Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If The House Is Rockin'...

...There must a house concert inside! Our house was rockin' Saturday night when we finally hosted our very own house concert. I talked about house concerts a looong time ago after we attended one for the first time. Since that time we have had hosting one on our To Do List. A year and half later, we can mark that off the list. But that doesn't mean we are done with house concerts.

So what is a house concert? A house concert is a small, intimate live music performance in the comfort of a private home. House concerts are usually by invitation only so as to keep them intimate. Food and beverages are served and may even be potluck. A cover charge may be collected to pay the musicians and cover other costs. The performers are hired to perform a few sets and in between sets they mingle with the guests and enjoy the party themselves.

This one was sort of our "starter" house concert. Being our first one, we kept it small. Being that our house is oldish, (read not an open floor plan and therefore smallish, boxy rooms), we kept it small. Being February, we kept it inside. About twenty close friends and music fans attended and were happily parked around the perimeter of our living room.

Being that we knew the musicians, we kept it free. Bo Weevil played song selections from his newest CD, Make It Right and was accompanied by jazz multi-instrumentalist, Anita Thomas who also played on the album.

I guess to say the house was rockin' is a bit of a misnomer given that Bo and Anita were playing Americana, country blues and rag time influenced music. Rockin' might also be a strong word when you consider that the guests were mostly 40-somethings, drinking various ultralight beers and eating cake balls. Maybe I could just say the house was groovin' instead? Either rockin' or groovin', the music and the food were superb. Thanks friends for all the yummy food you brought to share too!

A house concert is a bit like theater-in-the-round such that it brings the musicians and the audience into one space and creates an atmosphere for dialogue between the musicians and the audience. There was much bantering back and forth on Saturday night between the Entertainment and the Entertained.  This adds to the comfortable, personal nature of a house concert. It's a very participatory experience. At house concert, you also get the opportunity to hear the musicians talk about the songs they are performing and gain a little insight into the writing of their songs.

In the end, musicians and guests alike had a great time. The night was so successful, we can't wait to do it again. Next time, we hope it will be bigger and maybe even an outdoor event...a lawn concert perhaps?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Schooled - Grammy Edition

If you were a teen in the 80s, you know what I mean when I say, "Word up!" or at least you know from where that phrase came. As grammatically incorrect as it is, Word Up is embedded in my mind forever. Thank you Cameo. It's the 80s version of today's ubiquitous "I know, right?" with the lilting inflection that every tweenager and beyond seems to have perfected. Can anyone tell me where that came from? Not from Cameo. Either way, I think they both are meant to show approval or comprehension. Word up? I know, right?

None of this has anything to do with the Grammy Awards other than that was a catchy title to get you reading on Grammy Sunday. I don't think Cameo evey won a Grammy. Or did they?

Back in the 80s, I never envisioned that thirty years later my Word Up would be in the form of kitchen decor. I had a blank bulkhead in the kitchen that needed something.

That red area above the sink looked naked.

We decided to paint a catchy phrase on the bulkhead. La Cucina had already been done. Instead we opted for something that meant something to us and settled on our phrase (I can't tell you what it is yet.)

But then we remembered that painting letters would require some skills that we do not possess.

So we got a problem. Yeah, who'll solve it? Not Vanilla Ice, silly. The answer is always online.

We found and our bulkhead will never be the same.Wordsanywhere allows you to order custom lettering in font, color and size of your choice in easy to apply (and later remove if you so choose) vinyl that looks like the painted work of an artiste or at least someone really good with graphics.

Your custom phrase comes sandwiched between two sheets of wax-like, grid paper with simple directions for application. You position your phrase and peel off the backing. Then, with a credit card style applicator, gently rub the letters on to the wall and off the front sheet of paper.

Easy and quick to apply! Inexpensive too.
And doesn't our bulkhead look happy?

Now, about the mysterious phrase. It's not in English and I'm not going to tell you what it says. Does that make you mad? I had you wait all this time, missing part of the Grammy Awards and I just leave with unanswered questions. But I know someone out there can figure it out. If you can, post a comment with the translation, the language and for bonus points, the source (think 90s). For those of you who have been to my house recently (or if you are my mom), please don't answer and spoil everyone else's fun. That wouldn't be fair. I know, right?

Word up!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake Balls!

In the category of yum, I'd like to enter cake balls.

Cake balls are likely old news to you. They have been the topic of blogs for a few years now, I think. I've seen cake balls go like hot cakes at parties recently. They are middle-aged news to me. A trendy friend told me about them some time ago. She had been making them for a while. But rather than jump on the cake ball wagon immediately, I waited. But let me say now...I wonder why I waited so long.

We have a little event coming up where there will be many guests and the need for lots of food. I thought to make cake balls to serve since the recipe makes several dozen. So I read through a number of recipes on the web, talked to a few trendier friends about their cake ball escapades and set aside a day for making cake balls.

I must interject here that all I can think about when I say "cake balls" is Alec Baldwin in SNL's Schweddy Balls skit. If you don't know that one, Google it. Unless you are my mother, in which case, don't Google it and just keep reading here.

Back to my cake balls. Like I do with most recipes I find, I made these recipes my own by adding a few personal tweaks. The basic cake ball recipe is this:
  • Bake a box cake mix according to package directions. It doesn't matter what pan size or shape you choose because you will deface the cake once it is baked.
  • When completely cooled, remove cake from pan and thoroughly crumble it in a large bowl until it resembles, well, crumbs.
  • Completely mix cake crumbs with a tub of frosting. It should be a thick, moist consistency. You could stop right now and eat the entire bowl if no one is watching you.
  • If you are being watched and therefore must continue with the recipe, form spoonfuls of cake mix into balls and place on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Stick the balls, except for the three to five that you jam in your mouth, into the freezer for at least one hour.
  • Nap off sugar buzz.
  • After your nap balls are frozen, melt chocolate or other flavor for dipping. Dip balls with a toothpick into coating. Return dipped balls to wax paper to set and cleverly cover toothpick hole with a sassy garnish.
  • Depending on the size of the balls and how many you eat during the production, you might end up with as many as 4 dozen cake balls. I suspect you will have fewer than that.
Those are the basics. I made two different flavors and used two different dipping methods. I needed a lot of balls so I used the opportunity to try both ways. They both turned out great and neither one was easier than the other. But good to know.

First I made these cuties.

I used lemon cake mix and lemon cream frosting. The coating is vanilla flavored almond bark with 2 teaspoons of lemon extract stirred in. I used the microwave melting method and thinned it for dipping with about 1 tablespoon Crisco shortening (yes! I've been looking for a reason to use that old tin of it.) The sassy garnish is yellow candy "melts" melted and squeezed from a bottle in a cute little flower design then topped with chocolate sprinkles. They sort of look like the Maryland state flower, the Black-eyed Susan, don't you think? And they taste like a slice, or, ball of lemon heaven.

Next I made these little devils.

These handsome things are made with german chocolate cake mix and coconut pecan frosting. The coating is Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate Bar. That is not a typo. It's really called Baker's German's. Click here to see what I'm talking about. That chocolate is so good. My brothers and I used to sneak it from my Oma's kitchen cupboard. I gave my boys a square to eat while I melted the rest. Now they know the secret of Baker's German's too. I melted this in a double boiler and didn't have to add anything for thinning.

And by now you know that those aren't just crushed pecans on top of those chocolate balls, but serve double duty in beauty and function as they cover the toothpick holes and warn those with peanut and treenut allergies that these balls may be lethal. Thus, they are beautiful, ingenious and delicious to the allergy-free.

So went my cake ball adventure. My cake balls are delicious. They were well worth the wait. They are addictive. But I will tell you, they are not Schweddy.