Wednesday, November 30, 2011

early morning birthday freebie, confusion at no extra cost

Remember how I took the afternoon off work on my birthday, to go out and hunt for birthday freebies? Well, while I was frittering away my day, the clock was ticking on a deadline at work. I figured I could get it done and still have a nice afternoon off, if I went to work really early the next day.

I don't usually procrastinate, except for things I don't feel like doing. Okay, I always procrastinate for things that I don't feel like doing. This task was due Wednesday morning. It involved compiling the budget projections of everyone at work into one overall figure for our facility, and sending up the budget pipe. I knew I could do it, but I was a bit afraid I'd run into an obstacle, like forgetting how to add, or losing my ability to ask my co-workers to give me their numbers, or something like that. Procrastination is like that, isn't it? It's almost worse than actually doing the thing. Nevertheless, I procrastinated until Wednesday morning to do a job that was due in on Wednesday morning.

I woke up at 5:15am, 15 minutes before my alarm, and jumped out of bed. I showered, dressed, fed the cat, packed lunch, petted the cat, ignored the dirty dishes in the sink from the night before, and ran out the door. I arrived at Starbucks just before 7am. My procrastinating mind thought, "If you get a free coffee at Starbucks you will feel like you have had a treat that includes a nice energizing jolt of caffeine, and you will be able to do this task about which you have been procrastinating.

I brought my Starbucks free birthday coffee drink coupon (which I received in the mail the day before my birthday). At the counter, I ordered a breakfast sandwich (Starbucks breakfast sandwiches are actually very good, not too much bread, lots of flavour), and a skinny peppermint mocha. At Starbucks, or any coffee place for that matter, I usually order a small no-room Americano because that's what I really want. But when something is free, for some reason you want the big expensive one, huh? Seeing as I have been eating goodies for the past 2 weeks I decided to get a "skinny" big free drink. Procrastinating brains can also be a bit absurd. Give me a blobber-glob extra hot, no whip!

The lady at the cash register took my card and said, "Was your birthday really that long ago?" Somehow in my early morning procrastination-hazed thinking, I interpreted this to mean, "You were born many, many years ago, weren't you?" I managed to say, "HUH?!?" She explained that she didn't say "Happy birthday" any more when people gave her the cards because sometimes they told her their birthday was 3 months ago. Oh. Okay. So you are not saying I must be really old. Good. I told her my birthday was just yesterday, so she and the barista wished me a hearty "Happy birthday!"

I walked around to the side counter to pick up my drink. The barista plunked a skinny caramel macchiato on the counter. I asked her if it was for someone else, then she realised she misread the code that the cashier lady had written on the side of the cup. She apologized, and began to make me a replacement drink. I stopped her and told her that the skinny caramel macchiato sounded even better than a skinny peppermint mocha. I told her I wanted the mistake drink, really! I said something stupid like, "This is the drink I was meant to have this morning." Well, she said "Really?" and "Are you sure?" and offered a couple more times to replace the drink. Then she gave me a coupon for another free drink, any kind, any size.

Moral of the story: confusion can be beneficial

question: about what do you procrastinate?

mompoet - I made the deadline with an hour to spare and accurate adding and full cooperation from contributing co-workers. The breakfast sandwich was yummy, especially with the mandarin orange I brought from home. "macchiato" spell checks to these choices: machination, machinate, Machiavelli, machinist 

Next time I go to Starbucks I will order a free, venti Skinny Machiavelli, and see what they give me.

pps venti spellchecks to many things, including Ventolin. Make that a Ventolin Skinny Machiavelli mmmmmmmm

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

free stuff on my birthday

I knocked off work at 12, drove home to unload all of the socks from my car and change my jeans (ahem), then took off in search of free stuff on my birthday. I have a Starbucks free drink card, but I'll use that another day, having bought Starbucks coffee to go for the gang at work already today.

My first stop was Booster Juice at Sutter Brook shopping village in Port Moody. Booster Juice was my only free birthday thing that had to be picked up on my birthday specifically. Most of the coupons have a few days' flexibility before and after the big day. The lady at the store was named Paula. She was really nice when I told her that I have never been to Booster Juice before. I chose a mango hurricane smoothie, then she asked what booster I wanted. You get your choice of something to put in the smoothie. I chose something with calcium in it, seeing I'm 50 YEARS OLD. The boosters have no flavour, but add some kind of goodness to the smoothie, depending on what you want. While Paula made the smoothie for me, we chatted. It turns out our daughters graduated in June from the same high school. The smoothie was huge and delicious!

I decided it was my lunch. After I enjoyed the free birthday smoothie, I went to the mall and claimed my free birthday bubble bath at Sephora. Here it is, photographed at home in front of the beautiful roses that Donna brought me.

I also bought myself a Smashbox lip gloss. A nice treat, not free, but hey, it's my birthday.

Before leaving the mall, I bought myself 2 pairs of running shoes at Sportchek. Eating all of these lovely free birthday treats, I'm going to need to go to the gym a lot! And there was a BoGo at Sportchek. To bad they don't give you free shoes on your birthday. Now that would be nice. I like to keep one pair of shoes in my locker in the gym, and one at home, so two pairs of identical shoes works great for me!

By that time I was ready to have a mid-afternoon treat, so I went to Marble Slab Creamery for my free ice cream cone. Get a load of this coupon. I think it expired a long time ago!

Holy smokes! It expired 49 years and 51 weeks ago! I asked the man at the store if he would still honour it. He laughed and said yes. I guess he gets that question all the time. At Marble Slab, you choose your ice cream flavour and 1 or more "mix ins," then the man at the store squishes the mix ins into your ice cream on a marble slab. I chose red velvet ice cream, mostly because I have never eaten red velvet ice cream before. My mix in was pecan bits. Mmmmm

While I at my gooey red ice cream with pecans in it, I read a People magazine. I don't usually buy People Magazine, but hey, it's my birthday, and don't you want to know what happened to Demi and Ashton in their FINAL DAYS? Besides, I like to take a People Magazine and put silly captions in it with little stickies, then leave it somewhere for someone to find and read. It's fun.

I think that's all of the freebies I can fit into one day. I'm quite sure I won't get to all of them, but it's fun to know what's available.

Hey, did anyone see me on Breakfast TV this morning? I sent my own picture in to "Celebrations," then Andy sent one in too. So if I got on, you should know I sent the one of me smiling angelically with the Moody inlet in the background. Andy sent the one of me oogly-googling at a pitcher of beer.

question: did you get anything for free today?

mompoet - free is a very good price

I have to admit this

When I sat down on the floor of my office to pose for this photo playing with balloons. I split my jeans. Not up the back, just a little horizontal split off the inner seam. They were snug, and fairly worn but I didn't expect that. Just thought I should let you know in case this ever happens to you. Look, she's 50, she sat on the floor and split her jeans and she is still smiling. If this ever happens to you, it's okay. Life goes on.


question: did you ever have an embarrassing moment in a room full of balloons?

mompoet - busting with happiness

my splendid 50th birthday (so far)

I decided to take the lead on my birthday at work, because I love birthdays so much, and I love my work friends who do so much for me every day. A couple of weeks ago I sent out an email that said, come to my "warm fuzzy birthday" at 8am on November 29 in the conference room. I'll bring muffins and coffee. Instead of a present, please bring a pair of socks for the homeless shelter.

I showed up at my office at about 7:45 with a couple of boxes of coffee from Starbucks and some yummy food. When I opened my office door, look what I found!

My office had been balloon bombed overnight. This was actually the second surprise. My friends brought me a cake the day before my birthday and surprised me with it. I guess they thought they'd get me back for planning my own birthday! Along with a yummy cake and a great card, they gave me two journals: The Happiness Project 5 year 1 sentence a day journal (cool!) and a larger book called "My dysfunctions" in which I am prompted to write: Why I am dysfunctional today. There are inspiring quotes by neurotic and odd celebrities, and a place at the bottom to check off what will make it better, with icons for smoking, booze, pills or intravenous drugs. Hmmmm. Well, I know my workmates feel comfortable telling me what they really feel!

So back to this morning. I waded through the balloons to drop my coat and purse, then I set up food and drinks for my friends.

I made 4 kinds of muffins, and will, I promise, post the recipes here soon. Soon people began to arrive. I had asked them to dress in something warm and fuzzy, and most did. They also brought socks, as well as some mugs and towels.

I was wearing my housecoat and slippers, but I had to keep taking off the housecoat because I am 50 years old and I am having hot flashes - GOOD TIMES!

Then my friend Belinda gave me a big wrapped up gift box "from all of us at work." I opened it up and guess what?

It had about 80 pairs of socks inside! I am going to count to be sure, but I think I have more than 100 pairs of socks to give to the shelter. If you look back up at the friend pictures you'll see that Robin gave me 2 dozen long-stemmed socks, wrapped like a bouquet.

So I decided to work in my office with all of the balloons. I went back in and found that there were 50 pencils, all different kinds and colours, each with a poetry quote attached.

They were on the floor, on my desk, on my chair, in my boots, everywhere! I recognize the handwriting - thank you dear friends Louise and Robin! I will enjoy reading the quotes and writing with every one of the pencils, perhaps in my dysfunction journal? Certainly in my happiness journal.

Then the ladies of the Garden Club came into my office and sang happy birthday and gave me a card and this beautiful bouquet that they made.

Oh my gosh, I have never felt so much love and fun in such a short time at work. What a wonderful morning. It was so good, I took the afternoon off.

question: did the people you know ever double-triple-quadruple what you hoped for?

mompoet - grateful for the people at the place I call "work"

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I got my birthday email from RW&Co clothing company today. Unfortunately it was all in French, which is totally perplexing to me because I speak only English. I feel embarrassed to admit this. People all around me speak French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Tagalog. I speak English only.  So I could not understand the instructions about how to get my 25% discount at RW&Co for my birthday.

I could make out that the offer is for 3 days before and 3 days after my birthday, and for my birthday itself, I think. Fortunately, when I logged onto the RW&Co website with my ID, there was a birthday message, and a link to print out the birthday offer en Anglais. I also checked my account settings and switched to communication in English.

question: in what language do you speak birthday?

mompoet - un seulement

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Andrew and I went out grocery shopping this afternoon. On the way home we stopped at Dairy Queen where we used my "welcome to the blizzard club" email coupon to get on free Blizzard with the purchase of another Blizzard. I treated my sweetie to a medium size caramel nut roll Blizzard, which he pronounced "delicious." I chose a mini size cappuccino skor Blizzard. I always choose cappuccino skor, because I know if I choose something else it will be good, but I will say, "darn, why didn't I get a cappuccino skor Blizzard?"

A mini Blizzard is just about the right amount of Blizzard. I qualified for a mini, small or medium, and Andy suggested I could have got a medium and eaten the equivalent of a mini, then given the surplus to him. According to Andy, a medium Blizzard is not quite enough Blizzard.

question: how much Blizzard is enough for you? and what flavour?

mompoet - free is a very good price

online now

It's a blustery Saturday morning with no commitments, veering dangerously close to afternoon for someone still in her pajamas, sipping coffee and fooling around with a blog. Nevertheless, I am hunting for more birthday freebies, evaluating offers, and deciding what to sign up for, and what to ignore.

Signing up for:
  • - I'll get a $5 coupon on my birthday, to use for online shopping for CBC swag. I might use it, I might not. Good stuff on their website by the way, check it out if you are a CBC fan.
  •  RW and Co Clothing - 25% discount during your birthday week. If I'm going to Sephora at Coquitlam Centre to pick up my birthday bubble bath, I might as well look in the store and see if there's anything that I want.
  • Free Blenz Coffee Drink on my birthday. This is a maybe because I also expect to receive a Starbucks coupon in the mail for a free Starbucks coffee on my birthday. I think both of these have to be on your actual birthday. So maybe I'll do one in the morning and one in the afternoon?
  • Breakfast TV birthday greeting - I just submitted myself. I want everyone to know I'm 50, and I'm not going to wait for my family to send it in.

Not signing up for:
  • Body Shop $10 Coupon - you have to have a "Love your Body" loyalty card, which costs $10 to buy. 'nuff said.
  • A birthday greeting from the Queen - too short notice, I think!
  • A birthday greeting from the Prime Minister - too young (only sent to those turning 65, 70, 75), and even so, I think I'd pass on this one. Maybe by the time I'm 65 I'll feel differently. It depends on who the Prime Minister is.
  • American Eagle Fashions - too old! but if you're younger, you get 15% off in the store during the month of your birthday, which is a pretty good offer if you shop there.
  • Ricki's Fashion - too old! $10 gift eschewed due to age of shopper.
  • Various offers for haircuts and wash and blowdry for my birthday - don't want to change stylists, and I haven't blow-dried my hair in years. In fact, I have not brushed my hair in years. (oops too much information)
  • An official magic kit from Norden the Magician. I'm too old. sigh.
  • Free birthday cake at Thrifty Foods - only for your child's first birthday. Double too old. Maybe for a grandchild at some time, but I'm not in a hurry for any grandchildren to be produced.
  • Several restaurants in Victoria and Kamloops offering free meals on my birthday.
  • Milestones Restaurant, where I get a free meal if I bring 3 friends who pay for their meal (ahem)
  • Atlantis Waterslides in Vernon, BC - free adult admission, but not in November. I do love my November birthday, but all of the outdoor water parks are closed, at least at this latitude!
  • Free champagne and or shooters at various nightclubs, and a credit for $5 on the slot machines at a local casino. I guess we can file this under "too old" also.
  • Free admission and giant birthday message on the electronic screen at a karaoke place (file under "too embarrassing").
  • And this from the Yaletown Brewery - a vivid and inviting description indeed: Depending on the party itself, they like to get the celebration going with shots on the house. They will present the birthday boy/girl with a complimentary Yaletown Brewing Company t-shirt and sharpee pen for their guests to sign. Near the end of the service they will either bring out a complimentary stout brownie dessert with a candle or a specialty shot depending on the host's decision. We have a kabuki cannon which blows confetti when the birthday boy/girl blows out the candle. WOW! If this sounds like fun to you, go here.
  • Free golf (don't golf) 
  • Free indoor suntanning (don't even suntan outdoors)
  • Free ride home on your birthday - In Victoria, and I have a ride on my birthday, and I won't be drinking so much I'd really need one anyone, but what a lovely idea.

question: does the idea of getting your friends to sign your shirt and having a kabuki cannon blowing confetti when you blow out the candles appeal to you?

mompoet - there is a lot available on your birthday for free. Just look it up and choose the things that appeal to you

ps - it is now officially afternoon

lots of emails and coupons for free stuff - and not only for my birthday

I have been signing up online for mailing lists that offer free stuff for your birthday. So far I have received a couple of birthday offers and also a few welcome offers, which make me wonder, will I also get a birthday something in the next few days? If so, I'll have double the fun!

Here's my recent batch of goodies:
  • 10% off at the GAP (welcome offer)
  • 10% off at Old Navy (welcome offer)
  • Free mini, small or medium Dairy Queen Blizzard when I buy a medium Blizzard (welcome offer)
  • Free muffin at Mmmmuffins (welcome offer)
  • Free Baskin Robbins ice cream cone (birthday offer)
  • (not pictured) Free ice cream cone at Marble Slab Creamery (birthday offer)
  • (not pictured) Free 20 oz or smaller Julius or Smoothie at Orange Julius when you buy one of equal or greater value (welcome offer)
My favourites are the ones where you just get something free. Ten percent off, are you kidding me? And a bo-go (buy one get one) is somewhat chintzy too. Maybe the birthday offers from those places will be better, but somehow I don't think so.

I'm going to dive into the book and find out what else before it's too late (like Tony Roma's restaurant, where it takes up to 8 weeks to process your birthday registration, so we'll try that for my 51st birthday maybe).

To me, the real treat is finding out all about this stuff. I doubt that I will be able to consume all of these treats within the time frame of expiry dates. So far none of them requires me to claim my freebie on my birthday, except for Sephora, I think. So I can spread out my consuming of birthday treats. When you add the "welcome" offers it will be nearly impossible to cash all of them in. I'll keep you posted, and of course, post photos.

question: Is a bo-go really a gift? or a come-on?

mompoet - not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, but if the horse's mouth is open, I will look!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

free stuff - the book

I am reading Steven and Lina Zussino's ebook, Free Stuff on Your Birthday for Canadians. It's packed full of things you can get for free, with offers organized by province and type of goods or service.

For most things I have read about so far, you have to subscribe to an email list online, and get a coupon. I have been signing up, and my inbox is filling up with confirmation and welcome emails. I have even received a few coupons.

Here are some of my experiences so far:

  • I have signed up for a Beauty Insider account with Sephora. I expect to receive an email inviting me to print a coupon for a free birthday cake bubble bath. That will be nice!
  • Baskin Robbins Ice Cream sent me a link to a coupon almost as soon as I signed up. That was speedy and welcoming! The interface on the Baskin Robbins website is a bit intimidating. Rules are clearly noted (don't make a mistake filling in the fields because your name on your coupon must exactly match your name on your ID that you must present to receive your free ice cream cone). Also, if you make a mistake filling in a field (like the format of your postal code) the field turns blood red! That's very alarming. It seems a bit overbearing for the sake of preventing someone scamming an ice cream cone, but maybe it is a problem. Even funnier, the web page that tells you where stores are located told me that 152nd Street in Surrey, and Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge are each 1.1 kilometer from my home in Port Moody. So I think I'll walk to one of them after supper tonight. I know the ice cream cone will be delicious, but I think BR needs some help with their web design.
  • Bruegger's Bagels/Mmmuffins Canada just sent me a coupon too, just for signing up. I wonder if I'll get another one for my birthday? Then I can treat a friend to a muffin!
So far I have mostly found food offers. Most of these are carbohydrate-rich foods, which I do love. Comfort food for your birthday is a good thing. Still, I wonder, is there any free sushi or salad out there? I'm going to need some after all of the muffins and ice cream. Oh well, maybe I'll just sink into a birthday cake bubble bath and forget all about it.

question: have you signed up recently for any email lists?

mompoet - looking for free stuff for my birthday, and having fun with the hunt

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

for my 50th birthday, the best price is FREE!

Last night on CTV News there was a story about getting stuff for free on your birthday. I found the website for the book they talked about in the story. I have decided to try to get some free stuff for my 50th birthday. I'll blog about that later. Today I have the story of my first birthday freebie of this year, my Red Robin Restaurant lunch.

Red Robin is a hamburger restaurant. There's one across the street from the community centre where I work (just past the Creative Nails store and Huku Ya Sushi restaurant).
I must have signed up to be on the Red Robin email list at some point, because I have received a birthday email from them each year for a couple of years now. It says, "You get a free burger for your birthday!" It's a nice offer. You don't have to go on your actual birthday, and it's good for a chicken or beef or fish or veggie burger of which there are many versions and varieties. You don't have to bring a friend or buy a beverage or show ID. You just have to show up and eat your burger. Here's what the coupon looked like when I opened the email in Eudora and printed it. Red Robin even accepted it scramble-printed.

Being not very much of a burger person, I invited Alex to take me out for lunch. We go for lunch together every couple of weeks, and take turns paying the bill. It was Alex's turn, so this made for an easy and cheap lunch-pay for him, seeing as one lunch was free. Also, Alex is a burger person. So he ordered the burger, which was also okay with Red Robin (a friendly, flexible Robin it is!) Here is Alex, with the birthday burger.

It was a nice big burger with a healthy pile of fries. At Red Robin they give you fry refills, but Alex declined. He said the burger was very good. Here's a picture of me, with my salad.
Oh dear, Alex, I said, "Take a picture of the salad and me." I meant, "Take a picture of me and the salad, or everyone will think I was wearing a party hat, or maybe a narwhal costume, and trying to hide my tusk outside of the frame!"

That's better. See how happy I am now? And isn't that a huge salad? I don't know if they give refills on salads. I bet nobody has ever asked. You need a snow shovel and an extra 15 minutes to eat that salad. So I talked while Alex ate his big burger very fast. Then Alex talked while I worked on that big old birthday salad. We even remembered to calculate the tip on the value of the meal before the burger was subtracted. And nobody sang happy birthday. Thank goodness. I would have stood on a chair without even being asked, but Alex would have crawled under the table. Bless Red Robin for its wise restraint.

Red Robin free burger gets 50 birthday candles out of a possible 50, for its faithful sending of birthday emails year after year, the early arrival of the coupon (a week and a half before my birthday), its flexible redemption policy, and its big salad and big burger with no fuss.

question: what is your favourite burger?

mompoet - Oh Look! I just got an email from Baskin Robbins reminding me to get my free birthday ice cream cone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

happy birthday to us

Andy and I both have November birthdays. One of our favourite ways to celebrate is to go away for a weekend. This is our present to each other. On the weekend we went to the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days. The ferry leaves from Horseshoe Bay.

It had snowed a bit the night before, so it was really beautiful, with snow on the hills above the inlet. The ferry ride is about half an hour. On the way we saw a rare and wonderful sight: about 200 dolphins were leaping out of the water all around the boat. Everyone crowded to the windows to watch. It was simply spectacular. The dolphins jumped singly and in pairs and trios. It seemed to go on and on. What an amazing beginning to our weekend away!

We arrived at the cottage at about 5:30pm, so it was already dark. We brought flashlights, and made our way down 84 stairs to this lovely little place by the sea. Most of the houses in the area are up the hill, and you walk down to the water. This one is special. When you sit in the little living room or look out of the bedroom windows upstairs, all you see is water.

We had a very quiet weekend, mostly hanging out in the cottage. We enjoyed the hot tub, which is also right on the beach a few steps away from the cottage. Here's the view from the hot tub.
We cooked some simple meals in the cute little kitchen.
And we sat out on the deck to watch the sunset. It was cold, but wine and a blanket made everything just right!
 We did do a little adventuring. Here we are on the jetty at Roberts Creek.
That was Saturday. After Roberts Creek we went to the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt. Andy bought a few "break-open" tickets and won $150 on the first door of the first ticket.

The cottage has no internet and no cable TV. I was able to tune in local news on the tiny TV set to get civic election results Sunday morning, and we watched a couple of movies that I borrowed from the library at home: Seven Year Itch and Gods and Monsters. Both very good.

We brought home granola from Wheatberries Bakery, to mail to Fiona in New Jersey. We also brought home a great feeling of relaxation and memories of a very sweet time together.

question: do you have a place you like to go to?

mompoet - happy birthday to us!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

ps about Caesar salad

My friend Michele and I have a variation called "Squeezer Salad." It lacks the croutons, but who cares? because we eat it only when we are camping. First, put the dressing into one corner of a medium-sized plastic bag. Use a twist-tie to partition the corner and keep the dressing in its own little compartment until you are ready to mix. Put the torn up lettuce into the remaining larger section of the bag and seal the bag. Carry the bag to the beach. Bring some grated up cheese and ground pepper in another bag or small container in your pocket. When you get to the beach, find a nice place to sit. Release the dressing from its compartment, keeping the main part of the bag sealed. Shake the bag to combine the lettuce and dressing. Open it carefully and add the cheese and pepper. Close and shake again.

If you are smart, you will have remembered to bring forks. If not, you can eat it with your fingers. You are camping after all. Open the bag and dive in. Watch the sunset. We know you remembered to bring wine.

question: does it get any better than this?

mompoet - pragmatic omnivore

super quick and easy home-made Caesar salad

It's a rare night in our home when everyone wants to eat supper at the same time. Usually we have 3 out of 4, but the odd person out still needs to eat (earlier or later). I have found ways to power-cook something very quickly before one of us leaves for work or a meeting, and also to make "Part 1 and Part 2" dinners so everyone enjoys something reasonably fresh and tasty, regardless of start time.

Tonight I served/will serve pasta with tomato vegetable chicken sauce. I am not posting up the recipe for that. Maybe another day. I will post the instructions (not really a recipe) for the super quick and easy home-made Caesar salad that accompanied/will accompany the meal. (Alex ate supper at 4pm before leaving for his evening shift at the movie theatre. Lukas, Andrew and I will eat around 5:30 or 6.)

I should begin by saying that Caesar salad is a bit of a treat at our house. I mostly serve mixed green salads with a variety of whatever is fresh, and I favour made-on-the-spot olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress my salad. Caesar is Alex's favourite, and it's also a salad I can be counted on to make on the first Sunday of the month. This is a sure thing because we celebrate Communion at our church on the first Sunday of every month. I volunteer to prepare the elements for our Communion service. We use a loaf of french bread, cut into cubes, and Welch's Grape Juice. Did you know Welch's was invented to a provide a non-alcoholic juice for Communion? I kid you not. All of the juice stays at the church, but I bring home the leftover bread cubes which provide the inspiration and starting ingredient for super quick and easy home-made caesar salad.

Begin with a bowl full of bread cubes. You can use whole grain or white, whatever you have on hand. Day old is better than very fresh. It need not be blessed, but it's kind of nice when it is. Use a big bowl. In fact, use the bowl that you will use to make and serve the salad. You'll see why later.

Now melt a glob of butter or margarine, or use olive oil if you prefer. Whichever way you go, you should add a big clove of garlic, squeezed through your garlic press.

If you don't have garlic, or a garlic press, or if you want it to be really super quick and easy, you could use Watkins Spice Oil. It tastes just the same as freshly squeezed garlic, but for this recipe, the real garlic has another advantage. You'll see later.

Pour the melted butter (or oil) with garlic over the bread cubes and stir it all up to coat the bread.
Then put the croutons on a pan and bake them at 350 for about 10 minutes. I use the toaster oven unless I already have the big oven going with something else.

About now, you are probably asking, "What is so darned super quick and easy about making your own croutons? Croutons can be bought at the grocery store, ready to go, in a box!" My answer is that I have always made my own croutons because they are about a googolplex times tastier than store croutons. Once, at a restaurant, my kids encountered some commercially-made croutons and they did not know what they were! Home-made croutons are large, irregularly-shaped, a bit crunchy and a bit chewy, butter/olive-oily, and fragrant with real garlic. Store croutons are sad, hard little nuggets of salty yuk. So even though it takes time (not that much really), my super quick and easy caesar salad recipe features home-made croutons.

While the croutons are baking, wash the lettuce. Romaine is the traditional lettuce of Caesar salad. It's really the best choice because it stands up to the weight of the dressing, cheese and croutons, and its mild flavour and crispy-fresh texture is just perfect with the rich and garlicky coating and accompaniment. Some people tear their lettuce, then wash and dry it. I prefer to separate the leaves, wash them and spin them whole, then tear them. This way I get two chances to inspect them for any bits of soil still clinging, and if it's romaine from the garden, I can double-check for the little baby slugs that love it almost as much as Alex does.

It's November, so this romaine is from the California. Here it is, torn into chunks, and thrown back into the bowl that was used to coat the croutons. The beauty of this arrangement is that you don't have to wash two bowls later, AND the oil/butter and garlic bits left behind in the bowl make the salad even yummier.

This is an Alex-sized portion of lettuce. I saved the rest to mix up fresh later, just before supper time for Andrew, Lukas and me.

Stir in the dressing. Here is where I take my short cut. I could coddle an egg, chop some anchovies and get all fancy, but nobody at my houe would notice, and something about real Caesar salad dressing gives me a tummy ache, although I do notice the difference, and love it so. It just doesn't love me. So I use Kraft.

A quick substitute for bottled Caesar dressing is a glob of mayonnaise with a splash of Italian dressing. You could use home-made Italian and make it a halfway short cut, if that makes you feel better. We always have Caesar dressing on hand because Alex puts it on all of his salads.

By now the croutons are ready. Throw in a handful (still warm from the oven is heavenly) and stir the salad up together, distributing the dressing and croutons throughout.

Plate it up right away. Caesar shouldn't sit. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese. (See, no shortcut here. Pre-grated jarred parmesan is pretty much as awful as store croutons.) Grind some black pepper over all. Serve.

That is a dinner plate full of Caesar salad, the right amount for Alex, the Caesar salad lover. Sometimes I make this and serve it with grilled chicken. It's good with salmon too. Alex gobbled it up while the pasta cooked, then he ate the pasta, then he went to work.

Now I will go boil up some more pasta to go with the sauce that has been bubbling away for a couple of hours, and I'll mix up another super quick and easy Caesar salad for the three of us who are not going to work tonight.

question: how quick is quick? and what's worth making from scratch?

mompoet - if you have a shortcut to Caesar dressing that doesn't give me a tummy ache and can be prepared while the croutons bake, please drop me a line

what happened to Fiona's Halloween care package #8?

So asks Mompoet's Dad. The answer is that the sock monkey ate care package 8. Fiona really didn't miss anything, because it was mostly yarn and fluff.

question: can you be counted on to count without skipping?

mompoet - apparently I cannot

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

halloween care package part 9

This is the last installment, some Halloween night pics from the neighbourhood. I hope you had a great first New Jersey Halloween, Fi.

 I really needed a tripod to take a photo of the moon and the street at dusk. It was a very cool night!
 Karen was feeling groovy!
 More fun with shaking the camera!
 Tristan was Harry Potter. Bowen was Mario. Chris was "Lord Baldemort." Rhonda loves them all.
 I was very excited to find out that Kirsi was a BANANA! Luckily for Kirsi, sock monkeys eat only yarn and fluff.
 Coulson loved Frankie singing thriller.
 Nolan dressed as Dedmau5. I thought this was him so I asked if I could take a photo, then a voice said, "do you think I'm Nolan?" Oh well. I didn't see Nolan after all, but he wore a costume like this, only it had a red head. I should have known Nolan wouldn't wear an American Eagle hoodie.
Kirsi made these cool jar-o-lanterns with orange tissue paper and glue.

Of course, Dad lit fireworks at the end of the evening. Sol had the fog machine and other contraptions going in his part of our carport. I baked brownies and served coffee to the parents. I think we got about 150 trick or treaters, which is not quite as many as usual, but lots anyway.

question: how was your Halloween?

mompoet - Okay November, bring it on!