Easter 2011 Dessert Table and Other Highlights

I know it’s a week late, but hey, I’ve been busy… and lazy!  I was out running a few errands with my mom yesterday afternoon and she subtly reminded me that I hadn’t yet posted about Easter.   Thanks Mom.

This Easter was just like any other holiday spent with my family.  The amount of food was fairly ridiculous – especially considering that we’d all been told by the hostess, my Aunt Debbie, NOT to bring any extra food (especially desserts) this year, because she wanted to cut down and we always have way too much left over Blah, blah, blah…  And that’s exactly what I heard, and apparently what everyone else heard – specifically the “blah, blah, blah” part.  We all brought dessert – lots and lots of dessert.  This is just what we do.  If you tell us we can’t bring anything, we’ll probably show up with a dessert.  If you also tell us we can’t bring a dessert, we’re just going to be very confused.  We are Polish, after all :p

 

Easter Dessert Table

The Dessert Table

 

As always, it was a really fun day, with lots of food and wine shared and enjoyed with the family.  I took a lot of photos, playing with the new lens I recently bought for my camera.  These are just a few of my favorite shots from the day.

 

It ended up being a beautiful day even though storms were predicted (and did eventually hit us in the late afternoon).   Here’s my dad out enjoying the sun!

Dad

Dad on the Deck

 

This is my Aunt Annie sitting with Alyssa in the living room before the big holiday meal.  Not sure what they’re looking at here, but it looks like I caught a nice moment.

Aunt Annie & Alyssa

Aunt Annie and Alyssa

My cousin Kim had a baby in November and I got a lot of pictures of him on Easter.  This is my favorite of Peyton with his mommy.  And yes, she always looks this good.  It’s actually kind of sickening 🙂

Kimmie and Peyton

Kimmie with Peyton

 

Of course, I also got a bunch of pictures of my dad with the baby.  My dad is a baby magnet.  Babies always love him – and, really, what’s not to love?

Peyton and Dad

Peyton with my dad

 

It just wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t include a picture of a cat.  Aunt Debbie’s cat was crazy friendly and I was really tempted to stuff him in my bag and take him home with me.  Next time I’m coming with a bigger purse.

 Oliver

Oliver?  Aunt Debbie has had a few cats over the years that all look similar.  I can never remember which one’s which.  I think this is Oliver.

 

Oh, and it looks like someone had far too much wine!  And for once, it wasn’t me! 

drunk lamb!

Drunken Lamb!

 

So overall, it was a great day with the family.  I’ll be posting the recipe for my dessert table contribution later this week, so stay tuned!

20 Best Beer Towns in America

As someone who loves to travel and plans most all of my vacations around where I’ll be eating and drinking, I found this list of the 20 Best Beer Towns in America from Worlds Biggests pretty interesting.   The list is nicely organized by region, making it easy to imagine planning a sort of beer road trip around it.  Mmm… beer road trip.

It looks like I easily have the entire Northeast region covered thanks to my recent visit to Portland, ME (which can be read about here and here too), in which we seriously did nothing but eat and drink all weekend long (not that there’s anything wrong with that)!  Now, on to conquer the rest of America’s beer towns!

A few pictures from our various beer adventures over the years:

Two Beers in Philadelphia Allagash in PortlandKevin enjoying his beerBlueberry Ale from Boston Beer Works

PS – Kevin will most likely kill me if he sees the picture I posted of him, but when I found it, I really had to share it.  I love it 🙂

Hearthstone Pub – Plantsville, CT

Recently, Kevin and I met our awesome friend Jenn out for a Sunday afternoon lunch at The Hearthstone Pub in the Planstville section of Southington.   I had been hearing a lot of good things about it, so when she suggested we meet up there, I couldn’t turn down the invitation!

 

Jenn

Jenn!

The décor is simple, but attractive, with lots of dark wood and fireplaces everywhere you look (there’s a grand total of 16 in the restaurant)!  It has a very cozy and comfortable feel, the kind of place where you can really relax and spend some time with a few friends and some beers.  We actually managed to stay a few hours on our visit!

Speaking of beer, they have 16 different beers on tap, and Kevin and I were very pleased to find a number of microbrews on the list, including several IPA’s.  It was definitely a nice little selection.  They also had an extensive wine list.

 

Kevin

Kevin, enjoying an IPA

Because this was Jenn’s last weekend before starting a diet, we decided to go all out and order the Pub Fried Combo as an appetizer. And it was all that a fried combo should be!  It consisted of potato skins, wings, calamari and onion rings, and came with a  variety of dipping options.  It was delicious, fried goodness!

 

fried awesome

Fried Awesomeness!

For our meal, I ordered the Grilled Portabella Panini, which was served with fries and coleslaw.  The Panini was really good.  One might wonder how one can screw up a Portabella Panini, but as someone who orders this sort of thing all the time, trust me it happens all the time.  The Hearthstone Pub got it right, though, it was perfect – flavorful, with lots of veggies, and not too soggy.  The fries were good, but nothing to write home about.  I tried the slaw and wasn’t impressed, but then, I’m not usually a big fan of coleslaw – this one was way too mayonnaisey for me.  Overall, I was happy with my meal.

 

portabella panini

 

Jenn had the Baked Stuffed Shrimp,  which was served with rice and a heaping pile of vegetables.  Look at all those veggies!   Beautiful! 

 

025

 

Kevin order the Guinness Bacon Cheeseburger, which was served with a side of fries.  While the burger was good, it wasn’t really anything special.  It just tasted like a normal bacon cheeseburger – no noticeable Guinness flavor at all.  The menu indicated that there would be a Guinness sauce, but it either wasn’t there or just wasn’t detectable, so that was a bit of a disappointment.

 

028

 

Overall, I have to say I was pretty impressed with the place, and definitely intend to go back in the near future.  This is a great place for a Sunday afternoon with friends, an evening out with the girls or even a romantic dinner for two!

Hearthstone Pub

42 West Main Street

Plantsville, CT 06479 

(860) 628-0877

Pasta With Sausage and Greens

The other night, I got home late and really hadn’t given dinner too much thought.  Takeout was just not an option and we certainly were not going to go out again. We needed something quick, easy and with ingredients that we had on hand.  This was one of those meals that was thought up while standing in front of my refrigerator, thinking ‘what in the world am I going to make tonight?’  Sometimes this is the start of complete disasters and other times the results are really quite good.  This was the latter.  We lucked out.

pasta w/sausage and greens

1/2 lb pasta

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Soy Sausages (sliced)

1 medium yellow onion (sliced)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 lb Portobello mushrooms (sliced)

A few handfuls of chopped greens of your choice (I used spinach and arugula)

1/2 cup White Wine

Crushed Red Pepper

Salt and Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

 

This all came together pretty quick.  Cook pasta per the instructions on box.  Brown sausage pieces and then remove from pan.  Add onions to pan, then garlic and mushrooms.  Once those have cooked for awhile, add the greens of your choice, white wine, and a bit of the pasta water.  Once the greens have wilted a bit, return the sausage to the pan.  Toss with cooked pasta and season with crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.  I served mine with a thick slice of whole wheat ciabatta and lots of wine.  Enjoy!

A Recipe For An Awesome Birthday

birthday cake

It always makes me sad when I hear that someone plans to not celebrate their birthday or, even worse, just completely ignore it.  As we get older, this seems to be a more and more common occurrence, and I don’t think it’s right!   It’s not as if by not acknowledging the day, the aging process won’t continue.  We’re getting older every single day whether we like it or not.  You have this one day a year that’s your day… shouldn’t you make it special?  Embrace it!  I actually usually celebrate multiple times throughout the month of February.  February’s my month – I’ve claimed it. 

Anyway I’ve decided to make a small list of things that I like to do every year to make my birthday extra special and also re-cap what I’ve done to celebrate so far this year.   These are just some suggestions… your day should be about you and what you want to do!

 

1.  Spend time with the people you care about.

I always have two parties every year – one with the family and one with my friends.  The family one is usually a joint birthday celebration with my brother since his birthday is about two weeks before mine.  We usually celebrate the weekend in between- often for the Super Bowl. Some people might not like having to share a birthday party, but I actually like it better this way.  I like sharing and I think it just makes it more fun.  I also like that the celebration is a week before my actual birthday, because it kind of gets things started and serves as a sort of kick-off for my birthday season. 

This year, for my friends party, I had all the usual suspects over (Tom & Heather, Jenn & Dan and, of course, Kevin) plus my BFF Andrea and her husband Ryan , which was awesome and extra special, because I normally only get to see them a couple times a year.  This was great.  I prefer to keep my parties on the smaller side just because it’s easier and less stressful (and my house really can’t fit that many people!).  I probably could have had a few more people over, but in the end, these are the really important friends that I wanted there to celebrate my special day with me.

2.  Take some time off from work.

Please don’t work on your birthday if you can help it.  Take at least a day off.  How can your day be really special if you’re going to work?  There’s nothing special about going to work – you do that every day!  Work is going to totally cramp your style and potentially even make your day a bad day. That’s just unacceptable. For the last few years, I’ve actually been taking a whole week off for my birthday.  I highly recommend it.

3. Buy yourself a birthday gift.

I always like to buy myself a gift for my birthday every year.  I work hard all year and I deserve it.  Now this is partially because my birthday falls around tax refund time, so I have a little extra cash to buy myself a toy – usually a fairly expensive toy.  I do understand that this may not be feasible for everyone.  I do think, though, that everyone should treat themselves to a little something special – even if it’s something small.  You deserve it!   This year, I bought myself a new camera – my first DSLR.  I got a Canon EOS Rebel T1i, and because I took a week off from work, I have plenty of time to play with it!

4. Overindulge.

If there were ever a time to overindulge this is it!  There is a ridiculous amount of chocolate in my house right now, and I won’t lie, I’ve eaten it for breakfast a few times over the last couple of days.  I’ve eaten out a lot over the past week and on my actual birthday, Kevin and I visited a couple of beer bars and started drinking at 2pm.  It was my day and that is what I wanted to do.  There has been a lot of beer, wine, chocolate and fried food consumed over the last few days. Eventually I’m going to have to go back to my old routine, but for now, I will eat and drink whatever I want.  It’s my week.

 

So that’s it!  Those are my rules for having an awesome birthday.  As I stated above, these are just some suggestions.  Heck, if you really want to go to work on your birthday, I guess you can go to work.  I just wouldn’t recommend it.  The main thing is that you should just enjoy the day!

 

Here are a few photos from my week!

beerdessert!flowerspoutineroseschocolate for breakfast

Soy Chorizo Sausage and Cheese Dip and The Super Bowl

In my last post, I mentioned that I had no idea what I was going to make for the Super Bowl party I would be attending.  After putting a little bit of thought into it, I decided that since I had decided I would be cheering on the Packers, I should definitely bring something cheese based.  Okay, well that was a start.  Then I also remembered that I had this awesome Soy Chorizo Sausage from Trader Joe’s sitting in the refrigerator.  Perfect, I had just the plan!

I did a little bit of searching online and found this great recipe for a Chorizo Sausage Cheese Dip that was exactly what I was looking for.  It was pretty simple to make and it was a huge hit at the party!  The only real changes that I made were subbing the soy chorizo for the regular chorizo and I also left out the chipotle chilies. I forgot them!.  It was still really good without them.  I definitely recommend this one!

Chorizo Sausage Dip

I’d also like to point out that, originally, nobody believed me when I told them the chorizo was actually soy.  I try, as a rule, to avoid the fake meats, but some of them are really pretty good and they’re definitely nice to have around when you’re trying to limit your meat consumption and you’re running low on dinner ideas.

A few other pictures from the evening:

The Spread

The Spread

Dad’s Crab & Corn Chowder

Crab & Corn Chowder

My Dad!

Dad!

My mom’s made the blog on numerous occasions, but I think Dad’s only been in maybe once before…  it was his turn.  The Super Bowl’s kind of a manly event and who’s manlier than my dad?  Look, he even sits in a leather armchair!

Dan and Angie!

Dan and Angie

The Birthday Cakes

The Birthday Cakes

How could I forget the cakes?  This wasn’t just a Super Bowl party; it was also a joint birthday celebration for me and my little bro.  My cake, on the right, was my usual Cherry Chip and my brothers was a chocolate peanut butter cake – his usual.

Overall, it was a really fun night (despite my lingering head cold), with lots of great food and good times spent with the family.  A wonderful way to kick off my month of birthday celebrations!

Puppies in Lingerie!

I spent most of yesterday on the couch with a box of tissues and my favorite blanket (yes, at almost 29, I have a blankie that I carry around just about everywhere when I’m in the house. I’m like Linus… and it’s cold in here!) and caught up on DVR’d episodes of Conan.  Hey, I know how to have a good time!

As I’m sure you know, the Super Bowl is tonight.  Some of you will probably tune in to the Puppy Bowl and others may watch the Lingerie Bowl (this one was new to me, too).  Conan decided to combine the two, which is pure genius and a prime example of what makes Conan so awesome.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Puppies in Lingerie!

 

Tonight, I will be heading over to my parents’ house to watch the game and have a joint birthday celebration for me and my brother.  There will be all the normal Super Bowl munchies… not sure what I’m going to bring yet.

 

What are you guys doing for the Super Bowl? Does it involve puppies?  Or lingerie?