pen rainbow

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner

Abraham Lincoln—Vampire Hunter & The Academy Awards

I was a vampire fan long before it was trendy.  I'm not sure why because TV shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits scared the whizzle out of me when I was a kid, but I think it was Anne Rice's opulent portrayal of the New Orleans vampire, Louis de Pointe du Lac, his ancient vamp master, Lestat de Lioncourt, and the uber-scary Parisian vampire, Armand, who sucked me into the vamp lair for good.

Before that, I was a nonapologetic fan of the primetime gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows (1966—1971).  It came on after school and predated the untapped potential of young female vampire fans by about 35 years.  I was a soap opera junkie, just like my grandmother, Betty, who never missed a single sappy episode of, As The World Turns.  I always got a kick out of the Claymation-style revolving planet and the hypnotic voice of Dan McCullough who invited 1960's housewives to take a break from the dishes and laundry to watch TV for the next thirty minutes.

So, I was expecting to love the book, Abraham Lincoln—Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I have learned not to judge a book too early, and I was only slightly put off by the author's epistolary style, which frequently switches the reader from diary entries and historic excerpts to a first-person narrative of the story.  About three-quarters of the way through the book, I realized that the pace and structure of the story was consistent with the nature of vampires—fast, predictable, and chopped up.  Now, I was starting to appreciate the book for its humor.

The violent encounters in this book got to be tedious, though.  The vampires were cartoonish, unlike the sensuous, angsty vamps in the recent Twilight series, or the complicated, tortured souls of The Vampire Chronicles.  I did, however, enjoy the vintage photographs of Abraham Lincoln posing with the vampires.  They were humorous, which is the overall intention of the book.  It's campy, like every zombie movie that's ever been made.  

The book is retro in a lot of ways and reminds me of the old low-budget horror and Sci-Fi flicks.  If you like that style, and you don't mind lots of decapitations, guts, and torn off body parts, and you might like this book.  The author puts a new spin on the slavery issue.  I was expecting a deeper, more complex story, but it is more along the lines of Dark Shadows, with the Civil War as the backdrop instead of an 18th Century fishing village in Maine.  The upcoming movie, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, starring Benjamin Walker as Lincoln, is scheduled to be released next year.
2011 Oscar Wrap-Up
I agree with all of the winners except Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress, and that is only because I  know too many real people who are just like the character she played.  Amy Adams would have been a more deserving winner or Helena Bonham Carter, who did a bang up job as Queen Elizabeth I, wife of King George VI, in The King's Speech.

James Franco & Anne Hathaway did a pretty good job hosting the show!  They are hard workers and gave it their best.  When he's not delivering Oscar-nominated performances and winning Golden Globes (Best Actor, Pineapple Express, 2008), James Franco is a filmmaker with an MFA in Writing from Columbia (2010) and a Ph.D. student in English at Yale.  Anne Hathaway is luminous, no matter what she does.  They are both movie stars, and I look forward to seeing them grow as film artists.  Billy Crystal owned it when he came out to introduce the Bob Hope tribute, and 74-year old David Seidler (Best Original Screenplay, The King's Speech) gave the most eloquent acceptance speech all night when he said that his father always told him that he'd be a late bloomer.

On my list of things to do:  Rent, Inception

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Home

The Spirit Goat & First Spring Flowers

Mom & Baby Goatie — Mendon, Utah, 1993
First of all, I the name, The Spirit Goat, and second of all, I their boutique bath products.

Also, I companies that reach out and share their profits in ways that provide help where help is needed.

In addition, I  hand-crafted items.  And, I  the local growers movement and support local cottage industries.

Finally, I goats, especially cute, little baby goats like the week-old kid in this photo taken at a farm owned one of Heidi's friends in Utah. They are munching on weeds from the garden out of a wheelbarrow.  Weed-eating goats would be a lot more useful than my grass-snarfing cats who like to throw up in the house.

The Spirit Goat is located in Nibley, Utah, and their artisan soaps & lotions are sold all over the U.S. by various retail distributors (the list is on their website).  What is cool about this company is that they help support a local family crisis center in Cache County, plus they support fair trade practices by purchasing all of the shea butter used in their products from women's cooperatives in West and Central African villages.  $1 from the sale of each 8 oz. bottle of Creamy Milk Lotion goes to the Cache County Children's Justice Center, and they have a tiered give-back program based on donation levels.  Pretty neat!

Lemongrass & Sage Creamy Milk Lotion
On our last sister trip to BC, Heidi gave me a bottle of Lemongrass & Sage Creamy Milk Lotion ($7.50 per 8 oz. bottle).  It is simply wonderful.  Hands that work hard need lots of TLC, and this lotion does the trick.  The scent reminds me of high mountain meadows in the summertime.

Heidi also gave me 2 bars of bath soap from the Regional Suds collection—Wasatch Mountain Rain ($4.50 per bar)  and Great Salt Lake Scrub Bar ($3 per bar).  In keeping with my Great Salt Lake bath theme, I am partial to the salt scrub bar.  It agrees with my skin and makes me feel like I just stepped out of a spa treatment.  My denim-colored bath bar of Wasatch Mountain Rain turned my wash cloth blue, but it rinsed out, and it smells like clothes that have been dried on the clothesline.

Check out their line of men's products (sandalwood reminds me of college days in Santa Cruz).  They have a nice selection of soaps, including the Bubble Bar, made with lime and spearmint oil.  Sounds wonderful!

First Hints of Spring in My Walnut Creek Garden


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard—The Art of Marmalades & Rescue Chocolate Taste Test

Tom's SoCal Citrus, Heirloom Toms, & Wild At Heart Raspberry Ganache

A couple of weeks ago, our generous neighbor, Tom Sheridan, delivered three bags of wonderful fresh produce that included citrus from his property in Palm Springs and last season's frozen heirloom Brandywine tomatoes from his garden in Walnut Creek.  Tom knows that I am a canner, so he was kind enough to share his bounty with me.  Canning is all about sharing, and this weekend, I shall become the neighborhood Marmalade Fairy!

I was never a fan of marmalade before I started making my own.  Fresh homegrown citrus grown under ideal California conditions is indescribably delicious when it is made into marmalade.

Tom's Tangelo & Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Tom's Tangelo & Meyer Lemon Marmalade
First, I adapted an old HP orange/lemon marmalade recipe and added Meyer lemons from my own backyard tree.  The result was a golden ambrosia with hand-cut, thin slices of organically grown tangelos & lemons.  It is quite heavenly on toasted English muffins!

Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade
Next, I did an online search for grapefruit marmalade recipes and found one called, Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade, which uses a food processor to chop the whole fruit.

I  this recipe because the grapefruit is cut into halves and then simmered for 2 hours.  The result is soft, fragrant fruit bursting with flavor that is ready to be seeded & fooped into tasty bits.  It sure beats hand-chopping 11 lemon rinds into evenly-sized, half-inch slivers for lemon marmalade!  Another cool thing about this recipe is that it calls for a cup of locally produced honey.  Thank you to the honeybees in Walnut Creek for their contribution!

Grapefruit marmalade pairs beautifully with warm carrot muffins (what doesn't?) and is uber-good nestled up to crab cakes on a bed of fresh, Springtime watercress.  I made this recipe British-style, which means that it is a sweet preserve with a bitter tang.  Yum!
Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade

Thank you, Cosmic Cowgirl!

Homegrown Brandywine Tomatoes from Tom's Walnut Creek Garden 
Brandywine tomatoes are the Cadillac of homegrown heirloom tomatoes.  They have a full, robust flavor that kicks the tomato-butts of other garden variety tomatoes.  Brandywines have the classic sweetness of heirlooms with just the right amount of acidity, and when they are homegrown, they are extra scrum-diddly-umptious.

Tom's Brandywines became my adapted version of Bon Appétit's, Linguine with Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sept 1986), one of our favorite summer pasta dinners.

Linguine With Fresh Tomato Sauce (adapted from Bon Appétit, Sept 1986)
Serves 4
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. chopped garlic
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, coursely chopped + juices
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar (I use black & raspberry red wine vinegar, i.e. blackberry & raspberry)
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. linguine
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (or freshly grated) 
  1. Heat 1 T. olive oil in deep skillet over med-high heat
  2. Add garlic & stir for 3 mins, taking care not to brown
  3. Mix in tomatoes + juices, remaining 3 T. olive oil, basil & red wine vinegar
  4. Season with a couple of pinches of kosher salt & 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  5. Simmer on the stove while the linguine cooks
  6. Drain cooked linguine well; toss with fresh tomato sauce & top with fresh Parmesan

Wild At Heart Raspberry Ganache Dark Chocolate Hearts
Rescue Chocolate Taste Test — Wild At Heart Raspberry Ganache Hearts (2 hearts for $6)

Last week, I ordered one of each chocolate from Rescue Chocolate in Brooklyn, NY.  100 percent of their net profits go to animal rescue organizations all over the country, and their products are vegan and certified Kosher Parve.  No artificial preservatives!  I am happy to support organizations like this, and each week, I'll be reporting on the taste of these chocolates.
Rescue Chocolates
Wild At Heart Raspberry Ganache Hearts are small, but delicious!  For dark chocolate lovers, these are the bomb.  5 stars out of 5 for these little chocolate gems!  ★  ★  ★  ★  ★    

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner

Water For Elephants & Books That Make Kids Want to Read

I just finished reading, Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen

  • Superb characters, human & critter!  This is an engaging story about a young man who runs away and spends a year working with a traveling circus.  It is first-person narrated by the main character, Jacob Jankowski, who at the beginning of the story is a 90-year old (or 93, he's not sure of his age) man living in an assisted living facility.  
  • I just watched the trailer, and the movie starts out with the old man wandering into a circus grounds.  This actually happens in the book in a much more interesting and satisfying way, but I won't tell you how.  Just read the book.  It's FANTASTIC and a great read!
  • The circus setting is a rich sensory experience.  
  • This novel was a NaNoWriMo book.
  • The book was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 12 weeks when it was published in May 2006.
  • There are some laugh-out-loud moments. 
  • A real page-turner!
  • You'll learn lots of neat circus lingo
  • Neat twist at the end involving the old man.  It's a great commentary on how you're only as old as you feel.
  • There are some scenes where the psycho animal keeper is mean to the animals, but it's not unbearable.  Things work out in a really good way for the circus animals in the end. 

Books like this are the kind that make kids want to read (from our BC bookshelf).  

Homes and Habits of Wild Animals—North American Mammals, by Karl Patterson Schmidt, Field Museum of Natural History; Illustrated by Walter Alois Weber; Sponsored by The National Wildlife Federation, Washington, D.C.

Published by M.A. Donohue & Company, Chicago & New York, © 1934

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Home

The Pens That Started It All, ala Forest Gump

Don't let anyone steal your pen...That's all I have to say about that.

Life is like a box of colorful alligator clips.  These clips eat ordinary paper clips for lunch.  Run, Forest, Run! to Staples to get some of these cool clips ($3.29 per 12 pack, medium-size)!

Colorful Soft-Grip binder Clips

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard—Two EASY Comfort Foods!

Cozy + Healthy = Great!

Stove - Top Mac & Cheese
Serves 4 (1-1/2 c. servings) to 6 (1 c. servings) 

Nutritional info:  Per 1 cup serving—285 cal, 9 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 23 mg chol, 665 mg sodium, 36 g carb, 2 g fiber, 15 g protein, 288 mg calcium.  Note:  To reduce fat, use lite butter or margarine & non-fat milk; to increase fiber, use whole wheat flour — Weight Watchers, In One Pot, 2003.
  • 1 T. lite butter (or margarine or real butter)
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced Italian-style tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 c. shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)
  • 1/2 c. low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk
  • 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. dry mustard
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 4 c. cooked elbow macaroni
  1. Prepare elbow macaroni, as directed on package.
  2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  
  3. Add flour; combine & stir constantly until mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 min.
  4. Add cheddar cheese, Parmesan, milk, mustard & salt, stirring constantly until cheese melts & the mixture is smooth, 2 — 3 mins.
  5. Stir in elbow macaroni & cook until heated through & well coated, 1 — 2 mins.
    Before serving, let stand 2 mins. to allow cheese sauce to thicken & set.

    Troi's Add:  Make country-style bread crumbs ahead of time—Cube & crumble 2 c. of leftover artisan bread (I use whatever kind of bread I have - Batard, potato rosemary, or sourdough Pugliese all work well); spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or pizza pan lightly sprayed with butter-flavor PAM.  Lightly spray bread crumbs with butter PAM & give it a shake to coat crumbs; sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Toast in 400°F oven for approx. 10 mins, until bread is lightly toasted.  Remove from oven.  Let cool & store in a plastic, zip-lock bag at room temp.

    If you want to bake it in the oven before dinner time:
    Transfer hot mac & cheese into a 2-qt. glass baking dish (or individual-size casseroles) coated with butter-flavor PAM.  Top with a scant layer of lightly toasted bread crumbs.  Bake for about 25 mins. on 400°F, enough to heat through & give topping a nice browned finish. 

    Creamy Polenta Casserole
    Serves 3 (1/3 of the casserole = 1 serving)

    Nutritional info:  275 cal, 7 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 153 mg chol, 763 mg sodium, 38 g carb, 4 g fiber, 16 g protein, 216 mg calcium — Weight Watchers, In One Pot, 2003.

    EQUIPMENT:  Food processor, 2-quart glass baking dish
    • Olive-oil or butter-flavor PAM nonstick spray
    • 1 (16 oz.) tube refrigerated fat-free plain polenta, cut into 2-inch pieces
    • 1/2 c. non-fat milk
    • 1 (11-oz.) can of Mexican-style corn, drained
    • 1/2 c. shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (mild or sharp); for a spicier version, I use regular, Mex-style shredded cheddar cheese in place of the reduced cheddar 
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 (4 oz.) small can of chopped green chilies (mild)
    • 2 T. chopped fresh chives 
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    • 4 shakes of your favorite hot pepper sauce (Tobasco is fine)
    • 3 egg whites at room temp
    1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a 2-qt. glass, baking dish with nonstick spray;
    2. Place the polenta & the milk in a food processor; pulse until smooth (about 10 secs).  Transfer to a large mixing bowl;
    3. Stir in the drained Mex corn, shredded cheese, egg yolks, chilies, chives, sugar, salt & Tobasco;
    4. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form;
    5. Stir 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the polenta mixture to lighten; gently fold in remaining egg whites until blended.  Spoon into baking dish.
    6. Bake on 375°F until slightly puffed & golden, about 45 mins.  Serve at once!
    Troi's adds:  Top with fresh deli-case salsa (I use Safeway's mild salsa or Whole Foods fresh, roasted tomatillo salsa) & a generous handful of fresh, chopped cilantro.  Extra super good!

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Valentine Monday—10 Literary Ways to Say "I Love You"

    1.  "Adieu - Dearest, most beloved little wife - Take care of your health - and don't think of walking into town. Do write and tell me how you like our new quarters - Adieu. I kiss you millions of times."  --Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 17 Oct 1790.  Letter to his wife, Constanze

    2.  "Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together - Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

    ever thine
    ever mine
    ever ours"

    --Ludwig van Beethoven, 7 July 1812.  Letter to his "immortal beloved," Antonie Brentano

    3.  Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date;

    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
    Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:

    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

    --William Shakespeare, Fair Youth Sequence, first edition 1609, Sonnet XVIII

    4.  "Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire."  --Napolean Bonaparte, December 1795, Letter to his wife, Josephine

    5.  I love your hills, and I love your dales,
    And I love your flocks a-bleating;
    But O, on the heather to lie together,
    With both our hearts a-beating!
    --John Keats, From "You Devon Maid," Stanzas sent in a letter to friend, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1818

    6.  "You know you're in love when you don't want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.  --Dr. Suess
    7.  "Come live in my heart and pay no rent."  --Samuel Lover, Poems published in 1839
    8.  "Soul meets soul on lovers' lips."  --Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
    9.  "Many are the starrs I see, but in my eye no starr like thee."  --English saying used on poesy rings

    10.  "I can no longer think of anything but you.  In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you.  I grasp you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me."  --Honore de Balzac, Letter to Evelina Hanska, June 1836

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Mini-Post Thursday—Rescue Chocolate

    Our sweet pup, Caraboo
    Saving Critters With Ingenuity & Chocolate

    Here's a way to get something yummy for your sweetie and help with animal rescue efforts all over the country.

    She's young, she's an entrepreneuer, and she's from Brooklyn—Meet the founder of Rescue Chocolate, Sarah Gross

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Wednesday—Good for The Home & Good For You

    Outsmarting Cats & My Parents Were Cool

    I have 3 bottles of spray in my pet cupboard—No Mark, No Scratch, and No Stress.  I'd drink the last one if I weren't afraid that I'd grow a fluffy tail and start meowing in my sleep.  If the first two actually worked, I would have no need for the third.  But, none of them work, so I'm constantly looking for ways to out wit, out play, and definitely out last my darling felines.

    Today, I'm going to talk about clawing, the bane of every cat owner.  I have 4 clawing posts in the house, enough for each kitty to have his/her own State of Clawness.  When they're not out terrorizing the back yard squirrels & blue jays, our beasties are happily digging their needle-like talons into these clawing posts.  But, clawing posts can be so boring when you're a cat.  Why shred a cheap piece of carpet tacked to a pole when there's a tender loveseat calling your name...Here, Kitty!  

    It's been a battle, to say the least.  At first, I tried plastic storage covers, the flimsy, clear kind that are sold in hardware stores for moving or long-term furniture storage.  They are like giant dry cleaner bags and could potentially suffocate a mischievious cat.  Plus, they're really hard to sit on without sliding off the sofa.

    Then, I tried a $60 fitted, canvas loveseat cover from Target.  It was so loose and poorly fitted that it slid out of place all the time and exposed tempting leather corners to the cat-sharks who regularly patrol my living room looking for fresh furniture prey.

    Finally, we hit on something that works!  A heavy-duty, .7 ml outdoor vinyl sofa cover with fleece lining made by Protective Covers Inc.  The Protective Covers Inc. website does not have the size that we bought, and I wouldn't recommend their Patio Covers Inc. link because my computer sent me a warning that the site contains malicious software (a.k.a. malware).  Order through more reliable online distributors.

    We ordered ours online from good ol' trusty True Value Hardware, $25.65 (plus tax & shipping) to fit our loveseat (58"L x 35"H x 35"D).  It arrived without a hitch:

    Amazon carries the entire line of other sizes & configurations, as well as the one we purchased ($30.20 + tax, free shipping):

    The cover has velcro closures on the inside of each corner that attach to the legs if you want to secure it in place.  We pull ours off all the time and leave it on only when we're not around to guard the loveseat from the little bastards...I mean, the furry dears.  Seriously, if this cover prevents four determined cats from clawing a  leather sofa, it's a good product.

    Now, for something fun!
    My Parents Were Cool

    I found out about this entertaining website when my husband's co-worker, Gary, posted the link on facebook.  You can submit a photo of your parents directly through Tumblr or use their gmail addie (both links are available in the sidebar on the website).  My parents were cool—that's my mom in the sizzlin' hot shorts next to my dad looking like Darrin Stephens, Lake Mead, Summer of '68—and I'll bet yours were, too!

    Also pictured: My aunt, Beverley Jones Fisher; her husband, Chuck Fisher; my sisters, Brooke & Heidi Jones 

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Tuesday's Cupboard—i ❤ Cheese Fondue

    A Fun-Do For You & Your Sweetie

    Three-Cheese Fondue with Champagne 
    Serves: 2 to 4

    4 tsp. cornstarch
    1 T. fresh lemon juice
    1-1/4 c. dry (brut) Champagne
    1 large shallot, peeled & chopped

    2 c. coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 7 oz.)

    1-1/3 c. coarsely grated Emmenthal cheese (fancy Swiss cheese, about 5 oz.)
    1/2 c. diced rindless Brie or Camembert cheese (about 3 oz.)
    Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
    Pinch of ground white pepper

    1 French baguette, crust left on, cut into bite-size chunks

    Be sure to remove any rind from the Brie or Camembert.  It will not melt properly, otherwise.  Mis-en-place everything else, except for the nutmeg & white pepper.
    1. Stir cornstarch & lemon juice in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves; set aside
    2. Combine Champagne & chopped shallot in a medium-size saucepan; simmer over medium heat for 2 mins; remove pot from heat.
    3. Add all cheeses to saucepan; stir to combine
    4. Add cornstarch mixture to cheese mixture; stir to combine 
    5. Return saucepan to medium heat; stir until cheeses are melted & smooth and mixture begins to bubble (about 12 mins)
    6. Remove from heat & season with nutmeg & white pepper 
    7. Pour hot cheese mixture into the fondue pot & set canned heat to a low flame
    8. Serve with crusty bread chunks & remaining Champagne
    Bon Appétit, February 2001

    Troi's Strawberry & Spring Greens Salad with Walnuts, Avocado, Cranberries & Goat Cheese Crumbles
    Champagne—Orange Dressing:

    3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
    2 T. champagne vinegar
    2 t. orange juice
    1-1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

    1 c. rinsed & sliced fresh strawberries
    2 c. Spring greens 
    1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
    1/4 c. walnut halves
    1 avocado, sliced & diced into 1-inch chunks
    1/4 c. dried cranberries

    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 Pinch of Pink or Red Finishing Salt

    Prep:  Put all salad ingredients into bowl; toss with dressing; add finishing salt & freshly ground pepper; gently toss before serving.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Monday—At the Movies

    10 Good Reasons to See, TRUE GRIT

    1. It is a Coen Brothers movie (there is always something extra great about a Coen Bros movie)
    2. It is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor, & Best Supporting Actress
    3. Hailee Steinfeld, the girl narrator & a relative unknown, delivers a totally compelling performance
    4. It has a very satisfying ending
    5. It's a good Western
    6. It's fun to compare it to the 1969 original with John Wayne, Kim Darby (Mattie), Glen Campbell (Le Boeuf), Robert Duvall (Ned Pepper) & Dennis Hopper (Moon, the guy who is shot in the leg)
    7. It's way better than the original
    8. You can read the book by Charles Portis, published in 1968
    9. There are no scary parts
    10. Jeff Bridges disciplines some kids who are tormenting a mule...Coen-style

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Friday Bonus—Wanna See Something Cool?

    Miniature German Village — Epcot
    I want everybody to try this cool"tilt-shift" effect (fake miniature photography)!

    To get started, you'll need to run out and buy Photoshop CS (Creative Suite) for about $650.  If you already have Photoshop, you can buy an upgrade for less than $200.

    I'll wait...Meanwhile, watch this amazing vid!  On the You Tube menu, set the resolution to 720HD, then click the full-screen setting (it looks like a bunch of arrows in a box).  These are real pix of Epcot using the tilt-shift effect.

    How to get this awesome effect using Photoshop CS:

    For PCs using CS2 or later:

    For Macs:

    Photo credit:  Steve Nelson, Miniature German Village, Epcot

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Mini-Post Thursday—Send Milly A Valentine

    From the fun Twitterverse

    Thanks to the folks at...

    and Pee-Wee Herman for posting this valentine request!

    If you're a fan of the Del Rubio Triplets (Milly is the last one standing), or a Pee-Wee fan, or a fan of cool, campy retro stuff, you should help Milly celebrate her 90th birthday by sending her a valentine.  ❤

    I'm going to, and you should, too!  The valentines are in c/o her friend, Allee Willis.  Don't forget to give our blog friends at RetroRoadmap & our twitter friend, Pee-Wee Herman, a nod and write, "Thanks, RetroRoadmap & Pee-Wee!" on the back of the envelope.

    Milly, c/o Allee Willis
    11684 Ventura Blvd Suite 430
    Studio City, CA 91604

    Write this on the back of the envelope:  Thanks, RetroRoadmap & Pee-Wee!

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Home

    2 More Ways to Make Things Easier!

    Here are two new items that I tried this week that go hand-in-hand because one helps you get organized, and the other one helps you relax after doing all of that work!

    Eco-Fabric China & Stemware Storage Cases
    These eco-friendly boxes come in a variety of sizes, both in square (saucer, salad, dinner, tall stemware & cup) and round (11", 9", 7.5", 5.5") shapes.  They are reasonably priced, and they are hard-sided for extra protection.  They are somewhat stackable, but stack light things on top because the lids are canvas-covered cardboard, and they will sag over time.  I like the modern, sophisticated style.

    Eco-Fabric Round Plate Storage Cases

    Eco-Fabric China Storage Cases

    What's really neat about these storage boxes is that the exterior fabric consists of 76% polyester made from recycled plastic bottles and 24% cotton.  The inside of the boxes are lined in polyester.  As Steve pointed out, purchasing products like this adds to the demand for items made from recycled materials and supports recycling programs, in general.  "Like!"

    Okay, put on your work clothes and get started!  I'll wait until you're finished reorganizing all of your dishes, flatware, silverware & table linens...

    Now that you're finished, you could probably use a nice hot soak in a relaxing bath!  Here's just the thing:

    Ojavàn Aromatherapy Bath Salts (from the Great Salt Lake)
    I cannot say enough good about these bath salts!  They do wonders for my skin.  My sister, Heidi, gave me 4 of the trial sizes ($3 each) for Christmas, and I've tried two so far.

    There is enough in each trial-size jar for 2 bath times, plus, you get a little crystal that represents the curative properties of each mixture.  The directions say to place your little crystal next to the tub while you bathe so that you can absorb its healing & relaxing properties.  Hey, sounds good to me!  Each jar is delicately scented with a different essential oil (not too strong), and the salts really do dissolve if you follow the directions and hold them in your hand under the faucet while filling the bath.

    I have tried Màplya (mah-pee-yah, "sky" or "heavenly" in Sioux) for "relaxing, calming & aids sleep."  The aromatherapy is lavender oil and the crystal is white quartz.  The white quartz is believed to protect against negativity, and it relieves pain.  A lovely soak in Màplya bath salts before bedtime, followed by a fluffy, white spa robe and an Aquis Micro-Fiber Hair Turban  ...Heaven!

    I've also tried Otekah (oh-tee-kuh, "sun maiden" in Navajo) for "balance, fortifies & soothing."  The aromatherapy for this one is eucalyptus, and the crystal is smokey quartz.  This is a great one for starting your day!  The eucalyptus really does energize the body & spirit.  It makes you feel good and totally ready to face the day.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Tuesday's Cupboard—Meatballs!

    Something to break up the winter mealtime doldrums 

    Turkey Meatballs with Fresh Cilantro-Mint Chutney

    Prep time:  30 minutes
    Cook time:  40 minutes
    Serves:  4  (Makes about 30 meatballs)

    This Indian-spiced meat mixture makes great hamburgers, too!  Try them on folded naan with a spoonful of chutney and sliced Roma tomatoes.  Adapted from Sunset, January 2011

    I don't eat cute, fluffy baby animals, so this recipe which originally called for lamb had to be adapted!

    Turkey Meatballs
    • 1 tsp. each ground cumin, ground coriander & ground fennel
    • 1/2 tsp. each black pepper, cinnamon & kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne 
    • 1/4 tsp. tumeric
    • 1.25 lb. ground turkey
    • 1 lg. egg or 1/4 c. egg substitute
    Mix the above ingredients in a bowl and let it firm up in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
    • Cooking spray 

    • 3 T. of 0% Fage (pronounced, "fay-eh") nonfat Greek yogurt (Safeway carries this)
    • 1 tsp. peeled fresh ginger, cut into small chunks or cubes
    • 1/2 medium-size red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 2 c. (1 bunch) loosely packed fresh cilantro, rinsed, shaken & chopped for the food processor
    • 1 c. (1 bunch) loosely packed fresh spearmint leaves, rinsed & cleaned (no stems) 
    • 1 c. chopped sweet onion (Maui or some other type of sweet onion)
    • Juice of 1 fresh lemon 
    Put all chutney ingredients into a food processor & whirl until smooth (fresh herbs should be finely chopped).  

    Make the meatballs
    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Cover a baking sheet or pizza pan with aluminum foil.  Spray with cooking spray.  

    Remove meat mixture from fridge.  It will be slightly gooey and will not roll into a ball very easily, so form golfball-sized meatballs by tossing the mixture back & forth between your fingertips.  Place meatballs around baking sheet.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until browned & meat juices have carmelized.

    Ladle a medium-sized pool of chutney onto each plate.  Arrange meatballs on top of the chutney.  Dollop a generous tablespoon of Fage plain Greek yogurt next to the meatballs.  Serve with red or white (or a mixture of red & white) quinoa, sliced fresh tomatoes, & freshly ground pepper.