(Pre)Holiday Season Movie Review: Frankenweenie

I would be surprised if there is anyone out there who is unaware of whom Tim Burton is. Or perhaps, they may not know his name, but I doubt there is anyone out there (Amish and Mennonites excluded, the Bushman tribes too) who haven’t either (a) seen one of this movies or (2) heard of one of his movies. With cult films such as Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010) among so many others, Burton has a wide array of fans. From live action to stop-motion animation, I honestly think there is something for everyone in Burton’s works. I find his mix of dark humor, light moments, and overall fantastic story telling captivating. And while I may not be a fan of some of his most popular works (i.e. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, and James and the Giant Peach), I am a huge fan of his dedication (and his crew’s dedication) to the intricacies of stop-motion animation.

In his classic animation style, Burton brings to the big screen a story with a long history. In his original pitch to Disney years ago, Burton was turned away for his tale of a young boys eternal love for his dog (i.e. classic boy and his dog story) much too dark for it’s young audiences. But, with widespread macabre hits like Nightmare and Corpse Bride, Disney gave Burton’s Frankenweenie a second chance. And, LORD HAVE MERCY thank goodness they did.

Without giving much away, and how much can you give away with a modern take on the classic Victorian Gothic novel, Frankenstein, Frankenweenie takes it’s audience into the strange town of New Holland circa an era much like the 1950s/1960s, home to young Victor Frankenstein and his beloved dog, Sparky. But as all stories go when it comes to the Frankenstein theme, something must die in order to be brought to life. And in a way that made not only myself, but my sister Emily and her two best friends cry (ok..we were sobbing), Victor is suddenly thrust into a world without his best friend and ever-present canine. (Note: bring tissues friends, you won’t regret it…this sounds familiar..perhaps mentioned in a previous post).

But fear not loves, Sparky is not gone forever. Not with a brilliant, beyond brilliant idea developing in Victor’s head after his slight terrifying, but ultimately hilarious and loveable science teacher and the school’s science fair project. With dedication, science, and more gadgets, gizmos, and smarts than I have ever had, Victor does succeed in bringing back his friend.

But all good things must come with something bad. When local loner Igor discovers Victor’s secret he cannot but succumb to the temptation of spreading his new-found knowledge with all his classmates in the effort to boost his own popularity. And as we all know, nothing good comes from a bout of jealousy.

Frankenweeine will make you laugh, cry, gasp, and giggle. It will entertain the young (there were numerous younger kids in the theater with us, and I will just say, I didn’t hear a peep out of them which is always a good sign), the teens (my sister and her friends are all high school juniors and seniors), people like me (25 and living with Mom and Dad) and all other age/race/whatever groups. And as mentioned earlier, if you are at all emotional, or if you have ever experienced the loss of a most beloved pet, please bring tissues. Do not be like us and have to sniffle the whole movie. Not that you will cry the whole movie, but well, you may cry at multiple occasions.

*cough* I swear, I am not a baby like this in all movies (or maybe I am…)

My only complaint would be this, there comes a point when teasing the audience becomes too much. There is a scene in the final moments of the movie which had me crying even though I knew a different outcome would occur. No use in dragging out something we know isn’t true. But really that was the only thing.

Ten thumbs up for all the Godzilla references with the Asian character, maybe a touch racist, but oh so funny and appropriate for one of Burton’s movies.

My thoughts, definitely a 4.5 out of 5 stars for me. And don’t bother seeing Frankenweenie in 3D. I don’t ever recommend seeing a movie in such a style. It 3D is a must for you, please see it in it’s regular 2D form first. It’s more natural and you aren’t wasting your money on what ultimately becomes a blurry movie.

Do you think differently? Let me know, I always enjoy sharing thoughts of such things as movies.

Dear Allergies: You Suck

Greetings! No I am not back from the dead, but I might as well be. Death Cold 2012 nearly took me out. Two weeks of sneezing, sore throat, coughing, and enough snot to take care of several boxes of tissues. *sniff* I am still sniffing over here.

Then there was The Great Allergy Attack of 2012. I have never been more itchy and have never felt less adorable in my entire life. In case you didn’t know, hives are not attractive. Especially when you don’t know what causes them.

Well…the first day of hives made sense. I accidentally ate a strawberry product. Long time allergy there, and I should have known better, but everyone makes mistakes. But one tiny bite of evil strawberry shouldn’t cause an entire two weeks of itchiness, red skin, and ugggggh disgusting hives. Both the chicken pox like bumps and those ungodly bubbly “is that a burn” kind of hives. Poopy. that’s what it was.

However, the worst part is that I still have no idea what causes them. At first I thought it was bananas, which almost made me cry. I eat about 4-5 bananas a day…what can I say, I am all about plenty of fruit and veggies in your diet and bananas are the perfect filling snack.

Anyways…

For the most part, the hives are gone. But then this morning they were back after a nice long run. Which makes me think I am allergic to some kind of pollen which is toughing my skin. It sucks. The end.

But the nice part about all of this is…well…is there a nice part? I’ve learned that I shouldn’t take Benydryl because it makes me a zombie. I learned that running outside gives me hives, at least during this time of year. I have learned that anti-itching cream is the best invention ever. And I have learned that there are almost no allergy medicines for hives. Which sucks.

I just sneezed. Loudly. Twice…wait. Three times.

But I am about to take on a new challenge.

I am house sitting for one of my “best friends from high school’s” mother and her mother’s boyfriend. This is wonderful for several reasons:

  1. They have a cat. This is amazing because kitty-kitty and I snuggle all day and there is nothing better than a purring cat.
  2. This house has a gorgeous kitchen and I have already made endless cups of tea and a delicious Asian stir-fry (worst part…I only know how to make 8 servings of this stir-fry so I guess my co-workers are going to get lots of food from me this week). I am going to try to post the recipe tomorrow after I take a photo…I would have done this today, but well, I was too hungry to take a photo.
  3. I have plenty of time to blog.

So here is my plan. I need to review a movie for y’all. I need to discuss how obsessed I am with HGTV, which also means laying out plans for redecorating my room. I need opinions people. Comments, suggestions, “OMG DON’T DO THAT” kind of comments.

You know, among other things.

I am also thinking about giving you peeps a play-by-play of what I eat every day. You will see the unholy amounts of bananas and other fruit that I eat, my obsession with oatmeal, and how I love milk. But, then you will also see how I eat on normal days. I won’t subject you to my “fat” days…like all the fried potatoes, bacon wrapped dates, and endless glasses of sangria that I consumed yesterday.

umm…yes. Look out for a movie review and delicious new recipe tomorrow. Promise. Pinkie promise. There.

The Life of an Invalid

I am officially on Day 4 of the worst cold I have had not only in many moons, but probably since Near Hospital Death Scare ’05. I don’t count Kidney Scare ’12 because well, that is a totally different story I may tell at a later day.

I digress.

I am not deathly ill, but I feel like it. Massive sniffles, horrendous sinus pressure, tired eyes, and general body aches and exhaustion. Damn you cold season. And as such, I have been well, in bed and asleep usually by 8pm each night, if not earlier.

But today is Friday. I am going to live on the wild side and stay up until maybe 10pm since I don’t have to be up until 7am tomorrow for my weekly WW weigh in.

At this point, let’s give a huge THUMBS DOWN to cold and a huge thumbs up to this word:

LIFETIME

Lifetime. Holy bananas Batman. I can’t even begin to say how long I have been waiting to hear that word. The two-syllable word meaning I never, NEVER PEOPLE, have to pay again as long as I am +/- 2 lbs of my goal weight at Weight Watchers. I don’t have to PAY anymore, can you say monthly manicures! I sure can.

This also means I have come to the end of the weight loss journey of my entire lifestyle change. And now I start a whole new journey, keeping the weight off. That is the real challenge. How many of us out there have lost weight, only to gain it back. See my hand raised. Yup.

It is so easy to think “awww I’m so cute. Look at all this weight I’ve lost. I got this, psssh I don’t need to watch everything I eat anymore…COOKIE.”

Oh wait…that was me this afternoon.

I digress yet again. Point of the matter is, keeping 65 lbs off my body is going to be the hardest part of my journey. Plus, I have added in the desire to lose a few more pounds, but to replace it with lots of lean muscle. Momma wants a flatter tummy for next summer.

Now, one would think, huh, I just lost 65 lbs over the past 2 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, I think I am going to celebrate with a beer. A burger. A…I don’t know milkshake. And while that last suggestion sounds good (mmmmmm peanut butter chocolate banana milkshake from Peppertree Frosty)…….what? milkshake?

What I am saying is, while most people would splurge on a fatty, but definitely delicious meal, I celebrated with, what I think is, the best meal ever since the creation of well, all things frozen:

I will say right now that Yogurtland is pretty much the most awesome place on Earth. Because:

  1. Who doesn’t like frozen yogurt?
  2. Who doesn’t like self serve?
  3. Who doesn’t like tart frozen yogurt?
  4. Who doesn’t like fruit toppings?
  5. Who doesn’t like pretending that only a few mochi is still healthy even with a piece of peanut butter chocolate lurking on top?

Basically, I lived off the stuff in college and because it is a HUGE trigger food (i.e. food which causes massive temptation and causes you to eat more than you normally would) for me, I swore it off when I started Weight Watchers 54 weeks ago. But I knew I would go back once I learned how to control my portions and learn that you can have just a little bit and enjoy it just as much as a bigger portion.

Such was learned when my total was only $6 instead of what I used to pay…cough..umm $15. And for those of you who don’t know, at self serve frozen yogurt you pay per ounce.

Which is how I ended up with nearly every tart yogurt flavor on the menu, every fresh fruit except strawberries (allergic), mochi, and to satisfy my love of all things peanut butter and chocolate, a chunk of Reeses, which of course, I saved until the end. Because you know, I wanted to savor it.

But that wasn’t the only thing I treated myself with last Saturday, I also had ummm pancakes and sausage. BUT it was for a fundraiser for El Camino’s Marching Band. So it was uhhh less caloric because I was funding music in schools. Yup. That is what I tell myself anyway.

However, if you know me, you know there is no way in creation that I would eat pancakes and NOT work out. And since Yogurtland is oh-s0-far away, I thought hmmm. What’s near Yogurtland?

This is near the delicious frozen yogurt institution:

Awww ain’t he cute. Not enough of a hint?

I get the feeling these are awful hints.

Whoooo wild animals!

But seriously, what better way to walk off pancakes and prepare for frozen yogurt than hiking in 105F heat at the Wild Animal Park….errr wait…the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. sigh. Oh name changes.

Seriously though…(1) I say seriously way too often and (2) Did you know awesome things like this were at the Safari Park:

COME ON PEOPLE! How gorgeous is this? I had no idea it existed since someone who shall not be names *cough*EMILY*cough* always insists on us taking the same walking tour. Holy Conifer Trees! Beautiful. I didn’t even feel like I could stumble upon wild animals in this area of the park. So calming, it smelled of delicious pine, and well…there were bugs, but I got over them. I could stay there all day and just soak up the sights and sounds of the little river…and then hear a random tiger.

AWEEEEESSSOMMMMMMMME.

And to think, that view is just around the corner from the photo above. I love where I live.

But before I go and despite my horrific head cold and go out with my friends for one last coffee before one of us moves to Africa, one last photo to share. Probably the real reason why I go to the Safari Park as often as I do:

I love elephants ♥

Coming Soon: Fast and Healthy Work Lunches

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At the urging of several of my coworkers to share my lunch secrets, coming soon will be a series of posts about my favorite quick, healthy, and flavorful lunches. From salads to revamping leftovers there school be something for everyone so no one has to resort to eating out every day.

Sneak Peak Photo: Romaine, fresh pinto beans, and Mexican rice topped with serranos, fresh pico de gallo, and cubed mangos dressed with freshly squeezed lime juice.

When the Weather Outside is…Blistering

I have done a great any things this past week. Posting has not been one of them. Cooking has not been one of them either. I can easily attribute my lack of cooking to the disgustingly hot heat San Diego has been experiencing the past few weeks. Now, I know there are other regions of our world that are much hotter than it has been here, but please. I live in a town with the word OCEAN in it for a reason, I expect nice beachy weather (despite the fact that I hate sand). I do not expect 100+ temperatures. I do not like it, no, not at all.

And yet…I still yearn to move to Florida. I never said I make sense.

So what do you do when it is hotter than the rest of California and you don’t like sand (to be explained on a day when well, I feel like explaining my weirdness)? You bribe your 17 year old sister to go out and do adventure-type things with you.
Me: Let’s go to the zoo.
Emily (looking up from her tumblr with an exasperated face): No. It’s hot.
Me: Let’s use my Living Social deal and go to the movies.
Emily: umm No.
Me: Let’s go to the aquarium.
Emily: I like fish.

For those interested, this is pretty much how every conversation ever goes with her. And half of the time, no one understands us. We like it that way.

So after dragging her away from whatever you do on tumblr, she is way more internet savvy than I am, we packed snacks and left blistery 107F Oceanside for 100F La Jolla. I know, we lucked out man.

But where we went had air conditioning, we don’t have that at home. We went here:

Birch Aquarium is one of those places that most people neglect in San Diego because more hype goes to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. Not that either of those places are bad, I have had annual passes to the Zoo since I was born and I would have them for Sea World too if it didn’t cost me more money than I make in a days work….

BUT BACK TO THE POINT, I love this aquarium. I used to take Emily here all the time when I first learned how to drive, which may be why I like it, but in reality, it is pretty much awesome for the cost of admission. The two of us got in for under $20. I call that a deal.

Plus, you get to see fish, you get to touch things in a tide pool, and you can jam outside with some wind/fancy science equipment that makes noise when you move it.

Can you tell that science is not my forte?

 Seriously though, how could you not like a place that has life size whales jumping out of a water fountain. I know I would do just about anything for a pet whale, so this is my cup of tea.

ANDDDDDD, as a locally focused aquarium, many of their exhibits showcase things found right off our shoreline, like this kelp forest.

FUN FACT FOR YOUR MONDAY: Kelp, at the right temperature, can grow 2+ feet per day. PER DAY PEOPLE. Can you imagine. However, if the water is hotter than 62F, it stops growing. Remember this people, you might need it someday.

If you check Birch Aquarium’s website, they have schedules for things such as feedings and talks. We happened to arrive in time to grab a floor seat for a talk and feeding at this California kelp forest exhibit. We got to watch a jolly portly man talk about kelp and fish and then we got to watch divers clean the exhibit and feed the fish. Let me tell you, some of those fish are fisty.

The diver got bit several times. You would think they never eat. SIDENOTE: No divers were injured in the making of this post.

I cannot tell you the wonders of standing by this exhibit. Or really, the number of times I heard GROWN adults scream “OMG HONEY IT’S DOREY. LOOK IT’S DOREY SHE REALLY EXISTS.”

Sigh.

Yes, Dorey is based on a real fish. Her real name is a Blue Tang or Regal Tang.

And yes, you sound really stupid yelling at a poor fish to “stand still” so you can take her picture and send it to all your friends. It would have been much more clever for you to take a picture of a clown fish and post it to Facebook stating: “I found Nemo.”

Or, you could, *gasp* enjoy the entire exhibit for the beauty it was.

But seriously, it was a grand time.

But really, that photo there explains it all. I love jellyfish and I love that 17 year old. I pray she never grows old of her older sister.

_______________________

For more aquarium photos or to get an inside look into my sister’s obsession with dogs, marching band, and the Zoo, please check out her flickr account: poochskieslove. You won’t regret it. I sure don’t every time I want to be distracted.

Baby Shower Cupcakes and Tea

I have been to more than my fair share of baby showers, not that I am complaining. There is something about babies, their soft skin, the smell of their shampoo and body wash, their smiles, snuggles, and their grogginess after they eat. Oh I love babies. I even love the not-so-attractive side of babies: the burps, the spit-up, the dirty diapers, and the lack of sleep Mom and Dad get.

When my sister had my niece seventeen months ago, I love the nights I took over to let my sister get some extra sleep. I loved my sleepless nights soothing my Little Bean who had a wicked case of acid reflux keeping her up and fussy most of the first nine months of her life. I never complained (much) about the lack of sleep, even if it meant going to my then-current job at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 5am with little more than a half-hour of sleep the night before. I will do anything for a baby.

But back to baby showers, yesterday we celebrated the pregnancy and impending birth of my friend Melanie’s little girl. Due in just shy of three months, Melanie still have time to savor those last months of pre-motherhood, meaning sleep, childless date nights, and…well I was going to say sleep-filled nights, but I am pretty sure most pregnant women do not have a night of solid sleep.

However, the main topic of interest for this post (I’m sure) relates to this photo I posted much to the horror and delight of my Instagram and Facebook followers on Friday night:

Yes, that is one stick shy of three pounds. Now don’t you worry your pretty little hearts, when I say I used every stick of this butter, I should probably make a note that I ruined 3 whole sticks of butter and 9 eggs in my first baking attempt.

What? Sarah made a mistake? I know, it’s shocking, unbelievable really. But I make mistakes all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I have made silly mistakes while cooking and baking. But let me tell you, I make sure to never make the same mistake twice.

SIDE NOTE: There is thunder and rain at the moment. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the wonderful smell that is rain on hot cement. Breathe deep my friends. Savor that smell. It is quite possibly the best smell on Earth.

Now, back to the baking…let’s move away from the fact that I made a mistake while cooking, and focus more on the recipe itself.

Let’s be honest and up-front here. When it comes to baking, I rarely come up with my own cake recipes. Instead, I, like you, read countless blogs, following the baking adventures of others and following their lead when they find a recipe winner. This brings me to the most delicious Vanilla Bean Cake I have ever eaten thanks to Sweetapolita, who by the way, if you don’t read her blog, you really should. I love her, which in effect, means you will probably love her.

Vanilla Birthday Cake Recipe
(thanks to Sweetapolita for the recipe and her directions which I only slightly edited with my snarkiness):

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped (not cheap, but oh so worth it. I have been ruined for life by vanilla beans)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (get pure people, none of that disgusting imitation foolishness)

(1) Preheat your oven to 350° F and make sure that your oven shelves are in the middle rack of your oven. You will thank me for this. While you are at it, prepare your pans. Sweetapolita uses her batter to make three 8″ x 2″ round cakes. For my baby shower purposes, I used two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans and one cupcake pan (making 12 cupcakes). If you are making round cakes, please grease your entire pan, bottom and sides, with butter. Then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Make sure it is parchment and not wax paper. Wax will melt in the oven. You do not want waxy cakes, no one wants that. THEN, dust the entire pan with flour to make sure all areas of your pan are covered with butter. This is for two purposes, to makes sure you have enough butter and to make sure you can get your cakes out with ease when they are done baking. If you are making cupcakes, this recipe will probably make between 36-48 cupcakes, so make sure you have enough liners.

(2) Using a mixer (either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment OR you can be like me and use an electric mixer because I am poor and KitchenAid mixers are not on my parent’s budget list for my Christmas gifts)…but yes, using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture if lighter in color and slightly increased in volume. This will take about 3-5 minutes. I just set a time and beat it for 5 minutes to be safe. Then lower the speed to medium and gradually add the egg whites. For my egg whites, I separated them all into a big bowl and then let them come to room temperature and poured them into the butter and sugar recipe from that bowl.

(3) Before you start creaming the butter and sugar, like, after you butter and flour/prep your pans, you should sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Also, in a different bowl, you should wish the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and contents of the vanilla bean together. I also let this come to room temperature, but it is not necessary.

(4) On medium speed, alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. NOW PLEASE, please make sure you do not over-work the mixture. You do not want to upset the gluten in the flour which will make your cake dense and/or tough. If your mixer is staring to strain with the batter, switch to a wooden spoon and gently mix by hand to finish your batter.

(5) Evenly divide the batter between your pans/cupcake liners. For my cakes, I used my digital kitchens scale to make sure each pan had the exact same amount of batter, but you can also just eyeball. Then smooth the tops of the batter to ensure even cooking. For my cupcakes, I use a small ice cream scoop and each cupcake gets just under two level scoops. If you are making cupcakes, never fill your liners more than 2/3 of the way full. Otherwise they may overflow, which isn’t bad, but the tops of the cupcakes might stick to the rest of the pan.

(6) Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes. Sweetapolita says to rotate once after baking for 20 minutes. I didn’t do this, but please feel free to. If you are baking cupcakes, mine took between 15-18 minutes. For either the cake or cupcakes, you can check to see if they are done by inserting a toothpick and having it come out clean (or with a touch of crumbs) OR by lightly touching the top of the (cup)cake and if it springs back, it’s done.

(7) For either your cakes or cupcakes, let them cook in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove to let cool completely on the wire racks. If you made cakes, you can peal away the parchment at this time.

 

At this point in time, your house will smell AMAZING. For it, it was just after 10:30pm when everything was done baking and LORD HAVE MERCY, the smell made me feel like I had died and gone to baking heaven. This cake has made a vanilla cake lover out of me. Honestly.

But you can’t have cake without frosting. It is just, well, against the law. For this occasion, I went wild and crazy and wanted two frostings. I live on the edge. Here is what delighted me that late Friday night:

 

Fresh Raspberry Frosting:

12 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen because well, fresh were way too expensive)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
kosher salt

(1) In a medium saucepan, cook the raspberries over medium heat, stirring often, until the begin to break down. Once they are broken down and saucy, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes. You are going to want to keep an eye on these beauties. What you are looking for is the the raspberry goodness to reduce by at least 1/2 to 2/3. You want your final sauce to be incredibly thick and a deep wonderful red color.

(2) When your raspberry sauce is at the desired thickness, Pour the raspberry sauce into a fine mesh strainer, which is over a bowl, please don’t forget a bowl people! Press the sauce through. What you want is all the delicious raspberry juice (which will be thick) and none of the seeds. I mean, you could keep the seeds, I just didn’t want them. You are looking for about a 1/3 cup of very concentrated sauce. If you have too much, put it back on the stove and reduce for a little bit longer. Let cool completely.

(3) In a medium-largish bowl, combine the cool raspberry sauce, butter, and 3 cups of the powdered sugar, as well as a nice pinch of kosher salt. Using your mixer, beat over medium heat until well mixed. Then slowly start adding the rest of the powdered sugar. You are looking for a consistency here which makes you happy. I like stiffer frostings so I can pipe them. this however, would be perfect thinner if you wanted to say, use it as a filling, or if you wanted to drizzle it over slices of chocolate loaf…yum. For me, I used about 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.

 

Lemon Buttercream:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (or you could mince your lemon zest like me)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream (please use cream, not whole milk)
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

(1) In a medium-large bowl, beat together the butter and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly start to add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. At this point it will seem slightly thick.

(2) Add the lemon juice and heavy cream. Now, please do not panic. It will look soupy and watery. Trust me, turn the mixer back on and slowly work up to medium-high speed and beat for one more minute. Your results should be light, fluffy, and oh so lemony-delicious.

 

Here are what my end results look like:

Look at that gorgeous red raspberry color. And you know what makes it even better…IT”S ALL NATURAL. There is no food coloring added. Isn’t that amazing? Oh the beauties of nature. For my lemon buttercream, I did use a dash of buttercup yellow food gel from Wilton. Let’s also take a moment to behold the beauty of grease-proof cupcake liners. Ahem.

 

I would also like to add that the cake was a hit. Only one slice is missing here, but let me just say, out of the cake and 12 cupcakes I brought to the baby shower, I only brought two slices home. Let’s also thank Instagram for these last three beautiful photos. I love you Instagram.

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It was a High Tea themed party. I do enjoy myself a nice cup of tea, especially in such beautiful china.

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I love my niece, don’t you. She didn’t have tea, but apple juice. But still, I’d say it was one successful baby shower.

Getting to Know Me

Growing up, I was the epitome of shy. I could hardly bring myself to go up to the counter at a fast food establishment and ask for ketchup. Every time my Dad made me, I thought the world was going to come to an end. My extreme shyness made making friends extremely difficult. It wasn’t until I was in my latter college years that I finally started coming out of my shell. However, this doesn’t mean that I am a little social butterfly. Throw me in a room full of people I don’t know and well…let’s just say it isn’t pretty. There is sweat, nerves. and fidgety hands involved. Like I said, not pretty.

However, this is the Internet. I have at least a mouse click between us which means, HI, I’M NOT SHY ONLINE. And since most of you probably don’t know me, here are

 

25 Things About Me that You Probably Never Needed (but Wanted) to Know

1.  Unless you count declaring my major midway through my first semester Freshman year of college, I never changed my major. I knew in my heart that English Literature was exactly what I needed to study and love for the rest of my life. It was the best decision I have ever made.

2.  I had a pinata at my twenty-first birthday party. I demolished it while wearing 4-inch heels. My family thought it was amazing, I however, have not worn 4-inch heels since.

3.  I am allergic to strawberries. Always have been. However sometimes, I sneak in a bite of strawberry ice cream and face the consequences. I love strawberry ice cream.

4.  I really dislike beef. But I will eat lengua and cabeza any night of the week. They are my only two exceptions.

5.  To me, the perfect beach has no sand. Sand is demonic. This would explain why I avoid the beach like the plague.

6.  I know every single word to the following movies: The Little Mermaid, Pride and Prejudice (2005), That Thing You Do!, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

7.  I have had a cat calendar every year for the past five years. I love cats.

8.  I own three articles of visible black clothing: suit jacket, sweater, skirt. I hate the color black.

9.  The only drive-thru windows you will ever see me at are at In-N-Out, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Steak-N-Shake.

10. In reference to the above, the last time I ate McDonalds was in 2005, the last time I ate Taco Bell was 2009. I have never really eaten at any other fast food establishment.

11.  I can’t wear fake silver. I turn green instantly. Green skin is not a good look on me.

12.  I am a crier. Nine times out of ten, any movie will make me cry. All books make me cry.

13. Speaking of books, I may be an English major, but my favorite author is Sarah Dessen. She writes young adult novels.

14.  I am not artistic at all. Unless you count scrap-booking. That’s art right?

15.  My favorite cuisine is Mexican food. All the cheese, salsa, tortillas, cheese, rice, spice. mmmmm. I just had a personal moment over here.

16. My two little sisters will always be little sisters. Even if they are 16 and 23 now.

17.  I have had two offers of marriage. One from a 7 year old and one from his 5 year old brother. I made a very serious promise that if I am not married by the time they graduate from college, I will marry one of them. I love them, but Lord have mercy, I hope I am married by then.

18.  My biggest fear is that I will never find a man brave enough to spend the rest of his life with me.

19.  The perfect pizza has four things: dough, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh slices tomatoes. Nothing else.

20.  I hate tuna sandwiches, but love tuna melts. Does that make me weird?

21.  I can’t spell. At all. Spell check is my best friend.

22.  If I could eat self-serve frozen yogurt every day for the rest of my life, I would. It is that good.

23.  For the first time in my life, I don’t just weight the amount I put on my drivers license, I weight less. I wrote that weight down when I was 17. I am now 25.

24.  I never go out without my hair and makeup done. Even if I am just wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.

25. Bananas and I are BFF. In fact I eat about 4 bananas a day. But at least my addiction is a healthy one.

And to send you off to enjoy the last day of your Labor Day Weekend, here is my dog Cricket. He has a cute butt.

Easy Shrimp Tacos

There is nothing I love more than a dinner you can throw together in a moments notice. While I am a planner at heart, there are times I like to live on the wild side and do things at the spur of the moment. Like tonight. Why plan dinner when I can figure it out on the way home. But shhhh…this is my favorite “go to” dinner. Here’s why:

How could you not want to sink your pearly whites into that? Quick and easy shrimp tacos make even the most stressful day seem less tedious and were just what I needed after an entirely too long and too busy week at work. And since there are so many easy steps to this tasty dinner, here are several step by step instructions on how to get your Taco Tuesday on any night of the week.

Salsa. Mmm let’s say it again. Salsa. SALSA! Is there anything tastier than fresh salsa. All those firm juicy tomato chunks, those crisp and sharp onions, clean, tangy cilantro. And of course, my favorite part, spicy peppers. Since salsa’s ingredients are fairly well…obvious (unless you live you know, on the Moon in which case, I’m sorry you don’t know the best topping ever)… I am going to resist listing the ingredients, but I will say, choose your chiles based on your heat tolerance. Do not be like me and choose the hottest pepper you can find. You probably did not have a Grandma who fed you chiles when you started to walk. Repeat: DO NOT think you can handle more heat than you can. Don’t complain when you do, I warned you.

So how do you take tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers into delicious salsa. You CHUNK it up baby. Dice up your tomatoes and onions. Mince your cilantro. And mini-dice your chiles. Which reminds me: DO NOT REMOVE THE SEEDS. All those wimps on TV telling you to remove the seeds clearly are well…wimps. Leave the seeds in. If it is too hot for you then just add less of the minced chiles. The seeds offer so much flavor and you don’t want to miss that.

Also, I’m silly and didn’t take a photo of any kosher salt. Please salt your salsa. Your mother will thank you, your father will thank you. I will thank you. How much salt you ask? Here is what I do: sprinkle liberally kosher salt over your entire bowl of salsa. Stir. Taste. You want to make sure you have enough salt to bring out the tastiness of everything, but not too much salt that it tastes salty. Trust me, I have given many friends this recipe. They have never been disappointed.

GUACAMOLLLLLEEEEEE. Sweet Nature, thank you for the delicious delicacy of avocados. And like I said with the salsa, if for some horrible, depressing reason you don’t know what guacamole is here is how I throw down and make it:


What you will need:

Avocados (ripe please)
Tomato
Onion
Cilantro
Garlic Power (not shown, I’m silly)
Kosher Salt (not shown, I was in a rush)
Lime (not shown, because well, it was an afterthought)

And for once I invite you to be like me and set aside some minced cilantro and some diced tomatoes and onions. Or you could make life even easier and just stir in some salsa (but my wimpy mother and sisters hate spicy things, so I set the extras aside.) Oh and….duh…mash your avocados. I am going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and trust they know how to cut open an avocado and take out the pit. If not, well I will explain that another day.

Mix everything together (note: now would be a good time to invite your kids in the kitchen. Kids love stirring. Trust me). As for the spices, sprinkle well with salt and sprinkle less well with garlic powder. Sorry for being so cryptic. I suck at explaining spices. Also, if you can’t tell, I am making individual portions today. One day I promise to make a gigantic-way too much to be just for me-portion and then I will give actual spice measurements. The key here is you want it nice and seasoned, but not too much garlic. Unless you like that sort of thing.

At this point, please put the salsa and guacamole in the fridge. You want then nice and chilled. It will also clear the counter so you can make what might be my favorite part of fish and shrimp tacos: WHITE SAUCE. Yum.

You will need:

1/4 cup Plain Non-Fat Yogurt (I had Greek yogurt on hand so I went with that)
1 teaspoon Mayonnaise (I like light mayo, my dad likes real, whole fat, mayo. Whatever floats your boat)
Lime Juice (I used I think 2-3 limes)

This might be the easiest thing in the world to make. I made enough for four tacos because well…that is how it turned out. And i wanted to give more exact measurements for this. Here is what you do: put ingredients in bowl. Whisk. Chill. Done.

I said it was easy.

Now. There are many incarnations of fish tacos. My dad beer batters white fish and fries them. I don’t because well…I try to not gorge on fried foods and I love gorging on these tacos. I usually broil my fish in lime juice and spices, but remember, I said this was about fast go-to dinners. So meet my lifesaver:

Let’s just say it now: Thank you Jesus for Trader Joe’s. Ahem.

Seriously.

Cook your fish or shrimp. For instance, I followed the directions on my box. These cook in 14 minutes. You could easily make the guacamole, salsa, and white sauce while the oven heats and while the shrimp cooks. I did this.

Now. I am going to say something that will blow your minds. Here it goes:

Only white people like flour tortillas.

Yup. It’s true. No self-respecting Mexican would ever eat a taco with a flour tortilla. It’s against our culture. *ick* I just got the shivers even thinking about a taco on a flour tortilla. Do yourself favor. Repeat this over and over again: eat. breath. eat corn tortillas. Corn tortillas are your best friends. They will make your life complete.

I cook mine on open flame because well that is how my Grandma did it and I do a lot of things like her. If you don’t have a gas stove, let’s mourn together….feel any better? No? Well, you can always nuke them. How long? I have no idea. Sorry. Experiment and find out.

YUM! I could live off the smell of charring corn tortillas for the rest of my life.

And as if this post wasn’t long already, we are in the home stretch. ASSEMBLY!

Step 1. Put tortilla on a plate (not totally necessary, but let’s pretend to be civilized).

Step 2. Lay out shrimp/fish on the tortilla. Adorn with guacamole and salsa. Remember your portions people. Yes avocados are good for you, but in controlled portions. I use 1 ounce of guacamole per taco. That turns out to be about a rounded tablespoon.

Step 3. White Sauce. This was going on the easy side for me. I ended up adding more.

Step 4. Add some shredded cabbage. There are no pictures for this because I became way too eager to eat and totally forgot. Today I had Napa cabbage, but your everyday green cabbage is a tastier pick. Trust me, I would never lie to you.

Step 5. Lime juice it up people. You won’t regret it.

Step 6. That’s obvious isn’t it.

And for those of you who like lists, keep these things on hand to make one quick, and delicious dinner any night of the week:

Salsa:
Onions
Tomatoes
Cilantro
Chile Peppers (I personally like Serrano peppers)
Kosher Salt

Guacamole:
Avocados
Onions
Tomatoes
Cilantro
Kosher Salt
Garlic Power
Lime Juice

Frozen Shrimp/Fish (for a quick easy dinner)
Cabbage
Corn Tortillas

…you can add cheese too. But I don’t. Feel free to add cheese. I won’t look down on you. At all…this time.