Christmas Tradition: Dinner with the gals

ChristmasTraditionsOne of the things my sister, mom, and I have done since I moved to Sacramento is go out to dinner, just the three of us, some time just before Christmas.  We usually go somewhere nice like Ruth’s Chris or in last night’s case Bandera.  It’s a great bonding time.  We have fancy drinks and splurge on a good meal.

We take a break from the rush of the holidays and daily life in general, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. I always try to have Baileys on the rocks at the end of the dinner, but I keep overindulging in good wine.  Speaking of…

Last night, I accidentally ordered a $50 bottle of wine.  I was looking at the glass price.  Yes, I’d already had a glass of wine…and not enough to eat.  Oops. It was delightful, however.

Usually, we also give each other little gifts.  It’s a pretty ornament or something fancy, but small, we might not normally buy for ourselves.  This year, I totally forgot.  In my defense, I did have to fly halfway across the country for Christmas and have had quite a bit on my mind lately, but no worries. It’s all good.


Holiday Cocktail Recipe: Warm Woody

WarmWoodyBeverageThis is a very simple hot beverage that is popular at a restaurant up in Lake Tahoe, Riva Grill.  It’s called a “Warm Woody” probably because their other popular cocktail is called a “Wet Woody”.  It has to do with wooden boats or something.  The Wet Woody is a blended beverage chock full of rum.  The Warm Woody is a three ingredient hot drink. Well, four if you include the whip cream…and of course, I do.

I’d link to their website, but it automatically plays music when you go there, so I can’t condone that.


Baileys Irish Cream
Hot cocoa
Whipped cream

If you’re lucky enough to have a Keurig, you can make these one at a time. Just dump a packet of instant hot cocoa into a mug. Put your favorite coffee in the Keurig and brew it right into the hot cocoa.  Add Baileys to taste and stir.  Garnish with whipped cream.

So yummy!!

Is that coffee or a Girl Scout cookie?

It’s no secret that I love coffee. I think I love it more than wine. Don’t tell wine. So, when the folks at Coffee-mate offered to send me two flavors to try out, I jumped at the chance. Normally, I don’t take cream in my coffee…unless it’s a special occasion. But, when I do use creamer, I like it to be flavored.

These weren’t just any flavors sent to me by Coffee-mate. They were the Girl Scout Cookie flavors, Thin Mint and Caramel & Coconut. These are my two favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors. Samoa, Caramel De-Lite or as Coffee-mate calls it, Caramel & Coconut, is the best in my opinion. And these two creamers, taste just like the cookies. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are substitutes for the cookies, but they are delicious in and of themselves.


I had initially taken them to work to share with everyone…I shared them with no one, and I’m not sorry. Go get your own!

Honestly though, I’ve always been a fan of Coffee-mate’s flavors. The other day when I was in the grocery store, I saw Dark Chocolate Fudge. If I didn’t have the other two sitting in my fridge (who am I kidding, they’re gone), I would have bought that then and there.

One thing I did notice, when I had some creamer in my coffee, I didn’t crave something sweet for my midmorning snack.

I think with my next batch of Coffee-mate, I might try baking with it. That’s right, I said bake. Did you know you can use it in more than just beverages? This Winter Spice Scones recipe sounds pretty good to me.


Bring on the oompa bands…

It’s Oktoberfest time and apparently that’s kind of a big deal in the Twin Cities.  I’m inferring that from the amount of Oktoberfest celebrations I’ve heard about on the web.  I think the last time I went to an Oktoberfest, I was about 5 years old. I remember there being quite a bit of peanuts and beer.

It was then that first heard about dark beer. It really did my parents in the next day.  No, I wasn’t scarred by their hangovers or drinking, so calm the hell down judgey-wudey.

Actually, I’ve always wanted to go to another Oktoberfest, but you know, as an adult, so I can drink beer.

One thing that keeps me from going is people. I kinda don’t like crowds of them. But, maybe if I’m full of beer, I won’t mind so much.

I do know I would love to see people dancing the polka. Which makes me realize that I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Oktoberfest is such a big deal here in Minnesota. I mean it was settled by quite a few German immigrants, a few of whom were also my ancestors.

So I guess the question is, which of these Oktoberfests will Paul & I attend?

Minnesota State Fair: Stimulation overload

Nothing can really prepare you for the Minnesota State Fair if you’ve never been to it.

It’s not like just any state fair. There is crazy shit everywhere and I’m not even talking about the random people. There was so much to look at that I barely noticed the people. It might be the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” but I was too busy being in awe of the stuff that I’d heard tales of over the past few months.

Seriously, I think I’ll just post a ton of photos, kind of like a vacation video:

MN State FairThe butter sculptures were fascinating, much like everything else at the fair. I thought there was just one, but as you can see from the above photo, there is a mini rotunda of them. In fact, you can watch one poor soul getting her image created while she sits for 8 hours in the 40 degree box.  Of course, that might not be too bad when it’s 95 degrees outside with a heat index of 105.

The Dairy Building had all things dairy and meat in it.  And yes, that’s a picture of me as a turkey.

There was a building dedicated to the pioneers of Minnesota, some of whom were my ancestors. They had a full bedroom and living room set up. It was a little eerie, but educational at the same time.

Speaking of education, we had to stop at the University of Minnesota building and ensconce ourselves in all things Golden Gopher.  If you didn’t want to buy a shirt, you could learn about rockets or medieval studies from the kids as well as checking out all of the trophies won by their various sports teams.

The Creative Arts building gave us a look into the baked goods of tomorrow. Well, they looked like they’d been baked yesterday and were well past their prime, but I was still in awe of all that cake and jam.

Oh, did I mention the mini-donuts? Yum!  The scent of deep fried dough hangs heavily around the fairgrounds, luring you in like a siren. Also, I had been hearing people talk about cronuts. Apparently, they are croissants cooked like donuts.  I found something similar at the State Fair:

state fair, food, fried, baked goodPersonally, I prefer cake donuts, specifically the old fashioned ones, so the hype is lost on me.

Minnesota State Fair, boozeWhat is not lost on me is the beer!  For $8 you get to taste four beers. I kept seeing people with these little boxes of cups and finally figured out they were drinking flights of beer. Somewhere I saw a sign that said “Land of 10,000 Beers” that sounds way more fun than lakes.

Seriously, the food stands were center stage for me.  I don’t know what Spam curds are and I wasn’t about to find out. The ball of brie dipped in wine batter, shoved on a stick and fried was pretty good. The weirdest stick food was the spaghetti & meatballs and ostrich.  Of course, there had to be a salted nut roll.  I mean they are made here in Saint Paul.

We did see some non-food stuff like the Lego Road Trip exhibit which was pretty much children let loose on Legos.  They had some interesting models like the guy who stepped in gum.

And Paul wanted to see the John Deere exhibit.  He tried to get in that big tractor, but luckily, it was locked.

I don’t remember where the American Gothic picture was taken, but I think it had to do with farmers or something.  Either way, the hole was too big and the image was out of scale, but it didn’t deter me from sticking my head in there.

A tradition is to go to Sweet Martha’s for a giant pail of mini chocolate chip cookies.  We went there last because they pile that sucker up pretty high with those tasty treats and we didn’t feel like carrying them around the fairgrounds.

Minnesota State Fair: Preview

Courtesy of Minnesota State Fair

Photo Credit: Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair runs from August 22nd to Labor Day (September 2nd) and since this will be my first real state fair, I’m trying to prepare for my visit.

Come on, California, you know our state fair is kind of sad. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the “Great Minnesota Get-together.” Apparently, about 34% of the state goes to this shindig. If that doesn’t blow your mind, you have no idea how many people that is (1.79 million).

Photo Credit: Minnesota State Fair

Photo Credit: Minnesota State Fair

So, as I’m bracing for my crowd-phobia to kick into overdrive, I’m trying to figure out which events and attractions I want to check out in the one day I will be in attendance. Of course, I want to see the butter sculpture. I mean it’s a sculpture…in butter! But, what else?

I scroll through the Fun Finder and see this listed…Pet Surgery. That’s right you can watch a dog get neutered. WHAT THE HELL, MINNESOTA? I’m sorry. I know it’s probably educational on some level, but it skeeves me out. I don’t really need to see that.

I’m a little disappointed that the robot competition isn’t a fight to the death…for the robots of course.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 9.43.12 PM

And unless Al Franken is going to bust out some Stuart Smalley for us all, I’m really not interested in seeing him speak. I’m at a fair. I don’t need politics. I need some deep fried food and booze.

I will admit a little interest in the lumberjack show. I mean I am living in the state that claims Paul Bunyan as a native son…even if he is fictional. But, I definitely want to see the pie, jams, and other homemade goods competitions. I mean who wouldn’t be in awe of a wall of bread? And the “Land of 10,000 Beers?” Yes, please!

Did I mention that the official Rin Tin Tin will be at the state fair? He’s the 12th. Seriously, whose job is it to designate Rin Tin Tins?

Photo Credit: Minnesota State Fair

Photo Credit: Minnesota State Fair

Speaking of food (bad transition), there’s a booth that just sells milk at the state fair. But hey, they have white and chocolate. Isn’t white milk just milk? Shouldn’t that be plain? I mean we are describing flavors here not colors.

Then of course, there are all the foods on a stick. The Food Finder let’s you sort by “on a stick” which is very convenient for silly people like me. I mean who wouldn’t want bacon, grilled pork chops, lamb chops, cheese, candy bars, fried fruit, and of course…a pickle? What’s in that photo? A fudge puppy. It’s a Belgian waffle on a stick dipped in chocolate and served with various toppings.

About the Minnesota State Fair
The Minnesota State Fair is one of the largest and best-attended expositions in the world, attracting nearly 1.8 million visitors annually. Showcasing Minnesota’s finest agriculture, art and industry, the Great Minnesota Get-Together is always Twelve Days of Fun Ending Labor Day. The 2013 Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 22-Labor Day, Sept. 2

Wine Review: The Naked Grape

This isn’t your grandma’s box wine.

You know why I love boxed wine? Because if I open a bottle of wine, odds are 50% of it will go bad.  I’m the only wine drinker in my household, so it takes me a while to consume a whole bottle.  I hate wasting wine and love getting a good deal.

The good people at The Naked Grape sent me a sample of their Cabernet Sauvignon in the 3 liter box. I think there are about four bottles of wine in a box this size, which is about 16 glasses of wine…give or take.  You get all of that for under $20.  That’s about $1.25 per glass.  Cheaper than a cup of coffee!

It was pretty good.  Smooth, dry, fruity…It wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever had, but it is a decent daily wine. Is that a thing? Daily wine? Maybe just me. Moving on…

I’d heard of The Naked Grape, but for whatever reason, hadn’t tried their wines.  Now that I’ve had a chance to sample it, I’m definitely putting it on my search list.  They have a way to look for their wines near you on their website, but due to the weird ass laws in Minnesota, it won’t work for me.

Speaking of weird ass laws, if you don’t live in Minnesota, you can go over to The Naked Grape site and download a coupon for a dollar off a box or a bottle.