Milwaukee (and Boston) Vacation!

Apologies for the long hiatus.  I’ve been busier than expected and therefore sort of uninspired to write lately.  I spent the week before Christmas frantically crocheting and mailing gifts, and doing laundry and packing for a visit to Milwaukee!

So we arrived Christmas morning, and had a lovely Christmas dinner (complete with kielbasa of course!), and then opened presents after watching It’s a Wonderful Life.Image

We spent a lot of time in the cozy house relaxing, playing with the doggies, catching up, and munching on yummy things…

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Got to visit the lovely Christmas lights, train and Nativity display in Pewaukee…

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…FINALLY watched the Hobbit 2!! It exceeded expectations, that’s for sure. Incidentally, I also noticed that the movie theater we went to had the best popcorn ever. Perfectly buttery and salty, even at 930 in the AM 🙂

…Visited the Milwaukee Public Museum then went out for a delicious steakhouse dinner…

…Met up with an old friend….

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…and then met her horse, Hans!

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…Finally saw Holy Hill, which I had never seen in my 4 years of living in Milwaukee….

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…Hung out with more old friends and had a fabulous time laughing together and catching up…

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Husband had to go back to work on yesterday, so I extended my little vacation by trekking out to Boston for a play date with a couple of lovely ladies.  As per tradition, we started our visit with Georgetown Cupcakes where I had a delicious gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  Then we shopped, got manicures (MiniLuxe on Newbury = best mani ever), and shopped some more.

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The evening was finished off with delicious hot pot (perfect on a chilly night!) and a visit to my favorite Asian food court for custard buns and boba 🙂

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It is always such a joy to see family and catch up with good friends.  What a great way to end the year!  Happy New Year everyone! 🙂

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New Additions to Our Household

Let’s just get it out of the way: no, we are not pregnant

But we DO have some new friends in our house:

Mister Fish the goldfish

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And Speedy the chinchilla! aka Chinchi, Mister Chinchi, Stinker, Skittles….

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Mister Fish was acquired from our local Petsmart.  We picked him because we loved his beautiful orange and white coloring.  He enjoys eating, swimming around, resting near his little marble rock from Taiwan, hiding behind his conch shell, and dodging around his plant.

Mister Speedy is the newest addition, a beautiful super soft 1 year old black velvet chinchilla.  He was picked up from someone on Craigslist just yesterday.  He was extremely anxious at first and hid in the corner for awhile, but then started to feel comfortable enough in his new home to munch on pellets and hay, drink a few sips of water, and explore his cage. Then when we went out for dinner, we came back to find that he had he spent some time in his hammock, rearranged his food bowl and chew stone, and dug all of the hay out of his bowl.  So far we’ve learned that he loves dust baths, chewing everything in sight, flinging poo and wood shavings, and running on his exercise wheel.

Speedy’s home; the little guy is hiding in the corner

ImageThis little guy is very skittish and nervous for some reason but we are going to work with him every day to make him feel comfortable and happy 🙂  Plus he’s kind of chubs so we’re definitely cutting down on treats and making him run around more.

The Art of Hosting

The whole dinner party thing is pretty new to me.  Some of you are naturals at it, but for me, hosting and cooking for people is kind of a big deal and therefore something that I haven’t done too often.  But I think I can also blame the busyness of residency and med school and not having time to clean up the house, go grocery shopping or anything like that.  Another reason is that I used to be really insecure about my cooking and preferred not to cook for anyone except family.

Now, I have no excuse since I have the time and the best husband ever who does the major cleaning (and even the decorating!) whenever we have people over.  Plus, I get so much positive feedback from him about the food that I make that my cooking self-esteem has gotten a serious boost since we’ve been married 🙂

So a couple weekends ago, we had some people over for dinner and board games.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and there was lots of trash-talking over Wits & Wagers, which is always a fun time.

What makes hosting easier for an introverted perfectionist such as myself?

1. Planning an easy menu.
This helps because then you don’t have to stress out about things turning out well.  I stuck with really easy but delicious things – miso salmon, baked pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage, roasted asparagus, a nice fresh colorful salad, and apple crisp with ice cream.  The hardest part was actually timing the use of the oven.

2. Planning the menu well in advance.
One of the most tiring, annoying, and time consuming things for me is grocery shopping.  Having an idea of what I was making meant that grocery shopping could be organized and spread out, which made it much more bearable.  Miso paste from the Asian grocery store.  Trader Joe’s for munchies and dip. “Ghetto grocery store” for meat and produce.  Big Y for salmon. TJ Maxx for awesome deals on baking and serving dishes (since much of what we used to have somehow disappeared in the move).

3. Prepping everything that I could possibly prep in advance.
I seriously had a list of things that needed to be prepped, both the day before and the day of.  I know, it’s kind of crazy.  But to me, being organized was helpful and made the whole thing completely stress-free.  So when it came time to actually bake or cook things, all I had to do was throw it together and put it in the oven or on the stove.  So easy!

4. Keeping the numbers small.
Since large numbers of strangers can be overwhelming to me, we stuck to inviting just a few people – one couple that we hang out with often, and another couple that I had never met before.  This was much more manageable for our small apartment and also for me :).  I accidentally made WAY too much food for so few people, but that’s okay…now we have yummy leftovers for a week.

So yeah, every time is a bit easier and definitely more fun 🙂  I’m already thinking about our next dinner party which is coming up this weekend!

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The pasta recipe (baked pasta with fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe and sausage in a bechamel sauce) must be shared because it is easy, economical, and really delicious. I followed this recipe exactly and it turned out perfectly — cheesy but not too much so, a little bit creamy but not heavy, plenty of broccoli rabe to make you feel like it could be healthy, big chunks of sausage, brown crunchy bits of pasta and cheese.  There was definitely some subtle fighting over the leftovers:

Me: Do you want fried rice and salmon for dinner? (Me trying to push it on husband so that I could have more pasta for myself)
Husby: Nah, I would rather have pasta.
Me: OK do you want fried rice and salmon for lunch tomorrow? (Pushing the non-pasta dish again)
Husby: Maybe pasta and salmon

Gah, I’m so passive aggressive!  We ended up finishing the leftovers so quickly that I made another batch using spicy italian sausage, which was probably even tastier.