Saturday, October 30, 2010

Locks of Love

Today I get to mark another item off my Life List - donating my hair to Locks of Love. 

As defined by the official website:

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love has lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The protheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Here are a few pictures from the Locks of Love website of recipients of this wonderful organization:

I have always wanted to give to this organization, since I was blessed with more than a full head of hair. We've always joked that my hair could make about three wigs because it is so thick. I've never really had my hair long enough to make a donation though...until now.

Here is a before picture, taken before I left this morning. Please ignore how unkempt it is - my hair is naturally wavy, and this is definitely a rough photo!

This haircut was probably the most emotional haircut I've ever had. I can't imagine what it must be like to actually have the person receiving your donation with you when you get it cut. All my ladies can empathize with me - it took me two years to grow my hair this long, and let me tell you - it's a little shocking how fast that pony tail comes off.

And yes, I'll admit, I cried like a little baby. Fortunately I had my wonderful friend Samantha there to give me moral support, since you could hear an audible gasp go through the salon as it came off.

I didn't get any "during" pictures, but here is one of the cut hair.

Twelve inches, not straightened.
Can we please note that my hair was thinned about six months
ago...and it's still ONE INCH in diameter? No wonder my head
feels lighter!
Once I realized I was ready to have "the chop", I started looking for short hair styles that I like. Which is usually very difficult for me, since not many hair styles accommodate thick, wavy hair. However, I almost immediately came across some pictures of Jennifer Nettles from one of my husband's favorite bands - Sugarland. And I fell in love with her beautiful hair. Here are the pictures I took with me to the salon:

And now....drumroll please.... the result!

(Please forgive the blatant bathroom-photo-taking.)

I'm also incapable of taking a serious picture of myself. 
I'd say my stylist did a pretty good job, don't you?
And so that's that! I feel practically bald and will probably keep running my hands through my hair wondering where the other twelve inches are. But to think that my hair will finally be able to help someone in need is so gratifying, and I highly recommend donating!

For more information on donating to Locks of Love, go here. This goes over the rules and common questions you might have, and also answers the question of how I was able to donate even though my hair is layered.

I'm off to celebrate being able to cross another thing off my Life List. Happy Saturday everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

The dinner feature is finally here! This week's adventure was a brave one for me, because I am not a squash girl. However, I keep being reminded of its incredible health value...and I'm always aware of my need to eat more vegetables since I am very much not a natural vegetable-eater.

So when I hear about a squash that's like spaghetti....say what? By george...let's try it. So I bought a spaghetti squash, and it was sitting on my counter for about a week while I tried to figure out what to do with it. One morning at breakfast I was flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine, and voila! ... Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs. Here's the picture from the magazine. Doesn't it look delicious??
I scanned the ingredient list and in my amazement.....have that, got that, have it, hmm. And then it dawned on me. I DON'T HAVE TO GO TO THE GROCERY STORE TO MAKE THIS! I already had every ingredient in the house. Which let me tell you ladies and gentleman, is a big plus for City-Dwelling-Meg. So, I committed. First things first, as usual, this is not my own recipe - you can find it in a nice and easy, printable form here. Everyone say "Thank you Martha Stewart and Whole Living magazine!"

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved lengthwise and insides scraped
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
8 ounces lean ground turkey
8 ounces mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster, cut 1/4 inch thick (about 3 cups) *I used baby bellas, but I'm sure any of these would be delicious*
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces baby spinach (about 5 cups), washed well

Maybe I'm a weirdo for actually having all these ingredients in the house, but I was pretttttty excited about it.

So, let's get started.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season cut sides of squash with 1/4 teaspoon salt. 
Bake, cut sides down, on a baking sheet until tender, about 45 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh into strands using a fork. Let drain, covered to keep warm, in a colander set over a bowl.
Mmm...baked squash!
Scrape scrape. This part is really easy. My strips didn't turn out long and pretty
like in the pictures but who cares. It still tastes the same. :)
Scrapings in the colander.
The remains - it comes amazingly clean.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring, until soft but not brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add oregano; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Divide mixture between 2 bowls.

Chopped oregano from my window herb garden. Yum. :)
Sooo I cooked it until it browned. It still tasted WONDERFUL.
Stir 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese into 1 bowl of onion-garlic mixture. Mix in breadcrumbs, turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper using your hands. Form mixture into 12 balls.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown meatballs, turning, 4 to 6 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add remaining teaspoon oil to skillet. Cook mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, adding a few tablespoons water if skillet browns too quickly, until soft and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add remaining bowl of onion-garlic mixture, meatballs, and stock; bring to gentle simmer. Cook, partially covered, until meatballs are cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. 

I just love mushrooms. :)
Add spinach; cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.
Wilting spinach always fascinates me. It always seems like it won't
fit in the bowl, and then sure enough, it cooks down in about 30 seconds.
Wilted down. Yum.
Divide squash and meatball mixture into 4 servings. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  
Can be served without ....
... or with shredded Parmesan cheese. Yum!
Tricks of the Trade:
This recipe was surprisingly straightforward. You should be alright if you follow the directions! :) 

So, overall? Surprisingly delicious - I ate it in leftover form for lunch twice, and even Scott liked it! Incredibly healthy, and very very tasty. Make it - your taste buds will thank you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Kings Lane - Erin Condren

UPDATE: This sale ends Saturday, 10/30/10. So don't miss out!

Oh sweet mercy.

I've been scanning One Kings Lane daily since I told you all about it, and today, I struck GOLD.

I just got some of the CUTEST mailing address labels I have ever seen in my life, for FREE.

When I signed up for One Kings Lane, I got a $15 credit. And it just so happens that a set of these personalized labels from Erin Condren is $15. Hellooooo cute freebie!

And they can be free for you too!

Just sign up at One Kings Lane (absolutely free, it just involves giving them your e-mail address so they can let you know about more fabulous sales). Once you've signed up, you'll have the same $15 credit. And bada-bing! Free, cute labels! Or gift labels, or whatever you choose.

In the words of Cuzco from the Emperor's New Groove....I'm so...happy! I'm also an Erin Condren fan for life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Caramel-Peanut-Chocolate-Snickers Apples

You heard right. You better sit down and get your paper bag for when you start hyperventilating. My best friend in the world, Kate, made the mistake of sending me the link to this blog, expecting me to have the will-power to not rush straight out to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients. (For your information, I managed to wait about 4 days.)

Being the wise person I am, whenever I have recipes that I want to try but have such a high fat content in them it would make deep-fry-everything Southern women stagger a little bit, I have friends over to SHARE it with.

This is one of those "recipes".

Except it's not so much a recipe, as a "Let's Dip Apples in EVERYTHING YUMMY AND DELICIOUS YOU CAN FIND" event. The recipe, found here, is dubbed "Change-Your-Life-Caramel Apples" by it's amazing creator (sadly, this was not my idea). And any recipe with the phrase "sweet sassy-molassy" in it is guaranteed to pique my interest.

We basically just took the following ingredients and sloshed the apples around in them. Well, there was a bit of organization. But not really. Our ingredients and process differ a little bit than the original recipe, which is the beauty of caramel apples. You can do what you want with them.

  • 24 Granny Smith apples (we used full-size, not the smaller ones, and it still worked pretty well)
  • 5 bags of caramels (this made more than enough for the full-size apples - we had extra that unfortunately we had to dump over fresh popcorn to keep it from going to waste)
  • 3 bags of Nestle chocolate chunks (once again, we had a little extra. But we also didn't chocolate-ize every apple, and we managed to keep it from going to waste by mixing the rest over pretzels. Hmm.)
  • 1 22.5 oz bag of mini-Snickers
  • 1 16oz jar of honey-roasted peanuts
  • craft sticks, or something to help with the apple-dipping

  • I chopped up my peanuts and my Snickers bars in the food processor first, that way when the girls arrived there was a little prep as possible.
  • The creator of the recipe recommends freezing the Snickers bars before chopping them, which I second. It chops them up into much finer pieces.
  • Peeling the Snickers and the caramels is definitely a bit time consuming, but many hands make quick work if you decide to save this step for when your friends are around.
Bliss. I mean, finely chopped Snickers bars. I have daydreams about
these sprinkled on top of ice cream, brownies, and cupcakes.
Snickers massacre. It's a good thing they were frozen, or none
of these would have wound up in the food processor.
Wooooo Nelly! Chopped peanuts and chopped
Snickers. You really can't get much
better than that!
  • Wash and skewer your apples.
  • Add 2 tbsp water per bag of caramels. I wound up adding a little bit more than 1/3 of a cup.
  • Melt down your caramel over medium-low heat until it's nice and smooooooth. Also put your chocolate into a double-boiler and work on melting it down.

I have virtually no pictures of the next few steps, because caramel apples are incredibly messy to make. At least when I'm involved. And this was a group of adults making them. So...I apologize, but this will have to be the brief version! Check out the original recipe for more detailed photos.

Dip your apples in caramel, then rolllllll in the peanuts. Once you've rolled in peanuts and the caramel has set a bit, take a spatula and spoon the chocolate over the apples. Chocolate is a little too thick to dip the apples in. Once rolled in chocolate, roll in chopped up Snickers, and then get these puppies into the freezer as soon as possible. If it wasn't obvious enough, all these toppings are a liiittttlllleee bit heavy. 

Believe it or not, this is just the caramel and peanuts.
We've still got a layer to go!
Once they're set (or let's be honest, while they're still melty and gooey), chop up with a sharp knife and ENJOY.  And make sure you share them with a friend. It's not even Thanksgiving yet. You've got a lot of eating to do still!
The only picture I have of the finished product. Whew!
A word of advice - we actually only did about 6 apples with all four toppings on it. As delicious as these are, it's a little bit heavy. Or a lot bit heavy. So we made it even more fun and mixed and matched - some were caramel with peanuts, some were caramel with snickers, and so on. So be creative, and try all sorts of toppings. These are there's at least some health value no matter what you put on it!

And also - save yourself some trouble. Wash your pans while the caramel is still warm. Or you'll hate yourself later.

Now, go run a mile, because you just gained a pound LOOKING at these things!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Autumn-ish Get-Together

We were once again blessed to be surrounded by some great friends this weekend for another Autumn-ish get-together. Six girls, seven guys, and two of the cutest infants in the world. The guys were promptly exiled to one of the bachelor's houses, and my apartment was taken over by girly activities. 

On the guys side, there were epic games of Settlers and two "growlers" of beer from our favorite local microbrewery, DuClaw. On the girls side, there was food talk, baby talk, crafting, and I'm pretty sure we cried about the ending of White Christmas and the last episode of Friends. And the caramel? And the chocolate? Did I mention the chocolate??? We all got back together at the end of the day and had one of the most delicious pot-luck suppers I've ever encountered. I'm a big fan of pot-luck. I highly recommend it, anytime you have a large number of people coming.

Having moved a lot in the past few years, I find myself incredibly grateful to finally have a group of friends again where my heart just exhales when I'm with them. They still all live between thirty minutes and an hour away from us, and yet somehow we manage to see them almost every weekend. In my perpetual struggle with contentment, these are the people that remind me how much there is to cherish in life. So thank you my wonderful friends, thank you.

Sappiness aside, I know all of you want to know about the caramel apples we ladies produced...but be patient! Good things come to those who wait. In the meantime...enjoy these few pictures I got of our extravaganza. (And by a few, I mean a few. I was not so diligent about taking pictures this time around! I was too busy being covered from head to toe in caramel and chocolate...and peanuts...and Snickers....woooahhh.)

Ready for a yummy potluck supper.
Fresh and waiting to be painted.
Before the mess really got started.

Oliver and his expressive little face.