5.31.2011

TV or No TV?

That is no longer a question in our household.  

We have recently decided that we are canceling cable and are going to live the simple life.  There are a few factors that have helped us reach that conclusion:

  • We have been having lots of issues with the quality of our Comcast service, and that's the only service available in our apartment building. 
  • We could save some dough!
  • We feel like we could be more productive members of society (or of our lives) if we do something else with our time.  

Both of us are actually quite excited to cancel our cable.  (We just decided yesterday, so we're going to do it today).  I look forward to not depending on TV to entertain or relax me.  It will be challenging to find better ways to spend my time, but I'm sure it will also be very rewarding.  

The one thing that we were concerned with was not being able to watch Tiger games!  That is a scary thought, but we have figured out a few solutions: 
  1. Listen to the game on the radio.
  2. Watch the game at a local bar.
  3. Walk down the street and actually go to the game. 

I, of course, will also miss my reality shows, and Alessandro will miss the MLB Network, but we're confident that we'll be alright.  (Let's see how we feel in a week).  

5.26.2011

Street Meat & Taco Trucks

There's nothing like a carne asada taco from the taco truck! 

Last Friday--on one of the only sunny days of the week--I rode my bike to my Grandma's house and my Aunt and nieces were over there doing yard work.  The girls loved being in the dirt, and Ava even liked collecting worms.

My mom got hungry just watching all of their hard labor, so we decided to take a trip to the taco truck.

My family's taco truck of choice is called Los Dos Amigos and it's on Parkwood and Parkinson right off of Michigan Ave in the City's Southwest neighborhood. 



I had personally never eaten the street meat from a taco truck in the City, so I was excited to try it out.  I was not disappointed...they were pretty delicious!


Even Maya and Ava loved them!  (Notice the pinky action).



On the agenda for my next street meat experience will be a torta.  (A torta is to Mexico what a sandwich is to America.  Doesn't sound too exciting, but really it is).  I have been waiting to find a torta that lives up to the torta's we ate daily when we stayed in Mexico for 6 weeks back in 1999.  So far, Mexican restaurants around town and also my own attempt at making a torta at home have not come close to those authentic Mexico tortas I dream of.  Maybe the taco truck torta will be the one!

Ooh, I just had a good idea.  Maybe the taco truck can be one of our Bike Club's riding destinations!

5.23.2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


What a great book!  If you haven't read it, you should.  It's a really light and easy read and will really get you thinking about the purpose of childhood. 

If you haven't yet heard about all of the controversy surrounding this book, let me give you a quick recap:

This is a story about a Yale Law Professor, Amy Chua, and how she raised her two daughters, Lulu and Sophia, in the "Chinese way."  This includes things such as:  refusing to accept a less-than impressive birthday card made by her young daughter because it was of poor quality, making her daughters practice piano and violin for hours and hours each day, including while on vacations, and not allowing her daughters to attend sleepovers or have play dates or watch TV...because, duh, they didn't have time because they had to practice music. 

As she explained at her appearance on The Colbert Report, this is not a how-to-book, and is merely a memoir of her life.

I gotta say, I loved her parenting style!  But I couldn't help thinking that it would be impossible for most people to ever emulate this style because it seems like you might have to be rich in order to carry out parenting in the "Chinese way."  Think traveling to over 15 different countries before the girls were even in their teens, hiring a Mandarin-speaking nanny to do double duty (teach a second language and child care) and paying violin coaches by the hour to travel with the family to auditions. But, I'm sure that if you didn't have these resources and you really wanted to implement a "Chinese" parenting style, then you could probably find a way.

Lots of people are mad at the book and are saying things like, "Well we don't have the same resources or luxuries as her, so we can't do what she did with her kids."  Or, "Does she think she's better than us?"  Or, "She has no right to tell us that we're raising our children wrong."

But these people forget that this book is not a manual.  It's a story of this family's life.  Chua didn't write this book as an example on how to parent.  She wrote it as a self-reflection on her own parenting style, while showcasing all of the struggles and successes along the way.   

I think one of the best illustrations of success is this letter written to her by her daughter, Sophia.  I love this family and definitely recommend reading the book!

5.22.2011

"I had a good day"

When you hear a 4 year old say that, it just makes you feel so good inside! 

On Thursday we had our nephew Saverio overnight.  We took him to Build-A-Bear that afternoon for his birthday gift.  He built a super cute bear that he named "Car" on the way to the mall, and that later developed to "Car-Car" by the time that we made him and his birth certificate.  Here he is with his dad, Saverio after getting a bath.



This is a tradition with the nieces and nephews that we're hoping to continue.  We took Ava to Build-A-Bear when she was 3.  Here's here and her bear, Teddi, almost 2 years ago!


She still loves Teddi to this day!  Hopefully Saverio's love for Car-Car will sustain.

On Friday, we took Saverio to ride the People Mover because he loves trains.  We had taken him on it before, and he actually requested it:  "How about we go ride the 'crain' with no wheels?"  That's the People Mover.  So we did and he loved it.  So did Car-Car.


Then we went to Zeff's in Eastern Market for lunch.  Saverio loves him some chicken sandwiches, so he and I split one with "prench pries" as he calls them.  The chicken sandwich was actually really good--better than your average chicken sandwich.  And actually, we also had a chicken sandwich, per Saverio's request, at Gormet Grille in Somerset the day before, and it was also really good.  It had a super crunchy and crisp batter.  Somewhat reminded me of the breading from the chicken tenders at Sweet Water Tavern, which are my favorite!  If you're ever in Somerset and want a snack, get that sandwich.  

After lunch, we got ice cream from Mootown Creamery, which is right next door to Zeff's in Eastern Market.  It just opened up, and we have been wanting to try it out.  It was pretty good.  Me and Saverio had superman ice cream and Aless had chocolate.   


Afterward, we went home to pack Saverio's bags and get him ready to return home.  We asked him if he had fun with us and he said, "I had a good day."  It was the cutest thing, and it made us feel good that he enjoyed himself and his 4th birthday outing with Auntie and Uncle. 

Next up for Build-A-Bear:  CJ when he turns 4 in December.  [We take boys at 4 and girls at 3 since girls seem to mature faster than boys]  : )

5.20.2011

Mac and Cheese and Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs and Garlic

I am always trying to make Alessandro eat.  He eats like a little baby bird; and  he's been pretty sick these past couple of weeks, so it was even worse.  (He lost 3 pounds).  So this week I wanted to prepare  a few dinners that might make him get his appetite back.  Wednesday's meal was pork tenderloin with apples and onions,


mac and cheese,


and cauliflower with bread crumbs.


It all came together perfectly for a wonderful meal that made Alessandro clear his plate, which is a very unusual occurrence.


Maybe it was the service with a smile?


Here are the recipes for the cauliflower and mac and cheese from my wonderful Williams-Sonoma cookbook:




I followed the above recipes exactly, and we made our own bread crumbs from a small french baguette that was a few days old.

For the pork tenderloin, I didn't use a recipe, but this is how I cooked it:
  • Salt and peppered the pork
  • Seared all sides of the pork in hot olive oil for about 3 minutes each side
  • Add sliced onions and apples on top of the uncooked pork and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes (which will depend on the size you're cooking)
  • It's done when it's internal temperature is 145 degrees.  Alessandro calls me the food police cause I'm "overly concerned" about food safety, although I believe it's an appropriate level of concern. 
  • Let sit for 5 minutes, and enjoy.

 I definitely recommend trying these recipes.  They were very good, easy to make and something different for us. 

5.18.2011

Best Pasta Sauce Ever!

This is not my recipe (duh).  But I think it will officially be my signature meal by the time I'm 40; cause I feel like that's when you need signature meals. Everyone needs to try it...it's so delicious!  If you don't like it, I'll give you your money back. 

I made it this past Monday night for the second time, and I'd like to share some of my thoughts about preparing it.  The second time around, I cut the prep/cooking time down by about 40 minutes by skipping the step where you have to crush and pass the tomatoes through a sieve.  I did this the first time and I only had a tiny tiny sieve and it took forever!  Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if you had a regular sized one.  But, I don't think that part's necessary anyway.  Because, as you'll see if you make it, everything from the can ends up in the pan anyway;  and you also run everything through a blender at the end, so it still felt pointless.  So,  I  tried it this time and skipped the sieve part.  Instead, I just poured the entire contents of the whole tomato cans into the pan and crushed them with this handy instrument from Pampered Chef, or a potato masher would do.  


But I warn you...stand back and press slowly when crushing the tomatoes because they are juicy and can cause quite a mess.

Also, I just want to say for the record that if some of you out there don't have this awesome garlic press, you don't know what you're missing!  Everything about it is perfect.  We had a Chefmate garlic press before and it was just bad.  And before that, we were hand mincing.  But now, my garlic press and I can mince a clove of garlic in .2 seconds.  It's amazing.  I never knew I could love a kitchen tool so much. 

My last suggestion is to rough chop the fresh oregano before you put it in.  The recipe doesn't say to, but I did anyway the first time I made this recipe.  This time around, I decided not to  and instead put it in straight from the stem.  I wouldn't recommend doing that as I did not like having such big pieces of fresh oregano in my mouth...it was really strong.  So I would say give the oregano a rough chop. 

I lied...one more thing.  I use good ol' grated Parmesan cheese instead of freshly shredded  Parmesan because it's way less expensive and tastes just as good when combined with the rest of the ingredients.  

The recipe made enough for dinner for the two of us for two nights.  It is really really good and I promise you'll like it.  Here was the final product:


Tonight for dinner we had pork tenderloin with apples and onions, cauliflower with garlic and bread crumbs and macaroni and cheese.  I will post recipes and pics for that meal soon.  And, on Friday we're having a carrot and cumin tart.  Should be interesting.

5.17.2011

Who wants to join my Bike Club?

Riding my bike around the D has been one of the most enjoyable activities I have been able to partake in since moving Downtown last year.  The proof is in these beautiful scenes and artwork that I have captured along the rides.  





Sometimes I have to force myself not to stop to take pics because it defeats the purpose of riding, but I am not one to miss a photo op.

I wanted to take my love of bike riding one step further this summer by organizing a very informal "Bike Club."  Basically, my thoughts are that if when the weather gets consistently nicer, I'd like our Bike Club to cruise twice a week.  (The dates will depend on who wants to bike and can be as flexible as we'd like).  We will pick a different cruising route and destination each day, such as the Riverfront, Belle Isle, Woodbrige, etc. 

How it will work is that anyone interested in biking will meet at my place.  Hopefully you have an SUV or a bike rack attached to your car, or you already live downtown so that getting your bike to our meeting place won't be a problem.  (And we can always change the meeting place depending on where our destination is).  We will choose a time that is convenient for people wanting to attend.  Because we'd need to make sure we aren't out riding too late (where a lack of light can mean safety issues in a variety of forms), I was thinking we would start at 7:00 at the latest.  (Ideally I'd like to start at 5:30ish, but if that's impossible with someone's work schedule, then like I said, we'll work it out).  And we can always attempt to schedule the Bike Club for at least one day on the weekend so that everyone will have a chance to partake.

Now the forecast for this week and a peek into next week does not look promising. 


But it looks like we could tentatively schedule something for this Friday if anyone is interested.  (Saturday's out because I'll be attending Race for the Cure w/ my bestie, then trying out a pottery class in Ann Arbor, then heading back to the D for a concert w/ said bestie; so it's a bit of a busy day). 

If anyone out there reading is interested in the Bike Club, let me know either through a comment or email.  Once I have information on people who are interested, I will prepare some type of a schedule so that we can all have some consistency in our lives.  If you can bike this Friday, also let me know so we can get the party started! 

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a bike riding extremist.  I have never biked marathon-type distances, and don't intend to!  This Bike Club is not intended to be an endurance building exercise.  It's purely to do something different, to get some fresh air and to explore the D like you've never done before.
 

5.16.2011

Something I Want...

I am really sick of umbrellas that flip inside out when it's windy out!  In fact, the other day, I told Alessandro and our friend Kate, who both are aspiring inventors of the next big thing, that they needed to invent an umbrella that did not turn inside out in the wind.  This is a real problem for me, especially considering that I walk to and from work everyday, which means that I am bound to experience rain and  strong wind every now and then.  Today was one of those days.  And now, here's the current status of my umbrella:



It didn't make it.  But that should really be a thing of the past now that I found this awesome umbrella.


And now Alessandro and Kate are off the hook because it already exists!  I really really want it! (Add that to the list of the other million things I want).  It is impossible for this bad boy to turn inside out and that is exactly what I need.  (Now I need it).  It's made by a European company called senz°, and I don't think it's sold in the US, but you can get it online and it costs $86 USD. 

If you're really not convinced that this umbrella is legit, watch this video where the senz° umbrella is put to the test in a wind tunnel demonstration.  It's probably the coolest thing ever.  And then if you're still skeptical, check out the video on the bottom right of this page titled, "Japanese windtunnel test." 

And not to mention, it looks pretty stylish too.  If I do get it one of these days, I will be sure to let you know how it holds up!  

5.15.2011

Atole de Arroz

It's cold today!  Doesn't help that our apartment switched all of our units from heat to air conditioning last week...you know, when it was 77 degrees.  But now, with the dip in temps, Alessandro and I are sitting in our apartment, in full sweatpant outfits, curled up in blankets, warming our hands with our breathe because it's dang cold in here!  I thought that the perfect thing to warm us up would be to make a pot of Atole de Arroz.  This is a dish that my Grandma frequently made and that I absolutely love!  I thought I'd share the recipe.

To make a generous helping for two people, you will need:
3/4 cup of white rice (cooked in 1.5 cups of water)
1.5 cups of milk total, which you can split by using 3/4 cup of canned evaporated milk and 3/4 cup of regular milk (skim, whole, 2%, doesn't matter) OR, you can use all evaporated milk
1/8 cup of sugar
2 cinnamon sticks


First, cook the rice.  To do so, add 1.5 cups of water to the rice and bring to a boil.  Then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Next, combine the 1.5 cups of milk, 1/8 cup of sugar and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan.  On low-medium heat, bring to a boil and let boil, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Then turn the heat down and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Next, add the rice to the saucepan.  Simmer for 5 minutes, or until thick.  Give it a taste, and add a sprinkle more of sugar if needed. Serve in a bowl with the cinnamon stick and a dash of cinnamon for garnish.  Enjoy!

5.11.2011

Wine Night Wednesdays!

Today is Wine Night Wednesday at our favorite Detroit restaurant, Angelina Italian Bistro.  We will not be attending tonight, womp womp, but it's on for next time, which is on the 25th.  Anyone interested in going to future dates, let me know!

I thought this would be a good time for me to summarize what we have learned at these wonderful wine nights, put on by Angelina's own winegal

The first series was all about the Ports.  We learned that a true Port can only come from Portugal.  Other port-type wines that are produced in other regions of the world are not true Ports, but are similarly fortified. We also learned that there is nothing like an aged Port.  Apparently aged Port is a true luxury.  I need to buy a couple of bottles now, and in 15 years, be in for a real treat.

The Ports we tried were Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port, which comes from California, so we automatically know it's not a true Port!  See how easy that is?  And Warre's Otima 10 year Tawny Porto, which is a true Port.


If I recall correctly, we both preferred the true Port.  It was paired with delicious chocolate truffles prepared by Angelina's extremely talented pastry chef, Raed. 


We also got a special sample of some type of grapefruit wine.  I never knew grapefruit wine existed, so that was pretty cool.  It tasted like grapefruit.  (Duh).  It peaked my curiosity and I'd like to try it again sometime.

At the second wine night series, we had a tasting of Chardonnay.  We tried Aquinas Chardonnay 2009, Peirano Estate Chardonnay 2007 and Les Charmes Macon-Lugny 2008 Chardonnay. 

We learned that French wines smell funky!  The Les Charmes had a really strong smell, which wasn't all that pleasant.  But surprisingly it tasted pretty good.  It was Alessandro's favorite.  I liked the Peirano Estate.  We also learned that pairing the Chardonnays with different types of food really changed the flavor and the bite of the wine quite a bit. 

With our Chardonnay, we had a bread, olive, cheese and arugula plate, parmesan risotto topped with sauteed swordfish and diver scallop,  and grilled shrimp over a citrus salad, and for dessert, Raed's special flan.


And before we leave the topic of Chardonnays, all the wine lovers out there should see the move, Bottle Shock.  Put it on the Netflix!

Next, we had a Malbec tasting.  We had Condors Summit 2009, Gascon 2009 and 2007 Trivento Malbec Reserve.  They range in price in that order with the latter being the most expensive.  We learned that Malbec is a type of grape.  (If that was common knowledge, I didn't know it).  We also learned that with Malbecs, unlike with other types of wine, price does seem to matter.  So this might be one type of wine where you would go for the $10 bottle instead of the $5. 

For food, we had cheese (specifically, Campo de Montelban, Montasio and Irish Blue Cashel) and Royale Mousse Pate (which is geese!), finished with balsamic reduction and a red pepper and onion chutney.  We were at this tasting with a couple friend of ours, and we women could only stomach the pate if it was coupled with the chutney; otherwise, it was kind of funky. 


We also had tenderloin served atop a balsamic potato cake finished with Malbec reduction and fried leeks.  That piece of meat was seriously delicious!  


For dessert, we had sweet potato pie, a cream puff stuffed with chocolate cayenne ice cream (yum!)  and Michigan dried cherry and almond brittle.
  

We all were extremely satisfied after that tasting!  And to top it off, our friends bought us a bottle of the Reserve Malbec as a "thank you" for introducing them to Angelina Wine Nights!  How nice is that?!

Finally, our latest tasting was Rieslings.  We had Angoves Clare Valley Riesling 2006, Marcus Moliter 2006 Riesling, Whole Cluster - Chateau Grand Traverse 2009 and Nachtgold Eiswein....that's right ICE WINE!  We were super excited about that.  What a treat! For those who do not know, ice wine is a special type of dessert wine that is made from grapes that are frozen while on the vine.  This does something technical (and too advanced for me to remember) to the grape, resulting in a sweeter wine. 

We learned that Rieslings are a good wine to pair with all sorts of food, especially as a preamble. 

We enjoyed our Rieslings with a bib salad with blue cheese and avocados, veal marsala and spinach raviolli, and for dessert, a berry tart, some interesting cheeses and a candied pecan.
  
 

The next wine series that Angelina is going to put on will be tastings based on regions.  Visit their website to see the dates; I hope to see some of you there!

Oh yeah, did I mention the tastings are only $20!  Seriously cannot be beat.

5.10.2011

Tan Alessandro

Today was one of those days when I stopped and thought about how lucky I was to be married to my sweet sweet husband.  (I have to admit that with the hustle and bustle of each day, that thought--no matter how true--does not run through my mind every single day; or if it does, I don't stop and take the time to appreciate the thought).  But today I did.  

After work, I was super tired, had a bit of a headache, didn't feel like making dinner or working out, and the wind was so strong on my walk home that I started to get an earache.  Typically when I come home from work, I always like to unpack my backpack, clean up a bit, go online, etc.  But today, I literally walked right in and laid down in bed.  Alessandro had the day off, so he was already home, which is an unusual occurrence.  We both just laid in bed and talked about our day; and it was only 5:30!  

I especially enjoyed talking to him because his cheeks are nice and tan from the Walk, (which makes him even more handsome than usual) and his eyes looked extra pretty.  (His eyes are actually hazel, even though he's always thought they were brown; clearly no one has studied his appearance as I have).  

In our wedding vows, one of the things I said to him was that "I love you because nothing feels real if I haven't shared it with you."  And as I laid in bed, in the middle of the day today, I thought of that vow, and I was glad that it was still how I felt.  

Actually, I think the only vow that hasn't held up is that vow I made to iron his work clothes; oops!  I mean I do, just not with the frequency that I probably should.  And for all you strong, independent and sane women out there who are vomitting right now because of that previous statement, all I have to say to you is:  if you were to see how badly and with such incoordination Alessandro approaches ironing, and how dangerous he looks standing off-balance next to a hot iron, you would be volunteering to iron as well.  

Anyway, tan Alessandro suggested we get Mikey D's so that we didn't have to cook and clean-up (and since we forgot to unthaw the chicken for our planned dinner), so we did.  When we got back from McDonald's and were heading back to our apartment, all I could think was that I'm very grateful that I have Alessandro to share my chicken nuggets with.  (But not my fries, because I share fries with no one). 

Even though, as I'm writing this, he just said in a non-serious annoying tone, "Didn't you say you were going to bring me some strawberries?  Geez."   But then he turned his head and saw that I had already put a plate of chocolate covered strawberries that I just made on the side table next to the couch for him.  (Cause you have to have a gourmet dessert after such a gourmet dinner).  He's so spoiled!  But he deserves it.  (Sometimes). 


5.09.2011

$9,061...

That is how much money we have raised for this year's Walk MS fundraiser!  How amazing is that?!  (And the number is still going up as fundraising does not end until the end of September.  If anyone's interested in donating, you can do so here; we would greatly appreciate it!)

For those who do not know, my husband Alessandro was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 at the age of 24.  In 2009, we began participating in Walk MS, which is one of the biggest fundraising events put on by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  In our first year, "Team Alessandro" raised over $4,000!  In 2010, we raised over $6,700!  And this year, we are slowly but surely working our way toward our goal of $10,000!  I cannot tell you how proud I am of these numbers!  The money raised through this fundraiser goes toward funding national research, advocacy programs and public and professional education.  

This year's Walk turned out to be one of the best yet.  The Walk was on Saturday, May 7th at Comerica Park.  We woke up that morning and saw nothing but blue skies and shinning sun.  

That was a pleasant sight considering last year's walk was gray, cold, windy and wet!  (See our rain ponchos and winter gear below). 


But this year was very different!  It was sunny, mid 50s and calm.  (See shades, short sleeves and sun below).  



Team Alessandro consisted of our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, and our BFFs.  Alessandro had a few friends come in from Grand Rapids, and even all the way from Memphis!  Unfortunately, one of my sisters and her family was unable to come because they all had a stomach bug.  But there is always next year!

This year was also special because it was the first year that Alessandro was able to accompany us on the walking route.  In the previous years, he was unable to come along for the 3 mile walk because that pesky MS keeps holding him back.  In the past, he has had to sit at the starting line and wait for us to return.  He especially hated doing that last year when he was by himself (his grandparents sat with him the first year) and he was FREEZING!  But this year, Tara and I pushed him along the route in the handy dandy wheelchair we recently acquired.


As much as he says differently, he really does love my driving abilities in that thing!

After the Walk was over, we had Team Alessandro over at our place for eats and drinks.  We had botanas (which is different than nachos people), pasta salad, fruit, veggies, bruschetta, cookies and brownies.  It was great having everyone over and being able to relax and enjoy all of the hard work leading up to the day.

Alessandro and Tara took relaxation to a whole new level after everyone left.


And Tara worked on her tan.

 

Alessandro and I would really like to thank everyone for all that they did to make this such a successful fundraising year.  We really do have great friends and wonderful family that we're so thankful for.

We look forward to next year when we can hopefully out-do ourselves once again!

5.05.2011

Landscaping in the D

I love how the abandoned building across the street from us has a perfectly manicured lawn.


We live in the Lafayette Park Neighborhood of the D.  Fun place!