Category Archives: giveaways

Winner, winner, chicken dinner?

Is that right?  Is that how the saying goes?  Sometimes, I think my brain recalls tidbits correctly, but then I find out things like the song is not about taking pinheads bowling (although, how awesome would that be?)

Sorry this took so long.  I didn’t realize that extending a giveaway until midnight means I can’t start counting comments until the next day.  And when that next day is filled with work, dog drama, and trying to pack up for the weekend, things get a little pushed down the list.  Plus, we spent the weekend camping with homebrew folks (those people also know how to cook at a campsite!) and no internet.  We got home at a good time on Sunday, so I made myself pick the Circulon grill pan winner.

Since there were only three (!) comments – nobody else wanted a grill pan? – I figured I could make it more fun than a random number generator without it being too difficult.  I enlisted Lexi for a little cup game, with a twist.

one - two - three

Three cups were numbered and an enticing treat was placed under each cup.  If I had only placed a treat under one cup, that wouldn’t have been very fair.  Lexi made this easy, because she’ll sit patiently until I’m ready and then go for it with a simple command.

if only she could flip that cup over!

I turned the cups around so I couldn’t see the numbers, then started switching them up.  I realize this doesn’t really have an effect since there are always three treats and three cups, so all I was really doing was shuffling the cups.  Then I let Lexi go and she started nosing a cup away in an attempt to get the treat under it.  While I was setting up, she did sniff each cup (and try to eat the treat), so she was well aware that each cup had a tasty something under it.

#2 - winner!

I gave her the treat and turned the cup around to see that she chose #2, which is Mary!  Congratulations, Mary!  And many thanks for CSN Stores for letting me hold the giveaway!


CSN + Circulon + steak = another giveaway

Yes, yes, I have something else to give away as a prize! It’s like Christmas, or something, around here! This time, it’s a 12-inch round grill pan from Circulon (this pan was provided to me by CSN Stores). I did a couple test runs for you to see if it a) works as a grill pan and b) worked at all (since it’s non-stick).

I asked Travis what he usually likes to grill outside that we could grill on the pan, to see if it would be a quick-and-easy substitute for those times we don’t want to uncover the bbq grill, turn on the gas, wait for it to heat us, brush down the grates, cook something, clean the grates, cool down the grill, and recover the whole thing. It’s not really a big deal, especially if you have friends over, but if you’re just cooking one steak it seems like a lot more work. He suggested Maui Ribs (marinated sliced short ribs we get from Bisher’s Meat in Poway), but we never got over there. I thought about grilled shrimp (since they wouldn’t get lost if you use a grill pan), but I didn’t feel like eating shrimp. We ended up doing some shopping (more than I anticipated) at Costco and saw they had some nice USDA Prime Beef (in addition to their regular USDA Choice beef) and the ribeye looked especially well-marbled and tasty. I was going to do burgers until we saw the ribeye.

look at that marbling!

We finally got home and put everything away and I pulled the steak out to come up to room temperature (or at least closer to it). The plan I had in my head was to do a Momofuku-style ribeye, but it kind of didn’t end up that way. David Chang’s ribeye is cooked in a cast iron pan and just seasoned with salt and pepper. There’s also some butter-thyme-garlic basting that goes on. The steak I rubbed with leftover salt/sugar rub from the pork dinner I still haven’t showed you and let that sit while I sliced some mushrooms and put the butter, garlic, and thyme in there.

hot pan!

The tags on the grill pan said it’s oven-safe up to 400 F, which is the same temperature you cook the steak at. Plus, I thought it would be a good way to test the rubberized handle part of the pan at such a high temperature.

side 1

side 2

I let the pan heat up to sizzling, then seared the steak for 2 minutes on each side. Beef juices and salty/sugary runoff melded in the grooves of the pan.

all rendered and crispy and good

Then, the steak (grill pan and all) went into the oven for 6 minutes, after which it got dolloped with butter (this is when you would do the butter basting stuff) and back in the oven for another 2 minutes. The steak ended up more medium-well than medium-rare, which I attribute to not having a monstrously think cut of ribeye.

plate of brown

The steak rests for 10 minutes (or 5, or whenever you’re starting and don’t want to wait any more) and then it’s sliced against the grain. Since we were splitting one ribeye (it’s rare for us to each eat such a huge steak), I put all the slices on one plate, added the mushrooms, poured the steak juices back onto the grill pan, swirled it all around and drizzled the plate with the tasty goodness from the pan.

Maybe it’s the method, maybe it was the rub, maybe we just started with a beautiful piece of beef. All I can say is I enjoyed that steak more than any other steak I think we’ve cooked in years. And there’s a second one waiting for us down the road.

Some notes on the grill pan:

  • There is a rubberized handle on the end, which means you don’t need to use mitts if you’re just using the pan on the stove.
  • If you place the pan in an oven, the handle doesn’t seem to get melty or anything (I’ve only done this once, though). BUT! DO NOT touch the handle with your bare hand. It will be super hot! I’m just saying… in case you set the pan on the stove and forget it was in a blazing oven and reach for it without an oven mitt on.
  • I don’t know if there are adverse affects of placing a non-stick pan in a 400 degree oven, but the pan seemed to have survived.
  • After searing the steak, there were certainly circular sear marks on the meat, which implies that the grill pan is doing its thing.
  • Clean-up was easy-breezy thanks to the non-stickiness.
  • I later “grilled” two ears of corn and some buns for a Sloppy Joes lunch and the corn ended up cooked (with some charred bits!) and the buns were toasted.

I’ve never used a grill pan before, so I have nothing to compare the Circulon version to. But, it’s lightweight and easy to clean, and I could see making some paninis or burgers on it for a quick dinner. Actually, I could see using it for any quick grill-type dinner when it’s just the two of us. It’s easy enough, and being in the kitchen means I can prep other things while the pan is in use.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I have another Circulon grill pan to giveaway, courtesy of the nice folks at CSN. CSN manages sites for cookware, children’s furniture, lighting, and other general furniture. I haven’t looked through their other sites, but the cookware one has some good deals.

The contest will be open through the end of Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 11:59 PM. To enter, leave a comment and tell me what you’ll be grilling this summer (either on an outdoor grill or on a shiny new grill pan!)

Totally random dog decisions (winners!)

This is the first time I think I’ve had a giveaway that involved more than one winner.  Single-winner contests are easy.  I go to the Random Number Generator and let it pick a number.  But this time I had five winners to pick!  We’re getting into the fancy-pants ranks now!

So, you know how sometimes radio stations will let shelter dogs pick the winner of the Super Bowl, or who gets voted off on Survivor or American Idol or something?  As a way to promote the dog to potential adopters and to show that dogs have an uncanny sense of predicting the future?  I thought I would do that!  It turns out to be a lot harder than I thought.

First, since I wanted to do this outside (better light, plus, you can excuse pieces of dirt and such in the photos) I had to close off the doggy door.  Then, when I dashed out to grab the little-dog-who-is-not-paying-rent, I stepped on a rock.  I had this idea of attaching each comment (printed out) to a treat and letting Cassie (because she’s my baby and this is a supposed Mother’s Day giveaway) pick five.  But, I didn’t know how I would get the comment part back from once she ate the treat.  I thought about using the comment numbers, letting her take away five and then figuring out which ones they were by looking at the numbers left.  That sounded like a lot of work.  I ended up using the numbers assigned to the comments (do they show up in the regular post? I can see them when I look at the post from my admin-end.) and writing them on scraps of paper.

this was still a lot of work

I ended up using the numbers assigned to the comments (do they show up in the regular post? I can see them when I look at the post from my admin-end.) and writing them on scraps of paper.

my comment numbers

Then, because I commented on a couple of the comments, those had numbers assigned to them.  So, I took those out of the pile.

bits of treats, random layout

I put the pieces of paper on the ground and a treat on top of each piece of paper, so neither I or Cassie could see the number.  I had to do this one at a time, because if you just put a piece of paper on the ground, the breeze blows it away and if you turn your back on dog treat, the dog starts eating them before the official picking has started.

Cassie was the picker instead of Lexi, because I thought if I used Lexi she would eat all the treats instead of just one at a time.  But, the other dogs were barking at her through the screen door (they could see the treats and didn’t understand why they couldn’t get to them).  This, combined with Cassie not being very command-oriented, turned out to be a little hiccup.  Instead, I had to command her to sit, tell her “okay”, then turn my back so she wouldn’t be intimidated.  She’s a slow eater, so periodically I would look over my shoulder and when she got to Pick No. Five, I had her stop.  I picked up the five pieces of paper and put them in my pocket.  Then I gathered up the untouched treats (hey, 20 treats is a lot for one dog to eat! Plus, they’re expensive!) and put them back in the bag.  I picked up the pieces of paper and brought everything back inside (it was getting really warm out there).  And then I photographed the pieces of paper in my pocket.

Winners! Finally!

In retrospect, this is not completely transparent, but it’s the best I can do.  I couldn’t very well switch methods halfway through the process, could I?  Fortunately, I don’t do these kinds of giveaways often, so I think I’ll just go back to the random number thing.

So, Congratulations to DonnaB, Jenny, Marci, Deanna G, and CoolJerk!  I’ll be contacting you individually to get your address and send your gift cards out to you!


What do Western Union, your mom, and a giveaway have in common?

Your mom. Heh. What does it say about me that the implication of “your mom” jokes make me laugh more than the actual “your mom” jokes that may (or may not) follow?

MS&L is working with Western Union to let everyone show off their moms in all their glory. Wait. Does that sound weird? In any case, Western Union started a “Return the Love” campaign, which is centered on celebrating mothers and encouraging loved ones to give them the perfect gift. As part of this campaign, Western Union set-up a Flickr page where people can share photos of their moms. Each week, Western Union will select photos from this gallery to display on their home page (so go upload one of your mom!)

“Return the Love” is a multi-faceted, integrated consumer campaign designed to encourage consumers to send the gift of cash, this Mother’s Day. “Return the Love” campaign elements include:

  • Kick-off special performance dedicated to Moms featuring Wyclef Jean and Paulina Rubio at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, on April 29, produced and broadcast live by Telemundo. 
  • Several Wyclef Jean and Paulina Rubio performances and consumer-facing events, including a special concert honoring military moms; (This past weekend Western Union hosted a concert at Camp Pendleton for military families. You’d think I would have heard about this, living in San Diego and all. Then again, I don’t really know any military families, so why would I have heard about it?)
  • Advertising via print, broadcast, radio, out-of-home, mobile and online channels showcasing the myriad of ways mom shows her love to her children, from giving them 12,368 kisses to changing 5,345 diapers and preparing 19,710 meals;
  • In the social media space, Western Union dedicates a tab on its Facebook page encouraging fans to share how they are honoring and celebrating their moms;

To promote the “Return the Love” campaign, Western Union sent me a $50 Western Union gift card.  They also sent me five additional $50 Western Union-branded gift cards to give to my favorite moms (because you’re all a mom to someone – your kids, a cat, a dog, sometimes husbands/significant others/childish co-workers) on Mother’s Day!  The gift cards can be used anywhere at any time – maybe to buy your mom a nice present!

To enter, leave a comment on this post and tell me something about your mom. Something funny, something quirky, something boring… if for some reason you didn’t have a mom, you can say whatever you want.

The giveaway will be open through the end of Friday, May 7th, 2010, 11:59 PM PST (wait, are we PST or PDT now?).  MS&L is sending the cards to me, and then I need to get them to you, so you may not get the gift card in time to buy a Mother’s Day present, but I believe moms should be appreciated all year round, not just on that one day, anyway.

I’ll start: My mom was a flight attendant for most of my life. I always thought it was normal to have your mom go away for days at a time and come back with a suitcase full of international goodies because I didn’t know any other way. Usually, we looked forward to her trips because it meant my dad would take us to Vons and we could pick out frozen meals for dinners (kid’s meals with brownies, chicken pot pies…) Don’t get me wrong, my mom was a great cook (and baker), but those weird meals with frozen dessert in the top-center part of the tray was oddly appealing at the time.  When my mom was home, she spent a lot of time with us, volunteering at school, driving for field trips, and just being our mom. I couldn’t imagine growing up any other way.

ps – Vote for Cassie!

things to come

Many apologies for the stop-and-go flow of posting… it’s just that sometimes I get a lot of free time and get motivated to download pictures off the camera and sometimes I just don’t. If I was a dedicated “blogger”, I guess I would be disciplined enough to set aside the time to write posts and take pretty pictures for you on a regular basis. But, I have a day job and I just try to get dinner done on time for some couch-sitting, time on the treadmill or with Jillian Michaels, and occasionally a little face time with Travis. Plus, there are these dogs, a chicken, and new chicks that like attention and care and whatnot. I suppose that’s why I don’t have a blogger book coming out. I let my regular life take precedent over the internet. It’s also why I rely on Joel McHale to watch all the garbage on tv for me and sum it up weekly on The Soup.

There are exciting things coming down the pipeline, though! We named two out of three chicks and I have plans to take better pictures of them. The third chick we are still debating whether to give her a real name, give her a food name (like Pot Pie or Dinner), or just call her Chicken. It’s sad, but we just don’t like her as much as the other chicks. She’s not tiny and cute, she’s not going to be a pretty redhead, and so far she just seems like trouble. I say this now, but I’m sure when she grows up she’ll be very nice and we’ll love her (of course we’ll love her, we’ll probably just tease her a lot).

Travis managed to take some pictures of our Momofuku-inspired dinner, when he was off judging beers and I was left with an entire day to play in the kitchen. It was really good and we’ve been enjoying the leftovers all week. I don’t know if I’d be as impressed or excited if we hadn’t eaten there, though. Hard to say.

There is the possibility of a grill pan review coming up, paired with another giveaway! So, definitely keep an eye out for that. I think that will be fun.

We’ve been invited to the grand opening shindig for the “new and improved” Bali Hai restaurant tonight. I brought a camera, but the battery may not be charged, so you may end up with iPhone pictures or none at all. Sorry. Yet another reason I’m not a good enough blogger to have my own book in the works.

Secrets of the Mountain – giveaway!

MS&L has been very generous, provided items to review and every now and then something to offer my faithful readers (as many as there are out there).  They recently sent me a copy of “Secrets of the Mountain” and some Orville Redenbacher popcorn (because what tv movie is complete without popcorn?)

Here’s the description of the movie, which airs April 16, 2010 on NBC at 8 PM.

Somewhere between the demands of her career, her ex’s wedding and her kids’ busy schedules, Dana James is noticing her tight-knit family starting to unravel.  An unexpected offer to purchase her family’s mountain property sets up a weekend road trip, which she hopes will bring her family back together.  But when they arrive, they quickly learn that the mountain is much more than it seems.  An ancient secret and a treacherous quest will test the family like never before.  It’s an edge-of the-seat thriller that reminds us that when times are tough, families don’t run away from problems – they run back to each other.

Yes, it may sound a little cheesy, or a bit like a Lifetime movie, but it also sounds like something I’d probably watch.  A little family drama, some scary mountain adventures, and I’m guessing a good ol’ happy ending.  Plus, I like popcorn and I’ll take any excuse I can get to eat a bag by myself.

Come to think of it, Travis has plans Friday night, which means he can’t make fun of the movie while I’m watching!

The movie is “brought to you” by Walmart and P&G, and I guess in a way Orville Redenbacher.  The soundtrack was produced by Randy Jackson, which somehow makes the whole thing cheesily thrilling to me.

So, here’s the giveaway part: from now until after the movie airs (10 PM April 16th), tell me what you like to put on your popcorn.  I’m a big fan of butter and salt, but I also like a concoction of butter, lemon juice, brown sugar, and chili powder.

If you’re chosen (randomly), you get your very own DVD of the movie AND the soundtrack CD (produced by Randy Jackson!) 

CD Soundtrack by Randy Jackson Includes Tracks from Today’s Hottest Stars and Emerging Artists like Jordin Sparks, Alisan & Ilsey, Paper Tongues, Kevin Hammond, The Afters, Brooke White, Lona Heins and more.

Now, if you don’t win and you’re really sad and you happened to miss the movie on tv, don’t fret because you can buy the DVD/soundtrack bundle at Walmart.  While you’re there, you could also pick up some Proctor & Gamble (P&G) stuff, too, I guess.

Tim Tams are back!

Tim Tams are those lovely chocolate covered sandwich cookies from overseas that just taste better than cookies here.  I first encountered them and the Tim Tam Slam last year, when Pepperidge Farm brought them to Target.  But, as all holiday/seasonal items do, the cookies slowly disappeared (but can usually be found at Cost Plus World Market).

Well, I’ve been told that Pepperidge Farm is bringing back the Tim Tams for a limited time  AND distribution should be larger than just Target stores.  However, there is a Dark Chocolate Tim Tam that will only be found at Target.  My sources also say that these cookies will come back every year from October to March.  Yay!

But, wait!  There’s more! Every month, Pepperidge Farm will be giving away two Tim Tam cookies party packs to people who upload photos and videos to The prize will include mugs, a single-use digital camera, a $10 iTunes gift card and a case of Tim Tam cookies.

Go forth and buy cookies!