Thursday, May 10, 2012

mini pies and superheroes

Not too many stories from this Wednesday. Still waiting on some for their bios, which was technically our first assignment (. . .)

Anthony came bearing ingredients to make mini key-lime pies, ate the chicken noodle soup I had made from scratch for him and his ailing tummy, and he whipped the desserts up quickly and stuck ’em in the basement fridge to set. Shannon showed up and we talked about the benefits of gluten-free and pondered whether it really does affect people’s weight. (I suppose we’ll find out, as I’m supposed to look through a book one losing wheat to lose weight.)

After considering every quick restaurant in the vicinity of Sweet Tomatoes (Pinched, Jimmy John’s), we settled on Potbelly, where Charlie’s enthusiastic and loquacious coworker/underling at their location in Elmhurst chatted us up about the Green Street Potbelly at U of I.

I ordered the vegetarian for the first time ever, and Anthony the Italian (surprise!). We ended up swapping halves. :P

I avoided the amazing looking cookie at the register, only to see it stare me in the face at the table — alas, Shannon had purchased one. The three of us exchanged work woes, and soon thereafter, Charlie showed up.

And then it was time for . . .

And I was very, very happy with both the “Legolas” line and the Incredible Hulk. My favorite. :D And not just because I love Mark Ruffalo.

It was then time to reconvene at home to enjoy delicious mini key-lime pies! Nom.

(outing) cinco de mayo fun

Last Wednesday, 2 May, was rain-checked until Saturday so we could celebrate Cinco de Mayo together. The group finally got vague plans settled by the early-ish (eh . . .) evening on Saturday, but the fates had slightly different ideas in mind.

“Let’s go to Uncle Julio’s,” said Anthony. “It’s close and I liked the food when we went [another] time.”

“I’ll call and see if we’re allowed to make reservations,” I said. I did, and got a busy signal. That was a great sign.

“Thanks for calling Uncle Julio’s Hh-acienda,” said the hostess once I finally got through. “How can I help you?”

(I hate “Hh-acienda”! It’s hacienda . . . like horchata . . . and hola . . .)


Time to try calling the other folks. Other choices? Fat Rosie’s, Casa Margarita, Cozymel’s.

Well, Fat Rosie’s was closed. As in, forever. (Because why would you discontinue your phone number in time for Cinco de Mayo?)

Casa Margarita had a wait time of only ten minutes, and Cozymel with a half hour.

Since Charlie was the one who had suggested all of the above, I consulted him for a preference. “Cozy. The food’s better and it’s closer.”

Cozymel’s it was. (But when I called back, they refused to let us put down our name.) I canceled our name from Uncle Julio’s, and since Anthony and I still had a random guinea pig errand to run, we arranged for whoever (of us and Charlie) arrived first to hold the table for the rest of us: Sarah and Ezra were still in the city finishing up another philosophy assignment before they could join us, and there had been no word from Tony.

After the phone debacle, I returned to the family room to find Anthony sitting on the hardwood floor with Ernie on his lap. (Ernie is one of our guineas, in case you got the wrong idea.)
Ernie booboo!

“Do you want to go to Hobby Lobby?” I asked Ernie, and put him in his little travel pouch.

Off we went, and we returned with two yards of green fleece for the boys’ “waste pads” (which we have yet to make, of course), and a pooped out guinea who had not enjoyed the heat inside his fleece-lined pouch.

Anthony changed into party-time attire, and we took off for Cozymel — when Charlie announced both that his girlfriend Sam was meeting us later and that he was getting “Ritas” delivered to him while he waited.

. . . Ritas? It being a text, I didn’t know if he meant Rita’s, as in food from a bar he loathes (but Sam loves), or what.

He meant margaritas.

Upon arrival, we spotted Charlie through the window and Anthony flashed him his nipples.

The place was packed. I tried to order a virgin piƱa colada (to Charlie’s dismay), but he peer pressured me into getting it with some Malibu (seriously, regular rum ruins the cocktail for me), and Anthony got a Mexican beer (Dos Equis?).

We heartily enjoyed tortilla chips and medium salsa before Cha-lie ordered a guac “a tu mesa,” which a waiter threw together with some amazing fresh ingredients (serrano pepper, tomato, red onion, an orange, limes, astonishingly perfect avocado slices). Nom nom nom.
Totally want more.
Sarah and Ezra arrived at long last, which meant it was time for Sarah to create a blended masterpiece out of the blue and yellow crayons she got from the host.
Impressive for having only two colors, innit?
Well, actually, we managed to steal a few shades of brown for her later ;)

And it was also time for me to order burritos! Charlie and Sam ordered some grub, as well, and more noms were had by all.

Anthony and I took turns with each other’s mojitos (mine mango, his raspberry).
mango mojito

Apparently both Charlie and Sam were popular enough to get invites to different parties, so after the restaurant, Sarah, Ezra, Anthony, and I headed back to mine (with Tony finally on the way).

. . . and we discovered yet another amazing mystery show on Netflix kudos to Sarah:

I’ve been bugging Anthony ever since to watch the second episode with me.

Oh, and we got to introduce everyone to our new African dwarf frogs, Bilbo and Frodo!

(photo to come)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

(dinner party) charlie's postbirthday

Pitched this blog project to the rest of the group last night during our April dinner party (huge turnout with nine people!). Got an enthusiastic response, although Sarah of course strongly voiced her opinion that we should rename it “Wednesday Ink Tank,” even if that would limit our art media to mostly writing. Which it probably will be . . . but what about photography? Cooking? Sketching? (Don’t know about you all, but I sketch exclusively in pencil.)

The “assignment” for this week is to get photos and little mini-blurbs about everyone so I can complete the members page, which at the moment is very incomplete. I’d like to instill a consistent voice for the most organized sections of the blog — i.e., the parts that aren’t meant to be super-eclectic because they give the whole project some structure.

Anyhoo, I have yet to get the recipes from everyone’s dinner contributions, but as it was a belated birthday celebration for Charlie, I can at least share the recipe for our very makeshift, yet adorable, lemon cake that we piled into a bucket from his birthday night out at Howl at the Moon:
Cutest, and tallest, lemon cake ever.
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup whole milk, divided
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
Lemon Cream Icing
2 cups chilled heavy cream
½ cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter and flour cake pan to prevent sticking. Recommended: use a pan with removable circle, which makes taking the cake out a lot easier (at least, this is my opinion).
Sift the self-rising flour and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat unsalted butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating each egg until incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Gently beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, one third at a time, alternating with half the milk and half the lemon juice after each of the first 2 additions of flour. Beat until just combined; do not overmix. (I accidentally put in all three thirds of the flour mixture and then realized the milk and lemon juice needed to be added — don’t know if this aversely affected the outcome of the cake, though.)

Fill the prepared cake pan with batter, and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40+ minutes (in our experience). Let the cupcakes cool in the pans before removing them to finish cooling on a rack.

To make the icing, beat the cream in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer set on low until the cream begins to thicken. Add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, a little at a time, beating after each addition, until fully incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to high, and beat until the icing forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Spread on the cake, which we de-crusted and divvied into thirds.

I yoinked this recipe from, which is originally for cupcakes, but I just made a giant cake in an 8" pan. Yuko definitely contributed dexterity and innovation with her idea to cube the crusts in order to create a “nest” for the three-layer cake that I decorated with organic strawberries on top.

Note: the recipe is altered slightly to conform to what took place on Wednesday.

We had some issues with the number candles, which we discovered don’t live past three uses. In the end, the cake was moist, crumbly, and tasty, if I do say so myself.
birthday boy Charlie . . .
with a failed candle.
"How do you cut this?"
 As for the earlier parts of dinner, Charlie had been so kind as to provide crackers, smoked cheddar, and Mediterranean hummus from Trader Joe’s that was scrumptious as an appetizer (which I pigged out on and subsequently prevented eating much of the rest, unfortunately). He also brought seasoned chips, which turned out to be rather prophetically romantic:
How sweet!
 Anthony prepared “brandade,” a French concoction, apparently, of fish and bread, and Shannon put together a savory salmon dish. Yuko brought a side of vegetables, and Sarah tossed together a beautiful salad with homemade dressing. Yum!

If only I’d had the room for it all . . . sigh.

Stay tuned for recipes from the rest!

In the meantime, I am happy to announce that a certain old friend and member of the group is now back in Chicago!

Scotty's back!

Good times. Haha.
It will be a treat to have him back with us, if we can ever get him out of Evanston, that is.

Update to come with the remaining dinner party recipes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(anecdote) some things borrowed + something new

Just say no! The power of the veto.

I set out to create this blog today, because if it didn’t happen when the idea was new — and as soon as possible after that, for that matter — it was never going to happen.

Today’s turnout was meager at best; Sarah and Stephanie showed up mid-evening bearing a pound of seasoned, crispy chicken on a bed of French fries from Pappadeaux — sorry, Debbie (the personal trainer). I thought, as moderator and organizer of most things pertaining to the group, that I would ask them if they’d be interested in the collective art project that Anthony and I had thrown around vaguely over the weekend. Sarah was immediately onboard, and Stephanie was a little hesitant, only because we haven’t yet completely clarified fundamental things like its structure or what media we can support on this forum. So I told them I wanted to set up the blog today so we’d have something solid to present to the others next week.

“What should we call it?” I asked, and chaos ensued.

Over the course of two hours, we had compiled a list ranging from the generic to the ultra-specific, no-one-would-get-it-but-us, and the oh-so-ridiculous. It wasn’t to say that we had nothing — no, we had a whole lot of something, but a panel of three makes for a resounding crowd of vetoes, it turns out.

We knew we wanted the Wednesday group theme to be apparent, as well as it being a project, or a collective, on art, and after an hour, I decided it was time to settle upon something.

“The more I think about it, the more I like ‘Eat, Play, Love,’ ” I offered. “Because we always eat together, we play board games, and in theory, we love each other.”

“. . . But it’s such a rip-off,” said Sarah. “Our blog is called ‘Eat, Play, Love.’ Original.”

“How about ‘Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Wednesdays’?” quipped Stephanie, who immediately set Sarah into uproarious laughter.

As great as that title was, and as simple as “The Wednesday Group” was, “The Beginning of Something Great” was just too long, and my personal 1984-inspired favorite “Groupthink | Artfeed” was too “robotic” (??) for them, so we considered our options:

Wednesday Thread. Wednesday Feed. Wednesdays for Sale. Humpday Rejects. Heyday Collective. Wednesday Collective. Wednesday Stir-Fry. Just Add Sugar. Groupthink | Artfeed. Project Wednesday. The Real Wednesdays of Oak Brook. Gallery237. Board games + M&Ms. Eat Play Love. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Wednesdays. Just Add Art. Just Add Wednesday. Creative Wednesdays. Finding Wednesday. Frienditions. Thanks, Merc, It's Been A Real Slice. Butterscotch Wednesdays. Wednesday Artfeed. The Wednesday Arts. Wednesday Arts Section. Artspeak over Dinner. Wednesday Irrelevance. It Began Over Dinner. Once Upon a Wednesday. Wednesday Wind-up/Wind-up Wednesdays. Wednesday Rendezvous. The Beginning of Something Great. Starting Wednesday. Photographists & Astronophers. Learn, Love, & Eat Cake

. . . and because Sarah and I were forever at odds, Stephanie broke the tie at “Wednesday Arts Section.”

And here we are. I dare to hope that this is the beginning of something great. . . .