26 February 2013

2013 Oscars Red Carpet

The Oscars, as the Academy now permits we can call it even though we've called it that for years (take that, "Academy Awards!"), aired Sunday night and since most of us have no say in who goes home with a little gold statue, you know what that means.......  It's time to judge people we don't know and will probably never meet based solely on what they're wearing!!! 

So for me it's just like any other day.

Before you start asking what I thought of the show-- I didn't watch it. No channels :(  You're all invited to my pity party after the blog! 
I'm hoping to catch up on clips, performances, and speeches after writing this... but I may play solitaire instead. And being the hypocrite I am living near Hollywood and submitting spec scripts to writing programs at studios, I literally saw ONE of the films nominated: Brave. Here's what I thought of it.

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way: Jennifer Lawrence.
I mean, duh. She's the favorite, reaching the top of many "Best" lists and I'm not going to fight about it.  Who would argue with a soft pink puffy cotton candy dress with a pattern resembling Cottonelle Ultra

Oscar Fashion was all over the place this year, a refreshing change from the snoozefest at the Golden Globes. I saw quite a bit of futuristic sequins, shoulder pads & sleeves, pale on pale, and a few poor souls that just didn't give a sh*t.

Pale on Pale
You can't see where the dress ends and the actress begins.

Remember when Amy Adams used to wear color?

My eyes hurt looking at these pictures. Seriously.

Amanda Seyfried looks delicate if not a little breakable due to her slight frame and lacy-ish dress. However, Amy has a more dramatic silhouette despite wearing a dress resembling that Sunday school art project where you make flowers out of glue, tissue paper, and the eraser end of a pencil. Best Dressed.

Worst Dressed: Anne Hathaway paired a chunky choker with a high neckline, you can see every crease, and the darts are giving her false nipples.

Is this an awards show or a Sci-Fi movie?
Dresses from The Future.

Naomi Watts

Nicole Kidman ~ Stacey Keibler

Worst Dressed: Kudos to Nicole Kidman for getting her plastic surgery face under control, but her dress has SWIRLS on it. And I'm pretty sure the detail on her abdomen is Batman's belt (which, if I'm being honest, should put her in "Best Dressed").

Best Dressed: Naomi Watts because duh. She looks incredible and I almost gave her "Best Dressed" overall because it's a unique cut.

Shoulder Pads

Jane Fonda looks like she stepped out of the 80's-- a classy version of the 80's that's no excuse for having a puckered seam up the front of her dress. I can't believe I'm going to say this: Halle Berry pulls off shoulders pads. Congrats, girlfriend.


Jennifer Hudson ~ Marcia Gay Harden

Sally Field

Sleeves are finicky things because even an inch can make a difference. Despite the scaly dress, Jennifer Hudson's slightly off the wrist sleeve adds length to her arms while Sally Field's hands appear abnormally large thanks to hers (though not even a couple inches off the sleeves could save that dress).  Never mind Marcia Gay Harden's arm length, what about the arm width? The detail is terrible. Lose the sleeves altogether and you've got a great dress. Maybe add a wrap if you're feeling saucy.

Dapper Dudes
Because men in tuxes are sexy.

Chris Evans ~ Chris Pines

Christoph Waltz & Bradley Cooper ~ Jean Dujardin 

Are you a bow or skinny tie gal/guy? I love me a skinny tie but nothing could make these handsome gentlemen look bad.
Best Dressed: Jean Dujardin because I'm all about a Silver Fox.


Melissa McCarthy ~ Octavia Spencer

Adele ~ Queen Latifah

As I stare at Melissa McCarthy I wonder where Stacy and Clinton from "What Were They Thinking" are when you need them. Nothing.... NOTHING is right about it. In fact, I'm confident someone took a gray jersey sheet, draped, pinned, and hemmed it, glued on a few details and called it a dress. And whoever did it decided to wrap and pleat the fabric around the biggest part of her belly!  As a plus size woman with a large abdomen, I understand the limits and frustrations just trying to dress normally, let alone for the Oscars, but come on! At least wear black. And don't poof your hair. Worst Dressed, no question.

Best Dressed: Queen Latifah for elegance, class, and dressing for her body. Fabulous.

"I Don't Give A Sh*t"
And they don't.

Renee Zellweger

Helena Bonham Carter ~ Kristen Stewart

I realize Renee Zellweger's dress is cut well for her body in spite of the cheap looking fabric, but I'm pretty sure I wore my hair the same way on days I knew I wouldn't leave the house. Yet it can't compare to the rat's nest living-- literally-- on Helena Bonham Carter's head, a fitting style for her "I  hate the Red Carpet and want everyone to know it" dress. We get it, Helena, you're above the shallow practice of parading your beauty for all the world to admire or criticize. If that's how she feels, fine, but then opt out of it.

And Kristen. Pretty sure we all know she's uncomfortable about public admiration but that's no excuse to wear an ill-fitting gown that's totally wrong for her figure and coloring. Worst Dressed.

Best Dressed goes to Helena for that epic expression on her face.

I'd like to thank...

Jessica Chastain for her incredible recovery from that blue monstrosity she wore to the Globes.

Catherine Zeta-Jones for being Welsh and still making that dress exotic.

Jennifer Aniston for haunting me with that redundant strapless red A-line gown we saw Jennifer Lawrence and Zooey Deschanel wearing at the Globes
(I swear it's the same dress and these women just pass it around)

Helen Hunt for keeping the phrase "You get what you pay for" alive and well. The money must have gone to her hair and makeup because those look fantastic.

Kerry Washington for her continuous Fashion near misses. She's beautiful but she never quite makes the mark.

Charlize Theron for the Red Carpet "white" moment. Classy.

Olivia Munn for the "wrapped comforter" look. It's as if the red skirt is slowly consuming her slight frame.

My apologies if this post, like the Oscars, also dragged on way too long, but we've reached the conclusion. Once again, I chose interesting over trendy. Gowns and dresses that hold my attention for the right reasons will be considered first.

Without further delay............

Best Dressed
Zoe Saldana

I realize the dress isn't perfect: there's too much going on with the bodice. However, the silhouette is gorgeous, white is amazing on Zoe's skin, and the train grabs your attention. Even with the top half, there's so much potential: remove the belt and bow or just the belt. Make the feathery bust plain, take off the bow, and add a dark gray belt... or no belt at all. Not to mention her hair and less-is-more accessories complete the ensemble.

Worst Dressed
Brandi Glanville

There's sexy, there's classy, and then there's this dress. With a train resembling sheep's wool. Toss on a fake tan, large red lip, and glitter platforms and Brandi-With-An-I Glanville has achieved all the (negative) attention a Real Housewife from Beverly Hills could ever want.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to all of the beautiful ladies who suffer in Spanx and sky high heels, skip eating the week before the red carpet, and smile for hours while being blinded by camera flashes.

Let me ask YOU: did you enjoy the Oscars? How about the fashions?? I love comments and will respond so post away!

Thanks to Yahoo! and The Hollywood Reporter for the photos. You're rock stars.

22 February 2013

Primal Fudge and Accidental Banana Bites

It would be easy to go all "dramatic" on ya and say fudge is "the best thing ever," but let's be serious: there are plenty of things better than fudge. Love, Disney, a Burberry bag, sex. All better than fudge. 

However, fudge makes the things that are better... better. Does that make sense? Probably not so let's look at the numbers.

Love + Fudge = better
Disney + Fudge = better
Burberry + Fudge = better
Sex + Fudge = XXX

See what I mean? Math makes the world go round. Only... real, sugar packed fudge hurts my teeth and my waistline. Fortunately, I found this super easy Primal Fudge recipe just chillin' out on Pinterest and thought I'd give it a try since I had the ingredients.

I used natural peanut butter instead of almond maybe because I had 3 different open jars of it in the apartment.... don't judge.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Let it be known this was my second attempt at making the fudge. The first time I got a bit... arrogant and thought I wouldn't need muffin papers and scooped the soft chocolate into my mini-muffin tin to make baby primal fudge "cups." Not only did they all fall apart, but the tin was also a pain in the ass to clean.  I'm talking 10 minutes standing over a sink full of dark brown water. Ew.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: learn from me.

The second time around I used an 8x8 pan lined with wax paper. I spread the chocolate evenly, froze it for 10 minutes then cut a bunch of uneven rectangular pieces. I think the next time I make this (and there will be a million more "next times"), I'll precut pieces by using a knife in the soft fudge. 

During my first attempt, I had a bunch of leftover soft chocolate. Feeling creative-- and a little sassy-- I cut 2 bananas into big chunks and used a toothpick to coat them in the fudge. Then I covered them in shredded coconut I'd bought on one of my more whimsical days and created frozen peanut butter chocolate coconut banana bites. (Ideas for a shorter name are welcome)

If you love the unbeatable combo of peanut butter, chocolate, and banana make a double batch of the fudge, pick up a bunch of bananas, and go crazy. If you use almond, cashew, or especially hazelnut butter, might I suggest trying it out on strawberries?

This is such a versatile, superbly easy little fudge recipe that even if you're not doing the Paleo thing, I promise you and your kids will love love love it. The best part? There's no "cooking" required. Now go satisfy your chocolate craving!

Primal Fudge

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup smooth nut butter 
1/4 raw honey or high quality maple syrup (I used Archer Farms Grade A)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I used organic)

Melt the coconut oil. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Pour into paper-lined muffin tin cups, silicon muffin cups, or spread in a paper-lined 8x8 pan. If using muffin tins, fill each cup 1/2-inch full. If using a pan, trace squares in the chocolate for easier cutting. 

Chill for 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes. When firm, remove and cut if necessary. Store in air tight container in the fridge or freezer.

For the Banana Chunks

After making the fudge, cut bananas* into 1 inch pieces. Using a toothpick (or fork if you don't have any), roll each chunk in chocolate mixture until coated. Then cover each piece with shredded coconut** and place on a baking pan or dish lined with wax paper.

Once all the pieces are finished, place in freeze for 10-20 minutes until hardened. Store in an air tight container in the freezer ONLY. 

* I used 2 bananas for about half the batch, so for a whole batch you'll need 4-6.

**If you don't like or have an allergy to coconut, you can leave the banana pieces plain OR add a chopped nut of your choice for a little crunch. The frozen bananas at fairs have peanuts.

Thanks to Practical Paleo for sharing this recipe! For more amazing whole food recipes and how to shop Paleo at commercial grocers, check out her blog here.

20 February 2013

Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs and Sweet & Savory Potatoes

For the safety of myself, my husband, the cats, and all of Los Angeles, it's best if I keep cooking as simple as possible. Not only will I not accidentally blow us up, there's also a good chance I won't have an(other) emotional breakdown about being a culinary failure.

I have Perfectionist issues.

Fortunately, Practical Paleo takes into account that even though some of us want to be healthy, some of us should also spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.  And since I'm a Chicken Whisperer, these mustard glazed chicken thighs just. made. sense.

Since I apparently shop in The Twilight Zone, the grocer didn't have bone-in/skin-on thighs so I settled for meat only chicken thighs. If you also shop in another dimension, shorten the cooking time and keep an eye (maybe two) on the meat.

Living dangerously, I decided to cook sweet & savory potatoes as a side dish:

It's a good thing these are delicious since I ate them for the next 3 days.

The mustard glaze would also go great on white fish, pork, and a whole roasting chicken, plus you can experiment with various mustards to change the flavor while the sweet potatoes-- since they require cinnamon-- would be great with breakfast or dinner. Diversity is key, my friends.

Seriously, one of the best dishes I've made.

Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs

12 bone in/skin on chicken thighs*
1/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil
2 Tbsp gluten-free mustard (or reg if you don't have a preference)
Black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried sage

Preheat ove to 425 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, combine melted butter, mustard, black pepper, sage, and salt. Place thighs on a baking sheet or oven safe dish, and brush the mixture evenly over each one. 

Bake for 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the center of the chicken thighs.

*You can also use bone-in/skin-on chicken breasts

Sweet & Savory Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp duck or bacon fat, melted, or coconut oil (I used coconut oil)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1 inch pieces. In a medium sized mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato pieces with your fat of choice, coating them evenly.

In a small mixing bowl, combine spices. Add spice blend to the sweet potatoes and toss again to spread spices evenly. Place potatoes evenly on baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

12 February 2013

Long Weekend

While I'm sure you've all been missing me to no end and your lives have completely stopped awaiting my next post, I assure you my absence wasn't intentional. I'd hoped to squeeze a few blogs into this past weekend, as well as clean, write, job hunt, exercise, grocery shop, and take down the Christmas decorations (in this household Christmas lasts until February).

None of that happened this weekend.

Instead, little Cooper got sick and had to spend Saturday and Sunday in the hospital.

Can you blame me for being a wreck until Sunday night?!

Let me explain what happened... 

Friday went along like every other day, but I started to notice Cooper licking his crotch every five minutes. The only reason it stood out is that Michael and I will make jokes when the cats plop down in front of us and start cleaning their balls.
Since I'm home A LOT (ah unemployment), Niko and Cooper's behaviors are more pronounced so I know when something is wrong. Not sure if it was just my imagination, I paid close attention to his litter box habits: he was going much more frequently than normal.

In male cats, that's a good indication of Urine Crystals.

Before you express your amazement at my vast knowledge of animal behaviors and veterinary diagnosis, you should know that.... Niko had them 2 years ago. Everything else is observation and guess work. Concerned, I checked Cooper's backside and a few drops of urine came out. In fact, every time he sat to clean himself, urine dribbled on whatever surface he chose to do that act at the time. So I was observing his urinary habits, cleaning up urine, and watching Cooper become more withdrawn and unable to eat & drink-- ALL NIGHT.

Urine crystals can occur in both males and females, but become a problem in male cats because of their anatomy: the urethra is so tiny that it blocks easily when a boy cat develops crystals and/or stones in their bladder. If a block goes unchecked, the bladder will fill with urine, the kidneys will shut down (so as not to produce anymore urine), and in worst case scenarios the bladder will burst.  Fortunately we caught this quickly enough before the last two issues could happen.

Telltale signs include:
  • Blood in the urine-- usually quite a lot of blood (Niko had that)
  • Cleaning the crotch area frequently
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Stops eating & drinking
  • Little to no urine comes out
  • Urinating outside the litter box (which is usually your cat's way of trying to signal something is wrong)
Other than the blood, everything else happened to Cooper. Our vet didn't open until 8am Saturday and I didn't feel Cooper needed to be rushed to the ER since Niko's experience hadn't been life threatening. However, as the early morning hours progressed, less and less urine was coming out meaning the block was getting stronger.

Note to pet owners: If your animal is getting little to no urine out, IT IS AN EMERGENCY.

Arriving at the vet without an appointment, I thought I'd step on some toes, maybe even need to leave and come back, but they immediately sent an assistant out to examine Cooper. The vet returned moments later to express his concern that Cooper's bladder was indeed large, hard, and he needed to have the urine removed. He was also concerned Cooper is an early and chronic blocker.

Causes of Urine Crystals include:
  • High levels of magnesium in cat food, especially dry (as told to me by Niko's former vet)
  • Chronic Inflammatory Disease in some male cats
  • High pH levels in urine

And so I waited while they did tests: blood, urine culture (still waiting on those results), and an ultrasound. They gave Cooper a shot of pain meds that lasts for 3 days (why don't people have those?!) because UCs are not only uncomfortable but downright painful. The vet was hoping Cooper would relax enough and pee on his own-- unfortunately he didn't. Therefore, he was sedated and a catheter was inserted to flush everything out, and they added an IV for good measure.

Because our vet isn't open Sundays, we had to then drive Cooper to the overnight emergency animal hospital in Eagle Rock Saturday afternoon and leave him until the doctors were confident Cooper could urinate on his own. Don't misunderstand-- I'm glad Cooper had somewhere to go for 24 hour care-- but it was damned inconvenient since our animal hospital is across the street! :)

At this point I was BEYOND exhausted-- I hadn't slept since Friday morning-- overwhelmed with the expense, annoyed the doctors kept leaving me alone to let me decide if the care Cooper required is something I wanted to pay for (the alternative being we euthanize him-- she types with tears in her eyes and a knot in her stomach), and I was scared for Cooper.

You see, the extreme of the chronic inflammatory disease is medication for the rest of Cooper's life and a surgery to have the penis removed (YIKES!). This wasn't something I was sure we could afford: would we need to give him up? could we sign up for a payment plan? would I need to call all of my family and friends for donations? would we really need to put him down? Ugly thoughts, I know, but I want to be honest with you. Those questions raced through my tired brain for a brief moment.

Then I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and decided not to worry about issues out of my control. We would cross those metaphorical bridges when we got to them. At that point everything was in God's hands and the only thing I could do was trust Him, the professionals, and go to sleep.

Thirteen hours later I awoke Sunday morning but had to wait until after 4pm for news of Cooper. I distracted myself with video games, updating family on Cooper's status, and grabbing some food. At 8pm Sunday evening I raced (within speed limits of course) over to the hospital to my two year old fur baby. His crotch was shaved, he had a purple bandage and bloody fur where the IV was taken out, and his stomach smelled of urine, but none of that mattered: Cooper was HOME.

Currently, both Niko and Cooper are sleeping. Niko has stopped hissing at his brother: in a multi-cat household, if one returns from the vet, the other(s) will be a bit snippy as the sick cat will smell like an animal hospital. So far, it appears Cooper does NOT have a chronic urine crystal problem (Hallelujah!) but I'll know full test results tomorrow.

Things still need to change, though. According to my vet, Blue Buffalo dry cat food (what our cats were eating) has a reputation of causing crystals because it raises the pH levels of urine. He recommended an all wet food (or mostly wet food) diet for the cats either with the prescription Science Diet cans or a brand we know and trust. FYI: Purina is the WORST.

Fortunately Niko and Cooper love Tiki Cat and Weruva brands so we'll be starting them off on preservative free wet food manufactured at human food standards-- literally, I could eat this food. I still want to incorporate a dry food and had friends recommend the grain-free Taste of the Wild or Orijen. There is also the raw food option-- which I love-- but I'm not sure it's in the budget just yet. These other brands aren't cheap by any means, but still a bit easier to stretch than the raw food brands.

So that's my Tale of the Long Weekend. Having animal companions requires expense, commitment, and sacrifice, but when you're lying in bed with the warmth of two furry little bodies curled up on your legs and they greet you in the morning demanding food and attention, it's all worth it.

Have you experienced serious medical issues with your animals? Are you a holistic pet owner? Any healthy cat food recommendations?

06 February 2013

Cumin Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Veggies

I never know what to do with coriander-- it's not a common spice in every day cooking (for me, anyway). When I tried an Indian recipe several months ago, I had to purchase a bottle of it, so ever since then I keep my eyes open for more ways to use it.

By chance, I opened my paleo cookbook simply to find a pork tenderloin baking time and stumbled upon this recipe. Weirdly, I had all the ingredients excluding the parsnips for which I substituted another root vegetable: carrots. Isn't it colorful?!

While this is technically a paleo recipe, it's just good no matter what health regime you follow (provided you eat meat). And even with chopping the veggies, it's pretty quick to throw together.

Cumin Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Veggies

2 onions, sliced
4 carrots, cut into sticks
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 large orange, peeled & segmented
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 pork tenderloins
2 Tbsp bacon fat (or other cooking fat-- I used butter)
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
Black Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl combine cumin, coriander, garlic power, salt, and pepper. Using paper towels, pat down the tenderloins 'til dry and apply spice blend generously to create a crust. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear pork on all sides for about 2 minutes per side.

Place vegetables and fruit on the bottom of a large roasting dish, topped with the tenderloins. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145 degrees. If you need to continue to roast the produce until they are soft, remove the pork and roast for another 10-15 minutes until soft.

Slice on the bias and serve over the veggies.