Category Archives: celebrations

Olympics Fever

olympics rings, olympics decorations, world flags, winter olympics, olympics party

My blogging and letter writing has fallen by the wayside thanks to the Olympics. No regrets though. These games are so much fun and the Adami-Hasegawa medal count competition is as close as it’s ever been (USA 12, Japan 10 as of this morning.)

I always throw a mini Olympics party, but this year the Olympics crept up on me and I didn’t have enough time to plan appropriately or come up with a theme cocktail. Party or no party I love decorating above our TV for the Olympics. Every year, I break out my flag banner and in 2016 I added an Olympic torch. (My guest room closet is pretty much the party prop room. I can’t save everything, but some things are small enough and took enough time to create that I figure they should be reused. If you ever need a sakura branch or some giant cacti, please give me a call.) This year I made some Olympic rings to hang. They’re a little small, but now that I’ve made them, I think I can probably work out a giant version for Tokyo 2020.

coffee brownies, patriotic browniesKaren came over for the Opening Ceremonies and we made a very simple menu: Korean beef tacos and Korean coffee brownies. (Disclaimer: these are probably not authentic foods.) Karen made the coffee brownies and I made these Korean beef tacos topped with this cabbage slaw and they were so good. 
Olympics decorations, Olympic rings decoration, Olympic torch decoration, Olympic flags
 Do you have a favorite Olympic event? I used to think mine was ice skating, but now I think it’s pretty much whatever is happening right now.

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Cherry Almond Angel Cake

cherry almond cakeLast week I had a couple of friends over for “Christmas” lunch. I made an orange pomegranate prosecco cocktail, Ina Garten’s split pea soup, a salad, and this cake. Isn’t it cheerful?

It’s a Cherry Almond Angel Cake and it’s basically a doctored box mix cake. I read about this cake many years ago on a blog I can’t find anymore*. She made the cake based off a Betty Crocker recipe and she made hers in two loaf pans. I wrote down the recipe and all these years later, I finally tried it. It’s so fun. My cherry “glaze” was more of a frosting, but it was really delicious so I’m not complaining.

Cherry Almond Angel Cake

1 box angel food cake mix (Betty Crocker gets my mom’s stamp of approval, so that’s what I used.)

1 1/4 cups cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (One tiny 10 ounce jar will be plenty for this recipe, with a few leftovers for a Manhattan or two!)

 

Make sure your oven rack is at the lowest level possible and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, and almond extract on low for 30 seconds. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

Fold in cherries.

Pour into an tube cake pan. DO NOT GREASE YOUR PAN! (Also, do not use a non-stick pan!)

Bake for 37-47 minutes until the top is very dry, cracking, and dark golden brown. If the top is still sticky, the cake is not done.

When done, remove from oven and turn over onto a glass bottle. (If you don’t have a glass bottle on hand–this isn’t 1950–you can set your pan on top of 2-3 cans. The important thing is that the cake cools upside down.) Let the cake cool completely. When the cake is cooled, run a knife along the edges of the pan to remove it.

Cherry Glaze

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) of maraschino cherry juice

Full disclosure, I broke my hand mixer making this glaze. The hand mixer was pretty old, but also, apparently 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice were more like wall putty than a nice, glossy glaze. I finished the glaze by hand, with a spoon and ended up using 5 tablespoons of juice and still, my glaze was pretty thick. Start with 2 1/2 tablespoons and add as you go, 1/2 tablespoon at a time to be safe. When it’s the right consistency, drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake

Decorate the cake with extra maraschino cherries and beam at your work like a 1950s housewife.

Three things: Wouldn’t this cake be so cute for Valentine’s Day? I’m going to make it again for a Valentine karaoke party we’re going to next month. And, if you aren’t a frosting person, I always think angel food cakes are delicious on their own. Maybe slightly less cute, but delicious still. Lastly, if you’re interested, the box mix has instructions for making your angel food in two loaf pans. One for yourself, and one for a gift.

 

*Maybe you’ve read this blog? The woman lived in Champaign, Illinois. She was married, had a corgi, and she made quilts and doilies to show at fairs. She also had an etsy shop where she sold a pattern for aprons made of pillow cases.

 

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Happy Birthday, Naoto!

Naoto making cocktails, Trader Joes guyHappy birthday to my charming husband. May this year be your best one yet…I know you’re off to a great start in 2018!

XO

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Happy 2018

New Years Eve glitter, slippersHappy New Year! Naoto & I were committed to staying home and making a bunch of old school appetizers for New Year’s Eve but we got invited to a friend’s party a few blocks away so we decided to take our cocktail wiener show on the road. It was well worth the freeeeezing cold walk and we spent New Year’s Day cozied up at home, cooking and napping, and watching the Rose Parade. New Years Eve, Kimberly and Naoto This week is all about cleaning and taking Christmas down. I’m always so sad to put our decorations away, but I do appreciate how clean and uncluttered the house looks when it’s done. I might leave the village up for January, but that’s just such a slippery slope…pretty soon I’ll be telling myself it’s okay to leave the crispy Christmas tree up until Valentine’s Day.

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Christmas Dinner with Julia Child

Christmas tree 2017, Costco tree, colored lights. I didn’t get a good shot of the tree this year with the presents all around it, but here it is, dropping some needles due to dryness and Presley’s hourly visits to drink from the tree stand. (I know, I know…it’s not good for her but seriously, she’s been drinking tree water for all of her years…)winter sun cocktail, breakfast cocktailThis year, we didn’t make our Christmas voyage to Mitsuwa. I was tired of having to shower and get ready and battle weird weather and traffic on Christmas Day. So this year we stayed home in our pajamas and opened presents and made breakfast and a morning cocktail. We made the Winter Sun, and it is seriously the perfect breakfast cocktail. So citrusy and tart, perfect for a winter morning. Don’t skip the citrus sugared rim or the rosemary. Julia Child's beef bourguignon, Mastering the art of french cooking, Julia Child, beef stewThen we spent most of the afternoon and evening making Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. We wanted to try a new recipe and something kind of complicated, so we picked beef bourguignon. We watched the original episode of The French Chef where Julia makes the dish and we were enchanted with her easygoing personality and cooking flair. Her show really highlights the tips about browning the meat and sautéing the mushrooms. We felt like we learned more in that thirty minutes than we have in all our years of watching the Food Network! (We don’t really watch anymore, but we used to watch a lot in the early 2000s.)

The dish wasn’t hard. There were a lot of steps and some techniques that we’ve never tried before, but dinner was worth it!! There was so much flavor packed into this dish! And it fed us for three days. Naoto makes a really delicious beef stew, but the flavors here are totally different. We want to make it again this winter, and add more carrots and leave out the pearl onions just because they weren’t our favorite thing. (Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but we prefer carrots and Julia only uses one which had us arm wrestling for the few bits in the dish.) We also served it over pappardelle on the second day and it was sooooo good. Naoto eating Christmas dinner, Julia Child's beef bourguignon

One thing I would recommend, and I’m feeling this way about almost all recipes lately: get the cookbook! Whether you buy it or borrow it from the library, cooking from cookbooks has been so much easier for me than constantly running to the computer or waking up my phone. (I know you can change your phone settings but, I don’t.) The beef bourguignon recipe is in three separate places in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and we were constantly clicking on different links and it just would have been better to have the cookbook.

I’d love to know some “complicated” dishes you’ve made that are worth the time and effort. Naoto is going to be around more in 2018 and our goal is to cook together more often.

Cheers to the last post of 2017 and hopefully more blogging in 2018!

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A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery

A Cocktail Story at ch distilleryFor the second year in a row, Naoto and I went to CH Distillery in the West Loop for their Christmas pop-up, A Cocktail Story. I love a good theme party, so it’s right up my alley–all of the food and cocktails are based on the holiday classic, A Christmas StoryA Cocktail Story at ch distilleryI wish I’d taken pictures of the menu, because I can’t remember the witty names of our cocktails, but we started with bourbon (Naoto’s was a version of an Old Fashioned and mine was similar to a Manhattan) and moved onto tasty rosemary gin cocktails.  We ate classic snacks like deviled eggs, cheese balls, and fried rice (keeping with the movie’s Chinese Christmas dinner theme.) A Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogFor me, the best part of the whole experience was Eddie’s Frozen Eggnog. (Eddie = Clark’s cousin in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) It is so deliciously decadent. I’ve been thinking about it since I tried it last yearA Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogCheers to the holidays once again!

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Happy Christmas

Adami-Hasegawa Christmas pictureHappy Christmas from the Hasegawas!

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December…Already?

naoto at thanksgiving thanksgiving table, vintage tablecloth, vintage dishes, table settings thanksgiving table, vintage tablecloth, vintage dishes, table settings thanksgiving food thanksgiving food naoto at thanksgivingIs it too late to share a few pictures from Thanksgiving?

It’s that time of the year again where I can’t believe it’s already December, yet this year seems like the loooooongest ever. My friend and I were talking about the famous Beyoncé pregnancy photo last night and I couldn’t believe that picture was from this year. (February to be exact.) Aren’t those twins toddlers by now? At the same time, I feel like summer was just here and we didn’t enjoy it enough and fall flew by in a blink.

Now we’re in the middle of the holiday season and time isn’t slowing down. The house is all decorated, but it’s still a mess because I haven’t put the decoration bins away yet. My goal for today is to get that done, vacuum and be ready to finish my cards in front of a Hallmark Christmas movie tomorrow afternoon. As far as other holiday goals go, I’d like to:

  • bake cookies
  • make some Chex Mix
  • host a tiny gathering (mostly because I want to make a cheese ball)
  • finish my cards by the 10th (and spend out most of my holiday sticker and card stash)
  • mail gifts to faraway friends before the 15th
  • rate all of the Hallmark Christmas movies
  • paint one of those ceramic Christmas trees
  • go to Chris & Heather’s 20th Anniversary Calendar Show
  • make some holiday cocktails for Hasegawa Happy Hour

Let’s see how I do with my list. Anything special on your holiday wishlist?

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Phantom Flight Night™ 2017

Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineIt’s that time of the year again–Phantom wine time! Earlier this month we hosted our THIRD annual Phantom Flight Night™, our little wine tasting gathering where we compare notes on several years of releases of Phantom wine. This year, we tasted 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2014 is available now at Trader Joes and other wine shops!) Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I packed most of our Halloween decorations in the dining room since that’s where the party was. I labeled the bottles so we could easily identify the year and poured each person two ounces. This was the biggest Phantom Flight Night™ yet, so I had to borrow some wine glasses from Karen so we’d have enough for everyone. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineKaren brought her grandma’s wine glasses. As you can see, wine glasses (right side) were, uh, a little smaller back then. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine, meat and cheese trayKaren made her fabulous homemade pimento cheese and we served meats and cheeses and minestrone soup. The “other Karen” made Lucky Charms treats which were amazing. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I printed some wine tasting wheels so we had some wine language to work with. I’m terrible at discerning different tastes in wine, so it’s nice to always have a guide and some Trader Joe friends who’ve had some wine tasting training. Even though I’m no sommelier, I still find comparing Phantoms interesting. The blend changes a little bit each year (for instance the 2014 blend is 42% Petite Sirah, 34% Zinfandel, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot) and the finished wine is vastly different. Overall, 2012 came through as a favorite.

Every year I love this party more. Mainly because it’s an intimate group of fellow wine lovers, but also because wine, snacks, friends…simple. It’s the perfect October tradition before the busy-ness of the holidays begins.

P.S. Here are the posts for Phantom Flight Nights™ of years past: 2016, 2015

 

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Origami Chopstick Holder

I’m the worst you guys! Thanks so much to Susan for reminding me in the comments to post the chopstick/pen holder! I took these pictures back when it was still summer, but then didn’t love the lighting so I figured I would take more, but then the busy-ness of October caught up with me. And now that I’m more free, we’re hitting a rainy spell in Forest Park, which isn’t helping with bright pictures! So, I’m posting these today with hopes of a sunny morning soon so I can update with some brighter, clearer pictures. I really love how easy this project is and I’m trying to find long, skinny objects for all of my friends so I can wrap their gifts in fancy paper holders.

You can use any kind of paper for this project, but I find handmade papers to be most forgiving. (This section at Paper Source is a great place to look for types of handmade papers that work well for origami projects. Steer clear of anything that is flocked or may be too thick to fold well. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!)  When I made Karen’s pencil holder, I used a lokta paper and I’ve used Japanese washi as well. Both of those fold beautifully. Wood based paper will work just fine though, so you can use wrapping paper or anything pretty you have on hand. It’s just not always as easy to manipulate and tends to show mistakes more.

You’ll need to cut your paper to an 8×8 inch square. I used a ruler and scissors for this since the paper is too large for my paper cutter. Do your best to get nice straight lines since origami is a pretty exact science. My paper had a deckled edge so I placed that at the top to add some interest to the collar of the pencil/chopstick holder. You could also cut the deckled edge off and just have clean edges all around. A bone holder (that thing on the right) is helpful to smooth your folds, but if you don’t have one, you’re fingers will work just fine.
Flip your paper over so the pattern is facing down. Fold the paper in half. Open and fold the right half to meet the center fold. Then fold the left half to meet the center fold. Unfold and now you should have four equal sections in your square. Fold your left corner down to meet the first fold (from the left.) Fold your right corner down to meet the center fold. Now fold the left side over to meet the middle. And fold again in the same direction. It’s kind of like rolling it closed. One last turn and this is what the back should look like. Flip it over and this is what the front should look like. (But turn it back over because we need to finish the back part.) On the back side, fold the bottom up about a quarter of an inch or so. This will be the bottom of the holder. Use some clear tape to hold it closed. I know washi tape would be cuter here, but most of it won’t hold securely on handmade paper. Clear tape gets the job done.
Stick in some chopsticks, pencils, pens, magic wands…and you’re done! I made a bunch for my birthday party this year and for Hasegawa Tanabata. All the different patterns make a pretty table (or picnic!)

Let me know if the instructions are confusing and I’ll try to clear them up! And please send me pics of your finished origami pencil holders!

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