Holiday Shopping With a Bang

Despite having family and friends who are into hunting for both sport and sustenance, I am not a fan of guns. Like, at all.

I’ve seen firsthand how guns can be used as weapons of intimidation in domestic abuse situations. There’s nothing that will cool your feelings on guns like seeing a supposed “head of household” brandishing a deadly weapon when he feels he’s been disrespected by his minions who were putting away the dishes too noisily.

Or, let’s say you’re a young girl and your primary caregiver keeps lamenting she doesn’t want to live anymore and you know for a fact that she has a gun stored under her bed (for safety, of course, although who would have wanted to break into our crappy trailer and what the hell would they have stolen? That horrible collection of dreamcatchers purchased at truck stops on Mother’s Day and birthdays? I think we’d all would have been better off if those would have disappeared.)

Anyway, scenarios like that will give you a lot of sleepless and insecure nights, let me tell you.

So yeah…me and guns? No thanks.

Therefore, it is with GREAT interest that I peruse a particular catalog we receive around here at Christmas every year.

Behold: The National Rifle Association Store Catalog.

NRA Christmas Catalog

It obviously is not addressed to me. But another person in our household is a lifetime NRA member, thanks to a grandparent, I think.

These are “tactical Christmas stockings,” by the way. They have “MOLLE webbing where you can hand additional seasonal items, such as knives.

There is major theme I noticed in the 2014 catalog: concealment. Weapon holders feel very insecure about their weapons. They want to hide them, conceal them and transport them. A lot.

They want to hide guns in their homes.

“Personal Security at your Fingertips.” Unless, you’re Jose Canseco and you shot off your fingertips. In that case, you’re screwed.

They want to hide guns in their briefcases and iPad cases. In clocks and in fake books.

The leather portfolio second down on the right seems appropriate for job interview situations.
The leather portfolio second down on the right seems appropriate for job interview situations.

They want to hide guns on their bodies. And on their ladies’ bodies.

gun boobies.

They want to hide guns in their cars.


And they want to take all of them, all of the guns, ALL OF THEM, to the shooting range. In disguise as a backpack of course.


I’m actually surprised and maybe a teeny bit disappointed that they didn’t have any pet holsters available.


(How are you going to say this item is “remarkably versatile” when it has a foam core in the shape of a gun? Remarkably versatile provided you are trying to transport a large shotgun and/or rifle. Transporting soccer balls? Not so much.)

I also noticed that the NRA isn’t just for gun lovers. Oh no, no, no. It’s for historians and interior decorators. Who want to store and hide their guns.


And doomsday preppers. Or other people concerned about water quality.


The NRA Store is also seeking to appeal to fashionable ladies. Particularly fashionable ladies that need to conceal their weapons. Apparently, a regular purse just won’t do. Because I absolutely hate it when I reach into  my regular purse for my gun and come out with just a tube of lipstick. Uuuuugggghhh. Am I right, ladies?


So really, there’s something for everyone at the NRA store. Yep, one-stop Christmas shopping at its finest.

For the gun-shooting beer lovers in your life.

I can’t wait to see their Easter catalog.

Ammo, ready to be buried and resurrected.
Ammo, ready to be buried and resurrected.

Friday Links: Sassy Cats See Buildings Shaped Like Food and/or Brains Edition

I’m frolicking in Naples, Italy right now, eating all of the thin crust pizza, and pasta, and creamy pastries, and just fried everything I can get my sticky little fingers on while my travel-buddy-for-life XFE actually works. Maybe the guys who make the expandable suitcase below could branch out into some expandable pants in time for my return.

This is the proper way to eat Italian cheese. I learned that from a Euro of Hollywood, so it’s a FAKT.

In the meantime:

All I Want for Christmas is World Peace. And a Gateau Basque.

So Christmas is always, in my experience, an emotional roller coaster.  And I don’t like roller coasters. Or emotions, really.

monks on coasters

But what I do like is cake. Or, pie. Or, cookie/pie/cake hybrids. Which is why for Christmas this year, I made a Gateau Basque.

Actually, we’re not very big on sweets in thePoeLog household. Neither one of us has much of a sweet tooth. We don’t really do much baking either, other than an annual batch of Kris Kringle Christmas cookies.

But, when we were in San Sebastian staying at the fabulous Hotel Maria Cristina, they had this gateau on the desert table at the amazing breakfast buffet each morning.

The breakfast room at Hotel Maria Cristina. Gorgeous.
The breakfast room at Hotel Maria Cristina. Gorgeous.

Gateau Basque is like an adult version of a cherry Pop Tart. It’s an almond crust pie stuffed with cherry jam inside. And, it’s awesome. I immediately regretted not discovering it earlier, but as I said, we don’t really seek out the sweet stuff when we travel or eat out.

I wasn’t even sure what it was called, but when we got home, I did a Google search for “Spanish cherry pie.” I knew when I saw the picture for the Gateau Basque that that was what I’d had.

There are a million recipes for Gateau Basque out there, including ones that include a cream custard filling. But, I stuck with my original favorite, which I knew had an almond flavor and cherry filling. So I combined a couple of different recipes, making sure to include almond flour and leaving out the lemon zest I found in many of the recipes.

First, I hand mixed the dry ingredients, including 1 ½ cups of flour, ½ cup of almond flour, ¾ teaspoon of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt.


Then I creamed 1 cup of sugar with 10 tablespoons of room temperature butter in the KitchenAid at medium speed until smooth (about 3 minutes). I added 1 large egg and ½ a teaspoon each of vanilla and almond extract and mix for another couple of minutes.

kitchenaid mixer

I then lowered the speed on the mixer and gently added the dry ingredients until they were fully incorporated. Divide the dough into two sections, and roll out two round crusts in between 2 pieces plastic wrap or wax paper.  They should be about 8 ½ inches to fit in the bottom of a spring form pan. I made one of them slightly thicker than the other, with the plan to use the slightly thicker one on the bottom.

I stored the two pieces of crust on a cookie sheet in the fridge overnight. Recipes vary, but most suggest chilling the dough for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of the spring form pan with a sheet of parchment paper (to avoid sticking).

Making a gateau Basque

Place one chilled crust on the bottom of the pan, pressing any excess crust up onto the sides. Heads up: the chilled crusts are a bit crumbly and prone to breakage. Don’t worry, just smooth out any cracks with some wet fingers.

Making a gateau Basque

Spread an entire 8 oz jar of cherry jam or preserves on the crust. Leave a little bit of the edges bare. The goal is to not have sticky cherry jam cooked onto the sides of your spring form. Now place the second layer of the crust on top of the cherry layer, pressing the edges of the two crusts together.

Making a gateau Basque

Brush the top of the dough with a glaze of egg and a little water. Use the tines of a fork to scratch a light cross hatch pattern across the top.

Making a gateau Basque

Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes before opening the spring form and sliding the pie out. Eat plain, with cream, or, with salt ice cream, which is how we had it at Christmas dinner this year. It has a nice, slightly hard, cookie-like crust that makes it easy to travel with, as well.

Making a gateau Basque

Share it with family, even if they’re driving you crazy after four days of forced closeness. Or, eat it alone while hiding from said family in the bathroom. Eat it for dessert. Eat it for breakfast. Eat it with coffee on a rainy/icy/miserable day like today. Do not, however, eat it on an emotional roller coaster. Far too messy on so many levels.

Making a gateau Basque

‘Best Funeral Ever?’ More Like Best Idea for a Reality TV Show Ever

Listen, I know I owe all of you a real post. I’ve even started a post on our last stop in Spain (the alluring San Sebastian). But it’s not ready, and I’m super-important and really busy, and it’s the holidays, and there’s lots of baking, and entertaining, and partying, and fancy dressing going on, and work is really busy this week, and I have to write like, 4 more articles today before I have to go to my 27th work-related holiday party.

I totally agree Grumpy Cat.
I totally agree Grumpy Cat.

Besides, there’s so, so much I love about this trailer for a new TLC show called, “Best Funeral Ever.”

  1. How wonderfully morbid is this?
  2. This funeral home is in Dallas. OF COURSE.
  3. Could this be the start of a new trend of Bereave-ality TV? (fingers crossed)

My friend Hilary sent me the link to this trailer and before I had even watched a single second of it, I wrote this to her:

Nooooo!!! I totally want to be on this show. Maybe I could play the role of sassy cadaver makeup artist, or crier-for-hire for funerals where they don’t really have a very good turnout. Or, maybe I could be the go-to funeral flower arranger, who’s designs just get bigger and better with each new gig.

Speaking of awesomely bad reality TV, two words: Amish. Mafia. It’s HORRIBLE. Like, Syfy movies horrible. Except, those movies know their horrible, but Amish Mafia has no idea.

Then I watched the trailer. Here was my response.

Crap. Just watched the promo. Clear this up for me….am I African American?

I sent that response over 30 minutes ago and have not heard back from Hilary. Is that confirmation that I am, in fact, qualified to appear on this show? Because I really, really think I”d be an excellent addition to the cast. I’d even bring my own hanky.

By the way, Phaedra Donkey Booty is going to be TICKED. OFF. that Bravo Andy did not come up with this amazing vehicle for her first.

ThePoeLog 2012 Christmas Gift Guide (You’re Welcome)

Christmas is coming, or so the Robertson’s on Duck Dynasty have told me (we just watched the Christmas special this past weekend). When it comes to Christmas, I personally believe everybody over 25 years of age should just buy their own crap. But, if you are looking for some great gift ideas, these all do the job pretty admirably.

Duck Dynasty Willie Robertson Chia Pet – From History Channel. $29.95. To make the DD fan in your house Happy, Happy, Happy. Provided they ain’t some Yuppy Boys and Girls.

chia willie

Real Housewives of Atlanta Kim’s Cushion Cut CZ Engagement Ring – From Bravo TV. $124.95. That’s pretty pricey for a fake ring, but you’ve got to understand: this ring was “inspired” by Kim’s engagement ring! And we all know that “The Ring Don’t Mean a Thing” (unless there’s an opportunity to make some cash on it. Then, it means $124.95.) I was hoping to find Kim’s wig line, but the website for that just takes you to the company blog. Since the line was announced in 2009, I guess you could say, “She’ll Be Tardy with the Wig Line.”

Kim's ring

Honey Boo Boo Ring – If you aren’t really feeling Kim’s ring, but are still on the lookout for some jewelry, head on over to Etsy, which brings its own brand of crazy to the Reality TV gift parade. Here, we have a ring featuring the likeness of our favorite pageant tyrant, Honey Boo Boo. Very creepy. Please note, the other items in this seller’s shop includes a ring featuring Lana Del Ray and the ladies of HBO’s Girls.

Honey Boo Boo Ring

Red Neck Slip and Slide – From Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC. They’re not actually selling one, which is a missed opportunity in my opinion. However, one only needs to procure a tarp, baby oil and/or dish soap, and a hose for an afternoon of summer fun and rashes.

Cuffs by Lynne – From Lynne Curtin Designs. Prices vary. Remember Lynne on Real Housewives of Orange County? She was one of our favorites, primarily because of her side business, a line of really awful cuffs that basically involved hot gluing rhinestoned fleur de lis’ onto plastic cuffs bought at the nearest Michael’s and selling them for around $169. That girl was a hoot. We miss her craziness.

cuffs by lynne

Moonshiners Haute Hillbilly Wine Glass – Large – From Discovery Channel. $14.95. While this is a fine and fancy drinking vessel, it doesn’t come with a high faulutin’ price tag. And it’s got a lid, so you can protect your drink from dust and flies while you’re hiding out in the woods making your white lightening. You’re obviously gonna want a large.

moonshiner glass

Swamp People Choot ‘Em Candle – From History Channel. $19.95. I cannot improve upon the product description: “Their motto is no guts, no gators, but with guts comes a whole lot of stench. The Swamp People Choot ‘Em Candle. The Candle is named “pond scum”, but luckily the bayou tinted candle smells of bamboo, teak, and Spanish moss.”

Swamp people candle

Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife – From On sale for $62. Man Vs. Wild is no longer on the air, but Bear Grylls still needs to pay his mortgage. And skin random animals found out in the plains, hence this line of knives.

I hadn’t really thought much about ol’ Bear since his show ended, but I recently received his Survival Extreme catalog at our house. No idea how or why, but….. It. Is. Priceless. It’s got jackets and GPSs and coffee mugs and all sorts of survival gear, modeled by Grylls himself. The women’s wear is particularly hilarious. There’s a women’s section including a woman on page 30 wearing a dress. A dress. In a survival catalog. Whatever. Don’t worry about Bear though, he’s getting a new show on NBC.

Do NOT take fashion advice from this guy. Please.
Do NOT take fashion advice from this guy. Please.


Cape Crown Rhinestone Tiara – From $177. 25. This one is a bit pricey (almost as much as a Cuff by Lynne), but it’s actually a multi-use item. You could wear it, obviously, while hanging out with the Honey Boo Boo clan, or any of the Real Housewives. You could wear it to a Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.


But you could also wear it with my newest obsession, Lilly from Shah’s of Sunset. She’s a Persian princess and seems like she appreciates a good tiara. And she’s an attorney! And she founded her own line of fake eyelashes! And a swimwear line! Kate Middleton, move over.


Reality TV Lover Degree – From Amazon. $13.99. They call it a novelty item, but I fail to see the novelty in spending hundreds of hours watching really awful and entertaining programming.

Bah Humbug. Bring on the New Year’s Champagne

Christmas is finally, FINALLY over. Thank, JCrew, and the other retail gods.

Toons yawn
“Man, I’m exhausted. Did you see those sales at Petco?”


Bummed Toons
“Wait. There are gifts? What the hell are you complaining about then?”

See, I have what I call “white sheep syndrome.” It’s like a form of survivor’s guilt: I escaped soul-crushing poverty but doing so came at a definite cost. To save myself, I had to leave other people behind and not look back. Specifically, my sister.

My sister has been under- or unemployed for a really, really long time now. Not because she’s lazy (she’s an incredibly hard worker); or because she voted for Obama (I don’t think she’s ever even voted); or because she wants to get government assistance instead of working; or wants to avoid paying taxes.

No, she’s been under- and unemployed because she made different choices than I did. She’s had a combination of bad luck, trusted the wrong people at times and mostly, put other people first. She’s taken on family responsibilities that others (including myself) have walked away from.

So, all I can think about during the holidays is my sister, and others like her who are having a really, really bad time this year. And when I think about that (and that’s all I can think about, basically), I don’t really give a shit about any gift I get or give. Because every pretty wrapped thing is just that….a thing. It doesn’t employ my sister and no gift or bauble gives me any peace of mind.

As you can probably guess, I’m not a lot of fun around Christmas. Luckily, my life-love XFE and his family tolerate me for a few days.

Tongue Toons
“When you’re out of town, it’s a party up in here. I get buzzed on catnip and try tp see how far out I can stick my tongue.”

But there are a few other factors that make it a weird experience. First of all, Vegas at Christmas is a lot colder than most people imagine. That’s because most people go to Vegas in the spring, summer or fall. But as anyone who was there for the RnR earlier this month can attest: Vegas gets cold. Sure, it’s not exactly snow-on-the-ground cold, but it’s definitely not lounging by the pool weather.

Another reason Christmas in Vegas is so weird is because, of course, XFE’s parents don’t live on the Strip. They live in an actual neighborhood, with normal houses. So when you tell folks you’re going to Vegas, they think of the Bellagio or something. What they should be thinking about are stucco houses with xeriscaping.

XFE and I do spend a couple of nights in a hotel on the Strip every year and have a couple’s dinner away from the family. And that’s where another weird aspect to Vegas Christmas comes in: Everything is a lot less crowded. It’s not empty or anything, but there are definitely a lot fewer people. And all the people that are there are mostly people from religions that don’t celebrate Christmas, like Buddhists for example. There are a LOT of Asian people in Vegas over the Christmas.

But one of the most unusual and fun Vegas Christmas traditions I’ve been exposed to over the past few years is Christmas Bingo! Every Christmas, XFE’s family goes to one of the casinos and pays bingo. In previous year’s XFE and his sister have won, but this year, I won $50! Which is awesome. I think I’ll send it to my sister.

Now, let’s move on to the next holiday: New Years! Which I hate a lot less than Christmas. Here’s hoping for a better year for everyone.

Toons on throne
“I actually have some thoughts on ringing in the New Year involving scratching posts and cat treats. Do you mind if I share them with you while you’re in the tub?”

Hotel Crashing: The Venetian, Las Vegas

Did you know that the Phantom of the Opera is playing at the Venetian in Vegas? If you’re staying at the hotel, you definitely do. Because it’s everywhere. The music in the elevators? Phantom. The music in the lobby? Phantom. The welcoming card in the bedroom? Phantom.

We’ve stayed in quite a few places in Vegas. But this was my first time at the Venetian.

It was, well, very Italian. And full of marble. And frescoes. The Venetian is very beautiful and classy. No doubt about it. The lobby is gorgeous, complete with fountains, wide marble avenues and columns, and an accordion player in a striped shirt and straw boater.

The outside was all dressed up for the holidays, with a really cool clear glass bulb LED Christmas tree out front and an ice skating rink.

Christmas Tree at the Venetian

Check out went fast and seemed easy (XFE was in charge). Cab lines were a bit ridiculous on Saturday and Sunday, but fine by Monday and Tuesday.

It’s an all-suite hotel and the rooms are large and in charge. It had a nice foyer when you walk in, two queen sized beds, a sunken living room, two queen sized beds, and a ginormous bathroom.

Sitting area at the Venetian

Beds at the Venetian, Las Vegas

Seriously, the bathroom made the place. It had a separate shower and fantastic large tub that filled up very quickly – I used that thing every day. It also had a little dressing table with a light up makeup mirror. But Venetian, what’s up with the cheap toiletries? And it would be alright by me if you upgraded the towels a bit.

Bathroom at the Venetian, Las Vegas

venetian dressing table

That was a pretty common theme – overall it seemed like the Venetian was once quite luxurious, but is getting a bit dated. XFE and I tend to like clean, modern design, so for us, the opulent European castle bit is not really our thing. Which isn’t to say it’s not a nice room.

Other oddities: no fridge in the room, which is weird. Plus, no free water or wifi, despite the “resort” fee. Yes, the gym was included and that’s becoming rare in Vegas.

Living room at the Venetian, Las Vegas

And they REALLY don’t want you to order room service. We called room service twice and were informed both times that it would be an hour wait. And we had no room service menu in our room, a fact which wasn’t remedy, despite the fact we both mentioned it when we called.

That might be because they have so many great restaurants at the Venetian, including Grand Lux Cafe, CUT and SUSHISAMBA. The only place we ate was at Bouchon and like I said yesterday, it was meh.

My biggest complaint might be how huge it was. I got lost more than once trying to find the damn elevators. I ended up just following the sound of the Phantom soundtrack, and always ended up in the right place.

I really like the casino. They had all the newest slot machines and my old favorites (like Goldfish). It was large but still felt intimate and well-maintained.

It’s also connected to the newer Palazzo and all the wonderful shopping there. And there’s the Canyon Ranch Spa, which I went to the day after the marathon and was nice. Not great, but nice.

The Venetian really is a great, one-stop place. You really didn’t even need to leave the property, it had everything you could want. Good shopping, a decent spa, nice casino, interesting shows, world-class restaurants.

It’s also a great location, right in the heart of the Strip and right next to the Wynn and the Encore.

So, totally serviceable and a nice choice, but with so many other, newer (more modern) options in Vegas, I probably won’t be staying at the Venetian again. In fact, we’re planning on staying at the Cosmopolitan a couple of nights at Christmas, so expect another Hotel Crashing then.

Canal at the Venetian, Las Vegas