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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Todd and I recently watched this and my goodness, I'm glad we didn't spend the $6748967 dollars it takes to see a movie in a theater these days. I love movies that depict a battle between good and evil, and I like blow 'em up, shoot 'em up movies as well. But this was just... ho hum, regardless of all the explosions and alien battles.

Oh, by the way, it's about an alien battle. Aliens come to suck Earth dry, quasi-literally, since they want to use our oceans as fuel (there is a joke about going green here somewhere, I just know it). Starring as a nearly-retired marine is the older, wiser, gruff-voice-from-so-much-screaming Sargeant Nantz, played by Aaron Eckhart, and he demonstrates his skill and his blah blah and his fortitude and his ho hum as he eventually takes over for his more amateur superior. There's a token female marine played by Michelle Rodriguez and another token female veterinarian played by Bridget Moynahan and some other people who play other characters. Everyone is dusty and scared and all the other major California cities are blown to pieces except LA which is just weird because isn't LA the first place we'd all like to disappear?

Sorry to be harsh but the movie is entirely too long, entirely one note and the ending just made Todd and I throw up our hands in exasperation. Due to our schedules, it took us three evenings to finish the damn thing and after all that invested time we felt sort of ripped off. And between you and me, they don't even give Eckhart a chance to be super cute like he is so it was a let down on several fronts.

Final review: D+

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Season.

Here is Alexandra just before we departed for Thanksgiving feast at my parents':

I really have no images to show you from the awesome five day Thanksgiving holiday. Well, I do, but they're all of Alexandra after I put her in this outrageously adorable pig tails (see above). And Amber took photos of Alexandra and her one year old son James in the bathtub but those are naked pictures and while I fully intend to show those naked pictures to Alex and James when they are 16 and embarrassed beyond belief, I think I'll do them one favor and keep them off the Internet.

But the reason there are no pictures is because I was too busy utterly enjoying myself. Thanksgiving was spent with my family and some friends, and the day after was spent with Todd's family and more friends. It was just as a holiday kick off should be: good food, great people, nice weather. We saw a baby rattlesnake at my parents' house too! Happy holidays to you too, little guy! Poor bastard was so cold and so scared he couldn't even rattle.

Anyways, the excitement is just beginning. Now coming up is my favorite holiday of the entire year: my birthday! No, no, no, I'm kidding. It's Christmas. Of course it's Christmas! The majority of folks love Christmas most of all so that should come as no surprise (and now that I'm a couple years passed 30 it should come as no surprise that my birthday most certainly is NOT my favorite holiday).

This month is jam packed full of wonderful things: Craft parties, a family photo session with my dear friend Allison, a trip to the mountains with some friends, our open house party and, naturally, the Christmas holiday itself, to name a few. And of course, there's the planning for all these awesome adventures. It's daunting but it's awesome.

I'm not a fan of the limbo-like state of the planning phase. Planning our wedding over the course of our 11 month engagement was like being on pins and needles the entire time. Of course it made the actual event that more awesome, so there's a silver lining to every cloud. But right now, this month coming up ahead, with all its wonders and its endless planning and prepping and shopping-for, basically feels like one massive celebration. I've already gotten quite a few things already, and it's going to be so much fun putting them together.

So if my posts become less frequent, please forgive me. I fully intend to keep posting at least daily, but as Thanksgiving proved, I kept thinking about blogging, without actually doing it. I was too busy having fun.

To everyone out there, I hope your holiday season is just as much of a celebration for you, whether it's jam packed like mine or serene and blissful. Happy holidays! Or, as they'd say on Cakewrecks, Happy Hole Days!

Monday, November 28, 2011


No, not the crappy Twilight, I mean, real twilight, the twilight hour, the moments of dusk that in other parts of the country are categorized as hazy, dark daylight, sun gone, sky gray, but there is still that afterthought of light. But in Tucson, twilight can be arresting.

In fact, I was struck by a twilight recently. It was last Saturday, after Alexandra's epic three hour nap, due to which we were grocery shopping around 5pm. I was frazzled, because it felt so weird to be shopping so late, knowing we had to rush home in time for Alex's dinner, and I'll admit, despite her three hour nap she was super fussy.

I had hit up Trader Joe's and was finishing up in Fry's. I can't remember what was stressing me out in the store, but there were definite factors. Oh! I remember, I had forgotten something after putting all my groceries on the conveyer belt. And with a baby, you don't just leave your cart and grab your purse. You gotta take the whole kit and caboodle. Which means people can just swoop right in. So we're dashing down the aisles like we're on Supermarket Sweep, etc etc. I even ended up stealing a toy, so the week after I had to take the toy's packaging back and pay for it. Anyways, I'm feeling haggard, looking haggard, and then I step outside.

It was so pretty I literally stopped in my tracks. And I know it looks super bright and not like a twilight or dusk at all, but trust me, when you weren't staring at the sky, the rest of the world was quite dark. Headlights were required at this point.

It felt holy. The camera doesn't do it justice so I might try and fiddle with the exposure and lighting to make it fit my memory. But honestly, you need a pretty snazzy camera to do justice to the heavens. This next one is by far my favorite.

It was just the pick me up I needed and it's not the first time the sky has done that to me. Thanks, sky!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


On that magical day, 11/11/11, Alexandra learned how to take her shirt off. It started while I was watching Ballykissangel (Peter, a priest, couldn't drive to give a dying man his last rites, so he asked Assumpta, a highly skeptical anti-church woman who also happens to have a huge crush on him, for a ride. I really feel like you need an explanation for the stuff going on on the TV).

So anyways, here she realizes she just might be able to do it. And would you just look at that skinny little baby body? She is a slip of a thing, but quite tall. Her daddy has a birth mark just like hers, in that same spot.

Ooh. "Peek a boo, I see you, mama!"

Aww, look, a little pink wimple! Or a pink do-rag. Hmm. Sorry it's blurry, I was using my camera phone. THERE WAS NO TIME!

She did it! She cleared her noggin, all by herself. Look at my baby girl's expression. This is SO reminiscent of her newborn phase, with that cute little pursed mouth. My heart is melting. So, apparently, is Assumpta back there.

Ah, there's the triumphant expression I've come to know so well. "I did it mama! Thank goodness you caught it all on camera."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lunchtime Omelet.

Just look at this beauty! It's fast, healthy, delicious and low in both calories and effort.

Turkey Omelet
serves 1

Olive oil cooking spray
2 tbsp onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 egg
1 egg white
1 oz turkey luncheon meat, torn up
3 tbsp shredded cheddar

Coat a super small skillet with the cooking spray. Once hot, add your onion and garlic and tomatoes, cooking until the onions brown. 
In the meantime, mix your whole egg and egg white together, whisking to fully blend. 
Remove the veggies from the skillet and set aside. 
Add more spray to coat the skillet and add your egg mixture. Once it's set, but is still wet on top, add your veggies, the turkey and the cheese. 
Once the cheese somewhat melts, fold over. 
Let it sit in the skillet a few moments so the still-moist edge of your omelet can sear on the side of the skillet. 
Plate it up and enjoy with a toasted English muffin!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons, v2.0

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, if you're Alexandra, when life gives you lemons, eat them.

She loves lemons. There must be a slight lack of sensitivity to this sort of thing for young children. When I was a young child, I would take lemon wedges, completely remove all the flesh inside with my teeth and eat it. Now, not so much. So either it's a thing with all kids, or it's genetic.

Just look at that blissful face!

She took it with her to her highchair, where a more palatable yogurt awaited her. But she wasn't ready to give up the citrus just yet.

"Look ma! No hands.... almost!"

"Yum. I think I got all the good stuff."

"They're just so tasty!"

"I mean, super tasty! What a great start to my day!"

And that cheeky grin right there? That was a great start to my day, baby girl. Love you to bits!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Alexandra, Todd and I went camping this weekend, with our friends Brent, Sarah, Kevin and Ryan, which is why I wasn't able to post a blog yesterday, and while I wish I could have blogged, it was just so wonderful not being plugged in. But I'll be honest, this camping trip was, at times, a comedy of errors.

My dear friend and frequent Words With Friends opponent, Amber, once posted about being an avid list maker and checker-offer. I myself am a huge fan of list-making and, especially when packing Alex's stuff, am a devoted checker-offer. However, there was a glitch in the system this go round, at least with the general camping items.

Todd is a dedicated camper. He and his father and brother have been camping and hunting since they were wee lads and his dad's hair was still dark. They've gotten it down to a fine science, and Todd has passed some of that skill on to me, throughout our courtship and marriage. We love camping, and luckily that gene has passed down to Alex. Too bad she can read lists yet.

Because Todd is a self employed real estate man and was hard at work up to, literally, the moment we left for our trip on Friday, the packing, organizing, food preparation and list checking was left up to me. Todd packed his own bag and loaded the car. That was it.

And while I proudly declare myself well organized and a machine of efficiency and multi-tasking, apparently preparing for a weekend-long camping trip for a family of four (Patton came) is something that seriously requires more than one frantic mother can lend to the challenge.

Here is what I almost forgot:

  • Dog food
  • Dog bowls
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Ziploc baggies to keep the food from getting wet (it did anyways)
  • Fruit pouches for Alex
  • Buying ketchup
  • Towel

Here is what I really did forgot:

  • Jeans
  • Beanie hat
  • My book
  • Radio
  • Hamburgers
  • Hamburger buns
  • Ketchup (but at least I bought it!)
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Tea
  • Tongs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Axe
  • Shovel
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge

So, needless to say, as all of the forgotten items slinked into my brain after an hour of being on the road, one by one, and I freaked out each time, it was an interesting, emotional car ride to the camp site. But luckily for us, I had made tons of Cornish pasties for night two's dinner, and those bad boys are extremely filling, so we were fine. And I had two pairs of yoga pants to replace the jeans, and our burritos dried out, and our sandwiches were salvable (do not put lettuce on camp sandwiches that you will inevitably have to reheat/dry over the camp fire because that is some seriously disgusting stuff).

Most importantly though, was we did it and we had an absolute blast. Our friends stayed the first night and Charlie and Amber hiked in for a couple of hours on Saturday to hang out and lend themselves to the experience. The second night was just the four of us, Todd, Alex, Patton and myself, all enjoying our family time together. I couldn't have asked for a lovelier trip (but a burrito without hot sauce is somewhat lacking). Alexandra had a blast sitting on tree stumps, as the photo documents, helping dada throw sticks in the fire and dancing to music playing on the car stereo.

We're all exhausted now, but so happy we did it and had as much fun as we did, even if we did run out of ice. And next time, I am going to write down every last damn thing we need and I am triple checking that list, and if I have to rip Todd off of a business call to get some help, then I'll do it. Because man, did we miss the pleasure of condiments on this trip!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shrimp Pasta with Bacon and Corn

Todd, Alex and I spent the weekend camping, which is why I wasn't able to post yesterday. The only photo taken that trip was taken by Alex's godfather, Kevin, so I have to wait for that picture before I blog about the trip. But in the spirit of utter exhaustion, little patience and even less energy to cook, I thought I'd share this super yummy, super easy, super quick dinner. I mean, who doesn't love a dish like that?

Shrimp Pasta with Bacon and Corn
serves 2

5 oz penne, rigatoni
1 cup corn
3 slices bacon 
Olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Add your pasta to boiling water and put the cup of corn into your colander. When you drain your pasta in it, the corn will be perfect. 

In the meantime, start the rest of the dish. Cook your bacon and crumble it in a paper towel:

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet, and once it's heated through, add the onion.

Once the onion is substantially cooked, and your pasta is almost cooked through, add the garlic. You don't want it to over-cook and fully brown, so it's imperative that you add it well after the onion.

When the pasta is al dente, add your shrimp:

And when the shrimp, after ample tossing, looks likes this...

Dump your pasta over the corn in the colander!

Toss the pasta and corn to mix, and then add a little more olive oil and give it another toss. Then plate the pasta and corn first.

Top with the shrimp, onion and garlic, then with the bacon. Salt and pepper to taste!

Now, add 1/4 cup Parmesan to each plate, and end up with this awesomeness:

It was so delicious. I sort of wish I had doubled it so Todd and I could have totally glutted ourselves, but there you have it. Enjoy! In the meantime, I'm going to go shower another four times and lovingly pet my couch for being neither a camp chair nor a wooden stump.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daddies Building Fires.

Whenever Alexandra's around, she's an enthusiastic helper. So this is how how Todd starts fires these days.

Basically it helps keep her out of the fire, away from the fireplace tools, and I get to walk around the house without a Mini Me tracking my every moment and asking "Up?" whenever my hands are full. Of course, in most cases, I just go grab a camera and document the cuteness.

"What? I'm helping, mama."

She really does love the bellows so she was absolutely mesmerized.

Would you just look at those little toes?

"Mama, you are distracting me from my work."

Sorry, sorry! I'll leave you two to the task at hand.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Usurper.

You know, I'm a busy woman. I'm a wife and mother, I work part time, I'm training for a triathlon, I cook dinner seven nights a week, I'm trying to finish my book to one day (I hope) publish it, and I'm tired by the end of the day. You know who's not tired at the end of the day? This guy:

That guy sleeps 16 hours a day, chews on sticks, chases Alex around the house a couple of times, and eats the 8257485 dog bones she insists on giving him (well, sharing with him. Ick). That guy lives here for free, and in the words of our friend Charlie, eats like a king and sleeps like a king. Which brings to mind kings in general, like Robert Baratheon of Game of Thrones. He is sometimes referred to as The Usurper. Something he and Patton seem to have in common. 

See, I'm tired at the end of the day. So when I go into the kitchen to soak a pan, and drag my tired butt back ot the sofa, and see this shit:

Well, I just don't even know what to say. I'm flabbergasted! Seems like Todd represents the majority of Westeros who just up and accept that Robert Patton has taken over the throne sofa. At least that makes me Daenerys Targaryen. <3

Also, please note than neither of them appears to have an ounce of shame or guilt on their expressions. Jerks!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Triathlon Training Update.

Now both those words sound weird

Okay, so on the 14th I did my first speedwork during my 35 minute run. It included accelerations, a tempo run and drills. I thought I'd go into these, in case anyone is curious about increasing speed in their runs. And also it's therapeutic and will help stave off any PTSD symptoms I might have from the experience.

My schedule for this day's run: 15 minute warm up with 6 accelerations, a short tempo run of 10 minutes (I'm reading this article here and it says a classic tempo run is 15 minute warm up, 20 minute "comfortably hard" pace, 15 minute cool down), 4 different drills per leg, and then 10 minutes nice and easy.


From what I gleaned from my training guide, in order to do one of these you measure out, either by time, distance or feel, an acceleration of speed, but never going for a full out sprint. I just decided to keep it short and sweet, since I had to do six of them in my 15 minute warm up and had never done them before. I measured my distance using the lamp posts as markers. I think it was maybe 25 yards per burst.

These aren't so bad but I didn't walk after each acceleration to recoup. See, in the book, it said to find your "starting line" (in my case, a lamp post), accelerate until your "finish line" which is either found on the track, on your watch, or in your muscles if you're going for feel. Then they say to walk or slowly jog back to the starting line. Repeat six times.

I have this thing about Never Walking, so I just kept jogging along at my regular pace, which has increased from an easy 10 minute mile to perhaps a 9 minute mile. But those accelerations got me running definitely faster than my nice and easy pace was supposed to be and I think that damaged my resolve and speed during the tempo run.

Tempo Run

When I read up on this training tool it seemed easier than it actually was.

After getting all fired up with my accelerations, only 3 minutes after starting the "uncomfortably hard" tempo pace, I was like "So, when is this bastard tempo run OVER" and was dismayed when I checked my time. I made myself run to the water fountain, stopped for a drink. And then I walked. It was only about 10 paces, but still, I felt demoralized. I ran the rest of the 10 minutes at tempo pace to the other water fountain, and then staggered around in circles trying to catch my breath for the drills.


Oh man. Drills, according to this site, help you improve stride length and stride frequency, and "will also make you think about the way you run, making you concentrate on your technique and breaking down some of the key elements of your stride."

I write out my workouts on cards and take them with me, and I thought these drills would provide more forward motion. Since I have no idea what 25y is like, I figured that with my height, I'd do three strides per yard while running, so I aimed for 75 strides. Yeah... that was a big fail.

Butt Kicks: They are exactly how they sound. You don't move forward very much because your energy is focused on, yep, kicking your own ass. I thought the tempo run did that, but no.

High Knees: By far the most exhausting of the four, these bad boys wiped me out so quickly, I took two breaks in the span of 75 strides, once at 39 and another at 55. I looked like a high stepping parade pony going down a small stretch of track at the park, right by a very busy road. Wait, a tired high stepping parade pony.

Sideways Side-Step: This is sort of difficult to explain but you take a step to your right with your right foot, then cross your left foot in front of the right. Then you move your right foot to the right again, and bring your left foot behind your right foot. It looks sort of like a line dancing move. This one I did twice, once to the right, the next to the left. When I went to the left I was sure my legs were going to snap off at the groin, oh my God.

Skip: Yeah. I am nearly 32 years old and I skipped. In the drill it's much more exaggerated, not just a little happy skip, it's a bring-your-knee-high-up kind of skip. At least it came after all the others so people around me were aware that I was training. At least I hope it came across that way.

So, to conclude, this work out utterly exhausted me. It was humbling and made me realize that just signing up for a 5k and running until you taste blood and want to vomit afterwards isn't really training for speed, and that I have a long way to go as far as improvement. It was a really tough workout but now I know better of what to expect from myself, and I'm oddly looking forward to next week's speedwork, sort of like I'm looking forward to the next time I give birth without meds.

I'm crazy, I know.

Edited to Add: Yesterday afternoon after work I did my first swim + bike transition workout and it was refreshingly easy! I mean, the swimming was difficult of course, but going from the pool to locker room to bike wasn't bad at all. The only thing was that my skin was dried out from the pool so my skin felt itchy and stingy, made only worse when I started to sweat lightly.

Anyways, according to my book, I was supposed to do 1350 yards in 30 minutes. I didn't recall the time I needed to complete my yards, so I figured it was 35. I got home and was extremely disappointed to learn I was still swimming 5 minutes slower than I should... until I whipped out a calculator.

See, I'm swimming in a 15y pool (dammit), and most pools should be 25y. So I have to break down their distances and divide it by 15. So, for example when the book tells me to swim 50y four times in a row, I'm actually swimming 60. When it asks for 100y, I'm swimming 105. Those add up.

I'm proud to tell you I actually swam 1440y in 35 minutes. Tomorrow's swim workout? 1500y in 35 minutes.

Um, been there done that, folks.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Recently I blogged about the cold spell we had here, the blustery weather, the chilly days and even chillier nights. Why, it got so cold we turned on our heater! During the mornings it's especially brisk, and it's always smart to dress warmly. Having a blanket buddy helps too.

Normally she hates hats. I mean, hates them. I have a feeling this incident didn't last long, which is why Todd grabbed the camera (it was my turn to sleep in that morning). But look how excited she is!

"I'm gonna get you daddy!"

I imagine they had a nice snuggle after this shot was taken. A cozy hat and a soft buddy are nice, but nothing warms the body and soul quite like a snuggle with dada.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Mushroom Soup

This recipe is one that I do from memory and constantly change, improvise and add to, and that always scares me. I was really almost nervous about blogging about it but I persevered and I'm glad I did. One thing though, I seem always to forget that mushrooms and onions render a lot of moisture. Even when I think I've added more than enough flour for my roux, I always end up needing to add cornstarch towards the end. But then again, it means that I always add extra port, and that can never be a bad thing for such a rich and savory soup. 

Long story short (too late), if you want to avoid using cornstarch, I'd add an extra two heaping tbsp of flour. If you don't mind using cornstarch, follow in my footsteps!

Mushroom Soup with Roast Beef
serves 8

Olive oil
6 - 8oz roast beef luncheon meat
1 large onion, chopped
3 heaping tbsp flour
8oz white mushrooms, thinly sliced
8oz white mushrooms, finely chopped
1 8oz package sliced baby portabella mushrooms
8 cups reduced sodium beef broth
1/2 cup port
2 - 3tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp port
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
Baguette slices

Okay! So to prep your mushrooms, whip out your Cuisinart. If you don't have one, do it by hand. Before Todd and I got married (and were gifted with my kitchen mistress, the Cuisinart), I had to do it by hand. I'll be honest, it took SO LONG. Thank God the recipe called for alcohol, sipping it helps alleviate the tedium of finely chopping half a pound of mushrooms.

ANYWAYS. Chop chop:

After you finish your chopping, mincing, dicing and slicing, here's what you'll have:

(Note my adorable recipe card box that I maniacally collaged. I am a Party Puff Girl). Now that your mushrooms are prepared, it's time to start cooking. Heat up your butter and olive oil and once the pot is hot, add the roast beef to sear it, and also to lend its flavor to the soup:

Now, you will want to avoid what I did so make sure you add that olive oil, or your butter will burn and leave you with an ungodly mess. Luckily, after I took out the beef, I added some water and was able to loosen up and dump out the burned crap. But I did leave some in, because it actually smelled pretty good:

Very professional, I know. On to the onion! Chop that puppy up, wipe away the tears and add to the pot along with some more butter, those 3tbsp mentioned in the ingredient list. Did I ever tell you that my family is French? J'adore le beurre!

As that cooks, finely chop the roast beef and set aside.

Once the butter melts and the onions soften and turn golden, it's time to add the flour (remember, add more if you want to avoid cornstarch later). It will be super clumpy, but just keep whisking it:

Add the sliced mushrooms, both types, and stir it up. Now I have Bob Marley in my head. "Stir it up, little darling"

Add enough of the broth until the clumps of flour loosen and it smooths out. Let that simmer and bubble for about 5 minutes. Pardon my steam:

Now it's time to add the rest of the broth and the chopped mushrooms. So pretty!

Bring that BAMF* to a boil:

Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Stir in your roast beef, Worcestershire and port At this point, if you did what I did, you will discover it's still too thin:

In steps my hero, cornstarch mixed with port. Yay, more port!:

Add that to the soup and then add 1/2 cup Parmesan. This is an example of how this recipe constantly changes, I never did this before. Actually, I used steak in the past, never roast beef. But anyways, toss in that cheese:

Stir it up, rasta man:

Ah, perfection at last!

Finally! A good texture, not too thin, not too thick, very full-bodied and rich. Salt and pepper go in, and out comes the finished soup, into a bowl and topped with a sprinkling of cheese and a nice toasted slice of baguette.

Delicious! We each had two servings and still had enough left over for like four more bowls. Excellent!