Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MIXED FEELINGS DAY: Lemon Risotto and Salmon Cakes...

So, I did what I set out to do today: went to the gym and cooked 2 new recipes. Of course, I didn't actually make it to the gym until around 4, and then it took me forever to find everything I needed at the Pathmark (I swear, that store is organized in a perfectly non-sensical way. No matter how many times I shop there, I still can't figure out where anything is...*sigh*). So, quelle surprise, dinner wasn't ready until 8, though I started cooking around 6...oh, how I've missed you, complex recipes!

I was really excited to try out some things out of Nigella Bites, which I poured through last night before bed, and I picked 'Lemon Risotto' and 'Salmon Fish Cakes' as my first forays. They both turned out...okay.

I should have known what I was getting into with the risotto, as Nigella includes the recipe in the "Comfort Food" chapter, partly because preparing it involves a "mindless repetitive activity" that she feels helps her to relax when she's stressed out. Now, according to Nigella, this repetitive activity (i.e. constantly stirring arborio while slowly adding hot broth) is only necessary for 20 minutes to make nice, creamy, al dente risotto. Lies!! I stood at the stove for 40 minutes, willing that rock hard rice to throw me a freakin' bone. It took foreeeeeeeeeeever. Not relaxing, especially when you're hungry, and have salmon cakes to fry. I also dearly missed my Julia as I was making this risotto, as Nigella is very sparing with her instructions. This is a big shock, and completely confusing, after the obsessively precise directions of MAFC, which I apparently had gotten much more used to then I realized. For example, Nigella never specifies the level of the flame under the saucepan as you stir the rice and add the broth. Should it be low, medium, high? Who knows!? This bothered me for the whole 40 minutes I was stirring. But, I can also understand how Nigella wrote her book. It's very casual, full of pretty pictures and funny little stories about why she included the recipes that she did. She often says that the way she cooks something at home, in real life, is actually different than the recipe in the book, and she encourages us all to use her recipes as guidelines, and to tweak things where we want to tweak them. Great, Nigella, thanks for the freedom, but can I learn how to do it the "right" way first? Please?
Alright, enough of my ranting...the risotto turned out pretty well in the end, not uber lemony, though cheesier than I thought it would be (Parmesan is added at the end, in a cream/lemon juice mixture). All in all, very tasty, but NOT worth the time. I won't be making lemon risotto again for a while.



I also made Nigella's Salmon Fish Cakes, which did not go well at all, and there are many potential reasons why. 1) I was supposed to use cold (i.e. left over) mashed potatoes, made of real potatoes. I didn't. I made 2 cups of instant potatoes in the microwave, then stuck them in the freezer for 20 minutes to make them cold. As evidenced by my ridiculously squishy fish cakes, I doubt that this is what Nigella had in mind. 2) Nigella says to make the patties, then chill them for 20 minutes or "considerably longer if that helps." Now, I thought she meant that they can stay in the fridge for however you need them to stay in there before you're ready to fry them, but what I think she really means is that they need to stay in the fridge for several hours if you don't want them to fall apart when you try to bread and fry them. Oh, now you tell me! I had poor hubby dealing with the mushy fish cakes while I labored over my slow-cooking arborio, and the experience left him...miffed, to say the least. Here's what the cakes looked like before frying (please note the mess they made all over the table!):

Very noticeably different than my beloved Julia, Nigella does not tell you when it's best to put something into a pan of hot butter and oil, nor does she tell you how long to cook something in a frying pan, not even an estimate! How rude. So, the fish cakes took a long time, and I didn't know if the inside was supposed to be firm or if just the outside needed to be crunchy, and the things kept falling apart while I flipped them anyway, so it really didn't matter. Blerg. But, ultimately, they were fried, and we ate, and this is what the plate looked like.



Whatevs, right? I know. All that work for rice that looks like macaroni and a fish cake. *sigh*

...I think this post is being tainted by the fact that I'm completely exhausted at this point, so let me be clear that the food did actually taste good, but the road there was vague and soggy. :o)

Tomorrow I'm making Cottage Cheese and Chive bread with our new bread maker, stay tuned!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Vacay week!

This week, I am inexplicably and gloriously unburdened by official obligations of any sort, so I've decided that I am going to get back to 1) the gym and 2) the kitchen. The two might cancel each other out, alas, but at least I'll be sweating out some of the deliciousness I put in, for the first time in many, many a month.

For Christmas, I received Nigella Lawson's cookbook, "Nigella Bites" from my Dad and a fancy breadmaker from the in-laws (thanks family!), so I intend, today, to try out both of them. My plan is to go the gym, then to the grocery store next to the gym on the way home. Sooooooooo exciting, yes? I know, I can barely contain myself.

Stay tuned for pictures and overly detailed documentation of tonight's exploits!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Defending French Cuisine...


I've been mulling over this topic for awhile now, but would finally like to address the very common opinion that cooking/eating a lot of French food is categorically a bad idea. I've felt this way at times myself, as I dump tablespoon after tablespoon of butter or cream into some delectable sauce that I then enjoy immensely, and I actually haven't cooked any recipes out of Julia's tome in the past several weeks--partly due to lack of time, but partly due to my slight fear that I really am setting myself up for a heart attack if I keep enjoying my food too much.

But then, I did a little research...

First thing's first. Julia Child lived to just shy of 92 years old, and plainly stated that her recipes were for those "who can be unconcerned on occasion with . . . waistlines," but she clearly lived by the principle of enjoying all things in moderation. Enjoy fine wines and the decadence of your food, but don't stuff yourself to the point of gluttony, and make sure to eat healthy things too, and get your ass off the couch sometimes. Makes sense, right? And from my experience with French food so far, it's so rich and flavorful that you don't end up eating the huge portions that are, in my opinion, really at the root of the obesity problem in this country. Leah Zerbe, at Rodale.com (a green website), says it better:

It’s no secret Julia Child loved butter, and she used it liberally in her meals...But fat, used in the right way and in the right quantity, is a good thing. "Take a tip from the French. The better the food, the less you need to be satisfied," says Judith Hill, food director at Prevention magazine. "If an extra tablespoon of butter makes something so good that a small portion is satisfying, you’re ahead of the game in taste and waist size." And by savoring every bite, you're relishing in one of the joys of life—and you’re avoiding the weight-gain trap of eating so fast that your appetite can’t keep up with the volume of food your eating.
Well said.

I also appreciate what Jennifer Huget, writing for the Washington Post, has to say about this whole thing:

Whether those heavy sauces in fact pose much of a health risk remains uncertain. The "French paradox," in which it was observed in the early 1990s that French people stayed slimmer and were less likely to die of heart disease than Americans, despite the former's high intake of fat, has not turned out to be much of a mystery, Bachmann says. Instead, it's now believed that the French consume fewer calories overall than we do and burn more through greater physical activity such as walking, both of which contribute to their better cardiovascular health. We've also learned that consuming dietary cholesterol (as in egg yolks) in moderation doesn't necessarily elevate levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood (though saturated fat, as in cream, cheese and many cuts of red meat, clearly does). And many nutrition experts now say that eating small quantities of really satisfying, lightly processed foods (even if that means more fat and calories per bite) may be better for us than pigging out on processed and packaged foods. (Think: a few slices of full-fat cheese instead of a jar of Cheez Whiz.)

So what to make of "Mastering the Art"? Well, there's this: At the end of her year-long experiment, Julie Powell noted that she'd gained some weight, but she wasn't willing to attribute that solely to Julia Child's cuisine -- especially since her skinny husband remained skinny throughout, despite eating his wife's French food.

As for Julia Child herself, nobody would accuse her of having been skinny (not that she was fat, either). But she lived to within a whisker of her 92nd birthday. And, by all accounts, she enjoyed just about every minute.

Finally, I stumbled upon an article by British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who I think is kind of the JC for our generation (though I don't really know much about her--I plan to remedy this by getting her first cookbook, Nigella Bites), from the NY Times in 2002. The article is long, so I'll just include a few snippets here. I suggest reading the whole thing, though, if you're interested--I feel like she hits the nail right on the head, at least from where I'm sitting:

I have never quite understood why there is among us such disproportionate fear of fat and dairy. For one thing, the jury is still out on whether these foodstuffs are indeed harmful to us. (I rather suspect that if we were such fragile creatures, so minutely susceptible to the fuel we choose to run on, we would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long, long time ago.)

And for another, the crucial element must be portion size. Ever notice how chic Parisiennes eat pastry for dessert and still fit into their size 6 tailleurs?

They eat a slice of cake at dinner and that's it. They do not, as many of the rest of us do, skip dessert and then, back at home, mooching about the house at midnight, devour half a cake.

Meanwhile, a recipe stipulates a quarter of a cup of heavy cream and every non-Fran├žais has a fainting fit. But this recipe may make enough to feed eight ? and really, how much harm could a couple of teaspoonfuls of cream do?

So, after doing all this reading, and accepting that, damn it, I like good food, I think I'm comfortable with cooking and eating rich foods and enjoying every bite. Besides, I do have that gym membership on hand to cancel out some of that butter!

What do you think, dear reader? I'm really interested in what people think about this, so please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

COGNITIVE-DISSONANCE DAY: Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook

If you're my friend on Facebook, which you most likely are if you know about this blog, you know that I have a problem, and that problem is Bejeweled Blitz. I am addicted to it. I love it, and I hate it, and I need to write about it.

Alright, so Bejeweled Blitz is this little game exclusive to Facebook in which you race the clock to clear as many sparkly colored gems as you can in 1 minute. Whilst doing this mindless task, a deep-voiced robot man tells you you are "Awesome! Excellent! Spectacular!" and you get to see how much better you are than your internet friends at smashing up little cartoon gems really fast via the handy-dandy scoreboard. That's it. That's the whole game. I have spent many valuable hours of my life, often when I should be advancing toward my degree, playing this game, and have come to the conclusion on various occasions that Bejeweled Blitz is the devil's work.

But, on the other hand...it's really fun! I don't know why it's so entertaining, but it really is! And there actually is some strategy involved: if I clear this line, what will I be able to clear next? Can I make a line of 5 and create an all-powerful hypercube? How can I clear that glowing blue gem that sends lightening out in every direction and looks really cool? I'm telling you, it takes brain power, not to mention hand-eye coordination. Also, I actually kind of think that breaking up horribly boring, soul-sucking work with a few games of BB here and there has kept me going on long days when I must...keep...writing... Without some brain breaks, I think I'd be much more likely to throw up my hands, slam the laptop closed, and go watch 'Say Yes to the Dress' reruns on TLC. So, really, BB has saved my work ethic...right? Right!?

Okay, all of this ambivalence is stressing me out, I need to go play some Bejeweled...

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Modern Family on ABC...

Modern Family is the best comedy on TV right now. There, I said it.

This show is freakin' hilarious people, you must check it out. It's about 3 families, all linked in various ways by blood and marriage (hmm, that sounds a little gross, but you know what I mean), and it's full of smart writing, inappropriate jokes, and a lot of sweet moments. What more could you ask for?

I wrote a little blurb about the show awhile back on Examiner.com, which you can check out here (Modern Family article), and I'm posting Episode 6, one of my favorites, below for your viewing pleasure. Even if you missed the first few episodes, you can jump in and watch this one anyway, and let the hilarity ensue :o).

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The light at the end of the tunnel...sort of...

Hello dear readers! I've been woefully absent for the past month, but it's because I've actually been working, can you believe it? I'm deep into the process of applying for my Pre-doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology, one of the 2 last huge hurdles I have to jump before I can graduate (the other hurdle is my dissertation, which is a perpetual work-in-progress). I delayed applying for internship last year because the process felt too overwhelming/I didn't quite feel ready, but this year, I feel much more confident in myself and am ready to finally start getting paid (a teeny tiny bit) for the work I've been doing for 6 years for free!
About 20 minutes ago, I submitted my 15th application, and it felt pretty amazing. All of the sites that I'm really excited about I've now applied to, and I have about 4 more that are due over the next two weeks that I'm applying to mostly to try to increase my odds, since a large part of the application process is a numbers game (i.e. tons more applicants than there are sites available, especially in the New York/NJ area). So keep your fingers crossed for me! I should start hearing from sites that want to interview me in the next few weeks, but now that the really hard part is over, back to blogging!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

OPPOSITE DAY: Quiet houses...

Just a quick update for everyone: I'm not frenching it up this week, as hubby is away on business and it's just me and puppy, so I don't have a good excuse to cook ridiculously rich foods. Good for my cholesterol, I'm sure. Instead I've been hard at work on my internship application materials, and today triumphantly finished my first draft of the 4th of 4 standard essays that get sent to every place I apply to. Hooray! And I actually got it written today in between things. As in, I didn't come home and waste away 3 hours watching TV or playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook (my nemesis), as I have been wont to do. Instead I actually wrote the most boring of all the essays, one about my research experience. And it's done! So now the mountain I'm climbing toward internship is a bit smaller, with only my CV, a case summary, and an assessment write-up to go! (I also have to write a supplemental essay for one site, but that's gonna feel like a picnic compared to the others.)

So, as much as I hate hubby being gone, I really am getting alot done, so I guess I have to say I'm a bit ambivalent about quiet houses, as opposed to blatantly disliking them.

Now I'm going to head upstairs, queue up "Modern Family" on my laptop (it's getting rave reviews, so I must check it out), and put away a mountain of clean laundry that's been sitting in the basket at the foot of my bed for weeks. Maybe I'll eat a Klondike bar first...Exciting times, I know.

I'll be returning to French cooking soon, I'm itching to make Julia's famed Boeuf Bourgignonne (or however you spell that), so I know it'll be next up as soon as I have a good excuse!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OPPOSITE DAY: Store-bought pie crusts...

When I created this blog, I thought there might come a day when I'd feel compelled to post about something that I did not like at all, and I thought I'd title those posts "Opposite Day". Well, folks, that day has come.

It all began with Pate Brisee....Or, should I say, it began with me deciding I would not be attempting Pate Brisee today. Pate Brisee is homemade pastry dough/pie crust. No thank you, Julia!

I'd ended up with a free Wednesday night again, and thought I shouldn't waste the chance to cook another yummy french dish, so I flipped through the quiches and decided on Quiche Aux Fruits de Mer (Shrimp, Crab, or Lobster Quiche). The recipe looked short and simple, I could use store-bought crab, and I already had the eggs. Perfect!

I made my requisite trip to the Stop and Shop for the crab meat (6.99 for 8 oz, not too bad!), the pie crust, and some shallots, which have been an optional ingredient in every recipe I've tried so far (you can either use shallots or green onions, and I opted for green onions up to now, b/c I didn't really know what a shallot was). Turns out, these are shallots, "fresh" from France...


When you cut into them, they're basically little, milky red onions. I'm not really sure what makes them "shallots," but apparently, they're very French, so fine.

I was being very ambitious today, aiming to eat at 6:30. The quiche would only take 30 minutes in the oven, and the prep was really quick, so I did some other work until about 5:15, at which point I minced two shallots and cooked them in butter for a few minutes, than stirred in the crab meat and simmered it all for a few minutes, then added a few shakes of Madeira (red wine), heated it to a boil, then set the mixture aside. Doesn't it already look good?


Then I beat eggs, a lot of cream, some tomato paste (?), and salt and peper in a bowl, and added the crab meat to it.

And that's when the trouble started....

Now, I've seen my mother make countless quiches in store-bought frozen pie crusts and I had never seen her take the crust out of the tin before filling it. And yet, being the goody-goody I am, when the back of the pie crust packaging said to take the frozen pie crust out of the tin and let it thaw for 15 minutes before filling it, I did it, even though I didn't really see how that would work. Well, guess what? It didn't. The first one thawed so much before I even tried to fill it that it fell apart and was just a flat sheet of dough. Oops. You'd think I would have taken this as a sign of the fortitude (or lack thereof) of these pie crusts, but nooooooooooo. I try again, thaw the crust for only a few minutes, then pour the heavy, thick quiche filling into the pan. I quickly realized that this was going to be a problem, as the pie crust immediately started to become oval shaped, buckling under the weight of all that cream. I started hopping around screaming "no, no no!" as I raced to throw some Swiss cheese on top and jam the thing in the oven to start firming it up before it completely fell apart, but as I started shredding the cheese on top, creamy crab started oozing out of the bottom of the pie crust, and I started wailing and shrieking and I'm sure the dog thought I was in grave danger. Crisis was averted by me tilting the whole leaking thing back into the bowl, but, um...this is what I had left of my only remaining pie crust. A moment of silence, please.

*sigh* So I had to go back to the freakin' grocery store and get more freakin' pie crusts. I was pissed. Stupid pie crusts and their stupid lying instructions, what the hell!! Clearly they know good and well at Acme Pie Crust company that their little dinky crusts cannot actually support anything if not in the aluminum pan they're created in! Why must they lie to me and risk the demise of my crab quiche?? Why!??

Needless to say, we didn't eat until 7:30. But the quiche came out beautifully in the end.

I also made my favorite veggies, peas simmered in chicken broth, butter, and green onions. It was super yummy, and made up for the absurdity of the pie crust debacle of '09.


Butter Count: .5 sticks
Cream Count: 1 cup

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Kitchen gadgets...

A short post today, I've got a looooooooong day tomorrow and must sleep, but I wanted to post quickly about my new-found love of kitchen gadgets!

Today I had to make another batch of Filets de Poisson a la Bretonne (oh, darn) because I'd bought too much of everything that goes in it, but still had enough of the delectable creamy white wine sauce leftover from the first time around to skip that laborious step (yay!). So I did the cooking in stages today, in between other things, which I've realized is totally the way to go with french cooking, since most things keep well for several hours, and/or Julia tells you where in the recipe you can prepare up to in advance, so I actually heeded her advice today, and poached the fish around 3, made the risotto when I got home from supervision around 5:30, and stuck the fish under the broiler right before hubby got home and everything was perfectly hot and ready when he walked in the door! (I know this sounds sooooo Stepford, but it benefited both of us that I was so timely (finally) with dinner, since I was starving and we had somewhere to be at 7:30). I think the fish was actually better this time, because I poached it in a mix of white wine and dry white vermouth (picked up at my new favorite wine store, "Wine Country" next to my favorite store store, Target! It's so nice when the stars align!) this time, which I think gave it a nice little kick. Hubby and I both hate Vermouth (and gin) usually, but for cooking it's divine.

Anyway, I digress. The point here is that today I got over my fear of my huge food processor (a very generous...christmas gift, I think, from a few years ago), which I have only ever used to make pesto, which I've only made twice. I remembered a few days ago that it comes with a slicing/grating blade, and I've been reading Julie Powell's old blog, and she mentions how fantastic her Cuisinart was for chopping onions, which as we all know, is my least favorite thing. So, I pulled it out, blew off the dust (ew, that sounds gross, it wasn't really that dusty), figured out how to put it together (much easier than I thought) and it sliced two onions in about 30 seconds. Woot! I will now use that thing any chance I get. Fantastic.

I also used my little onion chopper (for the onions that went into the risotto), and it minced them up nice and quick with very little tearing up from me--this is huge, because when I cut onions, my eyes tear to the point of mascara running down my face, and my eyes burn for about the next 3 hours. Not pretty. So I also love my little chopper that I got at BBB for $9.99.

I also used my Microplane today! (The gadget love is overflowing). I always forget I have it, because I bought it with a wedding gift card we got to Williams Sonoma, a store that I never set foot in usually, since the nearest one is 30 minutes away and feel like an imposter in there, and I bought it because it seemed so fancy-pants and like the kind of thing that "real cooks" have, which I am only now even getting close to becoming, so...needless to say, the Microplane hasn't been appreciated around here, but that's all changing! I used it to grate the Swiss cheese onto the fish, and it was super easy, super fast, and you can grate right into the pot, quickly, which is good for fresh cheese because otherwise it all lumps together while you wait to sprinkle it. Did you know that about fresh cheese? I didn't, until about 6pm tonight, but Microplane saved the day!

So that's all today! Bon soir!

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Heavenly eggs...

In Julie and Julia, Julie Powell swears by Oeufs en Cocotte with Sauce au Cari (Eggs baked in ramekin dishes, with Curry Sauce). She claims that it is the absolute best meal to have the morning after a wild and crazy night out with the girls.

Well, I didn't have a wild and crazy night on Saturday, but I did decide that it was time to see what all the fuss was about, and tackle Oeufs en Cocotte myself. This led to me doing another unimaginable thing on Sunday morning: I got up relatively early, much earlier than I had to, to go buy groceries and bakeware so that I could make my eggs. I was ready to leave the house even before most of the stores that could actually sell me ramekins were open! Madness. Have I mentioned that I typically avoid going grocery shopping like the plague, and make hubby do as much of it as possible? My behavior of late is truly bizarre, I cannot stress this enough! I'm realizing, though, that what I really love to do is eat good food, and cooking recipes out of MAFC pretty much guarantees deliciousness, so apparently that's the only motivation I need to get my ass out of bed, get to the grocery store, and get cookin'.

So, I headed to Target for ramekins and curry powder, stopped by Pathmark for the onions and milk, and headed home with excitement for the delightful brunch bounty that awaited.

And oh man, was it worth the wait. Of course, everything took longer than I expected, especially making the curry sauce. I had to chop up onions (using my handy new chopper!) and cook them in butter for 10 minutes, than add tons of curry powder and cook that a bit...


then add boiling milk that I actually had the presence of mind to start boiling ahead of time (proud of myself for that one!)....

Meanwhile, I was heating up water in a pan that would eventually hold the ramekins full o' egg and sauce (oh, and mushrooms, which were left over from the poached poissons. Julia suggests adding pretty much anything you want to the bottom of the ramekin before you add the eggs, so I did!). Here's what the ramekins looked like with curry sauce and mushrooms in them, before I cracked the eggs in, topped them with more sauce, a "dot" of butter, and stuck them in the oven for 10 minutes...They came out looking like this...
Again, not entirely appetizing, but I swear, they were sooooooooooooo freakin' good!! I'm already looking for a reason to make them again next weekend! Fantastic! The eggs were cooked perfectly, just the right texture, the yolks weren't runny (which grosses me out), though I could have pulled them out a tad earlier to get runnier yolks, and the curry sauce was a perfect complement. Mmmmm, I can't gush about them enough. I made 4, with two eggs each, way too much for hubby and I, but we of course stuffed ourselves because oeufs en cocotte are too good to be denied. Trust me, if you ever want a taste, give me a heads up and I will make them for you at any time. It's a life changing experience, my friends! (Okay, so some of my gushing could be due to the fact that it's almost 1 am and I'm getting a little loopy, but really, these eggs are so good.)

Butter count: oops! forgot MAFC downstairs, will update tomorrow!

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

iTrain.com...

I'm tired of working on real stuff (though today, I did tons of real stuff: edits of internship essays 1 and 2, AND my first draft of essay 3! Woot! Of course, all essays are still 200 words too long, but I'll deal with that later. Also, if you don't really know what I'm talking about, consider yourself blessed), and owe you all a post about something other than butter, so now, for something completely different, allow me to tell you about an awesome website, iTrain.com.

I don't remember how I discovered iTrain, though I wish I could give credit where it's due. I do know that I found it when I was on my uber-diligent healthy lifestyle/weight loss kick in the months leading up to my wedding in 2007 (*sigh* those were the days!). Anyway, iTrain provides tons of downloads (300+) that you can buy, download, put on your iPod (or other mp3 device) and listen to/follow as you sweat yourself healthy! Back when I was trying it out, the company was pretty new, and their website was a little janky, so they ended up charging me about 6 times for my 3 month membership, which I fussed so much about that they gave me tons of free download credits that were supposed to expire but never did and ended up (accidentally, I think) refunding all the charges and never charging me anything, ha! It turns out I got lucky, because over the past two years, the price for individual workouts has soared to an average of $10/workout, which is kind of insane, but the workouts are really good, so...I still recommend giving it a try if you're looking for a new workout technique to try, especially if you use the gym alot.

My favorite workouts are the iTread and iClimb workouts, which give you awesome music and really good routines for the treadmill and elliptical machine. They also give you a lot of motivation to push through the horrible pain (can you tell how much I despise working out?), and make the workout a lot harder than it would be if you just walked/jogged while you watched TV (ahem, not that I would ever do that, of course :p ) There are downloads for every kind of workout imaginable: iRow, iStretch (which goes through yoga and pilates moves), iSculpt (both Traditional, which is more calisthenic-type stuff, squats, lunges, push ups, etc., and light weights, and Ballet, which I've never tried, but is probably awesome), iCycle, iStrength (weight training) and various packages that are tailored to specific goals. Each different type of workout usually has options for working out home or at a gym. In short, it's pretty much a go to place for kicking your workouts up a notch, without paying for a trainer or buying the Wii Fit :o).

It's serendipitous that I joined a gym last month, and remembered that I had a library of iTrain workouts, since I'm now learning the joys of cooking meals require two sticks of butter, so hopefully it'll all balance out!

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Filets de Poisson a la Bretonne...

Okay, so I lied. All I actually want to talk about is food. Sorry! :)

So, yesterday I decided I was going to tackle fish, primarily because in Julia's memoir My Life in France, she gushes over the french way of preparing fish, which is to poach it and serve it with a delectable sauce. Sold.

So I flipped to Fish, chapter 5, and decided first on Filets de Poisson Gratines, a la Parisienne (Fish filets poached in white wine w/ a cream and egg yolk sauce). Sounds delectable, right? Well, I realized that it was ridiculously unhealthy and artery clogging, and, since Julia says that when serving a "beautifully sauced fish...a salad or vegetable should come afterward, so as not to disturb the harmony of the fish, the sauce, and the wine" I knew that by the time we finished eating the main course, I'd be too lazy to actually prepare a salad, so I settled on Filets de Poisson a la Bretonne instead, which is filets poached in white wine and a julienne of vegetables. (Btw, I just have to say that, though it's very persnickety, I kind of love the fact that Julia makes sure we don't spoil our wonderful fish dishes with pesky things like vegetables. I love her.)

So, I'm feeling a little daunted by the recipe this time around, because I'm really making a combination of 3 recipes, as Julia tends to provide a master recipe, than variations of the master recipe, and then variations of that recipe, so there's a lot of flipping back and forth, and a lot of room for missing steps and screwing things up. But it sounded so tasty, I was willing to take the risk.

First thing I had to do was find a "10- to 12-inch fireproof baking and serving dish, 1.5 to 2 inches deep," which I didn't buy during my cookware spree at Home Goods. But I figured it'd be easy to find, right? Absolutely and utterly WRONG. I went to a different Home Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Macy's, and there were no fireproof baking dishes to be found. So upsetting! I wasted about 2 hours on my hunt, but did pick up some fun kitchen gadgets at BBB, including an onion chopper, yay!!

Anyway! I finally made it home around 5, and was shooting for dinner at 7 again, so I immediately set myself up with 3 lbs of potatoes and the Amazing Race premiere and started peeling. (I was making the Pommes de Terre Sautees again, per Julia's recommendation for good dishes to accompany the fish.) After peeling, I started julienne-ing the veggies (carrots, celery, onions--I sadly realized I would not be breaking in my chopper just yet), and if you've never julienne'd anything before, a word of warning: it's annoying. I hate chopping on the best of days, and making little matchsticks out of carrots will never be my idea of fun...but Julia said julienne, so I said, "how tiny?" and chopped away.

By then, hubby was home, and I thought I'd set him to work actually trying to make "elongated olive shapes" out of the potatoes, which is what you're supposed to do to make sure they cook evenly, but which I was never actually going to try, because it sounded too absurd. But for hubby, it sounded like the perfect task! :p And, as it turns out, I was imagining a lot more work than it actually is, as the measurements Julia gives for the ideal olive-shaped potato are actually about the size of a new potato to begin with, so it wasn't actually that much work after all. Good to know. From that point on, hubby was pretty much in charge of the potatoes, which was nice, but also a bit difficult, since I'm a bit of a kitchen control freak. I also forgot to tell him to dry the potatoes before cooking them, so they didn't turn out as delectable as last time, but now we know how important it is to dry them first! They came out fine, though siginificantly less buttery. They did look pretty though! (Good job, hubby :o) )



I then set to work on the fish. I slowly cooked the veggies for 20 minutes while I prepared the cod filets by lightly seasoning them with salt and pepper and layering them in a buttered casserole dish (which worked out fine in place of the baking dish I needed, but was a little cramped). When the veggies were tender, I layered them on top of the fish. Next, I added the "liquids" that the fish would poach in. Julia offers several options, which I appreciate, and I picked the white wine/clam juice/water option, mainly so that I'd have enough of the wine left over to drink with the meal! (Priorities, people.) I then brought the whole thing to a simmer, covered it with buttered wax paper, and poached the fish in the oven for about 10 minutes. When I pulled the pan out, I really had no clue if the fish was done, since I couldn't actually see the fish under all the veggies and liquid, but I crossed my fingers and pressed on.

Next I drained all the cooking liquids into a saucepan and started making the sauce that was going to make the whole thing so amazing, at least according to Julia.



I boiled down the fish juice (yum), then beat in a "white roux" I'd made earlier out of butter and flour, and some cream. Heated it up again, added more cream, added some lemon juice, gave it a taste, it was great, and dumped it on top of the fish again.


Almost there! I then sprinkled swiss chesse on a top and dotted it with more butter (sigh), and stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes, and it came out like this! Beautiful!!!

We then sat down and watched the new NBC show 'Community', which is actually pretty good, and then a lame episode of Buffy, Season 3, "The Zeppo." I should probably explain here that we are on a mission to watch all 7 seasons of Buffy, due to the recommendations of about a thousand people, and thanks to the fact that one of our friends owns the whole series, so there will probably be lots of Buffy watching as we eat our french food for a long while. (Funny side note: it turns out that Julie Powell is actually obsessed with Buffy, and on her blog from 2002 about cooking the entirety of MAFC, she mentions Buffy a lot. It's really funny how my Julia experience is also linked with Buffy.)

Anyway, I'm rambling, mostly because when I finish this post I need to spend the rest of the day working on internship application essays, which is clearly not that much fun. But I must....I'll leave you with a shot of the plated food. Again, it doesn't look nearly as good as it tasted, but that fish was....mmmm, perfection.


Butter Count: 2 sticks

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unexpected free evenings...

Yesterday morning, my 6pm client called and canceled his appointment for Wednesday night, gifting me with an entire evening of blissful nothing that I hadn't dared to dream of. So what did I do? I decided to fill it with domesticity the likes of which have rarely been seen in my vicinity. I decided I was gonna cook up a(nother) storm, Julia style.

Last night, I flipped around MAFC, looking for a chicken dish to tackle. I decided on Supremes de Volaille Archiduc (Chicken Breasts with Paprika, Onions, and Cream), with Risotto and my new favorite veggie, frozen peas a la JC. Yum. I scanned the ingredient lists and the instructions, and it all looked pretty straight forward, even the risotto, which I always imagined was something that only first class chefs can cook, but Julia made it seem do-able, and I was feeling brave.

Then I realized that both the chicken and the risotto called for things that were nowhere to be found in our house. Things like cheesecloth, and cast iron pots, and Madeira cooking wine. And, just like that, my otherwise lazy Wednesday became a kitchen-stuff buying spree that I actually really enjoyed!

My first stop this morning was Home Goods, my go-to shop for kitchenware, especially the fancy stuff that I can always count on them having half off. Both the chicken and risotto called for very specific pots: "a heavy, covered, fireproof casserole about 10 inches in diameter" for the chicken, and "a 6-cup fireproof casserole about 8 inches in diameter with a tight fitting cover" for the risotto. Okay, Julia, geez, you're so anal!

I headed for the cookware (after waiting for 10 minutes for someone to surrender one of the 5 shopping carts they had in the freakin' store today, ugh) and straight to the Le Crueset section. Not being a cook, I don't know why I even know about Le Crueset cookware, but I do. I know it's the best out there, and that it's probably what Julia had in mind for me. But something I did not know about Le Creuset cookware is that it is insanely expensive. I mean, wow. $120 for one small casserole. No, thank you! I got the "Palm restaurant" versions instead, which were still pretty expensive, but they're beautiful (see pictures below) and will last a really long time, and make me feel like I'm actually cooking for real. Cool.

So I bought my specifically-diametered casseroles, plus 2 more skillets, a baster, and more measuring spoons (I'm realizing you can never have too many), then high-tailed it back to my 4 hour chunk of meetings that were rudely interupting my day of domesticity. Then I picked up the Madeira and a bottle of Pouilly-Fusse (a White Burgundy that Julia suggested would be perfect with the chickent), went to S&S for a few essentials (and more butter), and then went to, get this, a hardware store for the cheesecloth! So ridiculous, and in the opposite direction from home, but I was gonna make me an herb bouquet, damnit! (More on that in a sec.)

By the time I got home, it was already after 5, and I'd invited a friend over for dinner at 7, and there was a mountain of dishes I had to clear out of the sink before I could start cooking. (To be fair, I could have started cooking with the sink full of dishes, but that always skeeves me out, and I never cook with the sink full if I can help it.) So, even though dishes are hubby's designated chore, I happily loaded the dishwasher, then handwashed stuff I needed immediately, and was amazed all the while that I was voluntarily cleaning the kitchen so that I could cook. So bizarre, but a nice change.

Finally, finally, I started working on the risotto. Aside from the onion chopping (bane of my existence), and almost breaking a sweat trying to get the plastic thingy off the casserole dish so that I could actually take the lid off, the prep was pretty easy. I nervously read and re-read the instructions, though, knowing I was gonna screw it up, and almost did, when I was almost ready to add liquid to the rice and hadn't made the herb bouquet yet! The horror!

(Sidebar: Okay everybody, so this is an herb bouquet. It's basically a bunch of herbs-parsley, thyme, etc.--tied up together in a little cheesecloth bag tied with string. Very cute, very french. And I made one! See?




So I made my herb bouquet, was very proud of myself, threw it in the pot with the rice, put the casserole in the oven to cook undisturbed, started the broth (and butter) for the peas to boil, and then realized that I still had to prepare the entire chicken dish. The time? 6:40. Oh well.

The chicken to a lot more time than I thought it would, for various reasons. For one thing, I had to freakin' mince more onions (*groan*) and then cook them (I think I blanched them? What's blanching? I don't know), rinse them, and cool them before sauteing them with butter (shocker) and paprika, and that whole thing took 15 minutes. Then I had to cut out a 10-in diameter piece of wax paper and butter it (which hubby and friend watched amusedly, as it was pretty ridiculous), which I pressed on top of the chicken before covering it in the casserole to cook in the oven. Why, Julia, why?? She doesn't even explain why this silly wax paper step is necessary! But I'm realizing that it's this little, fairly neurotic, steps that make the food taste so damn good, so...I'll do it. So then the chicken took twice as long to cook because I put extra chicken in to make sure I had enough for everyone, and then the freakin' sauce wouldn't...sauce! I was supposed to boil down the broth and wine until the liquid was syrupy before adding the cream, and this, of course, did not ever happen. So I said screw it and made the freakin' sauce. And it was still really good, so there, Julia!

Long story slightly shorter, we didn't eat until after 8. See how excited hubby and friend were to finally have food in front of them?


The chicken:



The risotto, which actually came out really well!



The meal (it doesn't look very impressive, but was quite tasty! We all kept getting more sauce to smother everything in):



Phew! So now I'm tired. Appropriately equipped, and tired. I think I'll french it up again this weekend, so stay tuned! (I also do have some none-Julia/food related things to write about, so if you're bored with buttery food talk, never fear!)

Today's Butter Count: 1.25 sticks

(9/28/09 Butter Count: 1.75 sticks. Yowza!)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Julia Child...


About a month ago, I "read" (i.e. listened to on audiobook--yay Audible.com!) "Julie and Julia," a memoir by Julie Powell about how she set out to cook every recipe in Vol.1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (500+ recipes) in 365 days, all as an attempt to rescue herself from the mediocrity of her soul-sucking cubicle (government) job. Well, I found the book pretty great, though I actually wish I had read the print version, since Julie Powell's voice kind of drives me crazy, but I suffered through. I then saw the movie version with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, both of whom I love, and I found the movie charming, if a little thin, and then I asked for Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, and Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, for my birthday, both of which I received from my loving parents.

So, that's how the story begins. It continues with me flipping open MAFC last week and realizing that it is sooo much more than just a cookbook! It is, in fact, AWESOME! (And please note that this is momentous for me to say, as I usually find cooking to be tiresome and annoying. I much prefer the eating part.) Bus seriously, this book is not just a cookbook. It's a how to cook book! Who knew!?

Julia and friends take you through everything, from what kinds of kitchen equipment you need (lots), to the definitions of various fancy terms used throughout the book, like gratine (to brown the top of a sauced dish, fyi), to--get this-- the ideal way to chop a freakin' onion! I've always been a disaster chopping onions, little pieces always fly everywhere and I feel like a complete clutz! Who's with me? Anyway, now, with Julia, I'm well on my way to chopping like Rachael (Ray, whom I actual can't stand, but who does know how to chop things, I have to give her that). She also devotes a whole section, before telling you how to cook anything at all, to one of my favorite things, wine. She explains which types of wines are best to cook with for various kinds of dishes, what kinds of wines you should pair with various foods, and even how to store and serve different wines! Completely unnecessary and marvelous. Theree isn't a recipe in this book until page 37. It's amazing.

Alright, so even before trying any of the recipes, my mouth was watering and I was really starting to see what all the fuss is about re: Julia Child. I decided that I would make my first attempt at French Cuisine on Monday night, one of my usual cooking nights. We had some ground turkey in the fridge, so I looked for something involving ground beef, and found Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise, which is really just a hamburger. No biggie, right? (Though, Julia does take time out to tell us that we need not be shocked, as the French do eat hamburgers! I honestly had never given any thought to whether or not the French eat hamburgers, but apparently this was a matter of hot debate back in 1961). Anywho, a hamburger patty's just a hamburger patty, but then...then you add a sauce on top, and that is where it becomes heavenly. I decided to try Bitokes a la Russe (Hamburgers with Cream Sauce). Now, I have to be honest with you--sauce making has always mystified me. I'd always see my grandmother or mom or dad cook some sort of meat and somehow end up with a sauce in the pan afterward, and had always been completely befuddled by the whole exercise, so the cream sauce was actually the scary part for me. But Julia guided me true, and the sauce came out just like she said it would, and it was creamy, buttery goodness, and made for a very fancy (and tasty) burger.
I'm almost done with my gushing, but I have to add another awesome thing about MAFC: at the start of each section, Julia devotes some space to explaining exactly what kinds of ingredients you should buy for each kind of recipe, what kinds of wine you should pair it with, and gives many side dish and garnish suggestions. In the "Meat" chapter, she encourages you go learn about beef cuts "step by step" and tells you how you can tell a good cut of meat. In the vegetable chapter, there are seven different recipes for peas, and you pick which one to use based on the freshness and tenderness of the peas!! And there are then different recipes for frozen peas and canned peas, because clearly you can't cook them the same way. !! Is this kind of care and devotion to preparing perfect food not incredible!? Maybe it's just me, but I think it's freakin' awesome.

I'm getting hungry just writing this post...

Anyway, based on Julia's recommendations, I made Pommes de Terre Sautees (Potatoes Sauteed in Butter) and Frozen Peas (Frozen Peas :o) to go with our fancy burgers, and I actually think I liked the side dishes better than the burger! This could because both were pretty much just cooked in butter, some herbs, butter, and a little more butter, but they were soooo good. (Sorry the picture's blurry!)



I'm planning to try out a chicken recipe tomorrow, and something more ambitious this weekend, though I'm still deciding what to try. If people are interested (are you interested??) I'll keep blogging about my culinary pursuits, though I know it's been done, and been done specifically with MAFC, but...what can I say? I've got the Julia bug. (Proof that this is true: We didn't eat dinner until about 9:45 last night, and I was prepping and/or cooking for 2.5 hours, and I DIDN'T EVEN MIND. Truly mind-boggling.)

Can't wait to taste my next French dish! To borrow from my least favorite TV cook, ooh-la-yum-o!

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Stila Lip Gloss (in Apricot)...

Hello dear readers! (Reader?) I'm sorry I've been so remiss lately! Thankfully, though, my absence has been the result of my actually doing school work and gearing up for the internship match process, so at least there's a silver lining to me leaving you post-less for the past month. :) I've also been doing a lot of writing over at Examiner.com, so if you like web entertainment (my topic area), check it out!

For my return post, may I present to you... Stila Lip Glaze!! I discovered this wonderful gem of a cosmetic purely by accident when I need to add $5 to a Sephora order to get free shipping, and they were offering Beauty Insiders a 3-pack mini set of lip glazes for $8, and I am forever looking for the right product for my lips, so I thought, what the hell, and bought it...and fell in love...
The mini set came with three colors, Apricot, Starfruit, and Brown Sugar. Apricot and Starfruit looked like they would be way to light for my dark skin and lips, but I thought that at least Brown Sugar would work. Boy, was I wrong!

It turns out, Stila Lip Glaze in Apricot is the best lip gloss I have ever found!! It's fantastic. It's sheer, but shiny, but not too shiny, and immediately makes me look much more fancy and put together. And I did a little research, and Apricot is the number one color, so I'm certain that it looks beautiful on every skin tone, which is so cool, and so hard to find--trust me, I know!

The gloss is thick (which is why they call it a glaze, I imagine), and it takes some getting used to when applying, but it stays on and shiny for a long time, even through eating, drinking, and licking the lips (which I do way too much, which gives most lipsticks a lifespan of about 10 minutes with me). It comes in more than 20 colors, almost all of which are sheer like Apricot, and I can't wait to get around to trying them all! Field trip to Sephora, anyone? :)

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Friday, August 7, 2009

EA Sports Active...

So, as I mentioned a few posts back, we're borrowing hubby's friend's Wii Balance Board, Wii Fit, and the exercise game EA Sports Active. I've now tried the "game"three times now (I'm attempting to do the "30 Day fitness challenge"), and though I like it, I also hate it!! It's hard!!

Every time I've done a workout, on medium intensity, I've been drenched in sweat by the end of the 30 minutes. Very intense. The trick, I think, is that the "trainer" who's constantly talking you through the exercises on screen makes you hold a lot of things (like squats and lunges) much longer than I ever would, which I guess is why it's good (and bad)to have a trainer. Ugh. It's also alot of circuit training-type stuff, doing short bursts of different exercises and quickly moving on to the next one. The Wii remote and "nunchuk" can also sense when you're not doing an exercise the right way, so it really forces you to do it right, and thereby forces you to be in pain. Good times.

With all that bitching and moaning aside, I do think it's a really good way to motivate yourself to work a little harder, which I know I needed. I'd gotten into the habit of doing a Leslie Sansone Walk Away the Pounds DVD on mute while I watched TV, and, though I did work up a sweat, sort of, it was cleary the lazy person's workout. With EA Sports Active, lazy people are not allowed!

So, give it a try if you're looking for something to kick your workouts up a notch. I definitely find myself pushing a little harder when the "trainer" can sense that I'm slowing down and makes snide comments about "getting rid of any distractions that are interfering with my form," (in other words, "move it lard-o") and a little anger always helps when you're trying to get your butt in gear! So for that, I think EA Sports Active is a pretty good bargain...it definitely beats paying for a gym membership and a real life trainer, and this way, no one has to see you sweat :)

(p.s. you don't actually need the balance board for this "game" after all...if you do have it, you can use for a few exercises, but for most of it, you don't even use it).

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Bare Minerals Makeup...


I've dedicated my entire day today (well, until 4:30) to reading up on administering and scoring the Rorschach, so to break up the monotony, I'm going to tell you all about my favorite make-up, Bare Minerals (by Bare Escentuals)!! Ooh, I can just feel your excitement :)

I discovered Bare Minerals about two years ago, when I was looking for the makeup I should use for my bridal portrait, which I'd be taking in sweltering heat and humidity, outside. In other words, my worst nightmare. I'd heard about Bare Minerals from my best friend's mom, and I think from a few other places, but I think what pushed me into finally ordering the starter kit was an infomercial I saw in the middle of the night, where Bare Escentuals founder Leslie Blodgett assured me that I could "Swirl, Tap, and Buff" my way to a beautiful, flawless face. The infomercial was very convincing, and they offered my money back if I hated it, so what did I have to lose? (I told you I'm way too susceptible to commercials, but at least this time it all worked out in the end!)

So, I ordered my starter kit, watched the instructional DVD (applying mineral make up takes a different technique than what most of us are used to using liquid foundations and pressed powders) and I was on my way!

Right away, I could tell that this stuff was fabulous. It lets you apply subtle layers of foundation, so that you can have light coverage or really full, completely conceling coverage, but it never looks like you have a pound of makeup on your face, and never feels that way either. Plus, it's actually good for your skin, so on those nights where you just want to fall into bed, you can actually sleep in this makeup! And I admit, I've done so once or twice, and it doesn't cause clogged pores at all. Amazing.

It took me about a week to figure out the right technique for me (i.e. how much to put on the brush, how many applications to do, which colors to wear, what concealer to use) but now I've found my perfect combination, and I've never looked back. My bridal portrait and wedding pictures looked pretty great, despite the heat, thanks in large part to Bare Minerals!

The products that I use everyday are the SPF 15 Foundation, All-Over Face Color in Warmth, Warm Radiance, and Glee (these are awesome products for the money, b/c you can use them on your eyes, cheeks, anywhere!), and the Tinted Mineral Veil or the Hydrating Mineral Veil (which both give you a nice airbrushed look, but you still look natural--I know it sounds too good to be true, but this stuff is a miracle!). I use an oil-based concealer from Makeup Forever instead of the concealers Bare Minerals makes (the multi-tasking bisques--they probably work great, i'm just not sure which color I'd need, so I haven't bothered yet).

Up until about a month ago, I was using the regular foundation, which did have a tendency to become really shiny by the end of the day, especially in warm weather, because of the sheen of the minerals, but last month, Bare Minerals became my even bigger hero by introducing Matte Foundation, which is even better than the original foundation, especially for those of us with oily skin. My advice: if you decide to try Bare Minerals, go straight for the Matte, you can't go wrong.

If you think you'd like to try Bare Minerals (and trust me, you really should!), head to their Sephora page here, click on the "Shade Finder" and you're off! Once you select your shade, you can watch videos about how the makeup is applied and how it works. (Note: It looks like right now if you buy the starter kit you have to buy matte foundation separately, so I'd actually recommend getting the starter kit if you've never used Bare Minerals before, b/c it comes with a lot of different products and it's a good value. Then, if you love it, which you will :), you can switch to matte when you need more foundation.) Another great thing about this makeup is that it lasts forever--I used my first jar of powder for a year before I had to buy more!

Well, I think I've done enough gushing for one post, but here's a blurb about Bare Minerals and all the good stuff in it from Sephora.com:

Bare Escentuals started the mineral makeup revolution with the introduction of their 100% pure bareMinerals, which millions of women swear by. All foundation, cheek, and eye colors have been crushed to a silky, creamy powder form, but (here's the big secret) they're not actually powders. What they are is 100% pure bareMinerals that are free of preservatives, talc, oil, waxes, fragrance, and other harmful chemicals that can irritate skin and cause breakouts. They feel like a cream and buff on like silk, giving skin a natural luminosity without the look or feel of makeup. Women with sunspots, acne, rosacea, and excessively dry, oily, or sensitive complexions claim bareMinerals improves the overall health and appearance of their skin. To boot, the silky formulas also contain natural sunscreens that protect your skin—so much so that bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation actually has the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of recommendation. Now that's what we call full coverage.
If anyone out there tries it, or already uses it and loves it, let me know in the comments! (and now, back to the Rorshach!)

(Photo: Sephora.com)

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This funny website I found...

I recently joined Stumbleupon.com, a website where you enter in subjects and areas that you're interested in, and then you start "stumbling" around the internet and it takes you to random websites that other people have suggested that other people might like/find interesting. I'm not sure which of my areas of interest led stumbleupon to lead me here, but they sure do know me pretty well already, because I found this hilarious, and thought I'd share (click the picture to make it bigger):


So funny, right? I love that there's someone out there who took the time to do this. What a great social experiment.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jill and Kevin's (JK) Wedding Dance...

Update: I just found the page that the couple created to use the popularity of their video to promote the Sheila Wellstone Institute, which fights domestic abuse. I guess they wanted to acknowledge the implications of using a Chris Brown song, and are trying to do some good. Good for them! (Also, the original video should now be embedded in this post, if I did it right!)

Here's my original post from a few days ago:

By now you've probably heard about, and hopefully seen, the video of a couple from St. Paul and their wedding party dancing down the aisle to start their wedding. If you haven't, stop reading and click the link above, then come back :)

I don't have too much to say about this video, mostly I just want to share it with as many people as possible, but I will say that I think it is wonderful, hilarious, and heartwarming, and it actually made me cry! I was also smiling and laughing, but crying, too. I was surprised to be moved so much by it, but I think it was just so full of joy, and you could see how much the couple's friends loved them, to make such fools of themselves in front of so many people (and now, about 12 million+ more, thanks to the interwebs) and, I dunno, it was just beautiful.

However, there has of course been much debate about whether or not it was "appropriate" for them to dance down the aisle to "Forever," by Chris Brown. As we all know, he was arrested for assaulting Rihanna, clearly not admirable behavior. But to say that a couple can't use one of his songs to celebrate and be joyful and do kick-ass choreography to b/c of his personal failings is just absurd to me! And yes, there are people out there saying that...so dumb.

Here's the original video, enjoy! Post in the comments if it makes you cry too!

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My puppy's dedication to getting his 18 hours...


This is my puppy, Jake. Jake really likes to sleep, and tends to find some way to curl his entire, long body onto the lap of whomever is within his reach. If there's no lap to be found, he almost always finds a way to make a pillow out of something--he's even curled up under my desk while I'm working, and rested his head on my foot. My boy likes his pillow, what can I say?

Jake also has a tendency to nestle. He likes to be nice and cozy and tends to want to squish his face into small spaces while he sleeps. Trust me, it is more adorable than it sounds!

So, one evening, the three of us, me, hubby, and Jake, are lazing about on the couch, and Jake sits up with a jolt from his dozing, and resolutely begins to climb up my husband onto the top of the couch! !??! We were going to try to stop him, but then decided this could be pretty funny, so we let him go, and this is what he did:

(FYI, hubby's head was where his hind leg is. Jake also has a tendency to take other people's prime couch real estate. It's a bit of a problem.)

Anyway, then, I guess to get really comfy...

He stayed up there for almost an hour, snoring all the while. I have to hand it to him though--he knows the importance of finding a cozy place to nap!

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Friday, July 31, 2009

My new "job" with Examiner.com...

Let's travel back in time to sometime last week, when I stumbled upon a headline about Katie Holmes appearing on So You Think You Can Dance (a show I've actually never seen) to promote a new charity or something. I wanted to see the video of her "dancing" (and I put that in quotes because it was more like jiggling around and walking with her hips popped out), and the only place that still had a link up was an article on this website I'd never heard of, examiner.com. The article I read seemed to have been written by a normal person, and I got curious about what kind of set up the people at examiner.com had going, so I clicked around and realized that anyone could apply to be an Examiner! So I picked a topic of interest (Reality TV and TV were already taken, so I suggested that I become the Internet TV Examiner, the next best thing) sent in a sample article, and 3 days later I was hired! Ha! So random, right?

Today I published my first two articles, which you can see on my Examiner.com homepage (I've also set up a "button" in the sidebar that takes you to my articles). Let me know what you think of my "journalism" skills! And, if you think they're adequate please subscribe to my page (by clicking the "Subscribe to Email" link), and "Digg" or "Thumbs Up" (for stumbleupon.com) my articles (only if you think they're good, of course!), and share them with anyone you think might be interested! Thanks dear readers!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Awkward Family Photos!

This post is purely to share with you all the wonderment that is AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, a site that I recently discovered and LOVE. The site is dedicated to posting, as you may have guessed, awkward family photos that people send in, and they usually but a cherry on top of the hilarity with a great caption. Sprinkled among the pictures are "awkward family stories," which are pretty great, too. It's one of the most hilarious sites I've seen in a long time, so enjoy!

Here's one of my favorites thus far, though it was really hard to pick just one!



(photo: Submitted by Alayna to awkwardfamilyphotos.com)

and my least favorite can be found here, but I'll let you choose to see that one at your own risk! (Warning: mildly NSFW!)

Check it out, and prepare to laugh till it hurts.

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Narciso Rodriguez for her...


This, my favorite fragance, was my first Sephora.com sample find. Ever since, any time I order anything, I happily choose to get another little sample of NR for her, since I won't be able to afford (or justify purchasing) the full-sized bottle
for quite a while. For about a year, though, to my dismay, they'd pulled it from the sample options, but while I was without NR, I discovered another great scent, but that's a post for another day. Anyway, such joy, such bliss, it's back in sample rotation, yippee!

Here's the touchy-feely, pretty ridiculous description of the fragrance from Sephora.com:

Musc is at the heart of For Her. The fragrant harmony of the musc expresses itself through three pulsations; honey flower, radiant amber, and tactile wood. This fragrant harmony develops gently and slowly, rounding out into the warm tones of sunkissed skin, dusted in a soft, velvety sensuality.
Notes:
Honey Flower, Solar Musk, Orange Blossom, Osmanthus, Amberlyn, Vanilla, Tactile Musk, Tactile Woods, Vetiver.
Style:
Warm. Sensual. Feminine.

Um, okay, if they say so! In short, it smells really, really good, and, in my opinion, is great to wear year-round. I certainly would if I could! Enjoy, ladies!

(Photo: Sephora.com)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sims 3...

Okay, so I'm breaking the geek seal right at the start, and admitting that, yes, I play The Sims. I've played this ridiculously addictive and admittedly dorky game since the first version came out long ago. And I love it. So there.

So, why do I love the newest iteration, The Sims 3? Well, for one, I can actually play it on my laptop, which has less to do with the game and more to do with the fact that I finally have a decent laptop. Aside from that, they've gotten rid of those heinous, slooooooooooooow loading screens that used to make playing the Sims a great thing to do while trying to get boring reading for school done, as most of the time playing the game actually involved waiting for the game to load. But no more! Now the whole game loads at once, and then it's seamless game play. Good dorky times.

This new version also goes to the next level as far as being able to create really life-like sims, with very interesting personalities. You can pick up to 5 traits for your sims to have, and the unique combinations result in them doing alot of wacky things of their own accord that make the game much more an experience in voyeurism this time around than ever before. Very entertaining. The sim I modeled after myself, for example, is a "mooch, light sleeper, friendly, flirty couch potato" and when left to her own devices, all she will do is watch TV. So true to life! But with a little prodding (i.e. telling her to stop watching TV) she's turned into an avid gardener! (Okay, so that's sooooo not realistic, as all I can seem to grow are weeds, but I do wish I had a green thumb, so...close enough. Hmm, and I should probably explain the "mooch" trait. I picked it b/c I really do enjoy getting stuff for free, I mean, who doesn't? So I thought that trait would represent that part of me...instead, it means that my sim likes to steal food from people's refrigerators. *sigh*)

Anyway, Sims 3 is also really cool because there's "The Exchange" on the sims website, where you can download characters and houses that other people have created and plop them into your game and let them carry on with their little sim lives and interact with your sims and lots of funny stuff happens! This is possible because of another new feature in this version of the game called "Story Progression" which means that while I'm playing as my simulated self, gardening away, other characters in the neighborhood are falling in love, having kids, breaking up, moving out, and sometimes even pining after my sim! I just so happen to get a lot of calls from the sim I modeled after the hubby and plopped into a bachelor pad in the neighborhood :o).

But I digress. The coolest thing I've found so far, and the thing that actually tipped the scales and forced me to buy the game (wink, wink) is an experiment a girl named Robin is doing about homelessness using the Sims game. How cool is that? She created two characters named Alice and Kev, plopped them in a dilapidated "park", took away all of their money, and pressed play, and has been watching how they survive in the game without a home. It sounds a little lame, but believe me when I tell you, it is fascinating. Admittedly, I'm very interested in how people behave and interact, which is why I think this game is so much fun to me in the first place, but I think the idea of using a game to "watch what happens" (Bravo, anyone?) to people in really shitty circumstances is awesome. Plus, you can download the characters Robin created and have them wandering around in your own game, which I of course did. Sometimes I invite Alice over for dinner, and she ends up falling asleep on a lawn chair in the backyard before I can invite her to stay the night and sleep in a bed. :( If you want to check out the experiment and the story of Alice and Kev, click here.

Well, there you have it. I'm a big dork. :o)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wii Fit...

Hi people!
My next post was going to be about The Sims 3, but I just tried out the Wii Fit, and I must rave!

Okay, so I've been very curious about the Wii Fit
ever since it came out, but for the price, I knew there was no way we'd be getting one until we'd heard RAVE reviews, but it turns out we don't really know anyone with one who could tell us how awesome it is, so it remained on my Amazon.com wishlist (another ever growing page) and I moved on.

But then! At a random barbecue a few weeks ago, one of hubby's friends mentioned that they have Wii Fit AND EA Active (a new-ish fitness "game" designed to go with the balance board) which I've been very interested in since I saw the first commercials (disclaimer: I am extremely susceptible to commercials...it's a bit sad, really) but of course, there was no point in looking into buying EA Active w/o having the balance board, so...add it to the wishlist, move on with life.

Anyway, long story short, this friend of hubby's said that they never actually use their Wii Fit etc., so would we like to try it?? Um, yes please! The hand off happened today, and when I got home, all haggared and exhausted from the clinic, there it was, a brilliant white hunk of plastic in the middle of my living room floor...

Now, the one thing I had heard about Wii Fit was that it is merciless and shaming. It does this Body Fit Test when you first use it that weighs you (oh, joy) and calculates your BMI and tells you if you are "Underweight, Normal, Overweight, or Obese." Normally, this wouldn't scare me, as I'm clearly not obese, but! I'd heard horror stories about it calling people obese who aren't! And I have been a bit slack lately, indulging in all things cake-related, so I was nervous. It also calculates your "Wii Fit Age," telling you how old your body really is, you pathetic loser. So, as I stepped on that hunk of plastic, I was nervous, I won't lie.

But then...then. Guess what it said? It said that my Wii Fit Age was 23. 23!! Ha! I'm 27 (almost 28) suckahs! I literally whooped and hollered and it was the best part of my day. *whew* And then I had a glass of wine. 'night!

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