Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Garlic Trick

I'm a pro with cleaning, peeling and cutting onions, but not so much with garlic.  It takes me forever to just get the thin skin off of the entire head of garlic, nevermind the actual cloves, which is why I can't wait to try this really awesome technique which promises peeled garlic in 10 seconds or less.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from on Vimeo.

Watch the video, then try it yourself and see if it works.  I'll do the same and report back here.

Via thekitchen, via Saveur

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On The Path to Extinction


This Friday, ABC will air All My Children for the last time, and One Life To Live will soon follow with its last episode scheduled for sometime in January 2012.  It's been several months since the network decided to cancel these two long-running soap operas (unless there's a miraculous internet return, which I'm doubting), but I'm still sad for reasons that I think will make sense to many loyal soap watchers and hopefully some non-daytime television lovers. 

I will preface this by saying that it has been a while since I've regularly watched daytime television myself but I grew up watching ABC soap operas every day.  My grandmother took care of me and my brother when we were young and every afternoon, she would make us lunch in the kitchen and we'd watch hours of Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital on a small black-and-white antenna television, right up to when it was time for her to start dinner. The stories were drawn-out family dramas or quick love affairs, and every character was linked to every other character in one way or another.  During school vacations or summer breaks, I resumed my soap-watching and loved that after several months of being away, I was still able to keep up with the storylines (although sometimes new actors would come in to replace already-established actors in the same role and how confusing was that?).

In high school, I loved General Hospital and would tape it every day since my after-school job made me miss it.  In college, even with at least five classes a semester, a job and internships, I always either recorded the episode or caught part of it as I was dashing off.  One of my roommates was obsessed with GH and every night, we would recap together in our shared kitchen.  (I know General Hospital isn't canceled yet, but there's reason to think that it's only a matter of time).  Being a soap fan is like It was like being part of a group that had millions of members of all ages, who tuned in just to see what was happening in fictional Port Charles.

But I guess things have changed.  I don't like change, and I'll be the first to admit I revel in routine.  I'm upset that these two shows have been canceled, but perhaps I'm more upset about what it means overall. Instead of watching television to escape into made-up worlds, we are watching reality television shows featuring 'real' people who volunteer to be filmed.  No matter how crazy the Buchanans and the Quartermaines were, it's nice knowing that they were created for entertainment purposes.  Individuals eager for fame actually create 'real lives' and then turn a camera on for all to see. 

Now, these entertainment mainstays are being replaced by more talk shows.  Starting next Monday, The Chew takes over All My Children's slot, bringing more quasi-celebrities and manufactured camaraderie to network television.  I'm not knocking the format or the hosts as much as I am the sheer volume of extremely similar shows.  How many self-help, instructional programs does America need? 

Susan Lucci doing her thing as Erica Kane

Soap operas are companions to viewers; Susan Lucci disappears into her character, Erica Kane, and becomes a constant in so many lives.  People who are comforted by routine or even just the familiarity of the shows themselves are bound to be distressed.  I keep imagining a nursing home filled with senior citizens all waiting for their program to start so they get their daily dose of Pine Valley gossip.  In any event, I doubt it will be comforting when a 90-year old woman turns on her TV next week to watch her stories and instead sees Mario Batali dancing behind a stove in orange crocs making pasta sauce.   

Where are the protesters (except for a few small groups that banded together like this one outside the ABC studios after the announcement)?  Remember when Chuck on NBC was on the cancellation bubble and fans started sending in Subway sandwiches to the network?  Other shows with less of a following have also had viewers protest.  And in this situation, there could not be a more perfect thing to send to the network execs: SOAP!

I think that most people are embarrassed by their love for soap operas but there's nothing wrong with loving these shows, or the routine that comes along with being a loyal viewer.  At this point, I don't think I'm alone when saying that I'd rather watch 60 minutes of General Hospital than back-to-back episodes of Jersey Shore.   In real life, I'm not at all like the privileged people on soaps, but I'm not like the crass exhibitionists on MTV either. At least the stories and characters on General Hospital are fictional.  

So tomorrow, plan to watch the last episode of All My Children ever and enjoy every minute of it.  Wear your pearls, get comfortable in that silk negligee you've been saving, and have your favorite alcohol beverage close by.  It truly is the end of an era. 

Image courtesy of Deadline

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three Things Learned from a 2-Hour Sewing Class

I love this workspace. If only I could be so organized and color-coded...

Two years ago, Anthony bought me a sewing machine for Christmas and I've been dying to learn how to use it.  Instead of just jumping in and reading the manual like I would normally do, I signed up for a class at the local JoAnn Fabrics to learn the basics.  In addition to learning to thread the machine, I also learned these three important things during my two-hour class.

  1. Darts in dresses and shirts are back in style.
  2. Fleece is apparently made of recycled plastic, which is why is dries so quickly and also why you can't iron it.
  3. Even though the supply list for the class included a yard of interfacing fabric, we never actually learned what to do with it. I did, however, learn how to hold a seam-ripper the correct way, which will come in handy when I make all of those mistakes.

Does anyone have a favorite sewing website?  I promise to share my first project with you once it's done, which at this rate will probably be mid-February.

Image courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ingredient Inventory

Note to self: next time, before planning to make bread with the overripe bananas on the counter, check to make sure you have all of the ingredients in the house.  You cannot make banana bread without eggs.  Also, buy walnuts. The bread isn't the same without them.  True story.

Photo courtesy of LCBGlenn via Flickr

Monday, September 12, 2011

Movies: Our Idiot Brother

I've loved Paul Rudd for a really long time, ever since I was 13 years old and my friend and I begged her mother to rent Clueless at the video store, only to make her regret her decision when she walked in on the part when Cher is smoking up at a valley party (oh, Rolling with the Homies....).  Anyway, he made the movie for me with his weird but sweet crush on Cher, and then he made me love him even more with his bit parts in Romeo and Juliet and The Cider House Rules, and later co-starring with Jennifer Aniston in The Object of My Affection.

The point is that I knew I'd like Our Idiot Brother even before Anthony and I went to see it.  The cast rules with Rashida Jones, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel, but Paul Rudd steals it with his awesome portrayal of Ned.  He's naive but not dumb; he's kind-hearted to a fault.  Ned tries to see the best in everyone and loves every part of life, and even though his sisters think he's an idiot, he doesn't necessarily come off that way to the audience.

Perhaps his optimism is refreshing because I also try to look on the bright side as much as possible, and I don't think people really understand that a lot of the time.  The movie is not for everyone but for me, it rang true and proved to be entertaining as well.  The end wraps up a little too nicely, but I thought the rest of the movie was so messy that I didn't really mind it.  I have a feeling that Our Idiot Brother will wind up in our permanent DVD collection in a few months, but until then, I'll continue to get my Paul Rudd fix by watching The 40-Year Old Virgin every time it's on television, which is like 90 times a week. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Status Report: 2011 Goal List

I don't like the idea of New Year's resolutions; to me, they seem like a a set-up for failure.  I can't possibly accomplish an entire list of things to learn and places to see in a short amount of time on a limited budget without putting an extreme amount of pressure on myself, therefore sucking most of the fun out of the items on the list that are supposed be enjoyable.  I do think that setting goals for the year is acceptable, though.  At the beginning of January, I wrote out a list of things that I wanted to do this year.  The year before I turn 30 years old seemed to be the perfect time to branch out a bit and do things that I've always wanted to do. 

So how am I doing? Not bad at all actually. I attended a literary conference this year (#1) and I've been writing and submitting more of my work (#9).  One of my goals (#2) is to have something published before the end of the year and I'm still working on that.  The novel outline (#10) is slowly developing but I could definitely dedicate more time to it. 

I wanted to visit three new places (#12) and by next month, I'll have accomplished that (Savannah, Northern Vermont and Chicago).  Also on the list is to go to 3 new museums in New York City (#13) and see two plays and/or musicals (#15), both of which I think are doable.  And next week, I'm taking a class at JoAnn Fabrics to learn to sew (#6)--Anthony bought me a sewing machine for Christmas last year and I'm so anxious to use it.

A few things that haven't been crossed off the list: watching one old movie a month (#7) and donating blood regularly (#3), although I did join the National Bone Marrow Registry.  I'm also struggling to keep my email inbox as clear as possible (#14). 

Overall, I'm pretty excited about working on the rest of the list.  I think I've been looking at it as a loose syllabus for life that's full of assignments I actually want to do.  There's still almost four full months left in 2011, too.  And if nothing else, my goal list has gotten me to floss my teeth at least four times a week (#18) and for that, I'm grateful. 

Image of awesome Goals Chalkboard courtesy of MaryKateMcDevitt via Esty

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Art of Bringing Dessert

Whenever someone invites me to their home or to a party, the first words out of my mouth are always "What can I bring?"  I tend to feel uncomfortable showing up empty-handed, even when I visit family and close friends (kind of weird since I never expect people to bring anything when they come to our place for a visit!).  Plus, I think it's just plain nice to bring baked goods when you are meeting up with people.  And before you ask, I do realize that (1) this makes me sound a bit crazy; (2) I'm probably really annoying my loved ones with my constant dessert offerings; and (3) I kind of follow the social rules of a 1950's housewife.

This weekend was humid, just like the last hurrah of summer should be.  For the long weekend, we had plans to see friends and family so I decided to make some bar type treats for each gathering.  On Saturday, I made delicious blondies (I always use this adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen and add pecans and chocolate chips) and I'm happy to say they were all gone by the time we headed home.  On Sunday, I decided to try my luck with homemade lemon bars, having bought a few bags of lemons at Trader Joe's the night before.  I've only made them once before and because I baked them too long, the top fruit layer was a weird, rubbery texture.

After squeezing lemons until my fingers were pruney and itchy from the citric acid, I was determined not to overbake them this time.  Once the top layer seemed to be set, I pulled them from the oven and let them cool.  They were perfect lemon squares, complete with sprinkled confectionery sugar, and best served when cold, I discovered.  Again, they were devoured at dessert time, but I managed to take a few home at the end.

I guess what it comes down to is that I love that I have old-fashioned tendencies; I like spending time in the kitchen, with or without an apron, getting my hands dirty with flour and chocolate and butter, and concentrating on creating something scrumptious, even if I am reading the recipe from a computer screen like a true twenty-first century girl.

Photo of my lemon bars on a pretty plate

Top image via from

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Painting Project Planning

Last night, I went to a store I almost never visit, Home Depot.  I always feel out of place among the power tools and giant spools of carpet.  We can only dress up our small rented condo so much, which means we have little use of much of what the store sells.

But, in preparation for the shelves I'm going to buy, paint and hang above our desk in the living room, we picked out a couple of Martha Stewart paint colors and this awesome Martha paint texturing kit.  Do we want the shelves to look they are covered in linen wallpaper? What about wood grain?  These decorative tools look so cool--I can't wait to try them out, although I'm not disillusioned.  I know it isn't going to be easy, and the results will probably be uneven at best without practice, but it'll be a fun weekend project for fall.

Has anyone ever used texturing tools? And who else loves Martha's paint line as much as I do (so many colors to choose from!)?

Image via Martha Stewart/Home Depot

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Movie Time Away from Home

A few weeks ago, before Hurricane Irene ran through and destroyed so many parts of the great state of Vermont, Anthony and I were there during a stretch of rainy days.  We wound up spending a lot of time in our hotel room during the last couple of days of the trip, buying some choice alcohol from corner gas stations and watching HBO movies.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that we were pretty excited that so many of the movies we watched were on our Netflix queue; it was almost like we were accomplishing something and not only eating chips while watching cable television.  

But enough about Date Night and Dinner for Schmucks (the former was okay, the latter not so much).  The night before we started our vacation, we watched our Netflix DVD, which was Up in the Air.  I want to say up front that I've never enjoyed an opening sequence as much as the one at the start of this movie.  With vivid clips of sprawling prairies and gushing waters as seen from an airplane above, the movie starts off in a great way, with an overview of sorts of the country.  This is perfect for the main character, played by George Clooney, who isn't fully-engaged in anything but his job, traveling to his next assignment and racking up frequent flier miles.

There are many loops and sidebar-type details in Up in the Air, and there are some surprises near the end, the kind that I knew were coming about five minutes before they happened but I still softly gasped.  I thought that this movie would be simple: the story of a man who travels around the country as a consultant firing people, who freaks out when his job is threatened.  It is about that, but also about so much more.  The supporting characters are important, too.  Anna Kendrick is wonderful, but it was Vera Farmiga who won my heart (embarrassingly enough, I looked her up when the film was over and it turns out she grew up in an insular Ukrainian community in New Jersey, not speaking English until she was six years old--so interesting!).

Here are the opening credits from Up in the Air.  Do you like it as much as I do?

Image above found on