Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are you a Twi-hard, a Hunger-ling or both?

I have to say that I’ve been meaning to comment on the Hunger Games movie that debuted a few days ago, but I’ve been busy entertaining family. Or, they’ve been entertaining me, not sure, maybe a little of both.

Since comparisons are being made, it’s about time to speak up.

What did I want to say about the Hunger Games movie? Go. See. It. Not because I previewed it or will have time to see it before it hits the dollar theater, although I’ve talked about it at least ten times a day for the past week. I think it’s worth seeing because (IMO) the movie is based on a really great book. Suzanne Collins crafts this dystopian society where children, a boy and a girl, from 12 districts outside of the opulent and controlling Capitol are selected each year to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. It’s interesting, it’s political, it’s gut wrenching and it’s good. That’s all I will say, you should read it then see the movie, especially if you like a little more sci-fi.

I also wanted to say there are a few important changes that might irk some Hunger-lings. In an Entertainment Weekly (EW) story I read recently (and found more online), it sounded like the moviemakers were trying to convince themselves as much as the public that the story changes and cuts they made were crucial to keeping the movie at an acceptable length and budget.

Today, I saw a twitter post from EW outlining more differences between the book and movie. The author also gave an opinion of what worked and what didn’t. It’s good, but subjective, so if you’re interested you can check it out.

Now, I liked the Twilight saga too. I read a lot and since I spend most days neck deep in diapers and drool, any romance, action or departure from reality, between the hours of midnight and 3 am when I finally get some me-time, is a welcome escape. I don’t think you need to compare them, but go ahead if you want, USA Today does. Three main characters, a female and two suitors, sure. But, beyond that, I say enjoy them for what they are, stories.

If you are a fan of both, plan to be busy this Thanksgiving holiday and next. Twi-hards can see the final installment of the series when Breaking Dawn Part 2 hits theaters this Nov. 16. And Hunger-lings will be hungry waiting until Nov. 22, 2013, for the second story in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sexy and I Know It

Apparently, everyone from Ricky Martin and the Glee cast to my 9yo cousin has got the moves.

When I saw my baby cousin donning a colorful clown wig dancing to “Sexy and I Know It” I felt, well, a little old.

The last time I remember being able to bust a move like that was when people still said things like bust a move. At least it feels that way. And the last time I remember going out dancing escapes me. Probably because it was before our first kid came along. Gosh, has it really been that long?

When I was in my twenties, and even before that, I'd go out with my girlfriends. Then I’d go occasionally with my husband and a bunch of other crazy young professionals, but even then, the ladies were the ones who really wanted to dance, the guys seemed to spend a lot of time talking and drinking.

I still enjoy dancing, it just happens less often in Da Club and more often in my living room. Where I rock out with the kiddos to the beat of Baby Einstein and modern groups covering classics such as “Wheels on the Bus.”

We do play lots of other music in our home like Blues, Jazz, and classics from the 80s & 90s, although, I have a hard time considering any of these songs classics, er, oldies, but a few of them are playing on those stations. And I have to believe watching a mom and dad doing the Running Man must look ridiculous. I was a kid once, and I’m fairly sure that blank stares and eye rolls mean it's not cool.

So we try to keep it G-rated until after the kids are in bed. Then, anything goes. Often you’ll hear us bringin’ da noise when we stand up and sit down (creak and groan). Sometimes it’s fun to see who can do the ‘fall asleep’ move faster. Good times.

Really though, I should get my mom friends together and see if we can go out on the town. Although, what kind of dance moves should I practice before we hit the club? I found these dance moves from the cast of Jersey Shore, but I’m not sure anyone should be taking style advice from these guys. On second thought, maybe I’ll stick with the electric slide. :) 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hula-Hoops and Hips

The Hoop and a bunch of other stuff piled high. 

Recently, the family was out enjoying unseasonably warm weather. We hauled out the toy bin and let our daughter go crazy. Everything was fine, until I went a little crazy. 

It started with us innocently passing, kicking and playing. Then, the hoop came out.
As a kid hula hooping was not my favorite activity, I liked kicking things way too much.

Now that I’m two kids into mid-life, the hula-hoop is not my friend. Let’s just say if you ever have the opportunity to comment on a mother attempting to hoop near the anniversary of her C-section, don’t. Because I have a sneaking suspicion no matter what you say, she’ll respond much the same way I did, kind of like Jennifer Garner on a recent Jay Leno appearance, before the birth of her third child in February, as she described some guy who commented on how she’d have a Merry Christmas baby. She was rightfully peeved and said something awesome. It goes like this: If you see a pregnant woman tell her wow, you look tiny, look how thin your thighs are, way to go! I agree Jen, way to go!

So, I hooped. And about a millisecond later it dropped over my droop and landed on the ground. Huff. I tried again. And again. Nada.

When I heard the phrase, I thought girls were supposed to know how to hula hoop. I hissed out a low expletive, the kids were there, and left the scene to cool off. Really, I went to kick something, but it helped the cooling off process. It worked, a little.

Today, while the kids and I were out shopping for laundry detergent, my nemesis appeared. It took 30 seconds for me to yank down one of those darn hoops and try it out. Right there in the middle of the store. I had already contemplated hula-hoop lessons, but dismissed them thinking it was a fluke that I couldn’t even crank out one revolution.

Good thing too, because when I tried it, it worked! Shocked, I tried it again, and it worked, again! That’s it; I’m buying this hoop. I thought. I’m taking it home and the minute my husband walks in the door I’m going to show him that I can indeed hula-hoop.

While driving home it occurred to me that hoop size may indeed be a factor. Perhaps my kid’s miniature hoop was just too little for my, ahem, mature hips. Not to dwell, I’m just glad I’ve still got it.

Now, I’m just waiting. Working, typing, mothering, but also waiting. Hopefully, he’ll get a kick out of the whole thing, but we’ll see. This time though, I’ll try to maintain my composure better, and my sense of humor.

We will see…    

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

(Almost) Spring Contest

It’s a time for celebrating. Spring is near, the sun is warming and this blog is having a birthday.

As a way to thank loyal followers, and encourage new readers, I’m hosting a contest. The subscriber who posts the best photo caption for this photo will win a $25 gift card (your choice - books, shoes or grub).

It’s simple. Just keep it light and fun, and post your caption in the comments section. Tell your friends, family and anyone you meet to comment or “like” your caption by March 20, 2012, and you could win.

Now, have some fun!   

Filipino Chicken Adobo

This Filipino Adobo is a dish of chicken braised in a vinegar-based sauce.

When I tested the recipe, the chicken came out so moist and tender I would make it again. The sauce was bold, with a deeper vinegar taste than my family is accustomed. Overall, it flavored the chicken nicely and paired well with the rice, but next time I’d reduce the vinegar to suit our palates.

The recipe is available in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated issue and online. Here is the recipe I tested. 

Filipino Chicken Adobo
Serves 4

Serve this dish with rice.

8 (5- to 7-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 (13 ½ ounce) can coconut milk
¾ cup cider vinegar  
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Toss chicken with soy sauce in large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

2. Remove chicken from soy sauce, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Transfer chicken, skin side down, to 12-inch nonstick skillet; set aside soy sauce.

3. Place skillet over medium-high heat and cook until chicken skin is browned, 7 to 10 minutes. While chicken is browning, whisk coconut milk, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, and pepper into soy sauce.

4. Transfer chicken to plate and discard fat in skillet. Return chicken to skillet, skin side down, add coconut milk mixture, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes. Flip chicken skin side up, and continue to cook until chicken registers 175 degrees, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.

5. Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook until sauce is thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.    

Monday, March 12, 2012

Coming Soon...

I've been working on several projects and will share details soon. Somewhere along the way we celebrated some birthdays too. Now, with spring cleaning on the horizon, you can guess our hands are full.

My daughter just did a barrel roll while holding our son, so I'm signing off until I post again tomorrow. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Simple Orange Cranberry Granola

Here’s a granola that’s yummy and satisfying. The cinnamon, cranberry and orange pair well with oats and nuts. 

When I tested the recipe for Cook’s Illustrated, I commented, “Next time, I would increase the syrup and sugar in order to get the granola to stick together better and make more clumps.” In the published recipe they decreased the nuts and stir in the dried fruit after baking, this helps clumping.

Other changes include decreasing the grated orange zest to 2 tablespoons and using pecans instead of almonds. Sounds yummy! I agree with editor Adam Ried, the store bought stuff is overpriced and underwhelming.

Here’s the recipe as tested for Cook’s Illustrated, they have other delicious options such as Spiced Walnut Granola with Dried Apple and Hazelnut Granola with Dried Pear in the March/April issue or online (requires access).

Simple Orange Cranberry Granola
From Cook's Illustrated.
Makes about 8 cups

Chopping the almonds by hand is the first choice for superior texture and crunch in the finished granola. If you prefer not to hand-chop, substitute an equal quantity of slivered almonds rather than using a food processor to chop whole nuts. It does a lousy job, producing a combination of large chunks and fine meal. We prefer to use grade B maple syrup in this recipe.

2 cups (8 ounces) dried cranberries
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons grated orange zest (2 oranges)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 ½ cups (12 ½ ounces) raw almonds, chopped coarse

1. Place cranberries in bowl and cover with hot water; set aside to soften, about 1 hour. Drain and discard liquid
2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, orange zest, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil.  Fold in oats, almonds, and reserved cranberries until thoroughly coated.
4. Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet, spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8-inch thick.) Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact. Bake until just beginning to brown, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break into pieces of desired size and serve. (Granola can be store in airtight container for up to 1 week.) 

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