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December 21, 2006

Review: The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook

I love food. I love eating it. I love cooking it. It makes me happy. And, awhile back I lost nearly hundred pounds using the South Beach Diet, so I was excited as all get out to hear that they were putting out a holiday and party cookbook. Because, if there is anything better than cooking and eating food, it is cooking and eating food with or for people you like!

The cookbook is divided into two parts: Parties and Holidays and has set menus that all include a "game plan" so that you know what can be done ahead, and how ahead things can be done and what absolutely has to be done on the day. Also, at the beginning of the book there is a "Checklist for Success" that includes important things about party planning that are things that I always forget but are extremely helpful like under a reminder to decide where you'll have your guests put their coats. (Which I never would have remembered to do for a Christmas party I'm hosting had it not been for the book.)

The general parties include things like "Phase 1 kickoff party", baby shower, brunch, hors d'oeuvers, and a Super Bowl party. The second section includes menus for New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Hanukkah, and of course Thanksgiving and Christmas. The recipes are all labeled as to which phase they are in and at first glance they all top shelf. The moment I made it through my first read of the cookbook, I knew I had to dive right in and try a few recipes. I haven't tried any of the recipes for a party yet nor have I made an entire menu, but all of the recipes serve generally betwenn 8 and 12 (except for Valentine's Day, for which the recipes appropriately only serve 2). So, when I do use the recipes for a party, there won't be any awkward doubling or tripling.

I started with the stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. Turkey Sausage and Pear Stuffing is a phase 2 recipe that was easy to make and was also very tasty and the sausage combined with the sage and pear were an excellent compliment to the turkey. This was an excellent whole grain answer to a traditional dish. And, I tried Easter recipe of Herb and Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb for Christmas Dinner was amazing. The recipes were easy to follow, and weren't too complicated, which is always appreciated.

This cookbook is an excellent addition to my South Beach collection, and I can't wait to cook out of it in the New Year!

Party at My House!

I have a KMFDM song stuck in my head...

virustaunt.bmp

And, it shouldn't surprise anyone that it is "Virus". It looks like I may just have to go back to the beginning and reinstall windows on my computer. Its not so much that I have a virus now as that my computer frequently decides if and when it wants to restart itself. The above image is representative of me being tormented by the process of figuring out what is wrong and fixing it.


Oh, and I have, more or less, lost my job tutoring because of this new and exciting quirk of my computer. Hooray, me!

December 16, 2006

A small illustration

smash.bmp

That is a visual representation of how I feel about the virus that is currently infecting my hard drive and fucking up my life. A virus that was downloaded by the boys along with a file that was supposed to help fix the Love Monkey's computer, but in the end was not only virused up to fuck but also did not contain the right information.

This has been going on since Tuesday and hopefully today it will stop. With luck, I will indeed take that ax blade and imbed it into the skull of the trojan that keeps restarting my computer at inopportune times and I will slay it. I will be covered in the blood and guts of glorious victory and I won't have had to put my fist through anything that exists outside of cyberspace.

This incredibly irritating occurence has meant that I have missed two tutoring sessions this week. Apparently, I have angered the Father of one of my students (because I thought I had it sorted and then my computer crashed an hour before class and I asked if I could cancel class to hopefully get things sorted out.) He shouldn't complain, though. His son's lesson yesterday was ten minutes longer than it had to be (although, again I was late signing on because my computer, once again, restarted itself.)

The plus side of this is that my BIOS has been updated and my registry has been cleaned. I have updated my security and I now have a new spyware program that will hopefully help in keeping things running smoothly. I will not say that it is fixed, or even that I am hopeful that it will be fixed soon. But, rather, I will say that I do carry the axe of "Get Out, You Varmit" and that I will use i t on anything cheeky enough to fuck up the smooth sailing that used to be my sweet little machine.


And, in the end, I will succeed!

December 12, 2006

The Art of Coffee

Today, between walking to the post office and getting a hundred little errands out of the way (like buying a few more Christmas cards (that aren't in Welsh) and purchasing a bucket full of hob nobs to mail to my parents) I made myself a pot of coffee.

There is nothing like a good cup of coffee on a cold, rainy day in December. Today it was mizzling out (misty and drizzling) while I walked from shop to shop so it really wasn't worth the effort of bringing an umbrella. Its the sort of weather where you are basically walking through a puddle, so regardless of what you do (unless you're walking around in boots and waders) you will end up damp.

A few years ago I read a Cosmo that suggested a list of things that a girl should be able to do by the time she turns 30. I found the list to be lame, and joked that it was things to learn to do on a long weekend. It included things like make a proper introduction (for an example of this, I refer you to the seen in Bridget Jones's Diary where her friends coach her on the subject:

Shaz: Sheila, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Sheila. Sheila enjoys horse-riding and comes from New Zealand. Daniel is in publishing....

You get the picture. You tell people things about each other so that they can have a getting to know conversation. (The goal is, of course, to say things that you know the other person would be interested in. Like, you wouldn't introduce a physicist friend to an astrologer by saying, "Oh, you're both into stars!" because you would likely offend one or both of them. I digress. ) and how to make a proper cup of coffee. I laughed out loud when I read the last one because I've been making proper cups of coffee for nearly ten years now. But, while I was drinking my cup of coffee, I realized something.

Coffee is an acquired taste. But, more than that it is something that separates people. You can tell something about people by how they take their coffee. There are people that drink because it is a cool thing to do. These people tend to prefer coffee drinks that have a lot of milk in them and also frequently something sugary. There are people that like it as a vehicle for caffeine, and drink copious amounts of it. There are people that don't love it but have come to appreciate and will have the occasional cup. And, then there are the people that love it. That prefer it black but have been known to also take it with milk and sugar and whipped cream or over ice. And, it is my opinion that these people make the best coffee. They make the best coffee because a good cup of joe is more art than science and art is born out of passion. Now, it is true that the water and the beans effect the coffee. How the beans are roasted and what temperature the water is heated to before it is poured over the grounds. And, the grind of the coffee itself. And, you can appreciate coffee and be nit-picky about all of these things, getting the water to the right temperature, using good beans from reputable growers that are properly roasted, making sure you have the right grind for your machine, but even with all of that you could still be missing something.

December 11, 2006

Quote of the Day: Rob Gordon

If I were a John Cusack movie, I would be High Fidelity. I'm that snarky, closed off yet absolutely in love with living and my little life person in the world that spends their afternoons rearranging matches and telling you things about the world and about me in the form of top five lists.

For example: Today's Top Five Fuck-Ups.

1. My hotmail account not receiving an email from my Korean boss
2. My boss and the secretary sending me the same book 4 times
3. The student I needed the book to teach cancelling because of technical problems.
4. Misplacing a book with important visa-related notes
5. Only getting five hours of sleep last night

Okay, so that isn't a very exciting list, its certainly no list of historical figures with whom I'd play Risk. But, you get the point. I was thinking today about High Fidelity and all of the joyous and quotable nuggets in the film. Quotableness I now share with you a quote by main character Rob Gordon (although it more likely penned by Nick Hornby or the screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis):


what came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

December 10, 2006

No, That is a mole hill.

So, back in the day I used to have something that I called the 10% rule. This is how the 10% rule works: I can make the world a better place. I can make the world a better place by being a better me just 10% of the time. This starts with two things: 1. Instead of getting mad and punishing myself every time I do something wrong, I should accept that a I have made a mistake and look for the best ways to solve the problem. 2. To be more observant. This second thing I came to by reasoning that if I were 10% more observant throughout the day I would notice more things. I would notice more people smiling. I would notice more laughing. I would notice when other people were belittling themselves (and then, just maybe, choose to cut them some slack if they needed it). I would notice more of things going wrong at the beginning and would then have the choice of whether to ignore them or fix them before they became well and truly fine messes. This would make my day brighter, which in turn would make me more relaxed and friendly and would effect how other people acted around me and reacted to me. And, that would make my world a better place and since I share that world with other people maybe I'd be able to pass on some good mojo and that would make their world's better. And, since this was something I was trying to do everyday, I wanted it to become habit so that the first 10% would grow and grow and grow so that eventually the 10% was 30% compared to when I started.

That might sound a little sugary, new agey, too good to be true. But, I don't care how it sounds. I think when we focus our energy, our intent on something we help it manifest. The mind is a very powerful thing, and if you let it be filled with images and ideas of hate and anger that's all you get, hate and anger. However, this is off-topic.

I don't know what exactly happened with the 10% rule, but I want it back. I want it back because I've spent the last hour or so working on a possible PhD proposal and then, halfway through it I had a mini-attack of...well, not really panic, but that feeling you get when you know you're completely and utterly defeated. I was thinking, "Why am I doing this? I'll never find funding...blah, blah, blah." But, that isn't true. Its not that I can't find funding, its that I haven't yet found funding. I've been focusing on the negative, stupid little bullshit things instead of focusing on the good things. I've been looking at molehills and thinking, "What am I going to do about that!?!?"

I've been silly, really.

I want my rule back.

What its like in my head 2: Boys are Disgusting

Hands: (holding broom) Where did all this crap come from? Boys are so disgusting. I mean....the DVDs....the electrical cables....

Brain: Hands, lovelies, its better not to think about it and just go.

Nose: ai! Que es el olor?

Brain: It seems I've found the answer to the question, "Where did all of John's socks go?"

Nose: otra vez, por que lavas su ropa?

Brain: Because it is more efficient to do one load of whites instead of two half loads of white.

Nose: Si, pero el puede lavar tus ropa con su ropa.

Brain: Yes, it does appear to be his turn, especially after today. Eww, is that...

Eyes: Vedo più calzini.

Nose: Mas calcetines sucios con mas de sus DVDs.

Brain: Man, the shit I do in order to decorate for Christmas.

Eyes: ti Auita la volta prossima.

Brain: Yes, you're right. He should help next time. He should have helped this time, but you know what cleaning with other people is like. You get to talking and then one of you thinks of something funny you found on the internet and then the next thing you know you're at Old Chicago waiting for a stuffed crust pizza while feasting on some Italian Nachos and drinking tankards of whatever beers on special.

Nose: mmm, Old Chicago con pizza y nachos....

Eyes: mmm Birra.

Skull: Dw i'n hoffi cwrw!

Nose: ::glares at skull::. Sabes que es buena tambien? La Cocina Mexicana.

Eyes: mm, La Cucina Mexicana!

Skull: Dw i'n hoffi tacos hefyd.

Brain: Wait, what, how did we get onto Mexican food?

Nose: Podemos cocinar, no?

Brain: Ya, I was thinking that. But, what to cook, you know?

Eyes: ti Abbiamo bisogno di ortrografare?

Skull: Rhaid i ni fy sillafu i.

Nose: Cociniamos tacos!

Brain: Nah, I don't want to make tacos. They're too much work. Something easier...

Hands: Taco casserole.

Brain: Genius. Y'all are so my hero!

December 09, 2006

Review: Brother, Sister by MewithoutYou

This review has been a long time in the making. I should have written in a long time ago, but for some reason have been loath to put my thoughts on the subject down on the page. This is not a reflection on the album. Or, if it is, it is a reflection of how staggeringly good I found the disc to be. For some reason, I’ve always found it easy to slate a band. Writing about a disc I thoroughly enjoyed is a somewhat harder task. Presumably, this is because I do not want to be one of those bloggers that gushes like a little school girl about bands that I like. (Having once been a little school girl, I assure that there are moments in my past that involve enormous amounts of gushing. However, I am older now and although I am still in school I’d like for the past not to repeat itself.)
MEWITHOUTYOU is one of those gems of a band that's music has grown along with the musicians. While their first album is full of screaming and anger and more towards the hardcore end of things, their most recent offering, Brother,Sister, is introspective and full of things that make indie rock good.
Brother, Sister is an album that is built as if it were one unit. In this regard, listening to it reminded me a bit of The Mars Volta. But, unlike the Mars Volta this album is focused and well-done art rock. (I would describe The Mars Volta as a clever synthesis of a myriad of influences, but that is another story.)
MEWITHOUTYOU is a christian band on Tooth and Nail, but while the influence of religion here, will noticeable wasn’t in your face or annoying. Instead, it came across like music made by people exploring and discovering things about themselves and their faith. The lyrics are sung in such a way that is in places almost like speaking. An oversimplification of this would be that front man Aaron Weiss is going a little hip hop. More appropriately, the lyrics are delivered with such earnestness that they preclude one from singing in a conventional sense. Their full force is felt in the delivery, which makes them powerful. Given the amount of overproduced pop on the airwaves, this in itself is a reason to sit up and take notice. There was not a song on this album that didn’t fit with the rest, that’s how finely crafted it is. And, there wasn’t a song that I disliked, which is rare.
Brother, Sister is an album with frenetic guitars and crazy clapping and desperation and joy. It was an honest pleasure to listen to it. The themes in the album are internal and introspective, but also include a fair bit of social commentary with such lyrics as, “We’re like children dressing in our parents clothes” from “The Glass Can Only Spill what It Contains”. I wholeheartedly recommend this Brother, Sister whether you are a fan of the band, or just a fan of good, exploring and expanding tunes. Yes.

December 07, 2006

Compote

I have a deep and abiding love cranberries. I absolutely adore them. And, this is cranberry time of year. I am so happy. Of course, my first task during cranberry season was to make cranberry orange relish for Thanksgiving. I had to use frozen cranberries, but it still worked out fine.

Then, I was at the store and I came across fresh cranberries. FRESH CRANBERRIES! Well, I had to buy them. Then, I had to do something with them. So, I bought a few pears and figured that I would boil the lot with a little bit of sugar and make a sort of cranberry pear sauce. So, I did. I like to think of this as a "compote", but I don't know if it quite qualifies.

But, do you know what cranberry pear compote/sauce is good with? Homemade trifle.

I've never made trifle before, but it didn't seem to be too difficult. Some jello, some custard a few lady fingers, some freshly whipped cream and the fruit sauce. Oh, yes. Its lovely, I do declare.

Sut Mae'r tywydd?

I think I may have mispelled Tywydd.

How's the weather? One might say. And, one might answer: dreadful. Its pissing down and have you seen those gale force winds? Not to mention the thunder. When do we ever hear thunder? Its mad, I tell you. I got up at 6:30 this morning and I listened to the wind and I listened to the rain and I thought, " I am feeling so much better than I did yesterday. I bet if I tried to speak my voice would be well on the mend. I don't have near the amount of sinus pressure as I did before. I don't feel feverish. I'm feeling quite good, actually." Then, came the thunder. And, a gust of wind. Which was followed by another and then another and the another for the next hour and I found myself thinking, "I have to wakl to school. I have to walk to school and then if it is raining I will have to sit in my class soaking wet and probably shivering until the end of class at which point I will have to walk home. Will that be good for me?"

I do not doubt that the walking would be good for me. Instead I am concerned by the hour and a half of sitting in wet clothing shivering. And, while thinking of the shivering, I suddenly lose my will to get up and move about out in the world. I want to stay where it is warm and dry.

So, I do. And, for the first time in a long time I do not feel a tinge of guilt for my decision not to leave the house. Of course, I will probably leave the house at some point today. There is a video that needs to be taken back into the video shop and I was thinking about making a pie. Of course, I have been thinking about making a pie for ages now, so that probably won't happen tonight. What will probably happen is that I will sit down and begin to read something and then I will be distracted by something else and on and on this will go until the evening is over and it is time to go to bed.

But, for now, I will sit here and listen to the wind and work on cleaning the apartment and tutor and maybe make lunch after I am done tutoring. We shall see.

December 05, 2006

What it is like inside my head right now

Brain: Hey, Sinus Cavity, would you mind not leaning so much this way, I'm feeling a little pressure back here.

Sinus Cavity: THE MUCUOUS IS EVERYWHERE! OH MY GOD I AM COVERED IN IT! THIS IS SO GROSS. ARGHH! I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW FREAKING....I MEAN, GOD! YUCK! WHERE DOES THIS STUFF COME FROM?!?!

Brain: Okay, I can see you're having issues today, I'll just talk to nasal passages and maybe the eustachion tubes, that's fine. Don't stress, neon green's a good color for you.

::Brain backs away slowly::

Hey, nose. You couldn't see fit to, I don't know, blow or something and release some of the pressure up here, could you? We're feeling a little cramped.

Nose: No. Has vista ese mierda? No voy a tocarlo. Nuh-uh. Prefiero besar la culo de su Mama.

Brain: You are so foul-mouthed, I mean really. Where did you learn that? And, worthless, I could have the hand meet you with a tissue and the lungs to give you an extra push, its not like you would actually have to do any work.

Nose: No Tengo que trabajo, porque soy muy bonita. Mira mis anillos. Y tu? Que haces? huh? piensas? Pfft. Puedo pensar si quiero.

Brain: Fuck off. I can speak like, six languages and balance a check book. Like a care if you're pierced.

Nose: No puedes contar "Welsh". solamenta siete ciento miles hablan ese lenguaje. Hay mas gente vota en sus eleciones por Reina de prom. Los Welsh piensa que su lengua cuenta, pero nadie no cuida que ellos piensan. Tambien, ellos no printan sus proprio dinero, usan el dinero de Inglaterra. Jodales. Si El Vaticano printa su proprio dinero, entonces los Welsh pueden printarlo tambien. Peredores.

Brain: Whoa, harsh. You know you live in Wales, right. You're going to get yourself broken with an attitude like that. And, I wouldn't hold the Vatican up as your shiny example of what a nation should be...they claim a dead language as one of their official tongues, remember. Oh, ya and have so much stolen knowledge from the past millenia that if we really want to learn anything new about the Ancient Greeks or Romans instead of finding new archeological sites, we should like, storm the Vatican.


Eustatichion Tubes: Parliano di il Vaticano? Il Papa e stano un Nazi, no?

Brain: Eusti! Ciao! Indeed, AND the Pope was a Nazi.

Nose: No me importa si el Papa es un maricon que prefiere ninos, No hablaba del Papa, hablaba de la Welsh.

Brain: Oh, I heard you, I just didn't care.

Nose: Tambien, no estoy hablando con ese wue los Eustachion Tubes. ::To the Eustachion Tubes:: Chingate, pendejo.

Eustachion Tubes: Mi vuoi bene, lo admiti.

Nose: Dije, "Chingate."

Eustachion Tubes: ::blows kisses at the nose::

Brain: I can see this is going nowhere. Tonsils, how are you?

Tonsils: Confused. Is that proper Spanish or is someone being an asshat?

Brain: Someone is being an asshat.

Nose: Puedo oirte!

Eustachion Tubes: ti Ascolto.

Tonsils: I'm sure that's not what you've meant to say. The two of you. I'm mean really. Oh, by the way, we're swollen and someone should really take a look at the state of the throat.

Tongue: Ich Habe Einen Kleinen Problemo Avec Diese Religione. ::Tongue Giggles::

Brain: Thank you, Tongue, but I'm not sure this is the time for humor.

Skull: Mae pen tost gyda fi. ::cries::

Nose: Eso no es un lenguaje!

Brain: Skull, I know, sweetie, I'm working on it. NOSE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST GO BLOW YOURSELF!

Nose: Pero mas gente habla Klingon!

Throat: Oh, that ii it. Nose, Eustachion Tubes, Brain, EVERYONE! Are you listening?! I demand that I, in my swollen state that I not have to listen to this bickering anymore! I demand Painkillers and a decongestant! And Juice! And, if that goes well perhaps some soup. And a film in which there is a smart, funny, independent woman that frequently sticks her foot in her mouth.

Brain: So, you want to watch Bridget Jones?

Throat: Or Emma, if you don't mind.

Brain: I think we might be able to swing it.