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Girlfriends Dinner 2012

Happy Holidays everyone,

Have you been as busy as I have? Children’s choir Christmas concert, shopping, entertaining, and working. Does it seem like there is not enough time to get it all done?

I just wanted to take a few moments to talk about my annual Girlfriends Christmas dinner. This made the eleventh year that I have had this event. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been going on this long. It was last weekend and let me tell ya, I love to see my girls; but I’m glad it’s over. I had spent a three weeks prepping for this one night. I had list on top of list, had purchased some table accessories, designed (if not sent out) invitations, and researched the perfect gifts for my girls. Let me give you a quick rundown of the week leading up to the event.

I decided back in August that I would be having the party on December 15th because I knew I would be hosting my families Christmas get together and I wanted to leave the weekend prior to Christmas open. Like I said the list with info for the party had begun the beginning of November. I mailed the invitations out the week before (yes, I still mail out invitations not send an e-vite.) and began making the edible gifts on Monday (my day off) and had the carpet cleaner come on Monday also. I went to work on Tuesday and came home to make some more chocolates. This year I decided to make molded chocolates along with Christmas cookies. I bought molds from JoAnn’s and made a caramel filled chocolate (looked like mini Reese cups until you took a bite) and then took some pretzel pieces and Rice Chex cereal and used a peanut butter flavored chocolate to make large round molds (I used to molds that are for covering cookies). I dipped pretzel rods with chocolate and covered peanut butter crackers in chocolate. I made sugar cookies and chocolate sable cookies. I did most of this work on Monday.

The babydoll had her choir concert on Thursday (it never fails this concert is on the same week of my dinner party every year…what’s up with that? Smile with tongue out) so we had a longer rehearsal at the venue on Wednesday. Thursday was a bust as far as party preparations went because the concert was on that day and we had to get her at the venue by 6pm and once we got home from school pick-up it is after 4. We needed to eat get dressed and run out the door. And we still were trying to make sure that she was ready for her test the next day. (She had a reading test – I have to write an entire post about reading and the babydoll – and a spelling test.).

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It’s not the best picture, but I really didn’t want to have someone else kids in the photo AND all of the photos I have of her pre-performance have her looking like she really wasn’t excited about performing and she really did.

Friday I had two clients and I wanted to get some prep work done for the next day. Stan and babydoll decided to leave for the weekend trip Friday evening instead of getting up Saturday morning which was fine by me because it would mean I would be free to really concentrate on the dinner party. I had made the dessert and the rice for my rice balls before I called it a night at 11:30pm.

Saturday, I awoke bright and early but had to wait a couple of hours for some of the stores to open. I still needed to go to Bed Bath & Beyond for a Crème Brule torch, I needed to go to Bath & Bodyworks for the smell good gift, I needed to go to JoAnn’s to look for fabric to use as a table covering and I needed something to put the sweet treats in, I wanted to get some more flowers for the vase that went in the middle of the table and finally there were a few things I still needed to get from the grocery store as well as some groceries for the following week. You may ask why did I wait until the day of to go get additional groceries. Because Meijer (my store of choice along with Kroger) was giving 5% off groceries to mPerks members and there were some other items that they were having a 2-day sale and Downy fabric softener (it was on sale for $3.99 and I had a $1 off coupon) was one of the items in this sale. Ya’ll know how I am about a bargain. My timing was still good, so I had time to shop that morning. I had gotten fabric, flowers, sweets packaging, smell goods, dog food, and torch all before 10:30 (I left the house at 9).

It wouldn’t be my life without a hiccup and this was mine…I had my china in our storage unit. I had asked my wonderful husband to pull them out for me earlier in the week, but he stated that he had pulled them to the front of the storage unit so that all I had to do was open the door to the unit and put them in the car. I looked in the door for my key to the storage unit and it wasn’t there. I called him (he was in Chi-town) and asked where’s my key and he said maybe it’s on the pass through in the kitchen. I drive back home and there’s no key. Surprised smile My mother became the calming voice in my ear because we Johnson/Lynch’s are very passionate people and a very negative passionate response was about to erupt. She said we could use my grandmother’s china and her chargers. I lost about 1 hour of my well laid out time table, but my mother was there to help me out and we got it done. The second hiccup occurred when the in house speakers would not connect to my iPod, but my sister-friend found the music channel on the television and we moved forward.  With the awesome help of my mother, I was able to get dinner prepared as much as I wanted, gift bags made, and a table set.  Mind you the table was set fifteen minutes before the guest arrived, but it was set.  I think it turned out pretty good considering I was using borrowed china and every piece of flatware I owned (my good set was also in storage, I’m so getting my stuff out of there.)

Table

I pulled a chair out of my office for the middle seat and didn’t really need to (my guest didn’t make it. Sad smile

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I decided to have an Italian themed dinner with the exception of the dessert. I’ve realized that my girls will always get a specialty cheesecake every year – that will be my signature item each year. This year I made a Crème Brule cheesecake complete with an almond crust. Here was the rest of the menu…

Appetizers: Baked Fontina Cheese w/Italian bread for dipping along with Rice Balls we had Prosecco with this course

Soup: A version of Olive Gardens Tuscano Suppa

Salad: Panzanella

Main Course: Vegetable Lasagna, Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken with Creamy Herbed Polenta I served a Moscato with this because I knew they weren’t a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio group.

Dessert: Crème Brule Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Cheesecake top

This photo was taken the next day because we were having such a good time, I forgot to take photos of dinner.

Five of the eight ladies showed up…one had to miss out due to a family health emergency, another had another family holiday commitment and the other I’m not sure about yet. We ate, we drank, and we were very merry. We promised that we wouldn’t wait until next Christmas to do this again. Maybe I’ll have something this summer…I mean we have a great looking patio that I want to get some use out of.

What about you, are you doing any holiday entertaining?

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Bento Anyone?

Happy September Everyone,

The weather is starting to give us some cool days (and morning) and school has started for the children.  It has going on for about a month for the Cork household. You would think that by now we would have a smooth pattern established…and you would be wrong. School started for us at the beginning of August. A week later my husband had to have surgery that had him in a sling and unable to drive for two weeks. Last year my mother was helping us out by picking up the Babydoll from school a couple days a week. This year she has been unable to do so thus far. So I have been doing drop off and pick up for the Babydoll, going to work, and running all errands for the family. My husband just received the okay from his surgeon to begin driving and getting around on his own, so now he will be able to help out.

The one thing that we have been able to master smoothly is lunch. My Babydoll has a few digestive issues that keep her from eating everything. At the same time, the things that she likes to eat are not readily available from school lunch. It took me two years of wondering why my baby was so hungry every time I picked her up from school. That lightbulb moment actually occurred when I was able to have lunch with her when she was in Pre-K4 (My Babydoll started out in Private School when she was three years old and they ate in the classroom that year. The next year she began eating in the cafeteria and I was able to have lunch with her at that time.). I started packing her lunch for her after that. But lunch was always the same thing: a slice of ham, some fruit (or fruit rol-up), Cheez-its, maybe a cookie, and a juice box. To my mind it seemed so predictable and unexciting. I love to cook guys and this is what I was giving my kid for lunch EVERY day. UGH! Kindergarten, she started asking for a Lunchable on occasion. She was getting the same thing that I was packing for her, it was just coming in a prettier package. Really…I’m going to pay the same amount for 1 Lunchable that I would spend on half pound of ham. I don’t think so. Well let’s just say that although I didn’t do it very often, I would break down every now and then (especially when they were on sale and I could get them for under $1.50. Last year I decided that there had to be a way to create a Lunchable and make it a little healthier. Maybe I could include some of the things that I prepare at home that I know that she loves. I didn’t have the pretty package but I was able to put everything in snack-sized Ziploc bags and things were looking up. This year there was a request for a lunch bag that was seen on television. I checked out the item online and gasped at the price for a lunch bag. It was advertised as getting two for $19.99 plus s/h. Closer inspection revealed that s/h for each bag plus the special, free gift was another $25. Do I have “STUPID” tattoo on my forehead? NOPE…I’m not buying it. I started researching (like I always do) to find something comparable or better. That’s when I stumbled upon Bento Boxes.

Yes people Bento Boxes!!!! Where have I been? Why hasn’t someone told me about them? Surprised smile  It was a Lunchable the way that I had been longing to do it. I have now become a cookie cutter, small storage container, condiment container, silicone muffin cup, juice container buying diva. I’ve always been one to buy accessories; whether it is in the form of jewelry, cooking utensils, office supplies, or shoes. I now have a new accessory to purchase – lunch box accessories. But now I’m able to fix the Babydoll awesome lunches like nachos and cheese, and ham and crackers with all the fixings, cute sandwiches cut into fabulous shapes and so much more. I’m able to add more fruit and veggies (which my kid actually likes to eat…yes she will order the apple slices instead of fries at Mickey D’s) and she is also now eating all of lunch (even if she has to finish it in the car on the way home because lunch was cut short in school).

Here’s one of the first lunches that I packed early in the year.  I’ve since become a little better at turning slices of ham into flowers and I’ve found some really cool “boxes” to pack lunch in. 

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With this type of packaging I’m not using so many plastic bags for packing food and everything pops into the dishwasher (I finally got a new one, but that’s a whole blog by itself) for clean up.

I understand that there are stores just for Bento box supplies, unfortunately I have not found one in my city although I have made stops to a couple of the International Grocery stores and looked in the non-food areas but found nothing. If I run across an online store I’m going to be in trouble.  I’ve been hitting up every craft store I can to try to find square silicone muffin cups and larger cookie cutters (not the gigantor ones, just large enough to cut my pretty flower with).

I would be a terrible person if I did not tell you about this cool blog that is completely full of pictures of kids Bento lunches and content ideas. You guys have got to check out http://wendolonia.com/bentoboxgallery/ if you have children in school and you prepare lunch for them. Here are a couple of photos of a couple of the lunches that I’ve made so far. When I come up with something really spectacular I will show more pictures if I can remember to snap a photo. My boxes aren’t as beautiful as Wendy but I now have a new lunch packing goal to aspire to.

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Happy Birthday… in the heat

A few months ago I was commissioned to make a cake for someone that was present at my mothers surprise birthday party.  She feel in love with the cake I made for my mom – The Ultimate Chocolate Cake with the chocolate Raspberry filling.

Her party was scheduled for the beginning of July and she wanted to have the Maxine character from the Hallmark cards because her name is….you guessed it – Maxine.

We set this up in May and the week of I called to make my final arrangements with her – getting the venue address, confirm head count, cake flavor (she decided on Red Velvet), and time of delivery.  I had been researching for the perfect Maxine picture online and even thought about printing the picture and caption on a sugar sheet to make my life easier.  The problem with that is the Hallmark Maxine is trademarked and you are not supposed to print her out without getting permission from Hallmark.  No company that I knew would print it for me and I have not yet purchased my printer for cake decorating (still doing research on that), so what was I going to do?  I did not inherit my fathers ability to draw (nor my mothers beautiful voice, but that’s for another time), but I had to put on my big girl panties and do this.  I started by drawing it on small piece of paper to see how bad it would be.  It was bad at all Surprised smile.  I might be able to do this free hand.

Friday rolled around – two days before the event and our air conditioning goes out.  We realize this when we return from dinner at 9:30pm!  I have to slip in there that the temperature had been 98/100 degrees for the past week and a cool down wasn’t expected until Sunday evening!  I had to bake two 12 x 18 sheet cakes the next day.  I knew I wasn’t going to ice or decorate until I got to the venue because it was too hot, but I still had to bake the cakes!

Saturday morning rolled around extremely hot and miserable and not a HVAC guy in sight.  I called my mother and asked if I could pack up and head over to her house to make my cakes.  She quickly agreed AND had my dad call a church friend how was a HVAC guy to see if he could check out our system.  My husband had found two guys, but one couldn’t get to our house until after 5pm and the other he ended up getting into a slight disagreement on the phone before he even made it to our house.  After I finished running my errands that morning, I came home and passed out in the hot house on the cool leather sofa underneath the ceiling fan.  I don’t know why heat makes you sleepy.  I dragged myself off the sofa and took another shower, packed up my supplies and headed to my mothers.  (By the time I dried off, dressed and loaded up my car I had sweated again and almost felt like I need to take another shower. Sad smile

We were keeping the pooch in the basement because it actually felt like it was air conditioned down there (we really need to get that basement finished….maybe that will be the next project).  She had already decided that it was too hot to be outside anyway and was happy to be down there.

The HVAC guy got to the house and was able to fix it.  Thank God for Chuck Taylor (I show a picture, but I wasn’t there when he was – baking that cake you know)!!!  The house ended up reaching the whopping temperature of 95 degrees and it took over 12 hours to cool it down to 78 degrees.  We stayed the night in a Holiday Inn Express.  I got up early Sunday morning and headed home to shower and head to my mothers to pick up my cake and get to the venue so that I could ice and decorate the cake.

You see folks when I was packing up things I needed for my cake I forgot an integral part of my icing and wasn’t able to finish my icing so I needed to get to my mom’s a little earlier than what I thought because I still needed to make the icing (don’t you hate it when you forget something?). 

My mother came with me to the venue to be my time keeper.  When you are decorating…well when I’m decorating I can lose track of time and I wanted to be away from the venue with a few hours to spare.  She did a great job of keeping me on time and I truly appreciate her for that.  Note:  I have to take a few minutes to give my mom MAJOR props.  She always volunteers to help me with my catering events.  She never asks for a fee (I usually have to hide the money in her purse or pocket) and she has learned to work with me.  If I was to say that I have a partner she would be it.  I LOVE MY MOMMY!  Now back to the cake.

I decided to start out with the Happy Birthday message first so that I could figure out the placement of “Maxine”.

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Then with the help of some toothpicks I drew “Maxine”.  Once had everything completed my mother looked at it and said, we need something else.  So the border came about.  This was not the stiffest icing (the kind typical for decorating because of the heat and also this was the classic cream cheese frosting for a Red Velvet cake, I just didn’t want to make it too stiff.

My client loved the design of the cake

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and I was told that the guest loved the taste of the cake so I’m happy to have another satisfied customer.  In hindsight I wish I had of taken a photo from the top of the cake so that I had a top view. 

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In my defense I had been working for about 2 hours and was just happy to be finished.  I think fondant would have been better to work with in this heat, but again I needed the cream cheese icing and fondant does not come in that flavor – white chocolate but not cream cheese flavored. 

I was very proud of myself.  Another triumph for the Red Oven. Smile

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Chocolate, Peanut Butter, & Caramel

Happy Tuesday everyone,

I hope that everyone had a great weekend and President’s Day.  Last Friday was Stan’s birthday and my babydoll decided that she didn’t want to have barbecue (Stan had told us all week that was his planned meal for the big day) so she called a cousin to get out of the meal and didn’t return until late yesterday evening as much as we tried to persuade her to come home.  What do you do when you have a three-day weekend with no crumb snatchers underfoot?  You catch every movie that has a high kill count you want to and hang out with that loved one like you did before you began to procreate.  🙂 Mind you we still had Sasha-bear, but my pup is starting to lose some of her rambunctiousness (or maybe it was because babydoll was gone) so she was pretty chill too.

I think I’ve mentioned several times that I love to bake and I’m pretty darn good at it, so you can imagine the total and utter confusion I feel that my husband purchases himself a birthday cake from a bakery or grocery store every year. 

I mean if I wasn’t made of sterner stuff I would be totally offended, but I just go with the flow of it.  Regardless of his purchase on Friday, I had already come up with a plan for dessert this week…and it involved, you guessed it…chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel.

I knew I was going to make a chocolate cake and I wanted to make something different with it, so I thought why not peanut butter.  Everyone loves Reese’s Cups right?  I was discussing my great idea with my mother (I always bounce ideas off of her) and she started telling me about a peanut butter-caramel cake that she and my babydoll had seen Giada make a few days previously.  I asked her if it was a chocolate cake and she said no.  She said it was a vanilla cake and she that she had used caramel that she melted.  I said I would make a homemade caramel sauce and that it would be even greater with a chocolate cake…I mean chocolate and caramel go well together and chocolate and peanut butter go well together, so let’s do a trio.

I made my caramel sauce

 

and basic chocolate cake with the addition of about 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the batter. I tasted the batter and found that it didn’t have enough peanut butter taste, so I decided to mix some peanut butter with the caramel sauce.  This I swirled into the cake batter before baking (I felt this would help the caramel sauce from sinking to the bottom of the cake during baking).

Once the cake had come out of the oven and began cooling, I took some more of the caramel sauce and put it all over the top of the cake layers after I had poked holes in the layers (I do this with my caramel cakes to help infuse the cake with the caramel flavor).

To make this cake extra luscious I thought what icing would push it over the edge?  Mocha Chocolate Buttercream Icing of course.  I don’t like coffee, can’t stand the smell or taste of it actually.  But you add coffee to chocolate and something magical happens. 

 The chocolate becomes more chocolate if you can imagine or believe it.  As you can see from the beater that I stood in the  middle of my kitchen and licked clean, it was a dessert all on its own.

The final product was soooooo good.  The plate is not really neat after I finished, but doesn’t it look delicious?

My favorite dessert is ice cream and cake.  Of all the delicious things that I make, there is nothing that gives me more joy than having a slice of birthday cake and ice cream.  And you must have an equal amount of both with every bite….no bite of cake without ice cream on the spoon at the same time.  You HAVE to have the complete package.

What about you…how did you enjoy your weekend?  Did you have to work on President’s Day?

Caramel Sauce

1 cup light brown sugar

1 stick of butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp of vanilla

pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved.  This stuff is good, you can pour it over ice cream also and swoon. 🙂

Mocha Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 stick of butter softening

2 tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp boiling water

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

2 cups powder sugar (confectioner’s for you sticklers)

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla

Combine coffee and water until dissolved.  Add melted chocolate and set aside.  Beat butter until light and smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  Add coffee/chocolate mixture and beat until smooth.  Lick the beater clean( :)) and frost you cake accordingly.

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When feeling down, start cooking

You’re feeling unwell – your sinuses are clogged, your throats sore, your body aches and what do you do?  Most people would hole up in bed and take whatever over-the-counter meds they think will cure them quickly or better yet go to the doctor and a perscription.  When I feel unwell, I take minimal over-the-counter meds (because I can’t stand that drugged out feeling I get, unless I know it’s Bronchitis – I’ve had that three times this year already :() and usually get in the kitchen and make something amazing.  Yep you read it right when I feel bad, I find that I cook at my best.  Now I know your thinking, “Why cook when you’re ill? You might infect anyone who eats what you prepare?”  You would think so, but when I’m ill I go into hyper sanitary mode.  I wash my hands more (even more than normal which says a lot), if I feel a cough our sneeze coming on – I walk out of the room, I never cough or sneeze into my hands, the list goes on and on. 

The last time I felt ill, which was about a month ago, I felt the need to bake homemade rolls and Roasted Eggplant soup.  There is something so theraputic about kneading dough (I do not use the dough hook).  I’ve found that my bread is not as tough when I set the timer for 8 minutes and push and fold the dough until smooth and elastic.

I place it in a greased bowl and set the timer for 1 hour.  I then punch it down and make little round balls that get to rise again for another hour.  In the past once I got to this step I would freeze the rolls I wasn’t going to cook and bake off the ones I was.  The rolls that were frozen were supposed to be thawed at the desired time, with the hopes that they would rise again; but rising again never happened.  I always ended up with little round knots that never got bigger than golf balls.  How frustrating. 😦  So this time around I, decided to partially bake my rolls and freeze them to be completely baked when we are ready to eat them.  It has worked out so much better. 

Anyway…on this day I made four 9-inch pie pans and three 6-inch pans of rolls (I gave one of the smaller pans to my parents and baked one for us that evening.) and a pot of Roasted Eggplant Soup (this was something we had had at my friends wedding in mid-September and my babydoll loved it).

To make the soup, I took one eggplant, one onion, six cloves of garlic, and four Roma tomatoes.

They were cut and brushed with olive oil.  I then placed them into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes to roast.

After they have cooled enough to handle them, I scooped out the eggplant and placed it along with the other vegetables in a pot of chicken broth.  I then added 1 tsp of thyme

and let simmer for 30 minutes.  I took out the immersion blender and pureed the soup until smooth, added a cup of heavy cream. 

The soup was awesome and rolls were light and fluffy (my babydoll would have eaten all of them if they weren’t placed in the freezer to be eaten later).  Because I wasn’t feeling my best, the bowl of hot soup was a welcome meal.  Don’t you love a hot bowl of soup when you’re under the weather?  What’s your ritual when you’re feeling unwell?  Do you crawl into bed?  Have someone bring you Chinese take out?  Or do you take on unthinkable projects like me?

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Surprise!!!

A few months ago my mother called me and told me that she would like us to have a 60th birthday party for her and she wanted all of her friends to come (she would give me the list) and she let me know what she wanted me to prepare for her meal.  I talked with my siblings and we agreed it could be done.  Later she retracted he wish and said that she was having a day and that it really wasn’t necessary.  I talked to my siblings again and my father and decided that we would do it anyway, it would just now be a surprise party.

The thing about this party was that it occurred two weeks after the babydolls party and one week after my trip to Cincinnati for the Lori Foster Get-Together.  I love my siblings dearly and it is what it is; so I will say that usually I plan and they execute my plans.  Not to say that they don’t help, they do…I just usually feel a lot of the pressure (unless my sister is hosting).  My sister helped picked up some of the decorations and my brother arranged a venue, for that I was very grateful. 

I called my mother on her birthday early and gave her my birthday wishes and told her that I will cook her dinner as my gift to her on Saturday at 7.  That was my decoy. 

I usually talk to my mother daily…and I knew that I would not be able to do so that week because I if I talked to her I would feel the urge to tell her about all of the things I needed to do during the week and since all of those things were for her, I couldn’t tell her.  Then when my mother would call me and comment about us not conversing I always felt a little guilty. 

Three weeks ago, my brother and I talked to my dad and asked him to get me the names of my mothers friends so that I could mail out the invitations.  I didn’t even need the addresses if he couldn’t find them, I thought I could find them from the phone books.  I learned from this event that my father is a BIG procrastinator (my mother has been saying this for years – I just didn’t believe her) and a week before the scheduled party he had not given my any names.  My oldest brother ended up getting a hold of her phone and texting me the numbers to her friends.  I sent out a mass text the next day (the Monday before the party) and SURPRISE my father calls me and said, “oh, I need to get you some names and numbers huh?” I had included him in the text to everyone.  🙂  I then spent the next couple of days making follow-up calls to everyone and contacting (or attempting to contact) all of the friends that I did not have a cell phone number for.

The menu requested was very simple: Baked Spaghetti, Spinach salad with mandarin oranges, candied walnuts and cranberries (served with Raspberry vinaigrette) and the finale was the Red Oven Creations Ultimate Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Chocolate Mousse.  I also added a Chicken and Vegetable Lasagna with Alfredo Sauce for those who attending that do not eat beef or pork (my brother is one of those people).

I didn’t begin cooking until Friday, just because for me Italian is relatively easy to make.  I had to make pasta sauce (that takes maybe 30 minutes to put together and ~3 hours to simmer), and then put it all together.  The cake was another matter – I was making a three-layer 14″ round.  I measured all of the dry ingredients out Friday morning before heading out to work.  I went to the grocery store on Thursday during lunch (when you have a great list and concise plan you can do major shopping in less than 30 minutes :)) I roasted chicken breast and browned meat for the pasta entrees, baked two of the three cake layers, as well as made the Chocolate Raspberry Mousse on Friday.   I got up early Saturday finished up the errands I needed so that I could get home to finish it all up before heading out around four.  Did I mention we are also leaving this weekend for Florida?  This necessitated a trip to the stores so that we could purchase some summer gear for the babydoll (that childs legs are growing like weeds) and us. 

I finished putting the cake together by 11:30 am

and the pasta sauce had simmered for 2 hours by noon.  I then took some time out to sit on the porch and have a cup of tea with my babydoll.  My niece came over about 30 minutes later and then we put everything together my 2:30.  I took a break and went clothes shopping for my babydoll.  Packing up the car was a job within itself.

The problem arose when my parents arrived 15 minutes before we were supposed to.  My brother told my father 6:15, but the invites said she would arrive around 6:30.  You know how people typically wait until the last-minute to arrive and with a surprise party every minute counts.  We had my father make up a reason to detour and of course my mother was upset thinking my dad was not being efficient with their time and she was trying to get to my house by 7pm for the dinner I was making. 

She was soooo totally surprised when she came in the door.  My mother has never had a birthday party, let alone a surprise party, so she was very humbled by all who attended. 

My mother reading one of her cards.

The food was excellent (thank you very much) and the company was better.  I believe I said after the last surprise party that I would never do this again, and I did another party – so I will say that it’s ALOT of work and I think I’m getting better at it, so I know I can handle the next one that comes along.

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Reader Trip

It has been a couple of weeks since I have written a post and I’m so sorry folks.  It has been sooo busy in the Cork Household the last couple of months.  We had Babydolls birthday party in May and then the end of school (and I volunteered to chaperone the final field trip the last week of school).

I made cake balls for the Babydolls teacher that I were made from melted caramel and chocolate cake.  I then had my trip to the Lori Foster Author/Reader Get-Together to attend at the beginning of June followed by the surprise birthday party for my mother this past weekend.  I so wanted to post about the preparations for my mothers party but could not because she reads my blog and the surprise would be ruined.  I couldn’t put anything on Facebook or Twitter, because she would have found out about it.  It was a really weird week.  And to top it all off the Corks are off to sunny Fort Lauderdale this weekend so I might be slow in posting for another week. 😦  But boy do I need this vacation. 🙂

So let me tell you about the Lori Foster Weekend….

My book club mates and I left Thursday afternoon so that we could attend the Mystery Dinner hosted by author Duffy Brown that evening.  It was such a good time.  I don’t have pictures because I forgot to put the battery in my camera after charging it.  My character was Dee Dee Johnson (my maiden name is Johnson) who was a pick-pocketing waitress who might also be a little “slutty”.  I had on the shortest skirt ever (I hadn’t worn anything that short since I was 21) and it even helped us to an onion ring upgrade at Steak & Shake later that night. 🙂 

Friday we got up and spent some time at Jungle Jim’s. 

I was determined to purchase a few bottles of wine (five bottles of wine, one bottle of flavored vodka, three small bottles of Asti, and 5 small bottles of vodka and tea blends) and I had to buy some bar-b-que rubs/marinades for the hubby. 

The fire truck right above the hot sauce and barbeque section.

I also bought a few bottles of honey (need it for my hot tea). 

Aisle of Honey

 The store is such an adventure in itself, I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Cincinnati or surrounding area.  

Giant Pez HeadsYes...that is a pigs head. Who buys it I don't know.There's all kinds of iconic stuff like this throughout the store.i've never seen a bigger produce section in a store.The restrooms...they're really not Port-O's

The conference started on Friday and by the time we returned from the store it was time to register and join the festivities.  Along with the opportunity to meet the authors there are a large number of raffles that happen throughout the weekend with all proceeds going to the charity for the year (this years proceeds went to One Way Farm – a home for abused, abandoned, and neglected children).  You purchase raffle tickets (2 for $1) and place them in the bags for the baskets that you would like to win.  This year I decided to not get carried away with the raffle tickets because I do not win. 

My $20 worth of tickets

I have never won and I go to a couple of these events a year for the past four years.  I limited myself to $20 worth of tickets and didn’t have any high hopes for winning (I actually read during the drawings because I knew I most likely wouldn’t win), I just took it as an opportunity to donate to a worthy charity.   

Our group submitted a basket and this year it was big enough to warrant a spot on the big stage along with all of the other big gifts. 

 The big gifts usually include Kindle’s or Nooks and this year there was even a Pandigital. 

It was a great event.  I got the chance to attend “An Intimate Chat” with Nalini Singh – the author of the Psy-Changling and Archangel series. 

Nalini Singh

 Another member of our Book Club attended the “chat” with Mary Burton- whom I just happened to talk to at the continental breakfast line.

Mary Burton

 

I talked with a publisher and got information for my sister (who is writing a book) while standing in a line to get Nalini’s autograph (I’ve decided to get the cover for my Nook signed by all of my favorite authors which I will reveal after the RomCon event in August).    I did not win any baskets, but a few of the members of my book club did win (one won the most coveted SyFy basket).

We headed home on Sunday after making a stop at IKEA which was right across the bridge from our hotel.  Can you really be this close to an IKEA and not go in?  I think not.

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