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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chicken with Apples and Leeks

I found this recipe out of a Real Simple magazine from a few years ago and luckily I just found it online. But for the click-lazy, I shall write it out in my condensed style:

Roasted Chicken, Apples and Leeks

4 chicken leg quarters, skin on, cut into thighs and drummies
4 apples, quartered and cored
2 big leeks or 3 smaller ones, dark green stuff cut off, cleaned, quartered lengthwise
6 short sprigs rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Set oven to 400. Toss everything in a big bowl (I have a huge typperware style bowl with a lid that I utilize for this recipe, it works so well) to coat it all with the olive oil.
Dump it onto a greased cookie sheet with a high lip. Arrange chicken skin side up.
Roast 40 - 45 minutes

Normally I like removing the skin from chicken because it saves 200 calories per leg quarter. But this recipe is worth the calories. Everything is infused with flavor, tender and succulent. Enjoy this with some vino verde, crusty bread and a light salad afterwards.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book review: A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Warning: I don't think I write cohesive book reviews

My dear sister in law Amery lent me this book a few weeks ago. The story revolves around its most-of-the-time narrator, Diana Bishop, who is a witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, a mysterious book called Ashmole 782 that all witches, vampires and daemons (all three of which also go by the more general term Creatures) want to get their sparkly, supernatural hands on. I kid, I kid, no one sparkles, but the vampires do daywalk, and they don't have fangs, and they don't seem to like gratuitous sex which, as a True Blood fan, completely mystifies me. Anyways, I digress.

The book is pretty rad, but while Harkness says she came up with the idea after wondering what jobs vampires would have, I think she basically had a grown up lady fantasy about an adult Edward Cullen because the middle chunk of this book has some serious similarities to the Twilight mess that is Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, mainly that the vampire man does not want to let the mortal woman live her own life, nor does he want to bone her although he will partake in foreplay as long as the power of the situation remains solely in his hands. Look, I'm no feminazi, but that shit really drives me insane. I'm no nymphomaniac either but if two consenting adults are in bed and naked and messing around and the women says Let's Do This and the guy says No, Let's Wait, We Have Forever (no you don't asshole, Diana is mortal), I call bullshit in a major way. Has Harkness ever MET a man? Anyways, just when I was about to put the book down, or burn it, apologize to Amery and then buy her another one, it was as if Harkness herself was like, "Whoa, oh my God, I need to stop reading Teen Beat and watching Twilight previews on You Tube" and pulled much of the focus on Diana and Matthew and put it on the actual cool stuff. But I digress

There are the daemons which are semi insane, creative whirlwinds and originally I figured she meant like, demons but apparently doesn't. And I think they're mortal just like witches. She doesn't quite explain much about them, but the more masterful ones are the less insane. And then there are the witches which aren't Wiccan idiots burning sage and saying Blessed be to each other, but can actually do spells, fly, cast witchfire, witchwater and witchwind, levitate, etc etc. The vampires do bite, don't drink synthetic blood and don't sparkle, but they also walk around during the day, do yoga (yeah, you heard), don't have fangs, and can actually eat some foods like nuts and raw venison. They also drink a crapload of wine which instantly earned my respect.

So those are the creatures. And the Ashmole 782 is an enchanted book that might possibly explain everything about the creatures and their origins, how to destroy some and some other stuff, but it was enchanted in order to keep that stuff away. No one knows and everyone wants to know. Enter Diana, who is a witch but doesn't want to be, and who is also a studier of alchemical texts, of which this Ashmole thing is one. Lo and behold, despite the fact that she suppresses her powers (and boy does she have them), she is able to not only call up the text (apparently even checking it out at the library is impossible for everyone, save her), but able to open it. The book sighs under her hand as if out of relief. It sounds lame when I write it but it was actually a pretty cool scene.

So this is the plot. There's also witch DNA, vampire extinction, time travel, a crapload of ghosts and a New England house that can grow rooms, hide objects and basically express how it has the emotional range of a hormonal teenage girl. Which also sounds lame but was also pretty cool, and also super last minute since no where in the several hundred page book does it get mentioned except towards the end when they go there. I mean, if my house grew rooms and got mad at me from time to time, that's something I would bring up in conversations with vampires because hey, right up the supernatural alley, amiright?

I really loved this book, despite the Bella/Edward tinges, and it is apparently the first in a trilogy which sucks because I read the Harry Potter series and I HATE WAITING FOR BOOKS. So Harkness, get to it!

Dog Days of Summer

There really are no words, are there?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Folding a fitted sheet

So as it turns out this is not an activity that is easily portrayed by photos taken by a crappy LG flip phone camera. Bear with me folks! I'll try to explain WTF is going on in each photo.

Start by taking laying your sheet with the short end on top. I'm 6' tall and so is my arm span so it's easy for me: whichever end of the sheet ends right at my outstretched hands is it. Here we go:

Please ignore the cat. He's neutered so at least there's no junk to stare at. Needless to say, he's not what you'd call bashful. Or energetic. Or slim. Anyways, I digress. Next, take the other short end of the fitted sheet (the one that is on the floor in the above picture) and put it on top AND inside the top part. Like so:

What you will get is this result:

And yes, I had to flip the photo in order to maintain continuity of perspective. Does that phrase even make sense? Maintain continuity of perspective? IDK. So, now take the right side and fold it over to the left side, tucking it inside. Your result is as follows:

Does that cat ever move? Geez. So now, we fold the outside ends inside, like so:

And so:

Like the doors of a saloon, right? Ha ha. Now, shove the cat over and fold together one more time:

Now the rest is pretty self explanatory through the photos:

Presto! And what's rad about it as you can see is that the fitted sheet is essentially the same size as a folded pillow cases and top sheet. What you have is a nice, uniformly-sized stack that is easy to store.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Boom, Crash, Nigh-Night!

An hour ago, I put a very sleepy little girl to bed. Now, back before she could sit up by herself, even though it was long past the time we should have lowered her mattress, I hated the idea. I loved being able to just bed down, kiss her all over her cute little face and her chubby little cheeks and her arms and her nose and smooth her hair away from her face. To lower her ALL the way down?! Blaspheme! How was I going to kiss my baby goodnight?

Well, I figured it out quickly, and I owe my method to my height, long legs, and utter stubbornness to look common sense in the face, spit in its eye, and keep doing what I had been doing. I  mean, sure I could kiss her while I still held her, but was that enough?

No. Have you seen her?

This is a chickadee who expects and deserves the best of the best. So I figured I could just lean my hips against the rail of the crib, tip over, rest my hand lightly on the mattress in the corner, and then proceed with my lovey-doveyness (yes that is a word). So I do this every night and have the small bruise on my left hip bone to prove it.

Cut to tonight. I do this procedure, as I do every night, except THIS time, as my legs swing up to counter-balance my weight and stupidity, my foot hooks into her little Fisher Price refrigerator kitchen set and sends it FLYING, FLYING I tell you, across her room and against her changing table/dresser, where it crashes and comes to a halt, only singing it's little Eat Healthy Meals song. So I tip back over, stagger in the dark across her room and shut the damn thing off, all while whispering "Sorry! My bad! Woopsadaisy! Haha! Oops!" to my poor, over-tired child.

Luckily she was super tired from the day and no mood for chit chat or curiosity as I returned to her crib, and yep, you guessed it, tipped over and kissed her all over again. I mean, I had already knocked the noisy toy over so what did I have to lose?


When Todd and I moved from our big barn of a downtown house to our little family centrally located house, we got an upgrade in backyards. Now, Todd put a ton of work in that downtown backyard but it was like a postage stamp it was so tiny. Our current backyard was big enough for a grassy patch, several trees, a kung fu pit (don't ask) and there was, already there with a little fence around it, a perfect patch for a garden. In fact it just screamed vegetable garden at me when I walked out there. Well it was more of a Field of Dreams whisper but you know what I mean. Anyways, we wasted no time in setting it up, and right now it's positively lush. The tomato plants are nearly chest high on my Eiffel Tower of a husband, the herbs are doing wonderfully and the basil is almost bullying the rest of them it's become so robust. Our eggplant, bell pepper and hot pepper plants are also hearty and although the noonday sun wilts them without a second blast of water, honestly most Tucsonans are the same way. 

The tomatoes have been ripening and coming off the plants like crazy for over a month but we really haven't harvested any of the others, although Todd decided today was the day, and so behold, our bounty:

Ok, true, it's just a bowl of peppers and eggplant, but it's positively bursting! So big I couldn't even get it all in the photo! Oh, wait.

Hmm, bell peppers not much bigger than my thumb. Well, ok, but what about those beastly eggplants back there?!


Oh well! Todd's dad Bill told us about these mysterious "Nutrients" that need to be added to the "Soil" but I don't know, it sounds a little fishy to me.

The Man Salad or as Todd says, the Anorexic Feast

Now before I offend anyone with the glib (hi Tom Cruise) use of the word anorexic, let me first explain. Todd, my darling husband, is 6'7", very lean, and very active. So when he starts copying my lunch style of eating mainly big salads, I referred to them as his anorexic feasts since he just doesn't need to worry about calories, much like those suffering from the actual disease. Anyways, the more polite term is Man Salad and so I'm going with that.

Here is a classic Man Salad

Within the cool embrace of our favorite salad bowls is a cacophony of color, a coda of nutrients, and a tasty piece of marble rye slathered with (in my case) Smart Balance light or in Todd's case, Trader Joe's unsalted butter, the fat slob. And since I just finished this delight, and since it came out pretty nicely on my LG flip phone camera, I thought I'd share with you.

Man Salad/Offensively Named Salad
serves two, 300 calories a serving (unless you're Todd, in which case you need to add an extra 150 calories for the gallon of ranch he uses)

Romaine lettuce, enough to fill two big bowls that were originally intended to be serving dishes (see picture above)
1/4 bell pepper, diced
1/2 gala apple, diced
2 sticks of sting cheese, sliced
2 servings of oven roasted turkey lunchmeat (we get the thick sliced kind from Costco, 50 calories a serving)
A handful of baby carrots, sliced
1/4 yellow onion, sliced
1 roma tomato (or three stunted tomatoes from your struggling, backyard desert veggie garden)
1 serving of Kraft Light Zesty Italian (no HFCS!)
1 slice marble rye bread (I just picked this up at Costco, a little over 4 bucks for two loaves, only 70 calories a serving!)

Throw that crap together and enjoy!

Signs We're Growing Old

1. Before Alexandra was born and we could use parenthood as the excuse for the rapid descent into decrepitness (yes it is too a word), Todd was brushing his teeth and he pulled a muscle in his back.

2. In yoga the other day I let out this mortifyingly loud groan of anguish doing a relatively simple switch from side plank back into downward dog. The entire class laughed.

3. Initially excited that we stayed up til 2am this past Saturday to party down with our dear friends, The Sprinkles at their annual weenie roast, we quickly changed our tune Sunday morning and vowed never, ever again. Even though we slept in. Even though Alex was with her grandparents.

4. Crawling into bed before 10pm feels exciting. Exhilerating. A little sinful.

5. Our new favorite game seems to be Whose Body Parts Are Falling Apart The Fastest, with my tendon issues and Todd's ankle usually tying for first place, but always and eternally chased by my popping knees, Todd's crackling knees, his hip, my ankles, Todd's back, my back, and all my arm acne. Wait, this isn't the spot for that last one.

6. Retirement is the next big stage in life I'm really looking forward to. Not that I don't want to see Alex grow up and meet our future unborn children and watch THEM grow up but something about sleeping in, eating for a living and sleeping in just seems so... freaking amazing.


Every week I attend a yoga class at the fabulous Yoga Oasis studio here in Tucson. They're called Yoga Hour and it's  a type (or brand as I heard the instructor say) of Vinyasa or flow yoga. It's an ass-kicker of a workout because after you do the first portion of the class which is very quick and exciting and focuses on sun salutation type moves, and of course lots of downward dog (only in this class is downward dog considered a resting, easy pose, ha), and then the second portion focuses on more challenging, slightly more static poses.

I'm going today and I am stoked, because last week I finally achieved crane pose!

A lot of times, this pose has your knees actually pressing to the inner sides of your elbows, but I do it like this sideburned yogi shown above, where I put my knees against my upper arms instead. It gives me more stability and it's either because this is an easier expression of the pose or because my legs are long and it gives me more room. Exciting! I didn't stay in it for long but I achieved it and I swear I was THIS close to standing up on my knees afterwards, looking around the crowded room and screaming "DID YOU SEE THAT?!"

Some other poses I love are side plank:

And then side plank tree poses one and two:

They're challenging and also enjoyable even though I sort of want to groan or cry out by the time we get to them in class, especially the last variation of side plank tree. Our teacher has us switch from the bended knee being on top, then slowly twist and switch hands so it points downward. It took me many classes to learn that I need to isometrically squeeze my thighs together, or else it feels like my girly parts are going to fall right down onto my yoga mat. TMI.

But HERE is a pose that I am nowhere near achieving but hope to do so one day. Our instructor did it several weeks ago and I think I feel a little in love with her for it, or at least in love with her superhero abs:

You get into this position beginning on your knees. Then you position your palms on the mat and then slowly turn them so they're in the ungodly position of pointing backwards.  Then you know, you just like, easy breezy, LIFT YOUR LEGS OFF THE MAT. The second I tried that stage of the pose, I knew I was either going to pitch forward or send my intestines rocketing out of my rear end so I stopped. But one day, peacock, I'm going to OWN you.

I know you're supposed to be a little more, hmmm, what's the word... zen? About yoga? But this is flow yoga, and it gets me super amped up, and so my attitude is a little more gung ho about it. One day when I have more time I'd like to add more traditional classes where I can focus on separate poses instead of all poses linking together in order to wear myself out and burn the five million wine calories I consume on a weekly basis. But that's not happening anytime soon. Obviously I have far too much wine to drink to be just picking up another exercise class.

Happy yogaing to all!

Harry Potter

As everyone not currently living under a rock knows, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 came out recently. It's the end of the line, officially. First the book series ended (while I was in Seattle for a friend's wedding, of all horrible timing. Nothing quite like frantically, hungrily reading a beloved book series' finale while horrendously hung over). But then, all of us Potterheads had something to look forward to! The movies! And now, the movies are over. The little kids we started the adventure with, Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are grown up and are moving on. And so, I must also move on...

... to the first book in the series! Yay! It's like the seasons! They end, but then they just start over. And the wonderful thing about Harry Potter is it's absolute readability. Not just the first go round, or even the second or third. But honestly, as many times as you can muster. And it's such a delight now, to have all seven books and be able to read the series in its entirety without having to wait for the next one to come out. I got hooked on this series at about 22 years old, I think. By that time, only four books were out and I remember finishing Goblet of Fire, which I had read basically without stopping while back home in Nashville for vacation, and going "Oh God. Oh God NO! Now I have to wait?!" That was the reason I've read books 1 - 3 so many stinking times (and Prisoner of Azkaban was/still sorta is my favorite.

So while I have no new adventures coming up, at least I am comforted in an uninterrupted book binge that began last night in bed, while Todd twirled my hair, as I opened up The Sorceror's Stone and read all about the start of The Boy Who Lived. And I'm comforted by the fact that he totally hooks up with Ginny and makes babies with her, all of whom get to live happily ever after. Except maybe Albus Severus Potter, because with a name like that, you have a LOT to live up to.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Behold: the power of pork

Alexandra just wrapped up a teething session which of course completely wiped out her appetite. She wanted to eat Cheerios, drink juice, and eat fruit pouches and that was about it. I had a little freak out about this last Wednesday because I felt like a failure of a mother for not getting my baby to eat, and also because I was sick of making food just to throw it away. But a friend helped with a story of a baby who ate nothing but yogurt six times a day, and then I mentally slapped myself silly for being so, well, silly.  I decided to just really rev up the mellow, if that makes any sense, and just be laid back about it, and I did! I had my trusty Toddler 411 to help me as well, which is something I can highly, highly recommend to all moms and dads out there. But this is not about books. This is about pork.

So anyways. We went to Todd's parents' house yesterday to pick Alexandra up from her sleepover and wound up staying for champagne, excus me, I mean, for dinner. With champagne. Anyways, Trudy, Todd's mom, made delicious pork chops with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and salad. And MY BABY ATE PORK. OMG. I literally lifted my hand towards the ceiling (and heaven beyond it), tipped my face up in exultant joy and shouted "PRAISE JESUS" as she ate not one, not two, but like 8 bites of pork. And then I had more champagne. Todd drove home. The end.

Just retelling this story makes me swell with victory and delight, because, despite my revved up mellowness, my cool mom who doesn't worry facade, inside I am an elderly Italian woman who wants to stuff that baby with as much food as possible because I am convinced she's starving.


This is my little baby on the day she was born. She was 9lbs even, 21.5" long and as you can see in the picture, had the biggest hands ever! Her eyes were that mysterious steely blue most newborns are born with and her hair, after her first shampoo ever, dried into a faux hawk. She was perfect.

This is my little baby about three weeks ago, on 4th of July weekend, when she found out she could stand all by herself. Her hair has lightened and lengthened considerably, and her eyes are a mysterious blue/green/brown that not many kiddos have. She is 23lbs, and over 30" tall, and as previously stated in The Players post, has an assortment of animal sounds under her belt. She is perfect. Now stop growing up and come cuddle with mommy! 

Bell pepper salmon dish

This is a favorite dish of mine and I am proud to admit that I made it up. Whenever Todd and I talk about opening a restaurant (which admittedly is not often after we had Alex), we'd ponder what recipes I'd use and since I've not created a huge amount of recipes, this one always makes the cut. Although I can never figure out what the hell to call it.

Baked bell pepper salmon

1lb of Salmon or steelhead trout filletts, either already cut into serving sizes or left whole
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 - 4 cloves minced garlic, depending on preference.
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup curly parsley, chopped
1/3 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375.
Get a pyrex big enough for your salmon and spray with cooking spray.
Put salmon in skin side down (duh Jil right) and brush with olive oil.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle/smear/pat garlic on salmon.
In a bowl, mix up the bell peppers and onion, and then completely cover the salmon. Now you see it:

Now you don't:

The more the merrier. I mean, you don't want to see even a corner of the salmon. Pretend the salmon is a Victorian-era spinster who wouldn't dare show an ankle. Anyways.
After it's completely blanketed with the pepper/onion mix, sprinkle with the parsley and the parmesan (this step already shown above).
If you are, by chance, serving it with zucchini and/or squash, you can add the cut up, tossed-with-olive-oil veggies to the pyrex around the edges.  More color!

Pop that puppy in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes depending on wellness preference. If you do have veggies it will take closer to 30 minutes.

Serves 2 - 4*
*The number of servings is dependant entirely on how much you like to stuff your face. I use this amount to feed just Todd and me but we really like to stuff our faces.

Hot damn, I'm a blogger.

We'll see how this goes. Hi! I'm Jil and I want to do what all the cool kids do and that's blog. Blog, blog, blog. I have no idea how this will go but I hope it will be fun for everyone. The thing that really made me want to start one is when I realized that a public platform online is the perfect place to reveal to everyone how I perfectly fold a fitted sheet. This knowledge empowers me and makes me feel good about myself while doing something I hate (laundry) and I figure empowerment is a great gift that keeps on giving. More on that later.