The (Hot) Dog Days of Summer

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I know my family took advantage of the weather and grilled out …. A LOT! That can only mean one thing: summer is here!

Ah, summer. For someone who is cold from basically October through May, the summer sun brings a much welcomed wave of warmth. And we always have some pretty hot days in Northeast Ohio, so naturally, on those days, the last place I want to be is inside, cooking over a hot stove. To me, summer cooking is fast, appetizing to a crowd and involves the grill in one way or another. For those reasons, one of my favorite summer meals is a hot dog bar. This is exactly what it sounds like: a buffet set up with a variety of condiments to pile on top of the ever-popular American speciality: the hot dog.

Loved by kids and adults alike, the hot dog is an excellent choice for several reasons: a hot dog bar will feed a large group of people on a small budget; it can be personalized and made as basic or as elaborate as you want it to be; and it’s just another excuse to enjoy one of the staples of an American summer.

 

Source of picture

We did a hot dog bar like this for my nephew’s birthday party last year and received a lot of positive feedback. Doing a hot dog bar is simple: grill (or cook) the hot dogs, set out whichever condiments you chose and let your guests get creative! For those guests who are feeling a bit more adventurous than ketchup and yellow mustard, you can include a menu of different combinations to try (here is the one I made for my nephew’s party. Some of them are personalized for my family, but most are standard from different regions of the United States.). Put the menu in a frame and set up on the table.

Below are some of my favorite hot dog bar condiments and combinations (adapted from the document I linked above). Please share any other ideas you have!

A Basic Hot Dog Bar
* Your favorite brand of hot dogs, sausages or brauts
* Buns of your choice

Any of the following condiments:
* Ketchup
* Yellow mustard
* Stadium mustard
* Diced onions
* Relish
* Coleslaw
* Chili
* Shredded cheese
* Hot sauce
* Salsa
* Guacamole / diced avocados

If you want to get a little more fancy-pants with your hot dog, there are endless ways to do it. Below are some popular regional hot dog variations, as well as some variations people in my life have come up with.

Coney Island Dog

Topped with beanless, all beef chili, diced onions and yellow mustard, this Michigan native is perhaps one of the most famous variations of hot dogs.

Kansas City Style

This hot dog is topped with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

Dad’s Mexican Dog

I was first introduced to this by my father. He tops his hot dog with salsa, guacamole and some diced onions. Simple but delicious. Ole!

Cheese Coney

Hailing from Cincinnati, this is a variation of the Coney Island Dog. A Cheese Coney uses less yellow mustard and diced onions, and is topped with shredded cheese.

All-The-Way

In West Virginia, this popular hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chili, diced onions and coleslaw.

Garbage Dog

I’m not sure where this one originated, but someone out there should be taking credit for this monster. The Garbage Dog has just about everything: ketchup, yellow mustard, diced onions, french fries, bacon, coleslaw, and anything else you desire (or that can fit) on top of the hot dog.

Chicago Style

The Windy City tops their dogs with diced onions and tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, sweet pickle relish, yellow mustard and celery salt and is served in a sesame seed bun. A word of advice: do not ask a Chicago hot dog vendor for ketchup. That is considered ruining the hot dog.

The Tornado

A trip to Cape May, NJ, is not complete without this hot dog from Tommy’s on the boardwalk. Topped with sauerkraut, yellow mustard, mashed potatoes and shredded cheese, this is the ultimate comfort food.

Italian Style

Not just for Italian sausages: top a hot dog with sautéed onions and green peppers.

My Choice

While I enjoy many, many different kinds of hot dog toppings, my combination of choice is Stadium Mustard and diced onions. So simple, yet so good. (And for my fellow fans of trivia, here is an interesting fact about Stadium Mustard: it was invented right here in Cleveland, Ohio: http://www.stadiummustard.com/history.html)/

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Happy birthday, Kendy!

Happy birthday to my beautiful, smart, ridiculously athletic, charming, funny, kind-hearted, generous baby sister, Kendall!

This post is going to be short (since in a couple of minutes we are leaving to pick up Kendall and her husband to go to a Cleveland Indians’ game!) but I wanted to make sure I posted something about one of the people who has had an enormous impact on the person I am today. I heard the quote below a couple of years ago and thought: This is exactly how our relationship is. Free of judgment, bitterness and jealousy but full of love, support and acceptance.

There is a special kind of  freedom sisters enjoy. Freedom to
share innermost thoughts, to ask a favor, to show their
true feelings. The freedom to simply be themselves.

I love you so much, Doozer!

Doggie Brag Book

My husband and I went to a wedding last night in Columbus. The bride, the venue, EVERYTHING was absolutely gorgeous.

During the cocktail hour, my husband and I found ourselves being “those people”. While our table sipped wine and waited for the bridal party to arrive, they were entertained (or at least pretended to be) by pictures of our dog, Sarge. Luckily, the people at our table were some of our best friends from college, so I don’t think they minded.

Because he is just so darn cute, I wanted to share the pictures on my blog. Enjoy 🙂

1. We just entered Sarge in a pet photo contest. The category was “Best Smile”.

I don’t see how it’s possible that he won’t win! Look at that smile!

2. My husband’s car has a sun roof, and when Sarge is in the car with us, he loves to put his head out of it. The combination of the wind and his big lips results in this:

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I laugh EVERY time I see this!

3. We rescued Sarge about 2 years ago. The first time we met him, he was wearing a little camo T-shirt. I was doing some spring cleaning this past week and found the shirt:

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It’s amazing how big he’s gotten! I love my big dog so much, but a part of me misses that little guy…

Thanks for letting me brag about my baby!

Birchbox Thursday!

Isn’t it the best feeling to get a package in the mail? Especially when that package contains beauty products inspired by the show Gossip Girl.

First, a little background: I learned about Birchbox about two weeks ago and signed up right away. When you sign up with Birchbox, every month you receive a box full of beauty samples that the creators of Birchbox (two Harvard grads) have tested multiple times. Brands for women include Stila, Bare Minerals, Dior, Essie and many more. You can also sign up for men to get samples of grooming and lifestyle products.

Anyway, my first Birchbox came yesterday! And (yay!) it was based on Gossip Girl.

Here’s all the goodies that came in it: 

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1. Gold nail polish from Color Club (from the Foil Collection)
2. Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm (with SPF 25+)
3. Stila liquid eyeliner in blue (and it’s sparkly!)
4. Kerastase shampoo sample
5. Kerastase conditioner sample
6. Bottle of Kerastase lumiere serum (which is apparently how Blake Lively gets THOSE waves)
7. Notecard

All this stuff looks great, but I am especially excited about this blue eyeliner (in the Stila box). That is something I would never, EVER buy on my own. But now that I have it, I’m going to totally rock it.

Besides the hair and beauty supplies that came, I also got this cute note card:

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Love it! So simple and cute.

My first impression of Birchbox: A+. And definitely worth the $10.

Farewell to “Desperate Housewives”

SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t seen the series finale and plan to, this post might ruin it for you!

This past Sunday night, America said good-bye to the ladies on Wisteria Lane. At the end of a 2-hour series finale, we got a peek into the Houeswives’ futures. It was nice to see where all the girls ended up, but I was still really sad at the end. My husband thought this was hilarious, but I think the reasons behind my melancholy-ness were valid.

The Desperate Housewives series started eight years ago, in October 2004, the fall I moved into a house with six other girls for my junior year of college. To this day, I count these girls as some of my best friends, and one of the many, many things we bonded over was Sunday evenings spent watching Desperate Housewives, going to eat at Denny’s and then having a sleep-over in the living room. For the next two years we watched this show together, laughing, crying and (sometimes) rolling our eyes at what the ladies got themselves into.

After college, I would force Ryan, my now-husband, to watch the show with me. I know he didn’t enjoy the show (or, at least, he claimed not to), but it was something we shared together. My mom also got into the show, and I found out several other friends I made after college also watched. This gave me even more opportunities to say “Can you believe what happened on DH last night?!”

So, when I think of the show, I think of family and friends who are like family to me. I think of care-free days of college. I think of my husband. How can I not be sad when a show that represents all of this to me ends? And as silly as it sounds, over the past eight years I felt like these characters were my “friends”. I could see many parts of myself in one of the characters (if you can guess which one!), and those of my friends in other characters. These women had the kind of friendship that you could bet on passing the test of time and tragedy. One of my biggest worries is that over time, because of work, family commitments and, well, life in general, the “housewives” in my life will drift apart. My hope is that never happens, and this show was an encouragement that it would not. But alas, the ending of the series finale showed the different lives all the women ended up with and hinted that they did not stay in touch as promised. But I guess if nothing else, how sad I got over the end of other women’s friendship will hopefully make me fight to keep my friendships strong.

Goodbye, Wisteria Lane. I will miss you…and I will forever wonder what was in that box!!

Baby Shower Planning: Part I – The Invites

I am so lucky that three of my best friends are pregnant (and another just had a sweet baby girl!). All the cute baby stuff I get to buy, all the pictures of their adorable preggo bellies and beautiful babies…and all the baby showers!

I’m especially lucky and honored that one of them asked me to plan her shower (thanks, Lindsey!). I really enjoy this sort of thing, and it’s a great outlet for the creativity that builds up while I’m crunching numbers for tax returns. And most of all, throwing a party for a loved one is a small way I can show them how much they mean to me.

After the theme was decided (Lindsey picked a “showering” theme!), I got to work on the invitations. Anyone who has planned any sort of event knows the considerable expense and/or time that can go into the invitations. Since the invitations would be the first impression the guests will have of the event, I wanted to make sure that first impression was a good one. However, since I’m throwing the shower myself, cost is a major consideration (and making them myself was simply out of the question. My schedule in April did not allow for that!). I looked around on a couple different sites I normally use for invites and had accepted the fact that the invitations were going to be a big part of my budget…until the Living Social fairies worked their magical powers. I wrote about this deal a couple of weeks ago – talk about perfect timing! Way to go, Living Social!

Below is a picture of the invitation and accompanying insert:

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Since Lindsey and her husband, Tim, are not finding out the sex of the baby, I wanted to do something fun and interactive so her guests could show which side they are on: boy or girl? By using a blank buisness card format, I wrote a fancy little poem (or not so fancy, but hey, it rhymes) to let guests know to wear blue or pink. I had stickers printed with the same umbrella decal as the invites. When everything arrived, I just put the stickers on the business cards and stuffed the cards into the envelopes with the invites.

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Sorry the sticker is a “wrinkled” looking. This one sticker wasn’t looking its best, so I decided this one would be mine. The guests can have the pretty ones!

Finally, I ordered 280 return address labels with the same color scheme as the invites. I would show you a picture of them, but I don’t want my address floating around cyber world. 🙂

I was very, very satisfied with these invites! The quality of the paper was excellent, and the selection of products was HUGE. Lindsey wanted to go with a simple design (which I loved), but there were so many options for any kind of event. Ready for the icing on the cake? I got all of this (40 invitations with envelopes, 280 return address labels, 50 business cards and 48 stickers) for the cost of the Living Social deal: $10! I had to pay $14 for shipping and around $18 for postage to mail the invites, so the total cost was $42. However, I only used about 40 of the return address labels, so without the cost of the address labels I have left and will use in the future, the total cost of the invitations was just over $29.

Heck yes! I love being under budget, and I especially love saving money. I’ll share more details of the shower as we get closer. Next up: favors, decorations, and more…to be continued!

Uno, Dos, Tres Guacamole!

Happy Seis de Mayo! I had all intentions of posting this yesterday for Cinco de Mayo, however, my husband’s car was broken into on Friday night, so we spent yesterday dealing with that. Awesome.

Anyway, I am a HUGE fan of guacamole. But I am not a fan of the high-calorie pre-made versions, nor do I like spending a ton of time making my own from scratch. Therefore, I came up with my “Uno, Dos, Tres Guacamole” recipe. I call it this because it has three ingredients, it’s easy (actually, as easy as one, two, three) and it sounds more authentic if part of the name is in Spanish. 🙂

As I mentioned, only three ingredients are needed: one medium avocado, 4 tablespoons of salsa and 2 wedges of Laughing Cow’s Light Swiss Cheese.

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1. Half the avocado and scope out the inside, discarding the pit.

2. Place the avocado, salsa and cheese wedges in a bowl.

3. Mash until mixed well and to desired consistency (I use a nifty little avocado masher and slicer, like this one).

That’s it! All in less than 10 minutes. Usually, homemade guacamole can take over an hour to make. And this tastes GOOD, people! No sacrifices on taste. Plus, one serving (about a fourth of the recipe) only has 88 calories.

Sorry this post is a little late for any Cinco de Mayo festivities, but if you think like I do, guacamole is appropriate any day of the year! Ole!