Friday, March 27, 2009
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
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
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!
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.
Next we move on to a recipe from Campbell's Meal-mail, called Ranchero Beef Taco Bake.
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
- 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!
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
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 book...it 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.
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
"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."
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
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.
Friday, March 6, 2009
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 up...new 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).