Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Book Reviews: "The Sex Lives of Cannibals," "Born to Run," "Last Words," & "The Art of Racing in the Rain"

Here are the books I finished in February. As a reminder, this is my rating scale: *Ok, **Good, ***Great

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Rating **

I thought this was a good book and gave interesting insight to living on a "desert island." There was very little about the actual sex lives of cannibals which is kind of false advertisement. But, it was still good anyway. Hopefully there will be more discussion to come on this book on the Birthday Awareness Bookclub blog.

Rating ***

I loved this book. It was a great blend of story telling and scientific information all rolled into one. The basic premise of the book is that humans are genetically engineered for long-distance running but because of modern technology (i.e. cushy shoes that change our running form) we don't think we can because we're constantly getting injured. This book follows the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico which is full of super-runners and examines why it is that they can run so well. One of the only books I've read where I wished it was longer. I could see reading this one several times. I'm also very curious now to see how changing my shoes (and possibly not wearing any) could improve my running abilities. Great stuff. Highly recommended, especially if you're a runner or have ever even wanted to run. I guarantee this will make you want to run and give you a hankering for tortillas and beans.

Rating: **

This book wasn't quite what I expected. Not necessarily in a bad way though. I guess I just expected it to be more of a funny memoir... kind of in the David Sedaris style. It had its funny moments, but mainly it was just an honest depiction of his life. I had no idea Carlin was so messed up on drugs and alcohol for so long. It's amazing he was able to keep his career going. I appreciated his honesty and clear disgregard of what other people would think of him after writing this. I think in the end he found what made him happy... it's too bad he left so soon. If you're offended by swears, don't read this.

Rating: **

This was a book my mom recommended to me awhile back and I finally got around to reading it. It was a very easy, quick read (only a couple short reading sessions), but enjoyable. It's a book told from a dog's point of view, which was kind of a different format. Had I been alone I probably would have cried in the very first chapter. I hardly ever cry reading books or while watching movies... but I cried at the end of this one... even though I knew what was coming from the very beginning. If you like dogs, you'll probably like this.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today's Special: I Refused to go Grocery Shopping this Week

Monday: Tomato Soup with Ozro & Basil and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches- This tomato soup recipe was new. A couple weeks ago I picked up some ozro at the grocery store on a whim because I'd never used it before (it's just rice shaped pasta). This was the first recipe I came across that used orzo and it was fast so I decided to try it out. Honestly made as written it wasn't very good. Very bland and not very tomato-y. I ended up adding 1/2 of a 6oz. can of tomato paste and some extra salt and pepper to "fix" it. It was much better after I doctored it up, but I would say it was still not worthy of making again. You can skip this one.

Tuesday: Bean Bolognese- New Recipe. I probably would never have made this, but I had all the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a shot. The sauce looked a little somehow when it was done... you can't tell from the parsley and cheese that covers it up in the picture. This was ok. Not bad, not that great. Don't think I will ever make it again. But not bad for a last minute dinner from the cupboard. Oh, I should mention I used only white beans as I didn't have the "salad beans" it called for.

Wednesday: Grilled Salmon with Mujadrah (Lentils & Rice) - The mujadrah was a new recipe. I was trying to find a recipe for a lentil/rice dish I had at a Lebanese restaurant a few weeks ago. This wasn't even close. It was good, but not good enough to make again. I just grilled the salmon seasoned with salt and pepper.

Thursday: Macaroni & Cheese with Hotdogs- See we don't eat fabulous meals every night. In case you're wondering, I combined Spiderman with Spongebob. You'd think this would disrupt the space-time continuum, but nay nay. Although to be honest, I prefer the classic elbow macaronis. They cook faster and more evenly. Plus I swear they taste better. I bought the Spongebob and Spiderman on sale. You get what you pay for I guess. Also, in case you're wondering, I recommend Ballpark Grillmasters Beef Franks. More pricey, but delicious. Sometimes you just want a hotdog. And preservative packed macaroni and cheese. Yum. (p.s. The sprig of parsley is for comedic effect.)

Friday: Old-Fashioned Linguine with White Clam Sauce- Repeat. This is good, easy recipe that I've made a few times before. I thickened the sauce up a little this time with a couple teaspoons of cornstarch. Nice staple to have in the cupboard.

There's a lesson to be learned from this week's experiment. Sure, you can eat cheaply from stuff you have in the cabinet... just don't expect to eat as good as you do when you actually plan out your meals and go shopping. Dang.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Can Vouch for That

I know I just did one of these posts but I forgot about a couple things and discovered a few things that warrant mentioning. Everyday when I use these items I have this urge that I really need to tell everyone about them asap so in order to clear my conscience and lay my mind at rest, here are some more of my favorite things:

CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara: I know. I know. I just barely posted about the CoverGirl LashBlast Length Mascara and I still support my original review. In my defense I did say I'd probably try this one too, so this is more of a follow-up... moving on. The second I put this stuff on I was in love. The brush loads with the perfect amount of mascara and it made my lashes look gigantic. And it separated them evenly as well! Just like the Length mascara this one did a good job of not flaking off during the day. So it's my new favorite! I prefer this one over the Length mascara, but you may not feel the same. The brush on the Volume mascara is really fat and not as easy to control as the skinnier Length wand. It also applies more mascara on each stroke so you don't have as much control over the amount applied as the Length. If you want more of a "va-va-voom" look, go for the Volume mascara. If you like a more natural look and/or you don't think you'd like a fat wand, go for the Length mascara. Either way you can't lose.

Cococare Cocoa Butter Lip Balm: My lips are always chapped and peeling. It drives me crazy. I've tried just about every chapstick out there looking for something that would actually work. While reading about the Palmer's Cocoa Butter Lotion that I love, I came across a review of some lip balm/chapstick from the same company saying how awesome it was. Unfortunately I couldn't find the lip balm anywhere. While on our Houston trip, Seth and I made a run over to a Walgreens and on a whim I checked to see if they had cocoa butter lip balm. Score! It wasn't the Palmer's brand, but it was cocoa butter so I gave it a shot. This stuff rocks! It actually works and my lips have never been so soft and chap-free! I don't know what I'm going to do when I run out... probably have to buy it online (or make another trip to Houston...), but it's worth it!

PowerBody Kettlebell Bootcamp: I'm just going to start by saying I LOVE KETTLEBELLS. They are tough but fun to work with and I've seen results from them very quickly. I originally bought my 10lb. kettlebell a couple years ago, but put it aside for a long time because the workout was crappy and the moves seemed too hard. The DVD that came with the kettlebell I bought was called 'GoFit: Kettlebells the Iron Core Way.' It was terrible. I do not recommend it. The instructor was annoying and she paused for 30 seconds between every single exercise. So, I bought this PowerBody DVD to give the kettlebell one more shot. It was awesome! Every time I do this workout I'm sore for days afterward. It's tough but I can already tell I'm getting a lot stronger. And I think they're fun to work with. I started out with a 10lb. bell and it's enough for me now. I'm planning on upgrading to a 15lb. bell once I get a little bit stronger, but I'm holding off for now because they are a little pricey (around $40 I think). But, they are very versatile. I've used them in other workouts in place of regular hand weights and even in place of a medicine ball.

Cast Iron Cookware: This item was introduced to me by my friends, Heidi & Paul. Paul especially is big on cooking and loved his cast iron pans. So what did they do? They got me one for my birthday! I use this thing almost every single day. It is a great size, heats evenly, and is unbeatable when it comes to browning. I've used it for sauteing onions, grilling steaks and salmon, and for pretty much anything else I can fit into it. It's oven safe and easy to clean and has a nice tight-fitting lid to go with it. When I get more room in my kitchen I'm going to add a few more of these babies.

Velcro Hair Rollers:  I've had my velcro rollers for a long time but used them only intermittently until recently. I've been using them every single day because they make my hair look so good. They are super fast and easy to use and make my hair come out perfect every time. My hair isn't very thick and is fine and oily so my hair usually looks pretty crappy by the end of the day... unless I use these. They give my hair lots of volume and it's easy to control just how curly or straight I want my hair to be. To use these I just dry my hair like usual, roll my hair up how I want it and heat each curler for a few seconds with the blow dryer on high heat at a low speed setting. Then I finish getting ready while my hair cools (5 minutes or so) and then pull them out, give my head a shake, and I'm done! I figure there is a lot less heat damage using these than a straightener or curling iron and my hair usually turns out better anyway. I always feel much prettier when I've used these... like I'm on one of those shampoo commercials!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today's Special: Hope You Like Seafood!

Monday: Portobello "Philly Cheese Steak" Sandwiches with Oven Sweet Potato Fries- I've made the sweet potato fries before (so they were obviously good enough to make again...) but the sandwich recipe was new. I'm always skeptical of recipes that replace meat with veggies, because it usually doesn't taste near as good. I have to admit this was pretty good. It was certainly a lot healthier than the normal version, which was a plus and it had a lot of flavor. I don't think it was any cheaper to make than the meat version because portobellos are pretty pricey. If you'd like to make a healthier version of the philly steak sandwich, prefer vegetarian stuff, or just want to try something new, give this a shot. If you don't care about any of that stuff I just mentioned, I'd stick with the meat version... it's still my favorite!

Tuesday: Puerto Rican Fish Stew (Bacalao)- New Recipe. I thought this sounded a little weird, but the picture looked good and it had good reviews so I gave it a shot. It was really easy and fast to make and tasted great. If you're wary of fish chunks in your soup, don't be. I used tilapia and didn't think this was fishy tasting at all. Seth asked if it was chicken. I added about a cup or so of extra chicken broth because it wasn't "soupy" enough when it was done cooking. I'd make this again.

Wednesday: Seared Salmon on Herbed Mashed Peas - Because mashed cauliflower was such a success, Seth said I should try mashing up more vegetables. I'd seen this recipe on my list of things to try so I thought it'd be a good time to give it a shot. I thought the peas would turn out that yucky "baby poo" green, but I was happy to see that it was more of a fresh looking "Spring" green. Definitely much more appetizing to look at. Anyway, we both thought this tasted great. I used thyme in mine instead of tarragon because I was using it for other recipes this week and I couldn't find fresh tarragon at the store. Fresh herbs are expensive so I always try to use them all up fast so they don't go to waste.

Thursday: Market Street Clam Chowder- This is the only other clam chowder recipe I'll make besides my mom's. I figured it would be a good week to make it because I had to buy leeks for the mashed pea mixture on Wednesday. It's a bit spicey so you may want to tone down the Tabasco for the kids, but it sure is good! Oh! Also if you use cooking Sherry instead of the real stuff, make sure you cut back on the salt by about 3/4 tsp.

Friday: Grilled Chicken with Mustard Tarragon Sauce- New Recipe. To tell you the truth I wasn't all that excited to try this recipe. I'm usually not a big fan of eating a big piece of chicken breast for my main meal... let alone a big chicken breast on salad. BUT. This was awesome. I really liked it a lot and actually went back for seconds. The dressing/sauce went so well with the chicken and mix of salad greens I bought. Also, because I couldn't find fresh tarragon, I used fresh thyme as in the recipes above. Don't substitute dried stuff... the fresh herbs are a major player in this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conversations with a Small Town Boy

I was standing at the kitchen sink the other day, getting ready to clean up the pile of potato peels I'd left there while making dinner when the following conversation took place:

Seth: Well I guess I should scoop out all those potato peels and put them in the trash.

Karen: I was just going to put them down the disposal.

Seth: Won't that fill up the septic tank?

Karen: Stands there looking confused.

Seth: We don't have a septic tank, do we.

Karen: No. No we don't.

These Mutilated Home-Made Tortillas are a Product of My Love for You

Seth and I don't usually make a big deal out of Valentine's Day. We do celebrate, but try to keep things under control. This year we kind of spread the festivities over the weekend, mainly because we felt like it.

On Saturday morning Seth got called in to work. I was kind of bummed but figured it'd give me some time to run some errands and such. He left at about 7:00am or so and I stayed in bed to get in a bit more weekend sleep. About a half hour later I hear the door open and from the living room Seth says, "Are you awake?" "Yeah" "I forgot my phone" "Ok. See you later." So I stay in bed for another half hour or so and then get up and flop down the hall to the kitchen to get some breakfast. To my surprise, there was a dozen roses sitting in a vase up on the counter and a card from Seth. Ah! He tricked me! He DID have to work, but the phone bit was made up. Seth always manages to surprise me with things like that. And he always writes the sweetest notes. What a great guy.

Later that evening when he got home, I made Seth's favorites for dinner: grilled ribeye steak with sauted mushrooms, cauliflower mash, and steamed asparagus. Delicious!

The next morning on the REAL Valentine's Day, I made some heart-shaped banana pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I made some strawberry sauce to go on it too, but I think the strawberries had been in the freezer for way too long and they tasted funny, so we stuck with syrup to avoid the risk of explosive diarrhea. Nothing kills the mood of Valentine's Day like explosive diarrhea.

Then it was onto the most romantic Valentine's Day date ever.... fly-fishing! Yeah! We went up to the Devil's Slide area on the Weber River and for once we got some love from the fish. We always have a hard time catching anything during the winter, but we both managed to catch several browns and whiteys. We had a great time. Also, just for the record, I caught 2 fish at the same time... AGAIN! Can you believe it? We'd been fishing for a few minutes when Seth says, "Got any bites yet?" And BAM! I hooked a big one! But wait... there were two fish! Turned out to be a big whitey on the top fly and a little brown on the bottom. It was awesome! And for any of you who are interested, I caught the whitey on a rubber leg copper john (from an assortment of flies given to us from Collette & Marty!) and the brown took a tiny #20 olive clear bead-head zebra midge tied by the great Seth himself.

We were pretty hungry by the time we got home so I decided to make us some tortillas with refried beans and mozzarella. My tortillas were a little sad. Don't laugh.

So that was the end of our little Valentine's Day extravaganza. It's kind of fun to do something special for each other every so often. I love you Seth!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hugh's Town

Ok, it's really Houston. I just had to change the title so you wouldn't immediately think "travel log" and click on someone else's blog. Although, there are pictures of other people in here besides ME, so that alone should suck you in.

So, this last weekend we flew to Houston to visit Seth's brother, Scott and his wife, Amanda and their beautiful new baby girl, Charlotte. This was the first time Seth and I had been on a big trip together so we were pretty excited. We got to stay Scott and Amanda and hang out with them the whole time so it was pretty cool.

I figure pictures speak louder than words (and are usually more exciting), so I'll let them do most of the talking...

Brudders at the Beach

The cute little family

I thought I'd put this one in my modeling portfolio.

What's a trip to the beach without a picture in front of a giant squid?

Scott & Amanda at Landry's on the boardwalk in Kemah

We watched the big tankers coming into port when we went to see..

The battleship Texas in La Porte!

Workin the big guns.

I told them there was a naked lady in there.

Another one for the portfolio. I'm so graceful!

Brudders on a battleship. They were really happy.

Seth trying to swab the deck. He got a little confused.

Scott with the really big guns.

And last, but not least... baby Charlotte with her favorite uncle.

Thanks guys! We had so much fun!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Word Wednesday

 [biv-oo-ak, biv-wak]

1. a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters, usually without shelter or protection from enemy fire.

2. the place used for such an encampment.

–verb (used without object)

3. to rest or assemble in such an area; encamp.


I came across this word several times as I was reading War and Peace. I got the basic meaning down but wasn't quite sure of the pronunciation until I heard Seth use it the other day. He was talking about a time he was on a scout bivouac. He pronounced it "biv-wack", as in the 2nd pronunciation suggestion above. I'd been saying it "biv-oo-wack," which apparently isn't wrong (according to the 1st pronunciation shown above), but I figure "biv-wack" is probably a more common pronunciation if that's how Seth says it. Plus I want to be just like Seth. Anyway, I figure this word is kind of an alternative to "camp" or "camping." As in, "I'm going to head up to the Uintas this weekend for some bivouacing." Say this to your buddies at work and they'll think you're really adventureous. And insanely smart.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Better with Age

Today is Seth's 31st birthday. Unfortunately we both had to work today (following a long weekend vacation...), but we should be able to squeeze in a little more celebrating. Seeing as how I'm a steward of the Birthday Awareness campaign, I thought I should publicly tell him...

Happy Birthday!
I Love You!

(And don't worry, I think your salt and pepper hair is sexy.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Today's Special: Three Days of Deliciousness

Sunday: Italian Baked Trout with Stuffing & Steamed Brussels Sprouts- I tried baking the trout with Italian dressing on it this time. I think I should've let it marinate longer though because we couldn't taste it all that well. Also, I used Stove-Top stuffing. That's right... it takes about 7 minutes total and tastes so good! Had I known this I would've been making Stove-Top stuffing years ago!

Monday: Caramelized Onion and White Bean Flatbread- New Recipe. I was very pleasantly surprised by this. I thought white beans on pizza would be weird, but not so. The white beans are pureed with caramelized onion and used as the "sauce." When I first tasted the mixture I wanted to just eat it all plain, it was that good. Also, the recipe calls for fresh or dried oregano. I had some fresh thyme left over from last week so I used that instead. It was really good. I'd try to avoid using dried herbs in this recipe. I don't think this would've tasted near as good had I used dried. Also, I used a Boboli whole wheat pizza crust. It worked really well. I pre-baked it for about 5 minutes before putting all the toppings on so it would be a bit crispier. This was my first experience using smoked gouda as well. It's got a nice strong flavor, so I would avoid substituting it with something milder like mozzarella. I'm sure I will make this again. This is probably the best pizza I've made for a while.

Tuesday: Bean & Cheese Enchiladas- This is another one of my good old standbys. Extremely fast and easy to make. Great for a busy weeknight. The recipe tells you to make your own refried beans, but I just buy a 15oz. can and mix it up with the cheese, onions and a small can of green chillies. It's the cheater way.

Bonus: Chocolate Dipped Clementines- New Recipe. So I had a bunch of clementines to get rid of before they went bad so I thought, what better way to entice eating them than to dip them in chocolate? These were incredibly easy to make and were so delicious. I used a Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate because I like my chocolate like I like my men.... Dark. And covered in sea salt. HA! Anyway, these were super good and I highly recommend them. Plus they don't have any calories because the healthiness of the clementines cancels out the high dessertiness of the chocolate. So it's a win-win.

I Think This Has Gotten Out of Hand

As you may or may not be aware, Seth and I choose to spend most of our "extra" money on fishing stuff. Most of this fishing stuff comes from Cabelas. I usually make the actual purchases of these things because I like to. I think it's fun. We have a "rewards" card in my name... not a credit card, just a card that racks up points whenever I buy something. So that after I spend about a million dollars on stuff, I get about $1 worth of store credit. Or something like that.

So as would be expected, I began to get Cabelas catalogs in the mail. At first they were small. A short compilation of their general offerings. Then the catalogs got a bit bigger. A more thorough overview of Cabelas merchandise. Then the catalogs were the same size, just more specific. We'd get one big catalog of just fly-fishing stuff or fishing stuff or camping stuff. Then yesterday I opened up the mailbox and found this...

That's right my friends. A 1 1/2" thick HARD BOUND Cabelas catalog. It looks like one of Seth's textbooks from school. It even has tabbed sections. You know, to help me quickly find the category of goods I'm looking for. This is the most insane thing I've ever seen. But I can't help but think it's kind of awesome. And Seth is totally jealous that it came in my name. I know, I know, they pulled my name off a list of "big spenders" and said hey, I bet this shmuck will totally buy more of our crap if we make her feel like she's a special customer. But I can see through their scheme. I'm not going to buy more stuff from them just because they sent me this awesome catalog. I'm not falling for their "special" trick.

Although, I do wonder What's Next? I mean, what could possibly top the textbook catalog? What do their super amazing moneybags customers get? Do they send a private jet and a personal shopping guide to their  homes to pick them up and physically take them to their stores to buy things? I mean, it would be a genius plan. Who wouldn't feel pressured into buying something after a sweet jet ride and a personal shopping guide looking over their shoulder? Everyone would. That's why it's such a great plan. But that's ok, I'll take their free jet ride. I need to get a couple new fly rods anyway.

New Word Wednesday

Dude this vocabulary thing is MAGIC! Every week whatever word I choose, I find it used in a completely different book than the one I found it in! Ok, so maybe you don't think this is odd, but I do. It's not like I choose that common of words. Take for instance, 'spleen' from last week. I kid you not, this was actually used in the book I'm reading now, "The Sex Lives of Cannibals." I was so excited! I know, I know, I'm a big dork for getting excited about WORDS. But anyhow, it just makes me feel a little bit smarter. Like I could really hold my own on Jeopardy if they had a "Random Somewhat Useful Vocabulary Words" category.

This week's word is probably going to be an obvious one for most of you. I chose this word because I hear it often enough but never really know what it means. I just pretend like I do. Usually it's in a movie and some woman is using it to describe a man.


1. Incapable of being corrected or reformed; an incorrigible liar.

2. Impervious to constraints or punishment; willful; unruly; uncontrollable: an incorrigible child; incorrigible hair.

3. Firmly fixed; not easily changed: an incorrigible habit.

4. Not easily swayed or influenced: an incorrigible optimist.

5. One that cannot be corrected or reformed.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

January Book Reviews: "Three Cups of Tea" & "Robinson Crusoe"

In order to achieve my goal of 30 books this year, I need to read 2.5 books a month. This month I was able to stick with that quota and read the following (My Rating Scale: *Ok **Good ***Great):

Rating: **

I really liked this book. I don't normally get into books about war and historical type stuff, but this was actually very well written and engaging. It gave me a much different perspective of the normal civilian population in the middle eastern countries.

It also made me feel so inadequate in my contributions to society. I don't think I could ever have as much patience and motivation as Mortenson does. It's very awe inspiring. This book got me to think a little bit more about what I could do to make the world a better place. Sometimes donating money just doesn't seem personal enough to me and I hope to be able to find a way to help other people and make a difference.

Just as a final note... I thought this would be a chic type book because of the title. It is far from it. If you're a guy, you'll like this too. It's probably one of the least girly books I've read in a while.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Rating **

This book was among the classics collection I received as a kid. I'd never read it before and thought it might be fun. It was entertaining and would be a good read for anyone who likes adventure-type stories. I read "Hatchet" as a kid and thought this was a similar story, though maybe a little more grown-up as there were scenes of cannibalistic behaviors and more fighting and such. I was surprised at how much the attitudes in the world have changed since this book was written (early 1700s). There are definitely some racist leanings which are spoken of in a way that you can tell it was common, acceptable thinking in those days. It made me a little angry sometimes, but also makes me feel better knowing we have come a long way in improving racial equality.