Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce

Last night was “Mad Men” night in our household. I love Sundays for 2 reasons: Mad Men and Brothers & Sisters. Last night Mad Men won out and I was not disappointed. There is never a dull moment and never an episode goes by without the creative genius of Don (really Peggy) on display.

This evening I received an email forward depicting actual advertisements that could have only come from the creative department of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.

Lazy, yet productive, Sundays

Yesterday Matt and I had an extremely lazy, although very productive, Sunday.

It started off with breakfast sandwiches and coffee, like many weekend mornings. We sat around for a while, watching various things on tv. Then I decided that it was time to get some stuff done.

I cleaned our apartment, while gimpy Matt sat on the couch. Occasionally he would offer to help, although I am not sure how sincere his offers were. What was I going to have him do, use the vacuum as a crutch? It didn’t really seem possible to task him with physically strenuous chores. And let’s be honest, cleaning is hard! I was working up a serious sweat as I scrubbed the kitchen counters and cleaned the bathtub.

So while I cleaned, I tasked Matt with a more stationary chore: working on our wedding website. This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Basically, we just need to come up with some of the text to put into the awesome template we found. I wrote 75% of the text in one day but really needed Matt to do some of the entries that are from his view-point. He has been putting this off for a while now, because writing is not his strong suit. So, by the time I finished cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, living room and doing a load of laundry, Matt has successfully written 3 paragraphs for the website. I guess I am marrying the tortoise and not the hare.

Afterwards, I decided that I should put my craft table to use, since I hadn’t for a while. I had ordered some cool fabric off Etsy a while back but never used it for anything. I had also totally disassembled an old apron so that I could use the pieces to recreate one myself. What a perfect activity for a lazy sunday. I started working on the apron at 4pm and by 6pm, I had completed 3/4s of the apron. It is just missing a pocket and a tie. Unfortunately I lost my motivation and put it on hold until later. The good news is, it looks pretty sweet so far.

While I was motivated to be a good fiance, I used to make Matt and I dinner on Sundays. Unfortunately, our tradition has changed from cooking to ordering take out. Last night we changed up our normal pizza take-out order to BBQ. It was a great decision and left my belly in a very happy state.

After dinner, we settled in for an evening of Mad Men and some more crafting. Matt even got in on the action and helped me sort colored beads for an upcoming project. Pretty soon I will come home and find him sitting at the craft table making decorations for our apartment.

The day was great. We crossed a few things off our “to do list”, went to bed in a clean apartment, ready to start the week.  Honestly, to me there is nothing better than that.

Date Night

After Matt and I got engaged, my mother shared with me a photocopied section from a 1954 home economics text book.

Home Economics High School Text Book, 1954

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal, on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the home just before your husband arrives, gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad he is home.

Some don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.

The Goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

I decided that, although I have over a year before I get married, I should work my way down the list starting with the first one: dinner. While my baking skills pretty strong, I am the first to admit that my cooking skills are lacking. I have tried to improve them by making an effort to cook a few home-cooked meals each week and I have even taken a few cooking classes at the Institute for Culinary Education.

While I enjoy playing the role of Betty Draper, it is the year 2010, and Matt is not going to find himself playing the role of Don Draper. Before we got engaged, I made a comment one day (after being frustrated by Matt’s lack of culinary skills) that he needed to learn how to cook five different meals before I would agree to marry him, While this was more of a joke, Matt took on this challenge fully. The next few months, Matt would surprise me with dinners every so often. His five meals consisted of: fajita pizza, shepherd’s pie, chicken parm, chicken alfredo and enchiladas. He certainly proved himself to be a good cook.

While his cooking skills have slowly fallen off pace since he sealed the deal with the ring, he still makes “Egg McMatt’s” nearly every weekend for breakfast and can make a mean cup of coffee in our K-cup Keurig machine. For Christmas Matt bought me a gift certificate to take a couples cooking class at ICE. So on Friday, we finally went to a class where we could both work to improve our cooking abilities.

The class that we took was called “Couples Like it Hot!” and had a menu geared around spicy dishes. Matt and I had a great time and learned a lot. I’ve included some pictures and recipes below!

Cheese Twists:
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat over to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust a work surface with flour.

1. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese on the right half of the dough. Sprinkle half the cayenne on top and fold the left side of the dough over the filling. Press the edges together. Roll the dough out lightly to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
2. Sprinkle half the dough with another 1/2 cup of cheese and the remaining half of the cayenne, fold in half again, and press the edges together.
3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch think.
4. Cut the dough into long half-inch wide strips. Twist each strip a few times, then lay them out about 1/2 inch apart on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then remove from paper and serve.
Spicy Mac ‘n Cheese:
1 pound Barilla elbow macaroni
1 1/3 cups whole milk, divided
1 cup mascarpone
3 cups extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 1/3 cups Jalapeno Puree (recipe follows)
1. Cook pasta al dente and drain.
2. Return the empty pasta pot to a low burner and add half of the milk, all of the mascarpone and the hot pasta to the pot, mix well.
3. Add half of each cheese (3/4 cups each) and mix well. Add the remaining milk and cheese and mix well.
4. Stir in the Jalapeno Puree and heat through. Serve immediately or transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.
Jalapeno Puree:
6 to 8 large jalapeno peppers, depending on heat
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Puree together in a mini-processor.

From Scratch

As a result of my new-found love of blogging, I’ve started to follow various blogs, mostly about DIY type projects, wedding ideas, and cooking. It is impressive to see how many fellow bloggers there are out there, most of whom have very interesting things to say or talent to share with the world. With each new blog I come across, they have at least 5 or 6 more blogs listed on their site, of places they like to visit when they aren’t busy blogging. It is a vicious cycle that eats away at my day… which isn’t really a bad thing since I have been spending most of my work day sitting at my desk feeling uninspired to actually do work. It is quite perfect that my new obsessions with blogs has come along just as I’ve run out of things to google (you know you are bored when you start googling, “google” just to see what comes up!)

Once of the blogs that I check periodically has inspired today’s post. The blog, “From Scratch” posts a few times a week about various recipes that the blogger has made. The recipes are usually unique and fun and it has inspired me to spend a little more time in my kitchen (I plan to make the tomato sauce tonight!) I really do like to cook and I LOVE to bake, but finding the time, inspiration and energy to do these things isn’t always easy. However, last night I decided that I would spend a little time getting in touch with my 1950/60s housewife-self, pearls and all!

Matt and I have been watching a lot of “Mad Men” lately and I have fallen in love with Betty (Bets) Draper. So last night, I channeled my inner Betty. While Matt  loves Don Draper (what guy doesn’t) let’s hope he doesn’t start channeling him!

Matt informed me that he would probably be able to leave work at a decent hour and that we could eat dinner together. He offered to take me out, but I decided to treat him (although he would argue that isn’t always a treat!) to a home cooked meal since he has done so much work around the apartment for me lately, and to make up for that whole 1:30am fire alarm incident thing.

I prepared a delicious meal of steak, potatoes and asparagus. It turned out great and I am happy to report that the smoke alarm didn’t go off! I felt like such a good fiance, making a meal for my hard-working man. I know my feminist mother would be proud!

I capped off my domestic diva evening by baking a cake, from scratch. This is something that I used to do often, back when I decided that I was going to move to Baltimore and work with Duffy at Ace of Cakes; however, I haven’t made one in a very long time. I made a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting, following a recipe that is apparently what New York’s Magnolia bakery uses for their cakes and cupcakes. The recipe wasn’t very difficult, but I did substitute the “self rising flour” with cake flour, salt and baking powder.

The cake turned out a little denser than I would have liked. I blame this on my oven – I have convection oven settings which always seem to screw things up for me (clearly I accept no blame for this). I have officially swore them off and promise to use the regular temperature settings from here on out! I finished the cake off with the frosting and pink fondant flowers. I can never get the frosting to be as smooth as they do on Ace of Cakes or Food Network Challenge, even when I attempt to do a crumb coating.

 While the cake looks good, my hands are now covered in pink food dye (note to self, use gloves when handling food dye).

I brought the cake into work today and it just happened to be someone’s birthday in my office – how perfect! Now all I need is for my co-workers to post comments about how delicious the cake is. Stay tuned…