30 June 2012

myTunes ~ Summer 2012

Continuing my love affair with Spotify, I've been enjoying sweet tunes as of late-- some old, some new.

Music is always an interesting conversation topic because I've noticed how many people like to claim they have eclectic tastes or only listen to (or at least ADMIT listening to) bands no one has ever heard of (*cough* hipster! *cough*).  There's this odd desire to be the one that converts someone into a fan of an artist or band, or claim they knew about the band before they were famous. Why does that matter? And why does everyone have to listen to a huge VARIETY of music genres?! If you prefer country or rap or pop or alternative or metal, say so proudly.

Then there's the person who refuses to respect you as a person because they listen to rock and you like country (or whatever).   Most of my cousins listen to a lot of country; my older brother enjoys mainly jazz and talk radio (no, he's not 80... kidding!); my younger brother loves classic and 80's rock with Disney tunes thrown in the mix; my parents-- who are musicians, enjoy mostly talk radio-- while my dad likes his jazz and my mom enjoys Josh Groban. On my husband's side, my mother-in-law is obsessed with Radiohead and my sis-in-law introduced me to Phoenix and Miike Snow. Not one of the artists or genres named makes anyone cooler than the other. Sure, it might be difficult to decide what to listen to during a road trip, but having an open mind is key.

This might negate what I said earlier, but I try to listen to a large mix of genres. In my playlists, you'll find:

  • Disney music, tons of soundtracks
  • Musicals like "Les Miserables" "Chicago" and "Wicked"
  • Ke$ha, Kaskade, Jem, Madonna, Rihanna, Katy Perry
  • Yo Yo Ma, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Natalie Cole
  • Allison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood
  • Led Zepplin, AC/DC, ZZ Top, U2, Beatles
  • Snow Patrol, Badly Drawn Boy, The Postal Service
  • Bjork, Sigur Ros, The Offspring, Nirvana, Green Day
  • Kate Nash, Adele, Portishead, Celtic Music, The King's Singers, Classical & Choral
Etc... etc...  That being said, I only listen to music that suits my mood at the time. For example, I haven't listened to Big & Rich or Carrie Underwood in a few years, same with The Offspring and Green Day. Every once in a while I go back to them, but I'm very ADD with music. Plus, I'm not what you'd call a band "Fan." I listen to what sounds good to me, what makes me move, makes me think, or makes me feel. I go by songs, not artists.

I will freely admit that I know next to nothing about Country, Rap, or anything listened to over in Europe (with the exception of the UK since I happen to accidentally discover I love UK pop and rock). And I don't look down on anyone that loves a certain genre or follows a certain band. Can't we all just agree that the power of music is AWESOME?!
Which brings me to my current obsessions:


 White Arrows "Dry Land Is Not a Myth"  Just released June 19th, the title of this album made me laugh because it's a line from Waterworld my husband frequently quotes. What a fortunate find.

Zee Avi "Ghostbird"  I became familiar with Zee when I Shazaamed her song "Milestone Moon" in Starbucks. Turns out every song is amazing.

Of Monsters and Men "My Head is an Animal"  Another find thru the Starbucks speakers, this band caught Michael's ear and we keep replaying the album.


1. Three Dog Night: "Never Been to Spain" and "Shambala"
You might not know the band, but you probably know the classic rock song "Joy to the World" that starts with the line "Jeremiah was a bullfrog!" These two tunes just rock.

2. Beirut: "Postcards from Italy"
This song sounds like old home movies of a European vacation shot on 8mm with a Bolex.

3. The Shins: "Simple Song"
Their latest hit, Simple Song is upbeat, sweet, and this generation's "classic rock."

4. Ed Sheeran: "Small Bump"
Another Starbucks find. And how do you not love a man with a beautiful voice singing a melodic song about his child?

5. Slackwax: "Close to my Fire"
Starbucks find again! Now you know why I'm there everyday! Slow, sultry, and sexy tune.

6. Carole King: "He's a Bad Boy"
Heard this one at our local cafe "The Village." They like to play obscure tunes. This is a great classic pop song that makes me think of big hair and housewives in pearls and polka dots.

What have you been listening to lately? 

28 June 2012


I finally got myself to the theater to see the latest release from Disney Pixar.  Brave premiered last week and came in #1 at the box office over the weekend with $66 million. Not bad. Yet critics haven't loved this film and so I wasn't sure if I should bother.

But I'm glad I did.

Everyone and their mother can agree on one thing: this film is STUNNING. Merida's 3D animated hair alone is worth a viewing. It has the liveliness of Ariel's 2D hair in The Little Mermaid. And the scenery is lovely, especially if you're as big a fan of the British Isles as I am.

Another agreement between critics and myself: the Brave cast is phenomenal. Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire) gives Merida plenty of teenage stubbornness-- perhaps reminiscent of her own life growing up-- while Billy Connolly (Lemony Snicket's..., Boondock Saints) continues to be amazing as her brawns-over-brain yet loving father King Fergus. And of course let's not forget Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor-- she's just wonderful.

That being said, Brave is different from other Pixar films. Had it come from Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, or even Disney Animation (like Tangled), critics and audiences alike would've considered the film competition for Pixar, excited to see how this legendary studio could best such a simple story. Had Brave been an earlier released from Pixar I think it would've received much more praise. Unfortunately, after the rousing successes of the Toy Story franchise, Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, and Monster's Inc, Brave is simpler with less of the complex humor that entertains children yet reaches adults. Oddly enough, the short cartoon before the film-- La Luna-- carries more of the Pixar charm, intelligence, and imagination than the whole of Brave.

To sum it up, Brave is a physical film. What do I mean? Slapstick comedy is the main source of humor which makes complete sense when you realize the story deals with Scottish clans people. These are physical people whose lives consist of work, battle, and celebrations. It makes sense to have physical humor. Plus having three troublesome triplet boys requires a lot of slapstick. There's nothing wrong with this especially when it's cleverly choreographed-- I laughed out loud through most of the film and thought the boys a great source of entertainment. Yet, when compared to the other films, I can see where critics would find the humor base.

In terms of story, Brave surprised me. I thought it was a film about Merida going on an adventure to change her fate, when in reality it's a film about mother/daughter bonds. This struck a cord with me as I myself used to fight with my mom, thinking she was mean when in actuality she always loved me and wanted what was best for me. We needed to understand each other and that's the exact conflict between Merida and Elinor. I think Moms and Daughters will appreciate Brave's themes, but they ring true for any parental relationship. While this story could've been done live action by any other studio, it's still interesting, sweet, and yes... I might have teared up a little at the end.  And your kids will love it-- boys and girls alike. There's plenty of action and silliness to keep their attention.

Overall, I say this is worth a family trip to the theater once, and maybe even spend extra on the 3D if you like that sort of thing. For myself, I can't wait for the blu-ray as Brave will look absolutely out-of-this-world amazing on that technology.

25 June 2012

Fruit Salad (yummy yummy!)

Remember that song? Yeah... me either....

As a kid, summer always meant no school, warm nights, pool parties, and great food. It's the season of grilling, cold pasta salads, ice cream, and my favorite: fruit salad.  If my body allowed me, I would live off fruit and pasta salad from June thru August.

Living in the Midwest we could eat my mom's fruit salad only three months out of the year, when the ingredients were freshest and in season. The same rule still applies to the produce in SoCal, but the quality of produce out here is simply wonderful. 

My favorite part about my mom's fruit salad is that there's no dressing: it's simply a bunch of delicious fresh fruits chopped up nice and small (she even cuts the green grapes in half) and mixed together. The juices create their own marinade.

How do you remove your strawberry tops? After working at the family bakery, I learned a special technique to salvage as much of the sweet, juicy flesh as possible. Read about it here.

Nectarines are what, in my opinion, make this dish. I have an unhealthy obsession with all stone fruits, but nectarines are at the top of my list. They're just so... sweet. And elusive since it's hard to find good nectarines most of the year. Be sure to wait until they're completely in season, otherwise you'll end up clawing at them, trying to pry the flesh off the pit like I had to with these.

Kiwi is another finicky fruit but well worth the effort to find ripe ones and going thru the struggle of peeling them since the flavor is excellent. However, if you're allergic it's NBD if you omit the fruit.  It's taken me a long time to learn how to peel the darn things and I still haven't perfected it. Any advice?

If you like a little bit of liquid, add a splash of orange or pineapple juice and mix well. 

While my finished product was amazing, made a great snack, side, and dessert, this isn't the full fruit salad. I omitted the pineapple because I couldn't justify buying a whole one for a half batch of salad (my mom makes hers crowd size). Plus it was $7 for pre-cut pineapple spears! That's insane. My mom also adds cantaloupe but I happen to not like anything melon. I know I know, I'm weird.

In July I'm going to make a huge batch so I can add pineapple, then maybe start a Fruit Salad Stand to make some extra cash.... oh who am I kidding? I'm going to eat it all!

24 June 2012

Strawberry Tops: A "How To" Blog

Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I grew up in a bakery family. Decades ago, my Great Grandfather Jarosch (on my mom's side) moved from Germany to Chicago and opened his own bakery. After success in the city, he moved the business to Elk Grove Village, IL and thus the Jarosch Bakery we know and love today was born.

It's always been a family effort, my grandparents in charge when I was little, and my aunt and uncle taking over when my grandfather became ill with cancer.  There's a lot of love and pride in a family bakery and it shows thru the cakes-- equal parts gorgeously decorated and delicious-- cookies, breads, pastries, etc etc. After working there on and off for 5 years, I've got a few stories about bakery life I'd love to share. I'll write about it down the road.

Anyway, one of the most popular cake fillings at Jarosch is fresh strawberries. I mean... duh. Makes total sense, no? Needless to say, as a "Bakery Girl" there were crates of strawberries that needed the tops removed and to be halved. And being German, it was imperative for my Great Grandma to create a method that saved as much of the strawberry as possible since they're expensive, especially when out of season. 

Step 1: Get a strawberry.
IMPORTANT: Do not skip Step 1.

 Step 2: Retrieve a cutting board and small paring knife.
(I got my cutting board and knife from The Pampered Chef)

Step 3: Insert blade as close to the center as possible, as well as a little underneath the top.  

Step 4: Rotate knife all the way around center, remaining close to the leaves.
I actually rotate the strawberry into the blade more than I move the knife.

 Step 5: Remove top.
See how much of the strawberry is left? 

I hope this was helpful. It may take a little getting used to, but after doing hundreds (maybe THOUSANDS) of them, you get the hang of it. This is great when you're making fruit salad. Do you use a special technique to remove strawberry tops? Do you think I'm utterly WEIRD for writing a blog post about it?!

23 June 2012

Pulled Pork Enchiladas

I love many things in the world, but I'm pretty sure guacamole and Mexican food are in the Top 5, if not the Top 2. I've never met an ingredient I did not like in the culinary world of tortillas, peppers, cheese, and spices. Who knows, I might have been Mexican in another life. The irony is that I married a Greek/Hispanic man who prefers Italian food. Go figure.

But when Cinco de Mayo rolled around this past May 5th and I saw this recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Enchiladas in my free Better Homes and Gardens email newsletter (seriously people, it's free... why haven't you signed up?!), I knew it would be a sin not to make them. Of course... I didn't make them ON Cinco de Mayo-- we never eat Mexican food on Mexican holidays. But was it worth turning my apartment into a sauna from hell to make these? Absolutely.

First rule of making Mexican food: ALWAYS have guacamole. And if you don't like avocados, read "guacamole" as "tequila."

Following in my mom's footsteps, I make mine homemade. It's just so easy that there's no point in wasting money on the gross is-this-actually-booger-sauce? packaged kind. Plus my nearby semi-fancy grocery store, Gelson's Market, actually puts "Ready to Eat" stickers on avocados so I can choose avocados without thinking.

Let's all take a moment to ignore the chipping nail polish on my thumb. So chic.

Back to the enchiladas. Yes, this is a slow cooker recipe, but only in part. That's how you cook the meat. This is still a dish that requires hands-on technique, and by "technique" I mean "you roll up the tortillas." But dammit! After this came out of the oven looking fabulous I was convinced I'm the next Rick Bayless.

Impressive, no?

In true Jamie-messes-up-every-new-recipe-she-tries Fashion, I forgot the small can of diced green chilies. Or it's lost in my poor excuse for a pantry. Either way, it's too late now! Besides, next time I make this I'm going to substitute real jalapeños.

Also, the recipe calls for a 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder. I went to my ghetto budget grocery store, Von's, only to discover they were literally-- so not exaggerating-- OUT OF PORK. I'm pretty sure that's un-American if not illegal. So I moseyed on over to Gelson's, a very patriotic store that always carries dead pig, only to find they didn't have pork shoulder. Harumph. 

Always the resourceful one (I should've been a Girl Scout), I bought a pork butt instead. And boy was that the Best. Idea. Ever. The meat was tender, juicy, unbelievably easy to pull.... **wipes drool from mouth** I'm all about generosity (don't laugh!), but these are so good that you probably shouldn't share.

A hot mess of deliciousness.

Just be aware: the recipe tells you to trim the fat on the pork shoulder. If you're familiar with butts of the pork variety, you'll note that trimming the fat is laughable, especially if your knives are dull, as in my case. Scraping it off AFTER will do the trick. 
Thus, my recipe is better has a few changes so use mine :)  And be sure to read the notes underneath! 

Okay, enough talk. Let's get cooking!

Pulled Pork Enchiladas 

3 1/2 pound pork butt
2 cups or 1 - 14oz can organic chicken broth (low sodium if possible)
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1Tbsp ground cumin
1Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1tsp kosher salt
1 - 10oz can RED enchilada sauce
2 - 10oz cans GREEN enchilada sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (or however much you want)
1 - 4oz can diced green chilies OR 2 jalapeños, chopped
10oz cotija cheese, crumbled
12-15, 8in flour tortillas
Grape tomatoes, halved
Cilantro, snipped

In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine pork butt, broth, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper, and salt. If you're using the jalapeños, add those as well. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving cooking liquid. Scrape off fat and, using two forks, pull meat into coarse strands.

In a large bowl combine pork, 1/2 cup of the RED enchilada sauce, 3 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid, and the 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Set aside.
In a medium bowl combine the remaining enchilada sauces, 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (discard any remaining cooking liquid), and, if using them, the diced green chile peppers. Spread about 1 cup of sauce mixture in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Divide pork mixture and 2 cups of the cheese among tortillas, placing meat and cheese near the edge of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas. Place filled tortillas, seam sides down, in the prepared baking dish (place tortillas close together); top with most of** the remaining sauce. Cover with foil; bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is softened and starts to brown slightly.

Garnish with tomatoes, cilantro, guacamole, and/or sour cream.

Hodge Podge Tips
  • I know the BHG recipe says 1 type of enchilada sauce, but I happened to have one can of red and two of green. It was such a flavorful combo and the green cuts the acidity of the red so well that it's now the permanent way I'll make these. 
  • To cut down on sodium, use fresh jalapeños instead of canned chilies and make homemade enchilada sauce.
  • BHG says 8-12 tortillas, but I still had plenty of meat, cheese, and sauce leftover to fill another 3-5. However, I'm not sure they would've fit in my baking dish anyway, so I added more sauce** to the meat and popped it in the fridge to be used for nachos at a later date.
  • I used up all the cheese on the top, fyi, because I didn't want stinky leftover cheese in my fridge.
  • Cotija is like the Mexican version of Feta cheese-- strong and slightly stinky. Be warned. If it's too strong for you, try Manchego instead.
  • Yes, BHG says you only need a 1/2 cup of sauce on the bottom-- they are LIARS! The sauce was completely absorbed by the tortillas, causing them to get crispy and stick to the pan. Use at least one cup.
  • I believe true enchiladas use corn tortillas. The flour ones are easier to roll but if you love corn, go for it!
  • When you're done rolling each enchilada there will be a lot of space on both ends where you can stuff more meat-- do it.
  • Also, I strained my cooking liquid. I didn't want soggy onions in it, plus there were extra pieces of pork that fell off and sank to the bottom so I had to retrieve those.

18 June 2012

Booking for Looks

As I pondered about the idea that Heaven is a Bookstore, I remained quite aware that I was on earth in a REAL bookstore full of scrumptious new reads I was DYING to take home. Walking into a Barnes & Noble with a credit card is extremely dangerous for me. There are so many books I want to read, so much I want to know, so many stories that need to be told!

Hence why I'm the weird chick taking pictures: I want to remember all the books that catch my eye so down the road I can look for them when I return with someone else's money gift cards (or search for them on Amazon... shhhh don't tell).  Though I have a Kindle and highly recommend the convenience and ease that comes with an eReader, it's still comforting to hold a book in your hands.

It's hard to resist a gorgeous hardcover with a colorful illustration...
... or a newly printed version of a Jane Austen classic. If I was a billionaire I'd continuously buy copies of all Austen novels and dedicate an entire floor of my 3-story mahogany library to her and her fan fiction. Don't judge.

I really wish bookstores had a designated "Jane Austen Fan Fiction" section since new books are constantly being published. It's a chore trying to find JAFF amidst the hundreds of other books in the Fiction/Literature section. But it's worth my frustrating persistence when I find a good one.

I also love books set in Ireland (like The Last Storyteller): I have a thing for Irish fiction. That's why I love Maeve Binchy-- all her books take place there since she's, you know, IRISH. So if you're weird like me and enjoy books set in the Land of Blarney, read her.

When I'm not dumping all the Fiction/Lit books on the floor trying to find the next JAFF book for my collection or an Irish love story, you can find me scouring the Young Adult Lit section as I'm also a YA junkie. These books have the BEST covers and I'm a sucker for beautiful cover art. That's what attracts my attention in the first place-- take heed book publishers!

This Kingdom Keepers series combines YA with Disneyworld, making me giddy with geeky delight! The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is the fourth in an installment of books about children with high intelligence and gifts that very bad people want to exploit. They're being protected by the Benedict Society as puzzle-filled adventures ensue. For a YA book, it's a pretty intelligent read... or I'm really dumb... either way, check it out!

Naturally, I progressed from children's books and wandered into the Romance section (why are they next to each other?!). I usually avoid Romance... which is so judgmental and wrong of me because I'd probably LOVE these books too.
I found this little beauty about a man who wakes up after a Halloween party to find he's been turned into a vampire by the beautiful woman he thought was wearing a vampire costume. 

The real question is... how do you NOT want to read that book?!

Finally, these were sitting on the Best Selling Paperbacks table and I ALMOST bought them:
Have you read the 50 Shades trilogy?! Most of my friends are and I'm overcome with curiosity. However, I was also overcome with the same curiosity about the Twilight series and those books were a big fat fail (except Eclipse). But the trilogy is $30 on the Kindle... maybe a birthday present to myself??? I think so.

16 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

**This review contains SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.**

Who doesn't love a good fairytale? Better yet, who doesn't love a good fairytale that's been turned on its head and made into a 90 minute film with three dimensional characters, interesting subplots, and gorgeous visuals?

That's exactly what you get for the first half of Snow White and the Huntsman. We're given Snow White's backstory and the tale of how her father came to marry Ravena, Charlize Theron's bitterly twisted and youth-obsessed Evil Queen. We feel the odd incestual vibe of a brother and sister eternally connected through pain and dark magic and feel the Brother's creepiness even more when he slides his hand up Snow White's dress.  We learn the Huntsman is a young widower trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol and is careless about his life. And what do we learn about Snow White? She's a nice girl trapped in a tower.

Sadly, Snow White is the least dimensional or interesting character of the entire film. While I want to blame this entirely on the one-note acting wonder that is Kristen Stewart, I'm inclined to place a bit of fault on the writing as well, especially since the second half of the movie felt like an altogether different film. It's as if the original screenwriter paused the story right when the Huntsman and Snow run into the Dwarves on their way to the Duke's castle and another writer who was told by "Hollywood" to make the ending BIGGER took over.

After that, everything happens so quickly that it's rushed and careless. Suddenly, the dwarf Gus-- who represents Dopey from the Disney version-- is killed, they run into Snow's childhood boy toy, Ravena shows up and gives her a poisoned apple, Snow's alive again, there's a battle at the castle, and Snow kills the Queen. The end. There's no motivation as to why the Queen chooses an apple other than its reminiscent of a scene at the beginning with young Snow & her "prince." How would the Queen have known about that? Is she psychic? Nothing in the film suggests that she is, but of course, no one bothered to detail her powers either.

This might be nit-picky but it made no sense how Snow was able to out run the guards, slide into a sewer drain, fall a hundred or so feet into rocky waters, manage to swim to the shore through rough waves, and ride bareback on a wild horse directly after escaping a cell she lived in for the last ten or twelve years until a minute before that all happened. Physically, she wouldn't have the endurance. Plus, she gets ONE thirty second combat lesson from the Huntsman and suddenly she's a warrior princess leading men into battle?! Don't even get me started on her motivational speech to the men-- it's worth watching just for that train wreck of a monologue. Oh, and to see Snow holding a tree branch as she's inaugurated to Queen... seriously.

The biggest frustration is the irresolution of one MAJOR plot: the potential romance between Snow White and the Huntsman. I mean, it's the frickin' title of the movie!!!

However, the film isn't all bad. Like I said, the first half is great: engaging, visual, exciting, emotional-- I was hooked. Which is why the second half was such a disappointment. I love the dwarves (with a cast of amazing actors like Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones who can blame me?) and would've loved more time with them. SW&TH is worth watching for Charlize Theron and Sam Spruell (the Evil Queen and her brother Finn) alone.  It wouldn't surprise me if producers pushed for more focus on Ravena during production since she's the most interesting and sexiest female in the film.

And ladies, can I get "hell yeah!" for the casting of Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin?! Hell yeah!

I like the adaptation of this classic fairytale, to give it a "what would that look like outside of a cartoon" vision. The interpretation was great, the execution was subpar. Overall, if you love epic fantasies you'll probably enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman, but if not, save your pennies for June 22nd's Brave, pop some popcorn at home, and rent the film when its out on DVD.

13 June 2012

Heaven is a Bookstore

While wandering through Barnes & Noble at the Americana the other day, it suddenly occurred to me that I would be perfectly happy if Heaven is a giant bookstore. And of course by "bookstore" I mean "bookpalace."

This never-ending store holds every book to ever exist (or is still being published) in every language, alive or dead, while constantly smelling like coffee and old books without the dust. Books are never out of stock or out of print, they're all free, and each one has that slightly worn, slightly "loved" charm of a book from a used bookstore. Although time is irrelevant in the Afterlife, there would be periods of daytime with rich natural sunlight flowing in through huge windows, as well as a nighttime of cozy, warm, soft lighting that never strains the eyes.

And you will always find a chair. Not just any chair, though, a big comfy chair with a blanket that could have been knitted only by your grandma, a cushy ottoman for your feet, and a little table with a lamp next to each one. Some are gathered together for book clubs or socializing in the cafe, others are next to fireplaces and windows, and still others are tucked away in hidden corners only you know about. Whatever seating you want you'll find.  For those that love reading outside, the store has beautiful grounds with any number of outdoor lounge chairs or trees for you to lay under, and the weather is always exactly what it should be.

Like any decent bookstore worth its salt, there's an excellent cafe serving the finest coffee, espresso, tea, etc. you could ever want at no charge. In my case, all the Seattle's Best caramel lattes and Starbucks iced white mochas I can drink. You can even get a glass of red wine to sip while enjoying a sexy romance novel (yes, those will be allowed: Heaven doesn't censor). The food menu ranges from homemade fresh-baked pain au chocolat to organic soups and salads to free range organic chicken or vegetable paninis. Since it's Heaven, you can order whatever you want and it'll be just the way you like it. And everything is calorie/fat/sodium/cholesterol/preservative/cruelty free.

No one actually works at the bookstore but anyone will be able to help you find a book. And the book signings... every author imaginable, from Plato to the Apostle Paul to Chaucer to Austen to Tolkien to Rowling, will have regular meet & greets. But conversations will never rise above a gentle hum, despite unending conversations and group discussions. Music will play as well-- whatever music you need to enjoy a good book or relax and sip coffee or discuss esoteric poetic themes and philosophical questions.

Our cats and dogs and other furry friends will wander around, ready to curl up in our laps and have us absentmindedly scratch their ears while we read.

Yes. Heaven is a bookstore.

10 June 2012


Here it is, my first screenplay installment! Please try to contain your excitement.

Beene is the title of a short 12pg screenplay I wrote in college for Adaptation 1. It's inspired by the short story "You Know How to Spell Elijah" by Dave Eggers. The script is such a loose adaptation that I don't really need his permission to make the film (these words actually came from Eggers after I emailed him about it-- all he wanted was a copy of the film if it ever got made... such a cool guy).

The logline is as follows... wait... you don't know what a logline is?! If you do, you have my permission to skip to the next section. Every film you've ever watched has a logline. It's a one (or at the most two) sentence summary of the movie. In extremely simple terms: it's the idea. This is not to be confused with the "tagline" of a film which is that little blurb on the movie poster that makes you more curious about the it.

Example... Brave: Change your fate.
It says nothing about the actual story, but you're definitely intrigued to see it!

Sidebar: I can't tell you how RIDICULOUSLY excited I am for this film!!! Like... pee-in-my-pants excited. Have I mentioned it's a goal of mine to work with/for Disney Pixar?! I'm sure everyone who loves movies would love to work for them, but I would LITERALLY CRY if I got the chance. Tell you what, when that happens I'm sending all of my followers a Pixar present. I'm 100% serious.

Anyway, here's my logline: After several discouraging encounters with people throughout the day, a man flips out at the airport over a family's argument about how to spell "Elijah."

My favorite part about writing this script is that while I was still in school, my professor asked if she could use it as a teaching example (no, not for "what not to do") because she really enjoyed my character descriptions and writing. It felt amazing to have my peers recognize my name in other classes because they'd read my work. Not trying to brag, I'm completely blessed to have that happen.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy Beene. It makes me laugh. As the writer, there are always bits and pieces I want to adjust, but perfectionism will destroy an artist's career so I'm throwing my script out into the Internet on its fifth draft.
Couple things: My scripts belong to me. I own the rights and have registered my work with the WGA and am seeking copyrights. Not that I think YOU'RE going to steal my work, but I need to protect myself from shady-ass people.

Also, I love CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. If parts don't make sense or you're not a fan of a character or even the story, that's OK. Just please tell me why and be cool about it, don't just comment that the script is "stupid" or "sucks." Yes, people will be downright mean in the Biz, but on my blog we play by my rules. Prison rules.
And if you love it, I'd also love to know why. It all goes toward helping me improve as a screenwriter.

As always, thanks for reading!

You can read my script here.

08 June 2012

'Smore Cookies

Whoever came up with the combination of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows should receive a Nobel Peace prize for bringing together the 3 flavors I'm sure could unite the planet.  Here they are in cookie form:

Don't you just want one...

Wipe that drool off your face.

The recipe is from Erica's Sweet Tooth (best baking blog EVER!) and I'll let you get it from there.  Please ignore the superiority of her photos over mine-- not everyone can be a dental student, amazing baker, AND excellent photographer... some of us have LIVES. 
     However, I'm not fully convinced about this recipe because there's just so much darn chocolate (gasp!). I promise you I am a woman it's just that chocolate doesn't do it for me, I love the graham cracker and marshmallows.  I attempted half the batch normal then topped the second half just with marshmallows-- the presentation left something to be desired.  When I go for it a second time I think I'd like to sprinkle a fewer amount of mini chocolate chips (or none) in the batter to preserve the graham cracker flavor.

Asian Salad

This salad is delicious, inexpensive, and easy to make as well... but it's jam packed with sodium (mmmm salt). So here's the "less sodium" version (let's keep those arteries soft people!), though I have yet to find reduced sodium Oriental flavored Ramen.  If you do please let me know.

1 bag of coleslaw
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup slivered raw almonds-- unsalted if possible
1 cup raw sunflower seeds-- unsalted if your grocery store has them... unlike my stupid store
2 pkgs Oriental flavored ramen noodles, crushed ("Hulk Smash!")

(this makes a s**t load of dressing, so I'd suggest using half or doubling the salad. Another great way to lessen the sodium? Make it crowd size so other people eat it. I might be evil.)
Both ramen noodle seasoning packets
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
5 dashes pepper (or however ever much YOU want-- take control!)

Combine and place dressing on salad. Toss. Eat. Love.

Here's how to make it an Ultimate Asian Salad:
  • Add diced chicken (about a cup or two or however much you like), dried cranberries, and a can of mandarin oranges, drained.  Maybe toss in a bit of the juice when you mix up the dressing.  
  • And if you have some extra fresh cilantro leftover from the Blackened Fish Tacos I highly suggest adding that as well.  

Blackened Fish Tacos

The best compliment I had for this dish was when my mother-in-law asked me what restaurant I bought these at. I was GLOWING with pride. Not only do I love this dish because it's delish, but it's also a 30 minute HEALTHY meal that's inexpensive.  And it's great Mexican food without the dairy (I promise-- it's possible).

1/4 cup sliced green onions with tops
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Cajun or blackened fish seasoning
2 cups broccoli slaw mix

1 pound tilapia fish fillets (found frozen and bought fresh... or freshly caught for all you outdoorsy types)
1 Tbsp Cajun or blackened fish seasoning
1 avocado, seeded and sliced
8 - 6 inch tortillas (corn or flour) warmed
Additional cilantro

     For the slaw, combine all ingredients except slaw and mix well.  Add to broccoli slaw and toss. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
     Heat pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Moisten fish fillets with water and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.  Lightly grease pan then cook fillets over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until flaky, carefully turning once.  Remove from heat and flake into bite sized pieces.
     Warm tortillas in microwave, then top with slaw mixture and fish. Top with avocado slices and sprinkle with additional cilantro.

Hodge Podge Tips:
  • Switch out the avocado with homemade guacamole then add about a Tbsp to each taco-- it's extra work but it adds a burst of flavor.  Then you can munch on the rest with chips! Oh, and don't be afraid to be heavy handed with the cilantro... I love that stuff.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

(I'm pretty sure this is the worst food picture I've ever taken and makes this soup look like death.)

Whoever invented the crockpot deserves a big hug of thanks from me and anyone else short on time and big on home cooking.  I love dumping everything into one pot, letting it cook on its own, then taking credit for making a delish dinner that's healthy to boot.

4 chicken breast halves
2 - 15 oz cans black beans, undrained
2 - 15 oz cans Mexican stewed tomatoes or Rotel tomatoes
1 cup salsa (any variety)
4 oz can chopped green chiles
14 1/2 oz can tomato sauce
Tortilla Chips
2 cups grated cheese (I like Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese)

Combine all ingredients except chips and cheese in large slow cooker.
Cover. Cook on Low for 8 hours.
Just before serving, remove chicken and shred or slice into bite-sized pieces. Stir into soup.
To serve, put a handful of chips into each individual soup bowl. Ladle soup over chips. Top with cheese.

Hodge Podge's notes:
  • If you're getting corn chips, go with Organic-- corn is better for your digestive system when organic.
  • I like to lightly crush the chips into the bowl, and add a few on top for a crunchier texture.  Also, to make it a bit creamier, I suggest a dollop of light sour cream instead of or along with shredded cheese.

Happy Eating!

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry

This simple and exotic dish has a lot of spices and is perfect for a cold night or a night you're craving curry. Did I mention it's a Cooking Light recipe? I also made this in a Dutch oven, but if you don't have one-- don't be discouraged! Just use a large pot.

2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt (I use Kosher salt)
1/2 tsp black pepper (fresh ground is best)
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (Cayenne Pepper)
1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 3 chicken breasts)
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger 
2 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1 - 14 oz can chicken broth (Low Sodium but the best is homemade broth)
1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups (1/2 inch) cubed, peeled sweet potato (about 1 potato)
3/4 canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 T fresh lemon juice

Brown Rice

Combine the first 7 ingredients.
Heat oil in large Dutch Oven (or pot with lid) over medium high heat. Add chicken to pan; saute 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.  Remove chicken from pan.  Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Increase heat to medium-high then return chicken to pan. Cook 1 minute.  Stir in ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add curry powder mixture; cook 2 minutes, stir.  Add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.  Stir in potato and chickpeas. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add peas and cook 5 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice. Discard bay leaf. Serve over rice

**Hodge Podge's notes:
  • If you don't want to spend the money on spices you think you'll never use again, check in the organic/ natural food section at the grocery store for shelves with large containers of varying spices that you can measure out into baggies.  It saves money!
  • Mix the rice in with the curry when packing up the leftovers-- that way it absorbs all the flavor.
  • I'd also recommend tossing in a can of coconut milk to moisten it up and add even more deliciousness.

07 June 2012

iPhone Photo Fun

A few weeks ago, our Sprint contract was up for renewal which meant one thing: NEW PHONES! While I enjoyed my HTC Evo (Android) phone when I first got it in 2009, lately it had been on the fritz and by "fritz" I mean calling people randomly then every time I'd hit the "home" or "back" buttons it would redial... my mom's cell... at 12:45am! Phone Fail.

Now I've got an iPhone 4S and for the most part, I love it. The storage space both in the phone and with iCloud is reason enough to have one. But I've also got an iPad and Macbook so it's nice to have fully compatible tech. Of course, the iPhone gets the fun games and some cool apps, but I miss my Zedge app that gave me great ringtones and wallpapers. I still haven't found an app that I like for that stuff. Any recommendations? Plus it's aggravating that even after I download a ringtone, I have to connect my phone to iTunes before I can use it. Yes it's extra security, but dammit! I'm lazy!

Siri-- the virtual assistant-- is awesome. I asked Siri how to get a blow job, she offered to do a web search and I said "NO!" How did she respond? "Okay... I didn't think so."  Siri has a wonderfully robotic dry sense of humor.
But my favorite part of the iPhone is the camera. I love the quality of photos even when there's a lack of light, not to mention there's a reversible camera! FINALLY! I have been waiting to have that feature for ages. It's amazing how little technology changes make life more fun. And with all this photo taking, the battery life is excellent: I can't wait to use this at Disneyland in July!!

Okay, so here's the photo fun I've been having lately:

Food at the Screenwriter Smorgasbord at The Great America Pitchfest

 Horribly blurry photo because I sat too far away BUT... the guy on the left is Rhett Reese, writer of Monsters, Inc and Zombieland... he's one cool dude

Mani/pedi for the Pitchfest (please excuse the feet pic)
Fingers: Westbourne Grove
Toes: Porchester Square
 nails inc "Neon & Nude" collection

Cooper in need of Mommy/Kitty cuddle time

Cooper sad to discover the outer ball from his toy mysteriously disappeared...


Left: wearing my kick ass star earrings that I'll probably throw away since they ALWAYS infect my ears.

Right: Playing around with the mirror doors in my please-ignore-the-mess-because-this-is-a-storage-room room. Like my new top from Lane Bryant? I dressed it up with a black blazer. (if you're new to Hodge Podge Gallery, you'll quickly realize I don't do outfit photos because I'm a walking advertisement for LB. Actually I almost didn't put this pic up but DAMMIT! I'm tired of hiding! I look cute for plus size but it's awfully boring.) For fashion AWESOMENESS, click here, here, and here.

Makeup "dead face" 
I've switched from liquid foundation to Bare Minerals, apparently powder foundation is better for oily skin. Do we like? There's nothing I can do about my "chocolate sprinkles" but everything else looks even and smooth (even without the Bare Minerals brushes that I keep telling myself I don't need...)

Also, I wanted to try a photo in natural lighting. I promise I smile LOTS in real life-- I have no choice since I'm So. Damn. Funny.

Eye shadows:
CG "Mink"
Urban Decay "Bootycall" "Snakebite" "Suspect" "YDK" (from Naked 2 palette)
Maybelline black eyeliner (smudged!)
Maybelline Great Lash and Maybelline Great Last BIG mascaras in Very Black

Dear God I need help with my eyebrows... but I'm loving my eyes with these shades.

The Red Door in Toluca Lake. There's no sign for the bar, just-- you guessed it-- a red door.

And of course we had an "Animal Style"dinner-- this is the only decent place nearby that's open after 11:30pm besides Del Taco (and my stomach can't handle fast food Mexican)

So there's a little camera love from my iPhone. If you're debating about spending the money but take TONS of videos and photos with your phone, GET AN IPHONE!

And before I forget: Follow me on Twitter if you want ridiculousness on a daily basis-- I'll follow you back :)  Also, I'm on Pinterest-- oh how I love pinning-- let's share our interests and amazing tastes with each other!