Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gatlinburg! (way delayed, but now, with pictures!)

I met an old friend for a weekend of fun in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge! We made the most of the 1.5 days I was really there. It was anything but our first time, so we maximized by going straight to all the things we wanted (including trying some new things). We hit Dolly Wood (both mornings), Adventure Quest (new to both of us), the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride (she'd done it once before, but it was new to me), Dixie Stampede, Blaine's (our fav Gatlinburg restaurant), and even a little of the Smokey Mountain Nat'l Park.

One of the many gorgeous fall trees in the Nat'l forest

My friend and I have decided that it's much easier to explain Gatlinburg to people from NC/SC/VA. It's Myrtle Beach in the mountains. And that pretty much gets the idea across. It's a strip of road with wall-to-wall tourist kitsch shops, go-cart and fair-type rides, putt-putt, and cheap family-friendly restaurants. Just add tons of chapels and Bible bookstores. For all the peeps from other parts of the country, there doesn't seem to be a point of reference (or, because we're not from those parts, we have no idea what it would be!).

It's basically what you'd get if you started planning an arcade and suddenly found out that you had an entire small town to fill instead of a small corner room. So... it has things that I can't imagine finding anywhere else (except maybe a fair, and I just can't imagine a fair where everything is so over-the-top, well-done, and permanent). This explains three of our stops - Adventure Quest, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, and Wonder Works.

See! Upside down!

We had been to Wonder Works before, but wanted to go back because we had so much fun the first time. It is definitely designed for kids (at least, not for 28 year olds!), but we had a blast. It's all interactive learning activities, like Discovery Place in Charlotte (I know, another regional point of reference!). There was a climbing wall, an earth-quake simulator, a pulley experiment where you haul yourself up (easier on the seat with 3 pulleys than the one with only one), a sound room that demonstrates how the brain gives a 3-d sensation to sound, with only 2 ears. Basically, a ton of interactive, fun stuff for your inner child! Oh! and the entire thing was built to look like a mansion had fallen, upside-down, onto another house. I love that they even had a little upside-down UPS drop box.

What could be more fun than making giant bubbles?!

Adventure Quest only opened four months ago, and it caught our eye because the facade was that of a castle, and it had a mirror maze! They only sold passes for everything, so we got one - it included the mirror maze, an Entrapment/ANTM*-style laser security system to try to sneak through, and pirate-themed mini-golf. Rock! Honestly, if they had been separate tickets, we probably would have only done the mirror maze, but we had fun in all of them. The maze was worth it on its own though. Seriously fun. I could spend hours going through it. We went through once, and then turned around and did it backwards. By we, I really mean my friend did all of the finding, and I followed. I couldn't tell where the mirrors were until I just about hit my nose on them. It was very disorienting (in a good way). They also had great music playing, so I had my own personal dance party as we walked through. I like to think that some one's day was improved by that bit of hilarity.

That's right, a castle!

Black light Pirate Mini golf - need I say more?!

The Jurassic Adventure was pure kooky. It was very fake. But we had so much fun! I think it was the good company. We completely psyched ourselves up over it, and started screaming like little girls every time we sat still in the dark in it. We were even talking about the animatronics that were coming toward us as if they might really catch us. I categorize it as something we made fun, more than something that is inherently fun or scary.

Yeah, these were the animatronics. Scary!

Dixie Stampede is one of our must-do's each Gatlinburg trip. It's fun, the food is good, and it's easy. By now, we know all of the songs, and pretty much sing along, and we cheer for every event as if they will ever let the score come out to other than a near-tie. And we talk to our neighbors as if we've known each other all our lives, and give them tips about how to cheat in the final flag relay race. My friend loves the horses, and i love the fact that the dancers seriously look like Barbies when their dresses light up.

And of course, there's Dolly Wood! It's the thing to do in Pigeon Forge! It's country at it's best! People are nice, music is wholesome, and there are a ton of roller coasters! AND there's a birds of prey refuge/rehabilitation center. Basically, perfect family fun. So what if we don't have a family (well, we're not orphans, but we haven't started our won families yet)?!

*I am appalled that the blogger spell-check doesn't recognize the abbreviation ANTM! Best guilty pleasure ever! And yes, we were tempted to pose our way through it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This month is crazy!!! I have been/will be gone every weekend! Since weekends are prime bonding time with the kitchen aid, it's been standing alone a lot lately. But it's totally worth it! I've spent the last two weekends in DC.
Last weekend I visited friends, dropped by a housewarming, celebrated passing the bar by going out in Adam's Morgan and being ridiculous, and touring the WEST WING and the White House gardens!!! (It soooo pays to know someone who is working in the White House!) It was kind of a mini-undergrad reunion (only conspicuously missing one of our CR foursome). There was even a Supermarket Sweep-style dash through Ann Taylor Loft as soon as they opened because I'd left my White House-appropriate attire at home (packed, in the garment bag that just didn't quite make it to the car). I was lame though, and my camera batteries died after the first picture I took! So, no more pics for me until I steal them from one of the girls I went with.

The weekend before, I went up with Mr. Lover and we did the Spy Museum (WAY COOL, and I hadn't been before), and the Holocaust Museum (he'd never been before). I thought they were both really well done, and it was nice to get away and spend some time with him. And we stayed in Old Town at this super- shishi boutique hotel that was pet friendly (so Hersh got to come too!).
This weekend, it's off to see my BFF in Gatlinburg for some wholesome craziness! Seriously, I LOVE Dolly Wood - don't knock it until you try it! (But first, tonight, to see Mr. Lover because it's his birthday!!!).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I've been crafty!

I was so inspired by this before and after, that I decided to tackle my own file cabinet. Finding some sort of replacement for this black scar in my otherwise serene office has been floating around the end of my to-do list since I moved in, and this was just the inspiration I was looking for. I would decoupage wrapping paper onto it!

I couldn't find any thick paper in town (and I now that I knew what I wanted to do, I couldn't wait to get started!), so I went ahead and tried it with a thinner wrapping paper from Target, in spite of the alarm bells going off in my own head and the advice of those who had come before me. So... it's not perfect. But I'm OK with that. I know it's hard to see in the picture, but the paper is a pale blue with tiny white print on it. It's actually a wedding print, but I really don't think that's noticeable unless you are really examining it. It's subtle like that (and no, it doesn't have any words on it).

My first attempt, I didn't pre-cut the pieces of paper, thinking that I could cover 3 sides with one sheet, and that I could just trim it afterward. That was less than successful. I ended up sliding it all over the place and tearing it. Boo! So... I had to remove that layer. I peeled most if it off, and then removed the rest by rubbing with a wet cloth until I got it all off. Yay!

Scraping/washing wasn't fun, so I decided to be more careful. I pre-cut pieces for each side this time, and it went much more smoothly! I also let the modge podge dry a little before applying the wrapping paper. This made it almost impossible to reposition once I started applying the paper, but it also kept the paper from soaking through and getting thin and wrinkly (a decidedly good thing). I probably should have gone back and redone the drawer with the lock, cutting out a place for the lock before gluing (because trying to precisely cut wet paper does not end well), but I wanted to be done... so I just covered it with a label. Maybe one day I'll go back and fix it (but that's unlikely).

Finally, I replaced the old drawer pulls with ribbon. This was another move born of laziness. I couldn't very well put black handles on my pretty blue cabinet. Painting the handles just sounded like too much effort. I tired buying cabinetry handles, but the holes didn't line up. So, ribbon!



(I promise, it really doesn't say "impotent stuff" - that's just the low quality of the picture!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh dear.

I just started a post, only to delete it. When I went to delete it, I realized that it was the third post in a row that I'd begun, only to end up deleting. And I'm the worst TWD'er in history. But I just thought I should actually finish a post, even sans pictures, if only to update that there is no update yet. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

You Want Pie With That - II

I call this "I'm the biggest dork ever pie". Or, "1776: Compromise Pie".

I feel the need to give history lesson to introduce this pie. A long time ago (summer of 1776), in a place far, far away (Philadelphia, PA), a group of rebellious men (our Founding Fathers) gathered. The complained a lot and some disagreed on almost everything, but in the end, they all had the good of their chosen land at heart, and they reached a compromise. They agreed on several things.

First, that the windows of their meeting place should remain closed. This was an issue because it was an extra hot summer (and there was no A/C in those days), there was a plague of flies about, and their business was not the sort of thing that you wanted eavesdroppers to hear (in fact, there were no written records of their floor debates because, as their fearless leader so aptly put, "We must hang together, or we must asuredly all hang seperately", because, as their vocal South Carolinian noted, their plot was nothing short of treason). So... they abided the heat, and kept the windows closed.

Second, that the triangle trade shipping routes united them all, in spite of their varied geography (13 different colonies!). Important parts of that triangle trade were molasses and rum (I'd say they are still very important parts of our foreign trade, at least in my house).

Third (and perhaps most importantly - at least for a couple of members), that the stores of rum should remain open to all of their members!

Oh yeah, and they wrote and passed the Declaration of Independence.

Fast forward about 200 years. First, Peter Stone wrote a book about these events. Then, Sherman Edwards turned that book into a Broadway musical (in 1969). THEN, this musical was adapted for film (in 1972). Basically, it was the best film ever to hit screens (that statement may be what makes me a dork).

So... this great film obviously deserved a pie! The pie is something in between a shoofly pie and an apple pie, topped with a rum glaze. Shoofly because they really did endure awful flies, and apple because... well, what could be more American!? The rum for several reasons - There is a song with Rum in the title (that's a big one), that discusses the importance of rum in the triangle trade (the slave trade), AND Ben Franklin and Stephen Hopkins adore rum (and the other Adams uses this as a bit of a reward/celebration for Hopkins at one point) (and I suspect that rum is the culprit in the drunken militiamen that are mentioned later in the movie). Finally (I swear), the molasses is another reference to the triangle trade. To top off the pie, I gave it a rim of 13 stars - one for each colony (even NY, in spite of their courteous abstentions).

The Recipe:

1 c flour
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tbs solid shortening
1 c corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
1 beaten egg
3 baking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, then coated in 1 tbs cinnamon
2 crusts (uncooked)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix flour, brown sugar and shortening into crumbs.
Split the crumb mixture in half.
Set the one half aside for crumbs.
Pour the corn syrup in the other half of the crumb mixture.
Mix the baking soda in the boiling water.
When this fizzes, pour on top of the corn syrup/crumb mixture.
Add egg an mix with fork.
Pour in unbaked pie shell.
Cut stars from 2d crust.
Top pie with crumbs and then with stars around the edge.
Bake 10 minutes.
Turn oven down to 350 and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.

Rum Sauce

1 c sugar
3/4 c water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 c cold water
1/4 c rum

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cinnamon.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat.
Boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat.
In small bowl, blend cornstarch and cold water.
Gradually stir into hot sugar mixture.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens.
Stir in rum; cook 1 minute.
Pour over slices of pie and serve warm.

You Want Pie with That - III

While searching for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table came across a Killer Rabbit, with sharp, pointy teeth (you remember that part, right?)! Thankfully, they had the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Thank goodness! Afer a count of three (no more, no less, and five is right out!), the holy hand granade was hefted toward the killer rabbit.

And so I present:

Whatever Happened to the Killer Rabbit? pie

This is a traditional rabbit pie (flavored with tons of apples), topped with a baked apple/holy hand granade, and an exploded crust. I don't think it needs any more explaination. ;)

I was shocked at the taste of this. I was really worred about the actual taste of this pie, but I think that it wins as my favorite of all the things I've ever baked - seriously! This is getting added to the regular rotation of comfort food in my house.

The recipe:

For the filling:

1 rabbit, approximately 3 lb (1.35 kg), cut into joints (or 1 - 1.5 lb chicken thighs)
2 medium onions, chopped fairly small
8 oz (225 g) unsmoked streaky bacon, in one piece
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup dry cider
3/4 cups chicken stock
½ tsp nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbp butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
top and bottom crusts

For the apple filling:

2 tbs pecans
2 tbs raisins
4 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
put bottom crust in pie plate.
Wash the rabbit joints, and place them in a large saucepan.
Add onion and apple to saucepan.
Chop bacon into roughly 1" sections and add to the saucepan along with the bayleaf, a little salt and some freshly milled pepper.
Pour in the cider and the stock, bring to simmering point, then put a lid on and leave to simmer gently for about an hour or until tender.

While that's simmering, cut out the core and seeds of an apple (making sure to leave the bottom intact).
Combine brown sugar, raisins, pecans and cinnamon.
Fill apple with the misture, and top with a pat of butter.

When rabbit miture's cooked, remove the rabbit pieces, bacon, apple and onion (with a draining spoon) and transfer them to the pie dish.
Add flour and butter to the stock in the saucepan
Stir them over a medium heat to melt and thicken the sauce. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and simmer.
When it's reduced by about half, pour it over the rabbit.
Cover with remaining pie crust
Dampen edges and squish together.
Cut an explosion hole, and peel back in the center of the top crust.
Use scarps from edges of pie crust to decorate the apple.
Drop apple into hole in top of pie.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

You Want Pie with That - I

What a great idea! It's a pie contest! This month's theme is "your favorite movie". This was one of those totally random jumping-off points that immediately trigger a landslide of ideas for me (some better than others). In order to conserve my time and money (and keep everyone from realizing just how crazy I rally am), I decided to stick to 2 pies - one based on 1776, and one based on Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail (because I was told a few too many times that no one has seen 1776 - although they SHOULD).

So, posts follow, one for each. And make sure to check out the other entries (and maybe join yourself) at http://www.pieswiththat.blogspot.com/.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Voter registration deadlines are starting to hit!

If you live in Virginia, TODAY is your last chance to register to vote for this November. Do it!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Sneak Peak (or, What I Did Friday Night)

There are times when I feel like all motivation completely leaves me. The begining of this week was like that, and it seems like I spent the rest of the week trying to catch up. Yuck!

However, I'm back on track, and starting to plan for a bird-themed shower! I don't want to reveal too much before the shower, but here's what I did with my Friday night. Yeah, I'm super lame.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fruit Roses Tutorial (finally)

This is a super-simple way to add a little fun to a fruit pie or tart. I recommend only using fairly soft fruits (ie. not apples), and cutting the slices as thinly as possible. It takes a little longer and a little more concentration, but it shortens cooking time, and ensures that the slices will bend more easily.

1) Core or pit fruit and cut it in half.

2) Slice each half thinly (don't worry if you can't get all the way to the ends).

3) Curl the first slice into a cone, with the skin side up.

4) Add the rest of the slices, one at a time, around the cone, overlapping each slightlyand keeping the peel facing up. It's OK that the slices aren't all exactly the same size - that's part of what makes these look more like real roses.

5) Transfer to the dish that you're planning to bake in. I like to use a knife to do this, because the fruit can be really slippery, and it's no fun to have it fall apart after all your hard work!

6) Repeat as neccessary, until you have filled the dish. Depending on the nature of the baked good (and the size of your roses), you may want to use fewer or more roses. Less tightly packed means that the roses will naturally open up more, and fewer means that they will stay closer to the shape that you placed them in. In a tart that mostly fruit, I tend to keep them more tightly packed, and in a pie or cake with more filling, I tend to leave the fruit looser - go with your instincts.

With the TWD cake, I left the roses more loosely packed, and pushed them down a little into the filling to make sure that the thicker cake got in between the rose petals.