Friday, March 27, 2009

The Most awesome cake ever

I just had to share this awesomeness. For those of you who don't know, my all-time favorite movie(s) is/are Back to the Future (I-III).

I found this on the Food Network website...there's a cake gallery related to the show "Ace of Cakes" (love) where people can submit photos of their own fancy cakes. Anyway, the cake above? Swoon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit...

There are no words for how excited I am about this. Watching the trailer brought so many great childhood memories rushing back. I can still hear my mom's voice saying those words as she would read the book to me. As I plan to do with my children, as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

I promised to post a wrap-up of my weekend, since I blogged about how much I was looking forward to it on Friday. Here goes...

Saturday, we woke up early and headed to the TRE station to catch the first train to Fort Worth. After a nice train ride and a short bus trip, we reached our destination - Will Rogers Center in Fort Worth. Pete didn't end up coming with us, because he had to work. No skin off our teeth - we still had a great time.

We were only at the show for a couple of hours, but we did get to watch Branden's parents put a point on their basset hound, Annie. Dog show rules are kinda complicated, but basically, in order for a dog to become a champion, they have to earn a certain number of points. They earn points by getting wins - but they don't have to win their breed to get points. It's all very complicated, much moreso than I probably need to explain for the purposes of this blog - especially since I barely understand it myself. Suffice it to say, winning a point was a good thing for little Annie Basset. I didn't take a picture of Annie, but here's me playing with her litter on our visit to Midland, Christmas 2007. I honestly can't tell which of the black & tan ones she is, or if she's even in the frame. Perhaps my mother-in-law can help out (I know she reads this blog!).

I did take one picture at the show this weekend. Branden saw this as he was heading to the bathroom, and had to come back and bring me along so I could see. It was too precious not to pass along. An ingenious way to keep track of your kids with everything going on in such a huge building:

Before anyone goes all indignant on me, yes they were being watched. There were adults standing right next to the crate, grooming some of the other Irish Setters. And the kids? They were having a blast, playing with toys, oblivious to the scene they were causing. You can't tell from this picture, but there were about 10 people gathered around at this point.

After the show, we grabbed lunch at a little Italian place near the in-laws' hotel, then headed down to my parents' campsite at Joe Pool Lake. We had a great time, relaxing and taking in nature. We mostly just sat around and visited...walked around the lake...that kind of thing. My stepdad cooked burgers for dinner, and they were delicious! All in all, a great time of family togetherness. I'm looking forward to the next time we can visit my folks at the lake...and maybe next time we'll take advantage of the swimming beach and actually take a dip in the lake.

Sunday we mostly spent around the house, running errands, and relaxing. Branden got us each a treat to round out the weekend. He chose a Sims 2 expansion pack (Open for Business, in case anyone was curious) and I chose the movie Dark Knight, since I knew I wanted to own a copy of it anyway. We watched it over dinner (the ranchero beef bake from my previous entry, actually), and it made for a great end to a wonderful weekend!

Yummy Recipes

I thought I'd share a couple of recipes I've made and enjoyed lately. I'm not much of a "domestic goddess", but I've really enjoyed trying out new recipes, especially here in the last couple of months. Maybe it's that "wife gene" that kicks in or something. Anyhow, on to the recipes.
The first is from - Baked Salmon with Tomatoes, Spinach & Mushrooms.

4 salmon fillets (1 lb.)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup KRAFT Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

HEAT oven to 375°F. Place fish fillets, skin sides down, in 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
MIX remaining ingredients until blended; spoon over fish.
BAKE 20 to 25 min. or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Super easy, right? My favorite recipes are those with only a few ingredients and only a few steps - those are the ones I'm best at. :o) Now here's a picture of the finished product:

And here's a picture of my husband, patiently posing with the dinner before digging in:
I served it with Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice, which was a perfect accompaniment. VERDICT: A+! I really liked this, but I may be biased since salmon is one of my absolute favorite things to eat in the whole world. But I thought the veggies and dressing were a great addition. The flavors blended really well. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Next we move on to a recipe from Campbell's Meal-mail, called Ranchero Beef Taco Bake.

1 lb. ground beef
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup Pace® Chunky Salsa
3/4 cup water
8 corn tortillas (6-inch) OR 6 flour tortillas (8-inch), cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


Cook the beef in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the beef is well browned, stirring frequently to break up meat. Pour off any fat.
Stir the soup, tomato paste, chili powder, garlic powder, salsa, water, tortillas and half the cheese into the beef. Spoon into a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Cover.
Bake at 400°F. for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

My ingredients, ready to mix together (except the bananas...those just happened to be in the picture!):

Finished product:

VERDICT: I'll give this one an A. It was really yummy, the flavors all comingled quite nicely and we both really enjoyed it. I think I would've liked it even more had the tortillas somehow come out crispy instead of doughy. I guess you'd have to fry them up to get them like that. But it was still quite delicious, and fairly easy to prepare as well.

I won't pretend this is a cooking blog, so it may be a while before you see another cooking post. But this is some of what I've been up to lately, so I thought I'd share! If you decide to tackle either of these, let me know how it goes.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I don't have anything specific to talk about, so I just thought I'd give a general wrap-up of what's been going on lately and what's to come.

  • Branden tried to keep me away from the Cinnamon Toast Crunch this morning by putting it on top of the kitchen cabinet. Not cool, man. Not cool. I got it down with the help of a chair...and then I decided to eat Honey Nut Cheerios instead anyway.
  • Work's been weird quiet lately with most of upper management and lots of other people gone for Spring Break.
  • Kidd Kraddick is also on Spring Break, and I skipped the "best of" the first few days, until I realized that hearing those voices in the morning as I'm getting ready helps me start my day. So yesterday and today I listened, and it made my days start off much better!
  • Branden's been off from class this week...and two nights I've left him alone to fend for himself. Tuesday I went to the Dallas Wind Symphony concert (which was wonderful!), and Wednesday I had dinner with friends (which was also wonderful!).

Weekend Plans - I am so excited about tomorrow, it's not even funny. I'm thinking I might need to get less excited just so the day can live up to my expectations. Branden and I are going to Fort Worth to hang out at the dog show with his parents, who are in town showing their basset hound Annie. Branden's best friend Pete is coming along with us. Pete's always good for a laugh. Then we're all going to meet my parents at Loyd Park for a joint family cookout. I'm silly excited about it all. I love family time, and I love dog shows - so when you put them all together, I'm a happy camper!

Adding to the excitement, I found out this morning that there will be a celebrity dog at the "Meet the Breed" area tomorrow - Stump, this year's 10-year-old Westminster winner, who came out of retirement to take the big prize. Here's a picture of Stump, a Sussex Spaniel:

What a cutie! I'm gonna see if I can get a picture with him, even if I get laughed at.

I'm ready for the work day to be OVER so I can start my weekend. I've got a cheesy chicken bake cooking in the crock pot right now, and I'm looking forward to having that for dinner. I'll post a review, along with the recipe, later on. Hope everyone else has a good weekend too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

SPOILER ALERT...I just don't know how to review this book without giving away a couple of major plot items.

I've been reading a lot of books lately, and most of them I don't bother to review. The fact of the matter is, I'm not a good book reviewer. I like almost everything I read, for various reasons and to varying degrees. But that does not make for the most objective reviewer. But this deserves to be reviewed.

This book, like the movie "Slumdog Millionaire", is one of those stories that just needs to be out there. Except that there is no pretty ribbon at the end tying this story all together. No shiny, happy ending. I'm not going to give anything away, but if you happen to make it all the way through this book, there's nothing really that can redeem the story and make you go away smiling...even though the attempt is made.

The story follows two women and their lives in war-torn Afghanistan. The book is split in sections, which alternate POVs from one woman to the other - with section 3 alternating by chapter. The first woman, Mariam, is born in the late 1950s, the illegitimate daughter of a rich cinema owner and a maid. She grows up in a hut (kolba) that her father built for Mariam and her mother, knowing that they couldn't stay in his household (because, you know, it's okay to have children with your three wives, but once you have one with your maid, then your honor is disgraced). Mariam grows up being constantly reminded of her status as a "harami" (bastard child) by her mother, and always being told that she would never amount to anything. When her mother kills herself, Mariam (age 15) goes to live with her father, who quickly arranges her to be married to a man several decades her senior. Rasheed makes shoes for diplomats in Kabul, and so Mariam is quickly put on a bus with a strange man to ride to her new home across the country. Though Mariam tries to be a good wife to Rasheed, things go downhill once she is unable to provide Rasheed with the son he so desperately wants.

The second woman in the story is a young girl named Laila who is born in 1979 - right on the cusp of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Laila is born in Kabul, across the street from Rasheed and Mariam, to a university-educated teacher father and his wife, Fariba. Babi and Mammy, as Laila refers to them, are progressive, and Laila is allowed many freedoms that more traditional Afghans (like Rasheed) view as disgraceful. Laila's best friend is Tariq, a boy just a year older than she, who lost a leg to a land mine at the age of 5. Laila and Tariq are inseperable, until Tariq's family finally makes the decision to flee Afghanistan, in the mid-1990s. The two share a moment of indiscretion before Tariq evacuates with his family, and Laila refuses to leave with him and abandon her parents, who are torn up over the deaths of her two older brothers at the hands of the ongoing war.

A couple of weeks later, Laila and her family are packing up to leave Kabul when their house is bombed. Laila's parents are both killed, but Laila manages to survive, and is nursed back to health by Mariam, who has watched the young girl grow up. Rasheed decides Laila would be a perfect second wife, and his proposal is swiftly accepted by Laila...who is now six weeks pregnant with Tariq's baby and is terrified of trying to flee Afghanistan alone in her condition and have a baby in a refugee camp.

Thus the two stories intertwine, and Laila, Mariam, and Rasheed become one of the most disfunctional families ever. The entire book is set against the backdrop of constant civil war...first the warlords against the Soviets, then the warlords against each other, then the warlords against the Taliban, and so forth. The tragic twist comes in seeing these events from the prospective of women in the 1990s who are robbed of even basic freedoms - walking down the street, learning, entertainment.

This isn't the type of book I would normally read in my free time. For one thing, it's the exact opposite of escapism. I found myself needing to escape from the story several times, and even had a couple of bad dreams (I won't call them nightmares) about events in the book. But it's also infectious. The author's storytelling style is riveting. I had to keep reading, through all the atrocities of the book, to find out what happened to these women. I was rooting for them both at every twist and turn. My heart ached for them, and yearned for better things for them both.

Ultimately, I am glad I read this book. It is haunting, but it drew me in from the very beginning. It certainly put life in perspective for me...and made me very grateful that I was born in the United States and not Afghanistan. Reading this book was an eye-opening experience, and one I'm glad I had. I would recommend it to anyone who has the gumption to take on a book with such a grim subject matter. Though I wouldn't say it was fun, this was definitely an Important read. When a book changes me, the way I think and feel...that's a sign of a good book.

I'll spend my golden years in Vancouver

Trying out a new blog prompt from Plinky...let's see how this works!

Great city, beautiful scenery, walkability, cool temperatures, ocean frontage...oh yeah, and Universal Healthcare

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An award? For me?

Yep, it's true...I got an award!

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement!

Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

Cool, huh? Isn't it pretty? I received this award from TWO lovely bloggers - Mariah at Take a Walk With Me and Carie at Love, Life and Everything in Between.

Unfortunately, because the award has now circulated among the bloggers I know, I don't have anyone to share the love with. But I am extremely honored and I really appreciate the award!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Burj Dubai

This is incredible.

I'm a citynerd at heart, and this building fascinates me. Skyscrapers fascinate me. The sad part of this is that I've heard rumors that they're already having trouble with the Burj Dubai, which will be the world's tallest building upon completion. The word is that there's no way there will be enough office workers and residents to fill all the space in the myriad new towers springing up in Dubai, especially the Burj Dubai. I suppose only time will tell. I'm glad GMA took the time to show a segment on this awesome building, because I have a feeling I'll never see it in person.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Time for my weekend wrap-up!

Saturday night Branden and I went to a "Stock the Bar" shower for a friend of mine who is getting married on April 3. It was a really creative way to get the couple plenty of booze. The hostess mailed out a card with a drink recipe along with the invitation, and we were to buy supplies to make that drink. We lucked out getting the Cape Codder. It was super easy - vodka & cranberry juice. I found a cool gift set of Stoli vodka with two martini glasses, so I got that, plus the cranberry juice (Ocean Spray, of course!) and I even got a couple of limes for the garnish. (I'm always one for completeness).

The party itself was off the hook. (Am I too old to use that phrase?). Julia and Stuart have great friends - even a couple that I already knew from college (Stuart left A&M-Commerce right as I was getting there...and his best man's wife was in my music fraternity! Small world indeed.) Beyond the good company, there was yumm food and a nice hot tub. Branden and I were the only ones to take advantage of that, but I didn't mind that we had the hot tub to ourselves. We had to seize the opportunity since we don't have access to one where we live.

Sunday brought a nice, lazy morning. We had a late breakfast at Urban Market after sleeping in, and didn't do much until it was time to leave. A co-worker suggested to me a couple of weeks ago that we join her for a performance of "One Man Star Wars Trilogy" , which was playing at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop festival. So the three of us (downtown residents all) made the trek up to Addison to check out the sci-fi nerdiness. The play consists of one man, dressed all in black, acting out the entire Star Wars Trilogy in about an hour. It was quite well done, but I'd say about 80% of it went completely over my head. Branden and Katie had a great time, though, so it was worth it. The three of us went out to dinner afterwards, and then Katie invited us up to see her (parents') fat pad at One Arts Plaza. It was AMAZING. They don't just have a view of downtown...they have THE view of downtown. You can see for miles from their huge balcony. We also had the pleasure of talking to her father for a while, which was really wonderful. He and Branden really hit it off. It just so happens that Katie's father has a degree in City Planning...which is what Branden is studying right now! It was the perfect end to a wonderful day. I leave you with a picture of the man behind One Man Star Wars. He also does One Man Lord of the Rings, which I would LOVE to see some day!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Since I've been slacking

I thought I'd better post something, so I don't fall into the "dead blog" trap. But this is going to be the lazy woman's version of blogging.

First, though, a bit of good news. I lost 2.2 lbs my first week of "March = Courtney's Fitness Month." I haven't taken advantage of the free month of membership at Elevation Fitness yet. I dunno why, but places like that always intimidate me, even though I used to work in a rec center. All those fancy machines, and people with good bodies who know how to use them (the machines, not their bodies...though I'm sure they know that too).

Anyway, on to the lazy part of this post. Two really cool things were pointed out to me this morning...and I'm just going to link to my friend's blogs where they have already posted them.

First Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer!!!
Smash's blog where it's posted

Next...HOTTIE McHOTNESS! The most gorgeous vampire ever...
Carie's blog, where you can see all the deliciousness

How's that for efficiency? No need for me to take the time to post stuff when it's already been done for me!

Looking forward to a good weekend. Tomorrow night is my friend Julia's "Stock the Bar" shower. Should be lots of fun, with good drinks and cool people and a heated pool! Can't wait. Then Sunday I'm taking Branden somewhere fun, but I can't post it here because it's a surprise. Yeah, I'm cheesy with the surprises. But I'll post a weekend wrap-up later because I know you're all waiting with bated breath. (Yes, all 6 of you).

That's all I've got for now. Except that I can't wait for July and HBP!!! (That's Half-Blood Prince for you non-HP fans out there).