Thursday, December 17, 2015

Red Lodge Ditch Day

Melissa is not ashamed to admit that on occassion, she needs to get the hell-out-of-dodge and experience a little life outside of her normal two-block radius (the school and TBP are both two blocks away from Abode 212). Therefore, when the itch to run begged to be scratched, Melissa proposed a "ditch day" to her fellow co-worker and friend, Lisa. With full enthusiasm, Lisa agreed to join in the shenanigans and Melissa took a long, thoughtful look at upcoming Tuesdays (the only day that perfectly lends itself to down-time and ditch days). Being perfectly centered between the holiday breaks, December 8th was the day fated to serve the whims and desires of two women on a mission: drink coffee as frequently as possible, eat delicious things, drink something with alcohol, buy some gifts, gallivant and perform a couple of heel clicks - all in the sweet little mountain, ski town of Red Lodge, MT.

The ladies met up in Cody, WY where the wind about knocked them over but also provided the proper amount of "push" to head toward that Montana border and a day of freedom and fun! With a "Christmas cookie latte" making its way down the gullet of each traveler, the Jeep was put into drive and Winter Ditch Day 2015 began.

Upon arrival in Red Lodge, the first order of business was to grab a morning snack at the newly opened Wild Table. A quintessential chalkboard sign in front of the bakery/cafe/hole-in-the-wall-of-perfection, advertised freshly made Chocolate Croissants, which seemed to be the perfect beckoning off the streets and into the most perfectly quaint, seasonally decorated dining nook.

Full Disclosure: The Wild Table is a new business in Red Lodge, MT. It is owned and operated by a good friend of Melissa's. While her opinon may be biased, the truth is, owner Sheena is a phenomenal, creative, professionally trained chef who knows her way around pastries, breads, seasonal produce, holiday classics and all the comforts of delectably prepared foods. Melissa embraced her bias and not only enjoyed a croissant in shop but happily ordered dinner and dessert for her and Mike (as well as breakfast and lunch for the following day). All in all, Melissa gratefully devoured these foods from The Wild Table: Chocolate Croissant, Egg Salad sandwich on a Ciabatta Roll, Tomato Soup with Brandy and Cream, Minty Rice with Feta and a Pomegranate Relish, Caramel Apple Pie and Carrot Muffins. None were disappointing.

With enough caffeine and perfect pastry love coursing through their bodies, Melissa and Lisa began their shopping spree day in downtown Red Lodge. They made stops at a variety of outdoor goods stores, Back Alley Metals (impressively welded gifts and more) and Babcock & Miles (the finest wine and food selection for any lover of good and delicious things). As they increased thier piles of goods that would need to be wrapped for husbands, kids and family they worked up enough of an appetite to stop at Bogart's for their famous Margaritas, a couple bowls full of chips with salsa and main entrees which would put them on the verge of sleep while simultaneously carrying them through the last hour of gallivanting.

As the last stops on the gallivanting through Red Lodge came to pass the ladies ran back to The Wild Table to pick-up their dinner and then made their way to Red Lodge Coffee Roasters to ensure just enough energy to get themselves back to their respective homes and evening responsibilities.

The ladies returned to a wind-blown Cody, made one last gift-getting run to Sierra Trading Post then went their seperate ways feeling rejuvenated and excited. The event was such a roaring success that the girls are already plotting future ditch days and Tuesday outings to refresh, revive and rejoice in all that is delicious and fun! When bragging about their adventures to students Melissa and Lisa have made sure to add the following at the end of each conversation: #BFFGoals #BFFWinning #Adulting


Friday, December 4, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: The Hosting

While many aspects of plotting out the Thanksgiving Holiday took place weeks prior to the actual event, plenty of tasks were left for the day of and the day prior. With weather forecasts predicting snow, guests of Abode 212 opted to travel one-day early and arrived on Tuesday evening. This implied the added perk that they would be able to enjoy Mike and Melissa at home, as opposed to at The Burlington Place (courtesy of The Burlington Place being closed on Tuesday's). Mike had run a few errands in town and agreed to grab sandwiches for dinner (original plan - Breadboard. secondary plan - Subway. Original plan failed because the small business ran out of bread...bummer). Melissa's parents offered to bring chips and an assortment of breakfast breads for the following morning. And Katie offered to bring dessert. Guests and food in place, Tuesday was shaping up to be a lovely evening at home.

Upon the safe arrival of all guests (after one set replaced a tire in Buffalo AND not a single snow-flake had fallen by the time night fell...go figure), the crew spent some time chatting, catching up and enjoying a cozy evening at Abode 212. The following day would see Katie taking on a long shift at The Burlington Place so that Melissa could stay home and work out some of the Thanksgiving meal preparations that couldn't be done weeks in advance. Thus, the home of holiday-prep was filled with lounging pets, a singing father (so. much. joy.), an eBaying mother and a busy worker bee host. Melissa had made sure to get her turkey set on the booze train first thing in the morning (a salty brine of hard-cider, bourbon, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, thyme, allspice berries and plenty of chicken stock was the track for said booze train), then at home set to work on the barley-mushroom salad, lemon-rosemary rolls (THE MOST AMAZING ROLLS EVER!!!), bourbon-pumkin-pecan pie (similar recipe here), hummus, vegetable prep and of course the cheesecake!

Wednesday ended with Melissa heading down to The Burlington Place with her parents to grab a couple of beers, a pizza (specifically The Sweater: pepperoni, sausage, buffalo chicken, jalapeno, and banana peppers on garlic olive oil with lots of additional buffalo sauce drizzled all-over!), greet some favorite customers and catch-up with Melissa's bestie (deets: the art teacher from Burlington Schools, Lisa: she's awesome and the students have decided she and Melissa are besties, one student even commented that the two were an example of #bestiegoals). Following these evening pleasantries, Melissa and her parents returned home at a decent hour, whereas Mike and Katie got stuck shootin' the shit with a handful of enjoyable customers until the late, late hours of the day (a.k.a. the early hours of the morning).

Come Thanksgiving morning the entire crew of guests and residents of Abode 212 were "game-on" for grubbing. Muffins, danishes, bagels, fruit, coffee, hot chocolate and all the proper add-ins were set on the bar cart, allowing everyone to dish and booze-up (that's right, the add-ins were most definitely boozy: Rumchata, Bailey's Irish Cream and Bailye's Chocolate Cherry Cream) as they were so inclined. Mike and Katie had agreed that there were some significant college basketball (Gonzaga!) and football games to have access to throughout the day, so Mike worked some magic with the newer TV from the bar, various wires and mobile access to the BP cable provider. Thus, the afternoon entertainment entered Abode 212 as Katie eagerly and excitedly cheered for the Zags (go, Jose!) and had Melissa's parents on the edge of their seats a bit shocked at just how vocal Katie could get. Additionally, at some point prior to the holiday meal, Mike, Katie and Zuma suited up for some chilly weather pheasant hunting. Most notably, hunting provided the perfect opportunity to fall into shit-holes (litterally) and wear the dog-out just enough not to be a beggar during the holiday meal
As the mid-day hour passed, the bar cart was re-arranged and played host to various dips, vegetables, olives, pickles, crackers and chips - just enough to keep everyone from becoming hangry prior to the full holiday meal. Thus the turkey continued to roast and fill the house with delicious and enticing smells, while guests kept themselves entertained with a puzzle, phone games, texts and calls to friends and family, cuddling the pups and choosing new brews to try (since Mike and Melissa keep a nice "little" collection on hand always).
As the last parts of the meal came together: heating the twice-baked potatoes, preparing the stuffing, boiling and seasoning the green beans, etc; Melissa set the table. Of course, this wasn't just a matter of pulling down the plates, Melissa had spent nearly as much time dreaming about the perfect dining table as she did dreaming about the perfect foods to adorn said table. So it was, the table was set with the Blue Willow plates Melissa has inherited from her grandmother and great-great aunt, white linen napkins with fall-themed napkin rings and a lovely holiday centerpiece (that Mike thoughtfully picked up while in town just a couple of days prior to the holiday). With the meal prepared and the table set, guests took their seats, spent a thoughtful minute going around the table and offering up their gratitude for family, friends, health, etc. and happily began filling their plates with all the bits and pieces which so perfectly came together to comprise the holiday meal.

Food comas setting in, nobody could imagine stuffing down a slice of pie directly after the main meal. So couching up or resting on an empty bed, the afternoon was spent relaxing and continuing the earlier projects of the day; namely pup cuddles, puzzle building and a round of Pandemic. As everyone shifted just enough to free up some belly-space the dessert plates found themselves filled with tasty morsels of pie and cheesecake. Then, as daylight faded into evening, Tom and Patty headed home to their dogs and the guests and residents of Abode 212 found their way into pajamas, beds and comfy spots for movie watching.

Friday saw everyone rolling out of bed at their leisure with most opting to remain in their pajamas for the entirety of the day. Melissa threw some ribs into the roaster, to be ready for a late lunch and continued forth with her day by adding Rumchata to her morning coffee. If napping were a popular activity on Thanksgiving day, it was wildly trendy the day after. Snack. Drink. Nap. Repeat. That was the basic routine of Black Friday at Abode 212. After chowing on some ribs and thanksgiving leftovers Mike and his father took Zoe and the Dude out hunting (everyone else continued forth with the Snack. Drink. Nap. Repeat. routine). Later in the afternon, Mike made a good, hearty go at hot tubbing, spending a few hours lounging and listening to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.

As evening set in and the cocktails got a little creamier (lots of Rumchata, Tequila Rose) and harder (9% beers, whiskey, etc); Cards Against Humanity made it's way to the living room center and had the whole abode filled with tear-filled laughter (although the subject matter cannot be repeated here...or anywhere for that matter). Having chuckled and gasped their way through the entire contents of Cards Against Humanity everyone began to move from comfy couches and chairs into comfy, warm beds for their final Abode 212 holiday slumber.

With the arrival of Saturday morning, guests of Abode 212 began packing their belongings while the regular residents set about returning to their regular routine, including long shifts at The Burlington Place. While returning to a routine can often feel like a complete drag, all who enjoyed their holiday at Abode 212 entered their routine well-fed and well-rested, shouting: bring on all that good Holiday Cheer, December!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: The Preparation

Melissa is a bit obsessive about food. (Let's be real, it's a bit more than a bit.) For example: she carries with her a small, green notebook to record ideas of names and ingredients for the infamous #TBPPizzaSpecial. Recently, while visions of cranberry sauce and the perfect turkey danced in her head; her mind landed excitedly upon the idea of a "Thanksgiving Series" of pizza specials at The Burlington Place. Not your typical "throw-the-leftovers-on-the-crust" concept, but...well, see if you can follow: This year, the Thanksgiving special is the Muchas Gracias - a pizza built on top of a cranberry salsa for sauce, dollops of cream cheese, fresh red onion, fresh jalapeno and ground turkey. Future pizzas will be built using Arigoto, Danke, and Merci as their nominative inspiration. Fun, right?

And whilst dreaming up the next five years worth of Thanksgiving Series Pizza Specials, Melissa was planning her own, booze-driven Thanksgiving meal. Having mastered both a Rumchata Cheesecake and Cabernet Blueberry-Cranberry sauce for last years "No-Parents, No-Rules" holiday extravaganza, the rest of the traditional dishes needed to undergo a boozing factor for Abode 212's first ever Thanksgiving meal (to be shared with Katie, Tom, [maybe Patty], Harland and Brenda).

Having only limited opportunities to run to town for groceries, planning had to begin just over a month in advance. Food magazines from the previous three Novembers littered the living room floor, Pintrest was at the ready and consideration for food traditions loved and loathed was at the forefront of the decisions to be made. This meant, that Melissa took into consideration facts like her folks are non-sweet potato eaters, and Mike will always pass on the green bean casserole and traditional pumpkin pie, so why work hard to incorporate those as main dishes? To be expected of a girl who prepared her first, full-on turkey dinner her senior year of high school (for the pure joy and experience of it all), Melissa felt no intimidation at seeking out new dishes, new methods of preparing a turkey and new ways to incorporate all the classics (sweet potatoes will find their way into the hummus this year, served on the relish tray as opposed to alongside the stuffing and a mushroom barley salad will fill the gap for the green bean casserole).

The menu began to take shape with boozy concepts taking a firm hold on most menu items- Melissa was struck by recipes for a bourbon brined turkey and a hard cider brined turkey (therefore, it should be no surprise she combined both concepts and had a hard-cider-bourbon-brined turkey to serve). As the turkey brine began to take shape in mental format, cooking the bird became the next matter of interest. Having a small kitchen and one small oven and NOT wanting to run down to The Burlington Place to take care of various parts of the meal, Melissa began her research on using an electric roaster oven to prepare a turkey (conveniently, an electric roaster came with the purchase of The Burlington Place, so Melissa owns one by association). Many bloggers and roaster experts had high praises to sing of their turkey's prepared in an electric roaster, claiming it was quicker, resulted in a juicier turkey and most importantly freed up oven space, Melissa was convinced and brought home the roaster to be cleaned and used on the big day.

While, some parts of the meal had been decided a year in advance: the Cabernet Blueberry-Cranberry sauce and Rumchata Cheesecake; the rest had to be decided upon in time for the bi-weekly grocery run. As such, from the piles of magazines a Mushroom Barley Salad (courtesy of Food & Wine), Lemon-Rosemary Rolls (courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens), and a Salted Pecan-Bourbon Pumpkin Pie (also courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens) made it onto this years menu. Additionally, a sweet-potato hummus and roasted chickpea appetizer (each courtesy of Pinterest) made it onto the snack cart. Brenda and Katie rounded out the holiday meal with twice-baked potatoes and lemon-butter green beans respectively.

Other, aesthetic details that came together in the preparation stage of planning the meal included the purchase of white linen napkins complete with paper-leaf napkin rings (an homage to Mike's grandma Carolynn who believed in the power and purpose of a well-set dinner table, no matter the occassion). Melissa also purchased a sturdy, folding bar cart to use as the brunch and snack station to be located in the living room so guests could easily snack without getting congested in the small kitchen of Abode 212. (Brilliant!) Melissa also repurposed her old, OLD, dorm fridge for a convenient, dining room drink station, another trick to avoid the congestion of the kitchen. Additionally, Mike conquered the building of shelves in one guest room so that boxes of beer (just a small collection that the Harrington's have been building for a few years now) could be better organized and less obtrusive in the small room. Mike also added small hooks to the back of both guest rooms for robes and towels (now that guests have the opportunity to soak in a hot tub).

In the life of Melissa Harrington, preparing for guests and big meals is just one of lifes great joys, the actual hosting obviously trumps the whole process, but the immensity of joy to be experienced in the whole of the event is truly life-giving. The small details, the big details, the menu plan, the cleaning tasks - all played into the execution of a most enjoyable, incredibly delicious Thanksgiving holiday.



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