Sunday, February 26, 2012

REVIEWS: Live Blogging the Oscars Even Though I've Only Seen One or Two Movies This Year

As far as I can remember, the only Oscar-nominated movie I've seen ths year was Bridesmaids. Well, I also saw The Social Network, but that was nominated last year, or maybe the year before.

So naturally I feel obligated to live blog and offer my extremely educated opinions. Mostly because if I just sit and watch, I'll die of boredom. I'll probably take a long ice cream break, shower during the lifetime achievement crap, and fall asleep at 10:05. Here goes.

The Oscar I usually watch.

The Oscar I'm watching tonight. Decidedly less informed about this one.
8:37 p.m.
Martin Scorcese's daughter (I'm assuming that's his daughter?) looks as enthralled as I am.

I honestly thought Hugo was animated. (My husband just said, "We can be in Mordor by sundown!" Because he looks like Ian McKellan?) (The guy from Hugo...not my husband.)

I was more excited about the Ellen commercials tonight than the show itself. I can go to bed now. Just kidding! I haven't even had ice cream yet.

Why are we retrospect-ing already? The show's been on for 20 minutes.
I appreciate the irony in J-Lo saying a woman's dress should be loose enough to show she's a lady. She looks like boobs in Saran wrap. And I can see 50% of her butt cheek.

Are we reminiscing about our first movie? Mine was Follow that Bird. Starring Big Bird. He gave a convincing performance.

Seriously? My two year old is awake? Go back to sleep!

I miss Sandra Bullock's face. I mean that literally -- I miss the face she had last year.

I freakin' love Melissa McCarthy. I hope everyone voted for her.
Oh. Nope.

Okay, now I love Octavia Spencer too.

Let me just say this is a 100% accurate portrayal of focus groups.

Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper! Girl crush and boy crush!

"Let's get out of here, we're editors" will probably stand as my favorite acceptance speech of the night.

"Hugo." "No, HU-go." I just threw up in my mouth.

Snack time. Why aren't Reese's Eggs available year-round?

Cirque du Soleil = awesome. OMG IS THAT GIRL SPINNING ON ONE ARM EVEN KIDDING? Insane.

Nominees for Best Documentary: Hmm? Huh? What? And Who?

My husband is officially asleep. That pretty much cuts the number of people paying attention to my obnoxious commentary in half.

Okay, so I just took a Words With Friends break....did I miss anything? I'm guessing no.

Mind-reading bit = not funny at all. Brad Pitt has a lot of kids! Martin Scorcese directs movies! Ha ha ha haaaa I should go to sleep.

It's Lightning McQueen!
It's Lightning McQueen!
It's Lightning McQueen!
It's Lightning McQueen!

I'm losing interest. Even Angelina can't save me now.

Just spent 25 minutes on Pinterest. Looks like the show has stayed mostly boring.

Governers Awards? I'm going back to Pinterest.

Make a wish! I wish I were asleep.

Jean Dujardin is a handsome man.

Yay Meryl Streep. I'm going to sleep. <-- That's poetry.
Sorry, Best Picture. I'm trying to care enough! But I don't.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This week's read:

Lucky was published 13 years ago, so you probably already know the basics: It's the memoir of Alice Sebold's violent rape during her freshman year of college. I have to admit, I've borrowed this book from the library at least twice -- once immediately after reading Lovely Bones, and again about a year ago -- and returned it unread. I knew it would be a disturbing story, and I knew how candid and graphic Sebold's writing style is, so I was a little bit intimidated by that combo. I already spend a good part of my day convinced that ninja burglars are hiding in my house. Suffice to say, I'm not good with scary stories. And nothing's scarier than a true story.

But I finally committed to reading it, and IT IS FANTASTIC. That deserves caps-lock. I literally couldn't put it down. I bawled when she won her rape trial. (That's not a spoiler. The info is readily available on the back of the book jacket, and on Wikipedia, and a million other places.) I was completely shocked by the bizarre twist of fate that happens afterwards. I stayed up past midnight to finish it. It's not a happy ending in the tidy sense, but it was still strangely uplifting for a book that begins, "In the tunnel where I was raped...a girl had been murdered and dismembered." I can't do it justice, but I fully recommend it.

Two random notes, since it's 12:47 a.m. and I'm too tired to weave them into this post in any sort of organic way:
  • I thought it was cool that she mentioned Aimee Bender in the acknowledgements -- An Invisible Sign of My Own was one of my favorite books.
  • I bought this book for $3 at the Book Swap Cafe, once of my favorite places in Medford. If you happen to be local, go there. It's the best.

Friday, February 24, 2012

RECIPE: Slow-Cooker Honey-Balsamic Pulled Pork

Why am I sitting here at 10:22 at night, eating pulled pork? Because this pulled pork was awesome. So awesome that I....

Forewent?? Is that really the past tense of forego?

Okay then. I forewent my usual cookie dough ice cream for a second helping of cold, leftover pork. Yeah. This is serious. I'm not sure I can choose a winner between this and my reigning favorite pulled pork recipes (cuban pork and mesquite pulled pork a.k.a. "porkgasm") but it's definitely on the podium somewhere.

My inspiration was a recipe for sliders I found here, but with a few substitutions and some major simplification.

You'll need:
  • 1-2 lbs. pork
  • 1/2 cup broth (I used beef broth)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. Papa Joe's salt

No prep work needed, just dump it all in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

And then sneak into the kitchen later and have some as a bedtime snack. Trust me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

READING: Pure Drivel

This week's read:

Pure Drivel was released in 1999. It's 113 pages long. It took me 13 years to finish it. That should've been a red flag for me to just

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to dislike anything Steve Martin does. I mean, the blurbs on this book say things like "achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic," neither of which I'd necessarily use to describe this book. I like to connect to the characters in a book on a slightly obsessive level, and that's hard when you're reading stories where the narrator is, say, "Michael Jackson's Old Face."

So overall, I didn't love it. I got bored. But I did pick up a new neurosis from the last essay, "A Word from the Words":
When I was a computer word, things were great. I could blast through cyberspace, scroll across screens, travel to India. Now that I'm on the page, I'm worried that it's going to be mostly dark. My request to that you occasionally open the book after you have finished reading it and give all of us a little air. A simple thumbing through will do.
Oh boy. I have a tendency to assign feelings to inanimate objects; for example, if there are only two cans of tomato soup on the shelf at the store, I'll buy both rather than leave one lonely. And do you remember the Ikea commercial with the sad desk lamp? That pained me. Don't make me feel sorry for the words trapped in my books! Especially when I have 200-some books sitting in my office. I'm going to go ahead and delete that whole passage from my memory, for sanity's sake.

Okay, off to start this week's book...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

RECIPE: Turkey-Vegetable Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash

I'm attempting to lose the last of my baby weight, since my baby is almost, um, two years old. So I'm trying to ease up on the carbs. But easing up on carbs makes me think about carbs, which makes me crave carbs, which makes me want to stuff my face with a giant plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Nope, I didn't cheat. That's not spaghetti, and the meatballs are stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and carrots. Hold on while I pat myself on the back! By the way, this is one of those recipes that sounds obnoxious and braggy but is actually really easy. Five or 10 minutes to prep, 25 minutes to bake.

You'll need:
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated romano
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic
  • 1 cup spinach (frozen, thawed)
  • 5-10 baby carrots (chopped)
  • 5-6 white mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Chop the veggies to smithereens. I swear by my chopper from Pampered Chef. 

Mix everything in a bowl and squish it up good.

Doesn't that just LOOK virtuous?

Rub olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish, and roll the meat sludge into 2" balls.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until the meatballs start turning slightly golden-brown.

I should have taken a photo of the spaghetti squash, but I was too busy scalding my fingertips on it. But it's easy. Stab some holes in it, throw it in the microwave for 10 minutes, wait a few minutes for it to turn from molten lava back into a vegetable again, slice it in half, scrape out the seeds, and then just start scraping out the "spaghetti." I topped it with Classico Spicy Red Pepper tomato sauce.

Does it taste like spaghetti? Not at all! But at least my eyeballs think we're eating spaghetti, and I can twirl it on my fork, so that's something. Plus, I snuck five vegetables (well, four vegetables and a fruit, for the tomato nerds) into one meal. I'm like that girl who wrote the book about sneaking spinach into her kids' brownies -- except, you know, not famous or wealthy.

Shared this recipe on Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
And thanks to Brianne at Cupcakes and Kale Chips for pointing me towards RFW!

READING: The Bright Forever

This week's read:

Kidnapping books are a dime a dozen, and yet this one was nominated for the Pulitzer in 2006, so I figured it had to be extra-good.

It was amazing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and -- above all -- sleep-depriving. Not since the last two Harry Potter books have I stayed up past midnight just to find out how a book ends. (And, similar to the end of Potters 6 and 7, I spent most of that time weeping from a mix of devastation and exhaustion.)

If you loved Lovely Bones, read this.

If you have a daughter, DO NOT READ THIS! DON'T DO IT!!!

That about sums it up. Seriously, I'm afraid that if I say too much, I'll spoil something. So here's the quickest possible summary: A nine-year-old girl disappears on her bike. A handful of townspeople share their version of the events (some speaking from the past, some from the present) until the entire story is unraveled thread by thread. Nothing flowery, no wasted words -- every thought, every action, every detail is ultimately there for a reason. I'm a fan of fatalism in stories, and as fatalism goes, this is a doozy.

I'm going to say this is one of the best fiction books I've ever read. If, like me, you're six years behind the ball on this book, go read it.

Unless you have a daughter.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

RECIPE: 20-Minute Chili (And It's Healthy!)

Hi! Sorry for the lapse in blogging, but I just got back from a lovely and relaxing four-week sabbatical in Paris.

bonjour je suis vraiment à paris c'est fromage!
Okay, that's a lie.

I've just been super busy and fell way behind on the updates. And then once I was a week behind, nothing seemed interesting enough after all the anticipation! (What's that, you say? You weren't waiting on the edge of your seat for another blog post? Shhh! Don't tell me that!) And then the longer I waited, the more interesting I felt I needed to be upon my return.

But today I decided -- screw being interesting! I'm just going to jump back in and post a recipe for chili!

I already have a recipe on here for slow-cooker chili, but tonight I got a hankerin' for chili* at about 4:47 p.m. So, I had to make do. This recipe is totally diet-friendly, by the way, which is important because I've spent the past week eating Slutty Brownies after almost every meal. It's been a bad scene.

This chili can be ready, start to finish, in 20 minutes.

You'll need:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle blend
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 10-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 cups beans (I used a mix of black and kidney)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt and pepper (I used Papa Joe's salt as usual)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

In a big sauce pot, cook the ground turkey in some olive oil. Once it's brown, add all the other stuff and simmer for 15 minutes. That's it. C'est tout, c'est finit. Wasn't that easy?

Okay. More updates, more often. I promise.

* Did you know this is the gerund form of the word hanker? I could also say, "I hanker for chili." I think I'm going to start using that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

READING: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

This week's read:

After feeling kinda lukewarm about my last two book selections, I figured I'd choose something I was guaranteed to like. I love Mindy Kaling, and I love The Office. (Yeah. I still love The Office. Even with Andy Bernard in charge, which is admittedly about 50 feet past the shark. I'm nothing if not a loyal viewer!)

This was a good call. I loved this book. Disclaimer: Bossypants was funnier. Mindy (I can call her Mindy, right? we're friends now?) actually acknowledges this in the first chapter:
Unfortunately, I can't be Tina, because it's very difficult to lure her into a Freaky Friday-type situation where we could switch bodies.... Believe me, I've tried.

But while I wish I were Tina Fey, I related more to Mindy Kaling. She rocked in high school. She liked being a nerd. She stalks celebrities. She's awkward in interviews. (I can interview Joey MacIntyre without breaking a sweat, but make me interview for a job and I turn into a babbling mess. I aim for friendly professionalism and end up just sounding manic. Great thing about freelance writing: No job interviews!) Best of all, she's a slob. That was exciting for me. The book is peppered with personal photos, including one of her desk that made me feel an emotional cocktail of relief and empathy and triumph. Her desk looks like that too! And she's wildly successful! You're ok, I'm ok!

Speaking of personal photos, she also names names in this book. Total revenge stories. Gotta love that. It almost -- almost -- makes me forgive her for hating on one of my all-time favorite songs, "Jack and Diane." I don't even want to talk about it any further.

My two favorite quotes:
I'm the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded.

Love it. And on a less philosophical note:
The internet makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to focus. One small break to look up exactly how almond milk is made, and four hours later I'm reading about the Donner Party and texting all my friends: Did you guys know about the Donner Party and how messed up that was? ... For every eight-hour day of writing, there is only one good productive hour of work being done. The other seven hours are preparing for writing: pacing around the house, collapsing cardboard boxes for recycling, reading the DVD extras pamphlet from the BBC Pride & Prejudice, getting snacks lined up for writing, and YouTubing toddlers who learned the "Single Ladies" dance.

Yikes. Guilty. I even have a weird love affair with paper recycling.

And just for fun, one of my favorite chapters was "Non-Traumatic Things That Have Made Me Cry," so I figured I'd share some items off my own list. Because I'm the worst. Case in point, I didn't watch a single football game this entire season. I randomly decided to root for the Patriots, with the reasoning that I'd rooted for the Giants the last time they played. (I watch every Super Bowl. Because of the snacks.) I fell asleep after halftime, and my husband -- who also ignores football 364 days out of the year -- woke me up with three minutes left on the clock to say the game was getting interesting, and would I mind switching allegiances to the Giants since they were his favorite team growing up? I agreed, and in the three minutes that followed, I managed to get so wrapped up in the game that I teared up when the Giants won. So, that's where we stand on the crying.

Other tearjerkers:
1. Ghost stories.
2. The old Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdales. Sometimes I watch it on youtube just to torture myself.
3. Every single event of every Olympics. Doesn't matter who wins -- the flag goes up over the podium, and I start crying.
4. The Taylor Swift video for "You Belong With Me," when she brings the note to prom and discovers that her neighbor brought a note, too. (Yeah. Really.)
5. Every movie ever made, with Pixar being the worst offender. That scene in Toy Story 2 where Jesse thinks her owner is taking her out to play, but really she's dropping her off at the donation bin? Shoot me. I'm still terrified to watch Toy Story 3.
6. The big reveal on any makeover show -- house, wardrobe, weight loss, restaurant, doesn't matter.
7. The first bar of the Les Miserables overture. 'Cause you just know what's coming.

This post has gone on really long, but my husband has commandeered my computer to balance his checkbook in Excel, and I'm stuck on his machine which doesn't have my software and is logged in to the wrong Pinterest. But anyway. If you've ever found Mindy Kaling remotely funny in anything, I totally recommend this book.