2.27.2009

My new favorite snack: Spinach and garlic

Yes, this is more of a side dish then a snack, and no, it's not exactly innovative. Nonetheless, the sauteed spinach and garlic I made a couple nights ago was so satisfying that I made a second batch and have been craving it ever since. Plus, it's good for me!

Sauteed spinach and garlic
serves one

2 large handfuls baby spinach
1 T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (yes, this is a lot - I'm a garlic fiend)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan for sprinkling

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it just starts to turn. Add spinach and stir to coat. When it has cooked down (this happens fairly quickly), add salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topped with Parmesan.

That's it! Happy snacking!

Some studies show that calcium inhibits the absorption of iron from non-meat sources. If this is a concern, skip the cheese and add some crushed red pepper to the garlic while it cooks.

Proof that humans will fight over anything

The Koreans call it Dokdo. The Japanese call it Takeshima. I call it a pile of rocks in the ocean.

Apparently, the real issue is the sea surrounding the islands with its potential resources. It's a shame they can't work it out and that lives (and fingers!) have been lost over this.

2.26.2009

Tonight on TCM: The African Queen

Tonight at 8pm Eastern, Turner Classic Movies is showing The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. I first saw the film back in high school with my mom, and it's been a favorite ever since. I remember how enthused she was when it came on - "Ooh! This is a good one!" - and how quickly the chemistry between the two stars and their unlikely love story overcame my adolescent skepticism.

Set in Africa during WW1, Hepburn plays a strait laced missionary who hitches a ride with Bogart, a hard drinking riverboat captain. Shot on location by director John Huston, the film follows their adventures on the river and burgeoning relationship. They are both in perfect form with Hepburn bringing her trademark spunk and Bogart his world-weary cynicism. It's the kind of film that makes you realize that they don't make movies - or movie stars - like they used to.

Good sound advice

This British poster from WW2 is popping up everywhere lately. With unemployment rising and the Dow falling, it's advice we can all take to heart.

Check out the slogan's history here.

2.25.2009

Scenes from Japan: Jackets in every color

Et tu, Michelle?

The good news? The US will be getting a First Dog in April.

The bad news? It won't be named Moose.

As Michelle Obama told People magazine:

"Oh, the names are really bad. I don't even want to mention it, because there are names floating around and they're bad. You listen and you go – like, I think, Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I said, well, what if the dog isn't a moose? Moose. I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit."

When I was little, the parents got me a dog. Granted, I wanted a terrier, and it was a poodle, but nonetheless, I was happy to have my dog at last. Disappointment came when my suggestions for naming the dog were shot down and replaced with more "acceptable" names. Decades later, my poor dad will still hear, "And you didn't let me name the dog Susan!"

I think the girls chose well. Frank and Moose are fine names. I can see the girls yelling "Moooooooooooose!" and a giant dog bounding across the White House lawn. Tell me that's not heart-warming.

Hopefully, Michelle will reconsider. It could be worse, after all. It could be a poodle named Susan.

2.24.2009

Free frozen entree from Kashi

Kashi is giving out coupons for a free frozen entree. Since I enjoy their crackers and cherry-chocolate granola bars, I think I'll give one a try. Plus, they're healthy!

America's best croissant?

Carey Jones at Serious Eats makes a compelling case that the best croissant in America can be found at The Little Chef in Princeton, NJ. Normally, I would be skeptical of a review like this, but when she writes "A perfect croissant does not yield; it shatters," I know I'm dealing with someone who knows her pastry.

I fell in love with the croissant during my summer semester at the University of Dijon many years ago. A group of older women from the area came in each morning to make and serve breakfast in the restaurant beneath the dining hall. The options were limited: croissant, tea, coffee or hot cocoa, and whatever jam they happened to bring that day. With croissants fresh from the oven, red current or raspberry jam from local farms, and hot cocoa that left dregs of chocolate shavings in the bottom of the mug, no one was complaining. Not known for being a morning person (understatement!), I dragged myself up at 7:30am everyday and never missed a breakfast.

In later years, I've been lucky enough to spend more time in France and travel around the countryside. While I've had some excellent pastry, nothing has ever matched the homemade croissants fresh from the oven that I enjoyed that summer. They have spoiled me for life. Maison Kayser in Paris is my favorite bakery (and possibly my favorite place on the planet), and even their wonderful croissant falls short. Not that I let this stop me from going there twice a day when I'm in town. The Dijon croissant has become a sort of Platonic ideal, but I am happy to "make do" with MK's amazing offerings. My happiest moment in Tokyo, sad as it is, was finding their Shinjuku branch in the food halls of Takashimaya Times Square. Japanese food and I weren't getting along, and I was hungry, darnit!

American croissants have been a study in disappointment. Pale, flat, doughy at worst and somehow off at best, I'd accepted that croissants (like so many other foods) were a treat I'd only be able to enjoy in France. The photos from The Little Chef tempt me to reconsider. Dark caramelized exterior, tender golden interior, countless layers spiraling to the center - they look almost too good to be true. The best part: Princeton is much closer (and cheaper!) than Paris. Next time I'm anywhere near the Northeast, I'll have to check it out.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Carnival in pictures!

2.22.2009

Movie review: Nights in Rodanthe

** Warning: Contains spoilers! **

I've been looking forward to Nights in Rodanthe since I added it to my Blockbuster Online queue a couple months ago. While I've never read the book by Nicholas Sparks, my love of The Notebook gave me high hopes. Unfortunately, Nights in Rodanthe fell far short of my expectations.

Diane Lane stars as a mother of two who travels to the town of Rodanthe on North Carolina's Outer Banks to fill in as innkeeper at a remote bed and breakfast. Before she leaves, her (bastard) ex-husband tells her he wants to come back to her and the family, and she plans to use the weekend deciding how to respond. The inn has only one guest for the weekend, Richard Gere as a doctor with problems of his own who came to "talk to someone" before heading to South America. Friendship, and eventually more, bloom between the two as they battle a late season hurricane and help him resolve a problem from his past.

The setting is gorgeous, the leads are likable, and the story has promise, but somehow the movie never comes together. The romance develops quickly and feels superficial, and the scary-but-not-really-dangerous hurricane stretches credibility. The scenes with Scott Glenn are the most moving in the film, far surpassing the tearjerker ending that left me cold. Glenn's story felt sincere; the ending felt contrived and faintly manipulative. The movie hadn't managed to engage me with the characters and their love story enough for me to care. My main takeaway from the movie is that I need to plan a trip back to the Outer Banks.

My verdict: 4/10.

2.20.2009

Free writing workshop

The Indianapolis Public Library is offering a series of free writing workshops with Susan Lawson. Based on the Amherst Writer's Method, the workshops last three hours and include three exercises. Susan provides a prompt (anything from a poem to a song to a stack of paint chips with interesting names), and you have 10 minutes to write whatever comes to mind. The group then spends another 20-30 minutes reading aloud and offering feedback. A key element of the workshop is that only positive feedback is allowed. The theory is that the work is in its infancy and not ready for harsh critique. Also, that if you hear what works well in your writing, you will do more of that and problematic areas will eventually fall away. I've attended three workshops and have found them to be a great way to explore my creativity. My first reaction on hearing the prompt is always "I have no idea!", but amazingly something always comes to mind to fill the page. The group is supportive enough that most everyone feels comfortable reading their work. Workshops are offered at library branches throughout the city and monthly at the Glendale branch.

2.18.2009

Mr. Lucky

Finally! After 7 years, Chris Isaak is releasing a new studio album. I can't wait to give Mr. Lucky a listen. If the two new songs that Kurt and I heard at last summer's concert are an indication, the album will have been worth the wait.

2.17.2009

My most dramatic blog post EVER (ok, not really)

I've heard that we're in a "golden age" of television with shows like Lost, The Office, and Mad Men pleasing both fans and critics. Unfortunately, when it comes to tv my IQ drops to around 50. Who needs complex characters, smart dialogue, and thought provoking storylines when you can watch Tyra Banks put 15 young women through a series of asinine tasks to find out who will become "America's Next Top Model" or 25 seemingly normal women lose their minds vying for the heart of the latest bachelor? I know that America's Next Top Model will likely never model outside of a year's worth of Cover Girl commercials during the next season and that the bachelor's relationships have an average shelf life of 6 weeks, but I keep getting sucked in. Maybe it's the escapist absurdity? The comfort of the cheesy traditions? All I can say is that I'm glad ANTM is starting next week. It'll fill in nicely after The Bachelor's most dramatic finale ever.

Terre Haute dining: Magdy's


Kurt and I went to Magdy's for their four course prix fixe Valentine's dinner. Located inside an 1873 Mansion with high ceilings, intimate dining rooms, and carved woodwork, Magdy's seemed like Terre Haute's most romantic dining option. While there is bar seating for those interested in a more lively atmosphere, Kurt and I chose the upstairs dining room and were seated in a small room containing only four tables. While there was an antique chandelier, most of the light came from candles on each table. Great for romance, bad for getting pictures for the blog. Sorry!

Our appetizer choices were smoked salmon, brie with sundried tomatoes, and shrimp cocktail. Kurt chose the salmon which came with capers and toast points, and I opted for the brie. My only complaint was that the portion was so small. I'm not normally a fan of brie, but the flavor combination was wonderful.

Kurt and I both opted for the house salad, and I heartily recommend the house vinaigrette. It is creamier than expected with a nice sweetness. Unfortunately, a mix up in the kitchen led to the salad being served with the entree which wasn't ideal. Since this happened both to us and to another table in our room, it seemed like kitchen was having problems with timing that evening.

Our entrees were tilapia with crab for Kurt and chicken marsala for me. I found the chicken to be good but not great. The roasted potatoes alongside were excellent - tender inside, crispy outside, and wonderfully salty. Kurt was a bit disappointed with his entree, but that may be tied to the fact that it seemed undercooked at first and was sent back to be refired. Mrs. Magdy brought us a plate of homemade baklava and was very gracious and sorry for the mishap.

Dessert was key lime pie for me and cheesecake for Kurt. His cheesecake was good but not extraordinary. My pie was wonderful! It was appropriately pale and creamy and the tart flavor was perfect. I hadn't had key lime pie in years, and it was just as good as I remember.

My overall impression is mixed. The setting is wonderfully romantic, the menu varied, and at several points the food quite good. While the servers were consistently friendly, they were often nowhere to be found, leaving Kurt waiting for drink refills longer than was ideal. Added to the kitchen mishaps, this could easily have marred the evening of a less tolerant diner. Hopefully, the troubles stemmed from the full house for Valentine's Day and the private party being held upstairs. Kurt is skeptical, but I would be willing to give Magdy's another try. Fine dining options in Terre Haute are limited, and I don't want to give up hope that Magdy's can deliver.

2.12.2009

Meditation helper: Cosmic Cushion

When I took the meditation class at the Inner Peace Yoga Center, I found my back would begin to ache after only a few minutes of sitting properly. Too many years of poor posture had finally caught up with me. Meditation became an exercise in frustration when I had to clear the thought "My back hurts!" from my mind every few seconds.

During class, Charles recommended a Cosmic Cushion for people having back pain during meditation. I tested one out, and it made a world of difference. Shaped like a fortune cookie, the cushion is 6 inches high at the back and supports your legs as it tapers forward. There is an inset for your feet, so they can tuck in and cross comfortably. Without the cushion, I can sit for 5 minutes without pain; with it, I can easily sit for 30 minutes. Well, my body can. My mind is still learning to be calm for that long.

2.11.2009

My favorite Valentine's story this year

Not only did Sam the koala get a drink, she also found love at the wildlife shelter. Apparently she and Bob have a "muchness with each other". Awww ....


Doppelganger Nelson

I think I've found Nelson's twin! Same age, same shelter, same personality, and they look nearly identical. How weird! I'm tempted to adopt her, but I don't think my boys want another sibling. If she's anything like Nels, whoever adopts her is in for a wild ride (and lots of love).

Behold!

Nelson

Doppelganger Nelson

2.10.2009

African Peanut Soup

As promised, here's the recipe for African Peanut Soup. Be warned though, it looks pretty unappetizing until the very end when you stir the peanut butter in. Feel free to add more or less peanut butter to get the thickness you like.

African Peanut Soup

2 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 t chopped garlic
1/4 cup rice
4 cups chicken broth (2 small cans works)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2-3/4 t crushed red pepper
black pepper to taste
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 t chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 t dried thyme

Heat oil in soup pot over medium. Add onions, peppers, and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add rice, broth, tomatoes with juice, crushed red pepper, and black pepper.

Simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is soft. Whisk in peanut butter until well blended. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve and sprinkle each bowl with thyme.

2.09.2009

The first rule of Thai Club: Don't talk about Thai Club!

(Ok, not really. That would be cool though, right?)

Yesterday afternoon, Dr H and I met up with some fellow Indy bloggers for Thai food at Fountain Square's Siam Square. The Thai Club's concept is to try a new Thai restaurant every month around the city. In addition to a great meal, we got to know some really cool people. Can't beat that!

Kurt and I both tried the Masamam Curry. It's a sweet and spicy curry with potatoes, onion, cashews and chicken. I'm a bit weird about chicken in dishes like this, but Siam Square's was tender, flavorful, and not at all funny (you know what I mean - bad chicken is so vile). The sauce is peanut based and reminded me a bit of African peanut soup (recipe forthcoming!). It was quite thin but worked well when poured over rice.

Kurt had the Thom Kah Gai as a starter which is coconut soup with mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, and scallion. There was also an ingredient no one could identify. Our best guess was eggplant, but the jury is still out. He ordered it hot and thought it was "very spicy" which, coming from him, means it would make a normal person cry. My medium curry was fairly tame, so possibly the spicing is inconsistent? Hard to say.

The restaurant is decorated simply with bright colors, and our server was friendly and attentive. He was knowledgeable about the dishes and great at explaining them which was a big help given that most items on the menu were unfamiliar to me. Even though it's a bit of a drive, Siam Square definitely merits a return visit. I can see myself craving the Masaman Curry, and there are several other items on the menu that I'm itching to try.

While I'm on the topic of Thai Club, let me give a nod to my fellow diners and their blogs. I enjoy your writing (and photography!), and it was great to meet you in person!

Worth Your Attention - Food, fashion, media, and assorted good things
fancypance - Our intrepid organizer! Thank you!
The Heidelberger Papers - Indy in pictures
Urban Indy - Urban development in Indianapolis

2.07.2009

Dream Moods

Dr. H teases me about my enjoyment of dream analysis, once asking if I would be reading tea leaves as well. I think he's jealous that I remember my dreams every night while he rarely does. Regardless of its scientific value, the dictionary at Dream Moods is lots of fun. Look up the image in your dream, and enter the disturbing world of your subconscious! Here's what Dream Moods has to say about last week's donut dream:

To see a doughnut in your dream, represents the Self. It suggests that you may be feeling lost and still trying to find yourself and your purpose in life. Alternatively, it refers to growth, development and nurturance. You are not completely whole.


And I thought I was hungry. Who knew??

2.06.2009

La Princesse

"Street theater" isn't a term that usually sparks my interest (eye rolling would be more apt), but I do wish I'd been in Liverpool last September to see the arrival of La Princesse.

2.05.2009

71st and Binford

How fab is 71st and Binford looking these days? Not too long ago, it was an eyesore with empty strip malls and weed filled parking lots. Today, there are shops, restaurants, and even a new Kroger. Kudos to BRAG for the work they've done!

Highlights:
Salon du Jour ~ A cute little salon next door to George's Place. Ask for Rosie, she's fabulous!

La Hacienda ~ This has to be my favorite cheap lunch in Indy. For fast food prices, you get addictive chips and salsa and a quick, hot, always yummy Mexican meal. The only glitch is finding a spot to park during the noon rush.

Entenmann's Outlet ~ Cheap donuts. 'Nuff said.

Kroger ~ Yes, I know Kroger isn't much to get excited about for many of you, but I love having one nearby. I visited for the first time yesterday, and the cheese, produce, and floral sections looked excellent. Be sure to get one of their cards for the sale prices. I saved $16! Not too shabby. The best part: no more fighting the traffic on 69 to go to Meijer. I've been grumbly about that for years.

Also noteworthy ~ GT South's BBQ and A Movable Feast to the west near Graham Rd.

I've always said my corner of town was ideal, and the rebirth of Binford is one more reason to love the northeastside.

2.04.2009

The Ballad of Trader Joe's

I love this! As a shameless Trader Joe's-aholic, I can vouch for the truth of the lyrics.

All your favorite stuff they don't have anymore
...

Gemelli al pesto, this one's for you!

You know it's bad when even our imaginary friends are unemployed

500 million, eh? Per month even. That has to include imaginary friends AND pets. Poor Ernie never has been that productive really. Hmm ...

2.03.2009

One more reason to dance

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing four times a week or more reduced the risk of dementia by 76%. Other physical activities such as swimming, biking, and climbing stairs offered no benefit. Mental activities such as reading and crosswords offered good protection at 35% and 47% respectively but still fell short of the benefits of frequent dancing. This article speculates that dancing "integrates several brain functions at once, increasing connectivity". However it works, it's good to know my daily workouts are helping my body and my mind.

2.02.2009

The antidote to 6 more weeks of winter? Bollywood!

I admit it, I love Bollywood - the costumes, the music, the dancing, the over-the-top love stories, all of it. Even when I don't understand what's happening, the exuberance makes me smile. My new favorite find is Chaiyya Chaiyya. As with all things that catch my ear, I'm overplaying it obsessively. Now to find out what the lyrics mean ...

Things that make you go hmm ....


Why does Jesus need a WWJD bracelet?

Hmm ...

2.01.2009

Worth a look: CeltX

I spent the morning having the Final Draft vs. Screenwriter vs. Montage debate (again!) and finding myself unable to decide which, if any, might be worth the $150+ price tag when I came across a reference to CeltX. It's advertised as an "integrated media pre-production application" which means that it manages all of the organizing, formatting, and collaborating needed to produce a film, documentary, podcast, play, etc.

The reviews are largely positive, and I was pleased to see that a storyboarding feature is included. I'm not sure if it will replace my corkboard/index card/marker system, but with the ability to add images and sound files, it's a tempting option. Plus, it will enable me to work away from home without bringing a deck of scene cards to shuffle around.

The best news came when I found out that CeltX was free. Yup, FREE. It's open source and available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. I've already downloaded a copy and started playing around. So far, I'm encouraged by the interface and ease of use. If nothing else, those considering the mainstream options should give CeltX a look before buying.