Calling all Kitchen Dorks

To all the Kitchen Dorks out there that share my immense love for all things “baking” and “mini,” I have a treat for you.

Twin-Mini-Apple Pies, homemade in Kitchen a la Cate, in matching red, 5-inch Emilie Henry Cerise ceramic pie dishes from Sur La Table (pronounced sur la tob).

Don’t let them fool you. These “mini” pies lasted four long romantic dessert sessions with the hubs. Although there was no whipped cream involved, there was vanilla bean ice cream and barrels of sugar (I may have gone a little over-board with the sugar)!

If you haven’t heard of Sur La Table and you are a kitchen dork, you must visit their website pronto.

They have an awesome gift guide, for starters. But they also have an amazing brick-and-mortar location in Pineapple Square (sounds delicious, doesn’t it?) in downtown Sarasota, Florida, where I have been known to be seen.

A few weeks back, I hit up an amazing sale on Halloween goodies. Check out this spooky, sparkly, haunted house that I picked up for a small, sweet price.

More on Sur La Table later! Where is your fave kitchen store, fellow dorkies?!

Give The Dog a Bone, and Other Songs

My first year at Voorheesville Elementary School (VES) was also Dr. Morgan’s first year teaching. She was the sunny, enthusiastic, rosy-cheeked “Miss Morgan” at that time; studying for her doctorate while touching the lives of each and every one of her students with her gift of music.

My young cousins Madeline and Bryce are lucky enough to have the magical Dr. Morgan as their music teacher as students at VES.

I flew home earlier this year for a wedding and to visit my family and friends. I also thought it would be fun to drop into Dr. Morgan’s classroom on the day Maddie and Bryce both had music class. When I walked into the front door of VES, I was hit with the familiar scent of warm pizza and basketball…just how I remembered it. I hurried down the hall to Dr. Morgan’s classroom and was greeted with a scream of excitement and a big hug (and I think there was some clapping). Her disposition just as bright and cheerful as I remember, we smiled and laughed at the reunion. She had her class sit on the mat while we caught up for 60 seconds and then I was invited to stay for class! (YEEESSSSS!!!)

Well, I got to listen, of course, but I was invited to participate, too. Dr. Morgan handed me the mallet to the glockenspiel and I was in elementary school again, singing and tapping along to the notes, “Give The Dog a Bone” (G-F-B-A-D.)

Madeline and Bryce are both talented young musicians, if I do say so myself.  Maddie is pretty impressive with a Boomwhacker! and Bryce takes his music very seriously – never missing a beat. Thanks for having me as a guest in your classroom. It was such a fun day.

If I was on Jeopardy and there was a clue about the states, I would win, no doubt, due to the repeated hearty belting (and resulting memorization) of “Fifty-Nifty United States” that my fellow sixth-graders and I would beg to sing in class.

The Literacy Council of Sarasota: One of Martha’s Stories

Volunteering through The Literacy Council of Sarasota has been a truly rewarding experience. I have been working with Martha for nearly seven months now (my, how time flies). Martha is incredibly talented in many things, including aesthetics. She can read, speak and write fluently in Spanish and would like to be able to do the same with ease and confidence in English.

I admire Martha for her relentless determination and persistent desire to learn. 

Martha told me an incredible story in one of our sessions. While living in Columbia, she was going through a terrible divorce and feeling very down. She was at a point in her life where she was questioning her career. As she was watching the credits from a soap opera with a friend, she said out loud, “I want to see my name there. Martha B.!” Her friend laughed at the thought.

Martha decided it was time to do some research and find out where she could learn more about makeup artistry. She found the perfect class to attend, but she could not afford it. So Martha mustered up all her courage and determination and went to the senator of Columbia’s office (really!) She waited for him there all day. His secretary asked her if she had an appointment and she said no. The secretary said, “you must have an appointment to get in with the senator. What do you need to speak to him about?”

Martha explained that she needed to see him about the class she wanted more than anything to attend. It was her dream to take this class, she explained.

Martha is an animated storyteller. She and I went from laughing until our stomachs hurt to tear-filled eyes and a search for tissues.

After waiting for hours, Martha worked her way in to talk to the senator! She explained her conundrum and how she was determined to live her dream but could not afford the class. She left the senator’s office with a check for tuition and a promise to pay him back.

Martha excelled in her aesthetics class as she truly was born to be a makeup artist. Out of a class of twenty students, Martha was chosen to work with her teacher on the set of a movie. When she saw her name in the credits, her dream became a reality. She called her friend and said, “Do you know where my name is? Not in the credits of a soap opera, but in the credits of a MOVIE!”

This story is one of my favorites from tutoring over the past months.

I feel honored to be working with such an intelligent, eager learner. Every day I think about what I am going to show her next. Her eyes grow wide and she smiles when she has her “aha” moments, as do mine. It is so enlightening to share cultures, family stories, language and skills with each other.

jane iredale, a mineral makeup company, sent a Training Manual for Martha to use as a lesson tool. It is chock full of makeup application techniques, interesting vocabulary, pictures and products that spark discussions and inspire technical growth. The added benefits of tutoring using information that the learner is passionate about is most essential and critical to their highest levels of success and accomplishment. Thank you so much, Jane and Oona!

Did you know the English language requires an entirely different set of facial muscles for pronunciation then Spanish?

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Antipasto Salad

I have lots of favorite things, Vixen included (despite the bitter reality that she’s decided to stop downloading music again…) Any-who, among them, the unique flavors and textures present in delectable foods really get my smile going.

Can you imagine all your favorites in one place at one time? Enter: the great Antipasto Salad, inspired by one of my most-loved cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. If you are a vegetarian, or even if you’re not, this book is full of marvelous meal ideas that I promise, will become staples in your meal plan after one taste.

In goes a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained. I could eat these by the jar-full (…and have been known to.)

Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (a sneaky way to get protein into my husbands belly, without using chicken.)

Don’t you just love Kalamata olives? They are available pitted through most grocers, which will save you a few precious minutes during the dinner rush. I also added Castlevetrano’s (those bright green goodies) and some capers.

Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (eventually Kev figured out my sneaky bean trick, but the good news is he ate them anyway!)

In with the tomato (chopped and seeded, of course…)

…red onion…

…and Feta cheese. Lots of Feta cheese. Yum. Squeeze in a lemon, drizzle on a touch of extra virgin olive oil and add freshly ground black pepper.

The best part about food is that we need to eat dinner everyday; that’s seven opportunities a week to feel inspired, create, and indulge in something fantastic.

This salad is now looking confused (all mixed up) and Me. Likey.

Served on a bed of lettuce for some crunch. Simple, satisfying, fresh and easy! All is well with the dinner world…now if I could just figure out what’s wrong with Vixen. Hmm.

Simple Tomato Dish

Thank you, Jacob Whitmer, for gifting Kevin and I with these beautiful red tomatoes that you hand-picked with your Dad! As you can see, they were very ripe – and as you can bet, extremely delicious to eat.

I sliced these farm-fresh, drop-dead-gorgeous tomatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds and dressed them up with some kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil from my little porch-plant and, of course, EVOO. Sooo simple and so good!

iPod, AKA, Vixen Gets Fixed

Shopping makes me feel connected with personal expression, creativity, color and imagination. Even when I’m broke! I know a lot of ladies out there who agree with me on that (my husband doesn’t mind it either: talk about a match made in heaven.)

Last Sunday I was very concerned about my iPod (Vixen) as she seemed to be “feeling sick.” Now I consider myself pretty good at consoling babies when they’re cranking, or helping a friend through a crisis, but I don’t know where to begin with this tiny little electronic. She’s brilliant, really. She holds the power to make me dance, sing, feel sexy, run (almost unheard of for me), love, laugh and cry. So you can imagine how distraught I was at the thought that Vixen could be sick! I made an appointment at the Apple Store and took a windows-down road trip to Tampa with Kev.

Back to the shopping…I have been all over the place to outlets, the big apple, Boston. I have never seen anything like the International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa, Florida. It is breathtaking, really. The mecca of my shopping experience. I am talking Kate Spade, Crate and Barrel, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Williams and Sonoma (and more). I was in heaven. I love vintage and boutique fashion, too, but there’s something very satisfying about being in a place chocked to the brim with all the brands you love, advertisements, the whole bit.

Thank goodness for Ashley at the Apple Store because it turns out Vixen just needed to be restored. She’s been working like a charm ever since.

Did I mention I was broke? That didn’t stop us from indulging in a delicious dinner and hitting up a fabu bar called The Pub. The beer selections are outrageous. They even had Old Speckled Hen Ale on tap…a fave of ours which we fell in love with at Baba Louie’s in the Berkshires. It is so smooth and creamy with hints of caramel and butterscotch. (On a side note, we’ll be eating pasta and butter for a week, ha ha.)

It was completely worth it. Although those killer heels from Bebe are still sitting on the shelf.

A girl can dream, right…

Mission: Literacy Council of Sarasota

We’re certified

The hubs and I completed 12 hours of training and are now certified ESOL (English as a second language) tutors! The training sessions were sort of long, but completely invaluable. We were encouraged to ask questions and practice communication techniques in small groups. We were shown materials specifically designed to prep us for our journey through the world of adult literacy.

What a wonderful sense of accomplishment; we now have the tools to volunteer for an organization with a mission we support and value.

I must timidly admit that at this point in the journey, I am terrified. We are ESOL certified, but what does that mean? I don’t know if I will be a good tutor and I wonder if what I bring to the table will be relevant to the learner. I am not a teacher, but I love to share my knowledge with people…I have always been drawn to the practice of teaching because to me it feels like giving. In past working environments, I have had to provide instruction to colleagues, but surely, this was going to be different. What am I getting myself into?

My learner

I was very intrigued by the description of this Colombian woman in her 40’s. She worked as a makeup artist for television and film in her native country, but when she lost her job due to cut-backs, she decided to seek a better career opportunity and life in America. She has been in the country for 10 years now and is working as a housekeeper in an assisted living home, not her dream job, by any means.

The challenge

This learner feels inadequate and uncomfortable in attempting to communicate makeup application and beauty enhancement techniques in an English-speaking environment. She fervently wants to pursue her chosen career in the aesthetics industry.

Not so foreign to me

I feel for her! I have been there. I studied the Spanish language for years and even student taught with my foreign language professor during my internship in high school. But, that’s certainly not comparable to being completely submerged and surrounded by foreign speakers.

When I went to Mexico with a friend I had met through our foreign exchange program, I was intimidated and too shy to speak in Spanish, afraid that I would make mistakes and look foolish in front of the native speakers. I kept silent the whole trip!

Luck

I will do my best to help my learner with the skills that are most important to her. My background is in marketing in the makeup industry (serendipity). This should be a true test of my self-confidence and patience. Wish me luck!

Petite Treats from Starbucks

So, I went to one of my offices the other day (Starbucks, Midtown Plaza). I am surprised they’ve never thrown me out because I am there all. the. time. But, I find great focus there; I feel creative and energetic all while sipping my fave drinks made by some of the best barristas in Florida. I have even met a few very nice people who are happy to share a business story, a conversation or their favorite places to frequent in town.

That particular day, Starbucks was hosting a giveaway (how generous!) of the adorable, fanciful “Petites,” as they are called. They are new. And delightful to look at. And inexpensive. And, believe me when I tell you, I was more than excited to sample them.

I will let you in on a little, itty-bitty secret. They let me sample TWO! Here they are:

Birthday Cake Pop

Red Velvet Whoopie Pie

Going…

Going…

GONE!

The Birthday Cake Pop was pink, so of course I had to try it. The outside is a chocolate dip with white sprinkles and the inside is a dense vanilla cake. I first heard about cake pops on bakerella.com (love you Bakerella!) Seeing the pictures (which are really awesome) and reading the blog (such innovative baking techniques) is not quite like tasting the actual treat. It was sinfully delicious…

It was really nice to sample two, especially since these Petites are all very cute looking and tremendously tempting. The Red Velvet Whoopie Pie, which you have witnessed went by in three mouth-watering bites, was sugary, chocolaty and creamy all at once. The small red velvet cakes sandwich a dollop of cream cheese that is smooth and satisfying. YUM!

Now I am thinking I must hit the gym…Although it was totally worth it!

Thanks Starbucks Midtown!!