celebration · Uncategorized

Bachelorette Parties – A Recipe for Success

If you are in your twenties or early thirties it is inevitable that you will have one of those years where every weekend is devoted to weddings.  Your calendar will be filled with showers and ceremonies, or trips to the Bed Bath and Beyond bridal registry.  This is my year, people, I am experiencing a wedding filled 2017.  I am in three weddings, and invited to attend many more.  I didn’t know I had so many friends!  But I honestly shouldn’t complain, one of my college friends had a year where she was either in or attended 11 weddings!  But even with my whopping 7 weddings on the horizon, it is making for a very busy fall.

Because of this, I have gotten really really good at knowing just what to do for each event:  what to buy, what to wear, and how to plan.  This became even truer the past two weekends when I was the host of two very different, but very fun bachelorette parties.  It seems like I’ve got a bachelorette party formula down with only slight alterations necessary to fit each bride.

Here are some simple tips and touches that will make your bestie’s bachelorette bash one for the books:

  • Know Your Bride  

Does anyone still hire strippers for bachelorette parties anymore?  Surely someone is out there doing it, but chances are, the bride to be isn’t all that interested in a sweaty man (other than her own) bumping up on her.  The point here is, plan activities around what your bride might actually want to do.  It’s a day or a weekend to celebrate her, after all, so keep the bride’s style in mind.  

Is the bride a party animal?  Good, take her out to a club, let her dance the night away.  Is the bride shy?  Cool, so maybe don’t make everyone stare at her while she opens gifts.  Pick activities that your bestie is sure to enjoy, that won’t make her feel uncomfortable, like a *cough cough* stripper.   If you’re in her bridal party, then you know her best, so make sure her style is in mind when you’re planning her bash.

Tess - Bach party - Chicago
My bachelorette bash in Chicago in 2015
  • Bride First, but Guests Second

You want the celebration to feel true to the bride’s style, but remember that you’re still the hostess of a party, and you have to entertain the other guests too.  This means picking activities that everyone can enjoy.  If you’re in my group of friends, that means drinking.  A bachelorette party formula that has always worked in the past is starting the day with brunch, then heading out to a pool for some fun in the sun.  Not too many people I know would object to that.  Keep the activities light so that everyone can have fun.  Make sure there’s good music playing, and enough food and drinks for everyone.

On that same note, be sure to have a variety of food and beverages.  A bach party I threw recently had two girls in attendance that had gluten allergies.  That meant ensuring we ordered pizza with gluten free crust and had some hard ciders on hand.  We knew that the rest of the group would want to drink wine and champagne, so those were the drink options.  This goes back to being a good host, know your audience, and prep accordingly.

  • Don’t Skimp on the Photo Ops

This is a weekend to remember, but also one where things get a little bit fuzzy, if you know what I mean.  You will want this fun filled weekend well documented.  In an era where everyone has a phone in their hands 24-7, take this opportunity to have extra special pics of the bride and her gals.  My recent Columbus bach extravaganza was full of great photo ops.  One of the bridesmaids made an awesome photo cut out with the bride’s name.  We also had big balloons in our hotel room to pose around.  My next bach party started out at my house, so I made a little photo booth area for guests to pose in front of.  We also live in a magical time of Snapchat filters, so make your own geo-filter for the night.  It’s quick, cheap, and really ups your social media game.  

 

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, make a bachelorette party hashtag.  You can go online and get hashtag options generated, or come up with one yourself, but it’s a great way to catalog the weekend events, and something the bride will probably want to look at time and time again.  Hashtags are the future people!  And if you’re still coming up short, ask me for help.  It’s one of my greatest joys in life.

  • The Devil is in the Details

I’m typically not one of those girls that thinks that every party needs to have a theme, but sometimes with a bachelorette party, it helps.  For big bachelorette parties, like the one in Columbus, a theme helps keep everything organized, like party favors, and decor.  Because my friend’s bach party fell on the same weekend as the Lollapalooza music festival, we decided to make the bach party a festival theme, we called it Bride-a-palooza.  We had flower crowns, VIP passes, temporary tattoos, etc.  We set up a tepee in the hotel room for the bride’s gifts, tie-die plates and cups.  Everything went down to the smallest detail, and it made all the difference.  

Again, not everything has to have a theme, but you still want the party to feel cohesive.  My Dayton bach party didn’t have a theme, but I made sure to put effort into creating the right atmosphere with food, cocktail napkins, and decor.

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Because it’s still a party, it’s important to have a little fun with it.  The bride we were celebrating in Dayton is getting hitched to another bride, so penis straws were out.  Instead, I baked boob cookies, that’s right, nipples and all.  

boob cookies
The gooooregous Dayton bride, posing like a lady

As with every party I throw, paying attention to those extra details may mean a little extra time, but it will translate to your guests as an extra special event.  This is your best friend, we are planning for, right?  That extra mile will mean the world to her, so plan around a theme, buy those balloons and make those boobs!

  • Be Gifted

Bachelorette party gifts are sort of a strange territory.  I can’t tell you how many times over the course of attending or planning a bach party I’ve asked my friends “So, what are you getting for her?”  A bach party is not the time or place to buy the bride something off of her registry, it’s a time to have fun with her present, be a little silly.  Some brides want wedding night lingerie options.  I did not, no no, I did not want to hold up panties the size of a tent in front of my friends.  Good gifts include personalized jewelry, fun clothing, undergarments, and even a silly *gasp* toy can make for very good options.  

M bach photos

Bachelorette parties have really transformed from the days of drunk girls stumbling around with veils on their heads.  Trust me, there are still plenty of drunk girls, but they have become a much different type of party, a party that requires more effort than penis shaped crowns and tequila shots.  It’s the last chance to get super silly with your girlfriends, have a ball, and throw back a few drinks (or chambongs, because, let’s be honest.)  Keep these few bits of advice in mind and your bride-bestie is going to have the time of her life, and that’s what it’s all about.

celebration · drinks

Celebrating Like an Adult

Yesterday was my birthday.  The big 3-1.  I was sort of dreading it.  Not in a “woe is me, I’m getting older” sort of way, but rather a “Man, 31 means I have to start acting a lot more like an adult” way.  

Last year for my 30th birthday I threw myself a little party.  My friends came over mid-day.  We drank lots of champagne and had a blast.  I’m pretty sure, though I can’t confirm, that I did a cartwheel in the middle of my apartment.  We chambonged the afternoon away, and the next day was rough…like, real rough.  But it was okay, because 30 is an appropriate age to act like a bit of a fool.  You’re an adult, but you still know how to have fun, and you don’t have to take yourself too seriously.  

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My birthday bash last year, chambongs included

However, adding on that extra digit made my 30th birthday feel so juvenile.  As my date of birth started to creep up and my family asked me how I wanted to celebrate, I felt like I had a very adult decision to make.  No longer was it appropriate to bong glasses of champagne and attempt gymnastics in my home.  No no, now there was a real threat of breaking something (like a bone, or a piece of furniture that wasn’t purchased from IKEA), or never ever recovering from my hangover.  

Instead I opted for dinner with with my family and friends.  Trust me, there was still plenty of champagne consumed, but mostly we just ate until we were stuffed to the brim.  We went to a traditional Turkish restaurant and filled up on baba ganoush, lamb, and baklava.  It was a pretty perfect way to ring in another year; good food, good company, and instead of reaching for a gatorade and Advil the next day, my 31 year old self was reaching for the Tums.  That, my friends, is called growing up.

Baking · Uncategorized

Happy 4th of July!

This year the Fourth of July has been particularly pleasant because it felt like one long, glorious weekend.  Even though I literally just got back from a week long vacation, I dove back into work head first with little time to rest.  Because of that, I took the opportunity to fully enjoy the long, holiday weekend and focus on the type of things that make me really really happy.  I floated around the pool, I went for a long, leisurely hike, I entertained for the fireworks with watermelon cosmos and some yummy snacks, and I baked.  Oh man, did I bake.

watermelon cosmo snacks

I started the weekend off right by making an American bakery classic: Angel Food Cake.  This cake is lighter than air, fluffy and delicious.  I used Mary Berry’s recipe, even though she’s a British bird, but just like that first independence day, I broke off from the english recipe and did things in my own style.  I frosted the cake with a classic, homemade whipped cream, and a berry curd.  As you know, I’m an absolute sucker for curds, and I’ve been messing around with different kinds lately.  Here is my recipe for the perfect berry curd.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation:

  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat, cook down the strawberries and blueberries in water, and a pinch of sugar, about 10-12 minutes.  Let berries come to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • When the berries have reached a nice consistency, whisk in the remaining ingredients quickly.  Since the berries are already warm, you want to whisk aggressively so as not to scramble your egg yolks.  
  • Remove from heat and strain the curd, removing any large chunks of fruit from the curd.
  • Cool at room temperature, and drizzle on cake.
  • Top the cake with additional berries for decor, and enjoy!

The angel food cake calls for 10 egg whites, so when you are separating the eggs, simply set two of the yolks aside for the curd.  

angel food cakeI hope you all had a very happy and relaxing Fourth of July!  Cheers and Ciao!

travel

Do Not Disturb

I’m spending the week with my family on vacation.  We are on the coast of North Carolina, our condo is right on the beach, so each day is filled with sun, salty air, and sand in my toes.  The first day we spent here, I woke up early in the morning with the sun shining right into our window.  I rolled over and grabbed my phone, per my usual morning routine.  I checked my notifications, scrolled for a few mindless minutes on Instagram and Facebook, then checked my email.  I read the Skimm (my snarky news outlet,)  then daily dose of wellness and perspective which comes in the form of an email called the Present Tense Daily Brief (PDB,) written by my friends and trainers at Present Tense Fitness.  

This particular PDB was about taking the opportunity to get out of town as a means to disconnect from the norm.  This also means taking the time to unplug from your phone or your computer and (gasp!) enjoy to the people around you.  

This was exactly what I needed to read to start my vacation off on the right foot.  I could very well spend my entire vacation on my phone, rather than talk to my family.  I could have my tablet in front of me 4 hours a day, rather than stare at the ocean.  I could sit in front of the TV instead of taking salty walks down the beach with Tim.

CV - TT
Timmy and I are trying to get tans

 With the exception of staring at the computer screen to write this blog, I have made a very conscious decision to unplug from my normal daily distractions and enjoy my vacation.  This is hard earned time away, a time to connect with my parents, sleep in, wake up next to my gorgeous man and not have anywhere to go.

CV - Breakfast
Fresh NC shrimp in an omelette for breakfast at the beach.

 This is a time when I get to cook for pleasure, enjoying the fresh North Carolina seafood. A week off doesn’t come around very often, so I will not spend it on my phone.  I can save that behavior for when I get back to rainy Ohio.  So for now I’m signing off, putting on my ‘out of office’, and hanging up the proverbial ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.  I hope you too can find some time to enjoy the summer, unwind, and unplug.  Cheers and Ciao!

 

Food

Taking the Servant out of Customer Service

I don’t often go into too much detail about what I do, and more importantly what I stand for, but lately I’ve been sitting on some thoughts about what it means to be a woman in a customer service field.

I manage a grab-and-go lunchtime market.  For the most part, I run the ship myself.  Almost all of the food is prepared by me, I clean the counters, I sweep the floors, and I interact with the customers.  I have a steady stream of kind regulars who grab their sandwiches and salads and go about the rest of their day.  My interaction with customers is nearly always pleasant.  Because the market is in the downtown area, occasionally a homeless or “crazy” person will come in the shop and ask for money, or food, or sit down and make me uncomfortable, but as a whole, I’ve not experienced too much trouble at my little shop.

But as I said before, there have been a few times when my interaction with actual customers (not people wandering in off the street,) has been unpleasant.  I can think of two times in particular that I’ve had bad and downright aggressive experience with guests, and those two times the people giving me grief weren’t crazy, or impoverished, they were rich, white, 30 something dudes, who didn’t get exactly what they wanted, at exactly the time they wanted it.   I’m not about to go into a huge diatribe about dirty millennials, because, guess what?  I am one of them.  I’m also not attempting to attack all white men.  But I am going to talk a minute about what it means to be in customer service.

Being in customer service means that sometimes things go wrong and you have to apologize for that which you have no control.  Customer service means having to smile even when you’ve had a shitty day.  Customer service means validating a customer’s complaint, even if you think it’s trivial.  Customer service means having to do a lot of things that you may not want to do.  But there is one thing that I’ve learned customer service DOESN’T mean.  Being in customer service does not mean that I will allow myself to be mistreated.  Just because there is a counter or a bar separating me from my customer, doesn’t mean that a customer gets to be aggressive because I ran out of chicken salad (seriously, that happened.)  When you are the customer, you get to be right, but you don’t get to be mean and hostile.  

When the dude got pissed in my shop, it was scary.  He was volatile, I was alone,  he was unpredictable, and I had to remain in control of the situation.  Sure, it wasn’t ideal to run out of something, but guess what?  Shit happens: people eat, and some days we are inexplicably busier than others. I had to stand up for myself.  From a business standpoint, perhaps I was in the wrong, but from a personal standpoint, I cannot allow a man to scream in my face.  I wouldn’t allow anyone to talk to me that way.  

I could chalk his behavior up to hanger, because I certainly struggle with that myself, but it was more than that.  Somewhere in my serving career, I sensed a shift.  I am inclined to blame Yelp, letting every Joe Schmo who has ever been to Applebee’s insert their opinion about their dining experience, while knowing little to nothing about actually being a diner.  Somewhere it shifted and customers at a restaurant started actually treating their server like shit.  As I waitress I remember thinking that just because I am your server, doesn’t mean I’m your servant.  Just because I’m waiting on you doesn’t mean that you don’t have to say please and thank you, or even “hello” rather than “give me a water” when I approach your table.  

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the business, and the lovely customers who walk through the door and keep my little market alive.  The people who walk through that door are lovely, and are supporting a small business.  They are the ones who allow me to cook and bake for a living, the things I love to do the most,  I am so grateful for their support.  I think it’s also worth mentioning that I don’t automatically assume all 30 year old white guys are going to be aggressive. That behavior is the exception, not the norm. 

But I, and many other service industry people I know still experience aggression and entitlement on a day to day.   What I would love to see less of is the entitlement some people exhibit for what they want without the understanding of what they’re getting, and how they are getting it.  What I would like to see more of is compassion rather than aggression, and actual appreciation for the people who wait on you — who serve you.  In my experience, service industry folks are some of the hardest workers around, and a smile from a guest goes a long way.  If you can’t find it in your heart to be nice to the people who serve you, then please, pack your lunch.  And if you NEED your chicken so badly that you feel like you might snap at an unsuspecting shop girl, then there is a McDonald’s right around the corner, I hear they’ve got plenty.

 

 

Baking · cocktails · Food · Uncategorized

Much Ado About Rhubarb

The start of summertime means that my Instagram feed is filled with cakes, pies, and fruity desserts.  There is one constant ingredient that I’ve noticed more and more of every year:  rhubarb.  You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant or bakery out there without rhubarb popping up somewhere on their menu.  Maybe it’s gaining popularity, or maybe I’ve just begun to notice more, but either way, it’s hard to miss and I realized I knew close to nothing about it.

So what is rhubarb exactly?  It’s a stalking vegetable, think of celery with a bad sunburn.  Rhubarb grows large leaves that are actually poisonous, but the stalk which is edible, produces a beautiful tart flavor.  Even though rhubarb is indeed a vegetable, it is often treated like a fruit in baked recipes.  With just a little sugar added, rhubarb makes for a delicious dessert.

I’ve consumed many a rhubarb concoction, but I have never attempted to make anything with it myself, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m not into pie, but I’m a sucker for a good curd, so I whipped up some Rhubarb Bars which are not only delicious, but fun to say.

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I worked off of a recipe from blogger Broma Bakery.  Sarah, of Broma Bakery, has gorgeous pictures,  inspiring and delicious recipes.  You should definitely give her a follow.  In her recipe she teaches you how to cook the rhubarb down, make a delightful shortbread crust, and the ratios for a perfect curd.  The recipe called for some red food coloring, as the bright red color of the rhubarb fades slightly when cooking.  I opted not to add an additional coloring as I am an au naturale type of gal, but the flavor was top notch.  A great dish to bring to a party.  Recipe included here.

The recipe calls for 3 cups of chopped rhubarb, which cooks down to about 2 cups.  However the recipe for the curd only calls for 1 cup of the rhubarb puree.  What’s a gal to do with an extra cup of tart, delicious, colorful rhubarb puree…?  Make cocktails, of course!  I made two cocktails, one for Tim and one for me.  Just kidding, they were both for me.

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The first drink I made was a Bloody Rhubarb Old Fashioned. IMG_7246

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices blood orange
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • ½ oz rhubarb puree
  • 2 oz rye whiskey

In your rocks glass, muddle together the blood orange slices, simple syrup, and bitters.  Then add the rhubarb puree, whiskey, give it a good stir.  Top the drink with ice and enjoy!

The drink is boozy, tart, and slightly sweet – some of my favorite things.  It also turns out to be a deep reddish hue.

The next drink I made is what I like to call a Millennial Spritzer.

Ingredients: IMG_7249

  • 1 oz rhubarb puree
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz. rosé
  • 2 oz. Berry La Croix

Combine all ingredients in a wine glass, stir, add ice, enjoy.

 

Apparently us millennials are drinking all the rosé in the world, and practically overdosing on La Croix.  I chalk it up to the fact that we all have really really good taste.

So, no matter what form Rhubarb takes, it is bound to be delicious: tart, sweet, and satisfying.  Sometimes things like stalking vegetables, pink wine, and carbonated water are worth the hype, after all.  

 

 

Uncategorized

Baking to Perfection

When I was younger I was a ballet dancer with a pretty strict, but pretty damn good youth ballet company.  Our director was a bit of a tyrant, she’d scream and yell, she was hard on us, and she wanted us to be hard on ourselves too.  I remember falling in class once and she stopped the music and said “Are you mad at yourself?”  I said yes, and she said “You should be.  You should be furious with yourself.  You messed up, don’t do it again.”  This was no Montessori ballet training, we weren’t all winners, some of us sucked, and when we sucked, we were pissed.  I carried this trait with me to adulthood.  If I made a mistake on a test, if I couldn’t hold a pose in yoga, if I the burnt toast, I was MAD at myself.

I used to think this was a good attribute; it held me accountable for my behavior, it allowed me to hold my actions up to a certain standard.  I made dinner one night, I thought it was only decent, but my husband loved it.  I began to go through the laundry list of things I’d do differently: add more salt here, cook 30 seconds less, add this spice, remove this vegetable, on and on I went.  My husband finally said “Just enjoy the food, it’s delicious, and it’s ok that it isn’t perfect.”  It made me realize that I have set unrealistic expectations for myself.  Not everything has to be picked apart, analyzed, criticized; some things are allowed to be just okay.

This idea is still something I have to work towards.  Earlier this year I had a bit of a meltdown at the restaurant where I work.  I was making red velvet cake to serve on our pre fixe Valentine’s Day menu, the pressure was on for it to be perfect.  It came out of the oven, it cooled, it was iced, it was cut and served…it was dry.  Like, bone dry.  So what did I do?  Sat on the floor and cried.  I ruined everyone’s Valentine’s days.  Instead of ending their meal on a sweet and sexy note, they were going home to write on Yelp that their meal sucked, right?  What I should have done instead of having a meltdown was start over again and do it better the next time, but I got in my own way.  This is a habit of mine.

Recently I came across a show on Netflix called the Great British Baking Show (or GBBS as we’ve come to call it in our household.)  As you can put together from the name, it’s a bunch of british people baking.  But it’s so much more than that, the contestants are all home bakers, not professionals, competing for the title of ‘Star Baker.”  It’s a delightful show and safe to say that I’m obsessed (you should watch it, it’s awesome)  But the reason I mention it now is because there have been more than a few times contestants have had similar meltdowns where they cry, or throw their bakes in the “bin.”  But the bakers who come out on top keep their cool, their creations aren’t perfect, they have flaws, they are a little dry, or a little messy, or whatever, but they keep their heads on, they present their bakes with pride, and they know they will do better next time without beating themselves up every week.
In life, but particularly in my cooking and baking (which consumes a majority of my life,) I have to learn to take it in stride, to accept my mistakes and do better next time.  I will have to practice a bit of patience with myself, strive for perfection, but know that it’s okay to screw up once in a while.  I tell myself that now, but as I gear up to bake my next boozy baking concoction, there will most certainly be tears…but here’s to trying harder next time.  Cheers and ciao!