IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO PLAN A PARTY!

Confession time. I am really terrible when it comes to planning and hosting events. First, I rather enjoy my peace and quiet time. Margie and I have very social and interactive jobs. We are always dealing with groups of people. I am also very low maintenance. For reasons of party planning, I guess that is not always a good thing. That is another reason that Margie and I make such a great team. Let me give you an example. We are at the store and the love of my life is looking at dishes. “We have dishes.” I inform her. “We need a matching set of six.” She replies as if it is something I should know. In the confusion, I mention that at our house there are only 2 people, her and I. “What if we have company?” Still confused as to what the issue is I offer that if there are more than four people we could just use different plates or bowls. After all, they should be happy that we invited them over and they are getting delicious food. That is how I would feel I guess. By the shocked look of horror on the face of the woman I share my house with, I surmised that this was not the correct answer.

I never realized what goes into planning a party the right way. Margie showed me that. From cleaning, matching dishes, matching placemats (again, something I had no clue of) cleaning the house, finding what everyone likes to drink, decorations and a million other details that I can’t even remember. People go through a great deal of planning to throw the perfect party. Well, people other than me. If you look at the list in the picture above, you can see how much details and planning can go into a celebration. Planning over one month out? Sounds pretty crazy to me, but if you want an epic party that is what you have to do.

Why all the talk about planning a party? While my birthday is this month, I am not expecting any of my followers to throw me a birthday party. Unless of course you are reading this in the country of Fiji, I will stop by, we will have a great time. No, it is the subject of my upcoming third book, Life is a Party, Put Your Name on the Guest List. Does your life seem like a party? For most people it does not. Maybe it does on the weekends when we are not working. Maybe only 2 weeks a year when we are on vacation? What if our life could feel like a party as the general rule? Seem unlikely? I put forth life would be a lot more like a party if we planned it like one. Look at the list above. It is a lot smaller than our first example, but holds many clues as to how we could live our life more like a party. Let us take a look at just a few of them.

First up, guestlist. I find it how much time people will spend thinking of what people to invite to an event that may last a few hours or at most an entire day. Most of us, however, will not compose a guestlist of people we want in our life. If your life was a party, who would you invite? Ever have a party where there is someone who is a ‘Debby downer’ and brings down the entire party? Probably not a name that would be on top of the guestlist. What about people who are rude or insulting? Again, not the people who we would invite to a party, but somehow they show up in our lives!

How about decorations? Am I suggesting you fill your house with party decorations? Not exactly…but then again, kind of. Think of what the idea behind decorations at a party are? They are there to create an atmosphere. Either to go with a theme (Tiki party anyone?) or to just create a fun and festive atmosphere. What would make a good party to you? You may even just want a relaxing party of one. Maybe some nice spa colors and scents? Maybe a bath bomb or some bubble bath? Why not surround yourself with a fun and festive mood or even a theme you like? I have a friend who likes the ‘Day of the Dead’ decorations and has their house filled with things like that. Maybe you are a fan of a South Pacific look, or beach or lake. Whatever kind of party may work for you, try to include some decorations.

Food and Drinks. This is a good one. When people think of parties, they generally think of party food and alcohol. You can’t really spend every evening sitting at home having a personal party with a glass of rum in your hand, can you? When it comes to having a cocktail, pacing yourself is the idea. Nobody likes a drunk at a party, and you certainly do not want to be the drunk at your own party, but having a glass of wine or a nice coconut rum drink (or whatever you may like) while cranking up your favorite party soundtrack with some great friends can do a lot to fire up a Wednesday. Food is another interesting animal. If you want to feel like a you’re living life as a party, you don’t want to fill up on chips and dip or lay around feeling bloated. No, you want to dance, you want to laugh. Party food can be fun and fairly healthy. I am thinking some guacamole right now. Maybe a homemade taco night? Even trying new fun festive healthy foods can make it feel more like a party.

What other aspects of a party could you include in your life? What about a party soundtrack? Push play on that fun list on the way to work and you could spend the day thinking about Margaritaville or singing your favorite dance tracks before you notice the boss is in a bad mood again. If so, just don’t invite them to your personal party. How about dressing for a party? There are so many ways to approach this. You could dress like a formal party one day, a party at the club the next or just a fun party outfit the next! Think about how much the right outfit can change the way you feel about yourself. Life can be a party, we just have to plan for it!

NECESSITY GRANTS OPPORTUNITY

2 great businesses come together

Very few things can get me to drive in the snowstorm that we experienced Tuesday evening. Two things that can, however, are great friends and pizza. Those two things came together in a new and unique culinary adventure I would like to share with you.

This pandemic has forced businesses, and their owners, to take new and creative steps. A great example was brought to my attention by the owner of Transaction Skate Shop here in West Allis Wisconsin where I live. Lisa, one of the owners of this fun establishment, used this challenging time to expand her creative and business ventures. One passion this young lady and I share is the passion for great pizza. As Covid-19 began to take hold about 6 months ago, Lisa began creating her own pizza at home. When I say creating her own pizza, that is exactly what I mean. She perfected making pizza dough from scratch, then worked on recipes for homemade sauce as well!

Lisa loves to share her passions

Lisa ended up falling in love with the process of making pizza from scratch. After tasting her creations, she wanted to share them with others. Knowing that it would be difficult to create pizza in her West Allis skate shop, she shared her ideas with her friends from Sweet Basil Mke, a Thai street eats restaurant in Franklin Wisconsin. Together they came up with combining Lisa’s passion for made-from-scratch pizza with their amazing Thai and Lao flavors. I live for pizza and love the flavors of Thai cuisine. The thought that they could be combined both frightened and excited me. Would the combining the two take away from how delicious each is on their own? Would putting to two together take the whole flavor experience to new heights? With these questions in mind, I could not refuse Lisa’s offer to try one for myself.

As I bravely drove through the threatening weather, my mouth began to water. I arrived at Sweet Basil Mke, where the pop up pizza kitchen was. Normally, this family-owned and operated establishment features Thai and Laotian street eats reminiscent of the markets in Thailand and Laos. They use only high-quality ingredients from reputable sources and make your dishes fresh, as soon as you order. I am looking forward to returning to try more of these dishes as well.

This evening I was going to be spending the night at my mother’s house and thought what a great place to share these new creations. The first pizza we opened up was the crab rangoon pizza. Served with a side of sweet and sour sauce, it smelled divine. I love crab rangoons as does my beautiful Margie. This made choosing this offering out of the 5 you can select, a clear winner. I would describe this crust, which I am told is kneaded by hand, no machine here, as more of a flatbread crust. The dough itself seems to have a flavor all its own that is there in every bite. This may be due to the slow 24 hour fermenting period the dough is put through. Great flavor takes time. Now it is time to discuss the toppings Chef Bee Praseutsack put together. The presentation was an added bonus. The white of the cheese and crab were complimented nicely with some green onions and what I would guess was wonton strips. My concern was spreading the topping over the crust would take away from the intense flavor you get when biting into a crab rangoon. This fear was completely unfounded. The crust, although thin, held up remarkably well. There was no worry about the topping sliding off. Somehow, despite being flat on a crispy crust, once you wrap your taste buds around this delicacy, you would swear you were enjoying that wonderful Asian appetizer! Adding the sweet and sour sauce almost brought confusion to my brain. “This is a pizza and yet it is a rangoon.” I kept muttering after each bite. Lucky for me, all around the table knew of my questionable sanity and not much was made of my mumblings as I chewed.

Next up was the Steak Garpow pizza. Let it be known that on a Thai menu I am often drawn to garpow options. The first thing that jumped out at me, as I am sure it did to you, was the fact there was an egg in the middle of the pizza. I am not sure what transpires in the mind of Chef Bee, all I know is I seem to really enjoy it. This pizza featured all of the toppings of a garpow dish including basil, which I thought brought an exceptional brightness to the dish. The steak was packed with flavor and very tender. The dough on this pizza was different than the first. Still thin and crispy, it was a little thicker on the edge. I found it a perfect match for this pizza as it allowed you to have somewhere to hold on to as the aroma prompted you to quickly insert it in your mouth for tasting. We were not disappointed in the least! As one person described it, “It is like they took a terrific steak garpow and placed it on a light and crispy delicious plate!” truer words have never been spoken.

two delicious choices

As we all look forward to closing this year out and ringing in the new year, you owe it to yourself to take your taste buds on a year-end adventure. When a West Allis skate shop owner combines her made from scratch dough and sauces with the talents and fresh ingredients of a Chef who specializes in Thai and Laotian street eats, you know the result will be amazing. Below is a link to see the other 3 options and to place your order. They are only available until this Saturday, so order yours today. After that, I encourage you to stop into Transaction Skate Shop to find ways to work off your calories, or stop in at Sweet Basil Mke to explore their wonderful menu.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE ASIAN PIZZAS AND ORDER ONE OF YOUR OWN!

CAMINO OPENS NEW WEST ALLIS LOCATION!

Always on the lookout for new and fun places to try close to home, I was quite excited to hear that Camino had opened a new location just blocks away from my house. Their first location on south 2nd street has always received rave reviews and I was about to discover why.

What Margie and I discovered was a menu full of unique items, an interior that was airy and clean, food that was hot and delicious and service that was friendly and prompt. You can read my full review to hear about some of the exotic options available at this location as well as our dining experience. This was one of the most enjoyable reviews I have written for Chow Down in Milwaukee. I encourage you to click the link below and see what is in store for you in you treat yourself to a visit to Camino in down town West Allis.

CLICK HERE TO BE TRANSPORTED TO CAMINO WEST ALLIS

WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR

In this crazy pandemic world, going out to eat can be a challenge at best and an awkward nightmare at worst. Trying to find a place that both practices the proper safety precautions and still feels comfortable is a great challenge. Margie and I found such a place. The pleasant atmosphere was just the beginning. It was accompanied by amazing customer service and a meal that had your mouth watering from the first bite until the last!

In addition to all of this, the restaurant gave you several other compelling reasons to visit. Click on the link below to read my food review on the great site Chow Down in Milwaukee to learn all of the details. After your finished reading the review, your taste buds will have you running to Mimosa in Franklin!

CLICK HERE TO READ MY EXPERIENCE AT MIMOSA

A TASTE OF THE EAST IN THE WEST… WEST ALLIS THAT IS

An exotic culinary adventure located in the heart of the city. Explore the orient without leaving the state. Click the link below to read the wonderful food and drink available to you. Hidden away in a strip mall you would never guess what is behind the doors. Click the link below and let me take you inside

CLICK HERE TO BE TAKEN INSIDE THIS HIDDEN CULINARY GEM

EVERY MONTH I CHOOSE TO SPEND MORE ON GROCERIES

Let us talk grocery shopping, shall we? Usually, my grocery shopping will find me in such stores as Meijer or now Aldi as Margie has become a huge fan. I look at the ads or the app to see what is on sale. Often, when I am at the store I compare brands and prices to find the best deals. I imagine that is not that much different than what happens in most households on grocery shopping day.

Then there is once a month that all of that is thrown out the window. Once a month I visit two local stores to do a little grocery shopping. The selection there is smaller and the prices tend to be a little higher. What might cost you one price at the larger chains may cost you a few cents to a dollar more at these locations. In addition, you have less items to select from. You might have 7 flavors and 6 brands of oatmeal at the large stores and only 4 flavors and two brands to choose from here. Both stores do have specials that tend to be very good deals to take advantage of, but as a general shopping experience you would say yourself some change at the larger chains. So why do it? Why would someone who searches out the best deals and coupons willingly shop somewhere with less selection and higher prices? Let us look at each store individually and examine why.

The first is Piggly Wiggly. It is a national chain that has 530 stores in 17 states. This is according to their website. I have not personally visited all of them. The local store here, however, does a good deal to benefit the community. I am not sure as to what extent they do that today, but I recall selling hot dogs there to raise money for the West Allis Charities. Another great thing about this store for me is the memories. Both of my grandparents shopped there. I recall going there as a young child and learning all about the joys of not only shopping but cooking and food in general. There are a few unique products here that you can find nowhere else. They also have a mascot of sorts, Mr. Pig, who always seems to be in a great mood. They also feature fun logo products with his likeness on it. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a smiling pig?

The second store is Rupena’s Fine Foods. Located a mere 10 city blocks from my house. Again, here the prices seem to be a tad higher and due to a small store size and limited shelf space, selection can be small. What makes this store great? Once again, community involvement. Not only do they have a stand at our state fair that serves amazing deep-fried stuffing balls, although sadly I heard that may end, they are often seen throughout the community. Another thing that makes this store stand out is its quality. Their deli and meat department are some of the best in the city. When cooking a meal for the ones you love, quality can mean a lot more than saving a dollar or two. They also have custom seasonings that add a little something special to any dish. My favorite thing about shopping at Rupena’s Fine Foods is the atmosphere. From the second you enter the store you are taken back in time. Back to a day when you knew the neighbors that you met in the grocery store. Back when cashiers not only made eye contact with you, but they engaged in meaningful conversation as well. For most of us these are things of the past but a quick visit to Rupena’s and you will find they are still alive and well.

A thing these two stores have in common other than logos featuring very happy members of the pig family, is they are brick and mortar places that provide good jobs to people in the community. They offer an alternative to the big box grocery stores. They offer a shopping experience where you feel like a valued customer and not just another number in the bottom line. If quality products and community involved businesses are important to you, than you owe it to your city to shop at places like this. You do not have to do so every trip, but at least once a month or so you should. The extra dollars you spend there are not just helping those employees that work there, but helping the community as a whole. Through the events they sponsor, the storefronts they keep filled and the sense of community they provide. Those extra dollars are not just an expense, they are an investment.

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #10)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

Taste can ultimately conjure up thoughts of food. Some of my favorite tastes have little or nothing to do with food. This is extremely shocking considering I live with one of the best cooks I have ever met, my lovely Margie. Her culinary creations are second to none.  Why are they not my favorite tastes? I am going a little metaphorical here. I love the taste of success. When you begin to see something you have worked hard for begin to take shape, that is exciting. The taste of the spring air on your lips. This may be normally seen as a smell, but I think it is something so tangible you can actually taste it. The same holds true for me in an even more intense fashion when it comes to the salty ocean air. When you are near the ocean the entire ambience changes. It is a change in vibration. Not only can you see, smell and feel it, but I think you can taste it in the air as well.

This leads to my favorite taste – the lips of the one you love. I don’t care how full I am from eating one of her delicious meals, I always have room for a kiss from my lovely lady. To me, there is no dessert sweeter than that of her kiss. Talk about a taste with an emotional reaction. I can think of little that is better than enjoying a delicious meal prepared by one of the most amazing women I have ever met, sealed with a kiss to show how much she loves me.

Your tastes need not be so metaphorical. They can be a certain dish prepared just the way you like it. I am a big fan of my Mother’s lasagna. As I write I am always grateful for the flavor of hot coffee. Another author, Honore de Balzac routinely drank 42 cups of coffee while writing. Due to my heart condition and desire to keep typing instead of visiting the gents, I usually limit my consumption to two cups. I am grateful to be able to share that story with you. I look forward to hearing what your favorite tastes are. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #4)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

This is a really tricky one for me. I grew up surrounded by great cooks. Now I live with one amazing cook. They all have their special dishes they create and depending on the mood, a different one will sound perfect on a different day. Recently, my mother recalled a recipe from my grandmother called “Wash-day quickie”. Named, I would presume, for something prepared with haste on a day you are doing laundry. There is this basic casserole of hamburger, mac-n-cheese and onion I am quite found of. I love everything with basil. There are quite a few dishes Margie makes that I could eat vast amounts of.

After much thinking on the subject, none of these are my favorite. My favorite food is the one that is in front of me. The thought never escapes me that no matter how many other challenges I may have in my life, I have never had to go without food. Living in a society where a meal is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I would have to consider myself very blessed. I never have to hunt for my dinner or go out into the field to pick it. That is unless of course I am in the garden. Being able to afford and have access to a wide variety of food would be unheard of even a few generations ago.

What is your favorite meal? Is there one that has a special memory attached to it? Is there one whose flavor you just happen to like? Food has such a wonderful place in culture. I have learned doing my food reviews how important the enviroment in which food is served plays a big part in how much you enjoy it. I would love to hear about your favorite dish.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FULL OF IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING