Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mini "Caramel" Apples

We were lucky to be invited to a Friendsgiving dinner and asked to bring a dessert that was neither a pumpkin or chocolate pie. The girl and I decided to try to make these Mini "Caramel" Apples, per FamilyFun magazine.

After scooping out "mini apples" from Granny Smiths with a melon baller and piercing it with a lollipop stick cut on a diagonal, we squeezed the mini apple dry so the melted chocolate would stick to it.

Working with melted chocolate was best, the melted peanut butter chips were second, and the butterscotch chips (which we could melt all the way) were a clumpy mess.

Then it was ready for decorating:

We rolled it in various toppings, like toffee bits, coconut, cashew dust (which was supposed to be chopped cashews but we overdid it in the Magic Bullet), and sprinkles.

These are the toffee bits:

And wha-la, mini caramel apples!

I would emphasize one note of caution: these are best enjoyed within a few hours, because despite best efforts to dry the exposed apple, the juice from the apple will eventually cause a mushy, chocolatey mess at the bottom (similar to chocolate covered strawberries that aren't inhaled immediately), which isn't so appetizingly cute.

You're able to get quite a few mini apples out of each apple (about 8), so it doesn't take many big apples to produce a lot of mini ones.

Cute and tasty--*if you eat them soon after you make them!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bear knows

Unfortunately productivity went out the window for this long weekend, as exemplified by our cat, Bear:

I made a lame effort of hitting some Black Friday sales but I didn't really have a list so it was unfocused and the reward was miniscule.

I should have just stayed home and caught up on movies.

Yeah, I know.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a safe and warm Thanksgiving.

Since I'm the only one who likes dark meat but is now a vegetarian, I make a turkey breast for Thanksgiving. I know, no drumsticks or wishbone, bummer...but it means all white meat for these meat-eaters who are missing the delicious dark meat gene.

I was at a loss for a centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table. I didn't have anything autumny, let alone Thanksgivingish, so the girl thought it was clever to simply create a centerpiece highlighting the bookends of Thanksgiving:

After all, who isn't grateful for the holiday spirit and those who vanquish monsters?

Monday, November 24, 2008

I have the power

I am He-Man.
Just in time for Thanksgiving. This pretty much took me all Sunday--filing papers, putting my craft supplies away, deciding what to just toss. Now on to the rest of the house...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nerd Alert

There was a huge annual sale at our local comic book store, Alakazam. And we went a little crazy:
All the comic books we got were $1 each, and all the other stuff (the graphic novels, compilations, and Mad book) were 20% off.

Check out some of these gems:
"If you've got to die...die fighting!" Sing it, pal!

And check this out, one of literatures oldest heroes:
And he's battling Dracula!

And the cool thing about this Tarzan comic:
has to be these enticing words:

Though I have to confess, I was a bit disappointed with the Ape-English Dictionary:

Or maybe I just have to meet up with some more articulate apes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weight Watchers Week 1 Redo - FAIL

I weighed in at 155. I gained a pound. And honestly, it's not just about the numbers. I'm feeling muffin-toppy, double-chinny, jowlly, and slow.

Ugh, I shouldn't have put too much hope kicking off WW on a week where we had a Thanksgiving potluck at work. I've eaten a paralyzing amount of butter, white carbs, mayo, french-fried onions, and pie the past two days. I did exercise 3 times this week and I guess the bright side is I could have gained a lot more weight. sigh.

Well, I'm not giving up. It's a new week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

By the power of GraySkull

I will conquer this:

Paul had his doubts about posting this picture of our messy table but there's something that motivates me to be accountable when I post it on my blog. Sad to confess we have been eating on this table. How? When it's time to eat, we dig a little clearing in the clutter to make room for our plates. I believe you can actually see three separate spaces. Sort of. Ugh, terrible, I know. But it's getting cleared up this weekend for sure. I'll post a picture to prove it.

Just as terrible, this is pretty much what the rest of the house looks like. But I am definitely not brave enough to post pictures of that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

So I happened upon Gone Baby Gone on cable the other night. There had been tremendous buzz about Ben Affleck's directorial review, the acting, the story, etc. To which I have to say, believe the hype.

Wow. I had no idea that Ben Affleck had such a eye for making a film. I had no idea that Casey Affleck could be riveting as a Boston native trying to do the right thing. I had no idea that Amy Ryan, who I had only seen as Michael's goofy paramour in The Office, had such amazing range to play this deeply flawed, druggie mother. I had no idea that a character named "Cheese" could be so scary.

At first glance, this movie started looking like a spin-off of Mystic River, which isn't a bad thing, but to Ben Affleck's credit, it had its own vision of Boston. The similarity may be due in part that both movies are based on novels by Dennis LeHane, which both focused on working-class Boston and crimes involving children. This movie opens up with the kidnapping of the daughter of Helene (played by Amy Ryan). Amy Ryan builds a character you end up alternately villifying and sympathizing, and man, I have to say it again, I can't believe this is the same woman who played Michael's nutty girlfriend in The Office. Morgan Freeman is Captain Jack Doyle, who is in charge of the investigation and had lost his own daughter in a kidnapping crime. Morgan Freeman to me, is untouchable--I love him in everything, right down to those Olympic Visa commercials he narrated over the summer. I wouldn't say this is his best work but as always, he's got my attention whenever he speaks.

The cast overall, was just dynamite. From Casey Affleck as a private investigator hired by the kidnapped girl's aunt (played dead-on by Amy Madigan) to Ed Harris (once you let go that, yes, he's got an obvious hairpiece on) to all the supporting characters. The film does a great job questioning our senses of idealism, justice, and humanity, that right and wrong isn't always simply black and white. And a lot of that is due to Casey Affleck's ability to draw us in as his character questions such conflicts himself.

There was one flaw, however, which was the final revelation at the end. And because I want to avoid spoiling the ending for anyone, I have this analogy:

Did you ever hear this joke? (Edited to add: apparently this joke appears in Maxim this month, though that wasn't my source.) A smug lawyer is pulled over by a cop. The cop says," License and registration, please." "What for?" says the lawyer. The cop says, "You didn't come to a complete stop at the stop sign." Then the lawyer says, "I slowed down, and no one was coming." "You still didn't come to a complete stop," says the cop, "License and registration, please." The lawyer says, "What's the difference?" "The difference is you have to come to complete stop, that's the law. License and registration, please!" the cop says. The smug lawyer says, "If you can show me the legal difference between 'slow down' and 'stop', I'll give you my license and registration, and you give me the ticket. If not, you let me go and don't give me the ticket." The cop says, "That sounds fair. Please exit your vehicle, sir." At this point, the cop takes out his billy club and starts beating the lawyer and says, "Do you want me to stop, or just slow down?"

Now, the problem with this joke, police brutality notwithstanding, is that I felt that someone came up with the punchline first and built a joke around it. So the joke feels contrived: who would think that a police officer can't define the difference between slow down and stop? Or for that matter, what five-year-old couldn't tell you the difference?

The final revelation of Gone Baby Gone felt contrived to me and raised similar questions of logic, in as much as it brought about another crucial conflict about right and wrong. The film is finely crafted with many layers both in terms of characters and story. This was one layer that just felt like it came out of left field.

Despite this, I would still give this movie four stars. And I'm surprised I'm saying this, but I gotta say it, I'm looking forward to the next film Ben Affleck directs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Win some, lose some

The awesome news this morning is that my Borders order has shipped! I'm hoping to have Planet B-Boy in my excited hands by the end of the week...

On the flip side, despite having tying for the most number correct picked in the football pool (12 out 17) this week, I lost the the tie-breaker (total points of the game). Boo.

So close to finally winning a week in the YEARS I've participated in this football pool. sigh. Well, I've got 6 more chances...

Friday, November 14, 2008

To a good weekend

Well, two days in a row, I stuck with it. Drank my water, ate my veggies, exercised. Hooray for me. Today I weighed in at 154. Which is lower than the 155-156 I have cruising around the past couple of weeks, but higher than my last lowest weight of 152. I am encouraged and I plan to stick to it, one day at a time.

I'm looking forward to a great weekend. I've got a class at the Scrapbook Oasis and then UFC 91 (besides the long awaited Couture vs. Lesnar fight, Florian vs. Stevenson will be exciting to watch too) is on Saturday night. And to top it all off, I'm just going to kick butt in my football picks on Sunday. Right?

It might be difficult to top last weekend, though. Our friend CJ had a photography project and we were invited to do a little photo shoot at the beach. Here's one that is going on our wall (sorry for my mediocre watermark effort):

Now to kick it off with a productive Friday--

Thursday, November 13, 2008

one day down

Not only did I drink my 6 servings of water, but I also stuffed 5 servings of vegetables in as well. And I exercised! And...I'm thinking if I calculate my points I might have stayed in my daily range yesterday as well.

Okay, I'm a little encouraged. I'm going to go for 2 days in a row.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh. My. God. Becky, look at her butt.

Unfortunately, unlike the Sir Mix-a-Lot song's reverential tone, I'm feeling totally gross about falling off the wagon. I have eaten so much Halloween candy, bread, and grilled cheese that I think I could just apply it topically to my second chin and thighs to get an accurate week-later forecast picture of myself.

Worse, I don't want to stop.

To a degree, the cooler weather has been enabling my desire to just curl up on the couch eating a big bowl of spaghetti with a stick of butter in one hand and a Kahlua & cream in the other. And of course "DodgeBall" or "King of the Hill" would be blasting on tv, softening my brain like these extra calories are softening my butt cheeks. To be sure, there are variations on this vignette, it could be something deep-fried or enrobed in melted cheese or drenched in ranch dressing that I'm eating. Or perhaps something chocolatey or caramelly or peanut buttery that I'm shoving in my increasingly corpulent face. Maybe I'm even watching serious tv. Does a "Scrubs" rerun with a sad ending count?

I haven't logged in my Weight Watchers log since September.

5 servings of vegetables? Do potato chips count? How about the herbs in ranch dressing? 6 servings of water? Try coffee with a generous splash of half&half or a cold hefeweizen washing down my potato chips. And exercise? Ugh. I'm dragging myself by my jowls, but at least I've managed to get to the gym at least 3 times a week. Though honestly, I'd have to confess I'm kind of phoning it in. I get on the elliptical, move my legs so the machine isn't standing still, zone out for 20 minutes, and...I'm out.

At work, the picture isn't prettier. Folks at work have sharing their kids' and un-handed-out Halloween candy. (Unlike our stash, which we keep by the tv in a big basket and eat like pretzels at a sports bar.) Do you know how many fistfuls of fun-size candy I've been swiping from the candy bowls on people's desks? It's shameful and pathetic.

I need to straighten out big time. But this is the worst time. Instead of wanting to get fixings for a salad, I want to get candy melts to make more of those decorative candy pops. And then promptly eat them. Like the last batch we made. Or make holiday cookies. Or shovel mashed potatoes or any carb cooked in a pound of butter into my face.

How do I start? Okay, baby steps. Today I vow to drink my 6 servings of water.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Redeeming this regret

I try not to regret things.

Instead, I try to look at such things as "learning opportunities".

One of the things I pretty much regret, however, was not seing Planet B-Boy in the movie theaters. I should have realized that documentaries have a very short life span in the theaters and this was no exception. Stupid, stupid. To quote Artie Fufkin, Do me a favor. Just kick my a$$, okay? ... Come on. I'm not asking, I'm telling you. Kick my a$$. This was pretty much plaguing me after it left my local theater. I seriously considered driving to San Francisco or Arizona for a screening. Unfortunately, a combination of my job duties and my laziness to drive great distances, failed my endeavor to see Planet B-Boy in theaters.

For those who haven't pieced it together yet, my confession is this: I love watching break dancers and crews. Love it, love it, love it. The expression, the athleticism, the coordination, the choreography, and sometimes, the storytelling are just so amazing to me. I'm not alone here but I do recognize that its following is not as big as say, the Star Trek fan base, but I know it's bigger than say, folks with foot fetishes. Or at I'd like to think so.

Anyhoo, here is my redemption:

No regrets this time around.

Did I learn anything?

Oh yes. This baby is so mine.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The other Bradley effect

My friend Heidi let me post this picture of us on Election Day:

Apparently the 10 pounds I need to lose are from my fat head.

As we saw so many votes supporting Prop 8 (to eliminate a gay rights to marry) come in, we couldn't help but think that Prop 8 had its own version of the Bradley effect. I'm aware that a lot of folks who voted Yes on 8 don't harbor ill will or violence for gay people but it was disappointing to know people who are friends and even related to gays who still chose to eliminate their right to marry. Hey, I know some gay people and I'm fine that they "chose that lifestyle", but...please keep it in the closet and don't let my kids see it.

Anyhoo, as I questioned yesterday about the conflict of adding an amendment that contradicts the current state constitution, it appears that Prop 8 may be heading to the courts on those grounds. This has made me wonder how the whole proposition protocol works here in California. How did this proposition get on the ballot in the first place? Also, how do the propositions that make the state create more bond debt to support a new train line or hospitals get on the ballot? If I get enough signatures, can I get the "Frances needs a scrap room" proposition on the ballot? Don't worry, the bond will be peanuts compared to the ones on the ballot this year. It will for sure, be less than a billion dollars.

But back to Proposition 8--here's my suggestion if the lawsuits don't work. Per the language of the California Education Code, so fearfully quoted by Yes on 8, that marriage and committed relationships is taught in schools, there should be a push to include gay domestic partnerships in that education. If children were taught in an objective manner about all sorts of families, whether they be gay, straight, blended, single-parent, adoptive, foster, interracial, et cetera, there would be a lot less fearful, hushed tones that influence a child's prejudices as they grow older. As we saw in the presidential election this year, the younger generation played a significant role in the changing the direction of the leadership in the US. Perhaps instead of trying to change the fixed minds of the older generation, we should focus more on enlightening the next one.

I don't think this struggle raised by Prop 8 is over yet...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

Yesterday, I voted on a historic Election Day in US History. See? I've got the sticker and free cup of Starbucks coffee to prove it:

I reminded my girl that we were watching US history in the making as we all watched as our first African-American president give his victory speech last night. He kicked it off with inspirating words confirming that still, "America is a place where all things are possible." While he recognized the accomplishments of teamwork, focus, and hope, he soberly relayed that there is yet an uphill struggle, "two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century", and that we would all have to pitch in and work together to succeed, because, America, yes, we can.

We also watched John McCain's concession speech. I have to confess that I haven't seen a lot of these types of speeches but I found McCain's speech a class act with a determined tone to still serve the US, and encouraged his supporters to rally behind our new president. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for McCain--as POW hero to the way he stood up against the current administration and, yes, his own Republican party, on the use of torture in US interrogation. Eight years ago, he was more moderate than the candidate he was in this election. After all, Rush Limbaugh had denounced the possibility of McCain running as the Republican party presidential candidate because Limbaugh deemed McCain wasn't conservative enough. With an non-endorsement like that, I had to give McCain some respect. And last night as he exited the presidential race, he retained honor and respect with his acknowledgment and reverence of this historic election and urging "all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited." Optimistically speaking, thank you, Senator, yes, we can.

On a less optimistic front, Proposition 8 seems to be passing here in California. Currently, eliminating the gay marriage is leading 52% to 48%, with 96% of the precincts reporting. Though I can't believe that a discriminatory amendment that is in violation of the current constitution that bars discrimination based on gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation can be made (and I would wholeheartedly support that fight), it is a sad recognition of civil rights in this state that so many people would vote to support it.

On a related front, since my Amy Winehouse temporary tattoos have outlasted daily showers and 3 trips to the gym since Halloween, I was considering doing a No on 8 version of Conan O'Brien's strike beard. Unfortunately, with the likelihood of the voters passing Prop 8, I might just have to finally scrub these off:

I've been wearing long sleeves to the office, but I have to confess that I've started getting attached to the ones on my forearms:

My daughter, however, is tired of the booby pin-up girl and says I should at least paint a bikini top on her:

Well, with the depressing turnout of trampled civil rights, what excuse do I have to try and keep these temporary tattoos on?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Off to Vote

It's the big day--Election Day.

I wish I had researched voting early or voting by mail because now I have to stand in line. In the rain. How did that happen? I'm in So Cal and it rains like, twice a year. And it rains on a day when I'll be waiting in line outside.

But obviously, I'll do it. Going to make sure that there is another vote for civil rights and equality for all by voting No on Prop 8.

Happy voting to all--

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween recap

I dressed as Amy Winehouse for Halloween and I was psyched I was able to do it low budget. The most money I spent was the $20 on the temporary tattoos I ordered from England that are duplicates of all of her tattoos. Obviously I'm nowhere near "heroin-chic" thin, but I told people, it's like Amy Winehouse gave up crack and got addicted to carbs instead. I didn't get my hands on the black foam to get the major beehive going, unfortunately,--so in some ways, except for the tank top and temp-toos, I kind of looked like I normally do at work in the afternoon:

Trick or Treating was a bit of a let down--a lot of houses were dark. Wha?! Did people have something better to do on a Friday night than to hand out candy? There were a few haunted porches and at one house, a mom came out on the patio shrieking a la the Wicked Witch of the West, hands clawed down, cackling "Be Afraid, Be Afraid!"--dressed as Sarah Palin. Some houses were decorated with lit porches and jack o'lanterns, yet no one came to the door. It was as if some folks got into the Halloween spirit but then left for a better party someplace else. Weird.

So the haul was a bit smaller than usual, but it didn't stop us from eating a ridiculous amount on the couch, post-T'n'T.

We're looking forward to the next Halloween already--