Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Movie Review

The Mechanic
Clearly this wasn't my pick, but I have to say I didn't hate the movie. Lest you be confused and think this is about a car mechanic, instead it's about assassinating people. He's called a mechanic because he has to figure out how to make it all happen and with the result that it looks accidental and none is is a suspect. Sounds like a great movie right?

But Jason Statham is in it and overall I'm a fan of his. The opening assassination is pretty neat how it all goes down. And a lot of it takes place in New Orleans which is fun now that I live in Louisiana.

Overall it's not a movie I have any desire to watch again. But if I had to see an action movie, I would willingly pick this one.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

I didn't actually think I would be participating in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox this week. And then I chanced upon a sale at my local Borders. I would up picking up 2 books, both books that I've been wanting to read and will eventually buy anyways, but both were on sale 75% off for only $4. But once I got to the register they wound up being buy 1 get 1 free. So each book wound up costing only around $2. Quite a steal if you ask me. Now onto the books!

It Sucked and then I Cried by Heather B. Armstrong
Another blogger book I've been meaning to be. Once again I've read the archives to Heather's blog (, so I know what to expect. Still I'm looking forward to rereading her story this time in book form.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I loved The Time Traveler's Wife, and while I've heard her follow up isn't as good it doesn't mean I'm not going to give it a chance. I'm not entirely sure what the book is about, but again at with such a good deal on owning the book I more than willing to find out.

What's in your mailbox this week? Did you happen to stumble on any good deals as well?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two Times the Queen

Captive Queen by Alison Weir
When I told a friend of mine I was reading a novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine I was surprised to hear she didn't know who that was. I guess I sometimes forget that everyone one isn't as obsessed with English history as I. While I'd like to say she needs no introduction I guess that really isn't the case.

Eleanor was an heiress to the land of Aquitaine (now Southern France) in her own right and married the King of France. Except she annulled that marriage and instead married the King of England,making her both the Queen of France and the Queen of England. While Eleanor may not be known, her sons King Richard the Lionheart and King John of Magna Carta fame, are probably more known for their link to Robin Hood.

As for the book, it's written by Alison Weir someone whose books I've always been a fan of. What I like is that she is primarily as historical, not historical fiction, writer, and because of that I feel I can trust that the story I'm reading is based on actual fact.

While I did enjoy the book, I have to admit it's not my favorite of hers. In fact not only did I enjoy her other historical novels I enjoyed some of her non-fiction books more as well. I think part of that is due to the fact there is so much in it. It does span over 50 years, so it's something I would expect. But there seem to be so many details and a lot of politics that as parts, especially during her captivity it drags a bit.

Even though it wasn't my favorite of her, I would still recommend it, especially if you're curious about Eleanor of Aquitaine. But if you're looking to try out her work as a historical fiction writer I would recommend starting with her first novel, Innocent Traitor about Lady Jane Grey.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Stuffed

Every once in a while the boy decides he's going to go all out and comes up with a great idea for dinner. The past week there was one of those nights. One the menu was burgers, salad topped with bacon, pecans, and oranges, and herbed toast.
Burger, Salad, Bread
But want to know a secret? These weren't any ordinary burgers. Instead they were stuffed!
Burger stuffed with Feta and Olives
Mine were filled with feta and olives wheres he stuffed his with mozzarella and bacon. So basically a bacon cheeseburger inside out. Great idea, right?

Anyone else have their significant other surprise with a meal? Or have you been able to surprise someone with a meal either with the meal itself or within the food itself?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Movie Review

No Strings Attached
I have to say this movie genuinely surprised me. The reviews hadn't been that great, and the previews made it look like your everyday average chick flick. Except it wasn't really. You know the basic plot just by looking at the poster. Guy and girl try to have a no strings attached relationships, except someone starts to get feelings. And buy watch the previews you know the "twist" is going to be that the guy gets the feelings.

Except the previews almost purposely lead you on. There were scenes in the previews that weren't in the movie. Not only that the previews set up a plot line that wasn't in the actual movie. Some people might feel a little mislead by this, but I really liked it. So often I feel that the previews take away much of the movie surprise, but this time it wasn't the case.

But the best part of the movie has to be the actors. Natalie and Ashton had a great chemistry together, something I wasn't really expecting. But even by themselves they were great. I can't think of another romantic comedy Natalie Portman has done, but if this movie is any indication, I think she should do more.

This definitely has to make my list of top chick flicks, which was definitely pleasant surprise for me. And if you don't believe even the boy wound up a fan of it; it really was that enjoyable!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

I'm back participating in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox again!

Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson
I used to love reading this blog (Petite Anglaise) back in the day. I just happened to come across it in the bookstore, on sale even, and since it was my first time ever seeing it in print I snapped it up. Since she has stopped blogging I've been going through withdrawal and I can't wait to catch back up with this familiar story.

Celebrating Interfaith Marriages by Rabbi Devon A. Lerner
This is another book my mom sent me through paperback swap. At this point in our engagement I'm not quite ready for this to be used, but I'm sure once we get closer to the day, still to be determined, I'm going to be really glad I have this.

Has anyone else picked up any "can't wait to reads" lately?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And now, my beauties, something with poison in it.

The boy has been after me lately to bake poppy seed muffins. He isn't normally a fan of baked goods, so the fact that he was actually asking for one specifically is a big deal. Since it gave me a reason to bake I was more than happy to comply.

Except, have you ever tried to bake poppy seed muffins? We weren't able to find poppy seeds anywhere. Nor could we even find a poppy seed muffin mix. I know that they are technically a mild opiate, but still I can't imagine they've stopped selling them. Or maybe I'm just looking at the wrong place.

But after what felt like months of searching we finally found a mix a Wal-mart of all places. We bought two bags (each one made 6 muffins) and got to work.
Poppy Seed Muffin Mix
It was really one of the easiest mixes after. At first I was worried that we'd need to pick up eggs at the store in the middle, but all we needed to add was milk. After throwing them in the oven we had our batch of muffins!
Poppy Seed Muffins
They wound up turning out great and were so easy. At least they were once we were able to track them down.

Anyone else have trouble buying poppy seeds? Or I am really just shopping at the wrong places?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Last of the Fruit?

Look what I found in my backyard!
Lemon Tree
You can't see? Let's get a little closer.
It's a lemon! At least I'm pretty sure it's a lemon. I know I told you before I had an apricot tree, but am pretty sure it's actually a peach. I never even got to try the fruit to confirm, since the birds stole the fruit, so I'll have to wait till next year to confirm. But I don't see how I could be wrong about this being a lemon, right?

Either way this brings the fruit tree count to 5 (kumquats, figs, satsumas, peaches, lemons), which I think is probably more than average. Either way I love our trees and that each new season there's more fruit to discover. I think this I officially it, but we'll see what happens!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Home Improvments

With the way the kitchen is laid out we have this oddly shaped area to the right of the fridge that is screaming for a baker's rack.
To the Hallway
With a goal in mind the boy and I (the fiance and I? Maybe he should get an upgrade?) decided to go out antiquing. What we discovered if that we really only like the idea of antiques, but antiques themselves... Well I'd love it is someone could find me a refinished antique. But it's hard for me to look at something and see what could be. Plus we were working in such a defined space it was hard for us to come up with something we both liked that had small enough shelves to fit.

But we had several more errands to run so after going through 10 or so different shops we were off. On our way we spotted a Bed, Bath, and Beyond and I wanted to go in to scope out possible registry locations. But once inside we realized the would be a great place to continue our search. And look what we found!
Our New "Baker's Rack"
No it isn't really a baker's rack, nor is it even meant to go in a kitchen. (Props to anyone who can figure out what this is really meant to be used as). But it fits perfectly in its assigned space, which is what we really needed.
My favorite part of the whole thing are the spices. We had previously kept then in a cupboard above the stove. Which made sense because it was in a central location, but didn't work because the fiance was the only one who could really see inside. For this reason we wound up with a bunch of duplicate spices since it was almost impossible to find things. I did make a point to keep the duplicates in the old space, so this was we can go through one bottle at a time.

Overall I definitely love the feel. It probably won't be donated down to our future children as an heirloom, but for what we wanted it fits perfectly.

Anyone else have trouble finding the perfect piece of furniture for somewhere in your home?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Movie Review

The Green Hornet
I went into this movie with some pretty low expectations, which sometimes helps with movies. I definitely did with this one, because while I can't say I loved the movie it did exceed my expectations.

Yes the movie is predicable, and yes the big twist isn't to crazy. There are a bunch of cliches. But it's still a fun movie. We opted to see it without the 3-D so I can't comment on that effect. But I'd imagine there isn't a huge need for the extra cost. But at a time when most the movie in the theaters are Oscar contenders, this is definitely a fun alternative.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Going Golden

It's time for my official Golden Globe predictions. These are kind of a mix of what I think we will, and what I enjoyed so much that I just can't not pick.

Best TV Series - Drama: Mad Men
Best Actress - Drama: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Best Actor - Drama: Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Best TV Series - Comedy or Musical: Glee
Best Actress - Comedy or Drama: Lea Michele , Glee
Best Actor - Comedy or Drama: Steve Carell , The Office
Best Mini-Series of TV Movie: Temple Grandin
Best Actress - Mini-Seres or TV Movie: Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
Best Actor - Mini-Seres or TV Movie: Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack
Best Supporting Actress: Jane Lynch, Glee
Best Supporting Actor: Chris Colfer, Glee

Best Motion Picture - Drama: The King's Speech
Best Actress - Drama: Natalie Portman, The Black Swan
Best Actor - Drama: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Drama: The Kids Are All Right
Best Actress - Comedy or Drama: Anne Hathaway, Love & Other Drugs
Best Actor - Comedy or Drama: Jake Gyllenhaal, Love & Other Drugs
Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film: The Concert (France)
Best Director: Christopher Nolan, Inception
Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Score: Danny Elfman, Alice in Wonderland
Best Original Song: "Coming Home," Country Strong

I'd love to hear everyone else predictions for tonight!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Not too long ago I picked up this jar of butternut squash pasta sauce on whim.
Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
I hadn't heard anything about it, but it sounded interesting enough that I wanted to try it. (Of course I later discovered that the brand, Dave's Gourmet, also makes one of my brother's favorite hot sauces called Insanity sauce.) But the verdict on the sauce was amazing good. Once I opened it I had some every day until I ran out of pasta.

Except even though I was out of pasta I couldn't let the sauce go to waste. I thought of eating the sauce by itself (it's just like a soup right?), but I guess that's frowned upon in some circles. So I hunted around in the cupboards till I found a box of lasagna noodles, and thought I could use that! Enter... faux-sanga!
I boiled a few noodles, layered them with sauce and feta, and topped the whole thing with parmesan. Honestly it was so good! But I was really just looking for a vessel for the pasta sauce and this met it's goal. I haven't seen the sauce since, but the next time I do I am definitely buying it and we might be in for another round of faux-sagna.

Anyone else ever come up with some "creative" dinner solutions?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bon Appetit

I bet you thought I was finishing recapping my trip out to California. But if so you'd be wrong. I've only been saving the best for last... the food of course!

Since I was going home, it means there has to be home cooked meals. They were several great ones, but the only one I was patient enough to take a picture was at Christmas dinner itself.
My Plate
We have salad with cranberries, squash, and walnuts, prime rib, roasted potatoes, green beans, rolls, and yorkshire pudding. But what exactly is yorkshire pudding? Well I really had no idea either. But its basically a pastry made in the drippings from the meat that rises a bit like a souffle. He's what it looks like right after we pulled it from the oven.
Yorkshire Pudding

But not only was I home, I was back in California, which only meant I had to trip a few local favorites that I crave when I'm back in Louisiana.
In-N-Out Burger
The world famous In-N-Out burger and fries with their pink lemonade.
Rubio's Fish Tacos
And the not quite as famous, but really should be, Rubio's fish tacos. Rubio's is also the only place I've found where they still have Vanilla Coke as a fountain drink.

Finally there were a few new tastes as well, such as the night we went out to Delphine in Hollywood. I started off with the lobster bisque.
Lobster Bisque
For my main course went with the mushroom ravioli topped with shavings of butternut squash.
Mushroom Pasta
And for the last course, had one of the more interesting desserts I've had in a long time. It was a green apple risotto, topped with a slice of canalized apple, and finished off with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. Such a created concept that really lived up to expectations.
Apple Risotto
But alas that does bring my tales of my trip out west to an end. At least until the next time I'm able to get pick, which is hopefully soon!

Anyone else find that one of their favorite parts of heading home is all the delicious food you get to try?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Teen Moms

I silly as it may sound, I really can't wait for Teen Mom 2 to premier tonight! Yes, it's my guilty pleasure. I've watched every episode of 16 and Pregnant and every episode of Teen Mom. And well will probably watch every episode of Teen Mom 2. I know there's rumors of girls trying to get pregnant to be on the show, but I know there was a study down recently showing that these shows are actually helping bring down the teen pregnancy rate, so I can feel at least a little good about watching. And now since I can't wait any longer he's my thought on the girls from Teen Mom 2.

Chelsea: What I found really interesting about Chelsea is that she was living only with her dad and that, if I remember correctly, her mom had left the two of them. Her baby daddy was awful to her, one of the worst in my opinion, so I can't believe that the previews show them moving in together.

Jenelle: She's the one with the potential to be the train wreck of this season. Rumor has it that her mom has already taken custody of her son. While you can't help but feel sorry for her watching, I guess this is what makes good tv.

Kailyn: When Kailyn's mom pretty must abandoned her after getting pregnant she moved in with her boyfriend's parents. Those parents were actually what you would want if you were trying to picture the perfect parents of the boy who got you pregnant. Without those people, Kailyn would have practically had no one. What was surprising is that they didn't just take their son's side. Instead they called him and did their best to make him responsible for the baby and his girlfriend. They were definitely not the typical parent of the boyfriend on the show.

Leah: She is my all time favorite teen mom. Of course there's the fact she had twins which appeals to my obsession with multiple birth. But more than that she just seemed like a girl who had it all together. And Corey seemed like almost the perfect guy. While he had his faults compared to all the other Teen dads, Corey is the one I would choose. I actually loved Leah's episode so much I tracked her down online after her show aired. She recently took her formspring offline due to MTV's request, but I do still follow her on twitter (@LeahDawnMesser).

Overall I just can't wait for tonight and the rest of the season. Anyone else in love with Teen Mom? Do you have a favorite mom?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Movie Review

The King's Speech
To quickly summarize, the movie is about England's King George VI's ascent to the throne and how he has to overcome a speech impediment. Not necessarily the most exciting of topics, but it turned out really good. It's not too surprising if you look through my book reviews that I'm a fan of the English monarchy. So it wouldn't be unexpected that I enjoyed the movie, but what you might find a little more out of the ordinary was that the boy enjoyed it as well.

The movie brought up an interesting point about how the monarchy, and I'm sure the rest of the world, had to change with technology. Before radio and television, the king might have to give a speech to his advisers, but with the new mediums the speech went worldwide. A generation before the fact that the king had a stutter might not matter, but knowing that he was going to be broadcast worldwide it was suddenly an issue.

As for the movie itself there were a lot of funny moments, which is the main thing that kept the boy watching. Colin Firth was really good, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't win an Oscar for this. Helena Bonham Carter was excellent too, as was Geoffrey Rush. Any even the little girls who played Princess Elizabeth (aka Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret were adorable.

In my opinion, this is probably an Oscar front runner. While it is a historical piece, I wouldn't call it "stuffy", and think that even if you're not a fan of this type of film you could be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In My Mailbox

Today I'm participating for the first time in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox. It's a weekly meme designed to share the boxes we've picked up over the past week. Here's what I've acquired...

Jewish Weddings by Rita Milos Brownstein
My mom had this book sent to me through Paperback Swap. In a way it's similar to The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamat but the biggest difference is that it's in color, which means all types of color pictures for inspiration. They had profiles of a few real life Jewish weddings, and somewhat randomly there's a bunch of recipes throughout. It's definitely something I need to go through to start honing down my ideas.

The Bride's Essential Wedding Planner Deluxe Edition by Amy Neber
I knew I needed a wedding planner binder so last night I went to Barnes & Nobles to see what I could find. In the way they had a large selection. There were able 9 different types of binders to look through. But the problem with most of them was there was only one "display" copy. Which meant if you wanted it, it was most likely ripped or torn or had pages missing. There were a few that were shrink wrapped, except then you had no idea what was inside. So really I went with the only one that had multiple copies so I could look through it first but still have one that hadn't been picked over.

of course you could argue the fact since they had multiple copies, no one must want it, and it must be one of the worst. But I'm taking the stand that the ordered extras because it really is that good. Either way it has the basics I'm looking for, a 3-ring binder so I can add to it, organized into sections, budget worksheets, and even a business card holder, which means at least it will get the job down. I guess this means I officially need to start planning now right?

Anyone else have trouble picking out the "perfect" wedding planner? And be sure to head over to The Story Siren to see what everyone else has in their mailbox!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Black Grit

Black Swan
I love Natalie Portman, and want to see almost anything she's in. This one was no exception. Plus it's gotten great reviews and I figure it was a no loose situation.

Except... I'm not sure who I feel about this movie. I can't quite say I didn't enjoy it. But I also can't say I loved it either. I just think the whole thing made me feel uneasy, which I guess was the point in a way. It's the type of movie where you're supposed to want to go back and see it again to pick up on all the clues you've missed. But I'm not sure I would willingly sit through it again.

I will say Natalie Portman was pretty amazing in it, and does deserve all the Oscar talk she's been receiving. I do think it will be nominated for Best Picture, if only because it's open to 10 films now, but I can't say I think it deserves to win.

True Grit
This movie was almost the opposite experience, where it wasn't one I was dying to see but really enjoyed it. I hadn't read the book, I hadn't seen the original movie, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. But if I had any expectations of this movie it definitely lived up to them.

I'd like to say that I'm not a big fan of westerns, but when I think about it all of the ones I've seen I have enjoyed. (Of course all of those were recently made. I can't say that I've ever seen a "true" western.) But overall this was a really enjoyable, somewhat suspenseful movie. I really like Hailee Steinfeld in it, which is the reason I posted using her poster. As much as I hate to say it, I would probably have to recommend True Grit over Black Swan.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Under the Sea

Isn't it funny how you can live somewhere practically your whole life and yet never do some of the biggest tourist attractions close by? Case in point, Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific. It opened in 1998, which is 13 years ago and yet I had never set foot inside. I was past the field trip going age by 98 which is part of it. And while they did host a prom or two, mine was at the Gene Autry Western museum. But that streak broke, this past trip home.
Aquarium of the Pacific
I had fun taking pictures of all the different various animals. And since I probably couldn't even tell you the names of all the things I took pictures of, here are a few of my favorites sans comments.
Blue Whale & Baby
Baby Sharks
Giant Clam
Sea Dragon
Sea Turtle
Queen Mary
The last picture was actually taken as we were living the aquarium. It's the Queen Mary which is permanently harbored in Long Beach. It's the other big tourist act traction in our city, which I have actually been to.

Anyone else find that they've never done some of the big tourist action close to where you live?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Celebrity Sightings

It looks like 2010 was the year of celebrites for me, which is funny in a way. Being from Southern California, it seems everyone expects you to run into celebrites all the time. Yes, I've had a few encounters, but overall it probably averaged over to once every 5 years or so.

But no that I'm living in Louisiana it looks like that's starting to change. First there was Kellan Lutz. Then when I was in Long Beach we say Cameron Diaz. She's actually from Long Beach (and went to the same high school as me), so it really should have come as such a surpise.

We were leaving the farmer's market, when me mom came over to me saying that she was pretty sure she was standing behind us. I stealthily walked over, and before I really saw her, I heard her talking on her cell phone. All I needed to do was hear her voice and I knew it was her. She was completely inconspicuous at the market, so I felt a little bad taking a picture. But once we drove away I changed my mind, and took one through the car window.
Cameron Diaz
You'll just have to trust me that the blond haired woman in the center of the picture looking away from the camera (the one that has the pole through her) really is Cameron Diaz. She was with the blone haired woman on the right, who we believe was probably her mother.

It really was such a random encounter, but it was still fun. Hopefully 2011 can keep the celebrity sightings going!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Past

I've returned from the west coast! It never seems like I have enough time when I'm home to do everything I want to do or see everyone I want to see. It's hard to fit everything into such a short span of time, and not need a full vacation afterwards. If I had sometime of instant travel system I'd be in California every few weeks. But without one, it's hard to do so factoring flying time and even the cost of the flight. So I guess all I can really do is make the most of my time while I'm there!

We flew in Christmas eve, and really only had the energy for pizza from my parents' local Italian restaurant. But starting Christmas day we were over with my grandmother to celebrate.
Christmas Dinner
We opened presants, had a great holiday meal of prime rib, yorkshire pudding, and various veggitables, and really just had a good time together. It wasn't really enough time, so we were back the next day for more of the same, this time with the addition of my aunt and uncle and one of my brother's friends as well.
Overall it was a really good Christmas, and it's always nice being able to spend time with family.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Story of Frances, Countess of Essex

The Murder in the Tower by Jean Plaidy
I've loved all the Jean Plaidy books I've read, so it really isn't a surprise that I loved this one too. I think what I love about this it that while it is about a historical figure it isn't about an actual king or queen, at least they're not central to the plot.

The book takes place at the court of King James I of England. It's main story centers around Frances Howard who would come to be the Countess of Essex. She's married at a young age then decides to have one affair after another (including one with the Prince of Whales), and even dabbles in witchcraft in order to make sure everything goes her way.

While I know these books aren't non-fiction, I know they are well researched and that most of what I'm reading is historical truth. King James I's reign isn't one that I've read a lot of. Don't get me wrong I still love reading about the slightly older Tutor times, there's only so many different ways you can tell the story of Anne Boleyn. Not only is the time period something slightly new for me, I had never heard of the Countess of Essex before, so it's definitely nice reading a story where I really had no idea of the ending. Honestly, while I love all of Jean Plaidy's books, I really think this one might be one of my favorites of hers.