Bridesmaid Bonanza

My best friend is getting married!!

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And lucky me gets to celebrate with her! A couple weekends ago I went to NY to celebrate a “triple threat” bachelorette celebration weekend: 1) morning bridal shower brunch, 2) afternoon bridesmaid limo winery tour, 3) evening bachelorette party.

The bridal shower honestly could not have been more perfect. Everyone helped out to plan different parts of the day, and it was so touching to see how much everyone there loved the bride, chipping in to make it an extra special event. From personal experience with my parts of the planning, however, I can say that the real planning star was the bride’s sister who put in a huge amount of effort to make everything absolutely wonderful. Such a labor of love and so, so beautiful. If you can’t tell, I got a bit emotional!

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After time for eating and drinking, we played a few games together as a group (there were a lot of female family members present as well as the bridesmaids/friends):

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After many stories were shared and laughs enjoyed by all, it was time for the limo to arrive! The gals grabbed our bachelorette goody bags (complete with brightly colored lipstick, party beads, crowns, and “team bride” wine glasses) and headed out for an afternoon of wine tasting:

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The first winery stop was at Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. The winery was seriously crowded, but the area was huge and there was a lot of open grass to spread out on.

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In addition to wine, Warwick Valley also had beer, cider, pizza, and live music that people of all ages seemed to be out enjoying. After having some lunch outdoors on blankets, we went to the bar for our first wine tasting:

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I loved the Harvest Moon wine from the list above!

Wine me:

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Stop two on the tour was Clearview Vineyard. Clearview had a completely different feel from the first stop – it was much smaller, much less crowded, and had a much more intimate feel. The owner greeted us when we arrived, seated us, and personally introduced each of the wines in our tasting menu. He also gave the bride a special cork – very sweet.

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There were originally plans to go to a third winery after Clearview, but we were all exhausted and had been at it for almost 5 hours already, so we decided it was best to go back to the house and relax a little before the bachelorette festivities continued.

After a rejuvenating dinner of pizza, everyone headed upstairs to reveal the super-secret party room to the bride:

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Her reaction was amazing when she saw all the decorations – and I can’t blame her because I had the exact same feeling when I first saw the room. It looked incredible! She was immediately instructed to put on her new “feyonce” shirt…

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…and then the games began. Don’t worry though, the games were pretty tame – mainly involving a “guess who bought the lingerie” game, bride trivia, and some B-grade karaoke:

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But just in case you think things didn’t get rowdy…don’t worry. There were penis cookies.

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Cocktails at the Castle

Continuing my recap of fun activities during my blogging hiatus, a nod to a fabulous evening at the American Swedish Institute is in order. The ASI is a cultural center and museum that hosts a variety of events within its mansion-like walls. Sure, you could probably have a wedding here, but I went for a Halloween bash called ‘Cocktails at the Castle.’ This was ADULTS ONLY.

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Don’t worry, it wasn’t too explicit. That was just the rule for buying tickets. 🙂

I biked to the institute since exercise is good and my date was a biker chick:

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Checking in was a process of getting ID’d, ditching coats, and noticing how cool all the costumes were!

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Biking to the event earned us a cool stamp and $1 off drinks!

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Friends arrived…and cue to the taco!

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Once everyone was there, we ascended the rainbow staircase to see what the castle held!

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We discovered music and masks and acrobats and a photo booth!

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Plus turkey legs:

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Plus modern art:

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I would definitely go to Cocktails at the Castle again – if for no other reason than to check out the costumes. The event had a few more activities as well (palm reader and ‘write your own obituary,’ for example), but we opted out of these activities due either to the long lines or morbid undertones.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is one of those great holidays that you can never forget what day it’s on. Unless, of course, you don’t know that cinco means five and Mayo means May. If that is you, you probably should have taken Spanish is second grade.

Cinco de Mayo was last Sunday, and celebration ensued. Although not quite on par with St Patty’s Day, Cinco de Mayo is definitely a boozey holiday, and pretty much every bar around the Twin Cities offered some sort of Cinco de Mayo deal. The bar scene’s not really my style, so the only celebration I partook in was hosted at the lovely apartment of a fun and fabulous friend. This party made every bar in town look downright lame. The decorations were festive:

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And the food was AMAZING. There were blue corn chips and chicken enchiladas:

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Beans with veggies and brown rice:

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And – the essentials – salsa and guacamole:

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The salsa was of the mango variety. Everything (except the chips) was homemade and utterly delicious:

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chopping cilantro

I filled my plate with chicken enchiladas, beans, and plenty of chips plus salsa/guac:

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Food + friends = smiles all around

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Punch with optional tequila was still present. 🙂

Honey Wheat Quick Bread and Birthdays

Depending on what time zone you’re in, either today or tomorrow is my roommate’s birthday. To celebrate, she hosted a potluck at our apartment over the weekend. It was really classy, see?

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What do I wear to such a classy party?

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A black sequined dress, obviously.

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Since it was a potluck I couldn’t just show up empty handed, so I made a quick bread. I found inspiration from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (copyright date: 1985), but I ended up making my own recipe.

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I like this cookbook because
1) the recipes are good and,
2) I think it’s slightly comical that it’s advertised as a special high-carbohydrate cookbook.

High-carb, of course, to maximize health. Here is a quote from the back cover:
Jane Brody’s nutrition book…demonstrated the dramatic health benefits of a diet that relies on complex carbohydrates – foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, beans and bread.

In case you didn’t notice, those are EXACTLY the foods that are most vilified in mainstream diet culture today. I think it’s a great illustration of how ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods are more a product of diet fads and marketing rather than a reflection of what is actually best for our bodies.

Anyway…I made some quick bread inspired by Brody’s honey health bread (p. 590 if you have the book). My recipe was as follows:

Ingredients
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups coconut creamer
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Method
Mix all dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. 
Combine the wet and dry and stir until one consistency. 
Pour into a 9x5x3 bread pan and cook at 325° for one hour.

Tada!

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The bread was thick, chewy, and had a mild flavor. Since the whole loaf didn’t get eaten at the party, I decided to be creative and make french toast for breakfast in the morning! For the batter, I combined one egg with a few shakes of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, and a generous splash of coconut milk. That amount of batter was enough for two full slices (which would be four of the half-slices pictured above), plus a little extra. On the skillet:

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I’m a lot better at flipping french toast than I am at flipping pancakes. Go figure.

All done – plated and topped with walnut butter, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and a banana:

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Yum. This sort of french toast is so much more satisfying than the white bread kind at most restaurants.

 

Party Dinner

It’s simple arithmetic really:

good friends + good food = one lovely evening

Originally, there were two of us. Then three. Then four. And four’s a party. So, behold, what I now consider to be the best party dinner…

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MAKE YOUR OWN SPRING ROLLS!

Why, you ask, are spring rolls the best party dinner? Let me count the ways:

1. There are enough small tasks for everyone to be involved with the prep.
2. You get to assemble your meal gathered around the table together.
3. It’s healthy!
4. It’s fun!
5. It’s easy!
6. You are guaranteed to laugh at least once when someone accidentally gets the wrapper they are preparing ripped/mangled/stuck to itself/stuck to something else.

The only things you need for this fabulous, festive feast are:

– a bunch of your favorite vegetables chopped into strips (we used carrots, cucumbers, avocado, and green onions)
– protein of your choice (we used chicken)
– rice noodles (optional, if you want to bulk up your rolls)
– fresh herbs of your choosing (we used basil)
– spring roll wraps
– dipping sauce, if desired

First, cut all the veggies into strips:

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Cook the chicken in a skillet. Flavor with soy sauce, if desired.

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Making your own peanut sauce is really easy, so I would recommend giving it a try! This is a combo of soy sauce, fresh ginger, chunky peanut butter, and a little hot water (tip: it’s very important that the water be HOT!).

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You will need to stir vigorously to combine the sauce, so don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t look right at first.

Cook the rice noodles, if using, on the stove:

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Once all of the ingredients are ready, assemble everything on the table and prepare some hot water in a skillet for prepping the wrappers:

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The spring roll wrappers will be something like hard, thin, crackers to start with. You need to dip them in the hot water to soften. Once softened, the wrappers will also be sticky so you can fold up your roll after stuffing. You will probably master this step on the second try. 🙂

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Finally, the best part, add all the ingredients you want, roll up, and enjoy!

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Yes, definitely a party. 🙂