Pumpkin guts and glory

Seeing as it’s the last week of October, it’s only fitting that I finally took matters into my own hands and motivated me and the boyfriend to carve our two pumpkins that we picked up from the local orchard.

It is astounding how the smell of pumpkin innards can take one back to childhood and it still has that ucky smell. It’s as if the pumpkin wants you to regret carving it. “Here, take this smell.” I kept one hand clean enough to take some photos from start to finish. For the record, the smaller, less well carved pumpkin is mine. The larger, more precise pumpkin is Kevin’s. His culinary skills came in handy when it came time to delicately carve a squash into a scary figure. Who woulda thunk?

(Click on each photo for enlarged version.)

Ready, set, carve!

No holidays exist without Charlie Brown.

Guts!

Kevin meticulously cuts his stencil.

He showed off his cutting skills. Mine was a lame circle.

Salvaging the seeds for roasting.

Cute little pumpkin face with buck teeth.

Kevin's final carved pumpkin. Spooky.

The last of the guts.

We immediately put candles inside. Aww!
Scary, right?

We’re gonna have such cute greeters for the trick-or-treaters!

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Card Freak

Some of you may recall that in my post about being obsessed with pens that I also collect greeting and stationery cards. I have umpteen boxes in my desk drawer and I have to stop myself from buying them all the time. The vast amount of cards worthy of purchasing staggers the mind. Well, at least mine. Just recently, I purchased a new set of holiday cards. I wanted to get a jump on buying them before I had to wade through the bins marked 50% off because it’s one week to Christmas. Having made my satisfactory purchase, that makes at least six different kinds that I now possess – possibly more. A girl needs variety.

Anyhow. Aside from card hunting and swapping with my best friend, I also Google Image search a lot. You never know where inspiration will strike. I happened across the cutest, most creative “I’m sorry” cards that I’ve ever seen. I’m posting the photo below but you can also click the link above. (Edit: this post was written prior to Pinterest, where you can be sure that somewhere, the below image exists.)

For those of you who may not be computer savvy in terms of shortcuts, Ctrl Z is a keyboard shortcut for “Undo.” The sweet little “i’m sorry” in lowercase just makes it all the more adorable. I believe on the seller’s site you can order the cards individually. It almost seems silly to pay for shipping for one card when a first-class stamp costs $.44 but in this case, it’d be worth it. I can’t make any promises I won’t order one or more of these.

Renewed: Passion for Potato Pancakes

This morning we needed to get out of the house because we were putting spider bombs in the basement and needed to grab the dog and go somewhere for a bit. (Our basement is seriously nasty and one of the creepiest I’ve ever been in.)

Since it was also a fine time to go get breakfast, we headed over to The Original Pancake House; but not after stopping in at the Great Harvest Bread Company and picking up some cheesy jalapeno bread, a Turtle Cookie, and some pumpkin loaf with chocolate chips in it. Clearly we’re fattening up — more — for the winter, months down the line.

Fast forward to our food arriving at The Original Pancake House, a place which prides itself on the quality of the food it serves. Before our food arrived, I was already impressed with the fact that they brewed their own coffee and served me a small cream pitcher filled with…cream. I don’t know about you but perfect coffee with your breakfast is kind of like what vanilla does to sugar cookies: you would only appreciate it in its absence. And it’s that important.

I decided to order Eggs Michael, a dish consisting of two poached eggs on top of some sausage and English muffins, topped with a mushroom sherry sauce and served with three potato pancakes, which come with sides of sour cream and apple sauce. Does that not sound amazing?

Long story short, the potato pancakes were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve dined in some mighty fine restaurants. The best bite was a mixture of the poached egg, potato pancake, a little sour cream, and some English muffin. The sausage wasn’t bad at all but I became so fixated on the potato pancakes and eggs that I didn’t rememberto eat everything. The mushroom sherry sauce actually tasted like sherry, even though it had a more gravy look to it. (I’m not a fan of gravy and being picky about it, I think that says something about my willingness to eat it.)

I’m posting some photos of our meal, in case you need incentive to visit the Champaign-Urbana area and try this place out for yourself. (Click on each to see an enlarged view.) We split a plain waffle because the place is famous for its waffles and pancakes (and they have a huge variety) and it was absolutely delicious. You can tell these people take pride in what they serve to their customers. It was a bon repas, indeed.

Eggs Michael

Perfect Potato Pancakes

Lethal deliciousness

My Very Personal Relationship with HGTV

 

Love this dude.

 

I don’t know how it happened but in the last year, I have become absolutely obsessed with the HGTV channel. It first started when my boyfriend and I happened upon a Holmes on Homes marathon. “What’s this?” we asked ourselves. “A show with a charismatic handyman who knows everything there is to know about building and repairing a home?” Fascinated, we watched episode after episode until we knew all the crew’s names by heart (big shoutout to Damon, Pinky and Craig Lowe) and had to stop DVRing the repeats because we’d seen every single one. Twice. Mike Holmes is definitely a house hero to both Canada and the United States, and we applaud him for his heart and dedication to his craft. (Mike, if you’re reading this, we’ve also devoured Holmes Inspection and All American Handyman. We’re paying attention.)

That having been said, the next show we caught on to was House Hunters. (Click on that link if you’d like to read a spoiler on how the show really operates.) What’s absolutely wonderful about this show is that while it seems innocuous enough on the outside, and there’s always a happy ending (because the House Hunter always ends up with a house), there are some Extreme Characters on this show. Let’s dissect, shall we?

First we have the mystery host voiceover, Suzanne Whang, who only makes an appearance one out of every ten episodes. Having done the show for a decade and left, the network reruns her episodes from time to time and got a woman with a soundalike voice to do all the narrating. Old school fans may miss Suzanne but I prefer the voiceover-only episodes.

But the real kudos goes to the producers who find people from all walks of life looking for homes in every budget imaginable. I’ve seen $70,000 (laughable and yet the woman got an awesome deal – because she lives in Detroit) up to two million dollar budgets. Plus it is astounding to see which parts of the country one can get a lot of house for one’s money. Florida, Georgia, California, Chicago, the Pacific Northwest and Texas top the list of where people look for homes. Nonetheless the show does a good job of spicing things up with variety (if not places, definitely the people).

House hunting must bring out the fanatic in everyone because shitty or not, each home is put under the magnifying glass and its flaws (whether real or imagined) are put on display and articulated by the picky clients. The most frequently desired items or rooms in a house are:

  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Granite Hardwood floors
  • A man cave
  • Master suite with walk-in closet(s) and bathroom almost as big as the bedroom
  • “Room for entertaining”

The last requirement is what cracks me and my boyfriend up the most. Every single person on the show desires space for entertaining and/or is worried about where to put guests. I’m not saying I don’t want a guest bedroom, because I do. But the incessant worry about whether they’ll be able to host a dozen dinner parties a year is quite amusing. It’s obvious that almost everyone overestimates how much they have friends over.

The reactions are a bit monotonous. I vow that if I am ever on this show to not walk into every single room of all the featured homes and say, “Oh wow this is a nice space.” Or, “Wow, look at this natural light, this is very nice.” My sympathies go out to the editors who have to creatively chop the reaction sound bytes.

Client divas come in both man and woman form. The woman will either be picky with a huge set of demands and a critical, annoying, nagging, and/or valley girl voice, or the man will be incredibly picky and annoying, barking at his significant other if there is one. The other Character on the show is the real estate agent. Sometimes I feel badly for the ones who are friends with the client, because they find themselves in a situation where they have to put on the agent hat instead of agreeing that one room or house or feature or another is a piece of shit.

Example: House Hunters happens to be on my TV at the moment, and the man is the biggest straight diva we’ve seen yet. Verging on verbal abuse with his wife, the show lightened the mood by playing comical Barney-like music as he goes from room to room in gorgeous, $800,000 dollar homes in California and bitches up a storm about “worms in the bottom of the pool,” the bedroom paint color (because paint is permanent!), and there being a wall mount for a flat panel TV in the living room. “Have you seen my TV?” he sneers to his agent and friend. “I don’t want it mounted, it sits on its pedestal with the glass.” Wow, calm down. His poor wife takes it with a smile and tries to placate him as he inevitably finds regular stuff to complain about in the house. Thank God she has her freakout moment at him in the third house when he complains about the house having a detached garage (it has a carport!) and the fact that the two closets in the master bedroom are not walk-ins but are still huge. Yet almost nothing tops the episode in which a client was critical of the fact that the color granite in the kitchen might be a dealbreaker. This couple has literally seen over one hundred houses and their agent is still friends with them. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for not throttling this dude.

However, sometimes you get one of those agents who never knows when to stop running her/his mouth and you end up hearing what the agent loves about the house and not so much the opinions of the client. Also, the replies to obvious cons on a house are hysterical. Bars on the window? “Nice security feature.” Sinkhole in the backyard? “That’s one of the compromises you have to make when you want to live within fifty miles of the lake.” And on and on.

One bizarre aspect is that most of the time when a couple has a very specific desire, they end up choosing the property that does not have it at all. One episode featured a couple who absolutely demanded they have a large dining room to accommodate their very large and fancy dining table set, and in the end they chose the house that had a dining area adjacent to the kitchen that was rather small. What did they do? Put their dining room set in storage. For….30 years?

This show is formulaic and the graphics and sound effects are sweet and predictable. Throw in eccentric clients and you have magic. I will be a forever fan; at least until I’ve watched every episode. Twice.