Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Grilled Veggie Meatball Wrap

My mom came up with this recipe: she bought a new George Forman grill a few weeks ago, and she's been having fun trying out new sandwiches.

1 serving vegetarian meatballs (about 6)
1 whole wheat tortilla
1/4 cup tomato/marinara sauce
1 oz string cheese

Heat the marinara sauce in a small pan. Cook the meatballs in the microwave and add to the marinara. Pull apart the string cheese and arrange in the center of the tortilla. Add the meatball on top and cover with the marinara. Roll the tortilla like a burrito and place on a warmed George Forman grill, seam-side up. Close the top and grill for about five minutes.

Use a knife and fork, because it can get messy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

New York and Dewey's Knit-a-long

Casey came over tonight to plan our upcoming New York trip. We purchased our plane tickets, made reservations at a seemingly-nice hotel, bought tickets to Coraline for almost half off, and got most of the week planned out. Coney Island! Strawberry Fields! Sardi's! We are really excited!

Also, I finished the Coraline-themed octopus/squid/kitty thing and gave it to her. I owe Casey, as the "Gryffindor Lion" I started for her last year is languishing in WIP-Hades. It turned out pretty cute!

I made the button eye out of Sculpey. It was my first time using it, and I loved how easy it was. I'm going to try a mini-version next.

Original post

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gaiman on Colbert

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Green Pea Cilantro Spread

Today's recipe is green, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I found it on Chocolate and Zucchini, an amazing foodie website.

10.5 oz. shelled green peas, frozen or fresh but not canned
1 drop cilantro essential oil for cooking, or a small bunch fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons whole almond butter
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 dash Tabasco sauce
Salt, black pepper

Steam the peas, then mix everything together in a food processor. You can add a bit of water if it's too thick. Store in the fridge, and serve on crackers or wheat crispbread.

My mods: I didn't want to shell out the $11 for a jar of almond butter, so I used peanut butter. It gave the spread a peanutty taste, which I tried to cover up by adding more of the other ingredients. I used a bit more Tabasco (I use the green sauce, which is milder than normal Tabasco) and some lime juice, in addition to more cilantro (which I LOVE, so I always over-use it anyway) and garlic (ditto). It actually made a pretty interesting spread. My roommate loved the bite from the Tabasco.

It's not my favorite thing I've ever made, but it makes a pretty decent appetizer.

Even if it does look like baby food...

Pie update: Mom loved it, but she's borderline diabetic and didn't want to keep the rest of it in the house. I took the leftovers (about 3/4) to work with me, which made my fellow teachers very happy. I did realize, though, that it needs to be refrigerated after it cools. I can't wait to bake another one!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Salon 15 March 2009: New York, New York!

Good morning, fellow Saloners! I come to you this morning with a plea for help. My friend Casey and I are planning a trip to NYC in June, and we need suggestions!

One thing that we're definitely seeing is the Coraline Broadway show - it was the whole reason for the trip in the first place. I've been to New York a few times, so I've seen the majorly touristy things. Casey, however, has never been on a plane, let alone to NY, so I want to make sure she doesn't miss anything. We're going for a little over a week, and I want to cram as much in as possible.

Other things we have tentatively planned on:
Shakespeare in the Park - Twelfth Night starring Anne Hathaway
Yankees game - possibly vs. the Mets
Central Park - including the zoo, Strawberry Fields, and Alice in Wonderland
Empire State Building
Times Square
China Town
Greenwich Village
Daily Show/Colbert Report taping - if we can get in
92Y Tribeca

My question to y'all is: If you've been to NYC before, what sights would you recommend? Do you know of any hidden gems that could be fun? And, just to make this book-related, what NYC-set books would you recommend reading before the trip?

Registering for the Peachtree

So, I did the Peachtree Road Race last year and it was amazing. I was really looking forward to doing it again this year, especially after my friend Jen (a veteran of 4 PTRR's!) told me the secret: pick up the Early Edition of the Sunday paper (which is sold on Saturday) and get the application in the mail the same day. Genius!

It would have been, had not the Atlanta Track Club decided to modernize the race with online registration. When the AJC first announced the news, there was a general outcry of displeasure and a lot of naysayers predicting server crashes, disappointed runners, and other sorts of sad things. I decided to withhold judgment until the day of reckoning...which was this morning.

I woke up bright and early at 6:45 to make sure that my computer was on and that my credit card was ready for the 7 am registration opening. There was this neat little countdown on the AJC's Peachtree page, and I eagerly watched the numbers reach 0-hour. Clicked on the registration button, and was rewarded with this:

Like, duh, Atlanta Track Club. OF COURSE you're going to be busy this morning - thousands of people are attempting to register for this race. Like a trooper, I kept reloading the page. After about 5 minutes, I got to the actual registration form. Filled it out, clicked submit, and -

I got a page full of JAVA/server errors. According to the page, the only cure was to register again, which brought me back to the busy page. Reload, reload, reload...another five minutes passed, and I got the registration form again. Filled it out again, clicked submit, and -

Right. Error page.

This went on for about 40 minutes. I kept checking the Peachtree main page at the AJC and the fan page on Facebook to see if I was the only one having problems. I wasn't.

Then, a wonderful person named Chris left a comment on the AJC page, telling us all that when we got the error message, we just needed to hit Refresh/Reload until we got a confirmation number. Dubious, I gave it a try. Actually, about 20 or so.

Lo and behold...

I have FINALLY, successfully, actually registered for this year's Peachtree. Hallelujah!

Now I just need to start training. But first? I'm going back to bed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy 3.14 Day!

It's Pi Day! Last year, I celebrated by participating in a Pi Run. I would've done it again this year, but the weather's been finicky lately and today was drizzly and rainy. So instead I decided to bake a pie!

The day wasn't my only inspiration: tomorrow is my Mom's birthday and I wanted to make something sweet for her; also, I had a recipe for a pecan and walnut pie that I really wanted to try out. The recipe came from Katie Brown Celebrates, which I won from Bethany a few months ago.

1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
4 eggs
1 (10-inch) deep-dish pie crust
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Add 1 egg and mix well. Spread this mixture into the pie crust. Combine remaining brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs with the syrup and nuts. Pour this mixture over the cream cheese layer. Bake 40-50 minutes.

This is the completed, but unbaked, pie. It's much prettier than the baked-and-cooled version, which puffed up and oozed over the sides. Good thing I had it on a baking sheet!

More Pi fun:
* a collection of pie recipes from Cake Spy
* pie songs
* Simple As 3.141592 t-shirt

How are you celebrating?

Weekly Geeks: Saturday's Quote

Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings and start wars etc...and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekly Geeks: Friday's Quote

"Some things have to be believed to be seen."
- Madeleine L'Engle, Many Waters

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Well, if she can't be Veronica Mars...

at least Kristen Bell can be A Veronica: she's currently reading the lead in a new musical based on awesome 80's movie Heathers. And Christian Campbell is reading J.D! There's no guarantee that the same actors doing the reading will tour with the musical (if it happens), but it would be so boss if they did. This musical has the potential to be completely amazing. From the article:
The film offered many over-top-moments as well as choice lines, something Fickman is eager to bring out musically.

" 'I love my dead gay son," Fickman quoted. "If you can get that into a song, then that is just perfect."
Indeed. Other quotes from the movie I'd love to hear set to music:
"Well, f*ck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Theresa? "
"Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?"

Man, now I really want to watch it. Time to go dig through the VHS pile...

Weekly Geeks: Thursday's Quote

Today's quote comes from my favorite Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing:
DON PEDRO: And to be merry best becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.
BEATRICE: No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weekly Geeks: Wednesday's Quote

I have never looked to religion for comfort - belief is just not in my genes. But reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking - childishly simple and dauntingly complex, incantatory and comforting - I thought this was what prayer must feel like. Sustenance bound up with anticipation and want. Reading MtAoFC was like reading pornographic Bible verses.
- Julie Powell, Julie and Julia

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Quick Banana Nut Bread

This recipe comes from Instructables. I've made it several times - whenever I have bananas about to go bad, I stick them in the freezer to save for later.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 package Jell-O Instant Banana Cream Pudding & Pie Filling
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
4 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans (I used some leftover crushed hazelnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, then pour into two large greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife/uncooked piece of spaghetti inserted into the center comes out clean. Et voila! Very simple, and very yummy.

Weekly Geeks: Tuesday's Quote

Today's quote comes from Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons:
Laurie Juspeczyk: Hey, you remember that guy? The one who pretended to be a supervillain so he could get beaten up?
Dan Dreiberg: Oh, You mean Captain Carnage. Ha ha ha! He was one for the books.
Laurie: You're telling me! I remember, I caught him coming out of this jeweller's. I didn't know what his racket was. I start hitting him and I think "Jeez! He's breathing funny! Does he have asthma?
Dan: Ha Ha Ha. He tried that with me, only I'd heard about him, so I just walked away. He follows me down the street - broad daylight, right? He's saying "PUNISH me!" I'm saying "No! Get lost!"
Laurie: Ha Ha Ha. What ever happened to him?
Dan: Well, he pulled it on Rorschach, and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft.
Laurie: PHAAA HA HA HA! Oh, God, I'm sorry, that isn't funny, Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
Dan: Ha Ha Ha! No, I guess it's not...
Laurie: Ahuh. Ahuhuhuh...Jeez, y'know, that felt Good. There don't seem to be that many laughs around these days.
Dan: Well, what do you expect? The Comedian is Dead.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Movie Reviews

Like millions of other people this weekend, I attended the opening night of the Watchmen movie. As a fan of the graphic novel, I have been waiting for this for FOREVER, and I was not disappointed. Quick synopsis of the movie, for anyone who's been living under a rock:
Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity... but who is watching the Watchmen? - from imdb
There's a lot going on in the graphic novel, and the movie managed to capture almost everything perfectly. There were a few changes (the ending was a big one, but I liked it), but the majority of the story translates really well. I was especially happy with the characters. Rorschach, my personal favorite, is just amazingly deranged, and Dan/Nite Owl is lovably shlubby. Other things I liked: the music (Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'," Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," and Nena's "99 Luftballons"), the opening title sequence, and Bubastis. The only thing I didn't really like is the fight sequences. One of the most amazing things about these characters is that they don't have superpowers - they just work out a lot and have no fear. In the movie, it seemed like they have speed and super-strength, which confused my movie-going friends who hadn't read the comic yet. But that was a minor quibble, really, when compared with the rest of the movie. It's a bit long (almost 3 hours), but worth every second. I can't wait for the DVD to come out, because I know I missed a bunch of stuff in the background (I caught the graffiti welcoming Vietnam as the 51st state, but I'm sure there was more) and I'm looking forward to watching the movie again.

Another movie that I saw recently and really enjoyed was Coraline. I've been meaning to write this review for forever. I had already planned on seeing the movie just because it looked amazing, but watching and reviewing it is part of my Dream King Challenge. Synopsis from the back of the book:
When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own...except that it's different. It's a marvelous adventure until Coraline discovers that there's also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to keep her forever.

Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.
Coraline is a visually stunning movie. It was filmed using stop-motion animation and 3D, and everything (including the tiny, hand-knitted sweaters!) was created by hand. It remains (mostly) faithful to the Gaiman book that it's based on: Coraline is feisty and the Other Mother is appropriately creepy. The biggest change (at least, the one that bothered me the most) is the introduction of Wybie, Coraline's neighbor in her new house. He's an okay guy, and I can't really say why I disliked him without giving away the ending. But that minor detail aside, this is an amazing movie. I loved the 3D, especially when Coraline opens the doorway to the Other house. The other characters (mother, father, cat, and crazy neighbors) are all great. It's a semi-scary movie, but I'm sure even little kids would be delighted by it. I found it completely charming, and highly recommend it.

Weekly Geeks: Monday's Quote

"The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!"
- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Review: Rock Bottom

Title: Rock Bottom
Author: Michael Shilling
Genre: Fiction
Published: 09 January 2009
Pages: 400
Rating: 8 / 10
Challenges: N/A, but I did receive it through the LIbraryThing ER Program
Awards: none

Synopsis: (from the back cover)
Once upon a time, Blood Orphans were the next big thing. They had a fat recording contract, the swagger of the gods, and cheekbones that could cut glass. They were the darlings of the LA music scene. They were locked and loaded for rock-and-roll greatness.

And then everything...went...wrong. The singer became a born-again Buddhist who preached from the stage. The bass player's raging eczema turned his hands into a pulpy mess. The drummer, a sex addict tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, was losing his grip on reality. And the guitar player - the only talented one - was a doormat cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates.

Set in Amsterdam on the last day of Blood Orphans' final tour, this novel tells the raucous story of a band - and their heroically coked-out female manager - trying to get in one last shot at fame's elusive bull's-eye. Rock Bottom is a pitch-black comedy, a wild ride on the crazy train of outrageous misfortune, and a bighearted paean to the power of dreams. It heralds the debut of a fierce new voice in American fiction.
My Review: Full disclosure: I almost stopped reading this book in the first chapter. See, the first few pages are narrated by the bassist (the one with eczema) and the first chapter is an obscenity-laden quest for him to find some relief from his itching hands. It's really gross, and I immediately disliked the guy. Luckily for me, the narrative shifts several times in this novel (all the guys in the band get a turn to tell their side of the story, as does Joey, the manager), so I didn't have to deal with him for very long.

The novel takes place over the course of a day in Amsterdam. It's Blood Orphans last show, although not all of them realize it yet. They've been dropped from their label, a major magazine has described them as racist, and they're basically seen as a joke. As each band member takes his turn as narrator, we learn how the band got to where it is today. We also see a lot of fighting (mostly with each other, although there is an assault on a local protester - but he really had it coming), a little romance (true love, for real) and, of course, sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. It's an interesting story, and I really liked the way that Shilling shifted the narration. It made me - well, not sympathize, exactly, but definitely allowed me to understand and appreciate what the characters had gone through in the past and how that shaped their present actions. None of them are terribly likable, except for maybe Adam, the talented and beaten-down guitarist. He's the one I was really rooting for, but I ended the novel feeling more like Darlo (the sex-crazed drummer with Daddy issues) was the hero.

All in all, it's a pretty good book. By the time I got to the last 100 pages, I was reading into the wee hours of the night just to get finished. I've always been a little fascinated by the music industry, so this was a nice (fictional) peek into that world, and I enjoyed reading about the characters, even if I didn't like them much. Does that make sense? Either way, the characters make this book. Shilling did an excellent job of giving each an individual voice. They were five completely different personalities, and they all came alive for me while I was reading. I wouldn't recommend it for the faint of heart, but I think it's a great book.

Other stuff: There's a Blood Orphans website, where you can read more about the band and the book and hear music based on the lyrics in the novel. It's actually pretty good!

Shilling's next novel is set in Victorian England, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Weekly Geeks: A Quote A Day

This week's Weekly Geeks challenge is:
You may want to come up with a theme, such as favorite passages from books, author quotes, political quotes, quotes about books or reading, humorous quotes, whatever. Or you may not want a theme at all; maybe you just want to gather up seven assorted quotes that appeal to you. You may want to start each of your posts of the week with a quote, or you may want to give quotes posts of their own in addition to your regular posts. It’s all up to you!

Signing Mr Linky this week means you’re committing to posting a quote each day for a full week, starting on the day you sign up. You can postdate your quote posts so they appear automatically if you can’t get to your blog each day.
The last time we did this as a WG challenge, I only managed to post three. This time, thanks to the power of Blogger's auto-post function (which is acting up for me recently; it didn't post this week's Recipe Tuesday, for example), I hope to have 7 days of quotey goodness.

First up, this little gem from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird:

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

Some people might say that comparing reading to breathing is a little extreme. I, however, am not one of those people.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mini-Review: The Taffy Sinclair Series

Did anyone else read the Taffy Sinclair books when they were in elementary school? I started thinking about them again after reading a few reviews on The Dairi Burger, one of my favorite book blogs. There are eleven books in total:

1. The Against Taffy Sinclair Club
2. Taffy Strikes Again*
3. Taffy Sinclair, Queen of the Soaps*
4. Blackmailed by Taffy Sinclair*
5. Taffy Sinclair and the Romance Machine Disaster*
6. Taffy Sinclair and the Melanie Makeover
7. Taffy Sinclair and the Secret Admirer Epidemic*
8. Taffy Sinclair- Baby Ashley- and Me*
9. The Truth About Taffy Sinclair*
10. Taffy Sinclair Goes to Hollywood
11. Nobody Likes Taffy Sinclair

and I managed to find seven (*) of them at this awesome used book store I discovered a few months ago. Reading them again was like going back in time.

The premise: Jana Morgan, Beth Barry, Christie Winchell, Katie Shannon, and Melanie Edwards are all best friends, and they all hate Taffy Sinclair, the prettiest and snobbiest girl in their fifth grade class. And...that's about all you need to know. The titles pretty much speak for themselves, I think, and you can probably imagine the sorts of shenanigans junior high kids in the 80's can get up to.

I loved this series as a kid, and reading it now, I can't imagine why. Jana, the narrator, is annoying and whiny. Her friends are all one-dimensional: Beth is loud and dramatic, Christie is the goody-two-shoes principal's daughter, Katie is the liberal feminist, and Melanie is the quiet fat girl. Seriously, more time is spent talking about her weight than anything else about her. It was a little depressing. On the other hand, Taffy is just awesome. I felt more sympathy for her than anyone else in these books (even before The Truth About Taffy Sinclair, which is her side of the story), and I thought she was more complex than the other characters.

Overall, it's not the greatest series in the world, but it's a fun, quick read. I read these for the YA Reading Challenge, and I'm tempted to count them all as one book because they're so short. I'm still on the lookout for the other in the series.

Dewey's Knit-A-Long Update

I finished one of the projects I started in honor of Dewey, and now I'm working on another.

First up, I finished the shawl I was making for my mom. Here's the completed product, modeled by my lovely roommate Tiff:

I really liked the pattern on this one, because it was so unusual. Mom's birthday is March 15th, and this is one of her gifts from me. She asked for a shawl after I made her a scarf for Christmas, so I think she'll like it. If I have the time, I'm going to try to make a pin or broach to go with it.

And for my next project: Did anyone else watching the Coraline movie fall absolutely in love with that little octopus/kitty/squid toy in her "other" bedroom? Because I did, and I immediately began thinking of ways to make one for myself. Luckily, so did another crafty blogger, and she posted her pattern here. This is what I've got so far:

Isn't it cute? I mean, considering it's only 3/4 finished and all...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

It's like my dreams came true!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have SNOW!
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Sunday Salon 01 March 2009: Challenge Updates

For this week's Sunday Salon, I decided to update the various challenges that I'm working on. It seemed like a nice way to wrap up February.

1. The 1% Well-Read Challenge ended yesterday. I read 5 out of 10 books (and 1/2 of The Last Temptation of Christ) and posted 4 reviews. I wanted to do better with this one, but time got away from me. Michelle's hosting (Another) 1% Well-Read Challenge, but I don't think I'm going to sign up, just because I have so many other challenges for the year that I'm already behind on.

2. Book Awards II Challenge ends June 1. So far, I've read 5 out of 10 books and posted 3 reviews.

3. 100 Shots of Short is a perpetual challenge, but I set a personal goal to finish by the end of the year. So far, I've read 8 stories and posted 2 reviews.

4. The Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge ends March 31. So far, I've read 0 out of 3 books. Eep!

5. The YA Book Challenge ends December 31. I've read 14 out of 12 books (yay!) and posted 0 reviews (boo!).

6. The A-Z Reading Challenge ends December 31. I've read a bunch of books, but haven't updated my reading table for this challenge.

7. The Dewey's Books Reading Challenge ends December 31. I haven't read any of the books, but I have been participating in the mini-challenges.

8. The Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge ends December 31. I have read one book for this challenge and posted 0 reviews.

9. The World Citizen Challenge ends December 31. I'm currently reading one book for this challenge.

10. The Graphic Novels Challenge ends December 31. I have read 2 books for this challenge and posted 1 review.

11. The Winter Reading Challenge ends March 20. I've read way more books during this time period than I planned to, but I haven't reviewed them all.

12. The Science Book Challenge ends December 31. I'm currently reading 1 book for this challenge.

13. The Diversity Rocks! Challenge ends whenever I finish my other challenges. So far, none of my books have been very diverse. :(

14. The Dream King Challenge ends December 31. My own challenge, and I've barely done anything for it! I did see a movie (Coraline) but have yet to review it. Sigh...

I'm also working on the Blog Improvement Project, but don't get me started on how far behind I am on it. And as for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience, well, let's just say that these have not been the best of months for me to be doing non-school-related reading. But y'all just wait til this summer, when I'll have no papers to grade or lessons to plan - full-on read-fest, here I come! In about 3 months...