Welcome to Cougartown

Birthday, Christmas prep, more Christmas prep, FINAL Christmas prep, Christmas, post-Christmas decompress—and, uh, throw in a few hundred thousand calories for good measure—and here I am.

Currently I'm holed up in my home office with The Dingo and my space heater, taking a breather before I think about gearing up for New Year's Eve, New Year's Day... and, GOD HELP US, Saturday's arrival of a card-carrying, hormone-raging, could-I-care-any-less-or-piss-you-off-any-more-today-Mom TEENAGER. (Wipe that smile off your face and pray for me.)

And, since I'm too anal-retentive to do anything out of order, there can be no posts about our lovely Christmas holiday until I dish about one of the most fantastic things I've ever done for myself: My 40th birthday bash at Salt Lake City's swanky Hotel Monaco, complete with cocktails, cupcakes, frosting "shots," 25 of the most amazing chicks I know... and one lone Cougar, shaking her moneymaker (clad in $178 jeans) on top of a piano to Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me.

Before anyone strokes out or calls my bishop, said Cougar remained FULLY and MODESTLY CLOTHED, did not attempt any hyper-gyrating... and no animals were harmed during the performance.

And no, we will NOT be cueing up the video of that performance here, or anywhere... right Candie? :)

All right, all right... without further delay, here's a run-down of the extravaganza:


I made nametags for every girl; I wrote something special about each girl as well, not only as an ice-breaker among those who didn't know one another, but also as a small gesture of affection for each of these amazing women I am privileged to call my friends!

I guess it's the writer in me, but I had some other little placards around for kicks and giggles... along with naming every cupcake and frosting shot (which I'll explain more in a bit), I made one that explained my choice of party favor (above), and another poking fun at the persnickety postage problems I had with the invitations (below).

Here's a shot of the side table with the nametags, along with a collection of cheeky napkins that I loved... my favorite said: "Enough with the DAMN juice boxes, Mommy needs a COCKTAIL." I think that sums it up quite nicely, don't you?

The view from my fabulous 15th-floor suite at the Hotel Monaco... seriously, can it get any better than this? (BTW, the answer is NO, NO IT CANNOT.) It was hard not to get distracted by the view while we were hustling and bustling to get ready for the evening...

The food and beverage tables, all ready for the guests to arrive. Ta-da!

My sisters, Christine and Candie, worked their little fannies off to make sure everything was perfect... they're the hottest domestic goddesses you'll ever meet! Christine is also a super-talented photographer, and she took all the photos you're seeing (except this one)... and YES, it's utterly exhausting to try and keep up with such overacheiving kinfolk.

Speaking of hot domestic goddesses, here's the one who made all my confectionary dreams come true that night: Confectionista Alison Bent prepared a collection of cupcakes and frosting shots fit for a 40-year-old princess and all her princess friends! Love ya girl!

So, I have to include photos of Alison's sweet creations! I gave each cupcake flavor a girl's name, because it seemed like a cute idea... and, you know, I didn't have enough to do. :) Here are some of the luscious "ladies" who made an appearance:
Summer (strawberry)

Scarlett (vanilla/cranberry)

Coco (self-explanatory, right?)

Wendy (peanut butter & marshmallow)

Clementine (vanilla/orange)

Violet (purple velvet)

As if the cupcakes themselves aren't gorgeous enough...
even the cupcake liners make a fashion statement!

The frosting shots had names as well...

Patti (peppermint)

Ella (nutella)

Rita (raspberry margarita)

I didn't want to upstage the decadent cuppies, so I kept the cocktails simple:

1969 La Grande Dame Champagne mocktail,
featuring flutes with white chocolate-dipped, gold-sugared rims

Zebra Martinis: Gold-sugared rims, hand-piped chocolate zebra pattern inside the glasses...
and ice cold milk to wash down all the cupcakes!

What a fun mocktail bar!

And then, of course, if you were the designated driver that evening... :)

Yes, the suite was SWEET, and the menu was even sweeter... but for me, the very best part about the entire evening was having almost all of my very favorite women in the same room at the same time. I couldn't have asked for a better gift! I cherish each one of these ladies for the light they bring to my life, and the fact that they would make time during the holiday season to celebrate with me... well, I was walking on SUNSHINE! I was literally beaming for DAYS and DAYS after this night, and these pictures should help explain why:

This is what happens when Mormon girls have WAY too much sugar and sparkling white grape juice spiked with... GINGER ALE.

So, here I am with two of my BFF's, Camme and Emily... there's a bit of backstory behind this photo (that's a whole different post), but what you REALLY need to see is the photo snapped right before we're standing here, looking pretty for our picture:

What can I say... when you're as old as we are, you've gotta make some... uh, adjustments... before you get your picture taken.

I don't know what it was about that ottoman... let's just say it prompted some suggestive behavior that's better left to the imagination. Liz seems to be the one in question in this particular photo... but I have 37 shots of Emily on that ottoman, and I can't post A. SINGLE. ONE. because this is, more or less, a family show.
(Just kidding, Em... mostly.)

I have only one explanation for this:
All the Single Ladies by Beyonce.

Me, Nikki G and Sandra... we're fixin' to shake our groove thang...

And off we go to Funkytown!

Sandra was doing her fantastic Domo-Morigato-Mister-Roboto off camera, and Nicole and I were still shakin' our moneymakers with Beyonce. No matter where Nicole is, if the place is rockin' she can't resist bustin' a move. Love your guts, "SexyBack" Gratzinger!

Um, Christine? Did you swap your "mocktail" for something a bit stronger?
And why didn't you share??

So, it was time to take the plunge and do some shots, and the girls let me have first crack. Emily's all: "KHo, ease up on that suction and DO NOT eat the cup!!"

Dude, I'm just gonna say it... freebasing frosting is FRIGGIN' AWESOME!!!

Ok, it's a little indulgent (conceited? delusional?) to post this photo... but I have to give some play to THE JEANS I bought for the party that night. They were fabulously spendy, and fabulous PERIOD... and quite frankly, the junk in my trunk will probably never look this good ever again, so why not? Plus, Christine will be thrilled that I used this photo, since she took about 12 pictures of my ars that night... hope you're happy sis!


The gang's all here... look at all these gorgeous girls! Am I lucky or what?

"Staci and Rachel, my sister just won't stop taking pictures... look, there she is again! Do you think I should get a restraining order on her?"

Chittter-chatter with the chicks...

Just can't get enough of my girls...


Friends 4Life: Nicole, Sandra, Lesley
My BFF's from the 'hood, also affectionately known as The Drama Club:
Kristi, Kristin, Camme, Liz & Emily

My sisters! Christine, Candie, Kristen & Deanna

My other sisters, from the Relief Society (basically all my girlfriends from my ward/neighborhood): Kristi, Heidi, Camme, Staci, Rachel, Lori, Emily, Liz, Kristin

Oh look, more super fun girlfriends! Kristi T., Sheridan, and Alison

So... my parting shot has to be this one:
Christine, thank you SO MUCH for capturing the joy and elation I felt that evening! I was truly giddy, and SO grateful that so many of my dearest friends were able to help me celebrate an important milestone in my life... one that I welcome with open arms because, to be honest, I've never been happier in my life than I am right now.
40 really is fabulous, and I'm thrilled to be the newest resident of Cougartown!


40 Times Around the Sun

Hide your frat boys...
the COUGAR has arrived!

(This photo cracks me up, so I had to open with it... and there's plenty more where that came from, although none are quite as ridiculous as this one. I'll be posting the photos from my birthday party very soon!)

Well, it's finally happened... the Big Four-Oh has officially pulled up in my driveway, gotten out of the car and is hammering, incessantly beating, on my door. I've been trying to ignore it… but, guess what, friends?


So this weekend, I finally flung the door open and said: "Hey, Middle Age! How the heck are ya? Come on in... would you like anything? A Metamucil cocktail? A giant bottle of Boniva? Some neck cream? A hemorrhoid cushion? I’ve got news for you, Ms. Age… we've got none of that old lady crap here, so you can SUCK IT!!"

I thought my 40th birthday blog post would be a massive, introspective thing—and it's still tempting because, you know, massive introspective things are my thing—but I'm going to mix things up a little and keep this short and sweet:

On my 30th birthday, I wrote a journal entry... one that hurts my heart to read now. The bright spot in my life was my three-year-old little boy, a brown-eyed miracle who was my whole world... but the rest of the entry describes dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams. You can feel the disappointment of a woman who felt she hadn't done much with her life, who didn't know who she was, and who didn't know how to fix it.

What a difference a decade makes. The pain, the heartache, the mistakes... and the peace, the joy, the contentment. Oh, how different things are now than they were then.

Four years after writing that dismal journal entry, I let go of a big part of the life I had... namely, being married to Ty's dad and everything that came with it... in an effort to find the life I wanted. I walked away from someone I loved, in the hopes of finding someone else who I wanted desperately to love: Myself. It was not—I repeat, NOT—an easy decisionto make, but I made it.

And there were lots of other difficult decisions to come... and, wouldn't you know it, lots and lots of life lessons I needed to learn. It was the gamble of my life... and, THANK YOU GOD, it paid off.

On the eve of my 40th time around the sun, I'm oh-so-happy to report that, over the course of the past 10 years, I found myself. I know exactly who I am. And you know what? I LOVE who I am, inside and out, and I love my life.

I can't think of anything to say that can top that... so I'll just say Happy Happy Happy 40th Birthday to me!

And now, I'm off to apply my neck cream... don't tell Middle Age, ok?


Honestly, where does she find the thyme?

We went to my sister Candie's house for dinner last night... And before I tell you about that dish, here's the dish you need to know first.

Candie is an AMAZING cook/baker/entertainer. She is CULINARIAN AMPLIFIED... like, if Martha Stewart hit the crack pipe and chased it with a 12-pack of Red Bulls before she even sauteed the onions. To say that Candie channels Martha would not only be an understatement (and a dreadful cliche), it would be inaccurate... for, truth be told, Martha actually channels Candie.

As it happens, Candie's twin, Christine, is also an Einstein of all things edible. Three years ago she made me some grilled scallops that I still dream about to this very day. (Yep, that good.) Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, Rachael Ray and any other Food Network hack can SUCK IT... because the real deal is related to me, and they live in West Bountiful and Seattle.

Me? I ride the short bus to the grocery store and make a beeline for all aisles marked "Food Items for Those Who Cry at the Thought of Boiling Water."

True story: One time Candie came to my house for dinner... I know, SCARY AND STUPID. But having been properly trained in the fine art of hostessing, I asked her well in advance which flavor of Ramen Noodles her family liked the best—after all, I would never want anyone to be disappointed.

ANYWAY... while putting together the side dish she brought, she asked if she could borrow my garlic press.

K: "My what?"

C: "Your garlic press."

K: "Uh... what does a garlic press look like?"

C: [Pause] "Does that mean you don't have one?"

K: "Not necessarily... I might have been given one once and not known what it was for, so I don't know if I have one or not." (Sadly, this was absolutely true—you could have easily convinced me that a carburetor from a 1972 Plymouth Duster was a garlic press.)

C: [Extended pause, coupled with dejected headshaking] Ok, where is your utensil drawer? I'll look and see if you have one.

I did not, in fact, have a garlic press, and I don't know what horrified her more: That I didn't own one, or that I wouldn't have known what it was if I did. Ashamed and appalled, I bought a garlic press the next week and put it in my utensil drawer. It's still never been used—and it's clearly labeled in case I forget what the hell it is—but if my sister is ever in the neighborhood and has some garlic that desperately needs pressing, I'M. ALL. SET.

Where was I, now? Oh yeah... dinner at Candie's.

Her food is always excellent... but last night, in honor of my upcoming birthday, she pulled out all the stops and made a SPECIAL CULINARY EXTRAVAGANZA, which I am going to describe for you now.

DISCLAIMER: Have a bib, dropcloth or bucket handy for inevitable hypersalivation.

Filet Mignon Crustinis: Crusty, toasted baguette slices slathered with a thick sauce made from carmelized onions, light sour cream and fresh thyme, then layered with thin slices of filet and sprinkled with bleu cheese crumbles. (This was actually a recipe of Christine's, one that Candie had been dying to make... and she executed it flawlessly.)

Fancy Schmancy Mashed Potatoes: Not your average Tupperware bowl of taters. Candie put them in a pastry bag and piped them into perfect little potato blossoms on our plates. (I. AM. NOT. KIDDING.)

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad: A tangy balsamic broth with little orbs of herbed mozzarella paired with teeny-tiny tomatoes... no, not cherry tomatoes, but I don't know what kind they were. (See? SHORT BUS.) Possibly grape tomatoes? I just know they were THE SHIZ.

Spaghetti Squash: Golden, tender and oh-so-buttery, a perfect complement to the rest of the meal.

And now brace yourself for...

The To-Die-For Dessert: Individual trifles featuring layers of dulce de leche cake, Dove dark chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries, homemade whipped cream and Dove dark chocolate shavings.

Um... yeah.

I'll give you a few minutes to digest all that... and while you do, I'll rattle off the questions that went through my mind as I was partaking of this glorious meal, in this general order:

"Was she expecting someone else besides us? Like, perhaps, the Queen of England?"

"Is there a dress code? Should we go home and change back into our church clothes?"

"Did they have to take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for this meat?"

"Is she SERIOUSLY going to pipe those mashed potatoes onto my plate?" [She SERIOUSLY did!]

"What kind of tomatoes are these?"

"Where on Earth do you get fresh, sweet strawberries this time of year?"

"Where do you find fresh thyme in the grocery store? What does it even look like?? Does it come in a bag, or in a bunch, or on a branch? How can you tell it apart from cilantro or beet greens or a Chia Pet?"

"Why oh why OH WHY can't dessert be void of all fat-inducing consequence in this life??"

So mind-blowing, this meal... and SO incredibly flattering that my sister would go out of her way to prepare it for me. I honestly don't know where she finds the time—or the thyme—but I thank her from the bottom of my (happy tummy) heart for tracking them both down.

And, I admit, Candie has inspired me to broaden my own culinary horizons. It's true! Next time she comes to my house for dinner, I am TOTALLY jazzing up the Ramen with some freshly-pressed garlic.