Archive for December 2008

30 December 2008

My favorite holiday foods to gorge on

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: family, Food

Despite my kitchen fails, I love food and eating, especially at the holidays. That’s when I bring out the comfy pants (with elastic waist) and prepare to gorge myself for multiple days. Sometimes, I enjoy the food so much, I contemplate inducing vomiting to make room for more. Okay, yeah that’s gross, I don’t mean that literally.

My family isn’t very adventurous with food. My dad is the perfect example of this (he’s never even had sushi!) We know what we like and we eat it. We don’t always go crazy and try new things, even though my stepmom and I are more outgoing than the men. 
So at the holidays, we make the same foods every year and I never get tired of it. In fact, I look forward to the traditional fare weeks before I come home. 
My holiday food favorites include:
  • Fudge (My stepmom’s family recipe is so good. It melts in your mouth)
  • Homemade “sticky buns” (Another family recipe, full of butter and goodness)
  • Taco dip (I made it this year and we use a “secret” ingredient that makes trays of this disappear quickly)
  • Ham roll-ups (Simple, ham, green onion and cream cheese. I eat them like chips)
  • Caramel apple dip (There is no actual caramel in here, just cream cheese and brown sugar, but it goes perfectly with Granny Smith apples)
  • Tenderloin (I don’t eat a ton of red meat, but tenderloin is my favorite. I don’t know what my dad does to cook or season it, but I cannot get enough of it)
  • Stollen – A traditional German cake with dried fruit and candy on the inside. My stepmom literally spends three days making loaves of this for family and friends. I am not a huge fan but appreciate the effort. Oh an absolutely everything is homemade, dough and all
I put some pictures of these tasty delights below for you guys to enjoy.
Fudge (yes, I know it has a poop-like shape, but it’s awesome)


Taco Dip (before I pile shredded cheese on top!)

Homemade “sticky buns”
Oh, and now that I have the desire to cook and am loaded up with new bar and kitchen stuff, guess it’s time to throw a party. Anyone want to come over?
What are some of your favorite holiday foods that you look forward to? It can be made by you or your family?

29 December 2008

Is that what you’re wearing?

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: family, Fashion

I absolutely hate this question because it’s a dumb one. My sarcastic response to this question usually is: yes, this is what I’m wearing, I don’t go naked out in public (only around the house occasionally.) 

I bring this up today because of an incident that happened last week, that I actively tweeted about because I was so upset.
Saturday night was my cousin’s wedding, just outside of Madison, and I made the FATAL mistake of bringing a dress but not shoes back with me because I was in a such a rush to pack before leaving Chicago. 
I didn’t think this oversight was a huge deal because I had a less formal backup outfit, which I wore for Christmas (argyle sweater, skirt, tights and flats – adorable). I know it wasn’t the perfect outfit, but I thought it would be fine.
Why did I think this? Because it’s a Wisconsin wedding. I don’t want to sound mean, but where we were going, Packer gear, scrunchies, nylons with runs in them and Super Bowl jackets rule. I didn’t see a need to get “Chicago dressed up” for this. Plus, I’m on vacation, cut me some slack.
Well, when my stepmom heard about my outfit choice, she freaked out and told me it “wasn’t appropriate” and I couldn’t wear it. I told her it wasn’t a big deal, but she forced me to try on around 20 outfits of hers (which don’t fit me) as alternatives before I found something she approved for me to wear. But of course I didn’t have shoes for this ridiculousness so my dad and I had to go out and BUY some, which I have no desire to wear again, and I made him pay for because I was on the verge of tears.
I may very well have overreacted to this (because in the end I looked nice), but I think it was the way she said to me, “is that what you’re wearing? No way, I don’t approve.” Hi, I’m 29 years old, I may not have the best fashion sense, but back off! I was forced to dress up like I was going out to a formal event in Chicago, in an ugly coat I had to borrow, and strappy heels in the rain.
In the end, I went to “dead inside” mode and let them dress me up like a life-size doll and I was one of the most overdressed person at this wedding. But the crappy house wine helped make it better. And my HUGE J-Lo-like hair was pretty bad ass.
Here is a picture of my hair and part of the dress I wore that night. I won’t lie. I looked pretty good, but I still think it was a lot of unnecessary fuss.

28 December 2008

Key learnings and holiday recap

By: Jessica B.

Woo! I’m back from a few days off! I hope everyone had a great holiday and that Santa was extra good to each of you. 

I’ll get to the holiday recap shortly, but let’s bask in some key learnings!
Key Learnings:
  • Baked Cheetos are insanely addictive. Bags on them can disappear easily
  • It’s okay to eat a plateful of fudge for breakfast, lunch and part of dinner
  • Hiding in your bedroom at home is totally acceptable to get some alone time
  • Parents need to share the television because I can only handle so much Fox News and CNBC
  • Even though you have a designated room at home, you have absolutely zero privacy. Parents will still come in your room, with or without permission
  • Reading the same book at Border’s over the course of two days is fun, and cost-effective
  • Homemade cinnamon buns are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, way better than store-bought
  • Hiding disappointment at Christmas gifts is tougher to do as you get older
  • Text messages from friends on Christmas can totally make your day
  • After a tough day at home, nothing says “tomorrow will be better” like beer…or scotch
  • At Wisconsin weddings, Packer gear, scrunchies, bad faux fur and open-toed shoes with nylons are common sights
  • Despite multiple outfit/accessory options, it’s okay to stop showering daily and wearing full make up while home for the holidays, no one judges
Holiday recap and gift FAIL

Overall, my holidays were good, although the crazy weather did throw a wrench into a few things. But everyone got along, there was no crying (at least on Christmas Day) and everyone was in good spirits. Even when we’re strung out on stress and no sleep, all of my Christmas celebrations had laughs, which makes everything all good.
And, I don’t want to sound bitchy, but Santa came to visit me this year and honestly, it was a partial FAIL. I love buying gifts for people and picking out perfect items for everyone on my list. I take great pride in this, but I know not everyone does that. For example, dad and I went to Crate & Barrel to pick out wine glasses and champagne flutes for my apartment and Christmas morning, I eagerly anticipated opening up my gifts to find them. 
Turns out, I didn’t get the glasses I picked out because he thought I would like other ones better…that look nothing like the ones I picked out. I didn’t like the new glasses and now have to go through the hassle of returns, while my dad takes this personally. It’s not personal, I tell him, but he doesn’t seem to feel that way. Sometimes, maintaining the element of surprise as an adult is very tough.
Now I have a total of four gifts to go back, with replacement items (from my list) already purchased. It’s just so much work and frustration. But it’s okay.
Despite a few bad apples, I did get my new kitchen knife set and back-up hard drive for Lulu, so it wasn’t all bad :) And dad did surprise me with a Longchamp Le Pliage nylon tote. I have one in blue and use it all the time in summer. It’s a perfect size and is perfect for the rain because it dries easily. Yay!
And based on the other gifts I got, including a nifty decanter and bar set from friends, it appears as though I need to drink more. Ironically, I also received three bottles of champagne, so, I guess I can start working at meeting this goal. 
What about everyone else? Was Santa good to you too? What was your favorite gift this year?

When I left Chicago, we had several inches of snow, but it wasn’t too awful. However, Wisconsin was NAILED with snow, at least 10 inches, and it basically shut the city down. This meant I lived in my wellies for the first few days home because we had so much snow every day. The snow even caused my mom to reschedule our Christmas Eve activities until Christmas Day. Roads were awful and it was ungodly slippery, but I was spared from shoveling duty so I can’t complain too much. 
Here are some snow pictures from outside our house pre-Christmas. Overnight Friday, we lost five inches of snow from the mild temps. Crazy global warming.

22 December 2008

How I fail to look fully cute or ladylike in winter

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, Fashion

I don’t consider myself to be a vain person, but I like to look nice when I leave the house (unless it’s Sunday, when showering is putting forth enough effort for the day.)

Looking cute in summer is easy, but winter provides a few more challenges, thanks to the cold and snow. In Wisconsin, I drive everywhere, so looking cute is easier because I don’t have to worry about public transport or much foot travel. When I moved to Chicago, someone told me, “in winter, you sacrifice how you look to stay warm.”
This was a foreign concept to me, so I ignored her, and boy did I pay for it. Now when I buy coats or boots, I always ask myself if they will survive a Chicago winter. If not, I don’t get them. My stepmom is routinely horrified by the “unfashionable” items I purchase because they’re “durable.” My usual response is, “they may not look that cute, but they will keep me warm.”
But in the essence of staying warm over fashionable or ladylike, I started thinking about the fashion/etiquette faux pas’ I commit regularly in winter and I decided to make a list:
  • Pant leg tucking – I don’t want to ruin my pant/jeans legs with the snow/salt, so I tuck them into my boots and, gasp, the pant’s aren’t skinny leg, so I have a mild Pied Piper look going
  • Public nose wipe – I get a runny nose easily and I don’t always have the time/ability to reach for a tissue (especially on the bus), so I just use my hand, sometimes more than once to wipe away snot. Yes, I know, it’s gross. It also looks like my hand is feeling up my face
  • Scarf flap – I actually saw in a fashion magazine in a “tips about wearing a scarf” article that having the tails peek out from the bottom of your coat is a big no, no. Too bad I don’t care and routinely look like I have a crotch flap 
  • Pick a color – I am a routine offender of not having a matching hat, scarf and gloves. If I’m lucky, the hat and scarf match, but not always. I hate being that matchy-matchy and sometimes, I grab for whatever accessories are closest to me, thus resulting in a color-blind-like palette of color when I go out
So that’s my list. I feel cleansed now that I’ve said it out loud. And anyone that judges is free to come visit Chicago, especially when we get pummeled by snow and see how you feel. Several ladies learned last week that Uggs are not appropriate snow attire (but I still love them!)
Does anyone else have similar winter fashion shames? 
Well the holidays are almost upon us, so I will be taking a few days off to be with family and try to hone my cooking skills (pictures forthcoming!)
Although I’ll be away from the blog, I will be tweeting my way through the next few days, which will be full of FAILs, inappropriate comments and forced family bonding. So if you don’t already, follow me on Twitter for the full adventure.
I hope everyone has a happy holiday and I will be back shortly. I will definitely want to hear what Santa brought everyone!

21 December 2008

Key Learnings, holiday countdown and cupcakes

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: family, Wisconsin

Woo! It’s the week of Christmas. I literally cannot believe it. And now that I’m back in Wisconsin for the holidays, it’s time for quality family togetherness, with a healthy amount of “Jess-only field trips.”

So let’s bask in some key learnings, join me!
Key Learnings:
  • When you’re with family, always say “yes” when asked if you want another drink (unless you’re driving)
  • When you’re around the most obnoxious woman you’ve ever met, it’s okay to fantasize about punching her in the face to shut her up
  • A woman who is missing her front six teeth should not stick her tongue out at your adorable Coach wellies (they are adorable)
  • It’s okay to tell an elderly woman that you can’t walk her across the street because you’re trying to hail a cab
  • Snow is beautiful, unless you have to drive in it or shovel/snowblow it from your house
  • Christmas shopping is fun, unless you go out in -40 degree wind chills, then you’re just praying it will be over with soon
  • Scrunchies are still popular in parts of the Midwest, *cough* my hometown *cough*
  • Even as an adult, parents can still make you do sweat shop-style labor
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to change into pajamas at 6 p.m.
  • Cheetos and Pepsi are not an nutritional lunch, but it is tasty (even if they are Baked Cheetos)
  • Waiting two hours for an hour-and-a-half train ride s-u-c-k-s, but it’s okay to find comfort in food, specifically a taco salad, and devour the entire thing like an animal
  • JCrew argyle socks are awesome, especially when its marked down from $9.50 to $3.99
So I am currently back in Wisconsin for the holidays, residing as co-queen of the castle in my parent’s house. And I hate to jinx it, but so far things have been going pretty well. I survived my early Christmas with one side of the family, but not without some family drama first. Apparently women in my family are magnets for a) trouble and b) drama.
Today, I also finished 99.9 percent of my Christmas shopping, although it was done in sub-zero wind chill temperatures. Tears actually froze to my face when I went in to buy my stepmom’s gift. But the shopping is done, so I feel like I can now focus my energy on creatively wrapping everything…sometime. 
I even rewarded myself for going out in the cold temperatures by going to the local Public Market to get a cupcake, but not just any cupcake, a chocolate temptation cupcake that was ranked by our local magazine as the best in the city. I cannot wait to top off my Cheetos and Pepsi lunch with this as part of a healthier dinner. NUM.
Forgive the presentation, the cupcake had an accident in the container en route home
Also, thank you to everyone for their kind blog birthday wishes. I greatly appreciate it and they made my snowy Friday!
How was everyone else’s weekend? Am I one of the few still working on buying Christmas gifts now that we’re in the final stretch?