November 27, 2008

Fowl Weather for Football

Hey! What do you know, another week with Thursday games! Quelle surprise. But it looks like Thursday games are here to stay (Thanks, NFL network!) so I need to work on not whining about it...even though it messes. everything. up.

If I can't whine about that, I can whine about not seeing the MVP badge around here for a number of weeks. I'm hoping for a Thanksgiving bounce to turn that around. So here are my cornbread-colored picks for Week 13, which will hopefully be lucky 13 for me.

Tennessee @ Detroit
Seattle @ Dallas
Arizona @ Philadelphia
San Francisco @ Buffalo
Baltimore @ Cincinnati
Indianapolis @ Cleveland
Carolina @ Green Bay
Miami @ St. Louis
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay
NY Giants @ Washington
Atlanta @ San Diego
Denver @ NY Jets
Pittsburgh @ New England
Kansas City @ Oakland
Chicago @ Minnesota

Monday Night Football
Jacksonville @ Houston
Total score tiebreaker: 49

Here is where I'd usually tell you all about how to participate if you're a blogger and you want to join in, blah blah blah. But, really, if you haven't gotten in to it by this point, you're just not going to do it. If you really want to, just to prove me wrong, you're more than capable of scrolling down to the ten or so other times I've given all the info. (I happen to know that the Commish is out of commission for at least a week, so she won't be around to complain about me skipping this part! Otherwise I might not be so brave. She's scary when she puts her Commish hat on, you know.)

November 26, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Zen Edition

Looks like today was not a great day for blog viewing (which I suppose isn't all that surprising given that it seems like nearly everyone I know is going somewhere for Thanksgiving, whereas I'm thankful for not having to travel anywhere!); that or people just weren't into yesterday's gifts. Well, they can't all be winners and I guess I just had my turkey a tad early.

Instamom is my blog friend who gets the HoGGIEs gifting idea treatment, straight from the CB2 online catalog, today!

I've written before about my friend, Instamom, and my admiration for her. If anything, I've got more of a girl-crush on her now than I did a month ago. She's probably wondering right now how she got to be sooo lucky!

For all the things Instamom and I have in common, there's one thing that is very different about our lives: She's swimming in a sea of testosterone in her house, with her dear husband and four sons! When it comes to indulgence, whereas I get to live the life of a single girl, with facials, massages, long luxurious showers, pedicures, etc. pretty much whenever I like, I can only imagine it's a little harder for her to get that precious, pampering "me" time.

One of the things I believe in most about being a woman is that you have to take care of yourself in order to be your best if you're taking care of others. I think that can be easier said than done for many of us, since women caretakers tend to put their needs in the backseat when there's too much to do for others.

So when I saw this great Pebble Mat on CB2, I immediately saw it as an affordable, durable (did I mention four boys?) and unique gift of luxury for one of my favorite busy moms.
It's like a little Zen moment right there in your own bathroom. Imagine feeling those smooth, soothing stones on your feet as you bundle yourself into your fluffy robe after a bath. Plus it doesn't scream "girly" so it wouldn't be completely out of place in a house full of males.

And because they would just make this present, I wouldn't be able to resist adding a set of these water-resistant Splash Lights to float in the tub:

This is what I call a "She'd never get it for herself" gift. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be something that you think your friend would say she'd love to have but would probably not spend the money to buy because it's not a necessity. It's definitely a step up from a bottle of bath gel, which has the same feeling but not the originality factor.

Go forth and gift!

November 25, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Rock Star Party Edition

Today's HoGGIEs gifting "recipient" is AmyInOhio! Back we go to the CB2 catalog on our one-stop shopping trip. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please see yesterday's post.)

I've had the great pleasure of spending time with Amy -- we were roomies for our trip to DC last month -- and we've been friends online pretty much since I joined AllMediocre. How could we not be? It's not possible to be immune to her humor, wit, enthusiasm and effervescent personality! She's one of those people who's the life of the party and will be the first one to put one together when an occasion arises, so her gift would be a basket of fun things to help her throw that fabulous rock-star-worthy party.

First up are these stylin' little Money Appetizer Plates based on an Andy Warhol image. Because what represents the rock star life more than money and parties? But they're so affordable that I'd be able to get a bunch of them -- there's nothing worse than not having enough plates for guests to enjoy all the nibbles you've slaved over making...or wisely bought from a caterer!

Along with a stack of those plates would be a set of these stylish and nifty Stainless Steel Snack Bowls for serving up some tasty nuts to go with the freely flowing liquor.
I'd take all of these out of their boxes and wrap them up in cellophane with gold ribbon, putting a bunch of chocolate gold coins in the bowls to stick with the theme, place them in a gift bag and, for the pièce de résistance, tie one of these little beauties to the handle in lieu of a gift tag:

This is definitely a theme gift, which is one of my favorite kinds. The important things to note:
  • Don't go overboard and buy anything or everything you find that fits the theme. Pick just a few items you think they'll really like and use.
  • Think about how they will use them -- buying just two of those plates isn't very helpful.
  • Keep the theme cohesive so they aren't left guessing; if you have any doubts, make a reference to it in your card (such as, "To my favorite Rock Star, Party On this Christmas Season!").
Go forth and gift!

November 24, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Birthday Edition

It's my birthday! It has been a great two days (we celebrated as a family last night - and I was delighted to get a Wii!) and I'm looking forward to the coming year even more than I have on birthdays past. Thanks so much to family and friends for making this one special.

It's time now for the next installment of The HoGGIEs, The One Ping Only 2008 Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas Extravaganza. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Crate & Barrel, but I wonder if you know about CB2, Crate and Barrel's little sister of an online store. I'm not entirely sure that the aesthetic of CB2 differs from that of Crate and Barrel all that much, but CB2 is a little more affordable and it's where all of this week's gifts can be found.

I think that one of things people have a hard time with each holiday season is selecting gifts for friends who aren't people they've known "forever." You know them pretty well and you want to delight them with a something special, but you feel like you have to walk fine lines between too impersonal and overly personal or too practical and too silly, and sometimes an additional line between too expensive and too inexpensive. It can be difficult, to be sure.

To offer some ideas on how to approach this dilemma, I've selected gifts from CB2 that were all inspired by some of my fabulous bloggy friends, most of whom I've never met in person. Hopefully, they'll let us know in the comments if what I pick is something they'd actually like to receive and how they'd feel if a friend actually gave it to them this year. Not that these are the gifts they're really going to be getting from me! (Sorry, they're not, ladies. You're my Guinea HoGGIEs in this experiment, so please be honest in your assessments.) Let's take a look at the online Holiday Catalog and see, in no particular order, what I found.

First up is PsychMamma! Over the course of the last six months or so, she and I have gotten to know each other and have had some great discussions. She's a kind, caring and very aware person and she shares a lot of herself in her blog. Among the things I've learned about her: Her daughter has many allergies, so she need to be careful about the things she brings into the house; she is very eco-conscious; and she has a fine appreciation of the simple, beautiful things in life.

As soon as I saw these in the catalog, I immediately thought of PsychMamma:

Your first thought may be "Towels? Are you kidding? It's a holiday gift, not a wedding gift!" There are two key reasons why I think these would make a great, if unusual, gift for her.

First, they are Bamboo Bath Towels, a blend of 65% bamboo and 35% combed Egyptian cotton. According to the catalog, bamboo yarn absorbs faster than cotton, is softer than cotton, and is naturally antibacterial. Not to mention bamboo is grown in a pesticide-free environment. Eco-friendly, anyone?

Second, the color is gorgeous and is a perfect match to the morpho butterfly she has on her blog banner, and I know she loves that picture. So while they're practical, they're beautiful and I think she'd appreciate the thought behind them.

One of the keys to giving a gift like this is the presentation. Sticking them in a box and wrapping it up (or letting the store do it, if they're even still doing that now) isn't going to cut it; do that and it will seem like a wedding gift! I'd roll them carefully, tie each one individually with a ribbon in a contrasting color, arrange them in a gift bag and place a silk or paper butterfly on top to make sure that connection is there visually.

The lessons to take away here are:
  • Think about aspects of the person that stand out to you and work with those.
  • Don't limit yourself to traditional gift items; be creative.
  • How you present the gift makes a difference.
Go forth and gift!

November 20, 2008

Did Anyone See Where I Left My McBratty Pants?

So, the Commish was ON FIRE last week and picked every single game with a winner correctly; the crazy tie was a non-issue in any case because we all picked Philly to win. In doing so, she became the first BFLer to win two weeks in a row. I don't think I need to tell you how fishy it is that the person in charge of this loose assemblage of bloggy football goodness managed to nab back-to-back badges, do I? Mmm-hmm, didn't think so.

Now, sadly, she's been laid low by nasty Mr. Flu, which leaves me unable to trash talk her chances this week. That sucks almost as much as not coming close to winning these last two weeks, but far less than actually having the flu, so I forgive her and want her to feel better. Because almost everyone I know always says that when they're sick all they want is soup, this week's game day recipe is: soup!

This will probably be one-time thing because, unlike 99% of the world (apparently), I don't really like soup very much. There are some exceptions, and this recipe from our local paper is one of them -- it's quick, hearty but not heavy, doesn't have tons of ingredients and is perfect for autumn. It could, however, use a new title; "Squash Soup with Sausage" really doesn't sing. Clearly the author of the recipe was all out of naming imagination that day. I'm going to go with "Sack 'em, Squash 'em Soup."

I didn't actually make this one, I have to admit -- my mom did. Her improvisational improvement was to add some little meatballs (browned before being added) since we had some ground beef handy. Personally, I liked the meatballs better than the sausage and I could see doing it with one or the other or both like she did. If you try it and like it, I hope you'll let us all know. I'm going to try to make a batch this weekend, probably with just meatballs and with a little less thyme (the flavor of the thyme got a bit more intense than I would have liked after a while, but that could have been because she used dried thyme instead of fresh -- your results may vary).

So, what teams will I be rooting on while I slurp my soup?

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Philadelphia @ Baltimore
Houston @ Cleveland
Tampa Bay @ Detroit
Buffalo @ Kansas City
Chicago @ St. Louis
NY Jets @ Tennessee
New England @ Miami
Minnesota @ Jacksonville
San Francisco @ Dallas
Oakland @ Denver
Carolina @ Atlanta
NY Giants @ Arizona
Washington @ Seattle
Indianapolis @ San Diego

Monday Night Football
Green Bay @ New Orleans
Total score tiebreaker: 50

Note to the NFL: The Thursday night game thing is getting annoying. Please reconsider.

If you want to participate, go see The Commish, follow her instructions, link yourself up and help us try again to take the winner's badge away from her this week. If you can't do it before tonight's game, just do it before Sunday's games start and you'll just be one game down... just like probably more than half of us will be for picking wrong tonight.

November 18, 2008

Let the HoGGIEs Begin!

Any time I can combine two of my favorite things, it usually makes me pretty happy. Make it three favorite things and it's a sure bet that I'm near-ecstatic. In this case, the three favorite things I'm going to combine are food/baking, giving gifts and helping people find the perfect gifts for others.

In the past I've done mini gift guides here, but I wasn't feeling it last year (and probably the year before, I don't remember that far back --if you're curious, hit the archives over there) so it has been a while. This year, while I'm still resenting the fact that we continue to rush every single season and holiday to the point of the ridiculous, I'm starting to see things online and in stores that are making the part of me that loves the holidays stir just a bit.

So, here's the first installment of The One Ping Only 2008 Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas Extravaganza, the "HoGGIEs," and I can hardly bear it. Ba-da-bum!

Behold, the Build-A-Bear Workshop® Cake Pan from Williams-Sonoma.

Does a cake get much cuter than that? From the online description:
At Build-A-Bear Workshops, you can make your own stuffed animal. And now you can enjoy the same experience in your own kitchen, using your favorite cake batter. [The] pan bakes a three-dimensional bear cake in two halves that can be joined and decorated with icing.
Information of note:
  • $39.95, available here at Williams-Sonoma
  • Made in the USA by Nordic Ware
  • With your purchase, you’ll receive a $5 coupon valid with a $25 purchase at any Build-a-Bear Workshop.
  • It's not just a holiday item, you could "dress" the bear in different ways...or let him go bare naked, I suppose.
Who is this gift for?
  • A woman with every kitchen tool known to mankind already
  • Someone with kids under 6 who likes to make their cakes
  • That friend who still has stuffed animals on her bed after the age of 21
  • A person with no baking skills, whom you don't like very much
Go forth and gift!

November 12, 2008

Recipe for Success

What goes better together than football and food? I mean, what else is there to do while watching 200-300 pound men running up and down a field for a few hours than eat?

I think it's time to get a head start on prepping and fine-tuning your menu for the big game in January. We try to rush everything else in this country, why not get ready now for a few hours in February? The inauguration will be over so we'll need something else to obsess over.

So for the rest of the season (or as long as I feel like doing it, we'll see) when I make my picks I'm going to link to a recipe I've found to share. You can begin delighting your friends and family right away, and you'll have them perfected by the time the Super Bowl lands in Tampa Bay. Really, there's nothing worse than trying to bust out a new recipe under the pressure of cleaning the house and expecting hungry hoards to land on your doorstep. Practice now, reap the praise later.

Depending on how late I end up sleeping in on Sunday (Two notes: 1. I have no kids, I can sleep in as much as I want, and 2. I'm in CA so the games start a tad earlier here than for much of the country), I may or may not make the recipes myself that day but that will be the "goal." Ha!

This week's recipe, from the recently completed 43rd Pillsbury Bake-Off, wasn't a winner in the contest but sounds pretty good to me: Breakfast Quiches to Go. I don't think they're particularly breakfast-y but are simple to make and would be a good game snack. Just call them something else so you don't have to endure any stupid "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" cracks. Like here I'll call them "Niner Nuggets" or something; Amy could call hers "Bengal Bundles" and Insta-mom (this past week's MVP!) could call hers "Chargers Cups" -- you get the point.

OK, so here are my picks. They look delicious in that lovely shrimp color, don't they?

NY Jets @ New England
Denver @ Atlanta
Detroit @ Carolina
Minnesota @ Tampa Bay
Baltimore @ NY Giants
Oakland @ Miami
New Orleans @ Kansas City
Philadelphia @ Cincinnati
Chicago @ Green Bay
Houston @ Indianapolis
St. Louis @ San Francisco
Arizona @ Seattle
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
San Diego @ Pittsburgh
Dallas @ Washington

Monday Night Football
Cleveland @ Buffalo
Total score tiebreaker: 30

I'm going to assume that if you haven't joined the BFL by now, you're not going to do so. If I'm wrong, go see the Commish, follow her instructions and help us try to take the winner's badge away from her this week. Or if you're going to sit on the sidelines but want to see if I can trounce the competition for the fourth time, check out the nifty spreadsheet throughout the course of the games and see how I'm doing. Just don't get any crumbs from the Niner Nuggets in your keyboard while you do, okay? They're a bitch to get out of there.

November 10, 2008

Not really closing thoughts

I haven't really been up for coming back to share my thoughts and feelings that resulted from the election last week before this. And we all have Keith Olbermann to thank for my being up for it now.

Last Wednesday was incredibly difficult for me. It was hard to be so happy and so sad at the same time. Of course, Tuesday night had been inspiring and amazing to witness, and there was such elation all across the country. But just as President-elect Obama was finishing his victory speech, it started to become clear that Prop 8 was very, very close to passing. Talk about a thud back down to earth.

Wednesday night, however, showed that the fight wasn't over. And now, almost a week later, it's quite clear that the fight is far, far from over. There are hundreds or thousands articles on all the aspects of "What happens now?" and "What is happening now?" out there for you to read, if you're so inclined, so I'll just give you this one that sums up the latest.

Which brings me to tonight, when I read this commentary from the aforementioned Mr. Olbermann. It sums up so, so well how I feel about this subject and why I'm committed to continuing the fight to make sure Prop 8 is voided -- as I read it, it was exactly what I would have liked to write last week. It inspired me to put it here for you to read and finally get some of my reaction to the situation off my chest.

It's not over. It's so not over. Discrimination by law can't stand. If you supported Prop 8, either in thought or in action, please read the commentary if you've gotten this far and haven't. Ask yourself the questions he poses.

And know that this is how a whole lot of people feel, and we're going to make sure you hear it:

November 06, 2008

Week 10 - Time Flies

Yay! I had a lucky week and made one risky pick that made the difference for me, but it was close and came down to the tie-breaker. I do believe that this makes me the BFLer with the most badges thus far, though if I'm wrong I'm certain that someone will come along to smack me down.

This week has an early game tonight, so even though I practically just got this beauty of a badge up, it's already time for my picks!

In the spirit of bi-partisanship, to celebrate our historic election, I'll make my picks in red AND blue. (Yeah, it's cheesy, but I'm tired of trying to pick a new color that will actually show up so I'm going to run with this.)

Denver @ Cleveland
New Orleans @ Atlanta
Tennessee @ Chicago
Jacksonville @ Detroit
Seattle @ Miami
Green Bay @ Minnesota
Buffalo @ New England
St. Louis @ NY Jets
Baltimore @ Houston
Carolina @ Oakland
Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
Kansas City @ San Diego
NY Giants @ Philadelphia

Monday Night Football
San Francisco @ Arizona
Total score tiebreaker: 47

Bye week: Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Washington

By now you know the drill; if you want to participate, go see the ever-lovely Instamom and link yourself up. I'll warn you, though, these people are good. We have a near real-time spreadsheet of results and standings (thanks to the equally ever-lovely and ever-competitive Amy), and it's rare for someone to run away with a win -- it's close almost every week.