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Bridal Shower Brunch

When your friends know you cook and bake a lot, chances are likely you might find yourself hosting some parties.  Whether it be dinner parties, baby showers, birthday parties, or... bridal showers.  My little sister asked me to be her matron of honor.  Of course I immediately set up a secret pin board and started thinking about shower, bachelorette, and other wedding ideas! 

The food part comes pretty easy.  I usually stick to individual sized foods so there is no cutting or portioning out.  That definitely makes things easier to grab and is less messy.  Now some showers can get pretty corny and the games can be kind of embarrassing, so I try to think up games that are a little more unique and would have fun playing myself.  

So for my sister's shower we had a mimosa bar with several different juices and champagnes.  That way each guest could make their own combinations or just drink juice (or just drink champagne!).  The shower was at noon on a Sunday, so the food was very brunchy.  Cinnamon strussel muffins, cucumber salmon bites, fruit skewers, parfaits, mini spinach quiche, cinnamon french toast, and maple bacon.  Just the right amount of options that even the pickiest eaters will find something to eat.

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For the games, I usually stick to about three, but this time I ended up with four.

1. How Old Were They?  This game you take about a doze pictures from both the bride and grooms childhood, number them, and have the guests guess who is in each photo and how old they were.  The funniest part is having the moms announce how old their kids were in the photos.  They may not get it exactly, but mom knows best, so go with her answers!


2.  Who Has the Groom?  - This game is kind of like Clue and Guess Who combined.  Print out several male celebrity photos and one of the future groom.  Place each photo in an envelope and pass out the envelopes.  Everyone peeks at who they have (make sure the groom's picture has his name on it or something since there may be a few people that haven't met him yet).  Then everyone asks each other questions trying to find the groom.  It is a great ice breaker and fun to play while people are still finishing eating since everyone eats at different paces.

3.  The Almost Newlyweds Game - This is just entertaining to watch, but make it a game for the guests too.  Have them guess the couples answers to score points.  It the second round, they can score double the points by guessing the couples answers AND guessing if they will they will guess correctly!

1. Who is the better cook in the kitchen?
2. Who gets to control the TV remote?
3. Who usually gets their way with things?
4. How many kids are you hoping to have someday?
5. How many pairs of shoes does Kathleen own?
6. Who decided on the wedding song for the first dance?

The last six questions, write down what you think is their answer and also think about what your answer is!
7. If your house was on fire, what one thing would your spouse grab before leaving?
8. What is the first thing your spouse would buy if you won the lottery?
9. If your spouse was a superhero, what would be his or her super power?
10. If your spouse was an animal, what animal would s/he be?
11. Where would your spouse want to go on a dream vacation?
12. What is your spouse's dream job?


4.  The Passing Game - Last, but not least, is the passing game.  You have a couple prizes that are easily passable.  Explain to the guests that you'll read a story and any time you say "right", they should pass the prize to their right, and "left" means pass to their left.  Then read the story as fast as possible and listen to everyone laugh as they start getting mixed up.  It doesn't matter the accuracy, just that everyone has fun!

<Bride's name> knew RIGHT away that she had found Mr. RIGHT and the RIGHT date was set. Now seemed to be the RIGHT time to start so she LEFT RIGHT after lunch and went RIGHT to her mother’s house. She LEFT in such a hurry that she LEFT her to do list RIGHT on the living room table. But there was no time to turn back. She knew she needed to get started RIGHT away to make sure nothing was LEFT undone.

With only <##> days until the wedding day, there seemed to be little time LEFT to spare and so much LEFT to do. She asked her mother to WRITE down a guest list because she knew mom would make sure no one was LEFT out.  <Bride's name> LEFT to find the RIGHT invitations. On her way, she LEFT a message at the florist and then RIGHT into the bridal shop she ran.

RIGHT in the window was the perfect dress. “Oh no, I LEFT my checkbook RIGHT in the car.” “Hold that dress, I’ll be RIGHT back.” With that accomplished, she called Mr. RIGHT and LEFT him a message to call her RIGHT back. She LEFT to meet the florist who had LEFT her a message that they had the RIGHT flowers for her.

Mr. RIGHT called her RIGHT back and said he LEFT a message for the preacher RIGHT down the road to call them RIGHT back and that he had just LEFT work and would be RIGHT over. She LEFT the florist and ran RIGHT over to meet Mr. RIGHT. RIGHT away they discussed what was LEFT to do. “Who will be the RIGHT best man?” She LEFT that up to Mr. RIGHT. “I’ll get the RIGHT maid of Honor.”

RIGHT away they started shopping for the RIGHT rings. With that done, the next stop was to order the RIGHT cake. Mr. RIGHT could clearly see his future Mrs. RIGHT was on the RIGHT track.
After a long day, they were both LEFT exhausted. All that was LEFT to do was get RIGHT home to see if any messages were LEFT while they were out. Sure enough, Mom had LEFT a message that the church RIGHT down the road was available so she requested it RIGHT away. Now that was not LEFT to worry about. “Lets call it a day.” “Whatever is LEFT to do, can be LEFT until tomorrow.”

So, now there is nothing LEFT to say except enjoy the rest of your day.  Just for fun though, pass once more to the LEFT.  Now see, that was fun, RIGHT?

Planning for Thanksgiving

It's time for the biggest cooking day of the year!  When experienced and novice chefs alike plan out a menu, buy tons of food, work hard in the kitchen, and serve up something delicious for their friends and family.  

Of course it is also time to give thanks, and not just for the feast and family in front of you.  Too many families are in need, especially this time of year.  And that is why Whence is partnering up with Godman Guild to provide Thanksgiving meals to families here in Columbus.  Please consider donating through the Whence app this week to help others have a healthy, happy Thanksgiving!

Since we are all planning for Thanksgiving, and our Bowman Landes turkey will be delivered by Green Bean Delivery, which means I need to start planning space in my refrigerator!  So here is a list of some Thanksgiving must-have (and a few unique) recipes to have on your Thanksgiving table...

cranberry-orange glazed turkey
stuffed turkey tenderloin
turkey cheddar apple panini

crispy roast potatoes
butternut leek soup
brussel sprout gratin
stuffing muffins
butternut mac and cheese

caramel apple struesel
mini pumpkin pies
baileys brownies
apple pie chips

Here's to a fun day of cooking!

Weekly Menu

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It's time to get back into menu planning!  After a couple months of kind of crazy weeks and a long bout with a cold, there was no way to really plan more than a day or two at a time, things are finally settling down again.

Anyone else surprised by the snow this morning?  I heard it was coming, but I really didn't believe it.  Usually Columbus magically gets passed over by some of these storms.  Some of the trees in our yard still have most of their leaves... which means they are holding even more snow than they should.  Hope their branches can withstand the weight!  And I guess it was good timing that we tore down my vegetable garden on Friday.  I still had a few peppers growing from summer!  Couldn't believe it!  One of the peppers ended up on our pizzas tonight (pictured below).  

Alright, here is this week's menu... 

pizza night
creamy salmon pasta
sticky drumsticks and brussel sprouts
asian meatballs and steamed broccoli
chicken & sour cream enchiladas

What are you making?


Eating in London

It's hard to believe it has been almost two months since we were in London!  Life has been a bit of a whirlwind since then, but is finally starting to slow down... right before the holidays.  :)

While Paris was my favorite city and Switzerland had my favorite moment of our European vacation, our days in London were full of planned events we could only do in England.  It started with seeing Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors in the Globe Theatre (a rebuilt replica of the theatre Shakespeare got his start that burned down to the ground, twice).  Then two shows at London Fashion Week (Fyodor Golan and a trend catwalk show, the song Habits by Tove Lo always takes me back to this moment).  And then to a English Premiere League football match between the Tottenham Hotspurs and West Brom (although we were hoping to see ManU play in Old Trafford).  

While in London, I had to go to one of my favorite chef's restaurants... Jamie Oliver.  We actually went to two of his restaurants, Jamie's Fifteen and Jamie's Italian.  And then, of course, we had to have some fish and chips.  Outside of those three must haves for me, London is kind of a melting pot of food culture.  We went to this bakery every morning that was on our way to the closest tube stop and had croissants (couldn't get over the French lifestyle).  There were Italian, African, French, American, Indian, and Asian restaurants.  And there were TONS of old pubs.  Many around for centuries (a couple we saw had been around for over 400 years)!  But if you're looking to eat out on the weekends, you better know someone who has reserved the restaurant for the night because apparently that's a thing.  We walked around for a couple hours on Sunday trying to find a pub that didn't have a 'closed for private party' sign on the door.  

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Our first stop in London was basically as soon as we got off the train.  We went to Jamie's Fifteen for a late lunch and by the time we were done, we had the place to ourselves.  Jamie Oliver's idea for the restaurant is to take 15 "troubled" youths and train them in the culinary arts and start their careers.  Our table was close to the wood fired oven and pastry prep area so we were able to witness some of the training moments while we ate.  On the walls they had pictures of the "graduating classes" with Jamie.

I had one of the lunch menus, which is a preset 3 course lunch.  Ordering from each section (appetizer, main course, side, dessert) is technically called a la carte.  My lunch included a salad with fried egg, smoked salmon and potatoes, and cantaloupe sorbet.  I also had a Southside, which was their interpretation of a mojito.  My husband had rabbit and potatoes.

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Like I said earlier, we couldn't get out of the French way of doing breakfast.  Once we had the almond croissants in London, we couldn't help ourselves.  I started putting almond extract in my pancakes about a year ago, but those almond croissants made me think I should be putting that extract in everything.


Our first full day in London we went to Jamie's Italian for lunch.  It seemed like Jamie Oliver's fast-casual chain since there are several of them throughout England.  We ate outside since the weather was so nice (and not normal for London), but I noticed on the way out that the restaurant had a small grocery area too.  

We had some drinks and bruschetta to start our meal, which wasn't your typical bruschetta.  In fact, the only thing it had in common with the wiki definition is the toasted bread, but it was still very good with gorgonzola, prociutto, pear, and walnut.  For the main course I had gnudi, which are basically ricotta balls, or as Jamie explains it... "naked ravioli" (recipe here).  Oh, and cime di rapa as my side dish, which is cooked broccoli rabe and leafy greens.  My husband was finally able to find some lasagna after searching all over Rome for some.

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On our touristy day that we didn't have anything planned but to see all of the famous sites, Harrod's was a must on my list.  You could spend days in that department store.  And you'll most likely get lost too... but you won't mind since there is fun shopping on every level and every corner.  So I looked online for some places to eat in the area and found Richoux rated highly and had the fewest dollar signs by the name.  London is an expensive city, if you don't do your research, every meal will be over 100£ (which is about $175 USD).  We had sandwiches and afternoon tea while we rested our feet.  We also enjoyed a couple rich pastries.  All for under 35£ which felt like a steal!

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And for the mandatory fish and chips we went to the Anchor after literally running through Tate Modern and before the play started at The Globe.  We also grabbed a couple pints... my favorite, which I have to assume is an English classic, Black Velvet, which is Guinness floated on top of hard cider.  After running around to what seemed like every pub in London and seeing "closed for private party" on every door, we settled for these "salad pizzas" at Pizza Express.  And then we found another pub by our Air Bnb apartment where we enjoyed a few more pints and bagpipers playing (ironically, right after Scotland decided to continue being a part of the UK.

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All in all, London both defied and explained the stereotype that London has the "worst food in Europe".  There were so many examples of great food, but there were also the occasional duds and areas it was hard to find places to eat.  Stick to a few restaurants that are trending (and likely expensive) and fill in with some neighborhood pubs for a great range of English food.

Eating Our Way Through Paris

Paris!  I think many girls daydream about Paris, the city of light.  So romantic, so fashionable, so beautiful.  Filled with wonderful monuments, gardens, boutiques, and pastry shops... what is not to love?  So I may have came to this city with a fantasized ideal, but Paris lived up to all of it.  

Here is what we ate while we were in Paris with some tips and what to expect for when you plan your Parisian adventure.  I will be attempting to recreate some of these meals and will post recipes so everyone can get a taste of France.  :)

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Our first meal in Paris was at Bar du Central.  We weren't really hungry, so we just ordered some sandwiches and espresso.  I got the croque de madame and was excited to see vegetables (salad) on the plate after being hard-pressed to find any in Rome or Switzerland.  My husband had a club and french fries with mayonnaise for dipping.

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Grabbing a sandwich and eating in one of Paris' famous parks is apparently what all the Parisians do.  So on our first full day, we ordered a chicken and brie baguette and a crepe with prosciutto, egg, and tomato and then strolled toward Luxembourg Gardens.  Interestingly enough, we ate our sandwiches under some buckeye trees (Ohio's state tree) which seemed to be everywhere in Europe.  Based on Paris, they must be easy to shape into, basically, tree hedges.  It was such a beautiful day, it seemed like all of Paris was lounging by the fountains taking it all in.
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Chances are if you have ever thought about visiting Paris, you have heard of Laduree.  Probably the most famous macaroons in the world.  They are mentioned in most Paris guidebooks and travel blog posts.  This was never on our itinerary... I don't even like macaroons.  But we were walking down a side street full of boutiques, but very few people, and stumble upon one of the Laduree houses.  With not a single person in line we popped in, ordered a few macaroons, and we were back on our way to the Louvre.  We ate our little french cookies while waiting in line at the museum (which moved quickly).  There were so many flavors but we picked rose petal, salted caramel, chocolate & coffee, and orange blossom.

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Since our Airbnb apartment was close to the Eiffel Tower, based on our learnings from Rome, we walked in the opposite direction.  There was a neighborhood restaurant not far away that seemed pretty homey with lots of french classics on the menu.  We tried escargot for the first time.  It wasn't bad.  Kind of like oysters.  A little chewy with this kind of pesto sauce that it was cooked in.  Definitely worth trying at least once.

For my entree I had roasted chicken, a little salad, and some frites.  Real french fries seem a little more like steak fries and are usually in some sort of scoop shape, probably for scooping up mayonnaise, but they are good on their own.  And since we were doing french specialties, of course we had to have creme brulee for dessert.  Makes me kind of want my own little kitchen torch to brulee things at home.  Mmmm.

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Every breakfast in France should include a croissant... so flaky and buttery!  I have always loved croissants, but french croissants... a total other level!  And the pastries... oh so good.  I'll definitely be trying to replicate this raspberry pastry when berries are back in season.  :)  It was like a thick shortbread cookie with a vanilla cream, raspberries, and powdered sugar.  Seems pretty simple, but so perfect.

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The most expensive restaurant we went to in Paris was in a hotel, which it seemed like some of the best, highest rated restaurants in Europe were in hotels.  We only stumbled upon this place after being turned down from several recommended restaurants because we didn't have a reservation (most had ten or fewer tables, we should have known!).  Thoumieux had kind of a retro feel and our waitress was so nice.  She read the entire menu to us in english after seeing our confused looks as we tried to translate ourselves.

We started with a pizza souffle, which was kind of a thin pastry shell to a ball of air (hence souffle) with pizza toppings.  When our waitress brought it out we thought it looked like so much food and worried we wouldn't even begin to have room for our entree.  But then we cut into it and it deflated to a much more manageable sized first course.

For our entrees, I had filet mignon for the first time ever.  Not sure I appreciated as much as a steak lover would, but it was good.  The mashed potatoes had purple potato chips on top, kind of a mix of the softest and crispiest form of potatoes.  My husband had white fish on a bed of purple cauliflower and potatoes.  For dessert we had a cup of vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and candied hazelnuts.

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We were so tired after walking around Versailles all day, we really just wanted to collapse in our apartment and pack back up for London.  So we crossed the street and ate on the terrace of Cafe Central.  Most of the restaurants in Paris had more seating outside than inside, which made me wonder what they do in winter trying to seat just as many Parisians.  

On the train ride to Paris I was listening to an audio guide of tips for eating in Paris on Rick Steve's travel app.  In the audio, an expat mentioned one of her favorite meals was duck confit with potatoes cooked in the remaining duck fat.  Your really have to wonder how everyone in Paris is so slim if they are eating things like this regularly.  I noticed this exact meal was on the menu, so I figured it was my last chance and had to order it!  I had only had duck once before this time, this definitely changed my stance and I'll be trying to recreate this at home as well.  Oh... and we had another one of those raspberry pastries... so good!

To finish off our last night in Paris, we had to have some real french champagne!  We picked it up from a little shop on the corner and sipped champagne while packing and watching Family Guy in french.


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