Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wonder twin powers activate!

I have a not-so-useful "talent" of quickly determining which celebrity someone looks like. It's just a thing I do, although I doubt it'll win me any prizes or cure any diseases.

Someone at Jodi's Oscars party last weekend went on and on about how much I look like Janeane Garofalo. He told me he did a triple-take, thinking I was really her until he realized I was probably a lot younger.

Here's Janeane:


Here I am:

Brent and I


And you know what? That's not the first time I've heard it. It's been a while since anyone has told me that, but I used to get that all the time in college.

And even though I've always been a fan of her no-nonsense attitude, I used to take offense when people made that claim. After all, a big part of her career was based on self-deprecating humor, insisting that she was ugly.

My attitude changed when I met a friend of my old roommate. Both of them were visiting to perform comedy in my college town. While hanging out after the performance, the friend looked at me and said, "Do you know who you look like?" I half-laughed, half-rolled my eyes, expecting what was to follow. When I explained to him that I got that all the time but wasn't necessarily a fan of hearing it, he explained that she's actually a close friend of his and that I really should take it as a compliment because she's a beautiful person.

That shut me up. I do think she's quite cute, even if she didn't seem to think so in her stand-up routines and movies. And she is a beautiful person inside and out. Maybe I'll run into her on the streets of LA some day, and then I can tell her so in person.

So the question is, do people think that you look like anyone? If so, whom?

"I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth." - Janeane Garofalo

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Nanette got her kitchen groove back

I offered to bring some sweets to Jodi's annual Oscar party tonight. I first thought I'd bake up my specialty - cupcakes! But then I thought I'd instead try out a recipe for some delicious cookies I bought recently, called alfajores. They're Peruvian cookies, filled with dulce de leche. I reviewed this recipe and thought it looked easy (and tasty) enough. I started to make the cookies, but found myself with a crumbly cookie dough that was very difficult to work with. I continued away with my cookie cutter, even though I wasn't able to roll out the dough evenly and the dough fell apart quite a bit.

Instead of the recipe's version of filling, I planned to boil the can of condensed milk, which is repeatedly said to result in dulce de leche. Then I did some research and learned that I was going to have to boil it for FOUR HOURS! Hell to the no! I will not be held hostage by a can of condensed milk. I read that dulce de leche in a can was readily available. That back-up plan didn't work, as I couldn't find any in the two markets I visited. I went with a caramel ice cream topping instead.

When the cookies were done, half of them were burnt because they were so thin. Others had spread out too much. Some were just right. I slapped some caramel in between two of them, dusted them with some powdered sugar and decided not to bring the few I had managed to salvage to the party. Score - Kitchen: 1, Nanette: 0.

All of this cookie madness happened yesterday. Last night after dinner, Brent and I swung by Beard Papa's to pick up a dozen cream puffs. I thought those would make a nice party treat. I woke up this morning and realized that I FORGOT TO PUT THEM IN THE FRIDGE! I left them on the kitchen counter. Because of the nature of the cream in the cream puffs, they have to be refrigerated. Son of a ...! Score - Kitchen: 2, Nanette: 0.

So this morning I decided to go back to my original plan of cupcakes. I found this recipe and decided to make it with lemon cake instead. I whipped up the batter, filling and cream cheese frosting. And they turned out FABULOUS! Score - Kitchen: 2, Nanette: 1.

On a roll, I decided to make the cake I learned about at my recent cooking class. This wasn't for the party, but just for Brent and I to enjoy, with the leftovers going to my co-workers tomorrow. I followed directions, although when it said to bake for "50 minutes or until firm to the touch," I went with the 50 minutes. The cake came out a bit burnt on the edges and bottom, but with a little carving, a little cream cheese frosting, it turned out pretty damn yummy. Score - Kitchen: 2, Nanette: 2.

I'll settle for a tie, but I plan on winning the rematch.

"I hear Angela’s party will have double-fudge brownies. It will also have Angela." - Kevin, The Office

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Where, oh where, have my besties gone?

My closest friends have moved far, far away. Stacie did it last month when she got hitched and moved to Texas. And Shelby did it this month when she said, "I do" and then, "I'm outta here!," packing up and moving to Iowa.

When they lived in California, we weren't exactly next door neighbors. Stacie lived in Sacramento and Shelby lived in Central California. We still managed to see each other fairly often. I always made it a point to see Shelby when drove up to visit my mom. She was great about coming to visit me in between those visits. Stacie and I were concert buddies, taking turns to visit each other and catching the shows of our favorite artists when they came to our cities.

But now they're far, far away. We're not even in the same timezones! In the 24 years we've been friends (yes, 24!!!), we've never lived in different states. Sure, there's a reason why they invented planes and email and phones. And we're going to try our best to not let too much time pass between visits, but I'm still sad to have them so far away.

Lucky for me, Shelby started a blog! And I'm going to share it with you! So head over to her blog and give her lots of love! Read all about her adventures!

Now if I can just get Stacie to start one...

"We all lose friends... we lose them in death, to distance and over time. But even though they may be lost, hope is not. The key is to keep them in your heart, and when the time is right, you can pick up the friendship right where you left off. Even the lost find their way home when you leave the light on." - Amy Marie Waltz

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fortune kooky

Last week a co-worker encouraged us to check out our Chinese horoscopes for fun to see what the Year of the Fire Pig had in store for us. I didn't have a chance to check mine until today, and now I'm a bit spooked.

I was born in the Year of the Snake (1977). And according to my forecast for this year, I'm screwed! Apparently snakes and pigs don't get along.

Nine of the 12 months are going to be "unfavorable." My career may be ok, although I'm "not likely to get the big promotion." This is also "not a good year for marriage." Health and wealth are also not looking good for me this year. Great. Juuuuuust great.

In actuality, I'm not that worried. The year is what I'll make of it. And I've lived a fortunate life thus far. I will, however, follow the advice to combat a potentially bad year -- Place an image or statue of an ox, rooster or monkey on your desk, so you'll have your supporters right there with you. I'll do that with one of these, although this might be a better, less horrifying alternative.

"Your horoscope says, 'Beware of 1940.'" - Mrs. Susan Smith, No, No, Nanette

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Connect the dots, la, la, la, la

Jenn and I met up last night for dinner and a movie, Music and Lyrics. I was expecting a total cheesefest, which it was, but it was an entertaining cheesefest. Thankfully my dentist didn't detect the Skittles I had last night when I went in for my appointment this morning.

Anyone want to join me for an impromptu trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan? I need to visit this bakery for that cake - STAT!

And hello to all my blog lurkers! A few of you came out of the lurking closet via email recently to say hello, which is always nice.

Lastly, as I have no other way to contact her, feel free to ignore the following message to Twinkie, a fellow (now-temporarily-former) blogger. Dear Twinkie - I saw your comment. Sorry to hear that your MIL found your blog! I don't recall you posting anything negative about her...ohhhhhhh, wait. I remember now. Um, hope it all works out for you and you end up posting again soon! It wasn't that bad, and it wasn't untrue. You'll feel better now that you've got it all out in the open.

"Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name." - Brian W. Aldiss

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Weekend in review

I was such a busy worker bee on Friday (and for all of last week, actually) that by the time I got home, I was just pooped. I sat on the couch and refused to get up for dinner. Luckily Brent picked up food for us so I could further enjoy my laziness.

A couple weeks ago when we drove along the California coast, we realized that we take our close proximity to the beach for granted. Saturday morning we awoke to the most gorgeous day! It was 87 degrees, a perfect day for a bike ride at the beach. So we dusted off our bikes and hit the bike path that follows the coast along Santa Monica and Venice all the way to Marina Del Rey. We rode nearly seven miles, stopping for a break to enjoy some lemonade and people-watch. I gripe about our condo being too small, but on days like yesterday I'm ecstatic to be exactly where we are.

This morning I met a co-worker for a class at our gym. It's called Body Works and includes an intense workout with free weights and steps. I. AM. SO. SORE. ALREADY.

And I finished off my weekend with a three-hour cooking class with a dozen of my girlfriends. We took the class through a company called Hipcooks. Check out the description of the particular class we took:

Dinner for four, six, or eight? Want to wow them with a gorgeous meal that you can effortlessly serve without spending all your time in the kitchen? Okay!

Arugula, roasted beets and caramelized cashews with ginger-chile dressing
Perfectly cooked filet with a red wine demiglaze and the most delicate mashed potatoes
Orange almond cake with marscapone cream
Featured wine: Zinfandel

The class was a blast and I highly recommend it to the So. Cal locals. The instructor, Bonny, was delightful, informative and entertaining. I hope to take another class with another group of gal pals.

I'm looking forward to recreating the meal for some guests, probably my in-laws as I've never hosted a meal for them. As I described myself during the introduction, I like to bake but I don't know how to cook...yet. (Let's just pretend that I didn't try to make a scramble for breakfast yesterday with month-old eggs. Yes, a month old! Luckily we caught the expiration date before the eggs hit the skillet.)

I also spent a large portion of my weekend updating my iPod with some new music, including:
- Belinda Carlisle's (yes, THAT Belinda Carlisle) new album, "voila." The reason I'm digging it so much is that the majority of it is sung in French! I don't speak French, but the soundtrack from the French movie, Amelie, is in my heavy rotation, so I was excited to find something else along those lines.
- Teitur's new album, "Stay Under the Stars." I'm hoping to see him perform at a local dinner club next month, where they don't allow any chatter during the performance. Just my kind of show!

Also, you'll see that I've added a new little feature in the right column of my site with "recently played" and "most played." It's a widget from iLike.com that is connected to my iTunes to show you what I've been listening to. And if the song is in iLike's catalog, it'll include a play button next to the song so you can hear a clip for yourself!

"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks." - Lin Yutang

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

She will be loved

Not that I ever doubted it, but I have lots of love in my life. I'm loved all year round, but this Valentine's season showed me love in the form of handmade crafts, Hello Kitty bubble gum dispenser, Paul Frank pin and Kate Spade chocolate from my blogger bestie, a handmade valentine filled with chocolate and a bookmark from the little homeless girl I tutor and a handmade valentine card from my favorite 3-year-old girl.

Tonight Brent arrived home with flowers and groceries, then proceeded to cook me a magnificent dish based on a recipe he saw on Top Chef. It was delicious and followed by some red velvet cupcakes, also brought home by my fabulous hubby. (He also spotted this guy from Heroes at the grocery store, looking confused by all his choices.)

The dinner and dessert followed my weekly tutoring session. I spoke with her mom before the session, and she mentioned that they'd be moving from the shelter to more permanent housing this week. She mentioned something about bringing her daughter back weekly for our tutoring sessions as her new place is nearby, but I didn't think the volunteer program I'm part of would go for it. My heart sunk and I was so sad, realizing just how attached I'd become to the little girl that I've been working with weekly for a couple of months.

She and I had our session, I gave her my Valentine's gift (a few little things I'd picked up at Sanrio, some cookies I made for her and her family, and a card) and we said good-bye. Then I spoke with the shelter coordinator and she told me that the program I'm with allows me to continue tutoring the little girl if the mom wants to bring her to the shelter. So I'll be very happy if we can make this work. If not, then I'll be set up with another child who needs my help, which will be fine but just not the same.

"Look for the girl with the broken smile. Ask her if she wants to stay awhile. And she will be loved." - She Will Be Loved, Maroon 5

Monday, February 12, 2007

You, you, you oughta know

My best friend Shelby is about to move to Iowa, and plans to start a blog to keep in touch with her friends and family. I was going to give her some blogging tips and realized that I have a few other friends who recently started blogs, therefore I'm sharing my tips with everyone!

Some of this may seem like common sense, especially if you're a seasoned blogger/web community user, but it's still worth revisiting every now and then.

Here's my advice, after 2 1/2 years of blogging:

Safety first
- No last names (yours or people you write about). If you do, your blog can easily be found via Google when people search for your name. And if you get fired up and blog about something/someone that/who pisses you off, and in turn they get pissed off and want to hunt you down, access to your last name makes it that much easier to find you and get all stalkerazzi on your ass. And, actually, you don't need to piss someone off. Someone may become enamored with you because you are amazingly fabulous. They'll go all Single White Female on you. *gulp*
- No info for people to find exactly where you live. Same reason as above. Stalkerazzi, suckas!
- No work place info. Same scenario, but this time they can find you AT WORK! Yikes!
- If you're going to post pics of other people - especially kids - be sure to ask the other folks. Some people (*ahem* justJENN *ahem*) are understandably wary when it comes to showing pics of themselves or their families.

Don't piss people off
- Be careful what you write. In addition to the pissing-random-person-off scenario, imagine if people at work, your family and other people you may not expect to find your blog do. Can we say awkward?
- Be careful if you blog at work. If your boss stumbles upon your blog and sees that the timestamp on your posts are during work hours, they may not be happy about that. If you have downtime and want to post, consider writing a post but saving it as a draft to publish after work hours. (Or change the timestamp via post options on your post to non-work hours. But ya didn't hear that from me.)
- If you're going to talk about your favorite show or a new movie, try not to spoil the ending. If you do (like I did recently), post plenty of spoiler alerts (like I did). And if someone in your comments posts a spoiler in your comment section, consider revising your post to warn folks.

So ya wanna attract readers?
- Blog often. It'll keep folks coming back if they know they can expect new fabulous fodder from you. Nothing like a dry spell of blog posts to scare away readers. Believe me - I've watched my site statistics drop when I post less frequently.
- Get your blog noticed by leaving comments on other's blogs. Give them some kudos for a cool post, blog, picture, whatever.
- Link to others. You can do this within posts or in your blog roll (more on that below). It's a good idea to give credit to other bloggers if you swipe ideas from them. And people, like me, are obsessive about site trackers, and want to know how people are finding their blog. If they see that you link to them, they'll come check out your site at least once. And if they like what they see, perhaps they'll come back!

Other tricks of the trade
- Consider the sizes of pictures you post. Folks have resolution set differently on their computers, so what looks good on your screen doesn't mean it will look the same on theirs. I don't post pics bigger than 400 pixels within my posts because anything larger can push all of my posts below the bottom of the sidebar text.
- List your favorite blogs on your blog. An easy way to do this is via BlogRolling, a link management system. You can add all your favorite blogs to an account on this site, and they'll give you a code to make it easy to add all the blogs in the sidebar of your blog. If you prefer, you can also have it indicate on your blog (usually with astericks) when those blogs are updated.
- Use a site tracker to see how people are finding your blog. I use Site Meter. Others that I know of are eXTReME Tracking and Google Analytics. They'll give you a code that you can paste into your blog template, which in turn shows you how people find your blog via their Google searches, links on other blogs, comments you've left on other blogs and even other blogger's site trackers.
- Post pictures on your blog via photo site Flickr. You can get a "badge," like mine on the left, that shows pictures from your Flickr account at random each time someone comes to your page. Flickr also makes it really simple to post pictures in your blog posts.
- Blog on the go with mobile blogging. Send pictures to your blog (like I did recently) from your phone. You can also send text posts, but I haven't tried that.

As an added bonus
- It's easy to read other blogs on one site if you use an RSS reader. I think the most user-friendly one is Google Reader. I've also used NewsGator, but it's more labor intensive.
- Find out who is linking to you or mentioning you using a blog search engine. Type in your blog's URL. Examples are Technorati (my personal favorite) and IceRocket. I also use these when I want to search for products, musicians, events, etc., to see what other people have said.

So, there it is, in one giant nutshell. Anyone have other tips for some of the blogosphere's newest bloggers?

"And just as you have planted your seed in the ground, I am going to plant my seed … in you." - Dwight, The Office

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weekend wrap-up

Friday we saw Pan's Labrinth. For whatever reason I thought it was a kid's movie, but I heard from a co-worker that it in fact was not, and was a good but gory flick. Brent and I both enjoyed it quite a bit, but I won't give too much away. My one-sentence description? Imagine that Amelie has a younger cousin in Spain, dealing with a mean stepfather.

Yesterday I went to a stamp party. Yes, a stamp party! It's like a Tupperwear party but with rubber stamps and card-making supplies instead. I didn't buy anything (yet), but I had a blast with the hands-on projects and visiting with some of my fabulous friends while nibbling on cupcakes and other edible delights.

Today Brent and I worked out, then swung by the new Pinkberry yogurt shop that opened dangerously close to our gym. We cooked a delicious dinner at home (steak and potatoes) and are currently waiting for a box mix version of raspberry bars to cool so we can enjoy them for dessert!

Did anyone see the Police reunion on the Grammy's tonight? Man, Sting is in AMAZING shape, compared to a man at any age! Like a fine wine he only gets better with age.

And thank you, Grammy Gods, for scheduling John Mayer's performance before my TiVo has to change channels.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm not sure who the first person was who said that. Probably Shakespeare. Or maybe Sting." - Ephram, Everwood

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Happy birth-duh

So the cupcakes I made last night for my co-worker's birthday today? This morning all of the staff gathered together, lit a candle on one of the cupcakes and began singing as we walked into his office. Turns out that he was ON THE PHONE! It was right before a meeting we were having, so we....ok, I, assumed he wouldn't be busy. Oops. We quickly backed out and shut the door.

My co-worker came out moments later, laughing about the strange coincidence. Thankfully he got a kick out of it, and best of all, everyone seemed to enjoy the baked goods, especially the cream cheese frosting.

And for those of you wondering where I got the baking cups, they're from Wal-Mart. You can also get them online here.

"Every man has his follies -- and often they are the most interesting thing he has got." - Josh Billings

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Baker's doozy

Been a while since I've baked, so I decided to make some cupcakes tonight in honor of a co-worker's birthday. Lately I've been baking from scratch, but I was feeling tired and instead found a recipe for red velvet using a cake mix and a few added ingredients (sour cream, chocolate pudding mix, etc.). Easy enough, I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

I followed the recipe, but after I pulled them out of the oven, the tops sunk in like a bad souffle. I ate one and the tops were still raw. I threw them back in the oven for a few minutes. When I took them out, the tops were a bit crispier, but the rest seemed mushy. So I decided to throw them away. I can't bring crap like that into work for others to politely take and then throw away after they've taken a bite and discovered that it's horrific.

I started over with another cake mix I had, just as is, no other added ingredients. I made the cream cheese frosting from scratch. Much, much better this time:

More cupcakes


"Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more." - Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Have your towel cake and eat it, too

I made this for Shelby's wedding shower a couple weeks ago. It was part of my gifts to her, as well as a fun centerpiece. (Thankfully she registered for towels!) It was super easy and a big hit at the party. You can find instructions here.

Cake


"Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training." - Anna Freud

Seriously...SERIOUSLY!

Is it just me or do you get frustrated when folks have no sense of decorum?

Stuff that's pissed me off recently:
- Crap from my condo neighbors. Asking someone (aka me) to complain to another condo owner about the water they're letting trickle out of the hose in the parking garage when they wash their dog(s) in the morning. I'm not the boss of any of the other homeowners. The complaining neighbor should have the cajones to tell the other person themselves.
- Being mean just for the sake of being mean.
- Racist crap. No need to say it. No need to classify an entire race of folks as having certain traits or in this case, a lack thereof.
- Disagreeing just for the sake of disagreeing.

I try to let this stuff just roll off my back, but other times I just want to punch people in the face.

Fortunately I've found a new way to distract myself. Check out this clip of an insanely adorable UK children's show, Pocoyo. It's so sweet, it makes my teeth hurt. And makes me forget that I want to kick people in the penis.




"No Act of Kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." - Aesop

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Longest Weekend Recap Ever

Back home from a flurry of a weekend. Here's the (long) postcard version.

- Got lost on the way to Carmel. Figured out how to get where we were going and ended up getting a very unfounded speeding ticket. Brent, who regularly drives like an old man now that he realizes he'll get better gas mileage in the Hybrid if he doesn't drive too fast, got pulled over for supposedly going 79 in a 65. I was watching the speedometer when it happened, as that's my habit, and he was definitely NOT going as fast as the patrolmen accused. Brent was going 65. But it's not like we could convince him otherwise.
- Met the best man and his beautiful family, including the wedding's flower girl and ring bearer. Insanely cute.
- Realized that although I had set them out, I forgot the shoes I was supposed to wear in Shelby's wedding. I also forgot the earrings I wanted to wear. Oops.
- Got a wonderfully relaxing massage the morning of the wedding while Shelby got an herbal wrap. The massage was a gift from Shelby, which I appreciated quite a bit.
- Attended the wedding, a beautiful and quaint affair on the beach as the sunset. Shelby looked stunning, her groom looked handsome and happy.
- Enjoyed the reception, dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. Delicious food and cake to continue the celebration!
- Snuck out to decorate the bride and groom's car with "Just Married." Hee, hee.
- After the wedding brunch yesterday, Brent and I took Highway 1 down the coast of California. We stopped a few times to enjoy the rare California Condors and the huge group of Elephant Seals. We watched in awe (and a bit of horror) as it's their mating season. The huge male seals, which you can distinguish by their large stature and their giant bulbous noses, simply go up to a female and mount her as she screams. His large size pins her down so she can't move. We also saw a few males run other males off as they approached females.
- We spent last night in San Luis Obispo and enjoyed hitting all our old haunts. We walked through the Journalism department building at Cal Poly, where we met. We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Firestone Grill. (Mmm.....BBQ pork and tri-tip sandwiches) We tried to see my name on the wall of a local bar (I got a plaque there for drinking/eating a shot of tequila with the worm in it), but they remodeled and took all the names down. Booo!
- We strolled along the creek where we shared our first kiss. (Go ahead and gag, but we're sentimental, suckas!)
- And enjoyed dessert back at our hotel's restaurant, Apple Farm. Mmm....apple dumpling.
- Arrived in Los Angeles in time to catch some of the Super Bowl on the in-law's gigantic, high-def television. I'm not a football fan, but I do enjoy the commercials. I thought they were pretty lackluster this year, with the exception of the Career Builder commercials - especially the Promotion Pit.

As much as I love an extended vacation, there really is no place like home.

"So get your suits to the dry cleaners, and get your hair did. And Karen, you might want to invest in a dress or a skirt of some kind, if you don’t already have one. This may be Phyllis’ only wedding ever. It’s my job to ensure that none of you look like ragamuffins." - Michael, The Office

Saturday, February 03, 2007