31 August 2009

Summer Consequence

Oh dear God.

If you've been keeping up with the blog, then you know that I've spent the last two months of my life drinking massive amounts of boxed wine, baking and eating dozens of cupcakes, napping with the dog, and completely abandoning any semblance of a healthy lifestyle.

And it's all caught up with me. School starts tomorrow.

Tonight I went to the closet to pick out something to wear for the big first day of school. You know, something modest but nice, something that says, "I'm your bitchy teacher; fear me." (I haven't so much as looked at my school clothes since June 12.)

So I grabbed one of my 5 pairs of black pants, and put them on--barely. Uh oh. And then I tried on the other 4, and it wasn't pretty.

"But, you know, I just washed them and I just ate dinner and I'm pretty sure I'm retaining water."

Yeah, right.

I can't, in good conscience, even pretend that those are the reasons for this, shall we say, "growth." The real reason is that I've been in an eating contest with myself for the last two months, and the consequence is a body that's spilling out of my teacher clothes.

I know what I have to do, and it's not a pill or a binge diet or some other "get thin fast" kind of gimmick. Tomorrow I'm going to have to reconcile with Jillian Michaels and the elliptical machine and the Wii Fit balance board.

And I have to get back to daily plate (amazing online calorie counter!) and stop eating like it's my last day to live or like I'm in a hurry to have my leg amputated.

But, still I face the immediate question about what to wear for my first day of school, and the Snuggie may be the only thing that fits me right now.

At least they come in a variety of colors and patterns. And at least I have cute shoes!

30 August 2009

Summer Goals

It happened. My summer came to a screeching halt. I knew that it would happen, but kept myself in denial. Still, I am thankful that the career I chose comes with lots of days off; most people only get a couple of weeks, if that. My official position is grateful yet whiny.

At the beginning of the summer, I set some goals. Let's see how that went. . .

  1. Learn to sew. Make some curtains. Nope. But I have thought about doing this a lot, figured out what I want to do, and looked many times for the perfect fabric.
  2. Make the back yard less of a jungle. Check. This was more because of our property manager than it was because of me. And don't even get me started on how they chopped the hydrangea bush.
  3. Eat healthy and lose some weight. Ha ha ha ha ha! No. But I did take many a long nap on the couch with the dog. That counts, right?
  4. Shred, elipt, and walk/jog. Not only did I not exercise daily, but my tennis shoes have been in the trunk of my car since July 9 and haven't escaped.
  5. Relax. Check. Check, check, check, check. . .
  6. Cook. One hundred checks.
  7. Re-tool my 12th grade class. No, but it's fine because I'm not teaching 12th grade this year. In fact, it's good that I didn't do this one because I probably would've been pissed.
  8. Get caught up with my correspondance. Facebook counts for this, right? Then check.
  9. Go to the beach every Monday. Half check. We did go many Mondays, not as many as I would have liked, though.
  10. Steal my sister. We had her for a couple of weeks. A lovely and happy couple of weeks. (This one remains a big goal of mine.)
  11. Buy Punch Out for the Wii. Beat Matt at the game. Check and no. Refer to previous post about my glimpse into the world of adolescent Matt.
  12. Celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary in style. Done and done.
  13. Sleep in every day. Ten million checks.

All in all, I had a great summer vacation. Only 37 more weeks of work until I get to enjoy another!

29 August 2009

Key Lime Cupcakes!

Lately, I've been craving key-lime something. I think this particular craving comes from season 3 of Dexter, which may imply that I didn't fully understand what I was watching. (I don't want to spoil it for any of you. Also, if you don't already watch Dexter, you should probably check it out--like, today.)

Imagine my delight, then, when yesterday, whilst perusing my favorite cupcake blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake, I discovered a recipe for key lime cupcakes. And what's even more exciting is that I already had all of the ingredients in the house.

Cupcake time has arrived [again]. Here goes it.





The shield for the mixer was in the dishwasher, so I had to be resourceful when I added the flour.







Key Lime Cupcakes

Cupcakes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel (I used the food processor to make this happen)

  • 9 drops neon green food coloring

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Frosting



  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation for cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
  3. Whisk both flours in medium bowl.
  4. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth.
  5. Add sugar; beat to blend.
  6. Beat in eggs one at a time, then next three ingredients (batter may look curdled, but mine didn't).
  7. Beat in flour mixture in three additions alternately with buttermilk in two additions.
  8. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each liner.
  9. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.
  10. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool.

To prepare the frosting simply beat all ingredients in bowl until smooth.

I topped mine with graham cracker crumbs, but you could also use toasted coconut or small lime wedges.

Enjoy!

Mega Loser!

Ugh, I am so bad at the lottery!

Sigh. I guess I'll just go to work on Monday.

There's always a next time, always room for improvement.

26 August 2009

Sentimental Schmuck

August 26 is one of my favorite little anniversaries that I don't actually celebrate.

Ten years ago today I left for college. I moved into Hillside Hall at James Madison University, embarking on a new life, one that would become more interesting and fun with each passing year. See that chimney in the middle of the picture? See the window directly to the left of the chimney? That was my window.


It was at Hillside that I became friends with some of my favorite people on the planet, and it was because of those friends that I met Matt.

Matt and I met because my friends--the friends from Hillside Hall--lived downstairs from him in their apartment building. I met Matt my junior year, but he didn't say much (like young Forrest Gump!) and I didn't think too much of him. My friends would talk about how funny and cool he was, but I didn't see that side. I wasn't impressed. I didn't see the highly intelligent yet ridiculously goofy side for months and months.

And then came Becky's birthday party. Becky had lived directly across the hall from me in Hillside Hall. We threw Becky a Heaven and Hell party, complete with a fake crow hooked to a ceiling fan (Becky was deathly afraid of birds) and an ice luge aglow with blue light. One of her gifts, as was our tradition, was a trashy romance novel.

Unprompted, Matt began to perform a dramatic reading of the novel. Under the influence of about three gallons of jungle juice (What was I thinking??), I began to act out the words he was reading on him. From what I remember of it, we put on quite a show.

(Yet another reason, by the way, that I fear having children. "How did you and Daddy meet?" "Well, Sweetie, we were acting out pornography." "What's pornography?" See? Bad idea.)

And the next day everyone but me went to lunch together. Apparently Matt kept talking about me, and Matt never talked about girls. All of my girlfriends returned from lunch, and began--in that way that silly girls do--to talk about the prospect of a Mandy and Matt relationship. Missy (above, in stripes) remarked, "You and Matt are gonna get married."

I thought about what she had said for a couple of seconds and responded: "Yeah, I'd marry Matt." And then Becky chimed in: "Nah, you're too annoying. He'd get sick of you." I agreed that was probably the case.

But we know that it wasn't. Because on August 26, seven years ago today, Matt and I shared our first kiss (after months of plotting on my part, and months of cluelessness on Matt's).

And then we started dating and then we moved to Savannah and then we almost broke up and then we liked each other again and then we got a dog and then we got engaged and then we got married. And Becky got ordained online so that she could be the minister.

And all of those friends from Hillside Hall were there to witness it. I wouldn't have it any other way.



Here's to a decade of friendship, and to many decades more!

In Memory

"The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on."

Rest in peace, Senator.

25 August 2009

Nerd Post: Sloanism

Yesterday, Matt got a new phone. He'd had his old one for 3 years, and it finally kirked out. Matt's not generally a fan of change, and seemed to find himself in awe of the phone choices now available to him: keypads and touch screens and colors and slidey things and interwebs. It's so interesting how many choices there are now for something so simple as a phone.


And while we sat there at Best Buy I got all nerdy on Matt and starting going on about one of my favorite things: Sloanism. I learned about Sloanism when I was a junior in college and signed up for what I thought would be a bullshit history class, The Automobile in Twentieth Century America. I figured it'd be an easy A, and I would actually get to be in a class with boys (I was an English major at a school with a girl to guy ratio of 2:1). I was right about one part, I was one of two girls in a class of 30. What I'd been wrong about, however, was how much I would learn in the class. Hell, the teacher even introduced me to Car Talk on NPR! But back to Sloanism.


In short, Sloanism has to do with capitalism and what a company can do to prosper once its market becomes saturated. Alfred Sloan's principles originated when he tried to revamp the automobile market after the Great Depression. To sell more cars, the car companies provided more options to consumers; they introduced new body styles each year, provided new and impressive features and colors--a direct contrast to Henry Ford's well-known remark that "Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it's black." (You can read about Sloanism in more detail here and here.) In many ways, Sloanism has helped to propel capitalism because people (particularly we Americans) are always buying more stuff, even if the stuff we already have is working fine. We want the newest and prettiest and coolest stuff to show off our individuality. This principle is how we went from these cell phones. . .


. . .to these cell phones.

Today I also came across this video about one of my favorite things, the KitchenAid stand mixer, and its color history. You know, how we go from this. . .

. . .to this.

Aren't they gorgeous? Although the KitchenAid mixer has introduced a host of new colors, its basic design and function has evolved very little over the years. I think that's part of the appeal. Also, even if you don't use it, you can buy a KitchenAid mixer and display it as though it is a piece of art.

I have an old white KitchenAid that Matt's godfather, my soulmate Bill, gave to me in January. It's amazing and beautiful and has kept me fat, and it's one of my favorite things. I was thinking about having my car painter of a brother paint it a pretty color for me, perhaps turquoise or lime green. What do you think? Should I leave it alone, or try to improve something that needs no real improvement?

24 August 2009

Mitch > Margaritas

A few days ago, Matt and I had endured a terrible day at work, and decided it would be fun to decompress in Mexico. And by Mexico I mean our favorite Mexican restaurant. We would have a couple of margaritas (they're two for one!), eat some chips, and get the anger and resentment out of our systems.

We decided to go home and change first. On our drive home, though, we saw a huge thunderstorm fast approaching. And we have a certain dog son, Mitchell Pancake, Mitchard Doggins (dog athiest enthusiast), who HATES thunderstorms.

So instead of heading off to Mexico, Matt and I comforted our son. The three of us retreated to the bed, our favorite place in the house. Mitch nestled between us, and we pet him and tried to make him forget about what was happening.

We held him and talked to him and tried to make him feel better. And we knew that our margarita plan was out of the question. Each time a huge crack of thunder would sound, Mitch would moan a pitiful dog moan. We'd then hold him tight and talk to him and pet him and scratch him and give him a bone.
We tried to make him feel better (and even entertained the idea that perhaps Mitchard Doggins was manipulating us into giving him so much attention). Eventually, he buried his little dog head and body under the comforter, and we all fell asleep. We didn't wake up until 9:00. (PS--Have I mentioned that I love my life?) No happy hour for Matt and Mandy.

I adore this dog, and so does Matt. And obviously, the well-being of the dog trumps our desire to drink cheap tequila (delicious, cheap tequila). I'm not angry at the dog for being upset and anxious, but I must admit that I was a little bitter about missing out on two for one margaritas in Mexico.
First the rash, then the opossum, then the almost black eye (to be explained later), and now missing happy hour?? Come on, dog. Still, though, I am obsessed. I can't stop talking about how cute you are or kissing your head or feeding you cheese. That's love.

23 August 2009

Tips for Dining Out: A Diatribe

Here's a depressing thought: I've been waiting tables for almost a decade. Ten years of serving the American public has left me a bit of a misanthrope.


I currently work at a popular casual dining restaurant. I work Saturdays and Sundays on weekends during the school year, and during the summer I've been working Thursdays through Sundays. The extra two shifts bring in enough cash for me not to feel guilty about spending so much on my days off during the summer. The cash is nice, but the extra time waiting tables has taken an irreparable toll on my opinion of the human race


The extra exposure to the patrons of said casual dining restaurant has not only made me support mandatory sterilization, but it's also made me wish that the fictional Obama death panels were real.


Let me give you an example. A couple of days ago I waited on a middle-aged couple. When they were ordering their meals, they made it clear to me that they do not eat pork and didn't want pork on their food. So, I made sure that their appetizer and the man's salad--both of which normally come with bacon on top--were made without bacon. I double checked with the table to ensure that the food had no bacon on it. After they'd had their entrees for about 10 minutes, the lady called me over, disgusted, to complain about her chicken quesadilla. She insisted to me that the meat looked, smelled, and tasted like pork.


Now, the best part of this story is that, with the exception of bacon, the restaurant does not even carry pork. No pork chops, no pork tenderloin. AND, if she doesn't eat pork, how does she know if something looks, smells, and tastes like pork? Both I and my manager informed the woman that the only form of pork in the restaurant is bacon, which only made her more angry. Because it's a conspiracy, you know. Because this huge corporation is out to get her, and in an attempt to play a sick joke has replaced all of the chicken with pork. And how dare we call her a liar? Really, woman? Really?

Another table in the restaurant (not my table), angry that they had been waiting too long for service, told the manager: "We got here at 1:45. It's 2:00 now and we've been waiting for a half an hour." AHHHHHHHH!!!!

I hate people. It's amazing how stupid, inconsiderate, and disgusting they can be. I know that the following list is not applicable to the readers of this blog, but please feel free to pass this list along to any person you know who may need it.


Tips for dining out (and each one of these comes from a personal experience):
  1. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out. Standard tip is 15% for average service, and 20% for great service. Get a calculator if you must.
  2. If the server asks you if you are ready to order, and you are not ready to order, just say so. Under no circumstance is it appropriate to force your server to stand there, awkwardly watching you try to read a menu and make a decision. Also, learn to read.
  3. Never whistle or snap your fingers to get the attention of your server. Doing so may result in a punch to the face.
  4. If you plan to drink alcohol, bring your ID, particularly if you look like you're twelve.
  5. Never give your baby sweet tea. (Again, sterilization.)
  6. Do not interrupt your server's interaction with another guest to ask an inane question or to demand more ranch dressing.
  7. Do not let your child shit all over the high chair.
  8. If your baby begins to scream, remove the baby from the restaurant. Neither the employees nor the other guests want to hear your little darling screaming. Also, use birth control.
  9. If your only way of communicating your meal choice is to point to a picture and grunt, please (PLEASE!) do not be surprised when your food comes out looking just like the picture. We really can't dumb it down any more for you.
  10. Why must you sit in a booth? Also, chances are that you're too fat to fit in the booth.
  11. Do not order hot tea or hot chocolate unless you want your server to immediately judge you as a douche bag.
  12. Do not wait until the very end of your meal to bring up a problem you have. At that point, it's pretty hard to fix, idiot.
  13. Don't be an asshole in general.

That's all I've got for now. Did you spend any time in the service industry? Did I leave anything out?

21 August 2009

Christmas Gift Idea!

When Mitch is doing something ridiculously cute, Matt and I will often joke that he's in a cute contest with himself (because, really, who else would be able to compete?).

Well, it appears that the makers of the Snuggie are in a contest with themselves to create and market the silliest of products. The Snuggie itself wasn't enough. NOW AVAILABLE--Snuggie for Dogs! Click here to watch the promotional video. (Thank you, Cassie, for making me aware of this wonderful item!)

But who am I to talk shit? Not only am I the proud owner of a Snuggie, but I actually use it on occasion, and I want to make homemade Snuggies for all of my friends when I get more savvy with the sewing machine.

This time next year, there will be something different about that picture. Well, two things. I will most likely be 50 pounds lighter (ha!), and Mitch will be wearing his Snuggie as well.

Do you have a Snuggie? Do you wish you had a Snuggie, or at minimum, a Snuggie for your dog?

Update

My apologies for the lack of posting this week. This is my last week before I must return to school, so I'm trying to enjoy my freedom, soaking up the last moments of August. But, in bullets, here is what we have been up to:

  • Sleeping. We have been spending extraordinary amounts of time sleeping, even for us. We're not sick of sleep-deprived or anything--just lazy and big fans of long naps.
  • Eating. We had Fresh Market steaks twice in a week.
  • Dreaming. Actually, nightmaring. About an hour ago I was having a dream that a scary clown that I had openly mocked robbed a bank I was in, and then I had to escape with Ken Jennings from Jeopardy!.
  • Snuggling. Unsurprisingly, Mitch remains the cutest dog on the planet.
  • Watching TV. We're currently obsessed with Top Chef, Friday Night Lights, season 3 of Dexter, and True Blood.
  • Eating. We're fat.
  • Working. Booo. Where's my winning lottery ticket?
  • Debating. Can Matt and Mandy be happy with parenthood if we have just one child?
  • Decorating. I'm trying to make our office look like something that would not be a part of the set of The Wonder Years.
  • Hosting. Matt's good friend came to visit this week. The visit was short, but very fun.
  • Drinking. Too much.
  • Nursing. Hangovers. PS--the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich has become my hangover cure!

I may elaborate on some of these in the future. Have a happy Friday and a great weekend!

18 August 2009

Oh No Dey Ditn't!

This afternoon I settled in with Mitchell Pancake for one of our famous couch naps. Before finally falling asleep, I was flipping channels between Hardball and Mystic Pizza and Gilmore Girls, showing my true ADD self before the quick onset of my narcolepsy.

(During my glory days at JMU, one of my roommates, Paxton--also Paxton, creator of incredible Halloween decor--was narcoleptic. I know that technically narcolepsy isn't contagious, but I'm pretty sure that I caught it from him.)

Anyway, back to this afternoon.

Forgive me if I'm behind the times a bit on this one; we never watch commercials because we've spoiled ourselves with DVR, the greatest invention of the century. But today I was too lazy even to reach for the remote, so I suffered through the commercials. Not only will I now have the "Free Credit Report Dot Com" commercial in my head for the next two months, but I caught something that I found truly shocking.

WATCH THIS COMMERCIAL FOR THE SCHICK QUATTRO TRIM RAZOR. WATCH IT NOW.

I had to rewind it to make sure that I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing, and then I called Matt into the room to watch it, too (and probably to bring me a glass of water and a cupcake and a pillow--I'm really needy when it's naptime). His response: "Oh No Dey Ditn't."

A few minutes later, I was asleep. I woke up almost two hours later to the smell of the dinner Matt was preparing, and he brought me a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I then proceeded to eat them, still on the couch, still lying down.

I love my life.

16 August 2009

Matt's Movie Review: District 9 and The Worst Movies I've Seen So Far



Today Collin and I saw District 9, the new sci-fi movie from first time director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson. The film's premise is fascinating. 20 years ago an enormous spaceship arrived on Earth and coasted to a stop hovering right over Johannesburg, South Africa. Then, nothing happened for a while. Eventually the South African authorities decided to cut open the spaceship and see what was inside. What they found were about a million aliens who were leaderless, malnourished, and revolting. They were transformed to a temporary relocation camp which eventually became a permanent fenced slum. The aliens, derogatorily referred to as prawns, live in filth, are discriminated against and widely reviled, and are preyed upon by a gang of Nigerian criminals that exploit their addiction to a certain substance.

As the film begins, the aliens are about to be moved into something closer to a concentration camp by MNU, a giant multinational corporation with a sizable military wing (think Haliburton with a dose of Blackwater). This sets the stage for a scathing political allegory about man's inhumanity to those it considers the other (it is no coincidence that the film is set in Johannesburg, where there was a giant slum during apartheid known as district 6).

Unfortunately, after the initial brilliant setup, at some point the film becomes a rather cliched and almost dull summer action movie. While still at times entertaining and often visually stunning (the CGI is fantastic), the story seems thrown together, with the main character just happening to end up where the story needs him to end up. All in all, I feel that the last half to two thirds of the movie simply don't do justice to the brilliant opening and the brilliant concept. I think there are enough interesting elements to the movie to recommend it, but ultimately it falls somewhere short of its initial promise.

Worst movies of the year so far:

3. Duplicity

Duplicity should have been great. It was directed by Tony Gilroy, who directed the tremendous film Michael Clayton. The cast is stellar: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson. The concept of a high stakes con movie combined with a screwball romantic comedy sounded interesting. Unfortunately for whatever reason it just didn't come together. I am including it in part for Mandy, who truly hated it.

2. Friday the 13th

I know, I know, I shouldn't expect much from slasher flicks. But this one was truly awful. It was a long exercise in watching an uninteresting killer come up with increasingly uninteresting ways to kill even more uninteresing victims. I cared about absolutely no one in this movie except for the funny Asian stoner kid, and he gets killed about halfway through. Just awful.

1. Terminator: Salvation

I dealt with this extensively in an earlier post. Probably not technically as bad as Friday the 13th but more egregious given how cool it potentially could have been.

Finally, it's time for the Daddy Day Camp award. This most coveted bad movie award goes annually to a movie that I don't even see, but grow to hate after I suffer through its trailer multiple times. This year's Daddy Day Camp award goes to--drumroll--The Time Traveler's Wife. (It narrowly beat out GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.) You would have to strap me in a chair and pry my eyes open a la Alex from A Clockwork Orange to get me to watch this thing. If any of you have seen it or any of these other flicks and want to defend them or pile on, leave us a comment.

14 August 2009

Rainstorms, Bravery, and Birthdays

It's monsoon season here in Savannah. The storms and the rain are fun at first in a "lying on the couch watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the 50th time" kind of way, but I'm not enchanted with our flooded back yard a.k.a. "new mosquito breeding ground", or the fact that I can't seem to keep the floors clean, regardless of how many times I sweep and mop them.

I know a dog named Mitchell Pancake who is tired of the storms as well. As soon as he hears thunder rumbling he is next to me or Matt, refusing to leave our side. It's pitiful, and if I know that the dog is home alone during a storm, I am overcome with guilt.

Yet, as annoying as the rain has been for our little family, I think there are some other creatures that are having a harder time dealing with it.

Like moles. Naked mole rats, to be exact.

The other night, I ventured out into our backyard of danger and death, only to discover an almost-dead baby (at least I think it was a baby; I really don't know how big moles get) mole, lying on its side on our walkway. In case you've never seen a baby naked mole rat, here's a picture I found on the google.

I'm not sure that an uglier creature exists.

Anyway, this baby mole was on its side, slowly moving its arms and opening its mouth, making some low and awful sound. I didn't know what to do, so I waited until Matt got home. By the time Matt got to it, the mole had died. So my brave husband got a plastic bag and disposed of the creature.

And then yesterday when I let Mitchell Pancake out he suspiciously picked something up in his mouth and slinked to the yard. I went to see what it was, and it was ANOTHER almost-dead baby naked mole rat.

And, again, it was doing the creepy movements. (You can check out my impression of an almost-dead baby naked mole rat below.)

video

In my mole research today, I came across this article about how naked mole rats may possess secrets to longevity. This fun fact comes at a good time; today is Matt's birthday. In lieu of a gift, I've decided to write a poem about him.

I love Matt with my heart and soul / Because he gets rid of dead moles.

Hmmmmm, maybe I should just get him a gift. . .

13 August 2009

Matt's Movie Review: Top 5 this Year

For those of you who don't know, I go to the movies almost every week with my friend Collin. Collin, who saves his ticket stub from every movie, was kind enough to send me a list of all the flicks we have seen this year so I could do a top five movies of the year thus far. Unfortunately, four of the first five movies we saw this year were releases from last year, and thus I made them ineligible for the list. So Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionare, The Wrestler, and Gran Turino are not on the list. It sucks living somewhere where you have to wait until January and February to see all of the Oscar contenders. So the list of movies I am choosing from is actually a bit shorter than I had anticipated:
  • Defiance
  • Coraline
  • Watchmen
  • Friday the 13th
  • I Love You, Man
  • Duplicity
  • Observe and Report
  • The Soloist
  • Wolverine
  • Star Trek
  • Terminator Salvation
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • The Hangover
  • Year One
  • Public Enemies
  • Funny People
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Up

So those are the movies I have seen in the theatre this year. Without further ado, my top five.

5. Star Trek

So I thought a lot about this fifth pick, and one thing finally settled it. I was very close to putting Public Enemies here, but I thought to myself, if these two movies were on cable late one night, which one would I watch? Not even close. Public Enemies features a strong lead performance by Johnny Depp and some interesting direction by Michael Mann, but in the end the story isn't particularly compelling. Star Trek, on the other hand, is a very successful summer popcorn movie, fun from beginning to end. Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Captain Kirk anchor a great cast as they reimagine a series that I had previously had almost no interest in. Props to JJ Abrams for rebooting this franchise.

4. The Hangover

Most of you have probably seen this movie already, and for those who haven't I won't ruin any of the jokes. Great performances from some long undersung comedic actors and plenty of debauchery. Obviously the MVP of this flick is Zach Galifinakis, who will probalby make about a billion dollars in the next two years.

3. Up

Refer to the wife's review of this flick for the full take. Needless to say it got a little dusty in the movie theater. I am beginning to wonder if Pixar will ever make a bad movie.

2. Funny People

Saying that this is Adam Sandler's greatest performance is an understatement on the level of saying that Sarah Palin is not well versed in the issues of the day. This is Judd Apatow's third movie as a director, despite all of the movies to which he has lent his name as producer. The first two: 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. The guy knows how to make a good movie. This one works on several levels. It is funny as hell, it is a fascinating character study, and it takes the viewer inside the world of stand up comedians in a way few movies do. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a comedian who has consistently sold out over his career by making a series of terrible movies that have made a lot of money. I know, what a stretch for him. Simmons is diagnosed with a disease that will most likely be fatal, and he is forced to confront the emptiness of his life. We have seen this sort of thing before. The genius of the film is that it never shys away from the fact the George Simmons is not a good guy. Every time it veers into schmaltz, there is a dick joke to break the tension. While the two main characters are played brilliantly by Sandler and Seth Rogen, the supporting characters are equally fascinating and true. Jonah Hill is hilarious as always and Jason Schwartzman nails a character everyone feels like they kind of know (and hate).

1. The Hurt Locker

By far the best movie to come out this year is Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. It follows an army bomb squad in Iraq in 2004. The lead performances, by Jeremy Rennar as team leader Seargent William James and Anthony Mackie as Sandborn are brilliant. James is an adrenaline junkie who has defused over 800 bombs and Sandborn is the man tasked with keeping him safe while he goes about his work. It perfectly captures the sense of a war in which any onlooker is a potential enemy and any hunk of rubble could be the bomb that kills you. It also manages to revitalize a tired movie/TV cliche of the disarming of bombs (which wire do I cut?) Bigelow uses a hanheld camera to put the viewer right in the situation with the characters while avoiding the pitfalls of that technique. Unlike other filmakers who have used the kind of grainy, handheld, cinema verite kinds of techniques (Michael Mann in Public Enemies for one) Bigelow never loses track of the characters or the action. In every scene the stakes are both incredibly high and perfectly clear. Even disregarding its trenchant observations on the Iraq war and what it means to fight in it, the film works as an action movie and as a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The Hurt Locker is the best movie yet about the Iraq war and the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan.

Any other movie fans who read the blog, post your favorites this year so far in the comments. Or, if you agree or disagree with any of my takes, or if you have suggestions for other movies we should check out, let us know.

Coming soon, the worst movies I've seen this year.

12 August 2009

Spicy Pork Stew

Last night I tried out this recipe for pork stew, but modified it quite a bit. There are no pictures of the food, which is probably for the best because this meal isn't really a looker. The stew turned out really great, though, and it's actually healthy! Here goes my version:

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-2.5 pounds pork tenderloin, cubed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil (olive, canola, vegetable, whatever)
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I suppose you could use fresh, too)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • Baby carrots, as many as you want
  • 5-7 red potatotes
  • 1 pound green beans, fresh or frozen
  • Corn, fresh or frozen, as much as you want (I used two ears)
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine flour and cumin. Add pork pieces to plastic bag; shake to coat pork.
  2. In a dutch oven (you'll need a big one!), brown meat with onions.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Stir in undrained tomatoes, the water, salt, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and crushed red pepper.
  5. Stir in carrots, potatoes, green beans, jalapeno, and corn.
  6. Bake the stew in the oven with the lid on for an hour and a half or so.
  7. Remove dutch oven from oven and heat on med/low on stovetop with lid off for 30-40 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.
  8. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Be warned: this makes a lot of food. It's a bit of a time investment, but I think it'd be great for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon of football and fall weather.

Oh, and I served mine with Martha Stewart cornbread.

Leftover lunchtime!

11 August 2009

Dammit, Matt!

I've been feeling pretty hateful these last couple of days, for no real reason other than my uterus is revolting against me, presumably punishing me for not bearing children. And during these times, I get mean, really mean. Even meaner than usual. And my patient and understanding husband deals with it.

Last night, after a happy evening, I decided to pick a fight with Matt for no real reason. Hmmmmm, what to fight about. . .

I found it. I decided to get angry with him because 5 years ago when we got a dog, he wouldn't let me name the dog Pancake. (My brain knows that this is a stupid name and that Mitch is a superior dog name, but my evil brain doesn't care.)


And then I got mad at him because he scoffed at my idea of late to make a pancake cupcake, with maple buttercream frosting, with a piece of bacon on top. "Breakfast cupcakes!" I would yell. Matt would make a disgusted face. So I never made them.

Last night I was reading one of my cupcake blogs, Cupcakes Take the Cake, and I came across this picture.

And I decided that Matt has been holding me back from fame and fortune and all things pancakes.

When I actually picked my fight, told him that he was crushing my dreams, and began referring to the dog as Pancake and instructing him to bite his father, Matt responded perfectly: "It's just that people get sick of pancakes. 'You're all happy at first, but then by the end, you're f-ing sick of 'em."**

That man is like a fire extinguisher for fights, and sometimes I hate it. Why's he have to be so mellow all the time? I think that'll be our next fight.

**Name that comedian.

Following Directions

What is wrong with this picture?

If you said, "there's dessert left on the plate" you're correct.

Tonight Cassie came over for dinner, and since her birthday was last week and we couldn't be with her since she moved to a land far far away, I thought we'd do a small birthday celebration tonight. So I decided to try out a recipe I've been eyeballing, Pioneer Woman's Molten Chocolate Cake. Mmmmmm, chocolate and molten and Cool Whip? How could it go wrong?

Plus, look at Pioneer Woman's gorgeous picture of the finished product. (I love me a good picture of food.)
And, to be fair, mine didn't look that much different. They looked nice, they smelled nice. But their flavor was just blah. They were sweet, sure. But they weren't terribly chocolately, and if I'm making a dessert named "MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE" I want it to be chocolatey. I was sorely disappointed. So was Cassie. We didn't even eat all of them, that's how mediocre they were. "What a sham that Pioneer Woman is!" I thought to myself.

Of course, there's a catch. Here I am, talking shit about Pioneer Woman's recipes when the real problem is me and my ability to follow directions. (It drives Matt crazy. Granted, Matt is a man who measures the water and uses a timer when he makes ramen noodles. He hates my refusal to follow directions and my constant insistance that "It's fine.") My printed out recipe called for "4 pieces (squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate." Somehow I interpreted that as two squares, which was 4 pieces of baking chocolate that were rectangular. How did I get through high school? I got an A in geometry! (And if we're keeping score, this is the second Pioneer Woman food-making endeavor that has gone awry because of my lack of intelligence.)

I didn't realize my mistake until I was writing this post, when I deemed it necessary to double check to make sure that the mistake was on Pioneer Woman's end and not mine. I actually re-read the recipe (something I should have done in the first place). I had put in only half of the chocolate. I suppose it's only natural, then, that my cakes wouldn't have been chocolately enough. Hmph.

Of course. Of course. What is wrong with me? Why don't I understand basic shapes or instructions? I shouldn't be allowed to teach human children, or animal children for that matter.

Oh well.

Moving on, I have noticed that too many of my recent posts have been negative in nature, so I want to add that I decided on some shoes and ordered them (only $21!) and they came today. They're gorgeous and as comfortable as heels are going to be. Now I'm not dreading the fast-approaching school year as much because I know I'll be wearing these beauties.
I'm even considering ordering them in red, for test days or other days that I want to channel the Wicked Witch of the East.

I will think twice, though, before publicly mocking students for failure to follow directions, even if I'm wearing the red shoes.

09 August 2009

Opossums will STILL kill you.

I'm still rattled by tonight's events. Mitch, recipient of K9 Advantix (There ain't no bugs on him?), spent about 30 minutes in the back yard tonight, just doing general dog stuff: smelling stuff, peeing on stuff, barking at the occasional passersby. In the hot and muggy summer months, Mitch doesn't usually stay outside for that long, and I thought it curious that he hadn't been barking to come inside. I also found it odd that he was in a part of the yard where he never seems to spend much time. Hmph.

When he came inside the house he started shaking his head like crazy and scratching, and when I took a close look at him, I could see fleas crawling across his face and all over the fronts of his little dog arms. Naturally, Mitch wasn't a fan of the fleas, so I spent the next hour of my life like a monkey, picking fleas off of the dog and squeezing them to death. I probably picked about 40-50 fleas off of him. And during that time I was racking my brain, trying to figure out how Mitch, who was wearing pretty powerful flea medication (so powerful that it gave me a rash last week), could suddenly have this many fleas on him.

I immediately jumped to the worst-case scenario, that Mitch had contracted some rare form of rabies that rendered flea medicine ineffective, and that he was going to bite me and give me the rabies and then Matt would get home and it'd be like that awful scene from the end of Their Eyes Were Watching God.

And then Matt got home, and I had a more reasonable thought, that perhaps there was some weird concentration of fleas in the yard, in the odd spot where Mitch had been spending so much time. I made Matt go with me to the yard, and I used the light from my phone to illuminate parts that were too dark.

I made out something cordlike that didn't look like the rest of the grass.

And then I saw it, there it was, a dead decomposing baby opossum!

And I screamed like mad and threw my arms in the air and ran back to the house, wriggling my body to rid myself of the grossness.

That was about an hour ago, and I can't stop thinking about it and I can't stop scratching myself all over.

08 August 2009

A story about yeast, but not a gross one.

Last week I decided that I had to get back to weight-loss mode, something I should have been doing all summer. (But really because Matt and I have a wedding to attend in a little over a month, and I don't want to arrive there as a complete disgusting fatbody.) And I was doing pretty well, eating salads and grilled chicken, avoiding cupcakes and cutting back on boxed wine.


And then I bought my friend a wedding gift, a pretty dutch oven (I already told her that was what I was getting her; I'm awful with surprises), and I decided that I should find some good dutch oven recipes. In the process of searching for recipes, I became very hungry. Famished, even.


And then I came across this bread recipe, from Pioneer Woman. It looked so tasty, and I thought, for quality assurance purposes, I should try out the recipe before giving it to my friend.


I followed the instructions, for the most part. The only step I didn't really follow--and it must be a very important step--had to do with the kneading of the dough. Initially I followed that instruction, but after about 2 minutes I thought my Kitchen Aid was going to die. I had walked out of the kitchen while the mixer did its thang, and when I came back the mixer had slowly inched itself toward the edge of the counter. Kitchen disaster averted!


So I tried to knead the bread by hand, but I didn't know what I was doing. After it sat for a couple of hours (during which time the dough was supposed to increase in size, but mine didn't), I haphazardly put it in the oven.

It looked pretty. (But not as pretty as Pioneer Woman's.)
And while it was hot it tasted pretty good. Not surprisingly, though, it was far too dense and heavy. In fact, the "bread" was so hard the next morning that I could have used it as a weapon to fend off any murderer trying to get into my house.

Fortunately, it wasn't a total loss. One of my friends gave me these super fun cookie cutters for my birthday, so that I could bake treats for Mitch.
So I made Mitch some bread treats.

He immediately took his treats and buried them around the house. Last night we discovered a dog-shaped piece of brick bread in our bed. Great. Do any of you know how to bake good bread from scratch? Any foolproof recipes? Or, do you have any great dutch oven recipes I should include with the wedding gift?

06 August 2009

The Grossest Story Ever

I have a friend who, for privacy purposes, we'll call Clarissa. Clarissa is one of the most kind people I know, she's generous, she's intimidatingly beautiful, she's a hard worker, she's loyal, she gives sound advice. And I'm telling you all of those great things about her because she may unfriend me after I share this story.

I should also note that Clarissa is a bit [whoa, understatement!] of a germaphobe. She showers about 100 times more than I do (which is also a testament to how dirty I am, which the rest of this story will reiterate), and she likes to be clean. Really, really clean.

Rewind to sophomore year of college, back to the days when I spent money recklessly, did shots of warm cheap vodka, and was obsessed with the color purple (the actual color, not the Academy Award winning film). Clarissa was one of my suitemates that year. Our suite consisted of one common room with three dorm rooms coming off of it. Our common room was always very, very messy.

And sophomore year of college I had a job at the beloved Buffalo Wild Wings, where I made shittons of cash but had to work until the wee hours of the morning. Usually by the time I got home from work (between 2-3 a.m.) my suitemates had already gone to sleep.

One night, I came home from a busy, busy night of work. I was so exhausted. I had been in class all day and then worked a 10-hour shift of wing night (!) and had been dealing with idiot frat boys and other college drunks. My feet hurt. I smelled like smoke and beer.

So I finally got back to our suite and everyone had gone to bed. Rather than to disturb them, I decided to decompress in the common room. The messy, messy common room. There was crap everywhere, including about a zillion empty bottles of water and Nantucket Nectars, and handles of Vladimir vodka (just mentioning the name Vladimir makes me gag). I sat on the futon and watched some TV and started to mess with my feet.

I really shouldn't be telling you this because you're going to think less of me.

While messing with my feet, I realized that the toenail on my big toe was way too long. Instead of doing the hygienic thing--getting some clippers and properly disposing of the clippings--I made a bad, bad decision. Remember, I was really tired.

I ripped off the toenail (hey, at least I didn't bite it off!) myself. But then I needed to get rid of it. The trash--and by trash I mean lawn-sized Hefty bag that could have held an automobile--was all the way across the room. And I was so tired.

So instead of doing the appropriate thing, getting off of my ass and putting the toenail in the garbage, I located a bottle of Dasani that was within arms reach and only had about a sip left in it, I took off the cap, I put my toenail in the bottle, and I put the cap back on. I thought nothing of this disgusting action. A short while later I headed to bed.

Of course, my slumber was interrupted the next morning when I heard a loud screech and "MANDY!" coming from the bathroom. It was Clarissa.

Clarissa was on birth control, and was meticulous about taking her pill. That morning, she couldn't find anything with which to wash down the pill, so she picked up one of the water bottles in the common room that had a little bit left in it--the same one I had dropped my toenail into only hours before.

And she drank my toenail. Let me say that again. She.drank.my.toenail.

And how did she know that it was mine? Because when she coughed/puked it up, it had purple nail polish on it.

I hope that Clarissa doesn't unfriend me for sharing this story, but I'm pretty sure that if she didn't unfriend me that day, she's a friend for life. I told you, she's loyal. And very, very pretty.

Shoe Selection

Since a $625 pair of Christian Louboutin's is not in the cards for me, I've been looking elsewhere for a new pair of shoes for school. I already have lots of black shoes, and I pretty much wear only black to school (which is why my students often believe that 1.) I was a goth kid in high school and 2.) I am dangerous). Nine West seems to have some fun options right now, and I need your input about which pair I should choose. I've narrowed it down to the following:

















I need your opinions. Pros? Cons? Other suggestions?

05 August 2009

You're a Treasure

I have a confesion to make. I like the song "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. I really like it. I put it on the Zune and sing it at the top of my lungs.

The neighbors probably assume that we've invited Celine Dion over to hang. I feel like I have a really really good singing voice, even though others may confuse it for a chorus of dying cats.

I was going to try to share my talent with the world via American Idol, but since Paula has quit, I don't know what I'll do. Surely Randy and Simon (and even super-annoying Kara) would mock me endlessly. I'll need Paula there. I'll need her "positive energy." Come back, Paula!

And no post about Paula would be complete without a link to one of my favorite things on the planet, Topher Payne's vlog about American Idol. Topher is the nephew of one of my coworkers, he's written a book, and he writes about a play a week. I want Topher to become rich and famous. Check out his vlog! Do it! And then listen to "My Heart Will Go On" one more time. You may just love it.

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