Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting the Word out for a Friend...

Okay, this is admittedly more of an advertisement than an actual blog post, but I just wanted to do my part to make sure the word gets out there about a fundraiser my friend Brittney is having TODAY for one of her friends from college.

Brittney's friend is having a brain tumor removed at MD Anderson tomorrow. The woman with the brain tumor is in her twenties and has a seven-month-old baby that she will have to be away from for a month or so while she is in surgery and recovery.

Brittney sells Thirty-One organizational bags and gear, and she is donating 100% of her commissions from today's sales to help cover her friend's medical bills, travel expenses, etc. The fundraiser has actually been going on for a couple of weeks (and I keep adding things to my purchase, which is totally going to get me in trouble with Hoosband), but today is the last day.

If you have had your eye on any Thrity-One products, or are at all into organizing, shopping, or good causes, I encourage you to check out Brittney's fundraiser today. Just go to, then "My Parties" and then "Shana Fundraiser" to shop. The stuff is really cute, and almost all of it can be custom-embroidered as well.

More actual posts coming soon!

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Savannah Smiles Pudding

It's that time of the year again--Girl Scout Cookie Season!

So in honor of those intrepid Girl Scouts, pushing wagons of cookies up and down our streets and bravely knocking on our doors, hoping we'll shell out four dollars a box, here's a little recipe inspiration featuring one of this year's tasty new flavors.

If you have fond memories of Lemon Coolers (a long-ago-retired cookie originally produced by Sunshine Biscuits), the Girl Scouts' crunchy, lemony, powdered-sugar-coated Savannah Smiles will be a pleasantly familiar indulgence.

You could easily adapt this recipe to work with any variety of Girl Scout cookie, but I just love the creamy-tart combination of lemon, cream cheese, and vanilla bean. Hoosband is generally in the "lemon is not for desserts" camp, but even he was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Finally, please don't judge this recipe by the photos. I made this dessert to take to dinner with friends and didn't have the opportunity to snap any glamour shots. But there wasn't any left at the end of the night, so that's a good sign, right?

Savannah Smiles Pudding
If you do not have a food processor, the cookies can be placed in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and crushed with a cast-iron skillet or rolling pin, and the cream-cheese mixture can be beaten with an electric mixer, or even a very sturdy whisk, as long as the cream cheese has been fully softened.

1 box Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies
8 oz cream cheese (reduced fat is fine), softened for at least 30 minutes at room temperature (longer if not using a food processor)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until the largest pieces are about the size of a pea.

Transfer the cookies to another container and set aside.

Wipe out the bowl of the food processor, and add the cream cheese, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, sugar, and the seeds from the vanilla bean (split the bean lengthwise with a paring knife, and use the dull edge of the knife to scrape out the tiny seeds). Process until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the bowl if necessary.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer or a wire whisk to whip the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream until very fluffy and capable of holding a soft peak when the beater or whisk is lifted out.

Add the cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream, and use a spatula to gently blend until smooth.

Evenly distribute 1/3 of the cookie crumbs within the bottom of a Pyrex loaf pan.

Top with half of the cream-cheese mixture.

Repeat with another 1/3 of the cookie mixture and the remaining half of the cream-cheese mixture. Finish with remaining crumbs. Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours before serving.

Serves approximately 8.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bridal Propaganda Blues

"That was a stupid commercial," I said rather emphatically, and rather out of nowhere, while watching TV at my sister-in-law's house the other day.

I sank back in my seat after voicing my inappropriately loud and absolutely unsolicited opinion, a little embarrassed at my apparent zeal and lack of discretion.

It certainly wasn't the first time I'd thought a commercial was stupid--nor was it the the first time I'd shared such thoughts with the group. So why did I feel so awkward?

Well, this time the object of my dissatisfaction was a seemingly enchanting David's Bridal commercial, full of soft, lovely images of brides and dresses and promises of bliss.

It should have made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But it didn't.

The commercial, called "The Invisible Man," is narrated by a fictional groom whose monologue states, "I'm not the focus of anyone's attention. I'm not the reason people cry or get all emotional. I'm the invisible man--a mere cog in the wheel of this carefully choreographed extravaganza. Because, let's face it, the wedding is all about the bride. And for the bride, it's all about the dress."

Now, I am not trying to start anything here. I know this is a harmless bridal-gown commercial, and the company would be silly if they did not convey concepts that translate to dollars in their bottom line--besides, they're just stating conventional wisdom.

It's not an evil commercial. The selflessness and devoted deference the groom shows to the bride are almost somewhat touching.

What I can't stand, however, is the "it's all about the bride" propaganda that defines heterosexual weddings in our culture--and even worse, what this kind of message does to a marriage once the vows are exchanged and the dress is all boxed up.

I graduated from college in 2006. Since then I have been to fabulous weddings that fizzled into divorce faster than I could down a second glass of champagne; I've watched Facebook friends' names change once, twice, sometimes three times; and I can't help but wonder: Does our wedding culture set us up for this?

Couples are bombarded with nuptial nonsense granting the bride a heightened sense of entitlement and self-importance, meanwhile, basically telling the groom that his time and efforts are best spent elsewhere--he's just a cog in the wheel, after all.

And if the couples accept these roles for the duration of their engagement, can they be expected to simply abandon them once he carries her across the threshold?

The marriage certificate doesn't come with an "activate unity and partnership" button. If those things aren't cultivated before you say "I do," they are unlikely to materialize just because your union is official.

I am a wife. Once upon a time, I was a bride. And even though my bridal party wore blue jeans and my dress didn't cover my knees, I know how it feels to be a bride. You want to feel more beautiful than you've ever felt before. You want the night to be magic.

Well I did, and it was.

But it wasn't because the world revolved around me for one special night or every night thereafter. It was because that night I made a commitment, in front of everyone I knew who could hold me accountable, to honor and love a man who was more than just a cog in the wheel, a man whose smile makes me feel beautiful and whose presence makes every night magic.

I'm in favor of every bride and groom having the wedding of their combined dreams. But as a culture, let's try to put a magical marriage above one magical night.