VoxBox Review: Kiss Nail Dress

Aaaaand we’re back! I could make up some lame excuses about why I haven’t posted in forever, but who wants to read that? Basically, I wasn’t inspired…and no one wants to read a lame post about nothing? Not me (which is why I refused to write one)

Anyways, I developed a borderline obsession with nail polish (thanks, Pinterest!) over the past few months, and while browsing polish ideas, I stumbled across Influenster. Basically, you sign up with Influenster, and earn badges (yes, kinda like the ones you earned in Girl Scouts) based on your lifestyle. The brainiacs over at Influenster segment participants into groups, and if you qualify, they send you a box of free swag!

And if there’s one thing I love, it’s free stuff! Here’s what I scored in the LoveVoxBox, sent out in February:

First up on my to-try list were the Kiss Nail Dress. About a week and a half ago, my 10 week old German Shepard broke his leg. Since he required so much attention, I had ZERO time to paint my nails. There are very few things that I am super “girly” about, and my nails are probably on the top of that list. If I don’t have polish on them, they break like crazy. Why? Who knows…but polish seems to strengthen the nails and prevent breakage, so I try to keep some sort of polish on all the time.

The problem? My nails take forever to dry. I’ve started painting my nails at 7pm, gone to bed around midnight, and still woken up with little hair tracks in my nails. My mom’s the same way, so apparently I’ve got some sort of freaky mutant nails. My polish also pops off  my nails. Sometimes in one whole piece; I almost never use polish remover. So, I was wicked excited to see these nail stickers in my VoxBox.

Kiss Nail Dress (Fashion That Sticks!) retail at around $6.99 and are available at major drugstores (CVS, Walgreens) and other retailers like Walmart and Target. Unlike normal polish, you don’t have to apply several coats and you don’t have to wait for them to dry. You just peel off the right size sticker, apply it to your nail, fold over, and file off. I was a little skeptical at first, but the stickers looked great  on my nails…most people thought they were real polish with nail art done at a salon:

Pros:

  • Literally zero drying time. I put them on about 5 minutes before jumping in bed.
  • They are gorgeous and fun. I love nail art, but I am an abysmal artist. If it involves more than polka dots, you can bet I am not drawing it on a nail.
  • It’s polish and top coat in one. The stickers are already super shiny, so there’s no need to wear a top coat to get the “yeah, I paid a bunch of money at a salon” look
  • At $6.99, they are cheaper than a bottle of most “classy” polish brands (OPI, Orly, Essie) and about the same price as most Sally Hansen polishes.
  • Easy, easy, easy to apply (once you get over the learning curve)
  • Removing them was just as easy, just pull the sticker off. If there’s any glue residue, you can rub it off or pull out the polish remover…I had no problems just rubbing off the glue
Cons:
  • When you first take them out of the box, you get hit with a strong whiff of polish. It was overwhelming at first, but luckily dissipated  quickly.
  • The stickers can be hard to line up on the nail,  but luckily they don’t adhere until you press down and smooth them out.
  • I had a lot of trouble finding stickers to fit my nails; I have small fingernails and there were only 2 of each size. I had to cut a few larger sticker to fit correctly.
  • The folding and filing can be a pain, and it takes some getting used to. I “ripped’ the edge of my first few nails while filing the excess off. My nails are pretty short (they barely extend above the finger pad) so this could be easier with long nails.
  • About two days after application, one of my stickers started peeling up. I ended up pulling them all off about 5 days later (the stickers can last up to 10 days). Again, polish doesn’t stick to my nails well, so keep that in mind.
  • The tips of the nails started to wear off about 3 days in. This happens with my normal polish, and I was hoping that the Kiss Nail Dress stickers might be a solution to that. Sadly, they were not:

While cheetah print nails really aren’t my style, I got a ton of compliments about my nails. Even the woman at my salon complimented me on them! I put these babies on the night before my friend’s birthday dinner, figuring it was a special enough occasion to test them out on, and we spent about five minutes talking about my nails. Not even joking!

Bonus: these work on toes as well, and I have some of the larger sticker sizes left over. With the unseasonably warm weather, I need some polish on my toenails, and now have an easy way to make my feet look fab.

At $6.99, I definitely want to pick up some of the other style available (they have 18 different varieties) but haven’t seen them at my local CVS. I have a few weddings coming up this summer and fall that these would be absolutely perfect for, so I really hope a store in my area starts to carry the brand. (Plus, I am kinda, sorta, completely with the MINI style—a pretty lace overlay patterned sticker).

Have you tried nail stickers? What do you think?

Roasted Corn with Basil-Shallot Vinaigrette

Doesn’t that picture look ridiculously delicious??? Corn has always been my favorite veggie, especially fresh, in-season, slathered in butter and salt yummy corn on the cob. Unfortunately, corn doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value, and as I got older I realized that slathering it in butter and salt probably doesn’t help much either. I also really like trying out new flavor profiles on old favorites, and this recipe fit that bill as well. I promise, it’s insanely easy….the hardest part is cutting the corn kernels off the ear.

Roasted Corn with Basil-Shallot Vinaigrette

Adapted from Eating Well

  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 decent sized ears of corn)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I added this in to the original recipe)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

While your oven is pre-heating, cut your corn off the cob. Make sure you get as much of the silk off the corn as possible before you cut! Shucking corn is probably my least favorite thing about corn, but the better you shuck, the less stringy stuff you’ll have between your teeth.

Some tips for cutting corn-off-the cob: don’t use a chef’s knife. Use a knife with a thinner blade that has a little bit of flexibility to it (I used a utility knife) . If you use a chef’s knife the corn with just get stuck on the wide blade and causes problems. Always sharpen your knives before cutting off corn (if you can). Don’t cut too close to the ear; you’ll cut the hard, almost plastic-y part of the corn kernel (they aren’t fun to eat). You will make a mess and corn will go flying off in different directions. If you’re really worried about this, use a big bowl with high sides and a flat-ish bottom. Put the ear of corn in the bowl, angle it slightly so the cut corn will fall into the bowl, and then cut down the ear using a gentle, sawing motion. That’s the hard part, I promise.

Toss the corn with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat it thoroughly, then spread it out on a large baking sheet. If you have a sheet with raised edges, I recommend using it, as you are going to have to shuffle and turn the corn once during cooking.

Pop the corn in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Half-way through cooking, stir the kernels once to prevent burning. You want to keep the corn in the oven until it starts to get slightly browned.

Next up is the vinaigrette dressing, featuring basil and shallot. If you’ve never had shallot before, try it! It’s a small, purplish onion that has a little bit of garlicky flavor and is really fantastic when it’s caramelized. Cup up about one tablespoon of your shallot.

Place the minced shallot in a medium bowl and pour the tablespoon of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper over the shallot. I also added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the mix to cu the vinegar slightly. Let the shallot marinate (or pickle, same difference) in the vinaigrette while the corn continues to cook:

Chop up your basil. The recipe calls for about 1/4 of  a cup, but I just eye-balled it. The size of the basil pieces is up to you, but I’d keep them semi-proportional to the corn kernels and shallot pieces.

Add the basil to the vinaigrette mixture about two or three minutes before you pull the corn out of the oven. If you add it too early, the vinegar will make the basil soft and wilty.

Take the corn out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. The corn should be just beginning to brown when you pull it out of the oven.

Add the corn to the vinaigrette mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve hot or cold. Left overs will keep up to a day or so if covered in the fridge.

Football & Free Chicken!?

Honestly, the one major sport I don’t care about is football. If there’s a lockout next season, it doesn’t really make a difference to me either way.

One thing I do love? Chicken. Especially if it’s free chicken! Buffalo Wild Wings is currently running a promotion called “Save Our Season Petition“.The deal is, each person who “likes” the petition on Facebook “signs” the petition, which is supposedly sent to the NFL in support of ending the lockout. If the labor dispute is resolved by July 20 (the day players are supposed to report to training camp), you get a coupon for 6 free wings!

The deal makes sense because BWW does  a lot of business around major sporting events. With huge televisions broadcasting several games at once, guy friendly food, and drink specials on game nights, losing football=losing a lot of money. Like most restaurants and businesses around the US who depend on income from football fans, I’m sure they are watching this one closely.

So get clicking on the link above and get some free wings!!!

Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Parade!

Saturday is my favorite day of the week. Why? Because on Saturday I get to do one of my favorite things in the world: sleep in until 10 or 11 am, get an iced coffee, and lounge in bed watching The Baseball Show on CSN.  But not this Saturday. This Saturday I set my alarm clock for 6:15am on a Saturday. What could possibly make me get out of bed that early? The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Fricken Cup for the first time in 39 years!

Because I was planning on driving into Boston from Western MA for the parade, I had to get up early (but not as early as the BF who woke up at 3am and drove up from Long Island).  Did I mention that I hate waking up early?

Normally, I’d park my car at Riverside Station and take the T into the city, but traffic for the station was backed up off the highway. At 8:50 in the morning. And most car occupants were adorned in black and gold. The not-quite-as-sleepy-or-grouchy Chris made the executive decision to park in Brookline, where my old college roommate lives. After a quick pit stop (due to my impatience)  to visit, we grabbed a green line train into the city. A train almost entirely filled with Bruins fans. With more Bruins fans attempting to get on the train at each stop. And even more bruins fans in cars and buses along the route. It seriously was insane.

My original plan was to take the T into Copley Square and walk along the route to find a spot. I didn’t realize Copley station would be closed to all trains on the day of the parade. It made sense but still threw off my game plan. Though I’d love to say I know Boston like the back of my hand, I don’t. Chris and I decided to just follow the Bruins fans and we’d find our way (hey, it worked when we got lost trying to get from the Pru to Fenway Park!).  When we stumbled upon barricades and a decent crowd of people gathered in front of the Prudential Center, we stopped and grabbed a spot right against the barricade. We didn’t realize until later that we were actually sitting past Copley Square, where the parade officially ended.

Fans lined up along the barricades and grabbed Bruins merchandise in the plaza across the street.

I wanted a bear claw, but didn’t want to lose my spot so I stayed put. Then I saw something even more amazing….the Puck Hat! I need one of these.

Sadly, I did not get to see the very few comments Mayor Menino allowed the B’s to make before they boarded the Duck Boats. Supposedly, there were large TV screens set up along the route so the crowd could watch the parade progress, but there weren’t any TV screens set up at the Pru. Which also meant, I missed the mad rapping skill of Mr. Brad Marchand:

Then the Bruins Stanley Cup Parade was underway!

(from Boston.com's Bruins Blog)

The crowd continued to grow as the parade approached:

We got to the city around 10 am. The parade wasn’t even scheduled to drive by us until at least 1 pm. Though we both were exhausted, we were so happy to be in Boston for the parade!

Every ten minutes or so, someone would start a rumor that the boats were approaching and the crowd started to get anxious! Around 1 pm the police fired up the motorcade that would lead the duck boats away:

And then the Duck Boats were coming! The Duck Boats were coming!

Even though we’d been waiting for hours, it seemed to take forever for the boats to reach us once they were in sight.

And finally we saw the Cup! Not only did we see it, but the boat with Chara, Timmy Thomas, and the two trophies stopped right in front of us and stayed put for a good ten minutes.

It was so shiny! And BIG. Seeing the Cup on TV does not do it justice.

Then, you know, Zdeno Chara pointed at me. No Big Deal.

Chara’s gotta be one strong guy; that Cup weighs 35 lbs and he’s been lifting it since Wednesday night!

Timmy Thomas’s MVP Conn Smythe Trophy was on the boat too, though he got tired of lifting it after awhile so we only got a quick glimpse:

And here’s the MVP now!

The Duck boats lined up 2 by 2 and progressed off the parade route to almost deafening cheers. I cant describe the happiness and elation present in that screaming crowd. It was amazing. I think the most amazing part is that we cheered for every boat, not caring if we actually knew the person riding on it..

The NESN boat, carrying analyst Andy Brickley (in grey) glided by:

Followed by rookie Tyler Seguin:

I have no idea who this guy is, but if you wear an outfit like that out in public, you deserve to ride on a parade float:

It was awesome that Marc Savard (who is recovering from a severe concussion) was able to join his team for the parade! I really hope we see him back on the ice one day:

Here comes Peverly:

And Andrew Ference (who got a new Stanley Cup tattoo this week) & Gregory Campbell:

The perpetually stuck in the 80s Renee Rancourt was there, too…..but he didn’t sing:

Chara gave the fans one last look at the Cup:

And then it they road off into…well, it was day time so they couldn’t ride into the sunset, but you get the picture.

After the boats left, it was mayhem in the streets of Back Bay. Happy mayhem, but still kinda hectic. Black & Gold was everywhere. I kinda felt bad for any unsuspecting shopper on Newbury Street that happened to wander into this…..but then again, you must live under a rock if you didn’t know Saturday was Parade Day.

Check out this dedicated fan:

After three plus hours in the sun with only a small ice coffee and a bottle of water, I was hot, tired, and probably suffering from a combination of heat stroke and dehydration (just try and guess how many bottles of water I drank in the past few days) but it was completely worth it! Boston PD estimated that almost 1.5 million people showed up to celebrate with the Bruins (and we didn’t have any riots, take that Vancouver!), and excluding a few drunks, word on the street was that it was a family-friendly event. If you want to read a great article on the Bruins’ reaction to the parade and fan support, check out this article from Boston.com’s Bruins Blog.

With a little luck, I’ll be at another one of these parades soon….now, please excuse me while I go knock on wood.


A Great Year for This Boston Sports Fan

I’m a Boston sports fan. Growing up, it was an affliction. A curse, even. The Celtics won a title on June 8, 1986. I was barely two months old at the time. Luckily, I didn’t really start following the Bruins until middle/high school, and thanks to the dominance of Michael Jordan, I was momentarily distracted from the dark, post-Larry Bird era of the Celtics.

The Red Sox, however, were a different story. I can’t pinpoint the exact time I became a Red Sox fan, but judging by my family, I was born into it. I grew up loving players like Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, and of course, Nomar Garciaparra. The first time I went to Fenway Park was Nomar’s rookie season (1997). Barely 11 years old, I had to make a monumental decision when my mother told me I could buy one souvenir. I knew I wanted a Sox player shirt…but which one? My beloved Mo “Hit Dawg” Vaughn? Or the exciting new Nomar Garciaparra? I choose Nomar, a decision I regret only slightly to this day.

The Boston title drought would continue until 2001, when the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl. The only major Boston sports team I didn’t follow, the dominance of the Patriots in the early 2000s did little to ease my personal sports-fan pain. In 2003, the Red Sox were bested by the hated Yankees in a heartbreaking loss. I walked into school the next day in a daze and found my locker adorned with a sign that said “The Wait Til Next Year Club”, a phrase my Yankee-loving grandfather had tormented me with for years.

Then, in 2004 the impossible happened. I was a freshman at UMass, and purchased a Sox shirt with “BELIEVE 04″ on the back out of some random guys trunk in the parking lot behind my friend’s dorm. I stayed up late and watched as the Sox did the impossible, coming back from an 0-3 deficit to slay the Yankees in the ALCS. During my 8 am classes, I wore a Sox hat pulled down over my eyes and slept through economics. When the Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, I hugged my friend Timmy (who had gone to high school with me). Calls started flooding into my cell phone as I tried to reach my friends to celebrate. The impossible had happened. The Red Sox were World Series Champions.

Now, seven years later, the Sox have an additional title (2007) under their belts. The Celtics ended a 22 year title drought by slamming the door on the Lakers in 2008, and the Boston Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup last night for the first time since 1972.

All in all, I must say that this has been a pretty amazing year for this Boston sports fan.

In mid-April, I took my mom, brother, and sister to Fenway Park. The Sox were in the middle of their dismal 2 and 12 start to the season. As what I can only assume was a PR move, the Red Sox invited fans to arrive at the Park early that day to walk around the warning track and participate in a meet and greet with the players. Though it was cold and misty, we trekked in early from Western MA to arrive at Fenway by 10:45 am and were some of the first fans on the field:

For some reason, though we were exceptionally close to the dug-out, most of the big name players bypassed us and started greeting fans further down the warning track, or on the other side of the dugout. A few of the newbies stopped, but the only player I recognized by sight was relief pitcher Matt Albers. While I was a little heartbroken, my nine-year old brother was absolutely crushed…..until David Ortiz defied the PR teams orders to go back into the club house and came over to greet more fans:

One of the best moments of my sports fan life. Second only to the time I met Trot Nixon. Papi’s love for the fans (and the game that he plays) was clearly on display that day.

Not even a week later, I was back in Boston. My Gram bought me tickets to my first-ever (non-preseason) Celtics game. Better yet? It was the post season. Against the New York Knicks.

As much as I love Fenway Park and baseball, I don’t think anything can rival the buzz that gets going in the Garden during a big game. The atmosphere was positively electric. And even though we were maybe two rows from the back of the Garden, you could see every pass and hear every dribble. Even Chris (my boyfriend and a Knicks fan) couldn’t help but have a great time watching the Celtics defeat the Knicks.

And I have to say, seeing all the banners hanging from the rafters was pretty inspiring……

And last night, I watched with some of my oldest friends as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup Finals. One of my friends (a guy) was so overcome with emotion as the Bruins celebrated on ice, he buried his face in the rally towel (a towel he procured during the heartbreaking playoffs last season) for a good three or four minutes to gather his emotions before the B’s received the Cup.

The entire night was so surreal. The Stanley Cup Champions shirt I’m currently sporting seems like it was a typo or some sort of sick joke. I’m still reeling from the fact that in the past seven years, my three sports teams–teams I watch almost every night and become so invested in over the course of the season, it feels like I am part of them–have brought home 4 titles in the past 7 years.

I’ll be at the Parade on Saturday, watching the Bruins and the Stanley Cup wind their way through the streets of Boston. Maybe then, with the light reflecting off the Cup as it sits atop a Duck Boat, this will all feel real…………………..

Money Makers: CrowdTap

Generic125x125After I graduated from college, it took just over 9 months for me to find an actual, steady, decent-paying job with benefits. To make some extra cash (slowly, albeit) I signed up for a bunch of online survey sites and panels.

(If you are going to sign up with any online survey site, panel, etc make sure you check their rating with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org before you give out any personal information!)

CrowdTap is one of the more entertaining ways to earn money for sharing your opinion. Unlike most other sites, you have to sign in with either facebook or twitter. While having access to your facebook or twitter is kind of annoying, it does allow for a really, really quick and easy sign up. I don’t think it took me more than five minutes to set up my profile. You also can earn bonus points and money by posting CrowdTap sponsored events on your FB status or to twitter.

The facebook/twitter connection makes CrowdTap feel more like a discussion among friends then some of the other survey sites I’ve participated in. And, unlike most survey sites you don’t have to spend 10 minutes answering demographic information each time you participate; CrowdTap stores all of that information and uses it to identify different actions that you qualify for.

CrowdTap rewards you for your participate in both points (which help you reach new levels and unlocks new opportunities for you to partake in) and money via an Amazon gift card when you decide to cash out. When you do cash out, CrowdTap matched the equivalent of 10% of your cash out amount and donates it to a charity you select when you sign up. That’s a nice bonus, in my eyes. On top of points you earn badges (earned when you complete a certain number of actions for one specific topic or brand) and “gold stars” when the CrowdTap monitors deem your answer as insightful or stimulating. Stars also get you an additional 400 points. Kinda makes you feel like you’re back in kindergarten, right?

There are different ways to earn money and point based on how much time you want to commit. The simplest way is by answering “Quick Hits”, multiple choice and short answer questions that get your opinions on brands and topics and then are used to target bigger actions to you. You receive points for each quick hit and you have the opportunity to win a cash prize for your answer.

Next up are discussions. Discussions are pretty straight forward; you sign up for a discussion on a specific topic and start a dialogue with other members on the site. You automatically get a certain number of points (usually 200) for providing any sort of answer to the question, but you can earn an additional 400 points for an exceptionally outstanding answer.  You also earn bonus points for engaging others to participate in the discussion. Discussions can last anywhere from 1 week to a month or long. So far I’ve been involved in topics including BBQ and summer food, pets, Old Navy workout pants, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt. On top of points, you can also earn cash if you are one of the top contributors to the discussion.

As you earn a better reputation on CrowdTap, you are offered bigger actions, such as sample shares and hosted parties. For both actions, you receive samples or coupons for a free product to hand out to friends and family. CrowdTap just asks that you report back on their reactions and comments about the product. I recently hosted a Hawaiian Tropics party where all my guests got beach totes, samples of 2 products, and a bunch of coupons to use towards the full-sized products. All I had to do was report back and take some pictures and I earned $5. Plus, as an added bonus, the party host got full size bottles of the product:

So basically, you get awarded for speaking your mind and sharing your opinion, what could be easier than that? I’ve devoted maybe 30 minutes of time a day to CrowdTap and I’ve earned $20, plus got hooked up with free full-sized products from three different brands. I’m currently waiting to hear if I qualified for an Old Navy sample offer and a Pinkberry hosted party. Join me on CrowdTap and start getting your free stuff today: Join CrowdTap

(PS: They are really trying to get guys to join up right now, so have your male friends sign up too!)

In full disclosure, I do get some “credit” if you join up…for each person who joins, I get 100 CrowdTap points, and if I convince 5 people to join I get $5 and a nifty badge (I love badges!):

Parm, Basil, and Prosciutto Risotto


Risotto. I’ve always been too scared to make it, but it’s always looked ridiculously amazing and delicious. Under the watchful eye of my grandmother (who used to own her own catering business) I tackled We Are Not Martha’s Bacon, Basil & Tomato Risotto  for Easter dinner this year. Though it was exceptionally labor intensive, it was really, really easy. It just involves alot of stirring.

As awesome as the Bacon, Basil, & Tomato risotto was,  I wanted to use a different flavor profile and found that particular recipe semi-difficult to adapt to my needs. Luckily, I own pretty much every cookbook Giada De Laurantiis has ever written. Her first cookbook,  Everyday Italian, has a really simple and basic risotto recipe that perfect for creating your own flavor combinations. I choose prosciutto and basil…can you really go wrong with that?

The one thing to remember is you have to stir constantly, so do as much prep work and measuring as possible before you even start cooking. Keep everything within reach of where you will be cooking so your not running around looking for ingredients.

Risotto with Parmesan Cheese, Basil, and Prosciutto

Basic Risotto (adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis)

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter (the original calls for 3, but I used 2)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated (I used shredded) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced, deli-cut Prosciutto di Parma

Using a medium sauce pan, heat all 4 cups of broth over high heat. When broth begins to boil, reduce heat and keep at a simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a heavy, deep frying/sauce pan (the higher edges make it easier to add the broth and stir without having to worry about spilling and making a mess). When butter is melted, add the onions to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Do not brown the onion; they should be translucent. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter.

Pour in white wine and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated. This should take about 3 minutes and will make your kitchen smell like a wino for a few minutes, but it’s totally worth it!

Use a ladle to add the simmering broth to the rice pan. Add about 1 1/2 ladlefulls at at time. Stir rice as the broth simmers and cooks in. All each batch of broth to absorb into the rice before adding the next ladlefull. Continue adding until all broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes in total. The rice should be creamy but still have some firmness when you bit into it.

Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.

Remove from heat and mix in prosciutto, followed by basil. Serve immediately!

If you have leftovers (I’m not sure why you would, but hey to each their own), you can store them in the fridge for a few days. The risotto heats up pretty well, and you could always be adventurous  and try to make arancini  (fried rice balls).

2011 Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl

On Tuesday, my sister, brother, mom, and cousins played hookie from work and school to attend the 2011 Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl. The Scooper Bowl is a really awesome fundraiser that the Jimmy Fund holds each year in Boston at City Hall Plaza. Basically, for $8 you get a spoon and get to eat all of the ice cream your stomach can contain!

My camera died about 5 minutes after we got off the train at Government Center so the pictures that follow are a combo of my camera pics, pics from my cell phone, and some my cousin Carlee took (thanks Carlee!).

After a 70 minute drive plus about an hour on the T, we arrived at City Plaza. With blue skies and excessive heat, ice cream was the perfect way to cool off.

Each ice cream vendor had their own tent with a “menu board” showing the flavors they offered. After making sure we all had spoons and explaining the rules of our competition (keep your cups, whoever has the most at the end of the day is the winner, and if you don’t finish all the ice cream in the cup you must throw it away), we dug in.

This year, I was determined to beat my sister Tori who out ate me by one cup at last year’s Scooper Bowl.

We started at Baskin Robbins, where I grabbed cups of S’More the Merrier (left) and Golden Oreo Gold Rush (right).

The S’More ice cream was really interesting…it really did taste similar to a s’more. I have no idea how the made the marshmallow swirl part of the ice cream but it really tasted like a marshmallow you’d cook on a bonfire, not just a swirl of Fluff! It also made the graham cracker and chocolate studded  ice cream lighter and fluffier. I wasn’t a big fan of the Oreo Gold Rush flavor…the Oreo pieces were huge and the actual ice cream had a weird, fake lemony flavor to it.

I was really excited to see Ciao Bella at the Scooper Bowl again this year. Last year they served a Blood Orange sorbetto that was the  perfect palate cleanser between all the heavy, creamy ice cream flavors. Sadly, they didn’t have the blood orange flavor this year but did bring along four new flavors:

Apparently, S’Mores is this years “it” flavor! Because I only had two hands to grab cups for me and my 8-year old brother, I opted for the Mango Sorbet and the Key Lime Graham Gelato. The key lime was very citrus-y but it just didn’t taste right as a gelato and not a sorbet. The mango sorbet, however, was perfect. The right combo of sweet and a little tart and ridiculously smooth, not icy at all! It was probably my favorite flavor of the day:

How amazing does that look?

Next up was SoCo Creamery, an ice cream company out of Great Barrington, MA. SoCo serves up small-batch, all-natural ice cream that is absolutely delicious! I was really surprised by how creamy the ice cream actually was, and all of the mix-ins tasted fresh and still had some crispness to them.

All of my group tried the vanilla after my brother talked about how great it was, and everyone (chocolate lover or not) agreed that it was really good vanilla ice cream (something that, as a lover of vanilla ice cream, I really appreciate).  My sister absolutely loved the dirty chocolate, and commented that it tasted just like the gourmet brownie from Fat Witch Bakery that I brought back  for her from NYC. I definitely recommend you try out this company’s ice cream, which is carried at most Wholefoods. They have some really interesting and unique flavors–I can’ wait to try out their Chai Tea ice cream!

After stopping to rest our stomachs and take some pictures to tweet at the Jimmy Fund, we continued to sample all that the ScooperBowl had to offer.Next up was the Hood/Brigham’s booth where, judging by all the photographers, NESN cameras, and women wearing Sox jerseys, the ice cream ice cream was doled out by the Red Sox wives and girlfriends.

I grabbed cups of Hood’s BoSox Brownie and the Black Raspberry Sherbet, which I was kind of excited about since I love black raspberry ice cream. I’m not a huge chocolate or brownie fan, but the fact that the brownie was in vanilla ice cream drew me in….and it was actually pretty good! The brownie didn’t overwhelm the ice cream and there were small bits of chocolate that gave it a nice crunch.  The black raspberry sherbet was exceptionally good, good enough that I may never go back to black raspberry ice cream again. I haven’t seen the flavor in stores, but as soon as I do I’m picking up a pint (and I suggest you do too).

Clearly, my brother is a chocolate fan:

Ben & Jerry’s had three flavors to sample: Milk & Cookies, Bonnaroo Buzz, & Late Night Snack.

Sadly, I wasn’t too crazy about Ben & Jerry’s flavors this year. I grabbed cups of Late Night Snack & Bonnaroo Buzz, since I’ve had Milk & Cookies before. The vote was mixed on the Late Night Snack,  vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered potato chip clusters and a caramel. It just didn’t do anything for me; in fact after eating about half a cup, I almost conceded and threw it away without finishing. I expected Bonnaroo Buzz (coffee and malt ice creams with toffee chunks and a whiskey caramel swirl) to have a really nice coffee flavor, but all I could taste was the malt and whiskey from the caramel.

By this point both my cousin Katie & sister were about ready to admit defeat…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we still had two more booths to visit….Friendly’s and Edy’s. Nothing at the Friendly’s booth interested me (mint chocolate chip, Hunka Chunka PB Fudge, and Rocky Road) so I passed. At Edy’s, I was feeling, so I opted for Orange Sherbet, which I thought would be a nice, light option. It was decent but nothing to write home about and paled in comparison to Hood’s Black Raspberry Sherbet.

Last year, I downed 12 cups of ice cream and I really wanted to beat that total this year! I doubled back and grabbed two more cups of Mango Sorbet from Ciao Bella, and though I was stuffed,  tried to eat one more cup of SoCo’s Vanilla (it was that good) but only got half-way through. My grand total was 14 cups of ice cream, beating not only my last year’s total, but my sister’s total as well!

The overall-winner was my cousin Carlee, who downed 20 cups of ice cream in just over an hour:

After taking a break in the shade…..

We walked the Freedom Trail towards Faneuil Hall:

Where we posed with Sam Adams and grabbed some (non-dairy) food from Quincy Market before heading home:

The Scooper Bowl is one of my absolute favorite events of the year, and a great way to try some tasty new ice cream flavors, while supporting a great cause!

Spaghetti Carbonara with Caramelized Onions

By popular demand from my Facebook friends, who were drooling over the pictures I posted of this recipe.

After a very stressful week (transit to and from NYC, lack of a car when I returned home, and a tornado ripping through my town and right near my work), I was craving some comfort food on Friday afternoon.

And nothing says comfort to me like bacon (well, pancetta)….and cheese….and caramelized onions. Not to mention that this is incredibly easy to make, at least until the very last step. After draining the pasta, you return it to the pot and toss with a scrambled egg and Parmesan cheese, which cook, melt, and adhere to the strands forming a “sauce”. If you have an extra set of hands to toss while you pour in egg and cheese, I’d recommend enlisting their help. Read through the whole recipe and do as much prep as you can before starting; though it looks hard I promise it’s really, really easy.

The measurements are approximations….I think I “followed a recipe” the first time I made this, but since then have just thrown it together by eyeballing all the ingredients.

Warning: This is NOT a waist-friendly recipe!  There are a few things you can do to add some nutritional value to this monster of egg, bacon, cheese, and awesomeness. Use whole wheat rather than white pasta. Instead of 2 whole eggs, try using 2 egg whites and one yolk. Though I haven’t tried it, you could also use Egg Beaters in place of the eggs. Bulk it up with extra veggies, like asparagus or mushrooms. Or go completely crazy and replace the bacon/pancetta with turkey bacon (that last sentence was painful to type, just so you know).

Spaghetti Carbonara with Caramelized Onions

Based on a recipe by Julie Van Rosendaal of Dinner with Julie

Serves 2

  • 1/2 lb of spaghetti (I recommend whole wheat)
  • 4 + slices of bacon or pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped up
  • Sliced onions or shallots (amount depends on your personal tastes. I used about a quarter of a white onion)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (I prefer shredded, but grated will melt easier and be less stringy)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Additional shredded Parmesan, for sprinkling
  • Olive or canola oil (optional, if you don’t want to use bacon grease to caramelize onions)
  • Assorted veggies (optional)

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, cook the chopped bacon or pancetta in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. (Note: you may have to adjust the heat down as the pan warms up. Keep an eye out for burning.)

When bacon reaches desired level of doneness (I like mine more on the crispy side, but you may prefer fatty bacon), remove from pan and place on a paper towel to cool and drain off fat. It’s important to leave as much of the fat/grease in the pan as possible.

At this point, your water should be boiling. Toss in your pasta. If necessary, turn down heat slightly. Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking together. Cook  following the instructions on the package. Before you drain the pasta, set aside a cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

While the pasta cooks, caramelize your onions, using the same frying pan you cooked the bacon in. Do not drain off the grease. Turn the heat down to medium and add your sliced onions (caution: because onions are so watery, they may cause the grease to splatter so be careful!). To speed up the cooking time, throw a pinch of salt on the onions (it draws out the moisture). Cook the onions over medium heat until browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Give the onions a stir every minute or so so prevent sticking and burning. If you notice the edges starting to burn, reduce the heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

Gently mix your eggs in a cup or bowl that is easy to pour from. Place eggs, reserved pasta water, and Parmesan cheese close to the stove, or wherever you anticipate mixing up your pasta and sauce.

Drain your pasta, but do not rinse the pasta! You need the starch to help the sauce adhere. Return to the pan immediately.  I recommend putting the pan back on a warmed (but turned off burner), but this is up to you.

Pour about half of the eggs and cheese into the pasta and quickly toss and mix with two large serving forks.  Pour the rest of the eggs and cheese into the pasta and continue to mix until pasta is coated with the cooked eggs and cheese.  This should take about 1 to 2 minutes. If you like your sauce a little bit thinner and “saucier”, you can mix in some of the reserved pasta water.

Note: 2 eggs is a little bit too much egg for this recipe; if you use two eggs you will get some cooked egg stuck to the bottom of the pan. It will look a little bit like this, and it is delicious:

After your sauce is created, pile the onions, bacon, and any veggies you decided to use on top of the sauced pasta.

Mix it all together. Before serving, sprinkle some extra shredded parm cheese and grind black pepper over each serving. Eat immediately!

How easy does that sound? If you try it, let me know in the comments section!

The Lucic Shirt Delimma

Note: I originally wrote this out of nerves late on Thursday night, then decided not to post it because I am far to superstitious for that. It would be like setting them up to lose. I watched the game with my boyfriend, Chris, our friend Josh & Josh’s friend at a Boston/UMass bar called Professor Thom’s in NYC. While it was really weird being away from my friends at home for a moment this big, watching the B’s advance to the Stanley Cup finals with 80+ other Boston fans in the middle of NYC ranks up there with my all-time most memorable sports moments.

This season, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the Bruins break my heart.

I don’t claim to be a born-and-bred Bruins fanatic, but when I do something, I never do it half-assed. I read wikipedia articles, I watched any Bruins documentary I could get my hands on (like the History of the Bruins  DVD sitting on my TV stand). I know that the Canadiens are the hockey equivalent of the Yankees and that the picture of Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring “The Goal” in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals was a fluke shot that only happened because the photographer was in the wrong place at the right time.  I know that current captain Zdeno Chara is not only the tallest player to play in the NHL, but that his extreme height prompted the league  to exempt him from the sticks-must-be-no-longer-than-63 inches-rule (Chara’s, at 65 inches, is taller than me).

I say this to assure everyone reading this post that I am no Pink Hat. I actually care about the team, and not because they went on an absolute tear towards the end of this season. I get worked up when they lose, and because I am superstitious, assume that some tiny action (like wearing my Milan Lucic shirt) on my part upset the cosmos and caused them to lose. (Read: I will not be wearing my Lucic shirt Friday, because the last time I did, they lost….and I am not having that on my shoulders. No way).

This insanity is the reason I promised myself that this year, I could not get involved in Bruins hockey. The B’s had caused me to much pain over the past three years. What pain you ask? Let’s recap:

  • The 2007-2008 Season: The Bruins (#8)  play their arch-nemesis, the Montreal Candienes (#1) in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, stretching the series to a gut-wrenching game 7 (which no one thought they could do since the Habs had beaten the B’s in all 8 regular season games). I thought they could do it,, especially after the B’s eeked out a game 6  win at home. Then came game 7, a game I was excited to watch. The Bruins were shut out 5-0, with at least one goal scored in the final minute of the game.  Result: Two very scared roommates who couldn’t fathom why I was cursing and throwing things at the walls unless someone had climbed in my bedroom window and tried to attack me.
  • The 2008-2009 Season: The B’s go into the playoffs as the Number 1 seeded team. They sweep the Candienes (#8) and meet the Carolina Hurricanes (#6) in the Semi-Finals. The series stretched a game 7, with the Canes holding the lead until Lucic ties it up with 6:19 left in the third. I watch this unfold from a table in the Worcester Dining Common at UMass, blatantly ignoring the conversation of my companions. When the B’s go into overtime, I rush them along so I can make it back to my apartment to watch the game with actual sound…..and walk in the door just in time to see Scott Walker score the winning goal 1:14 into overtime. Result: I pulled my hood over my head, walked into my room without turning on a light, laid down on my bed and stared at the ceiling for a good hour (ok, maybe it was two hours), telling my boyfriend “I don’t really want to talk to anyone right now” when he tried to console me.
  • The 2009-2010 Season: I think this was the worst season of all. The B’s head into the post-season seeded #6 and matching up against the Buffalo Sabres (#2) in a six game series. They move on to the Conference Quarterfinals and take a 3 game lead over the Sabres, with Marc Savard (who had sustained a severe concussion on a dirty hit from Matt Cooke in March) returning to the ice and scoring the winning goal in game 1. Then it happened: the injuries started piling up, most notably David Krejci went down with a dislocated wrist five minutes into game 3.  The B’s then went on a three-game skid that resulted in a game 7 for a series that had started off 3-0 in their favor. They  did what only the Yankees had managed to do before them: blow a 3-0 playoff lead. They lost due to a too many men on the ice penalty (something, until that point, I had really only thought was a game-changer in Mighty Ducks movies). Result: I can’t remember. I’ve blacked out that period of my life because it was too traumatic.

So after all that, when I promised myself I wasn’t going to let the Bruins drag me in this season only to let me down, I really, really meant it. Somehow, somewhere, I folded.  My guess is missing the brutal force of Chara’s slap shot breaking Ryan Callahan’s leg had something to do with it (after all that heartache, I missed something that ridiculous?!?!).

And now, its 12:33 AM on Friday, May 27th. The Bruins will be taking the ice in just under 20 hours to play game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning (yes, apparently they do have ice in Florida).  I’ve spent the last hour  writing this blog post and debating if I should tempt fate and wear my Lucic shirt tomorrow. Tempt fate or play it safe? I can’t decide.

All I know is that tomorrow is do or die for the Boston Bruins…..and I’ll be in front of a TV screen in New York, hoping that for the first time this team doesn’t break my heart.

LET’S GO B’S!

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