Dinner with Rachel

After a crazy and hectic weekend full of party prep and Pride Fest adventures, I was ready to chill out and make some yummy food and then proceed to eat most of it. I had caught an episode of Rachel Ray where she made some chicken taquitos and they had been on my mind since then. So, I went for it last night. They were AMAZING! They were restaurant quality and so delicious. I made them as directed, but altered the cooking time. I had read the reviews of the restaurant and they recommended cooking them a little longer if you liked a crispier tortilla. So, I baked them for 20 minutes, pulled them out, poured some store bought green tomatillo salsa on top and some shredded cheese and put them back in for about 5 minutes. I think that made it perfect for me. I made the red sauce from the recipe also, and it was okay, but I prefer the green salsa. I encourage you to try the recipe and I hope you enjoy them!

Party planning

My friend Laura turned 30 on the 17th and we had her party this past weekend. To have a 20’s/30’s themed party was her idea and some friends and I were happy to bring the party idea to life. I don’t have a lot of pictures of the actual party yet, but I do have some of the prep work pictures. Mostly I have pictures of the cake that Sarah and I were so into. We baked the layers and frosted it Friday night, and then came back to it on Saturday afternoon to put a smoother layer of icing on and finish the decorating.

Here are some pictures of the finished product and Sarah doing some of the decorating work:

Sarah cut out all of those diamonds from black fondant – aren’t they fun?? We were very excited about the finished product.

The party was an overall great time. The apartment looked amazing, the food was fantastic. I had made some stuffed mushrooms and Kevin made delicious smoked salmon canapes and crab cakes with a white wine mustard sauce. I also made my tuxedo and evening gown strawberries. We were trying to have a very fancy evening that was also super fun and I think we did it. Sarah made it extra amazing by “borrowing” some cocktail tables from where she works and the linens that go with them. That added a really spectacular element to the event. I’ll have more pictures soon of the apartment and the people at the party. Everyone really got into the 20’s/30’s theme and looked amazing. That made it even more successful. It really was a lovely night.

Big Oscar News

I saw this article today on my Yahoo News page and it’s very interesting to me. This is a big change and I wonder what it will do to acting races which will still have only 5 people. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will play out. Also, read on to discover how many wonderful movies came out in 1939 – 70 years ago. Do you think we’re making the dramatic and creative movies today like they did then? Does technology make a better picture? I don’t know that they do. Think of how different Gone With the Wind would look if it were made today.

Star Trek for Oscar? Academy Expands Best Picture to 10

Star Trek for Oscar? Academy Expands Best Picture to 10 E! Online – Star Trek for Oscar? Academy Expands Best Picture to 10(E! Online)

Los Angeles (E! Online) – It’s a year too late for The Dark Knight, but maybe those Hangover guys will have something extra special to celebrate.

This year’s Best Picture field will be expanded to 10 contenders, the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.

The move could mean typically overlooked genres like sci-fi, comedy and animation could get a crack at the big prize—and could spell good news for this year’s biggest hits, Star Trek, The Hangover and Up.

While the Best Picture category, like the rest of the Oscar fields, has traditionally been limited to five nominees in recent decades, it hasn’t always been so.

During the early years of the Oscars, there were 10 (and sometimes more) nominees, up until Casablanca beat back nine rivals at the 16th Academy Awards at the 1943 ceremony.

Today’s announcement comes as the Academy continues to mark the 70th anniversary of “Hollywood’s Greatest Year”—1939 saw the release of such classic films as Best Picture winner Gone With the Wind, along with fellow Oscar nominees The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Dark Victory, Love Affair, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

Nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards will be announced Feb. 2, 2010, with the ceremony set March 7.

(Originally published June 24, 2009, at 10:35 a.m. PT)

Long week

Last week marked the first of a sad fight/discussion with my estranged husband, the anniversary of my dad’s death and Father’s Day. It was a bang up week.

When did I become the girl who needed a boy to rescue her? And when did I become a girl who held at a standstill? When did I become the girl who couldn’t be loved? When did I become the girl not good enough?

It’s taken a while, but I can say with confidence that I’m awesome. I’m bright and funny and I care about people and I like to make everyone happy and smile and I’m quirky and I watch things bake in the oven and I sing loudly and poorly and I watch credits at movies because I think it’s only fair that they get their 15 minutes in addition to the actors on screen. I’m a nice girl. I could stand to lose a few pounds and my hair is big and I shed, but other than that, I’m great. And I so badly want to love somebody and be loved in return.

I’m a little tipsy tonight, and I’m coming off a terrible, terrible week and I know I’m rambling without a real purpose here. I just wanted to say, maybe just to myself, that I know I’m awesome. I like to take care of people and I’m sad my husband didn’t let me take care of him all the time.

I should focus on the positive. This past week I’ve witnessed some of the best “friending” one could ever have. I’ve had great girlfriends who took care of me, who knew last week was hard, who thought ahead to what might be problematic and took proactive steps to help me through it. As sappy as it is, I know this is what friends are for – just like the song says. I can see it, and I’m so grateful for it. I have true friends and that is a real gift.

I went to see a counselor in college to deal with stuff – boy stuff, sick dad stuff, bad stuff that happened in the past. There was one day where we were planning to talk about something really bad and in preparation, I brought two brownies – one for me – one for the counselor – and my favorite CD to walk home to. My counselor told me I was great at taking care of myself. I think this is a gift and a flaw. I can comfort myself. I don’t know if that means I can take care of myself though, which is a difference I’ve learned along the way. I can’t stress enough how much I really and truly feel I’ve grown in the last 6 months. I actually feel wiser, is that weird? I’ve learned there is a difference in comforting myself and taking care of myself. Comforting myself is what I’m about to do – crawling into bed with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and the movie Twilight. Taking care of myself would be about getting a good nights sleep and going running in the morning. I’m not sure if both are coexisting peaceably yet, but I suppose one is better than nothing.

Sorry for the rambling. Blame the wine guy at Kafka. Super good white wine tonight.

Back in the Bayou

I just got back from five days in Louisiana. The official reason was to attend Kate and Eric’s wedding, which was on Saturday, the 13th (I was married on a 13th also and love it when people pick that as their wedding date – it’s a strange sense of solidarity!) However, while I was there I was so excited to spend time with Cyndi and Lee, eat at some of my favorite places, go back to some of my happy places in Shreveport and just relax in the town I used to live in.

I got to Shreveport on Friday and got a manicure and some Starbucks while I waited for Cyndi to finish up with the decorating for an event she was helping with on Saturday. (An interesting note on the manicure – usually, I can’t stand nail polish on my hands and just get a super sheer pink during a manicure. This time, I went with a bronze-y metallic to go with my dress for the wedding and I am *still* wearing the nail polish. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. I take nail polish off usually within 12 hours of it going on. I just can’t stand it. The morning of my own wedding I stopped by a Walgreens after I got my hair done to pick up a 6 pack of chocolate donettes and nail polish remover to take off the polish I had gotten from the manicure the day before. I know this is a goofy side note, but I like to point out moments that I feel are signs of me growing.) I got to her house in the early evening and we caught up while waiting for Lee to get home from work. I was hoping we could hit Superior Grill (great Mexican, and the hottest spot in town for hanging out) but it was packed and we were hungry. So, we headed to Cantina Laredo where we snagged bar stools while waiting for our table and had some margaritas and did some more catching up. I had asked Lee and Cyndi if they wanted to go for a run the next morning since I’m training for the 5K and they just ran two of them. Apparently Lee had the same thought and Cyndi couldn’t believe that the two of us wanted to go jogging. Dinner was good, despite a few server issues, the company was great and the margarita strong.

We did go running the next morning. It was awesome! We ran on treadmills and this was the first time I had done that in my training. I had been doing interval training before and was often worn out by the time came to start my 3rd or 4th running interval. I had decided to start running and see how far I could go. I ended up running a mile and a quarter before switching to a walk! I thought this was awesome. I ran a mile and a quarter! I was running at a 5mph pace and it was nice that the treadmill was keeping my pace steady. I did the 5K in 40 minutes 15 seconds and ran a total of 2 miles. Woohoo!!!

Cyndi and I went to get the best chocolate chip pancakes in town after we cleaned up from the run. After that I headed to the airport to pick up Colin, the road warrior. He and I checked into the Hilton and got ready for Kate’s wedding, which was at 7pm. And for those of you keeping track – yes, this is Colin – the estranged husband. We get along well, I think we like each other very much still and enjoy each others company. So yes, we were staying together.

Kate’s wedding was very lovely, Kate was a stunning bride. She looked so happy and so beautiful. Here is the wedding in pictures:

They had a lovely wedding cake plus a chocolate groom’s cake. These were the best wedding cakes I’ve ever had. I’m not going to lie, we went back for seconds. I’m happy to say that I continued to follow my make friends with the photographer rule at this wedding – and hopefully the pictures she shot of us are great as a result! The food was heavy appetizers and it was some of the best shrimp I’ve had in a loooooong time. Yummy baked brie and carved brisket and crab cakes and catfish. Mmmm. They had a band that I was familiar with from the casinos and Colin and I had lots of fun mocking the sax player who wore his sunglasses inside all night. We walked back to our hotel after the reception and caught the Weekly Update on SNL before crashing. Good night.

Sunday brought one of my Shreveport happy places – the Louisiana Boardwalk. It’s pretty hokey, but I loved it. I have nice memories of Sunday morning/early afternoon movies, breakfast or lunch and then wandering around this outdoor shopping/entertainment complex. Colin has this theory that he’s proven again and again regarding the number of people in the theatre and how many millions of dollars the movie will make and it’s pretty accurate, which is spooky. So, this Sunday we started with breakfast at IHOP and then went to see UP in 3D. UP was very cute. We did the mandatory walking around, poking into my favorite stores afterwards. We were having dinner at Lee and Cyndi’s later that night and looking forward to some Salsa Verde turkey burgers. Our friend Amy joined us also and it was a great night, just like many we had when we lived there just like this. Our little dinner party group is fun.

Monday I had the day mostly to myself. I had lunch at Pepe’s, the best hole in the wall Mexican in all of Shreveport/Bossier. It was every bit as good as I remember. I took myself to get one of these massive caramel/chocolate covered apples and then snuck it into the movie theatre to see The Hangover, which was very fun. I liked it more than I thought I might. It was worth it, and I recommend it. Monday night I grabbed dinner at the Cheesecake Bistro – a local knock off of The Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday was Tea Room day!! Another very happy place for me is the Glenwood Village Tea Room, with the best chicken waldorf salad and scones with lemon curd and devonshire cream. I met Cyndi for lunch there. There was some more stuff to fill Cyndi in on, and I can’t think of a better place to do it. Hot tea, buttermilk scones covered in butter, lemon curd and cream. Mm. That is a happy, happy place. I had to leave to catch a flight after that – a flight that was delayed a bit due to weather in Chicago. I arrived, late and soaking wet, back to my apartment late Tuesday night.

So, there is my in depth review of the weekend. I’d like to take a moment to give a very special thanks to Cyndi for hosting me, listening to me, gossiping with me, running with me, eating pancakes with me, giving advice to me and being a super teriffic friend this weekend. It was great to see you and spend time with you. Thanks Cyndi.

You are getting sleeeeeppppyyyyy

I bought this book called The Self Hypnosis Diet. I know, diet fad books are a bad idea. This one seemed different and it also said you could use the techniques on other aspects of your life. There are certainly some things I would like my subconscious to get over in addition to my chocolate addiction. They encourage you to read the first three chapters of the book before using the cd for guided meditation/hypnosis. I read those yesterday.

My brain and I have an understanding – I’ll surround myself with tons of stimuli and then I don’t have to hear myself think. I don’t think this is the most successful practice, but it’s what I do. I’m rarely without the radio or tv on, I’ve gotten into the habit of needing the tv on to fall asleep (I love a sleep timer!), and the iphone has made this much worse. Instead of watching the scenery go by or people watching while on a bus or getting coffee, I’m playing solitaire or checking my favorite websites.

There was a concept introduced in this book about how the brain hears everything you think in a very literal way. For example, if you tell yourself to NOT think of rainbows, you’re already thinking about a rainbow. The authors say the brain cannot understand the concept of “not”. So to help your brain along you have to phrase things in a positive form. If you don’t want to think of rainbows, instead tell yourself to think of clouds. It also talked about giving yourself permission to allow distractions. This topic was covered in one of my most favorite books; Eat, Pray, Love. The author of that book is describing what happens when she tried to meditate – her brain and she would have a conversation that occupied her thoughts more than concentrating on meditating. She eventually learned to give those thoughts permission to exist and move past them.

With both of those concepts in mind, I did something very hard today. I’m going avoid much detail because I just don’t think this topic deserves that much attention, but I did something that was hard and almost unimaginable to me. I cut someone out of my life. Someone I’ve known for a very long time. But they were bad for me, they were cruel and selfish and they were repeat offenders of those crimes. I thought I was being the bigger person for forgiving and accepting, but I know that isn’t the case any longer. (Just for the record, it’s not Colin – he and I are still pals and we’re as good as good can be for people who are separated and living in two different cities and still like the other one to know everything going on in their lives.) I gave myself permission to put them in the past and to be angry. It may not sound like much, but this is a big day.

Cake adventures – a tale in many parts

Look at me posting more than once in a day.

My friend Laura turns 30 in a couple weeks and we are having a 20’s/30’s themed birthday party for her. Everyone is encouraged to dress as someone from that time period and it’s going to be a lot of fun. My pal Sarah and I are attempting to make a really fabulous cake. I’m a pretty fair baker, but I’ve never attempted a tiered cake before. We found this picture as our inspiration:
We are going to do it without the silver layer separators. That’s a little too advanced for our first big cake adventure. We are going to make it three tier, smaller tiers so we don’t end up with cake for 100.

We’re having a planning meeting tonight and I wanted to bring a smaller “test cake” with this made from scratch yellow cake recipe. Bakerella has come through for me before with her Oreo Truffles and I have been eager to try another one of her recipes.

Image from Bakerella’s website

This post is going to have to be updated throughout the day because I just popped the layers in the oven. But I couldn’t resist getting on here and raving about how delicious the batter is. I would have eaten every bit of that cake batter if people weren’t counting on me to deliver a cake tonight. It is the lightest, most delicious cake batter I’ve ever had and I cannot wait for the rest of this to play out. I’m trying two different icings later on tonight, a chocolate ganache for the filling and a really simple buttercream for the exterior (I don’t do fondant). Keep you posted!!

UPDATE: The cake turned out really well. It was a delicious cake. It was denser than I had imagined, but the flavor was excellent. I think I overwhipped the chocolate ganache filling, but other than that, things came out super well and I think we have a winning recipe for Laura’s birthday cake.