Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let's Fall in Love: Super Girly Fun Time

Finally, it was here: our wedding day. The day we had been planning for two years, and a day I had been dreaming of since I was a very little girl.

I woke up early that morning, which is not true to my nature.  My alarm was set, but I didn't need it.  I had slept well, but I woke up with butterflies in my stomach.  I put on my "Soon-to-Be Mrs" hoodie that the 'maids had gifted me at my bachelorette party, and Mom, Seester, and I headed out to pick up coffee on the way to the hotel.  The only thing I wanted was a venti vanilla latte, my favorite morning thing.

Daddy-O Approves. (personal photos)

We arrived at the suite, and the girls began trickling in soon after.  Stacy, who had just announced she was pregnant a few weeks before, was in the throes of morning sickness, and I told her just to stay in her room until she felt better. We munched on coffee and bagels and sort of all laid around for a bit while Azeza and another stylist got their things ready to start on everyone's hair.  

And yes, we watched football. Soon after, the suite was a flurry of curlers, bobby pins, and hairspray.  (personal photo)

Matt arrived, and as we got started on our getting-ready photos.  These are always some of my favorites when I look at other peoples' weddings, I love the transformation from friends to Bridesmaids, and from girl to Bride.  By the time he got there, several of the girls were already finished getting their hair done.  I had not told them anything about how I wanted it done, whatever they wanted and made them feel pretty was fine by me.  We took care of the cost, I just wanted everyone to feel their best.

We had three stylists there, since there were so many of us, and everything was right on schedule.  The mood was somewhat subdued.  I was excited beyond words, but my nerves were also somewhat contagious.  When I get nervous, I can get giggly, as was apparent the night before at the rehearsal. Sometimes, I just get quiet, which was how I reacted in the morning.  I was so surprised to find myself with a knot in my stomach, I didn't know how to deal with it at all.  It was so fun just to hang out with all of my best friends, but I knew I was not my normally bouncing-off-the-walls self.  If I have one regret from my wedding day, it is that I let my nerves get the best of me, and I don't think I fully enjoyed the entire experience.  Nevertheless, it was still awesome and full of love.

It did not take long to style seven heads of hair, and suddenly it was my turn in Azeza's chair.  I am so glad that she was there all day with us.  Since her fiance is also Mr LikesIt's best friend, we have become close over the years.  It was like having a bonus bridesmaid, and I feel lucky to have shared it with her, especially since their wedding date was only a few months away too.  Azeza is a sweet, charismatic girl, and she made everyone feel at ease, myself included.

Think of this as a "before."

One of the clutches the girls got the night before makes an appearance, along with a lot of hairspray.

Buttloads of curls in my stick straight hair.  I was in awe.

And then my Daddy-O arrived! 
He owns a construction company in my hometown, so I normally see him in work clothes.  But my Daddy-O cleans up good.

We got him argyle socks, just like the groomsmen, as well as his own stripey tie.  I love my Seester checking them out behind him.

Bride approves.

Bride Hair complete!

Bmaid Katie got one of many hair adjustments.  True story: her hair rejects bobby pins, much to Azeza's dismay.  Those pretty flower pins came from Nomsa on Etsy.  Loved how they looked on everyone!

Time for make up!

While Azeza worked on me, Seester and Bmaid Katie found the Mizzou-Illinois Border War football game online, since it was blocked at the hotel.  Sandwiches trays were delivered from Jimmy Johns and we did a quick mimosa toast.  I was able to choke down one sandwich, but my stomach was officially in knots, and rejecting any other thought of food.  The girls kept asking me if I was okay - no one was used to seeing me so quiet.

The girls did themselves up, and Azeza helped with some adjustments before they got into their dresses.

We had one small disaster, when Katie's necklace broke.  She was determined for me to not to know it happened and fix it.

Considering this is the girl that jerry-rigged my fail of a cell phone freshman year in college with a binder clip and an architecture text book, I had all confidence that she could finagle this necklace for the day.

Matt helped too.  This is why you hire a good photographer, people.

Azeza put on my eyelashes, while the girls put their dresses on.  I have no idea when they all changed, but I remember thinking the morning went by really fast.

Jewelry was put on.

Ample hair spray was applied.

Flip flops were prepared for dance floor appearances.

And that's how my friends became Bridesmaids.
Pretty ones at that, if I do say so.

All of a sudden, my make up was done, and everyone else was dressed.  That meant only one thing: time for me to get dressed, too.
And that made me pretty happy.

In case you missed it:
I bought a dress and completely changed it.
We had a marathon final week of engagement.
I giggled my way through our rehearsal.
Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.
The groomsmen ran amok in downtown Springfield.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's Fall in Love: The Boys Hit the Town

The rehearsal dinner wound down quickly after my dad's little shenanigans with Mr LikesIt.  Several of the girls decided to call it a night at that point, since hair appointments were starting early the next day.  I was able to convince Seester MOH and bmaids Sarah and Jen to come out to my favorite downtown Springfield drinking establishment for at least a little while.  My mother then made my sister and I swear that I would have ONE DRINK and only ONE DRINK.  That's what I get for being a wastey-face at my bachelorette party ... I was not to be trusted.

Regardless, I was stoked.  It was the night before my wedding.  I was out with my best friends and their hubbies, who I enjoy immensely.  We were going to Floyd's and it was going to be awesome.  Needless to say, when I shimmied up to the bouncer at the door to the bar and realized I had left both my id and my camera behind at my parents' house, it was a bit of a buzzkill.  I begged and pleaded, and he was prepared to turn me away, bride-to-be or not.  Luckily, Springfield is a small town and the bartender went to my high school.  He vouched for my legit drinking age and we headed inside.  I don't think Seester was amused.

Mr LikesIt was set to arrive any moment with a gaggle of groomsmen to join us.  I ordered my usual - vodka tonic, extra lime - and proceeded to nurse that ONE DRINK and only ONE DRINK.  I was going to make the most of it, and I wanted to see my almost-husband one last time before we officially parted ways.  And we waited, and waited, and waited.  I have no idea what they were doing back at the hotel, frankly I don't want to, but they moseyed into the bar almost two hours later ... just in time to witness me spilling the rest of my v&t all over myself.  So much for one drink.

I gave Mr LikesIt a kiss goodnight and wished he and his friends fun in the Capital City, making him swear to not get shmammered and have hangover face the next day.  He was downright giddy and I don't think he needed a drink at all at that point.  He had been looking forward to this weekend as much as me, especially the part where he got to see all of his best friends together.  Seester and I headed out at that point, but the night was just beginning for Mr LikesIt and his groomsmen. 

They defiled my town, and dammit they enjoyed every minute of it.


And all that after just one drink.

In case you missed it:
I bought a dress and completely changed it.
We had a marathon final week of engagement.
I giggled my way through our rehearsal.
Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Like Thanksgiving.

I love a holiday that revolves around food, and I really enjoy the time with my family.  Now that my family has expanded to include two sets of parents and traditions, it's been tricky to strike a balance between the two.  For the last few years we've been having Musical Holidays - a rotation between staying in St Louis for Thanksgiving and Easter and traveling back home, and then splitting Christmas.  Meh.

We're trying something a little different this year: Thanksgiving Day with both families here in St Louis, and then another celebration with my side of the fam (plus extended family) at our lakehouse later in the week.  Not only do we get to see everyone and share the holiday festivities together, but that means TWO DAYS of Thanksgiving.  YAY!

And I get to cook!  I am making two things I take very seriously at Thanksgiving: mashed potatoes and dessert.
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Grandma's Pumpkin Pie
  • Apple Pie Poppers
  • Creamy Marshmallow Fudge (from WeightWatchers, shhhhhh don't tell).
Yummmmm I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Win at Potlucks (Yum Yum Bars).

I have posted this cookie bar recipe once before, but I was reminded today of it's glory, and I felt it deserved the spotlight again.  The floor of my office building hosted a massive Thanksgiving potluck luncheon, and I forgot to sign up for something.  I woke up in a slight panic this morning, since I was wholly unprepared.

Enter: Yum Yum Bars.

These things made my mother famous in her thirty-year tenure at her job, and I am well on my way to establishing my baking prowess here in St Louis with them.  If you want to impress your office mates or boyfriends, please bake these.

The best part?  I threw these together in less than twenty minutes this morning with ingredients I always have on hand.  Granted, I had to carry a piping hot baking pan into the office since they literally came out of the oven as I walked out the door, but it was worth it.
Chocolate Chip Gooey Blondie Bars(aka Yum Yum Bars - the Secret Family Recipe)

2/3 C margarine or butter, melted and cooled
1 lb brown sugar
3 eggs
2.5 C flour
2.5 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bag of chocolate chips (chunks work very well)

Combine melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla - stir until smooth. Add dry incredients and combine. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan as soon as they are out of the oven and cool.  Serves at least 16 (very rich).
They should be slightly gooey in the middle, or as my Daddy-O says, they come out "medium rare."  I am always a little apprehensive to bake for new people (new coworkers, in this case) but this is so tried and true that it was a sure thing. 

How do you know you win at potluck?
Bam.  That's how.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Drumsticks

Confession:  I only use my crock pot on the weekends. It seems counter-intuitive, sort of against the whole point of owning a slow cooker.  I am not really good at crock pot, to be honest.  I tend to burn or scorch nearly everything into a charcoal briquette.  Since my work day and my commute can keep me away from the house for 12+ hours at a time, recipes that call for 5-6 hours in the CP don't make sense either.  Plus, I am strangely paranoid that it will somehow burn the house down while I'm gone.  Ergo, crock pot is reserved for Saturdays and Sundays only in this house.

Kenny is also not a huge fan of crock pot meals, out of principle.  To him, they were always goopy, dried out, and all tasted the same.  My dad is the same way, only with casseroles.  My mom can serve him "one-dish meals," but never a casserole.  I can make Kenny a "slow cooked meal" but he give the crock pot serious stink-eye when he sees it on the counter.  I don't blame him.  like I said, I don't have the best track record, but I am getting better.
 Crockpot Cream Cheese Drumsticks
Put 2 lbs frozen drumsticks in a greased crockpot, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with one packet each Zesty Italian and Garlic Herb seasoning mix - Good Seasons brand. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. Mix together one can 98% ff cream of chicken soup, 8 oz cream cheese, and 1/2 cup water until it was all smooth. Add that to the crockpot and cook for another hour. Remove drumsticks. Mix juices and cream cheese in crockpot well.  Serve with gravy over mashed potatoes or rice.

This is fall-off-the-bone delicious. We had it with a green salad and mashed potatoes. The cream cheese mixture turns into a fantastic gravy/sauce perfect for potatoes. So my record is improving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chicken Gyro Burgers with Greco de Gayo

Oh Rachael Ray, you minx.

Love her or hate her, you have to admit, when she is on, she is so on.  I don't have strong feelings towards her either way, unlike some people who seem to be incredibly polarized for or against her food and style.  I have several of her cookbooks and I really enjoy her magazine.  Not everything can be a gourmet meal, especially after a long day at work.  I've gotten some great ideas from RR, the following recipe included, and I've had more hits than misses on other things I've tried.

 Chicken Gyro Burgers

1 pound ground chicken
1 cup full-fat plain yogurt
healthy dash of parsley, fresh or dried
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (Mrs Dash)
lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

    Preheat grill.  In a large bowl, combine chicken with yogurt, seasonings, and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.  Form into thin patties, about 3-inches across.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and cook for three minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Keep warm. Adapted from Rachael Ray.
    Greco de Gayo
    1 cucumber, diced and seeded
    1 red pepper, diced
    4 celery stalks, diced
    1/2 large red onion, diced
    3 roma tomatoes, diced
    1/2 cup fat-free feta cheese
    1/2 cup diced black olives
    olive oil
    lemon juice
    Tabasco sauce
    coarse salt

      Combine all veggies.  Add cheese, olive oil and mix until well coated.  Add lemon juice and Tabasco to taste.  Season lightly with salt.  Add more veggies or seasoning to your preference.

      To serve: toast whole wheat pita bread or sliced bread.  Layer with chicken pattie and salsa.

      This made a great meal.  Mr LikesIt shied away from the salsa because of the onions, but it was addicting to me, sort of Cracko de Gayo. The leftover burgers freeze and reheat really well, and the leftover salsa is fantastic on scrambled eggs and salad.  Enjoy!

      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Let's Fall in Love: Lucky Horseshoes

       We were an hour late to our rehearsal dinner, but we were giddy from the events of the day and no one was worse for wear.  The wedding party, dates, and families headed over to the Dublin Pub, an Irish bar famous in town for it's horseshoes, a Springfield specialty.  We took over the back room and prepared for a buffet dinner of shoes, fried mushrooms, and salad ... basically all of our favorites.

      And gooey butter cake, a St Louis specialty, for dessert!

      Mr LikesIt and I welcomed our friends and family, and I explained the makings of the famous Horseshoe to our out-of-towners.

       Texas toast, crinkle fries, meat of choice (bacon in my case, buffalo chicken if you're my husband), and cheese over the top ... you've got yourself a horseshoe (or a ponyshoe in this case, since it's only one piece of toast.)

      And then we all dug in.

      After dinner and drinks, it was time for the best part.


      Tiffany bracelets for the Mamas.

      Jewelry rolls and sterling bow necklaces for the readers.

      A 19th century map of Springfield for Dad, who is a history buff like me.

      Portable grills for the groomsmen, a Flip cam for the Best Man, and aviators and ties for everyone.

      Clutches, pashminas, navy flip flops, and wedding jewelry for the bridesmaids and a Tiffany horseshoe charm for Seester MOH ('cuz you can take the girl out of Texas ...)

      We thought at that point we were finished.  The boys were making plans to hit up the downtown bars and make some night-before trouble.  The girls were thinking of their early hair appointments and toying with the idea of a drink or two versus an early night.  But we were not done.  My father, a soft-spoken man with a fantastic sense of humor, cleared his throat and stood up.  He called for Mr LikesIt to come to the front of the room, and he began a sort of interrogation.  My uncle, an attorney, was called to serve as judge. 

      Do you swear to the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
      Did you, in fact, live in the same dormitory as my daughter during your freshman year in college.  

      And during this time, did you have identification that indicated you were over the legal drinking age?
      Technically, it said my brother was.
      Just answer yes or no, son.

      And did you procure adult beverages with said identification that then aided and abetted in the corruption of my daughter?

      At that point, my father requested me to come to the front.  Daddy-O turned to my uncle and asked what The Judge made of the sordid confession.  My uncle pondered the situation and came to a verdict.

      Mr LikesIt was found guilty of his crimes.
      And he was sentenced to Life.

      In case you missed it:
      I bought a dress and completely changed it.
      We had a marathon final week of engagement.
      I giggled my way through our rehearsal.