I’m baaaaaack!

February 18, 2013 6 comments

So I took a little break from blogging.  Actually, it was quite a large break, but, the important thing is that I have returned and I have so many tales to tell!

First of all, I want to update you a bit on my life since I wrote to you last…

  • I have read MANY books, ranging from the Matched series by Ally Conde to The Fall of Giants by Ken Follett and everything in between.
  • I got engaged (!!!!).
  • I have become slightly obsessed with Downton Abbey.
  • I worked at a Girl Scout Camp.  We made fairy parfaits and sprinkled glitter everywhere.  Best summer job ever.
  • I went to the Culinary Institute of America for a dinner and it was lifechanging.
  • I’ve already seen almost all of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture.  More on that to come…
  • Three words: Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars.

That about sums it up!

Anywho, I have been thinking for a while that I miss writing about the books I read and the food I cook.  I think I burned myself out the last time, trying to stick to a certain amount of blogs per week (with every blog being astoundingly amazing of course!).  I will be writing.  It may not be every day, or three times a week, or every week, but I’m back because I missed blogging and I miss you lovely readers out there.  Hi everyone!

Next post:  Oscar Movies

Categories: Blog, Random Observations

Salmon with Dill Sauce (and Kitchen Phobias)

I am normally pretty brave in the kitchen.  After all, if it doesn’t work, it’s not like I have to eat it.  I still might try to choke some of it down, but I always have the option of a good ol’ PB&J if it is just that bad (like the Blueberry Chicken Casserole that I made before I started this blog…uggghhh).

One food that I have remained afraid of is fish.  Part of the problem is that I don’t like many different types of fish (salmon and white fish are it pretty much).  Then, even if it is a Lauren-approved fish, if it is prepared with something that I don’t think should go with fish (cheese, tomatoes, olives, other fish stuffing), I won’t eat that either.  As you can see, I am fussy enough when someone else is making me the fish.

When I am trying to prepare it, I have the third hurdle as well.  Where do I buy it?  What cut do I get?  Will there be all of those little bones?  Is it fresh?  Will my apartment smell like fish for days?

I finally decided (after 3 years of cooking for myself and not making any fish) to face my fear and just go for it.  I saw Claire Robinson make her recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon on the Food Network and thought I would go with that concept.  How can you really mess up broiled salmon?

HINT: When broiling salmon, make sure it doesn’t stick to your oven rack.  It can be messy afterward :(

I bought a wild salmon filet at the grocery store and went to town!  I made a few changes (as you can see in my recipe).  I replaced tarragon with dill because I couldn’t find tarragon anywhere.  My salmon is also not really “Crispy Skin” because mine had no skin on it when I bought it.  Just think of it as crispy instead!  The sauce is creamy and spicy, a perfect accompaniment to all sorts of dishes.  I bet it would be fabulous with chicken or pork too.  Best of all, because that had such a strong flavor, it drowned out any semblance of a fish smell!

Overall, I feel pretty wonderful that I found a way to make fish.  What are your favorite ways to prepare fish?  What are your biggest kitchen fears?  The world wants to know.

Read more…

The Starks Were Right. Winter is Coming!

For those of you who did not catch the reference, the Stark family of The Song of Fire and Ice series (see my post here) live in the far North and their family motto is “Winter is Coming.”  While we can take that literally and assume that with a general change of seasons, Winter is inevitable, we can also take it to mean “Life may seem good, but it won’t last.”

I, for today, am going to create a third interpretation of this phrase, meaning

Winteriscomingthankgoodnessmissedyousomuch!”

Over the past 24 hours, we have received a minimum of 8″ of snow and I couldn’t be happier.  Not only does snow open up a world of fun and frosty things to do, but it also gives me a SNOW DAY to do them.  That was so considerate of Mother Nature.  Thank you darling.

I am working on building a list of fun wintry adventures and tasks so that the next time Winter decides to stop by and say “Hello,” I don’t spend the first part of that visit trying to sort through all of the potential epic ways to spend a snow day.  Yes, snow. day.  Did I mention I had one?  Be jealous.

Here is my list so far.  Add your own ideas in the comments!

Snow Day List of Magic and Wonder

    • Take a moment and feel badly for all of the birds that came back up North early because they thought it must be Spring, with with the high temperature, thunderstorms, and budding flowers.
    • Make some soup or other warming, happy food.  I had grand plans involving turkey chile, but then I tried to leave my garage.  I love seeing a 3 foot wall of snow plowed up in my driveway.  My car is strong, but not that strong.  I decided to wait for someone to come alone to take care of that for me and I had some stuff my my pantry instead.  Not nearly as exciting as this, this, or this.  At this point, I am completely able to leave my garage and get some groceries, but that motivation has somehow vanished.  Next time, I will get food before the storm hits.  Ahhh life lessons.
    • Plan a trip to somewhere nice and warm!  Nothing makes you feel toastier than sitting inside under a blanket as the snow sleepily falls outside your window.  Even if you don’t actually book anything, you can dream, right?! Imagine those trips to Brazil or the South of France.  Thinking about it will cost you nothing, but bring you lots of happiness.  Try it!  Picture yourself here:

Don’t you feel so much better now?

    • Hot beverages people.  Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, anything that contains the word “mulled.”  These will make your day cozy, sugar- and caffeine-filled, in wonderful.  This is even better if accompanied by a cookie.
    • A cookie warm from the oven.  Yes please!  I am better most of you have the baking supplies in your pantry to make this, or this, or this, in the comfort of your own home.

    • Snowpeople- One day, you might get lucky, find a magic hat, and meet Frosty.  You never know.  Keep living the dream.
    • Read a book!  For some crazy reason, this was not in my original list.  Fortunately, Sheila and Danielle reminded me :)   I spent some of my time working on one of the installments of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Five books down, only about thirty to go!  They are hil-air-eeee-ous.
    • Catch up on your work.  This is what I spent most of the day doing.  Lame, right?  Except I feel so much better and am breathing sighs of relief instead of sighs of exhaustion or stress.  I’m betting it was worth it then :)
    • Update Your Blog:  Because we are cool like that, yo.

What would you add to my Snow Day List of Magic and Wonder? I will add your suggestions in as I see them!

Oscar Poll

February 26, 2012 3 comments

Well, it is safe to say that I did not reach my goal of watch every Oscar-nominated movie before the awards show tonight.

Whoops.

If I were making my own awards show for the films that I DID watch, here is what they would win.

Most Emotional Film: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Most Artistic Film: Hugo

Best Set Location: Midnight in Paris (I have mentioned that I love Paris, right?)

Film that made me Cheer the Loudest: Moneyball

Film that I Enjoyed the Most: The Help

Most Thought-Provoking Film: The Descendants (I had even made a pork, pineapple quesadilla to go along with it…will have to post it later)

I did not get a chance to see The Tree of Life, The Artist, or War Horse (Grrr War Horse for going out of theaters just when I needed you!).  I look forward to seeing how all of them do at the show tonight and will be blogging as I watch!  Stay Tuned!

While you are watching, try out some of these snacks!

And while we are eagerly awaiting the show (and let’s face it, the red carpet dresses), I would love for you to take this poll.  If you haven’t seen all of the movies, that is okay.  I certainly won’t judge.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

February 20, 2012 4 comments

Strawberry Rating

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close touches the viewer to the very core. In the way that Titanic and The Sweet Hereafter depicted tragedy by pulling back at the pivotal moment, only increasing the heartache portrayed, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows the massive losses experienced in New York on September 11, 2001, through the lens of one young boy. Thomas Horn plays Oskar, a boy devoted to his dad (played by Tom Hanks, in flashbacks), who is lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center. The devastation of that day shudders through Oskar’s family, including his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock, in a subdued and affecting turn). Young Oskar is lost in the broken new world, but suddenly finds a purpose: a key left by his father. As Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close progresses, Oskar focuses on the key as a way to connect to his lost father–but finds, instead, connections in the unlikeliest of places. Horn is a wonder in his leading role, and commands attention even as his emotions are scattered. Hanks and Bullock are excellent, as always, though they are more incidental to the film than the viewer might have hoped. Standing out in the cast is Max von Sydow, a mysterious mute whom Oskar meets on the New York subway, and who becomes the most unlikely of guardian angels. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling novel, which was able to depict a bit more wry humor to leaven the heartbreak and history lessons, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nonetheless faces human tragedy straight on, and shows how a broken family can be rebuilt, one small key, one subway ride, one awkward hug at a time. –A.T. Hurley

I have very little to say about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I went to the movie theater with the intention of going to another movie, only to find out that I was a little late for the showing.  Whoops!  I didn’t want to waste my trip to the movies so I chose another Oscar-nominee off the list.

That is how I ended up sitting in this movie without being fully prepared- no tissue box, no candy to distract myself with.

Like most tragedies, one thing that links all of us is that we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news.  I was only in ninth grade when 9/11 happened, but I remember standing in my first period concert choir, numbly watching my conductor try to explain to us what was happening.  After that, I have very little memory of what I actually did for the rest of the day.

I was lucky.  I did not have family members or friends who were in the buildings that day.

Oskar was not so lucky, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to find a way to cope with his father’s death.

Some critics say that this movie uses these terrible events to play on our emotions, and that it crassly uses a tragedy to heighten those emotions.  Perhaps that is true.  I am not sure.  I think that the movie is terribly sad, but it also shows the possibility of hope for the future.  It shows how people can come together to help each other.

That promise of hope and growth was the only thing that saved this movie for me.  The title is quite fitting because, just as it denotes extreme discomfort, I was very distressed and uncomfortable for the entire movie.  I left the theater with red-brimmed, moist eyes, and the desire to go home and huddle in the dark.  And maybe that was the movie’s intention?

The Grade

Visuals: 4.5/5

Plot: 4/5

Acting: 5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already seen Moneyball, Hugo, and The Help.  Now on to the rest!

Oh, and don’t forget to try out this treat.  It will help wash away your tears…

Read on for the recipe!

Read more…

The Help (AKA Be Careful Around the People Who Cook Your Food)

Rating: Chocolate Cake

There are male viewers who will enjoy The Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett’s novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt‘s Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she’s hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A‘s Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson’s domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret–after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen’s smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer’s protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can’t catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town–in a good way.
~Amazon.com

I first reviewed the book The Help over a year ago in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In an effort not to repeat myself, I will simply say that I LOVED IT.

I knew that going into the movie version, I was going to be a tough critic.  When I first saw the trailer, I was really upset.  It seemed to…cutesy.  The book handles such important issues that I was worried that Hollywood would simply gloss over them.

After experiencing the film, I think I reacted prematurely.  The film is cutesy.  That does not necessarily make it a bad choice.  Instead, the playful music and bright colors play upon the great juxtaposition of the plot.  One world is filled with laughter and light while the other world is more gritty and harsh.

Do I think the movie is better than the book?  Probably not, but I do see why it is nominated for Best Picture. It deals with pressing societal problems while remaining enjoyable to watch.  The acting was hysterical and I am an even bigger fan of Minnie’s than I was before (sometime soon I am going to attempt to make a Terrible Awful, sans one key ingredient…).  You do learn a valuable lesson here.  Be nice to the people you work with or who work for you.  You never know exactly what might show up on your dinner table, in your purse, or on your front lawn ;)

The Grade

Visuals: 4/5

Plot: 4.5/5

Acting:4.5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already seen Moneyball and Hugo.  Now on to the rest!  Try these while you are waiting.  You won’t regret it…

If these are wrong, I don't want to be right.

Read on for the recipe…

Read more…

Movie > Book? Impossible!

Rating: Green Leaf

Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo’s job is to oil and maintain the station’s clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father (Jude Law). Accompanied by the goddaughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) of an embittered toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home.

~Fandango

Have you ever had faith in an idea that you thought was truly unshakeable, until one day, you realized you were wrong? At that moment, when you realize that everything you thought to be true in the world is just a bitter lie, how do you feel?

When I sat in the movie theater last week and saw my world crumble, I reacted in a way that I could never have predicted.

I was THRILLED.  I walked out of the dim theater like I was floating, set free of some invisible shackles that I hadn’t known existed.

Those of you who read regularly may have picked up on the fact that I enjoy books. I enjoy movies too, but books are my thing. One of the foundations of my entire way of being is that the act of reading is special and unique, and that films just cannot replicate or replace that.

After reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and then watching Hugo, the film based off of the book, I can safely say that I have found a movie that beat the book.

I’m shocked too.  Do other anomalies like this exist?

I love the book.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was recommended to me a few months ago by one of my fourth grade students who was so proud that she had managed to read a “big book.”  In fact, because we didn’t have it in our school library (that has since been rectified), that student brought me in her copy an lent it to me so that I could read it.  Imagine that!  A student loaning a book to a librarian :)

Anyway, I did not want to take her book for long so I settled down that night to read it.  It was entrancing.  After I finished the book, I then went on to YouTube to watch “Journey to the Moon.”

The film takes the beautiful idea of the book and weaves it into an artistically masterful work whose delivery enhances its message.  The purpose of the film is to celebrate the way that movies construct dreams.  Scorsese uses intricate technique to mesh together Hugo’s dream world and his own grittily romantic Paris.  The first moments of the movie, when the cogs in a clock transform into the streets of Paris, give a taste of what the audience can expect for the next two wonderful hours.

So yes.  Here is where I admit it.  I was wrong.

Whew!  That was hard.

The Grade

Visuals: 5/5

Plot: 4.5/5

Acting:4.5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already done Moneyball.  Now on to the rest. While you are waiting, try this out.  You know you want to.

Read on for the recipe…

Read more…

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