  I am a microwave s’more FIEND.  Seriously.  Try it if you aren’t doing it already.

In case you haven’t been watching the Weather Channel, the TODAY show or any other national broadcast, it is deep-freeze cold

Box 5

So these hand-warmers were particularly well received.  When we’re not running around in the snow and the sub-zero temperatures and swathing our bodies in enough fabric to disguise any suggestion of their True Shape, we do like to go out, do fancy things and enjoy life.

Enter: Accessories.

Box 6

This necklace was SUCH a thoughtful gift.  I am horrifically allergic to nickel and the like, so bead-arrangements are key.  This one with the faux-rhinestones?  Especially glamorous.

Thank you So Much Megan.  This box came at such a necessary time and it was all joy.  I felt the love all the way from the West Coast!

And in 2014: OKMH 2.0.

Pie Week: Grandma’s Chocolate Pie

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It’s Pie Week.

Most of the time I am so jealous of other food bloggers, because they always have just the loveliest stories to tell about the dough beneath their hands and the stained recipe cards that have been passed down through the generations.

And that is for good reason.  The kitchen is the place that keeps our secrets and helps us to tell our stories.

What I’m sharing today isn’t those things.  It isn’t pretty.  Or part of the life that you want.  But for better or for worse, it is bound up in this pie.

Last week, before I headed up to  the cabin that my sorority sisters and I had taken over, I mapped out our meal plan for the week.  What we would eat when.  Where Pie Week fit into all of it.  On Saturday afternoon, I texted Marcus and asked him to transfer the pie crust I had already made from the freezer to the fridge.

On Sunday morning, I left that cabin, and I drove straight to the hospital.  You see, last week one of my best friends from high school had a seizure and when they ran the MRI, they discovered a mass in his brain.

There was nothing else to do but run towards.  And so over the course of five hours we talked and laughed and read and followed the severe storms trailing over Illinois.  Some of it was so painfully ordinary that it hurt.

There was a point during the morning, where we were allowed to escape the room.  He in the wheelchair, me pushing.  It’s hard to be trapped in a room for days on end.  The same white walls.  The same hallway shuffling.  The same cable TV.  It is mind-numbing.

But before we left on our hall pass, the nurse on duty instructed us to dial **9 on any hospital phone if he started to have another seizure.

I gave her a look of abject horror because (1) It truly had not crossed my mind that there could be another seizure, (2) I have no idea as to where she got the impression that this sort of shit show would happen near a phone and (3) I am still 100% certain that my first response would be to shriek at the top of my lungs.

So with that piece of encouragement, we set out on our merry way, weaving through the lobbies, walking through hallways we probably were not supposed to be in, and admiring the fish in the aquariums.

All of it was surreal and horrifically wrong because This Is Not Supposed To Happen To People Our Age.  Or to Humans I Have Known Since I Was A Pup.

When I got home, on that late Sunday afternoon,  in a fit of mania I ran four miles, washed and folded my laundry, cleaned the bathroom, actioned an entire meal for Marcus and my parents and baked Grandma’s Chocolate Pie from my one and only favorite, The Homesick Texan.

I have no experience making custard-based pies or meringue-anything outside of those pseudo-chocolate chip cookies that are so lovely and Kosher for Passover.  None of that particularly mattered.

I mixed the sugar and the cocoa and the eggs.  Watched the pot and stirred occasionally until the custard reached the appropriate thickness.  Whipped the egg whites into fluffy meringues and baked it until the snowy white top of my pie had been replaced with a caramel-colored one.

Just me, following instructions and trusting in the process.

Pie

This slice of pie, is my tribute to escapism.  To 25 minutes of distraction.  To a moment where I could hit the pause button.

As with all theme weeks, the more the merrier.  Maybe this pie isn’t your perfect slice.  Or you just want to drool over your keyboard at work.  Want more?  Check out what my fellow beauties have been baking!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

One Kitchen, Many Hearts: Everything but the Sink

OKMH 2013

Top Row:  Allison , Beka & JeanneCenter: Moi & Kirsten, Bottom Row: Madelyn & Megan.

October: In like a lion and out like…another lion.

This month, instead of picking a specific theme for our boxes (office, kitchen, etc.)  we decided to delve into the stockpiles that we have been squirreling away.  Because the thing about having friends like these?  Is that they know me better than I know myself. Theme or no theme.

Related: we are all present hoarders.

So the bright spot at the end of my October was a box from none other than Kirsten, my sister on the 45 parallel.  No seriously, we both live, fairly precisely on the 45 parallel.  It runs through the end of the street I grew up on.

Enough about geography.

Box 1

Or not.  😉  Even her card was a map!  And the gorgeous illustration on the front of it actually depicts the route of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.  Which, someday, we will run together.   That day cannot come soon enough.

The box itself?  Was stuffed full of things for running and things that…go with running.  AKA MY LIFE.

Box 2

In the Box: C9 Running Tights, C9 socks, Stash Tea, The Best Cocktail Napkins Ever, Sally Hansen’s Disco Ball and Candy Corn.

I was not kidding when I said that these women knew me better than I know myself.  It’s basically a hive mind at this point.  For example, Exhibits Uno and Dos.

Uno: Kirsten sent me the kind of running tights I ALREADY OWN.  And we have never, ever discussed this.

Dos: She sent me running socks.

I know that the running socks thing is probably throwing y’all for a loop, because truly, how could they be so exciting? For you, a little back-story.

In May of 2010, I bought six pairs of PowerSox from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  I had been running for five months.  I only chose them because a marathoning co-worker had advised that running socks would solve my blister problems and they were reasonably priced.  Fine.  Sold.

Fast-forward three years and thousands of miles of sock monogamy: I finally managed to wear a hole into a pair of my beloved socks which sent them to their fate in the bin.  To say that I have become weirdly loyal to these six pairs of socks would be an understatement.  But that dark day was a wake-up call – even the most beloved socks are not immortal.

I am very comfortable saying that The Universe’s hand is evident in Kirsten’s selection.  I have worn three of my four new pairs and they are just wonderful.  Another little perk?  These socks are low-cut and my old socks were sort of a mini-crew.  I am of the opinion that this type of cut makes these socks much cooler.

I also feel like I have to tell you that the Disco Ball polish has been riding shotgun on my party nail all week.  Do yourself a favor and source it immediately.  You will not regret it for an instant.

 This box was absolutely perfect, Kirsten!  Thank you!  XO.

Pumpkin Week: Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Pumpkin Week Badge

Happy Pumpkin Week!

It’s finally October, which means that it’s properly fall.  And what’s more, six cans of pumpkin have been skulking about in my pantry since last fall when I went on a buying jag that was more than just a little bit enthusiastic.

What all of this really means: The timing could not be better.

Since we all know that I’m absolute trash when it comes to recipe development, I had to hit the books for this one, since Pumpkin Pie has already had its day in the sun.

I was flipping through my copy of The Smitten Kitchen (which has had a permanent place on the kitchen counter since its purchase) and I found this recipe for a pumpkin tart.  It’s a great book and Marcus and I have really enjoyed the other dishes we’ve created.  The extensive trove of recipes that Deb has cultivated online doesn’t hurt either.

I really liked the idea of combining pumpkin and cream cheese in a way that did not resemble pumpkin pie (which I love) or cheesecake (also love).

And somehow, it seemed less divisive to split the difference because whereas pumpkin pie and cheesecake have dedicated followers all their own, when the two come together, all bets are off.

Since I am painfully practical and could not envision a situation where I would need half a box of Gingersnaps, I ended up actioning an all-graham cracker crust.  Plus, when I took a moment to think about what the Gingersnaps would actually accomplish, I felt like the overall effect would be…distracting.

Crust

In terms of how it all came together, the dish was not terrifically challenging or time-consuming to make.  I pulsed the graham crackers into crumbs using my immersion blender.  Rolling Pin + Ziploc Bag = crumbs all over my counter every time.   Also, plan on using every bowl in your kitchen.  For reference, please see Exhibit A.

Bowls

But, this is why dishwashers were invented, no?

Real talk: my tart did not at all resemble the tart presented in the book.  I think you would have to literally melt your cream cheese (v. softening) in order to achieve that “marbled” appearance.

Tart

Melting versus softening?  Not intuitive.

Was it delicious?  YES.  It was a happy combination of pumpkin pie and cheesecake.  But truly I was so mortified (SO MORTIFIED) by the tart’s appearance that I abandoned the leftovers in the lunch room at work sans-signage because I simply could not bear the shame of having to answer for it.

Sliced

As I was gently informed shortly after The Abandonment, You do not eat a picture.   These were sage and necessary and true words.

If I haven’t completely put you off this concept yet, then the recipe is right here.

But if marbling and pulsing graham crackers in your food processor just aren’t calling your name, do not fret.  For I am not the only Pumpkin Week reveler.  The rest of these lovely ladies have got you (and your furry friends!) covered.

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Saturday