Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Things.... of 2009

It's Christmas time, and so I'd like to give you a gift. Cuz Christmas isn't all about receiving, you know. So, here goes, my favorite things of 2009:

10. Hunt for the Worst Movie of all time. Every Monday, Gabe posts a new review of a movie that has been suggested to be the worst ever. His reviews are witty, hysterical and brutally honest. Even better? I think I've seen most of the movies he reviews...

9. My favorite San Diego bar/restaurant. It's funky and different, and I have yet to be disappointed by a dish or drink.

8. Etsy. This site is fantastic if you like one-of-a-kind pieces. I love the jewelry and bags, but they also have great men's items like cufflinks, ties, etc.

7. My very own tomato sauce recipe. I use this for Chicken Parmesan, Sausage Pasta, etc. It's the perfect blend of tomato and spices.

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 shallot
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. Italian herbs
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. bay leaves
Chop garlic and shallot. Saute in olive oil. Add crushed tomatoes and spices, keep on low heat until served.)

6. This song, by Wakey!Wakey! Click on and listen to the track titled "Brooklyn." It's gorgeous.

5. My favorite Chocolate Cake recipe. I get asked for this recipe every time I make it. Even my mother-in-law was impressed by it and asked me for it!

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small box Jello instant chocolate pudding mix—not the sugar or fat free kind
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a VERY large bowl (4 qt), mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake pan of choice. For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the devil’s food cake box as a guide and usually add 10 minutes to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 minutes after that. :) It usually takes around 45 minutes for two, 9-inch pie pans.
I use the frosting recipe on the powdered sugar box to top off this baby. You can't go wrong.)

4. Owl City's "Ocean Eyes" CD. Every song on this album is good. I think I've listed to it 50 times already.

3. My favorite bottle of wine. If you're a red wine fan, you should try this. Ramey Wine Cellars produces an amazing claret, and it so happens to be my favorite wine. The 2005 is all gone, but the 2006 is supposed to be excellent as well.

2. The Pioneer Woman. She is my blogging and culinary inspiration. I wish I had her dedication and photo talents, so instead I follow her blog, and you should too.

1. You will thank me for this one. It's like FML, but for people with a sense of humor. It updates frequently and always gives me a good laugh.

So that's it. Ten of my favorite things that I've discovered this year. Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wear Sunscreen

My parting gift to you, over the Thanksgiving holiday.

This piece was presented as Kurt Vonnegut's commencement address at MIT in 1997. It's great stuff, but apparently it wasn't written or delivered by Vonnegut. It's still a beautiful piece...

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Review: The Twilight Series

I just finished, well, started and finished, the Twilight series over the weekend. I've been sick, so I've had some extra time on my hands.

As a literature minor, I'd been curious about the books I'd heard were "well written." I wanted to read them to see what the big deal was.

Starting the books, I was initially annoyed. The melodramatic character of Bella Swan is a whiny (irritatingly so), obsessive, dark, misunderstood misfit, or so she feels. But, as I continued the first book, I got attached to its brilliance. Stephanie Meyer captures the emotions, passion, fear and romance for her primary audience of romantically inexperienced preteen and teenage girls. She creates an overwhelming dichotomy of passionate love and perfect friendship with the characters of Edward Cullen and Jacob Black.

In the end, I would never call the series a literary masterpiece. However, its brilliance to entrap the hearts of girls everywhere is undeniable. Even as I was reading it, I felt myself believing in what Edward and Bella have, despite knowing how unrealistic their relationship is, outside of the whole vampire thing.

Deep down, every girl wants an "Edward"--a man who is incredibly passionate, who believes and shares with her that he would die without her. She wants a love relationship where the spark never dies, where every kiss is more intense than the last and where the chemistry tears through her insides. And, she wants a man who longs for her to be with him at all times, who misses her intensely when they are apart, who protects her in every situation and who knows without a doubt that she is his soulmate.

And then, there's real life. Real life--where sparks die, kissing becomes habitual and the chemistry fades. But, for Meyer's primary audience, real life and love are unknown. And that is why Meyer is brilliant in her writing. She takes something that is unknown (love) and unrealistic (vampires) and meshes them in a way that, because the love part seems like it could be the realistic, the vampire part doesn't seem so far off. Obviously, few people actually believe in vampires, but Meyer's story leaves the love part wide open. Over the four books, the love between Edward and Bella is unstoppable, compared to Romeo and Juliet (New Moon) and Catherine and Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights" (Eclipse), and undeniably deep.

However, the relationship between Edward and Bella is potentially dangerous to young minds as it gives women the idea that the Edward/Bella relationship is real. Even as I was reading the book, I felt a longing for something like that...something I know does not exist. And, as I have the knowledge and experience to know that my marriage is incredibly deep and encompasses more of the aforementioned passions than many, it is a little frightening to think of the expectations that a young, romantically inexperienced woman may pull from this series.

And that is why this series is irresistible. The action is never-ending, giving the books an urgency. The love story is timeless, capturing the hearts and minds of its female readers. And, though Breaking Dawn does fall a little short in comparison to the first three books, the final book is destined to be the lesser as Bella's transformation from vampire to human will ultimately be tragic unless it is even more far fetched. Then again, we are talking about vampires...

Overall, I'd give the series a "read." After doubting it for months, it surprised and pleased me far more than I'd expected.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When It Rains

You know that saying, "when it rains, it pours"?

Monday night, I found out that the dog I grew up with is not doing so well. My mom didn't think he'd make it through the night. I cried. A lot.

First thing Tuesday morning, my car nearly gets hit while backing out of my parking spot because some idiot was flying through the parking lot. She had the audacity to honk at ME and make me pull back into the spot so she could continue speeding by. Thank God I didn't get hit!

Tuesday afternoon, I deal with a pain-in-the-butt coworker who I simply can't handle. One of those argue-for-the-sake-of-it people trying to give me more work and make my life harder. Because, you know, it's not like I have a 600-page book to publish in three weeks, or anything. Gah.

Oh, and my boss scolded me for talking to a coworker, in front of my entire floor. Super.

Tuesday evening, I found out my childhood dog is being put down Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. In my distraught state, I put a thermos of coffee in my purse. When I put my purse down, the cup spills over, filling my Coach bag and drowning my iPhone.

Today, my father-in-law is going in for tests as he has been rediagnosed with cancer. We are praying the xrays show it is not lung or bone. Although we're all trying not to worry, it's a little overwhelming since we know it could be serious.

It's not that I want a pity party; I just want this week to be over so I can spend the weekend in bed recovering. I know that God says he won't give us more than we can handle, and I know I can handle this (other than it putting me in a bad mood), but does it have to be everything at once?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Ten: The Lumberjack

1. He is the most well-rounded person I know. On Wednesday night, he's usually watching Ultimate Fighter, and by Friday, he'll be taking me out to a five-star restaurant and the theater! He's a man's man with a sweet center--the perfect combination.

2. While his favorite breed of dog is a German Shepard, he absolutely LOVES our little corgi. I've never seen him be such a softie as he is with that dog.

3. His favorite band OF.ALL.TIME. is Metallica. I'm pretty sure he owns every CD, and listens to them all regularly.

4. He is almost 100% Dutch, and proud of it. His favorite cheese is smoked gouda (big surprise), and he loves hopjes, Dutch licorice and all other sorts of Dutch delicacies.

5. His favorite cake is cinnamon pull-apart (monkey bread) and his favorite dessert is creme brulee.

6. His hair is naturally and permanently bleached with a faint "C" on the back of his head. I tease that's God's sign of claiming him for me.

7. He loves beer. Stone is his favorite. But he also loves bourbon and cigars. At heart, he's kind of an old man, and I love it.

8. His favorite sport is football, by far. He supports the San Diego Chargers until the end. I get a little nervous every time we watch football together because he's so passionate about it.

9. He has expensive taste. With clothing, and food, and just about everything. Awesome, because I never have to explain why a $100 pair of black heels is better than a $10 pair.

10. One of the first things that stood out to me about him was that he is passionate. He doesn't half-ass things, ever. If he does something, he believes in it and is passionate about it, and I love that about him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Ten

I've been trying to get better about posting everyday. In doing so, I'm starting "Tuesday Ten," in which I will post 10 random facts about me, someone I love, or just something random, every Tuesday.

Here it goes...

1. I have cooked dinner every night since the Lumberjack and I got married (unless we've eaten out). I don't really believe in microwave meals. That's not to say I make a five-course dinner every single night, but I'd like to think I am a decent cook.

2. I prefer staying in to going out--even better, I love having friends over for dinner rather than going out to eat. My mom raised me to be a hostess, not a restaurant patron.

3. I am a control freak. I'd usually prefer to make plans than just see where I end up. I also prefer to be the driver, rather than be driven.

4. I have strange techniques, with reasons, for just about everything. For example, when I eat Pizza Hut pizza, I eat the first piece normal and the second piece crust first, because the front of the pizza is the best and I want to save it for my last bite.

5. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have a chocolate cake with vanilla icing (has to be homemade) for my birthday.

6. My favorite stores are Nordstrom Rack and Homegoods. I love Nordstrom, but I'm a frugal shopper, so I leave the deals and brands at the Rack. Homegoods is my little houseware heaven. I could spend all day (and lots of money) in both stores!

7. My favorite holiday/season is Christmas. I'm ready for Christmas trees, lights, music, food and decorations by September 1. I don't really care for Halloween, and it's not that I don't enjoy Thanksgiving, but I like Christmas so much more!

8. I've never attended a public school. I've attended Episcopalian, Non-denominational Christian, Catholic and Nazarene schools, but I've never had any public school education.

9. My favorite San Diego restaurant and bar is "The Tractor Room" in Hillcrest. They make the best martinis, and their homemade chips are to die for!

10. I've never eaten a Big Mac. I've just never had any desire to, and In-N-Out is so much better than McDonald's. I've also never eaten meatloaf, mostly because my mother never served it and, since I don't know that I'd like it, it's not a dish I would order in a restaurant.

So, there you are, 10 new things you (maybe) never knew about me!

Dutch: On "The Daily Corgi"

My little furkid, Dutch, is featured on "The Daily Corgi" today. Check him out at: