Thursday, February 26, 2015

White Teeth and Red Lipstick

Fair Warning: This post is full of photos of a 60-something's face! Proceed only if you are capable of handling closeups of wrinkles and pores and age spots and all sorts of real-life stuff you won't see in a fashion magazine.

But I'm not a model nor a celebrity; I'm just me, a gal who has kissed the 50s goodbye and is romping through the 60s. Recently I had my teeth whitened--for the first time ever--using bleach trays at night for a month. The results were amazing! Here my dentist is holding up a sample of the color my teeth used to be:

Wow! What a difference! I celebrated by going out and getting some new red lipsticks:

Three out of the four of these Revlon shades have been around since the Dawn of Time. Kinda like me. I figured if they've lasted that long, they must be good. The fourth, "Softsilver Red," was new to me, but I liked the shade--and anything with "silver" in it gets my vote.

In the photo below, they are (from the top, proceeding clockwise): "Fire & Ice," "Softsilver Red," "Cherries in the Snow," and "Love That Red":

This is Softsilver Red:

It looks more like a pink, once applied. I like it, but I'm after a more full-on red:

Next up, "Fire & Ice":

Yeah, that's what I'm talking' 'bout. But a lip color this strong is definitely going to need to be worn with a lip pencil underneath, or it'll go skittering all over my 60-something lips:

The sound of the crinkling plastic as I unwrapped the lipsticks attracted Mu Shu's attention. Nope, not a treat, Mu; sorry!

This is "Love That Red." It's quite similar to "Fire & Ice," but maybe a degree more blue, less orange:

Well, I like it, too. But the lip pencil situation remains. If I wear one of these super-red shades, I'm going to have to spring for a matching pencil:

Last up, "Cherries in the Snow." It skews toward fuchsia, farther away from a true red:

I like it, too!

All that taking off and re-applying of lipstick could not happen without my favorite makeup remover by Estée Lauder (or "Empty Larder," as my old boyfriend used to call it, because it is so pricey):

To rehydrate my lips and the surrounding skin between scrub downs, a teeny dab of Argan Oil did wonders. I got this from Whole Foods. It's great stuff:

Four shades of lipstick later, this is what my testing site looked like.

Which lip color did I pick? I don't know; I might keep them all.

Heaven bless drug-store lipsticks--one of the best ways for a woman to splurge on a new look for very little money.

And Heaven bless my dentist, for pulling off a Cinderella on my teeth:


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm in Love with Otis

 Remember Otis, the pit bull my friends adopted on Valentine's Day? I finally got to meet him:

And I'm in love:

He's got the thickest neck, and the blockiest head, and these bitty little ears (because some horrible person thought it'd make him look fiercer):

He does that Big-Dog Lean, which just cracks me up. My dogs are too little for it:

He's got the most beautiful silvery coat:

And that gaze! It just stops me in my tracks:

Those are the yahoos he lives with. That's Monty the mutt (well, that's his butt, anyway), Lucy Loo the Chiweenie, and Ethel (another pittie, but with quite different looks):

From Day One, Otis has fit right in with the posse. They act as if he's their brother-from-another-mother:

Speaking of, this is his hoomin mother. The affection between them is obvious:

And wet. And sorta sloppy:

Otis is pure love:

I'm so thrilled he found a home where he can express that, for the rest of his furry days.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Puppy Love on Valentine's Day Weekend

Valentine's Day Weekend 2015, for me, was Puppy Love weekend. First on Saturday the 14th, friends of mine adopted a fourth rescue dog--and their second Pit Bull. That's "Otis," on the left, showing off his gentle, perfect manners while he waits his turn for a tidbit of steak:

(All three Otis Photos by Clifton W. Dye)

Even though he's a big guy (78 pounds) and has sort of scary looks, his new daddy describes him as having "the head of a monster and the heart of a marshmallow."

I don't know about that: I think Otis is incredibly handsome. This big gray beauty doesn't know it yet, but he's landed in a fabulous home. His owners are committed rescue-dog advocates, and they both have hearts of gold:

Then on Sunday the 15th of February, I volunteered at a big animal-adoption event. We had about three times the normal amount of dogs, and multiple agencies worked together to make the event a success. There were red-heart balloons, and big banners and tents all over the park to attract the public's attention. There was even a doggie kissing booth.

The event was a huge success; something like 17 dogs found homes! This is "Charcoal," the poodle mix I was handling. His new owners weren't out looking for a dog, but all the hoopla attracted their attention:

They may re-name him "Charlie," but whatever his new name will be, he's a lucky boy.

As usual, we had a variety dogs looking for their Forever Homes, from little dudes like Jon Paul, here:

To big, gorgeous guys like Zachary. Check out those mesmerizing eyes!:

(Doesn't Karl Loveys take the most wonderful dog portraits?)

I have never, EVER seen two Basset Hounds at the same adoption event. They are just such a rarity. But actually, this past Sunday, there were THREE! I could only snap two of them in one photo, however:

All three of the Bassets were turned in by a single owner. All three were adorable:

Those ears: It's like they have their own ZIP code:

Also on Sunday, another couple we're friends with adopted a French Bulldog. Meet "Stella," 10 weeks old. She is such a wigglebutt it was very hard to get her to hold still for a portrait with The Hubby:

We brought her some Nylabone chew toys, and she went right to work on one:

Aaaand then, for variety, she nommed on her Daddy's Crocs sandal:

What a scamp! You couldn't pay me to have another puppy:

But it's great fun to visit one who lives nearby.

Now I must go. I've got to make a playdate to meet Otis, the big, ol' lump of love packaged in a Pit Bull wrapper.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mac-n-Cheese Upgrades

One of my favorite comfort foods is Mac-n-Cheese, made from scratch. Home-made made "mac" is all I've ever served my children, and I'm pretty sure when they have children, they won't be serving their little tykes any of that nasty, dyed-orange stuff from a blue box.

If you haven't ever cooked macaroni & cheese from scratch, I urge you to try it. It's easy, and the results are delectable. (I've included my recipe at the end of this post, for your convenience.) Even if you already have a Mac-n-Cheese recipe you love, here are a few ways to upgrade this classic, homespun dish:

1. Rub a cut clove of garlic around the insides of the dish you're going to use. This step alone takes the recipe up to a whole new level of deliciousness:

2. Expand your repertoire of cheeses. Usually made with mild or medium-sharp Cheddar, Mac-n-Cheese made with some other cheese--or a combo of cheeses--is divine. Try an extra-sharp Cheddar instead. Or take out some of the Cheddar and substitute in some Blue cheese, smoked Gouda or Gruyêre, or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Incredibly delicious!

An extra-sharp Cheddar (top) mixed with Parmigiano-Reggiano (below) is one  of my favorite combos. BTW a quick way to identify a true Parmigiano-Reggiano (only made in a certain area in Italy) is from the markings stamped into the rind:

3. Increase the crusty-chewy quotient. If you love a golden crust atop your mac-n-cheese like I do, don't pour the entire recipe into a deep dish (like a soufflé dish). Instead, portion it out into ramekins or shallow, flat individual dishes like these, below. You'll get more chewy crust per serving that way. Use a soup ladle to neatly ladle it out:

Yum, waiting to happen:

4. Finish off your mac with a delicious topping. Before popping the casserole or individual ramekins into the oven, I make a simple-but-scrumptious topper to up the yum quotient. Just stir up a little shredded cheese (like Parmigiano-Reggiano), some herbed bread crumbs, and some melted butter in a small bowl:

...and distribute a little on top of the individual portions:

Ohhh, yeah!:

5. Make a BIG batch. If you're going to cook from scratch, make your time count! Cooking up a large recipe means you can freeze individual portions and reheat them when you're too tired or stressed to cook. I freeze the ramekins before baking them, and then when they're fully frozen, I wrap each one in foil and pop several in large, zip-style freezer bags. They keep for weeks that way:

You can either cook the mac-n-cheese the same day you make it, or you can cook one you've previously frozen. No need to thaw it in the fridge first, either--so long as you're using a shallow dish like these. Just pop the frozen mac's into the oven (they may have to cook a bit longer when done straight from the freezer, obviously).

When I serve such a rich dish for an entree, I keep the rest of the dinner simple and "clean." A tossed green salad (lightly dressed) or simple steamed broccoli or green beans (hold the butter, please) makes a perfect side to this classic dish:

Happy eating!

UPGRADED MACARONI AND CHEESE  (serves 6-8)                 (roughly 20 minutes prep time)

For the pasta:
one or two cloves of garlic, cut in half (for rubbing inside the serving dish)
1 pound elbow macaroni (about 4 cups)
6 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
a little bit more than ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. white pepper (or if you don’t have it, black will do)
dashes of Tabasco sauce
4 cups grated cheese (sharp Cheddar chess, smoked Gouda or Gruyêre, or just about any kind or combo of cheeses you love, totaling about 10 ounces)

For the topping:
2-3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 C. or so of grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 C. or so of Panko or Italian bread crumbs (store-bought is okay; home-made is wonderful)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rub the cut garlic cloves around the inside of the serving dish or dishes you intend to use; discard cloves (or better yet, toss into your soup-stock scraps). Set prepared dish or dishes aside.

In a large pot, boil three quarts of water and 2 tsp. salt. When the water reaches a full, rolling boil, add macaroni and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in 3-quart sauce pot, melt butter. Remove pot from heat, whisk in the flour thoroughly, and return to the flame. Heat the mixture up until little bubbles form around the edges and cook the butter-flour mixture (technically called a roux) for two minutes, stirring constantly—do not let it brown!

After two minutes, remove roux from heat and gradually whisk in the milk, a tablespoon or so at a time, thoroughly blending after each addition. Return the milk mix to the flame and dump in any remaining milk, as well as the salt, onion powder, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Cook and stir until thickened, which may take as much as 10-15 minutes or so.

When the milk mixture thickens, add grated cheese and stir until cheese is melted. (I like to switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon at this point.)

Drain the cooked macaroni, return it to the large pot, and stir the cheese sauce into the pasta. Ladle into prepared serving dish or dishes.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, stir the melted butter, 1/4 C. grated cheese, and bread crumbs together. Using your fingers, scatter the topping lightly over the prepared macaroni.

To freeze: Place the completed dishes immediately into the freezer. When fully frozen, wrap well in foil, then place in a zip-style freezer bag for later use.

To bake: Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until crusty and golden-brown on top--approximately 40-45 minutes if using one large casserole dish, possibly as little as 20 minutes if using small and/or shallow individual serving dishes.

Makes 6 generous servings, or 8 more modest-sized servings.


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