Monday, December 31, 2012

Reporting Drunk Driving

Happy New Year's Eve! I am on my way back from Disney World right about now but wanted to post something today that we should all keep in mind on this New Year's Eve.

On my way to a Christmas party 2 weeks ago, I was driving behind what I believed to be a drunk driver. I was carefully watching him for awhile, and very carefully keeping my distance, wanting to stay a safe distance behind him rather than anywhere in front of or next to him. The driver was so clearly drunk, he couldn't stay in his lane at all, he couldn't drive straight within the lane, he was veering every which way and it was terrifying to watch.
Source
After a few minutes of witnessing his atrocious driving, I eventually called 911. I didn't know who else to call, and I thought if nothing else, I could report his license plate number for it to be on file.

You know what happened?

They told me they couldn't help me. They told me that without an actual location or incident reported, there was nothing they could do. I could only continue following him, and then immediately report him should an accident occur.

Pardon me, but WTF?! So much for accident prevention. So much for keeping everyone safe on the road.

I guess it sort of makes sense. I was driving on a highway, how on earth would the police be able to find him or know exactly where he was going? By the time they got to the location from which I was reporting, we would be long gone. How would the police be able to find him or track him down without me following him closely for the next 30-60 minutes. And where was my proof? Should I have video taped his driving? And then run the risk of either getting in an accident myself or getting pulled over for using my phone?!

When I finally did get a chance to pass him clearly enough, I looked in to see an older, larger man basically slumped over in the driver's seat. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. I can only hope that he didn't cause an accident that night and was able to get to his destination safely.

So I did some research into what would have been the best number to call if I ever find myself in this situation again. The DUI Foundation as well as several other websites all say the same thing:  
"It is important to know the kinds of signs to look for in determining an incidence of driving under the influence. If you see a driver doing any of these unordinary things, contact the proper authorities (911, local police, state sheriffs, etc.) immediately"
Well great...that didn't work for me. The only other numbers I could find online to call in these instances are 1-800-28DRUNK or possibly 1-877-MADD-HELP

So in the week following my drunk driving siting, I tried calling these numbers to try and get more information. I received the following recording from 1-800-28DRUNK: "Refinance your mortgage and save. Call 1-800-939-9800" and then hangs up.  Great...no help there.

Source
So then I called MADD and spoke to a very nice gentlemen right away. He told me that they don't do these types of reports, but I should call 911. When I told him what had happened that past weekend, he was very discouraged to hear that I had not been helped. He said they should have been able to report the incident and take down some information, but did note that a cop would have to witness the driving first-hand in order to make a report. He also told me that MADD is currently working on an app which would make reporting these incidences easier using GPS tracking (though, it should be noted driving while using your smartphone can be just as dangerous..and I can't say that this would really be the best solution). 

Have you ever been in this situation? Do you know of a better phone number to call when reporting a drunk driver?

I wish you all a happy and safe New Year's Eve!! Please be smart if you are on the road and please try and report any driver who may appear to be under the influence!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Off to Disney World

The time has come again...Chris and I are off to Disney World for the next 5 days!! But wait? Weren't you just there in August? Why...yes, yes we were. But we are still very excited to be heading back there with my parents and sister this time! And...even cooler, I'll be there over my birthday on Sunday!!

The fact that I am going to be in Disney World on my Birthday is pretty big for me and let me tell you - I am going to milk this for all it's worth! And I'm sorry....but I deserve that. :) Having my birthday so close to Christmas can sometimes be a major bummer. When I was young it was fine because I was never in school on my birthday. I could have sleepover parties, even if it was a Wednesday! But as a whole, it generally gets lost in the shuffle between Christmas and New Year's and most of the time lately...I'm not even really up for celebrating. But this year....I'm milking it for all it's worth. :)

I am particularly excited to see the new Fantasy Land which just opened two weeks ago in Magic Kingdom!


As always, I'll be updating our week in Disney World on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Recipe

This may sound really sad, but ever since I graduated from college in 2007, I haven't felt the same Christmas spirit as I did the first 23 years of my life. Blame it on age, blame it on being a real, hardworking adult...really, I could blame it on a lot of things.

When you're not in a school setting, Christmas just isn't as prevalent. As a proud member of choirs for most of my life, I would look forward to performing in the holiday concert every year in elementary school, Jr. High, High School and on to College. Now, I am no longer singing christmas carols with my best friends day in and day out, and that really makes me sad.

Then there's the time off of work issue. I usually had a week off of school around the holidays through High School and then an ENTIRE MONTH off in college. It doesn't get much better than that. Now, it's time off for Christmas Eve (if I'm lucky) and Christmas. How's that for joy?

I could also blame it on my parents. Damn them for creating such a warm Christmasy environment in our home each year! Damn my mom for baking countless Christmas cookies. Damn my dad for getting up at 6am every single Christmas morning to make a fire in the fireplace, Nat King Cole playing on the cd player, the video camera set up on its trusty tripod, all before my sister and I even woke up.

Then there is the Christmas "Culture". You would think that being in New York puts me at the best possible advantage for live theater and music, and trust me, it does. But believe it not, I grew up in a really culturally rich part of Pennsylvania with amazing community theater and National Tours. I would see A Christmas Carol at my local community theater almost every year in Pennsylvania, and often knew many of the people in it. Nothing put me more in the Christmas spirit than going to see this show with my family and friends each year. I even went on one of my first dates ever in 8th grade with my first boyfriend...I'm pretty sure we even held hands that night ;) My mom also took my sister and I to see the Nutcracker every year. These performances were great, and it was so easy to hop in a car and drive 20 minutes to the show then drive back home. Seeing a show in the city is a bit more of an ordeal for us since we are so far out of Manhattan - not to mention, much more costly. I liked the small town feel of our community theater, I liked bumping into friends at these performances and often knowing people actually performing in them. You don't get that in Manhattan.

That all being said, none of this is to say that I hate New York or one is better over the other. (I can just see my mom reading this now thinking "Finally, this is it! She's moving back to PA so she can have the Christmas she grew up with!")  I think, and honestly hope, that most people had a good enough childhood to look back on their holidays with fondness and a little pang of sadness for what was. No matter what, even if I was living on my own in Pennsylvania, even if Chris and I were living out in California...things would be different now, and that's ok. I have to start making Christmas in New York and with my husband and Zoey as memorable for me as it is when I look back on the Christmas's of my childhood. I need to start creating the Christmas that I want my children to look back on so fondly when they are my age.

Recipe
1. Pick the things I loved most about Christmas in Pennsylvania
2. Meld with the things Chris loved most about Christmas in New York
3. Pepper in a few new traditions that we'd like to create ourselves

Yields:
A Christmas worthy of being nostalgic for years from now.

And Mariah Carey's Christmas album. Mariah Carey is a must :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Words

One of the most beautiful tributes to the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting that I've seen. (video here)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Taroles (Ricotta Cookies)

Lastly, we have Taroles, or, Ricotta cookies. These aren't necessarily christmas cookies but I added a little red sugar to the tops to jazz them up. I have been shocked by the amount of people in my life who have never heard of Taroles- (that and monkey bread and puppy chow- did these people have childhoods?!?!) maybe its a Pennsyvania thing, or maybe they just didn't eat as much junk food (albeit. Homemade junk food) growing up, but I can assure you my children will grow up with all three!

Many Tarole recipes have lemon in them, but I come from the school of thought where lemon has no place in my desserts. None. There is also a nice glaze that can go over them for an extra sweetness, but are just
fine without them.

These remind me both of my mom and my friend Mandy. I remember Mandy bringing in a huge bag of these one year to a rehearsal for our spring musical and the entire cast pretty much annihilated the bag. Ah, good
times.


Taroles (Ricotta Cookies)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup soft butter (1 stick)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
1 pound Ricotta cheese
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Cream together butter and sugar
3. Add eggs, vanilla, Ricotta cheese and beat with an electric mixer
4. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
5. Use a wooden spoon to mix this in with the creamed mixture (the butter, sugar, eggs, and cheese).
6. Drop by the spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 15 minutes.


So that was my week of cookies! Molasses Spice, Sugar Cookie Cut-outs and Taroles! My next goal is to try three new cookie recipes this weekend. These last three are tried and true, but I also want to bring some new recipes to the table. What are your favorite holiday recipes?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Next up are my Aunt Margaret's Sugar Cookies. These are the traditional sugar cut-outs that we know and love so well and the ones I grew up on. I look forward to making these every year. I think what sets this recipe apart from others is the almond extract and it really adds a beautiful flavor to the cookie.

Sugar Cookies (Cut Outs)

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 375

2. Mix sugar, margarine, egg, vanilla and almond extract.  

3. Mix in flour, soda, and cream of tartar.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. 

4. Divide dough in half.  Roll each half to 3/16 thick on lightly floured board.  

5. Cut into shapes.

6. Bake until edges are light brown. 7-8 minutes.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Molasses Spice Cookies

As I mentioned on Monday, I made a ton of cookies over the weekend and wanted to share the recipes with you. These are all some of my favorite holiday cookies.

I made these Molasses Spice Cookies for a Christmas party two years ago and many friends said they reminded them of their childhood. Then I brought some over to my mother-in-law on Sunday and she responded said something very similar. It's like a good old-fashioned, mom's home-baked cookies. Whether you grew up eating molasses cookies or not, there is just something about this cookie that brings you back, that seems so old- fashioned and extremely comforting. The recipes says to roll in sugar, I had some red decorating sugar on hand that I rolled mine in for an extra christmas effect.


Soft and Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies
(Cook's Illustrated Feb 2002)

Notes:
Makes about 22 cookies.
Measure the molasses in a liquid measuring cup. If you find that the dough sticks to your palms as you shape the balls, moisten your hands occasionally in a bowl filled with cold water and shake off the excess. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time. If baked two sheets at a time, the cookies started on the bottom rack won't develop the attractive cracks. The cookies should look slightly raw and under-baked when removed from the oven.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for dipping
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (6 oz) light or dark molasses

Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup sugar for dipping in a small bowl.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.

3. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Dough will be soft.

4. Using tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between palms into 1 1/2 inch ball; drop ball into cake pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not over-bake.

5. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature and serve. (Can be stored at room temperature in airtight container or sipper-lock plastic bag up to 5 days.)

 ENJOY!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ferrero Rocher

Last week I received a special surprise in the mail from Influenster: a beautiful box of Ferrero Rocher Fine Hazelnut Chocolates! 

Believe it or not, even as a self-professed lover of chocolate, I have never had these particular kind of chocolates so I was really excited to try them out. First of all, the package was so beautiful I almost didn't want to open it, but then I remembered it was chocolate and I didn't care.

They were so good, almost like a gourmet Nutella ball. Light, crispy wafer on the outside and rich hazelnut chocolate on the inside. If you like hazelnut, this is for you. There were a lot of chocolates in the box, and Chris isn't a hazelnut fan, so in fear of eating the whole box myself, I brought them into my office. I work in a fairly small office and I'd say by 2:00pm all those chocolates were gone, they were a huge hit!

Ferrero Rocher® is a unique and delicious chocolate experience made by Italian chocolatier Ferrero, since 1982. The chocolates are a tempting combination of smooth chocolaty cream surrounding a whole hazelnut; within a delicate, crisp wafer. . . all enveloped in milk chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts. The chocolates are individually wrapped in gold foil. 


This box was receive complimentary from Influenster.com and all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Very Christmas Weekend

I had a busy busy weekend! On Friday Chris and I went to see Bring It On the Musical on Broadway. I took a leisurely stroll from my office down to Times Square after work, and made sure to pass the Rockefeller Christmas tree on my way :)
Ok, so I'm a bit far away, but no way was I dealing with that crowd!
Bring It On closes in 2 weeks so I really wanted to be able to see it before it closed. I loved the movie and this looked like it would be a fun show. We had dinner at Angus Cafe Bistro, and then headed next door to the St. James Theatre for the show. While many of the numbers were really amazing and incredible; as a whole, we were really disappointed in the show. The plot wasn't like the movie, the script was terrible, and there were only a handful of memorable musical numbers.

Saturday I spent most of the day in the kitchen baking tons of Christmas cookies. I had gotten all of my cookie doughs ready last Thursday night after work...(here's how my kitchen looked)
Then I spent Saturday baking approximately 10 dozen cookies! I maay have gone a little overboard, but between parties, neighbors, friends and each of our offices, these really won't last long. Not to mention, I had a lot of fun! Here is a sneak peak of some of the Christmas cookies I was working on and I will be sharing the recipes this week:

Saturday night Chris and I went to see a Christmas light house near us that we heard about from our mailman. This house sets their Christmas Lights to the beat of Christmas music. They have a big sign on their front yard which tells you what station to set your radio to and then the lights "perform" to that song. I've seen youtube videos of houses like this before, but I never saw one in person. It was so neat! The house has it's own website called LightsToABeat.com and each year they take donations to raise money for a specific charity. This year is for Hurricane Sandy victims.

Here's a video I took of Carol of the Bells, I LOVE that this house is so close to us, and visiting it will definitely become a Christmas tradition.


After grabbing Japanese take-out for dinner, we each went to separate holiday parties (Chris to a work function and me to a friend's place in Astoria). The night was complete with good friends, mulled wine, good food, christmas cookies and two little kittens: one in a skirt and one in a tie!

I mean honestly...how can this not put you in a good mood?

One more week till CHRISTMAS! Are you ready?!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Giants Game

On Sunday we went to the Giants vs. Saints Game at the Meadowlands. We picked up sandwiches at one of our favorite sandwich shops and parked outside 2 hours before the game. It was fun to hang out, but we were freeeezing! It was only 42 degrees but with the damp weather it just went right through us. My UGG boots got all wet and my feet were freezing even before the game started. Luckily, Chris let me sit in the car with the heat blasting to warm up before we went in for the game...what a guy!

WE had great seats, and enjoyed a wonderful winning Giants game!


During half-time we went to the clubhouse for beers and warmth!

I can't say I'm the biggest football fan, BUT I can say that I had a fun afternoon with family and enjoyed creating memories with them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Queen's Kickshaw


This past weekend Chris and I finally went to The Queen's Kickshaw, a place I have been wanting to try for quite some time. I've read many reviews of this place, which touts its gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

I ordered the "Egg and Cheese": Ricotta, Cheese crisps, thyme, maple hot sauce on brioche.

I was worried about the "maple hot sauce" but it really was not hot at all, it provided the perfect hint of maple to this sandwich and balanced everything out just right. And the thyme...oh the thyme!! It was so good on this sandwich. It's amazing how simple it was, yet how amazing it all came together.

Chris ordered homemade hot chocolate (this was like the real deal) and the "Cheddar and Mozzarella" on brioche with tomato soup. These were also top-notch and definitely lived up to their "gourmet" titles.

This place is easy to miss. I've definitely driven past it many times and even when I was using google maps, I still couldn't find it - they need some sort of large sign outside or something! I really didn't know what to expect to find behind its doors, But once we went inside we found a cute little restaurant, which offers communal table seating, and a very laid back atmosphere.

What kills me is this restaurant opened on the same block as my old apartment in Astoria - as in literally a 30 second walk door to door. This would have surely been a regularly visited establishment back then, which makes me both sad (boo, missed out on the chance to have this amazing food on a weekly basis) and happy (yay for my wallet and waistline!).

This is a place I would definitely go to again, I especially want to try the Bread Pudding, the Gouda Grilled Cheese - black bean hummus, guava jama, jalapenos on brioche, and the Mac n' Cheese - Gruyere, cheddar, smoked mozzarella, french beans, caramelized onions. You can view The Queen's Kickshaw's full menu here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Finds: Les Miserables

I'm a long-time theater buff. I love Les Miserables, and I am SUPER excited for the movie to come out this month! I think it's so neat how differently they filmed this movie with having the actors sing with a piano during filming and THEN go to the recording studio for the background orchestrations - revolutionary! (haha) Watching the "Extended First Look - Behind the Scenes" on youtube, made me even more excited to see it. I can't watch this video without getting goosebumps and tearing up. Literally. So. Excited.  (video)

  

This week a Les Miserable related video went viral. This couple had a full on musical performance to One Day More performed at their wedding by their friends, and it's in a word: amazing. No offense to any of the guests at my wedding - but really? You couldn't do this for me? And they even got confetti at the end?! I kid...sort of. (video)



Happy Friday! 
Are you excited for the Les Miserables movie?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Real or Fake?

Of course, I'm talking about Christmas trees! Do you have or prefer a real or fake Christmas Tree?
Source
When I was growing up we had a real tree only one Christmas (at least that I can remember). I remember grabbing a saw and walking up a huge hill at the local Christmas Tree Farm to chop it down. (Actually...I was informed this weekend that we walked up the hill, picked out the one we wanted, and someone else chopped it down for us, but whatever, it was still the real deal.) The real "Pennsylvania" way of doing things. We took that tree home and I was so happy and proud, until my dad and sister proceeded to have major allergy attacks from the tree for the next month. Not to mention there were pine needles everywhere. I remember doing a major Spring cleaning some 4 years after our real tree and finding a heaping pile of dead pine needles behind our piano. And so, from that point on it was a fake Christmas tree for our family. I really didn't mind all that much. The fake tree was certainly easier, and I liked that whenever we wanted to put it up we just had to go down the basement to get it.
Still so pretty right?

But it seems that a lot of people in the world have a very strong need to have a real Christmas tree for the Holidays. I have to admit there is something to be said for having a real, actual, pine tree in your house for the season. This was one thing I was fine to say "yes" to when my husband asked that we be a "real Christmas tree" family.

And so this is our second real christmas tree in our home and I'm quite proud of it.

Here's hoping for an allergy-free and easy to clean-up the pine-needles holiday season!

What about you? Do you prefer a real or fake Christmas tree? 
Has this changed from what you grew up with?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Have a Pinterest Addiction

Hi, my name is Laura, and I'm addicted to Pinterest.

I'm not really sure how it happened. A pin there, a pin here. 
Sometimes a pin in the morning - sometimes two pins at night.
500 pins in-between

Over time, I organize and reorganize my boards. Making them the most efficient they can be.
I move things, I work hard on my cover pictures for each board, I organize - I obsess.


For someone who loves list, and who has a ton of email drafts just filled with links of things "to check out" these boards are the ideal organizational tool for me.

My mind can't stop thinking about all the pins and things I have yet to do.
Not enough hours in the day, not enough hours in LIFE!

Before I know it, hours have passed. 

If pinning is wrong...I don't wanna be right.

 I do have one request for Pinterest though! I wish there was a way to indicate pins that I've already done or tried...a way to "check off" items on my board without deleting them. For now, I indicate completed items with an asterick in the description and a comment below the pin, but it's not doing the trick. 
Does anyone else feel this way, or have a better suggestion?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Name is Asher Lev

Last week I attended the opening night of the off-Broadway production of My Name is Asher Lev with my friend Ben. Our friend, James, is the Assistant Stage Manager for the show and scored us front row center seats. This was our view of the stage!
Up close and personal!

In fact, you can see our heads in a couple of pictures from the curtain call on Broadway World's website!
Source

The show was really good. I'm terrible at summaries, so I'll let Broadway.com take it away with the description:
Based on the best-selling novel by Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev is a new American play set in post-war Brooklyn, which tells the coming-of-age story of a boy prodigy who must be a painter at any cost ---against the will of family, community and tradition.

I really enjoyed it, I was riveted and enthralled the entire 90 minute show and I thought the acting was superb. I especially liked Mark Nelson, who played the father and multiple other characters. He portrayed each of his roles in such a uniquely distinct way that I had no trouble at all knowing which character he was playing.
 
I'm so proud of my little Jamesy for making it to the big time - he's even got his own bio in the playbill and everything! Afterward, we went to the after-party at Vice Versa Restaurant on West 51st street for some food and an open bar! Getting home after midnight was certainly a late night for a Wednesday (especially given that Chris and I are an old married couple and like to be in bed by 10:30) but it was well worth it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday! We had a great weekend with my parents and sister who were visiting from Pennsylvania. When they arrived on Saturday we sat down for lunch, which was Lasagna Soup from a Farmgirl's Dabbles. This is one of my favorite soups ever, I found it last year on pinterest and it's a huge hit every time I make it.
After lunch my mother-in-law, mom, sister and I took a holiday wreath making class at the Queen's County Farm Museum. It was so much fun and with the fresh pine smell, the Christmas music, and hot apple cider, this class put me right in the Christmas spirit!

Mother-in-law, Melissa, Me, Mom

The rest of the weekend was spent shopping at Trader Joe's and HomeGoods, watching Elf, having brunch with both our families on Sunday and enjoying a great weekend together as a family. Then yesterday afternoon we went to get our Christmas Tree! We are decorating it tonight, but so far Zoey has found her new favorite sleeping location:

What did you do this weekend?
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