Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Martha Stewart Fail

A year ago I decided it was time to truly hone my domestic skills (i.e. lack thereof) and decided cooking was the way to begin said honing. I feel domesticity involves two foundational prongs: cooking and sewing. These two things above all others allows one to embrace domesticity like nothing else... no... not even cleaning or scrapbooking (see: Utah domesticity definitions). And since I do not have the equipment nor the time to really focus on the sewing portion (and lets be honest - the patience), I felt cooking was the best way to start. I enjoy baking; always have, but cooking to me involves more than cookies - it requires meals with more than three ingredients (see: grilled ham and cheese no longer counts (did it ever?)... alas). I have a vision of being that grandma who makes her family's heads explode with her delicate and fluffy rolls, her thick and luscious gravy, and don't forget the creamy buttery ethereal quality of her mashed potatoes. Mmmmm. Okay, I want to be MY grandma. Oh man, I could go for some mashed potatoes right now, right? Thanksgiving = best. holiday. ever.


To start the honing of my cooking aspirations I turned to THE true source of home-makery in America: Martha Stewart, pre-jailbird. And even post-jailbird I guess - what's a woman without a little spice? Eh? I mean, imagine your mother, you're sweet dear little mother, who knits doilies, quilts, cooks magnificent meals, and requested all seasons of Golden Girls on DVD for Christmas, doing time for extortion in the clinker. Martha Stewart blew America's mind in just that same way. Mamma's got a mean streak!

So Martha. Martha does a lot of creative, nigh amazing things in the realm of domestics. The woman is a household creative genius and no one - not even a judge and jury - could argue that. But let me tell YOU about Martha Stewarts Everyday Foods magazine. Fail. Fail. Fail.

I subscribed to Martha's food magazine a year ago and am saddened to report, did not rush to renew it this year. I remember first being introduced to this little foody magazine when I was living in Provo (suddenly it all becomes clear). I was grocerying with a friend of mine and she was getting ingredients as outlined in this magazine. They seemed like simple ingredients (nothing ridiculously fancy like "Algerian goat tongue." Do they even sell that here? What IS that anyway? I used to think that about fennel... yes... so exotic ;)), and simple procedures that didn't require 3 hours of prep work and another 4 of tieing, stuffing, marinating, basting, and burying in the earth for 2 days until the flesh softens and the seeds sprout. Strait-forward, simple, and doable. Sign me up!

And sign me up I did. Since then, everything I've ever attempted to cook out of that facade of a cooking magazine has sorely failed. I tried cupcakes... dry... I tried basic chocolate chip cookies... flat and crispy (and note I can make some really awesome chocolate chip cookies (kudos Sister C) thus at this point I'm beginning not to question MY ability, but the magazine's quality), and some monkey bread... hard and lifeless (and who wants lifeless Monkey bread? Nobody). At this point I'm thinking... alright, maybe just her baking recipe's are crap. I need to venture into the 'real food' genre to truly get a sense of my abilities vs. this magazines quality. I thus made some Mac and Cheese as described in the magazine - runny and and bland... then attempted some lemony chicken concoction.. and again... bland... and FINALLY, this Sunday, put together a lovely looking pasta,shrimp, and spinach salad that looked too easy for even the most inept cook to screw up... completely flavorless. I know what you're thinking - well - did you attempt to cook things that WEREN'T from this magazine to see if you fail at those too. Let me tell you my friends - I did. I did. I have Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) cookbooks, some excellent recipes handed down from a Bishop's wife, and a few of Giada's Everyday Pasta recipes and they've ALL worked out spectacularly. Well, perhaps not spectacularly - but they didn't fail. That, I can assure you.

The only conclusion, as you can see by my extensive experiments... using EVERY OTHER recipe I've ever attempted as the control, Martha Stewart's Everyday Foods magazine is a total failure... for me. Granted, perhaps I just don't have that extra Martha touch so necessary to the success of her lofty empire. I mean if everyone had the Martha touch - who would be in awe of her unique abilities? It would literally take a criminal mind (ba dum chi!) to figure out the inner workings of what could possibly make these recipes workable, eatable, cookable! Is that so much to ask of a Food magazine? I don't think so. It's fraud I tell you. Book'er Dano!

Monday, July 19, 2010

I need a vacation after vacation...

Right? It's like, when you get home from vacation, you need another 2-5 day buffer to "come down" from vacation. It's the ultimate Catch-22. You go on vacation; and you go for as long as you possibly can, squeezing every last beautifully work-free, sunshiney, new town, beachy, drop out of it. Licking the proverbial dish clean. And because we (I) do this, we doom ourselves to a week's worth of "head explode" - playing catch up and cursing yourself for not at least attempting to do SOME homework while on vacation. You don't do that? Well, I do.

Whinning aside...

This weekend I went on a mini-cultural vaca to Cedar City, Utah. High rolla! You just don't know how intense Cedar City can be, Internet! That town is crazy! No, it's not. But, it does house the Tony Award Winning Utah Shakespearean Festival and THAT my friends, makes Cedar City an excellent town to mini-vaca indeed.

My good friend heidikins and I packed up the Elantra (Stella, affectionately) on Friday morning and we were on the road by 9:30am. After a little side-stop in Lehi to call the ticket office and confirm that would could still get into our scheduled plays without our tickets (yep... both of us forgot our damnable tickets in SLC), we praised the electronic age and subsequently, made it to Cedar City around 1:00 without incident. After some particularly dissatisfying pizza at the Pizza Factory (though I spotted more socks with sandals in that hour than I had in 2 hours in Provo... which is HUGE), we decided to see a little film called Despicable Me. I can tell what you're thinking, couldn't we have eaten crappy pizza and gone to a movie in SLC? Well shore we COULD have! But haven't you noticed how going to a movie NOT where you live seems more... exciting? It kinda does. I saw Ironman 2 in Vietnam and it will forever be the most exciting movie experience of my life... that and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban premire in London. Talk about a major geek-out.

Anyway... all these things (bad pizza and great film) were merely time-fillers as we anticipated the play we were to see that night; Macbeth. And oh what a Macbeth it was! Easily, EASILY one of the best productions of Macbeth I've ever seen. I'm of the mind that you MUST have an excellent Lady Macbeth if the play is to succeed - and this Lady Macbeth was - in a phrase - a psycho bitch. What? You find a more accurate way to describe Lady Macbeth and I'll gladly use it (whoring wench? Shakespear approved!). For now - she is a psycho bitch and what a psycho bitch she was! In addition, Banquo "the zombie-ghost" scared the "wee" out of me by standing there being all "night of the living dead" - plaguing Macbeth and the audience with his gaping bloody mouth and empty eyes. Shudder. Both heidikins and I were most pleased with the play and had high hopes for the next night. It was a GREAT way to start our little vacation.

Oh PS: we also saw Elder Oaks there (and I'd bet he'd agree with my Lady Macbeth assessment!). It was one of those moments where I'm looking at this gentleman sitting outside the theater thinking, "do I know him?" Which takes a longer look than just a glance - some might describe it as a stare - but I feel it was more of a quizzical brow - and when I realized who he was - he'd seen that I'd realized who he was as I sorta smiled, gasped, looked hurridly away, and finally, tried to (subtley?) wack Heidi with my water bottle so she could stare... er quizzically brow... at him too. I'm sure I played it super smooth. This is actually the second time I've spotted him at a cultural event. Terilyn and I saw him and his wife Kristen at the Madam Butterfly last winter. You could say we happen to run in the same cultural circle. Ho ho ho. It means I'm SOMEBODY!... or now officially face-tagged as "suspect" on his burley body guards Iphone. Yeeeeaaaaah....

The next morning, we slept in. Slept in REAL good. We then donned our hiking wear and camelbaks and traveled to the secret slot canyon in secretville just outside of Cedar City. Is it really called secret slot canyon? No it isn't. But I'm not going to TELL you what it's called BECAUSE last year Heidi and I were the only happy hikers there (as it's rather off the beaten path and fairly unknown... then) and THIS time? Well, lets say we seriously passed SEVERAL groups of 20+ (20+!) people throughout the duration of the hike. That's a lot of people! Oh... and two dogs! Yeah! Dogs! Most looked like groups of SUU students... except the socks and sandals group wearing BYU t's (I jest not... BYU always rules the socks and sandals contests).... and a handful of large families. Though the hike was still amazing! Fantastical! Gorgeous! Awe-inspiring! It was also sorta... crowded. People been flappin their gums! Letting the cat out of the bag!

Well I won't be that person... today - but I WILL show you the wonderous wonders of that canyon you can't ever find because I won't tell you. How's that? (Pics curtosy of Heidkins)

Just to give you some perspective... cause I look tall in most pictures (cricket chirp)


Happy Hoooooooommmmmm

Eek! It's cold! The water's gonna get me! (we climbed that ladder... which is more foreboding than you'd think!)

This water was even colder. I'd also like you to note how that ladder goes up barely half-way. The other half of the climb was accommodated by a leaning log with little nobs, a wet rope, and an encouraging sign "GOOD LUCK!" Alright, there was no sign. 

After our secret hike in the secret slot canyon in secretville outside of Cedar City - we ventured back to my Aunty's house (where we were staying for FREE whilst she was at her High School reunion in Emery County - I know - we're bless-ed), readied ourselves (might've taken a baby-nap too...mmmmm), and went to eat some excellent Mexican food at the secret Mexican restaurant... just kidding... I'll tell you... we ate at a local joint called Lupita's. It's fan-tas-tic and pretty authentic. I recommend it... last exit in Cedar City across from Wal-Mart in the same chain as Downeast Outfitters and Nails. There, does that make up for the secret canyon secret of secrets? If not you'll just have to work through it on your own.

The next play we saw was the world premiere of Great Expectations, the musical. Internet, I love Dickens. I do. I LOVE him. Thus, I love Great Expectations. I think Pip is one of the most timeless, endearing, enduring characters in all of literature. That's why, Internet, (and if you'll forgive the pun) I had great expectations of Great Expectations; even when I found out it was a musical.

Like my dating expectations... it was all downhill from there (ba dum chi!).

Oh Internet, it was a disaster. The actors were great! Fantastic! And I very quickly developed a crush on the floppy haired Pip (Jack Noseworthy), but that was about the extent of my enjoyment. I liked the actors, hated the adaptation. Fail. FAIL! FAIL! Ridiculously cheeseball songs, skeletal if at all visable plot, and very shallow character development. And that's really all I want to say about it - because it's just offensive. I'm still working through the great disappointment of great expectations. Dear Charles, please... please forgive us.

Thus, other than the poor rendition of Great Expectations (the musical), it was a very lovely vacation. We drove home Sunday morning, churched, and feasted with friends before Monday started again. It was a good mini-vacation and I'd been looking forward to it for months. However, I am now suffering the wrath of leaving work and neglecting school. I forget this vacational-caveat as one naturally does. Why think of the mounds of work and catch-up you'll have to do BEFORE you book a vacation? In fact, why think of the fact you have to RETURN from vacation and the misery that brings? If we considered THAT (wah wah wah) - no one could go on vacation - I can guarantee you that! I think the next vacation I attempt, I will make sure there is at LEAST a day or two buffer before having to jump back into the swing of reality. You'd think I would've learned my lesson after spending two weeks in Indochina and then literally jumping right into school and work not 2 days later... turns out...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chickflicks are a disservice to one and all...

 A couple weekends ago, I finally saw a chick flick that has been recommended to me since it came out. I'm not a big chick flick watcher for a lot of reasons - and yes some of them are psychologically connected to my own "chick flick" scenario that didn't turn out so "chick flick" after all. Alas. The movie I speak of is P.S I Love You. Dah! Was that a collective sigh? You liked it, didn't you, chicks? Well, a lot of chicks did. That movie (and previously novel - books to movies - another rant for another day) encompasses everything that makes chick flicks, chick flicks. Drama, love, relationships, cheesy girl-pal humor, drama, a hot dude (and I won't argue there - hello Gerard Butler!), and undying, pure, fantastical, "true" love. Two people really, really, in love. And what does that spiteful universe do? Well it kills one of them - the man. The love.

I didn't really like it. I didn't buy it. And above all, chick flicks kinda frustrate me on a lot of levels. They're just not... real.

You're thinking "Well no kidding! Of course they're not real. What are you, completely daft?" Well... sometimes. But as much as we (chick flick watchers... and/or... a lot of chicks) "know" these movies aren't "real"... we all kinda wish they were. That's why chick flicks, even if they're just plain terrible (see: When in Rome... oh so painful), can consistently hold their own in the box office. Shore, a chick flick's never going to win an Academy Award or Golden Globe, but they're also not going to go the way of M. Knight Shyamalan's career after Airbender (I've heard... and that's enough). We like them cause we wish they were real, we want them to be real, we want the true, unrequited, beautiful, even drama-filled happy ending that every chick flick produces over and over again. And there's nothing real about it - no matter how much we want it.

So. Established. We know chick flicks aren't real. Thus let me ask you this, WHY do we expect our lives and relationships to still mimic them? Why, when we fall in love with our best guy friend, do we still cling to the hope that he will eventually fall in love with us even after he rejects our continual manifestations of our feelings baked within chocolate chip cookies, or price tagged in "Oh... I just saw this t-shirt and thought of you"? Do you think because he talks to you "like no other girl" and he's "so glad he has you to go to" it means "and I will eventually love you?" Noooot usually.

Why do we think that mutual loathing of an attractive man and an attractive woman immediately becomes a whirlwind passionate relationship because they're both "forced" to travel long distances together because she's a criminal and he's a cop so naturally, THESE are the ingredients for truly bringing forth that deeply emotional response called unconditional love (see: whatever that stupid movie was with Jennifer Anison and Gerard Butler... trying to be the romantic comedy of Mr. and Mrs. Smith... not even close). I love the mutual loathing to love storyline. Happens everyday right? Mmmm, not really. Sometimes, I guess. "I hated him and then I married him" happens... maybe. But that's the exception... not the rule (see chick flick: He's Just Not that into You... actually one of the more useful ones I have seen! I enjoyed it mucho).

Chick flicks do us all a disservice. They make us subconsciously create unrealistic and ridiculous expectations of scenario's and circumstances that they tell us are ideal environments for looooove (see: planning a man you've fallen in love with after 2 days wedding to another chick who happens to be petty and awful). They make us cling to idealistic scenarios and hold each other (particularly dudes) to a female expectation of response and desire. Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Twilight. Do you know, as much as "we know that these things aren't real", I've heard MANY women chide that their husbands "aren't like Edward. Why aren't they like Edward?" Well, BECAUSE he's NOT REAL. That guy, that guy doesn't exist in any sphere and frankly, I kind of find him a wuss. He's a female manifestation of what females think they want in a man: he's unconditionally, unequivocally, blindingly in love and adores her more than (everyone together) he adores his own life." Puh-lease. I've heard many a man comment on this particular saga in exasperation, "Dudes wouldn't react like that. That's not what a dude would do..." It's creating an unrealistic expectation in less than probable circumstances of characters that don't actually exist. This, to me, does us all a great disservice.

So here's my thing about chick flicks. They make me sad. Yep. You're delving a little into some of my vulnerabilities here so bear with me... or turn away. They make me sad because it makes me feel hopeless and alone. Many women turn to chick flicks for comfort in their times of single sadness or right after a 'break-up' to build their hopes (i.e. false hopes) back up to expecting non-realistic scenarios (including him "finally realizing we're perfect for each other and so he will fly all the way to Italy to reunite with me and beg for my love back even though he broke up with me...") Oh my friends, it's not going to happen. This, to me, is a disservice. You can have hope... but not false hope. False hope gives you a greater precipice to plunge down once reality sets back in. And reality isn't so bad... there are some good things about it... because REAL love vs. vampire love is something that DOES exist and worth looking for... it just doesn't exist in the far-fetched and far-flung scenario's fed us through Hollywood chick flicks.

That said, there are 'chick flicks' I really love: Return to Me, Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, Sweet Home Alabama, Sleepless in Seattle, and so on. They really don't make great chick flicks anymore - with average looking people (Tom Hanks? No one would call him a heart throb but everyone LOVES his chick flicks...) having average interactions that could be a little more plausible than, well, your dead husband leaving you notes every month (or so?) for a year until you get over it. It's a lovely thought... but it creates a false expectation.

I don't watch chick flicks often for a few reasons - I think it's really hard to do a good chick flick, I think it's a fine line between complete cheesy cliches and plausible scenarios (500 Days of Summer - excellent), and it creates false hopes and expectations of real life relationships or scenarios that are truly a rarity if every happening. We would like them to happen. We'd like to dream that that proud British rich man actually has a heart of gold and has fallen in love with you with the mere exchange of some witty remarks and sarcasm (oh yes, I did it) and despite your eternal vow to loathe him, find yourself loving him too as he constantly redeems himself and builds a perfect facade of exactly everything you've wanted your whole life. It's a pretty picture... but then the credits roll... and you're back to your day to day living, but now with a little bug planted in your subconscious telling you "someday your prince will come..." And he will, just perhaps not on a white horse with tickets to that thing you like (now there's a great commercial).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

There's just not much to say... really...

It seems I've run out of things to say. What??!?!?! I know, my world slightly imploded as well. School has sucked my brain dry. Sucked it DRY I tell you! I've now switched modes from happily humming to "just try and function." That's the joys of school - and particularly summer school I might add. Summer school is the devil and I for one plan to exorcism it (shore it works) right out of my life after this year. Just say NO to summer school.

 I don't have any pictures are particularly riveting stories about my all-American 4th of July weekend to share with you. Or maybe I do, I just am not doing it. Here... let me give it ago. Start up the old engine and do something that doesn't involve memorizing Constitutional amendments or trying to fake it through a Statistics assignment (not easy!).

I went to Emery County for the 4th of July. That's right! The land is a gem - a gem I tell you! Course, I naturally will say that since I spent 0-18years of my life there and we're always a little drawn to the place we grew up, right (we as in the greater American public)? A little. I lived in the same house most all of those 18 years and the first year I didn't, well naturally that doesn't count because I don't remember infant years and infant years don't remember me. Fair trade I'd say. Imagine. Growing up in the same house for 18 years. After moving into the 'real world' I realized what an incredible phenomenon that truly is. Not many people can say that - but I can sure say it - and said it I did! Looks like I do have a few things to say! What would be REALLY fantastic right now is if I posted a quaint little picture of yon house I grew up in because I took pictures while I was there. But guess what?!??! Joke's on you! Didn't do it. What would be even better is if I had a picture of me as a wee child playing in front of the house in diapers, or me as a small child in ye olde elementary slippin slide days, or naturally, the sour puss face I always wore during my teenage angst years. But guess what... jokes on you again! The thought is now in my head, however, so I may just procure those little photo-gems and let you, Internet, delve a little deeper into my mini-life. It's mini cause I'm mini. Naturally.

Where was I? Oh yes... Emery County. Let's do a chronological summation, eh? We (my mom and friend Camille) ran us a 5k on Saturday morning... and by Saturday morning I mean 6 freakin am! Alright, I act like that's so ridiculous of an hour when I've actually been recently encouraging my good friend Heidikins into getting up at such an hour to exercise with me the last handful of weeks. So really, I dont' know what I'm complaining about. Probably because it was a Saturday - and that's really the unfair part. After the 5k we watched the Huntington Heritage Days parade, wandered around the fair and tried to decipher what an old-timer was trying to teach us about flags and his steel-toed army boots from 'Nam during the 4th of July "program" , then proceeded to gorge ourselves on all those delightful American celebratory cuisines such as potato salad, pasta salad, BBQ'ed hamburgers, chips, chips, chips, and an assortment of dips. I really do love love the summer months and all the cuisine that entails. Two best food holidays - any summer holiday BBQ's and Thanksgiving (duh). Num num num.

We rounded out our 4th of July in the land of E (that's Emery County if you've not been paying much attention) with some humble fireworks at the local Junior High - MY Junior High (insert awkward Junior High photo here), and then addded a nightcap of second rounds of salads and chips before conking out like the old bag we've all turned into as of late around 10:30pm. Old bags indeed. All in all though, I'd say it was a pretty decent holiday weekend. Let me tell you the BEST part of this weekend though...(I know.. how could it get better?)... Monday Holiday.


Lets talk about Monday holidays because I definitely have things to day now! Boy-howdy!

I don't know if I've explained to you, Internet, my deep and abiding love for the Monday holiday. It's easily the best sort of holiday there is, no contset. Not only do you NOT have to go to work (or SCHOOL! Huzah!) BUT, it's made Sunday night incredibly more pleasant without that sinking "oh man... it's Monday tomorrow and I'd rather stick pencils under my fingernails than begin yet ANOTHER week of drudgery" feeling in your gut, and... AND, it shortens your workweek to 4 days. These fantastic benefits are just the beginning of the sheer joy I feel in my soul when Monday holidays roll around. It's an extra Saturday! It's an excuse to go out for breakfast (my favorite meal to go out to)! I can sleep in, go for a nice run, do all those errands I can't ever fully accomplish on my ONE Saturday of the week, perhaps catch a matinee with all the other pleasant crowds who are in fact more noticeably pleasant because they've had a pleasant Sunday night not dreading the upcoming Monday work week just as I have and are basking in the glow of rest, relaxation, holiday Monday sales, 2:15 movie showings, and downright leisure and did I mention the pleasentness? I thoroughly enjoyed my Monday holiday and when it was coming to a close, I sighed a contented sigh and actually felt more ready for a (short!) work week than I've ever felt on a Sunday night. Monday holidays are a heaven-sent, and anyone who thinks anything less is probably just a Debbie Downer and I'd recommend you getting new friends. You don't need boobs like that in your life. Trust me.

Welp! Guess I had a few things to say and I hope what I've said has given you some entertainment albeit satisfaction that your life is at minimum a little more exciting than mine. But I bet you two grilled hot dogs and a sparkler you didn't love your Monday holiday as much as I loved mine. I just don't see how it's possible...