Thursday, October 28, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Dear Mom/Dad/Santa,

All I want for Christmas...

*cue Mariah Carey vocalisms*

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis ... thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis:


Thanks!

Love,
Laura

P.S. And you can indeed get them. I expect to see one under the tree.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Potato Salad Adventure!

I neglected to mention that after my birthday, my family and Mr. Laura hit the beach for a few days for some well-deserved sun, sand, and... relaxation (I know, I fail at alliteration).

Clearly, the initials on top should be M.L., for Mr. Laura.
For some reason, he didn't see it that way.
It was a lovely 3-4ish days of rip tides, sunscreen, Teen Mom marathons, and great food. I had my favorite barbeque and doughnuts all in one weekend... who could ask for more?

It was also a weekend of one of the best potato salads I've ever had, courtesy of...me.

You see, a night or two before we left, my best friend Kirsten came over. We haven't seen each other much all summer, so something epic was in order. And, like typical friends in search of adventure, we decided to make potato salad. I had all the ingredients, so we got to work.

We had two positive forces in our favor:
1) I am a self-professed lover of potato salad. I'm in constant pursuit of the best one, and I rate them as critically as the Russian judges rate ice skaters. My favorite thus far comes from a local sandwich shop, but I will try almost any other to see how it measures up. Kirsten also loves potato salad, though I'm not sure if (like me) she'd marry it if she had the chance.

2) Kirsten and I love to cook together. Part of the reason we first bonded when we met was our shared love of the kitchen. And we work in tandem very, very well. Most of the time when I cook with someone, I'm a) paranoid they're doing it wrong, or b) bossing them around. Mostly both. With Kirsten, all this melts away. We each know what the other is good at and go at it like a military operation... but a lot more fun.

And the potato salad didn't disappoint, thanks to Deb Perelman's flawless recipes. It was comforting but not too bland, tangy and crunchy; a perfect example of Americana. It earned rave reviews from my family, and the leftovers accompanied us on our mini-vacay. Check this out: a perfect lunch in the middle of a beach day. Wouldn't you want to come off the hot sand for this?

I know, I know, I have to get better at food photography.
Mr. Laura and my sister both protested: "Laura, why does your food always have to be modeled like it came from a restaurant?" I swear, I wasn't trying to make it look like this! As soon as they said that, though, I had to snap a picture. But back to the focus--look at that potato salad! Yum. Case in point: look how sad Mr. Laura is that his plate isn't that diverse:


I rest my case. Viva la potato salad! And next time, I'll remember to edit the pics before placing them in the blog post.


Roseanne Cash's Potato Salad
Tweaked from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Bon Appetit

The original recipe called for one of my few hated foods: pickles. There would be no pickle reconciliation for this recipe, no sir. As a substitute, they suggested cornichons. Cornichons? Ick. I left them out, and the salad still had plenty of crunch. If you want to add back in eight dill pickle spears, feel free.

Also, I'm not a huge fan of celery (looking back, I'm surprised I went ahead and made this), but I felt it was necessary to add some crunch. At first this was too much celery, but the flavor mellowed after a day or so in the fridge. If you're like me, add less celery, or give the salad a day or two to chill out. Or, add more onions! Here ya go, Kirst!

3 lbs. medium red-skinned potatoes (or regular, it doesn't really matter), unpeeled and scrubbed
1-3 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small or medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup, or more if you left out the celery)
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup good mayo
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (or more, if you like your salad tangier)
2 tablespoons FINELY MINCED fresh dill
Salt and pepper

Dice the potatoes and cook them in a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water until fork-tender (about 20-30 minutes). Drain and cool completely, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in everything. Season to taste with salt and pepper. A lot of this can be done in advance, or while the potatoes are cooking.

Mr. Laura found a pretzel shaped like a heart, so rest assured, he was happy again. Men.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Birthday Odds and Ends

You people! I don't know if it was just luck or I have more readers than I thought, but I woke up on the morning of my birthday and found the following email in my inbox:

We know you've been waiting and...

The much loved Kennebunkport Dress in Latitude is now back in stock!
 We only have a limited amount, so you have to act fast. This email isn't a guarantee you'll get one - hurry to ModCloth to be one of the lucky shoppers who do!

A good omen to begin a lovely birthday indeed.


I can't decide what was the best part of my birthday. There was the relaxing mani/pedi session (notice the purple fingernails above) and pizza with the lovely ladies of my family. There was getting cinnamon bun ice cream with an estranged friend who I hadn't seen in forever. (And never let anyone talk you out of cinnamon bun ice cream. It is TO DIE FOR.) There were presents and a lovely dinner with my family at a swanky restaurant where they wrote "Happy birthday" in chocolate on my plate.

But between the cards and the greetings and the friendly "Did you have a nice birthday, darlin'?" from the restaurant manager, possibly the best part was the drive I took to my friends' house. My iPod shuffle went into ultimate win mode, moving from the Beatles' "Birthday" to Hall & Oates's "You Make My Dreams" to a few Les Mis songs, which I skipped to "Man in the Mirror."

 A great playlist for celebration and reflection on the year ahead. I'm going to be a bit personal here (GASP! Don't worry, I won't go too deep), but I remembered that around this time two years ago, my world was starting to fall apart. Now, two birthdays later, I realized that it's finally come back together again. And I'm glad. Seriously, I couldn't stop smiling.



Now that you've seen my vulnerable side, let's move along as I continue to remind you how sarcastic and heartless I really am. 

The tomato shown above is from Brandon's garden. He has a surplus, so he generously plied me with some to take home. To me, that tomato is about the last weeks of summer. I officially only have one more before I head back to my Large-East-Coast-Public-University, but I'm looking to make that week last as long as possible. At the beginning of the summer, I wanted to rush along back to school. Now that school is looming, I wish I had another month. Does anyone else feel this way?!

I'm also bummed because my birthday money's going to end up going toward textbooks. Hmph. Not if I have my way it won't.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's nothing personal. It's just summer.

First of all, apparently my neighbors read my blog, because about half an hour after I posted about their poor choice in pool music, they switched to the Beach Boys as I requested. All. Day. Long. At least I know I have readers.



Secondly, I crossed another item off my list of things to do before the end of summer! It seems like all my posts have a Godfather theme lately; I have completed "The Godfather" video game.

The virtual Marlon Brando approves of the way I spend my summer.
To be honest, it wasn't exactly the way I wanted to win. Yes, I defeated the Barzinis (it turned out that using the Assassin's Pistol was the way to go), but I didn't get all the collectables. Collectables are a thing with me, and damn it, I wanted to crack open all the safes and complete all the execution styles. Also, one of the warehouses remains uncaptured. I got all the way to the owner, but when he refused to sell out to the Corleones, I, uh, accidentally killed him. I thought the business would regenerate within a game week, but it never did, and the game discounted it.



So, I'm the Don of New York City. I love how I'm the Don and they were still sending me into dangerous situations alone. Oh well. It was satisfying to look over the NYC skyline in the cut scene and know that I ruled it all! And now, time for the Part II game. I can hear the groans of my family now.



(Annnd, upon looking it up, I realize that there's a Wii edition! The saga shall never end!)
Thirdly, I have a birthday coming up! Tomorrow, as a matter of fact. I'm crossing my fingers for an awesome birthday, but I have a feeling it'll be like almost every other day this summer... Oh well.
At least I know what I'm getting: a camera! I can finally update my blog with my own pictures! Mostly of cooking... 



On a final note, a few people have been asking what I want. Being the generous person that I am, I shall not deny you the pleasure of getting me a gift! Here are some suggestions to guide your way:


Laura's Birthday Wish List

-This adorable dress from ModCloth (I know, I know, it's sold out, but if you vote for them to restock it, you will have my undying gratitude)
-A day at the spa 
-Barring that, spa stuff from here or here or here (I especially like A Place on Earth's sugar scrubs!)
-Someone asked if I like aprons. I do! If you know me well, you can probably find one that fits my personality here.
-Ice cream maker (I can't decide if I like this one or this one better. Or maybe this one?)
-That said, any and all cooking things are appreciated. Seriously. I'd love professional pastry bags. I've had my eye on this for awhile as well, but I have a feeling this will be a housewarming gift someday. A waffle iron would be good, too.
-Emus. You know, like Uggs, but better, because they're not Uggs.
-A man's flannel plaid shirt. I've secretly wanted one ever since I saw Calista Flockheart wearing one in The Birdcage. It just looks so comfy.
-How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
-Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
-The following movies (preferably full screen; I have a dislike for widescreen):

  • Much Ado About Nothing with Emma Thompson
  • Mona Lisa Smile (oh hush, it's basically the Dead Poet's Society for girls. Plus, I'm entitled to one chick flick!)
  • Mystic Pizza (okay, maybe two)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (see a pattern here?)
  • Waitress
  • No Reservations (I can hear you! HUSH.)
  • Pretty Woman (looking over these, I notice a majority are Julia Roberts. Ironic, as I wouldn't count her among my favorite actresses or anything.)
  • M. Butterfly
  • The American President
  • Julie and Julia
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • Maybe Milk? Maybe? I can't decide how often I'd watch that. On second thought, maybe not.
  • Ditto for the Dead Poets' Society
    -Digital picture frame
    -Tickets to Spring Awakening, Spamalot, Straight No Chaser, and Seth Meyers at my school (especially Straight No Chaser! I'm excited.)
    -Wrist warmers? I put that on the list last year. I have no clue if I still want them.
    -A pie.
    -And finally, I don't expect this from anyone, but if I got this I would die of happiness. I'm not hiding anything. It's just a pain to shave every day.
    -Or, think up your own gift! Some of my faves have been things I didn't even think of.
    As you can see, this list has turned into the "Everything-I've-ever-wanted" list. I don't mean to force it down your throat, just to make it easier for people who were asking. Really, I'm not expecting anything. I'd just love to have a great day. =)
    EDIT: Looking at the list, I see I can't really make up my mind about anything.
    FURTHER EDIT: Upon hearing complaining and ridicule from Mr. Laura, I must add that the list does not apply to him since he already has my birthday gift.

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    Cruel and Unusual Punishment

    Last night Brandon came over and uttered the words I never thought I'd hear him speak:

    "I'm kind of in a Godfather Part III mood."


    Gasp! Disbelief! What is it that makes someone walk willingly toward their doom? Was it the poll I had posted on this website (which received a total of three votes, thanks a lot, guys, really appreciate it)? Did he have a premonition? Did the angel Gabriel come to him in a dream and tell him that Al Pacino dressed in old man sweaters was not worth missing?

    In any case, I didn't need to confirm this temporary insanity. Off we went to Blockbuster to complete the final chapter of the Godfather saga! On the way, we discussed what kind of lunacy haunted him that he was willing to see what's been called "the scurge of the Godfather trilogy" (by me). Why was he willing to endure this cruel and unusual punishment? I will now conduct a blog sermon.

    My friends, what is cruel and unusual punishment? We often think of the rack, the water torture, the dungeon, but I prefer to think of it in a more commonplace way. To me, cruel and unusual punishment is our neighbors hosting a pool party and blasting Celine Dion's The Power of Love for the enjoyment of the street. First of all, really? I'm as big a fan of Celine as the next blogger, but can't we dig out some Beach Boys or Motown for a pool party? I'd even be ok with Ke$ha, or however she spells her name. Secondly, must you replay the song five times in one day? By the fifth time, I get it: I'm your laaaaaaadyyy, and you are my maaaaaaan. But I digress.

    To me, cruel and unusual punishment is the Gulf Coast oil spill and Ghana losing World Cup Soccer. The pinnacle of CUP (to create my own acronym) might be Blockbuster not having Dirty Dancing to rent.

    At this point in the conversation last night, Brandon caused a minor nuclear meltdown somewhere when he admitted that he's never seen Dirty Dancing. Not once. Not even the clip that you always catch on TV. Brandon, movie connoisseur, has never seen possibly the greatest classic of our time! He doesn't know that no one puts Baby in a corner! Unacceptable. I immediately took The Birdcage off the list (because on closer inspection, turns out we've both seen it) and replaced it with Dirty Dancing. Problem solved, or will be soon. Sermon over.

     Anyway, the movie! It was just short of three hours, and although we had to watch it pretty closely because some of the plot was complicated, we felt free to talk and joke through most of it. When the two of us watch mafia movies, inevitably Brandon ends up explaining most of the plot to me. Consequently, I've given up trying to figure out who did what to which person. It's enough to me to know "that person is bad and they're trying to kill him."

    To our surprise, we found ourselves liking the third movie about as much as the second one. The first, we agreed, is an art form and by far the best of the three. The other two are also good movies, but basically just decent mafia flicks. To summarize: we had our hopes built so high for the second one, but we were disappointed overall. On the other hand, we had heard so much crap about Part III that we weren't expecting much, but it was good enough to bring it to the same level as Part II. Got it? No?
    This movie could be retitled, "What Happens when the Mafia Gets Old"

    One thing I insist upon in movies is enough plot, and I was pleased with this because there was a decent, believable plot. At least, it was no less believable than Part II, which was so confusing that I had to pause it every 20 minutes for an explanation. The acting was, for the most part, also not bad. Surprisingly, I was impressed with Diane Keaton, who I constantly mock for her bad acting in Part II (It was a SON!) She was wonderfully catty and bitchy in this, as she should be for putting up with the mafia thing for the past 30 years or so. The following dialogue did transpire, though (I guess I should have warned you earlier about spoilers, but if you're going to skip any part of the blog post, now's the time):

    Me: She's going to tell him she still loves him.
    Brandon: She'd never tell him that. He'll say he still loves her, but she won't say it back.
    Me: I'd put money on it.
    Brandon: She will not.
    Me: Will too!
    Kay: I've always loved you Michael; I love you still.
    Me: YESSSSS.
    Brandon: Son of a ...

    ...followed by words that I will not post on this blog. (Ignore my use of the same word in the previous paragraph.) I will admit that I also found the scene where they're leaving the opera fantastic. Apparently Al Pacino's screams were so agonizing that Francis Ford Coppola cut most of them from the sound track. Now that's a man who hasn't lost his touch for the silver screen.

    This leaves only one thing to discuss... Sofia Coppola. I will give you a tip, dear reader! This movie is about ten times less frustrating if you pretend that Sofia is portraying a daughter who's, how shall we say this, a few spaghetti strands short of a serving (that's mafia-speak for not right in the head, I've decided). I'll say no more, as I'm going to hell already, but if that were the case, she deserves the Oscar! It will also help you if you imagine that Vincent is depressed and has a Napoleon complex. Thus, he thinks that any sign of love that anyone shows him is a come-on.

    Thus...
    *Michael kisses Vincent's hand*
    Michael: Don Corleone.
    Vincent: DOES THIS MEAN YOU LOVE ME? CAN I TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT? OH PLEASE LOVE ME!

    Also, Talia Shire is just annoying in this movie. Every time she shows up in this movie, the two of us would moan, "Beat it, Connie!" She needs to go join a Battered Wives' support group or a knitting circle or something. There's only one cool thing she gets to do, and it's a spoiler, so I won't mention it.



    Overall, cruel and unusual punishment? I think not. I would watch it again without qualms, but with a friend. It's not the greatest movie in the world, but it doesn't deserve all the bad rap that it gets. But you know what is CUP? The fact that my neighbors just switched from Celine Dion to country music. Oh well, my heart will go on.

    (I should have one of those "Currently listening" tabs so you can know what my neighbors are listening to now.)

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    The Picture of Dorian Gray was photoshopped

    Ah, summer. A lovely time for running in the sunshine, playing in the pool, and A STREP INFECTION! Picture the Courage Wolf meme saying that and it will be much funnier. No wait, I'll do it for you:


    For some reason, Courage Wolf makes everything about ten times funnier. No matter, I'm completely un-contagious, and will be fully cured once I finish my KILLER ANTIBIOTICS! 

    Yeah.

    On the bright side, my extended time on the couch gave me a new insight into the tragedies of American life, such as those that befall the real housewives of New Jersey. What a shame that Ashley pulled out Danielle's hair extensions! They're quite right to hem and haw about it for five episodes while the lower class goes about their everyday lives. On a more intellectual note, I've developed a liking for House M.D., mostly because everything that comes out of Hugh Laurie's mouth is exactly what I was thinking five seconds earlier.

    Once I got better, though, I jumped back into action. Still haven't defeated the Barzinis in The Godfather (you can't pick off the damn goons; they just keep popping up behind you with air rifles), but I did finish The Picture of Dorian Gray; you'll see it in red on my list

    What did I think? Surprisingly, a great ending for a too-wordy book. Getting through the first half was tedious and took me the better part of two months, but once you hit Dorian's later life, the plot really picked up and zipped by. The ending was perfect, but that can't make me forget the beginning. It really seems like Oscar Wilde wrote the first 10 chapters to show how witty he was, writing in Lord Henry as himself.


    "Yes, thank you, I am an artistic martyr whose tedious novels will be considered 'great literature' in 200 years."










    Fortunately, Brandon wrote his senior term paper on The Importance of Being Earnest, so I considered him a kind-of-sort-of amateur expert on Wilde. When asked, he said that that was an easy read and that Dorian Gray is considered a departure from Wilde's typical work. 

    Thank heavens for that. Let us hold up Wilde as a true example of the philosophy of Zola, since I haven't talked about that in awhile. Actually, I don't know how he helped the world, if he did at all. But he did leave a lasting work, which I will probably never read again.

    I did start thinking that it could be made into a modern young-adult novel, much like they did with The Great Gatsby, but I wonder if the invention of Photoshop would create a plot hole.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Hallo! Welcome to mah bloog!

    Remember how Brandon and I watched Family Guy after we saw The Hours? (Trust me, we needed a laugh: there was one joke in the entire movie. ONE!) Well, we got a laugh all right; in fact, we laughed so much that we rewound this part of the show no less than five times on Brandon's DVR. Before you go off about, "MEH LAURA'S RACIST," I should point out that I find this funny mainly because Swedish people sound nothing like this.


    Now that you're done watching that five times, turn your attention to the poll on the side panel. I will explain.

    Like most good Americans, Brandon and I have seen The Godfather (which we loved) and The Godfather Part II (which we thought was overrated). Now we are divided about watching the final chapter. I think it's our duty to see all three, at least for closure, and if it really is as bad as everyone says, at least we can laugh at it.

    Brandon agrees with me in theory, but never wants to rent it when we're at Blockbuster because he's "not in the mood." Rather than punning about how this whole situation sounds like a bad romcom starring Vince Vaughn, I leave the decision to you!* Should he watch it? Why or why not? Why does this sound like an essay prompt?

    *Keep in mind, Brandon, your vote in this poll is not counted.

    I'm off to the theatre tonight! Have a great Friday, and visit your farmer's markets, folks. (We bought a free range chicken! I'm so proud of my mother.)