Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Follow-Up

If you go through my picks below, I wound up going 12 out of 24 of my picks for a 50%. Better than last year's 8 out of 24, but not quite 2009's 17. Granted I did make a feel sentimental choices like picking Harry Potter, and both of my Supporting choices, and if I went more with what I truly thought would wind I could have done better. But let's hope this increase of last year's picks continues and my choices are even better next year!

How did you do with your Oscar picks?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the Winner is...

Yes it's my annual Oscar predictions! Here's to hoping I'm guessing right. And I'd love to hear your final predictions too!

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Actor: Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams - The Fighter
Best Director: Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
Best Documentary Feature: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Documentary Short: Strangers No More
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film: Biutiful
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan - Inception
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorking - The Social Network
Best Cinematography: True Grit
Best Make-Up: The Wolfman
Best Art Direction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow - Part 1
Best Animated Short Film: The Gruffalo
Best Live Action Short Film: The Crush
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Best Film Editing: 127 Hours
Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Best Sound Editing: Toy Story 3
Best Original Score: Inception
Best Original Song: "We Belong Together" - Randy Newman - Toy Story 3

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making Meatballs

When I subscribed to Martha Steward Weddings upon the engagement it came with a subscription to Everyday Food ($12 for a year of both). While I don't normally read food magazines, since it was coming to the house I might as well make use of it right? My first issue arrived and I was happy to see there were quite a few recipes I was interested, but decided to start of with couscous and roasted carrots with spiced meatballs. I made a few changes which I'm done my best to outline blow. Enjoy!

carrots (you could buy your own and chop them, but the only thing available at the time at our store was pre cut slices. So I made do.)
1 sweet potato, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 or 4 red skinned potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
Several sprigs of rosemary
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt & ground pepper
1 lbs ground beef chuck (85% lean)
Spices (ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, onion power, garlic power, tony's chachere's, cinnamon - amount to taste)
1 tbls chopped cilantro
2 bunches green onions (1 minced, 1 thinly slice)
1 large egg
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 450*. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Roast until tender, around 40 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.
(The original recipe just called for carrots, but the boy asked for potatoes so I threw those in as well. The garlic and rosemary were on me. The recipe actually said to roast for 20 minutes, but I did for around 40 and still felt the carrots could have gone for another few minutes.)
Ready for the Oven
2. In a medium bowl combine beef, spices, cilantro, minced green onion, and egg; season with salt. With hands gently mix and combine to form meatballs. In a large skillet heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high. Cook all meatballs until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until meatballs are just cooked through, 5 minutes. (The original recipe just called for cumin, coriander, cayenne, and cinnamon but clearly I added a few of my own, and added a little more than their suggested amounts. That's why I have them listed as too taste. But I think my mix turned out pretty good. Also the original recipe called for scallions, but I made do with green onions instead.)
Spiced Meatballs
3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in couscous and sliced green onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover, remove pan from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and stir in almonds and pesto. Serve meatballs and any pan juices with vegetables and couscous. (Again used green onions to stand in for scallions. You were supposed to add them with the almonds, but mine got put in at the start, but still tasted fine. The pesto I picked up from this post from Amber. And they recommend serving with lemon wedges, but that didn't happen this time.)
The total time for this recipe is supposed to take 35 minutes, but it probably took me a little over an hour. I wind up getting so overwhelmed trying to make sure every thing's happening at once that it can be a little difficult. But it was so nice when I finally got to the point that both the couscous and meatballs were finishing cooking at the same time. (The veggies were already out of the oven at this point.) As for the meatballs, like Sarah in this post I was a little scared I was going to under cook them, so probably let them go a little longer than they needed. It was actually my first time cooking meatballs on my own. Every other time the boy's been there to actually cook them, but since he was at work at the time it was just me.
Spiced Meatballs
But overall I think the meal came together really good. And now that I've finally cooked both couscous and meatballs, I have a feeling they'll be back again in my future!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Out of the Know

Martin Harris is traveling to Germany with his wife, but early in his stay he finds himself in an almost deadly car accident. Upon waking at the hospital he goes to track down his wife, except once he finds her she doesn't know who he is. In fact there's someone else impersonating as him. Martin wants to know what is going on, and and even more, who exactly is Martin Harris?

I read somewhere that the movie is a mix between Taken and The Bourne Identity, and I think that's almost a spot on description. Clearly there's a twist in this, how could their not be with the way it's set up, but even though you know it's coming I really enjoyed the way it was revealed and the pieces fell into place. I thought Liam Neeson was great, and do think it's one of the best action type films I've seen in a while. Don't get me wrong, I have no plans to sit through it again, but I only wish that all action movies I'm forced into seeing were this good.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

You might think mid-February is a little early for baseball season, but in fact we spent Saturday at opening weekend for LSU baseball.
Game 2
We opted to go Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night, which meant instead of seeing a game where LSU crushed Wake Forest 15-4 we were in for a much closer game. Not to say we didn't get to see a home run, since LSU hit 2 home runs in both games. Here's Mikey Mahtook running in on his 3rd home run of the season (2 on Friday night, 1 on Saturday).
Mikey's 3rd Home Run
I wound up having my "regular" meal of a BBQ brisket sandwich and a slice of LSU tiger stripped cookie cake for dessert.
BBQ Brisket Sandwich
Cookie Cake
Since the boy did his best to avoid and all pictures,
With the Boy
I had to settle on a photo shoot with myself and the field.
At Alex Box
By the ninth inning with the Tigers up 4-3, we brought in our Junior closer Matty Ott to seal the deal.
Matt Ott Closing the Game
Hopefully this 2-0 start is how the rest of the LSU baseball season will go, and the Tigers will find themselves with a 7th national championship at the end of the season.

Geaux Tigers!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (5)

I'm really excited to participate this week in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox because for the first time I had something arrive in my actual mailbox!
Package from Petite Anglaise
Coincidentally the day after I finished reading Petite Anglaise a post went up on the blog itself that Petite had some extra copies of both of her novel sitting around her apartment that she was willing to send to interested readers. I asked for a copy of her novel French Kissing (a UK edition even) which she sent along with a postcard and a bookmark. Not only that but she signed the book to me as well!
Bonne Lecture
While French Kissing was the only thing to arrive in my actual mailbox, I have a few others that came in my virtual mailbox. First for Valentines' Day the boy bought me the Pioneer Women's Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, aka the exact present I asked him to buy. And since I couldn't stand the suspense since I finished Uglies I had to go and pick up myself the next two books in the series.
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Specials, Pretties, & French Kissing
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
French Kissing by Catherine Sanderson

What's in your mailbox this week, either actual or virtual?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In a World of Uglies

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Tally lives in a world where everyone is ugly until their 16th birthday. But when you turn 16 you are automatically turned pretty. And since everyone is pretty there is no jealously or envy because everyone is the same. Sounds perfect right?

Except living in our modern day it's pretty easy to see the problem. In fact in some ways it felt a little too obvious to me, and in a way that bugged me about the book. Although not enough to stop me from not being able to put it down.

There is more to the book than you realize at first glace. For example, while it does have the love triangle we've come to expect in these YA fantasy books it isn't the central theme and it's more of a background noise. And I have to safe the reasoning behind this society's creation isn't one I would have expected.

But really I loved the book. If I had to list my biggest complaint it's that it was over too quickly. I've been trying not to buy new books, and instead to read the books in my ever growing TBR pile, but we'll see how long I can hold off buy the rest of the books in the series.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Louisiana Cookin'

As I briefly alluded to earlier this past week my parents were out here visiting in hopes of visiting potential wedding venues. (And no, no decisions have been made, but once they are I'll definitely share.) Funny enough I didn't take any pictures of the possible venues, or even my parents, instead the only pictures I took the entire time there were here were of the food we ate. I hope you enjoy, and I don't make you too hungry.
Crawfish Etouffee
Crawfish Etouffee at Sammy's Grill
Sammy's was actually the first restaurant my parents and I ate at together in Baton Rouge back in May '06. Except after we ate there no one could remember the name. We've wanted to go back, but without remembering what it was or where it was it was difficult. Finally this past fall I stumbled on it again (I thought I had posted about it, but can't seem to find that post.... so maybe not) and since we know knew where it was we finally went back together.
Seafood Gumbo
Stuffed Bell PeppersBread Pudding
Seafood Gumbo, Stuffed Bell Peppers, and Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Sauce at Boutin's.
Boutin's was actually the restaurant where mine and the boy's parents first met back in Fall '06. They have live music at night, which is the main reason my dad wanted to head back. The food is good, but that bread pudding was pretty much amazing. Just looking at the picture makes me want to go back.
French Toast
Cinnamon French Toast, 2 eggs scrambled, and a sweet potato pancake at Mason's Grill
This was a new find up the trip, discovered in googling "brunch in baton rouge" for my parent's last morning. I love how my french toast was made out of a baguette, but the pleasant surprise was the pancake. The actually meal I ordered was the french toast with eggs, but it also came with a sauce. I ordered sweet potato pancakes thinking it would be similar to hash browns or a latkah, so was a little surprised when an actual pancake showed up. But it wound up being a great discovery, and it we ever head back I might have to go with the actual sweet potato pancakes meal.

Overall it was a great visit, although in hindsight it might have been a little better to take pictures of something other than food! Do you wind up taking photos of only the food on trips, or the exact opposite? Or hopefully you take a happy medium of both food shots and other non-food photos?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gnomeo, Oh Gnomeo

Gnomeo & Juliet
We actually saw this movie at the boy's suggestion. I would have chosen the Adam Sandler movie, but he thought this had the potential to be really funny.

And it was cute. It was the same basic story you'd expect, the blues who live in Miss Montague's yard, and the reds who live in Mr. Capulet's yard. And not only the the gnomes hate each other but so do Miss Montague and Mr. Capulet. Clever, right? Ehh...

They have lawn mower races, Juliet's nurse is the frog, and just like you'd expect in a movie about lawn ornaments there's even a pink flamingo. There's a few jokes thrown in for the adults, even a Brokeback Mountain reference crazy enough. But still...

It was cute. And if I were a parent I'd pick this over the Justin Beiber movie. But there's been a lot better cartoons released in the past year (How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me as some examples), and I don't think this lived up to them. If you're taking a kid to see this you probably will enjoy yourself, but other than that I think this might be a movie you'd want to skip.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's!

With Valentine's Day falling on a Monday, and the boy working both Sunday & Monday night, we decided to celebrate a few nights early on Saturday. But before we went out I spent the morning watching the boy's niece and nephew. This is what the living room looked like about halfway through the visit, and still looks like even now.
The aftermath
After we, but not necessarily the house, got cleaned up the boy and I headed to the very romantic movie of two star crossed lovers, Gnomeo & Juliet. I tried to take a picture of us in the parking lot but had a semi-fail. Although even with the blurriness there's still something I really like about this shot.
Trying for a Picture
After the movie we headed to one of our favorite restaurants Geisha House for sushi. We both got our "regulars" (Yaki Udon with a salmon roll for him, Nigiri sampler for me).
But once in the restaurant the boy pointed out Ben McDonald. I wouldn't have been able to recognize him myself, but the boy has trained me enough that the name did mean something to me. In case you haven't been trained, Ben McDonald is a former LSU pitcher who led them to 2 College World Series titles, was the number 1 MLB draft pick in 1989, and went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers. We wound up sitting at a table next to him as his family and as the were leaving I worked up the courage to ask for a picture.
With Ben McDonald
After dinner we walked over to Cupcakes 'n Cream, our new local cupcake shop. I still think Cupcake Couture had better cupcakes, but these ones were ginormous. It's hard to tell from the picture but they were huge, with a ton of frosting. I was only able to eat about 3/4 of my salted caramel cupcake before I gave up. But the entire thing along with it's caramel center was delicious. I think next time I'll make a point to only eat half in one sitting.
Salted Caramel Cupcake
Once home the spend the rest of the night on the couch, this time I was actually able to take a picture I'm quite happy with. The more I look at it, I think it going to be one of my favorites.
On the Couch
We opted not to exchange presents because only one of us had a present to exchange it wasn't yet Valentine's Day. Although I'm told since the boy is buying me exactly what I asked for there may not be much of a surprise.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Would you prefer to know exactly what you're getting or have more of a surprise? And do you have any qualms about exchanging Valentine's presents even if it's not actually Valentine's yet?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (4)

I'm back participating in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox to share what books we've picked up in the past week. Again this was a week when I wasn't expecting to bring anything home, but surprisingly I have a few to share.
First my parents were out here visiting the past week, and we they left they lent me a copy of True Grit. I've never read the book, but I did enjoy the movie, so I'm hoping I enjoy the book just as much.
I've been trying not to spend money on books lately since already I have so many in my "to read" pile. But I saw it on sale, and since I've been meaning to read it forever, and will probably buy it at some point, now looked like a great time to buy it!

We'll see if I can not give into temptation and avoid buying anymore books this week! But I can still live vicariously through my readers! So tell me, what's in your mailbox this week?

Friday, February 11, 2011

From Shanghai to L.A.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
This isn't the type of book I normally choose to read, but I found it one a "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" table, and since I already had two books (One Day and You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again) I picked up this one being the most appealing option. It was good reading something out of my normal comfort zone, but even more than that I was pleasantly surprised by the book.

Shanghai Girls is told from the point of Pearl, a "beautiful girl" living in Shanghai in the 1930s. But early in the book she, along with her younger sister, are "sold" into an arranged married to two American men. The story follows the girls from their life in Shanghai in the last '30s all the way through their life in Los Angeles in the late '50s.

I love reading book where I learn information and being that this was a slightly new time period for me I seemed to learn a lot. The book picks up on so many things I'd never thought about before. For example, when I normally think of oppressed Chinese in America I imagine those building railroads in the 1800s. I never really think about what it was it was like for Chinese American living through WWII and dealing with the effects of Communist China.

I also found intriguing the number of family secrets explored in the book. While this isn't based on one specific family, it is still based on the stories of several individuals. It made me think about family history, and how we're basically only relying on information based down, and having to trust that we're getting the full story from them.

Finally I loved hearing about L.A. during this time period. It's always fun reading about places you recognize, and I loved it when I knew exactly where certain scenes were taken.

When I started the book I couldn't put it down. I had to know what would happened chapter to chapter. But as the book progressed instead of have chapters take place back to back, it would often skip several years between chapters. I'm not saying I lost interest at this point, that's to strong of a description, but at that time the book did start to lose it's grip on me.

And then there was the ending, which I wasn't a big fan of. Part of me understand it ended the way it did, but it just wasn't what I wanted to read. Although there's a few open ends left at the ends. But after a little research she is planning on writing a sequel! I definitely do plan on checking the sequal out, and can only hope it's as captivating as this one.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tortilla Pizza Pie

Remember the tortillas we had leftover from making tacos? And how I turned the extra into tortilla chips? Well there were still tortillas left over from that. And the solution for that? Mini Greek Pizzas!
Greek Pizza
Topped with pesto, halved grape tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella, feta, and some ninja olives.
Out of the Oven

See how the olives magically appeared after they came out of the oven (at 400 degrees for 5 or so minutes in case you were curious)? But the pizzas actually turned out even better than anticipated. The tortilla turned into a crunchy crust, and all some of my favorite ingredients together I thought it was delicious. So much so, that I had more pizza the following night following two nights!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Infernal Devices

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
This is the first book of The Infernal Devices Trilogy which is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments Trilogy (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass) It's a prequel not in the sense that it tells the back story of the characters previously introduced, instead it tells the story of the mythical shadowhunters in another time period. Whereas The Mortal Instruments takes place in modern day NYC, The Infernal devises instead tells the story of the London institute in the early 1900s, although there still is a cameo or two.

The story follow Tess, a mundane (aka human) girl who moves to London to follow her older brother. Of course once there he finds herself a captive of the Dark Sisters and through them becomes entangled in the mysterious world of shadowhunters.

Overall I really do enjoy the story of the shadowhunters, and loved hearing more about their history. But what bothered me about the book is that the characters are almost mirror images of the ones we've previously met. Both times there a girl who thinks she ordinary who gets lost in this world. Both time she falls for a shadowhunter boy that one the surface is hurtful, but is only because he's hiding a troubled past. In fact the characters from one trilogy to the next are so similar I have to think it's intentional. Because otherwise why wouldn't one come up with new unique characters that enhance the story?

Even with that complaint I still loved the book. I couldn't stop reading it once I was back in the world of the shadowhunters. And unlike the first trilogy when I could read them all back to back, this time I actually have to wait months if not years for the next in the trilogy to be published! But I'll definitely be waiting!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Paris. In Love. In Trouble.

Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson
Petite Anglaise is the title of this book, the title of the blog, and the alter ego of author Catherine Sanderson. She's an Englishwoman whose living in Paris at the start of the book with baby, and boyfriend aka her daughter's father. Somewhat dissatisfied with her life she decides on a whim to start her own blog, which pretty much changes her life.

She finds herself having an affair with one of her blog's commenter's and changes her life to be with him. Also due to blog she winds up getting fired, originally how she got media attention on her book deal, but this adventure doesn't make it to the book. In a way it's a bit of a spoiler of the book, but since I had read the archives of the blog I knew what to expect, and I don't think that this information in anyway "ruins" book.

At first I was afraid that reading the book, would be like reading the blog. And there are times when she tells a story when I remember and know this isn't the first time I've read it. But since so much of the affair happened behind the scenes and was only alluded to there's a lot of information here's that new. And honestly after reading the book, it only makes me want to go back and reread the archives again.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book, and in a way more so the blog, are the details of being English but living a Parisian life. Even more interesting is her describing what's it's like raising a French child while you yourself are English. One of my favorite blog entries, that didn't make the book, was when her daughter at age 4 or 5 corrected her French. It wasn't anything major, just the gender of a noun, but it seems so weird to me that your child at such a young age could have a better grasp of grammar.

Something I identified with throughout was her experiences as a blogger. For instance feeling the need to do somethings in real life, simply for the idea that it would make a great entry. Or wondering at what point to draw the line one what to blog and even how it evolves. Petite has definitely changed in her stance her since initially she put so much of herself out there, but now she's no longer blogging. In a way it's a little disappointing because I loved reading her entries, but knowing that her blog really did turn her blog upside down I understand her decision.

Clearly I had a lot to say on the book but to finish up, I'm definitely glad that I finally picked this up, and can't understand why I hadn't before!

(Yes I did give this an official rating. I want to start syncing my reviews on the blog with my goodreads account and it makes it somewhat easier if there's an actual number. Just letting you guys know what's happening so you can expect to see more of these numbers in the future.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Frying Up

Yesterday I shared the tacos the boy and I made, and also mentioned how I'd been a little indecisive on what type of tortillas to buy. Since I wound up buying both chipotle and normal flour version, we wound up with a lot of leftover. And what's a better way to use up leftover tortillas then by making chips right?
Into the Oil
I feel kind of silly writing about this step by step, but I have the pictures so I might as well use them right? Once you have the tortillas cute into your desired size throw them into the hot oil.
Chips Frying
Flip them when they start to brown.
Tortilla Chips
Take them out of the oil and sprinkle with salt.
Chips & Guac
Enjoy with topping of your choice. As you can see I went with the leftover guacamole.

As for the final verdict, they were good, but I think I was a little heavy handed on the salt. I mean just look as how much gathered on some of the ones in the background. But I still think it's a fun easy snack, and since there's still leftover tortillas in the house I just might have to try to perfect them! Anyone else ever try out frying your own chips?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Taco Time

Last week the boy had a craving for tacos. But instead of making them with ground beef the normal way, he wanted to go with skirt steak. The plan was to cook the meat in our slower cooker. Since he had a late start that day he'd set them up and when I go home from work first I'd finish them off. The was a small kink in the plan when our local store didn't carry skirt steak, but we made another cut (I think beef tips) work for us.

The boy seasoned the meat to his taste without really following a recipe, except for checking how long the meat had to cook. But the time I got home from work it was practically ready. It didn't wind up tasting like normal taco meat, instead more like a pot roast, but once you added all the toppings it worked perfectly. I topped mine with tomatoes, black beans, onions cooked in the crock pot with meat, and a dollop of guacamole all on top of a chipotle tortilla.(I wound up buying both chipotle and normal tortillas since I wasn't sure how the chipotle work would. But the chipotles wound up being the better choice.) Overall I think these are probably some of the best tacos we've made.
Steak Tacos
I also tried my hand at some Mexican rice. I didn't add tomatoes since the boy isn't a fan, but added some yellow bell pepper. (Red peppers would have probably been better for a color difference, but I used what was easily accessible.) While I did add enough seasoning to get the rice to turn yellow, it wasn't near enough to taste. I was afraid I was adding too much, but clearing that wasn't the case. I guess next time I need to add for more than I think I should.

I'd love to share the recipes we used for this meal, except I don't have any. So instead what's your favorite type of taco filling?