Thursday, November 29, 2007

And The Awards Went To...

Are you going to give a toast at the reception? That's what my then fiance kept asking me week after week. Each time I would tell him "No" I don't like speaking in front of crowds.

He kept telling me the toasts would be "An opportunity to declare our love for each other." He had been working on his toast to me for months. LOL. Little did he know that I had come up with my own fun and flirty plan. Knowing he loves awards, he has three bowling trophies that he's quite proud of, I decided to order a trophy for him that said "Best Husband" and planned to present it to him during the toasts at our reception.

When the time came I was shocked at how inexpensive trophies are if you know where to order them. I found these Oscar style awards on marble bases at www.K2Awards.com. They were $15.99 each and I had one for each of the three stages of our relationship: Best Boyfriend, Best Fiance and Best Husband. The dates on each one corresponded to the dates of each phase.

So there we were at our reception and imagine his shock when our master of ceremonies announced that it was time for the "Awards" portion of the reception. I stepped up to the podium and did my best to articulate to our family and friends why John is just the best guy ever. My previous post where I mentioned he had given me a AAA card months after we began dating was just one of the many thoughtful things he's done for me since we've been together. He was very moved and now his new trophies reside proudly alongside his bowling trophies on our mantle.

On a side note he was slightly relieved that Kitai, my dog, didn't win the costume contest when we were on the TODAY show a few days later. The winning dog received a trophy that was at least 3 feet high! His concern? That he didn't want to be upstaged by the dog. LOL.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

A few months ago one of my closest online friends posted her wedding website. I was one of the first to view it and as such seized the opportunity to surprise her by being the first to send her a wedding gift. I wanted to get her a stainless steel steamer at Crate and Barrel, but it was sold out. Instead I chose a glass 4 part serving dish that was listed on her registry.

A few days later she brought the subject up in our private forum. There are only 10 members in our group so we're a pretty tight crowd. She commented that the next day she and her fiance were attending a wedding shower and that despite herself she had become obsessed with the gift registry. Her fiance told her not to look, that doing so would only lead to trouble but she couldn't resist. Here's a slightly edited version of what happened next:

Her: I know it's spoiling the surprise, but I can't stop myself!

And the worst part? They're getting stuff that we just added on for fun, not the stuff we *really* want. I'm checking the pages like, "No, dumba**es, don't get THAT... get the wine glasses!"

I'm horrible.

Me: Aw cwap. I got you something but it wasn't wine glasses.

Hope you feel EXTRA bad for saying that now. You should!

Her: Are you serious?

OMG, I'm seriously busting a gut laughing over here!!

Me: Could not be more serious!

Not going to tell you what I sent. You can tell me how much you really wanted it when it gets there.

Her: OMG, I feel bad but I'm laughing so hard!

And your SIGNATURE!!! You're laying it on THICK!!

Me: I'd changed my sig to: Buy someone a wedding gift and they call you a duma**

Her: I deserve it.

See? Told you I was horrible.

But, in all honestly, everything on there, yes, we want and we'll love!

It really is so nice of you.

OK, no more checking the registries for me. I've learned my lesson.

Me: Would like to point out that you are the dumba**es who asked for the other items. LOL.

I always enjoy learning from other peoples mistakes so..... Thanks for saving me from that one!

*Note to self* Do not blog about lame wedding gifts. You never know who might be reading your griping.

Her: Oh, now I feel really bad.

And gifts are NEVER disappointing!! I love them all, no matter what size or shape. Seriously, you could send me a pair of socks and a box of toothpicks as a present and I'd get excited.

Me: The cost of the gift was well worth the laugh you just gave me and now I fully expect you to exchange it for some wine glasses when it gets there.

I went for something heftier then a wine glass.... They break all the time. I wanted something that would remind you of me forever! Now you will feel guilty every time you eat carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, and broccoli or four kinds of crackers.

Her: OMG, the four-part dish!!!

Me: Yeah yeah.... Too late now. I know what you really think of my gift. *sniff sniff*

Her: What's extra funny is my fiance told me I was going to get myself in trouble checking up on the registries. Dammmit!! I hate it when he's right.

Seriously, I never expected any of you guys to send me gifts! I completely underestimated how sweet you are. You're the best.

Me: It's all in good fun. Plus that REALLY proves you weren't expecting gifts from us. Which is nice and shows you aren't a selfish person. Just a picky one. LOL

Her: It's totally true, wasn't expecting it at all.

But I think I've pretty much zapped my chances of getting any MORE presents from anyone in our group....

Me: Yeah if anyone else here sends a gift? I would strongly urge you to choose the wine glasses.

Her: We are having the presents sent to my fiance's work b/c he'll be there all day long to receive them. NO JOKE: He just texted me and said we got a gift today from Crate & Barrel.

I'll save him the back story tonight and just tell him what a wonderful friend you are.

Seriously, I can't believe the gift arrived today. That's just the icing on the cake. The bitter, crow-filled cake that I am now eating.

I have dug a hole, and there's no way out.. I'll just sit down here in my hole and eat veggies out of my new serving dish.

I think the moral of the story is clear. My advice? Seems like a no brainer but if you don't like a gift make sure you don't complain about it to the person who gave it to you. LOL. Unless they have a good sense of humor. Then it can actually turn into a pretty good laugh and seriously, most of us need all the laughs we can get! At least I do. My friend will never live this down. But that's ok because she's willing to laugh at herself right along with the rest of our little group.

My First Blow Out!

It couldn't happen in a 20 mph school zone, 5 minutes from home at noon. Nope the first time I blew out a tire it was an hour away from home, at night, on a freeway. I was on my way back from an industry event in San Francisco when all of a sudden my car started making a thump, thump, thump noise. I quickly realized something was very wrong and had two choices: Pull over on a curve on a dark highway with cars whizzing by at 75+ mph, or continue on to the next exit. I quickly weighed my options and chose the latter. When I pulled over this is what I saw!

I quickly called AAA. It didn't take long for the tow truck driver to show up and before I knew it I was on my way! It literally took him about 3 minutes to change my tire! He was awesome! I gave him a tip. Wasn't sure if you're supposed to tip a tow truck driver but I was so appreciative that he fixed my tire so quickly I figured it was the least I could do. My dear sweet hubby had added me to his AAA a few months after we started dating and got me a cell phone (LOL) so he could track me down when I was out and about. Both came in pretty darn handy that night. I'm happy to report that I made it home none the worse for wear.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Envy: Good or Bad?

Depending on your motivations, striving to be the envy of every other bride you know can be good or bad. To make people jealous? Bad. Because you were a great hostess and made the day enjoyable for your guests? Good!

Come on, admit it. Some of you would love for your wedding to be the envy of every other bride before you and every bride to come... Nothing wrong with that, it's human nature.

But what makes a wedding truly memorable? Truly special? I think nothing impresses guests more then a ceremony full of emotion with heartfelt vows. Between you and I? I love when a bride is sobbing down the aisle or a groom chokes up at the alter.

When it comes to the rest? Nothing creates a more lasting impression then being a great host and hostess to your guests. As much as rumor may dictate that it's a brides day to do what she wants... I think part of what she should want is the comfort and enjoyment of her guests. What better way to make your wedding the best your guests have ever attended then to make sure that their every need was met?

When it comes to being a fabulous hostess? Here are some great common sense suggestions to ensure your guests are comfortable and enjoying themselves as much as possible!

1. Be on time! I was once invited to a wedding where the bride arrived so late for the ceremony that we were not served dinner until 10:30 pm after her photos were taken. The cake cutting was at 11:30 pm. So being tardy is not the best way to go about creating a wedding others would envy.

2. In summer provide air conditioning, fans and shade. If your ceremony or reception are outdoors? Rent a tent, offer cute paper fans and/or provide paper parasols to your guests.

3. Include the option of Coke at the bar and/or with dinner and coffee during the reception to go with the cake. The lack of these basic caffeinated beverages have been the source of much griping by guests at weddings I've attended in the past.

4. Make sure your music choices are varied so that your guests, no matter what their age, will hear a few songs they recognize and can relate to.

5. Make sure there is enough seating. Feet get tired of standing and sore feet can ruin the best of parties. I once sent back my RSVP and attended a wedding where there wasn't enough seating available for the reception. There were about 10 of us who ended up sitting on a ledge watching the other guests at their set tables... We left before the meal was served. The worst part? That nobody, bride or groom, came to apologize. Everyone just acted as if we didn't exist. This taught me that "Graciousness and sincerity in moments of adversity can make the worst wedding day disasters tolerable."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

An Amazing Holiday Party

So the other night I was invited to a very special party by my friend Jewel Savadelis. Each year Anna Spraungel, the Catering Manager of McCall Catering, and her husband graciously host an annual holiday party that I can only describe as beyond my wildest expectations.

When I say expectations I mean in the sense that we never could have prepared ourselves for the amazing evening that was in store for us. It was such a treat!

As you can see from the photos we were treated to a winter wonderland. But the pictures don't begin to do justice to what we actually saw. The party was held at the most unusual venue you could imagine. Barrango is a display manufacturing company that specializes in holiday decorations and custom carousels! Their warehouse is like what kids dream about at Christmas time. We entered a maze of holiday lights, oversized ornaments, animated furry woodland creatures and carousel horses and animals of all shapes and sizes! There were soaring Christmas trees and spiraling topiaries, a beautiful gum drop tree, and two enormous cockatoos!

The food was wonderful and there was so much to choose from! Lots of hot dishes, cold dishes, sushi and some wonderful dips and cheeses. I enjoyed everything have a nibble of many of the yummy offerings. There were also many fancy desserts but something about being in that room made me feel like a little kid again so I passed by the baklava and little cakes for one of my favorite childhood treats, a classic oatmeal raisin cookie. Turns out I made a great choice because it was the best ORC ever.

Not expecting such a fanciful venue I neglected to bring my camera along so these shots were taken with my cell phone. They didn't come out too shabby so I thought I would share them with you. Here's the thing, though they look like outdoor photos these pictures were taken indoors! So cool!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Hotel Kabuki • San Francisco

A Joie De Vivre hotel, the Hotel Kabuki is a Japanese style hotel that delights it's guests with a soothing ambiance and offers it's patrons cultural lessons in: Bonsai, Ikebana, Japanese Calligraphy, Karaoke, Odori Dance, Origami, Sake Tasting, Sushi Preparation, Taiko Drumming, and the Traditional Tea Ceremony.

Last night I was invited to attend the opening of Hotel Kabuki and it's O Izakaya Lounge. That's what the invitaton I received said. But it was so much more then an opening! It was a cultural experience that took me on a journey back to my childhood and allowed me an opportunity to reminisce memories forgotten.

From Kabuki, Taiko, Tea Ceremonies, Mochitsuki and more I was quite simply transfixed by many of the demonstrations and performances we were treated to.

As soon as one walked into the lobby the delicious food, provided by O Izakaya Lounge, began with hand passed Hor d'Ouevres, and from that point on each room we walked into contained a delectable offering of sushi, soba, tempura, manju, cake from Satura Cakes, mochi, specialty cocktails, tea and sake.

I could tell right away that the hotel is a wonderful venue for weddings and corporate events. The staff was friendly, gracious and helpful as we casually meandered through the event room by room.

We also received a guided tour of one of the suites and let me tell you, you won't find another room like this. At least I've not come across another like it. Each suite comes with an ergonomic deep-soaking tub. The tub is different then a traditional western bath. It's more like sitting upright in hot, hot water where you simply sit to relax, not wash. The Japanese shower first before entering the bath water.

There is also a traditional communal bath, Kabuki Springs & Spa, located in close proximity to the hotel.

The hotel is located in the San Francisco Japantown which is full of shops and restaurants all uniquely Japanese.

Below is a piece of manju and freshly made mochi I brought home just so that I would have some photos for the blog. I couldn't wait to photograph them so that I could hurry up and eat them!

Thank you to Rick Bacon, their Director of Catering, for the invitation. It was such an incredible treat to be a part of such a wonderful celebration!

Monday, November 12, 2007

My new gift shop on Etsy.com

You may have heard that I've recently launched a spay and neuter fund on my dog's website www.CutestDogEver.com I will be partnering with the 1 year old Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority donating all of the funds raised to pay for spay and neuter procedures for low income and financially challenged pet owners who would not otherwise be able to afford having their pet altered.

One of the ways I'll be raising funds is through the sale of my miniature, gold, origami cranes on Etsy.com. The cranes will sell for $5.50 each with $5 of the proceeds going directly into the fund.

The SVACA opened a Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic last week which charges $10 to alter cats and $30 to alter dogs. Those are amazing prices! Currently there is $1750.00 in the fund. I'll be working out a program with Dan Soszynski, the executive director of the shelter, in the coming weeks to make sure the money goes to this worthy cause. Once we begin dispersing the funds I'll be posting photos of the pets helped onto Cutest Dog Everl.com so that any of you who donated will see the pets you have helped.

Our country's shelters are in crisis and need any help they can get in decreasing the number of puppies bred while increasing the number of adoptions taking place. We need to lower the number of dogs, many as wonderful as Kitai, who tragically become nothing more then another sad statistic in our nation's euthanasia totals at the end of each year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Best Brussels Sprouts EVER!

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining at Firefly Restaurant, in Noe Valley on the outskirts of downtown San Francisco. My friend Helen ordered the brussels sprouts appetizer. I'd never eaten brussels sprouts until a few years ago and when I cooked them I oven roasted them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I thought they were good. Not great, not bad, just pretty good.

So when her brussels sprouts came to the table we were all stunned by how amazing they smelled and the fact that they tasted even better then the aroma wafting across the table. The outler layers were thin and crispy and oh so yummy! As we all dove in with our forks we ALL commented at how they were the best brussels sprouts any of us had ever eaten.

They were so good I got an order to go and ate them cold out of the fridge the next day for breakfast.

We asked our waitress how they were prepared and tonight I did my best to replicate the recipe at home.

I'm going to share it with all of you because I think you'll really enjoy it.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

The Recipe

I took one bag of Brussels Sprouts and trimmed the bottoms and removed the outer leaves.

I rinsed and drained them then tossed them in grapeseed oil, placed them in a stainless steel baking pan and popped them in a preheated oven at 400ยบ

I baked them for 15 minutes then removed them and added some salted butter, a bit of sea salt and black pepper. I tossed them back and forth in the pan until the butter melted and popped them back in the oven for 20 more minutes.

After removing them I sprinkled them with White Truffle Oil, tossed them and returned them to the oven for another minute. Note I did not buy pure truffle oil but rather the olive oil infused with truffle aroma.

This is what they looked like when I took them out of the oven.

I plated them and sprinkled them with a tiny bit of salt and grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese. Next time I'm going to try Pecorino Romano cheese.

I put the plate back in the oven for another minute just long enough for the cheese to melt.

I have to say I was pretty wowed at how great they came out for a first attempt.

The only other things I'll do differently next time would be to cut the sprouts in half before beginning. That way the flavors will soak through the layers of leaves. And instead of grating the cheese large like I did tonight I'll grate it fine into a powder. My new hubby doesn't have the most sophisticated cooking tools, but I do at my place. I just need to move them over.

Try them. Oh my gosh you'll love them! And be sure to go eat at Firefly. It's a gem.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Kitai the Cutest Dog Ever on the TODAY Show as The Dog Whisperer

My "Dog Whisperer" costume is why I was invited on the TODAY Show.

Best In Show Dog Halloween Costumes on the TODAY Show

A message from my dog:

Well I went to New York City!

As you may have heard... I didn't win the big costume contest. Truthfully I wasn't that disappointed. I mean it would have been WAY cool to win, but really what am I gonna do with a big gold trophy? There would have only been two options, pee on it or chew on it. Mom says both would be really wrong so I guess I didn't miss out on too much. The consolation prizes were great! Lots of treats and toys! I already shared some with one of my Dogster pal's whose mom came all the way to NYC from New Jersey to meet me. I sent Daisy my giant rawhide and a package of treats. I hope she enjoys them. I'm also going to offer my Pegetable to my pal Rosalita because I know she loves them.

Mom was thrilled I was on tv. As many of you know I am a volunteer goodwill ambassador for pet adoption through shelters and rescues. So as long as we helped to spread the word that there are great dogs waiting for new forever homes in shelters that was all that really mattered to her. They didn't mic my mom so if any of you were wondering what she said to Natalie when she asked why mom made me a Cesar costume mom told her it was because we admire Cesar for helping families stay together.

On a funny note I was treated like a star! A driver in a big, shiny, black car picked us us at the airport and we stayed in a swanky luxurious hotel. I could get used to being treated like a celebrity!

This morning before the show mom took me down for a walk in Central Park. I peed on so many trees and fire hydrants in NYC I lost count! Then we were whisked off to the NBC studios. A lot of people there really liked my costume. One lady even made Matt Lauer come look at me! He laughed when he saw my outfit. After the segment I got my picture taken with Elvira and football player Tiki Barber.

Mom was VERY proud of me. As some of you know I used to have a BIG problem being mean to big dogs. Well today I quickly became buddies with Miles the Rottweiler and after one little growl at Pasha, the gorgeous Husky who won, I was also pretty darn nice to him too.

Then Mom's Dogster.com pal and her daughter met us back at the hotel and we went for another walk in Central Park and grabbed some lunch off a street cart. I saw LOTS of carriage horses. I was minding my manners really well. I almost barked at them once but when mom told me to settle down I did. I was the model tourist. Well except for the peeing on everything in sight part. BOL.

So all in all the trip was a blast! We had a great time meeting and hanging out with all of the other pups and their owners that morning and I am now an official jet setter. Mom says I did great on the plane. I was in cargo since I'm too big to fit in the cabin, but I did just fine. Mom made sure to get a direct, non-stop, flight so I would be less traumatized and to remove any chance of us being seperated on the flight.

Well I have to run. I've got toys to squeak and treats to eat!



KItai the dog with Elvira at the TODAY Show in NYC

Kitai with Tiki Barber on Halloween Day 2007