Cooking At Home

Jon and I have been living together for over a year. Considering that we live in a studio apartment with no doors besides the bathroom, the transition has been pretty seamless. But one thing that has been an adjustment is cooking dinner.

My better half is a picky eater. I’m determined to find healthy things to cook at home that we both like. I was inspired by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. One of the things making them happy was Budget Bytes, a food blog. Check that site out. It’s got tons of economical and delicious recipes.

I created a list of recipes I wanted to try on the site. I sent to Jon to make sure he was on board. He liked everything on the list.

The site helps you menu plan and then create a shopping list. I decided to create three recipes for this week.

The first, Chicken Yakisoba, was tonight.

Dinner tonight.

Veggie-filled and tasty.

It was quite easy. Instead of straight-up cabbage, we used cole slaw mix, which I plan to use rest of in another recipe. I always worry that things with soy sauce will be too salty. This wasn’t.

We both loved it. I might add more heat to it next time.

I wish I could be one of those people who cook for the entire week on Sunday, but I’m not that organized or motivated. For now, I’m happy with trying new recipes.

Have you tried anything tasty recently?

This Weekend in Pop Culture

Friday

During the day, I saw American Hustle with my mother. We both loved it. My only major complaint was that I could feel the length. It was quite long, but I can’t think of scenes that needed shortening, though I’m sure there were. The acting, though, was a delight. So was the soundtrack. Also, so was the makeup. They made Christian Bale less desirable, which I didn’t think was possible. (Unless you think about that video that went viral with him yelling at his mom.)

Friday night is turning into Shark Tank & Chinese Take-Out Night in Heathercore Land. That’s what we did. Shark Tank has been pretty average this season. It seems like the natural progression of the show that the deals are more rare. I can’t think of the last time Mr. Wonderful (aka Kevin O’Leary) closed a deal. Also, we’re still struggling to find a good Chinese restaurant for takeout. We keep going to a restaurant on Chase Ave. that I’m pretty sure was the inspiration for TMJ4′s Dirty Dining.

Saturday

On Saturday, I fell down the House of Cards rabbit hole. It’s so, so good. Kevin Spacey and his weird accent are sensational. It makes me miss being a journalist, and not because of all of the congressman I slept with. <wink>

Sunday

It was Oscar Sunday. I went to my parents for an Oscar party with my family and my bff and official movie co-patriot, John.

John and I once again tied for first in the family Oscar pool, which means the losers get to cook us dinner.

Overall, I didn’t think Ellen did as good of job this year. It just wasn’t funny. I thought Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were a delight when they hosted the Golden Globes. Funny… like I thought Ellen would be. Also, it seemed like the Oscars were layering on the schlock this year like the performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” after the In Memoriam. Also, with the clips of the Best Picture nominees, all of the montages seemed excessive. It seemed like The Academy was trying to convince viewers the relevance of both film making and the Oscars themselves.

With that said, I was happy with the winners. In case anyone from the Academy is wondering.

After the Oscars, I had to watch Girls, and this week’s episode, featuring June Squibb as Lena Dunham’s grandma, was probably one of my favorites this season. It really added layers to Dunham’s character, Hannah, by showing her mother, her two aunts, grandma and cousin.

Season 2 of Girls, with Hannah and her Q-tip was incredibly hard to watch. It seemed like it was hungover from accolades and awards. This season the show has been on point.

Until next weekend. Or whenever I feel like posting again. What did you enjoy this weekend?

 

 

My Wishy Washy 2014 Oscar Picks

This Sunday is Oscar Sunday where I sit in front of my television and judge rich people in fancy clothes while eating snacks and live-tweeting.

This Oscar season I’ve had the luxury of seeing all but one Best Picture nominee. I haven’t seen “12 Years A Slave,” and I don’t think I’ll get to before tomorrow. It’s kind of a bummer because that’s the one that most critics and knowledgeable people are picking to win a whole lot of awards.

Here are my picks.

Best Picture
Will win: 12 Years A Slave.
Should win: American Hustle.

Maybe it was because I forgot all of the hype about American Hustle, but it was well acted, well directed, and I thought the script was interesting. The soundtrack was also awesome. If Gladiator deserves Best Picture then American Hustle deserves Super Best Picture. 

Best Director
Will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should win: Alfonso Cuarón

I don’t think that Gravity deserves Best Picture or any acting awards, but I do think it deserves recognition for how beautiful it looked, so I expect it to win for Best Director and Best Cinematographer. Though, I’d be pleased if it didn’t, and Scorsese wins. Or David O. Russel. Or Alexander Payne. 

 Best Actor
Will win: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Leonard DiCaprio

I thought Matthew McConaughey was pretty fantastic in Dallas Buyers Club. He’s come a long way from his How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days past. I won’t be disappointed when he wins, but I think Leonard DiCaprio should win for The Wolf of Wall Street. He commanded the screen. He made that movie not feel like 3 hours. And I struggle to sit anywhere for that long. 

Best Actress
Will win: Cate Blanchett
Should win: Amy Adams

Didn’t see Blue Jasmine, but I think the only thing standing between Blanchett and a trophy is the recent Woody Allen revelations. Amy Adams in American Hustle was so fantastic. Her character had so much depth. 

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Jared Leto
Should win: Jared Leto

Jordan Catalano FTW. Though, I think Will Forte should have been nominated for Nebraska. He played that role with such a quiet earnestness. 

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should win: June Squibb

Squibb’s character in Nebraska made that movie for me. So funny. So real. 

Best Screenplay
Will win: American Hustle
Should win: Her

Spike Jonze deserves recognition for Her. 

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: 12 Years A Slave

Making the total homer choice — the screenwriter, John Ridley,  is originally from Mequon. With that said, I’d also be extremely happy to see Steve Coogan win for Philomena. 

 

Scrabble Coasters

Jon loves Scrabble. And he also has an unnatural obsession with using coasters. So, when I saw DIY Scrabble Coasters on Pinterest, I knew we had to make them. Then, I got gifted an extra Scrabble game from my best friend, John, who knows how much Jon loves the game.

Here is a link to the directions I basically followed for this project.

Jon cut the cork for the back of each coaster:

Cut the cork

Almost finishedAlmost finished!

They turned out pretty fantastic. I have some friends who requested coasters, so I’ve got my eyes peeled for Scrabble games at Goodwill et al.

 

Homemade Birthday Gift

It’s my brother’s birthday, and I can talk about it, because he’s not one for social media. I wanted to give him something different from the obvious golf shirt. And, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So, my brother is getting cake balls!

If you are unfamiliar with cake balls, let me introduce you to one of the best ways to shovel cake into your mouth. A cake ball is basically a cake pop without the stick. It’s cake that has been crumbled and then coated in chocolate.

I chose to make him red velvet cake balls. When we were out for my father’s birthday, he mentioned that red velvet was a favorite of his.

There are plenty of recipes on how to make cake balls and how to decorate them all cute like baby chicks.We’re going pretty basic here.

First, make the cake according to the direction on the box mix. Let the cake cool. Then crumble it.

cakeballsCheck out the picture of my red mountain of cake. It looks like the surface of Mars. Next add a container of frosting. I chose plain old white frosting. It’s called “white frosting;” I’m sure it’s vanilla. Mix that until it’s combined. Next it’s time to roll you some balls. Decide how big you’d like your treats. Then roll the cake balls and place it on nonstick tray. Once you’re out of crumbles, place the tray inside the fridge for at least an hour. I had mine rest overnight.

Next, melt your candy coating. I’ve noticed that Wilton candy melts work the best, create the nicest finish and are quite tasty. Follow the directions on the package for melting. Coat each ball, place on a nonstick surface and quickly decorate before the chocolate sets.

Take a look at the picture of the finished product. Yum

I purchased a container at the Dollar Tree and a card there too, 50-cent cards FTW!

I’m sure my big bro will like them. If he doesn’t, I know Jon has been staring them down.

Gifts don’t have to be extravagant or super costly. My gift is from the heart. From my kitchen to my brother’s belly. Happy birthday, Scott!

Power Songs

Sometimes, like today, you just need to take a break and re-center yourself. For this, I typically turn to music. Here is a listing of songs that genuinely matter to me.

“She’s Got A New Spell” – Billy Bragg

I just love these lyrics. She took the stars out of the sky and baked them in a pie. I hear that line and smile. If I were to have a sitcom that needed a theme song and Alan Thicke was too busy to write something new, this would be it.

“Am I Loud Enough?” – Bis

It might be the writer in me, but I’m a sucker for lyrics. This is another song that I just love the message. I’ve been through everything, and you can’t bring me down. Bitches. Something like that. I’ve been known to listen to this song in the car and scream along. It’s way cheaper than therapy when you’re uninsured.

“Doing The Unstuck” – The Cure

Come on… Robert Smith sings, “Let’s get happy.” “Wish” is probably my favorite The Cure album. It’s great from start to finish, but this song is a stand-out one for me. The Cure is a strange band. I can hear “Sleep” and automatically start to cry. And then I hear this, and I smile.

“Counting Blue Cars” – Dishwalla

Ok… Ok…. I never owned this record, but this song reminds me of a certain day in high school that was a particular good one. So, for some reason, this song has a positive effect on me.

“The Ballad of Larry Bird” – Vermont

Love Larry Bird. Love Vermont. Love The Promise Ring. Also love “Indiana Jones” by Vermont.

“Rocket” – Smashing Pumpkins

The moon is out. The stars invite. Think I’ll leave…tonight! I saw them perform this song live numerous times, and it’s rocked my socks clean off.

“Simple Things” – Belle & Sebastian

This simple under-two-minute song beautifully sums up my love for Belle & Sebastian.

“With Arms Outstretched” – Rilo Kiley

“In My Life” – The Beatles

My last dying wish will be to listen to this song. It’s perfect. Love it so much.

“Femme Fatale” – The Velvet Underground

“Freelove Freeway” – David Brent (from The Office UK)

One of the greatest moments of TV history. I still want to hear the song with the line “She’s the serpent that guards the gates of hell.”

“Blue Girls” – Pulp

“Time” – Marion

“Excuses” – Minus the Bear

This song reminds me how amazing love is… And how exciting and scary a new relationship can be when you don’t really know exactly how the other person feels. There’s a song for that. It’s “Excuses” by Minus the Bear.

“Putting Out Fires” – The Bluetones

I had the biggest crush on Mark Morriss, the lead singer of the Bluetones, when I was in high school. I even made my former sister-in-law buy me a Bluetones shirt when she visited London in 1996.

“Say Yes” – Elliott Smith

The most optimistic Elliott Smith track.

“Carolina In My Mind” – James Taylor

This is a very sentimental song for me. Whenever I’m planning/traveling to North Carolina to visit my sister and her family, I listen to this song on repeat. And then some more. It reminds me of my family there. I wish I could be there right now. My sister, my brother-in-law and their three boys are amazing.

“Lessons in Love” – Kaskade feat. Neon Trees

If Jon and I had a song, this would be it. <3 #bieberfever

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Weekend in Pop Culture

Friday

I finally finished “Life After Death” by Damien Echols. A worthy read. I’ve been interested in the WM3 case since I saw the first “Paradise Lost” movie in high school. Needless to say that interest made me enjoy this book. If I was unfamiliar with the case or Damien, Jessie and Jason, I don’t think I would have enjoyed reading it as much. Some of the stuff in the book is so incredibly hard to read — just like the movies. Also, reading his diary from the months prior to being released from prison are really quite incredible.

I started reading “Talking to Girls About Duran Duran” by Rob Sheffield. This funny memoir breaks up chapters by 80s/90s song. It’s funny because in my relationship Jon is the Duran Duran fan, and this book highlights girls obsession with Duran Duran.

The reunion of Jesse and the Rippers on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” blew my mind. I was a huge Full House fan. I sincerely wanted to be DJ Tanner. So, this helped me remember that wonderful time of my life where Friday night meant TGIF on ABC.

Saturday

I saw the house from “Home Alone” in person. Yep. That happened.

Sunday

“Wife Swap” night. The thing I learned from this episode of “Wife Swap” featuring “Downtown” Julie Brown and Lisa Leslie.

  1. Lisa Leslie can’t lose to Ray Parker, Jr. in tennis. I mean, do you have to be that competitive?

Good quality TV. Next week, it’s Gerardo and Sisqo. Oh, this is “Celebrity Wife Swamp.” Not sure if you could tell.

 

 

I Still Can’t Believe I Saw A Beatle

Paul McCartney performed last Tuesday at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and I was there.

Paul McCartney performed last Tuesday at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and I was there.

Last week, I was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney perform his “Up There” tour at Miller Park in Milwaukee. When the concert was announced, I knew I couldn’t afford those tickets. But to my surprise: my best friend, John, decided that him and I needed to be there. He surprised me with a ticket. We went with his aunt and uncle.

All in all, it was an amazing experience. I’ve been a huge Beatles fan for a pretty long time. McCartney put on a spectacular show, playing for about 3 hours on the hottest night so far this year.

He played music from throughout his career. Highlights for me were the pyrotechnics during “Live And Let Die.” It was amazing. Ah-maze-ing! “Something” started with Paul playing George Harrison’s ukelele. Loved that. Seeing some of my favorite songs live was incredible. So glad I have this memory now. It’s one I’ll definitely cherish.

Five Reasons Fiverr Sucks

If you’ve never heard of Fiverr, it’s actually a pretty interesting concept. Sellers post gigs that they’ll complete for $5. Once you’re on Fiverr for 30 days with positive feedback, you can start to charge more than $5. The gigs range from making a friendship bracelet to even legal research, which seems kind of sketchy to me. I have been on Fiverr selling for 27 days, so I am not the coveted Level 1 yet. And, for the past 27 days, I can firmly state with much confidence that Fiverr sucks. And sucks it hard. *Note this is my seller’s experience. I know at least one buyer who purchased two gigs and did not receive what the seller advertised, despite the glowing feedback from other buyers. I currently have two gigs active on Fiverr — both are for proofreading/editing where a buyer sends me a Microsoft Word document, and I complete my edits using track changes.

Let’s look at the five reasons why I hate Fiverr:

  1. The Fees. Fiverr takes 20% of your profits. I understand that they have costs associated with doing business, but 20% is ridiculously high. Then add to that, PayPal fees. For a $5 gig, my profits are $3.87.
  2. Questionable buyers. Granted I’ve been lucky to have some great repeat customers, but I’ve also had incredibly shady people who expect the world for $5. Sometimes the issues are due to language barriers. Other times I have sent back edits and buyers expect that the initial fee includes revisions. I actually argued with a lady from Singapore over a run-on sentence I marked for revision. Just one sentence. In a 2,000-word document. I had another person who said my edits/comments were on parts of his piece that other people didn’t have issues with, so I’m obviously an idiot. Self-publish my butt.
  3. I am a very fast editor. But I don’t think I’m fast enough to make the return on investment profitable for me on Fiverr. I don’t dare to calculate my hourly rate on some of my Fiverr gigs. It would make me cry. I put out a quality product, and I’m proud of that.
  4. Fiverr holds your profits for 14 days after gig completion. The reason? I don’t know.
  5. I recently lowered my word count from 2,000 to 1,000 for each of my gigs. That has considerably slowed my traffic. My repeat customers are there, but I’m not getting nearly the interest — despite my glowing feedback. People genuinely want something for next to nothing.

So unless I can complete each gig in 15 minutes, I don’t think Fiverr is for me.