Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guess Who....

is posting from her new laptop? That's right, me! It finally arrived today and I love it. The best part is that it's RED, my favorite color!
Isn't it purty? XP is installed, but I was also sent Vista in case I feel the need to change over (although I'm sure that won't be the case). It is partially running at this point - the wireless is working and I just loaded itunes. All my "things" are still on the old computer so it will take me some time to transfer that over. In the mean time, it can just sit on my table and look pretty. It is pretty isn't it?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Angels and Demons

Have you seen the movie Angels and Demons yet? The book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown is a prequel of sorts to The DaVinci Code. As much as I enjoyed The DaVinci Code, I loved Angels and Demons. It is a great story and takes place in Rome with all that amazing Italian art as a character of sorts.

I went to see the movie this weekend. I was a bit skeptical though. I rushed right out to see The DaVinci Code a couple of years ago and was a bit disappointed so I wasn't expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised! It has been a few years since I read the book which was good since I wasn't able to nit-pick every detail that was or wasn't the same as the book. There were a few funny (not funny ha, ha, but funny what?) moments like getting up close and personal with Tom Hanks' speedo in the beginning of the film and the priest (Ewan McGregor) smacking into St. Peter's Basilica multiple times while parachuting to safety at the end.
Overall though, it is a pretty exciting film, and from what I do remember of the book, the movie was pretty darn close. Plus, the city of Rome, its art and architecture, and cute Italian cops (even though they all get killed off) made for an enjoyable movie. If you haven't seen it yet, I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Smelly Story

A week or so ago, Happy Wife posted about a smelly situation at her new job. That got me thinking about a smelly story of my own. Let me just say that the main story is not funny
at all. How I handles the situation was the funny part.
During my second year of teaching, it was just before recess and there was a faint, but bad smell in my classroom. During some student work time I wandered around the room, sniffing trying to locate the it. I found that it was coming from one of my little girls who I will call B. Now, B's mother was dying of cancer and that was all B's father could possibly deal with so B and her brother's hygiene hadn't been as good as it should have been. During recess time, I went to the health assistant to get some advice on how I should handle this. She said that it could be halitosis, or really bad breath, if brushing her teeth hadn't been a priority. So I asked around the office for some gum or mints to take back. The other kids had started commenting about the smell so I wanted to nip it in the bud as to not embarrass B. We scrounged up some peppermints and I picked up the kids to bring them back to class.
After recess, I played a game and handed out mints. I didn't want to embarrass her by just giving her one. So a few students "won" mints including B. The smell didn't completely go away, but at least everyone around B also "won" a mint, so we masked the smell as much as we could until we left for lunch.
During lunch my assistant principal found me in the staff room and laughingly told me the health assistant was ranting and raving. Apparently, one of the yard supervisors found B in the bathroom and somehow realized that she had actually had an accident and the smell was not halitosis, but rather "number 2". The health assistant was running around the office telling everyone, "The girl pooped her pants and Pumpkin Delight gave her mint!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tasty Tuesday

This is the last pasta dish for awhile, I promise! (Well maybe I promise). I made this last week and it was super easy. It made a lot too. The left overs were good. I even took a big bowl over to a friend of mine. Be sure to use a very large pan as the recipe seems to grow. It's made with red wine and in case you didn't know, I love to cook with wine! Slainte!

Chicken and Sausage with Bow Tie Pasta

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked farfalle pasta
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, al dente.

2. Cut the chicken into large bite size pieces. Remove casing from sausage and cut into large pieces. In a large, deep skillet over medium low heat, put oil and garlic and saute to flavor oil. Remove garlic from oil.

3. Add chicken and sausage to skillet and brown both lightly until they are opaque. Add the tomatoes and the wine. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season sauce mixture with basil, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked, drained pasta to the skillet mixture. Toss and serve.

4. I added some Parmesan cheese to the finished product.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Getting Hot In Here

Summer has officially arrived in the valleys of Southern California this weekend. With temperatures over 100 degrees, it is HOT!

It's always a bit of an adjustment around here when the heat surprises us. The beginning of the week was cool, windy, and a bit cloudy, within a day or two it was up to over 90 degrees, and now it's over 100. We went from 65 degrees to 100 in less than a week. I'm haven't organized my hot weather wardrobe yet and my body just isn't used to that kind of heat yet, like it is in July and August.

How long will it last you ask. That's a good question. Usually we get a few weeks of heat, and then the June gloom sets in, the marine layer comes over the mountains and fogs most of our mornings up. However, I've been trying to find out what the weather will be like over the next week and I can't find an answer. I have been on,, and can't seem to get a weather forecast for the Valley. Over the last few days these weather sites have shown temperatures in the 80s. The 80s? Yah, right! These forecasts are most likely for Los Angeles. The problem with the LA forecast published for the Valleys is that, even though it's only 15 or so miles away, we are always much, much hotter in the summer and somewhat cooler in the winter. In fact, today's weather forecast said "Currently 82 degrees; High 85." It was 102 degrees in my backyard at the time. Not really an accurate forecast!

I hope it doesn't last too much longer. I'm not ready to start summer yet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

About Wild Animals, Sensitive Republicans, American Idol, and Computers

So, a little bit of this and a little bit of that...

Spring is a time of nature around my house. Every year wild animals encroach on my space and it always creeps me out a little bit. This year is no exception. A cricket has moved into my garage and is driving me crazy. "Chirp, chirp, chirp..." Ugh! I don't know if you have ever tried to locate a cricket before, but let me tell you, It. Is. Hard. I also have a dove who has nested in the beams of my front porch. Yah, I don't like the birds very much. The birds that come to live at my house tend to come to an early demise. I don't know if my roof or beams are too steep or slippery, but for some reason they fall out of their nests and die at my house. Ick, I get the willies just thinking about it. So, having this bird raising a family on my front porch makes me very nervous. I am frightened that I will walk outside to get my mail and find a bird family who has fallen to their death. Keep your fingers crossed that my new birds survive the spring.

A week or so ago, I posted about trying to refinance my house in this economy. My friend "Republican Mortgage Guy" called me up after reading my post. You see, he's a sensitive guy and felt that his name, "Republican Mortgage Guy" had a negative tone. He also wanted everyone to know that he was doing everything he could, but it was all Barack O'Boyfriend's fault. I apologized and told him that I would be sure to post that he is a nice guy and of course, much more sensitive than how I portrayed him in my post. He liked that idea and then proceeded to tell me a couple sexist jokes about ovens and refrigerators.

I just finished watching American Idol tonight. I don't know if it is just me, but I'm unimpressed with all of them. Chris is kind of blah, Danny is a good singer, but I'm not a big fan of his genre, and I really don't care for Adam (sorry Cheri) because to me everything he does sounds like he's in a musical. I don't really care who wins. Do you?

I'm in the market for a new computer. But shhhh, don't tell my current computer. It has been a wonderful computer, but it's getting older and starting to show its age. I want to get a new one so I have time to get transfered over to a new one before the old one dies. If you know me, you know this has been a process because I plan and research and plan a little more before I make a purchase like this because I'm afraid I will get it home and be unhappy with it. I know the computer I want, but I'm debating the whole Vista issue. I haven't heard many good things about Vista and what has been good has really been, "Oh, it's fine." or "My computer has some issues, but I'm not really sure if it's Vista or the computer." Vista is really the only option on most computers right now, but the computer I want does come with the option to get XP installed (which I currently use and have no problems with) on the computer and also get the Vista disks to install at a later time if I'd like. It's a more expensive option...of course it is. So I'm debating if I should get the option or not. Does anyone have an opinion on this choice? (G-ma J, I hear you on the laptop thing...have one now, the new one will be too.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ahh, the Food (and Wine) pt. 2

The second stop on our Italian road trip was the Chianti area of Tuscany. We left Rome and traveled about 3 hours through Lazio, Umbria, and Tuscany before arriving in Vagliagli, a small town just north of Siena.
Our Vagliagli accommodations...Villa Dievole, a working Chianti winery.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with some wine and fruit. And, no, we weren't charged a fee for opening up the bottle and eating the fruit. What a way to start our time in Chianti.

The next day we took a wine tasting tour through the winery. This was our first wine, a very nice chilled rose. It was quite light and refreshing. We tasted 5 additional wines and they got progressively better, or maybe we got progressively buzzed. If it weren't for having to get them back on the airplane, I would have brought a whole lot home with me.

Lunch on the terrazzo after our tour - we needed to eat something after all that wine so we were able to drive in the car for more sightseeing. One of my favorites...Caprese Salad...

and lunch continued with a baked gnocchi. I was gnocchi crazy on this trip. It was soooo good.

After lunch, we visited a few of the small hill towns including Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti. They were both cute little towns. Of course, we had to stop and have a little wine and with a little wine, we had a little snack. I love that part!

That evening we had dinner back at the winery. The restaurant there was outstanding, but dark, so most of my pictures didn't come out. This is the only decent one. After an antipasti plate with fresh meats and cheeses, I ordered this pasta - sausage and pecorino cheese. The meal was made even better with a bottle of one of the wines from our tour.

The next day we attended a cooking school in Siena. Oh, what fun that was! You will eventually see these recipes in Tasty Tuesday because I plan on making them all now that I am home.

First off, we made pappa al pomodoro - a Tuscan tomato and bread soup. It is a very old recipe which was created by the poor to make use of stale bread and an abundance of tomatoes. Here is how it starts out....

and this is how it ends. It was amazing. Hearty and so flavorful.

To tide us over (because certainly we were starving) while our masterpieces cooked we had some bruschetta.

Here are our Tuscan cantucci (like biscotti). Made from scratch and we sampled them with a little Vin Santo.
After making and hand rolling our own pasta, called pici, we placed it on these neat trays while we waited for the water to boil.

Our cooked pici with pesto sauce. It was so good and so easy to make.

This steak was delicious. It is a Tuscan beef filet with a shallot, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil sauce. It looks rare, but it was actually seered on each side and then wrapped in foil for about 30 minutes. The meat cooked through, but kept its pink coloring. It cut like butter and tasted amazing.
After our amazing meal, we spent the rest of the day in Siena, one of my favorite cities in Italy. We certainly weren't hungry, but needed a glass of wine after a day of sightseeing. These yummy snacks accompanied our wine.
The Chianti region is an area of Italy that I had not been to before (with the exception of Siena), so this part of the trip was one of my favorites. The food, the wine, and the towns were incredible. Plus, who wouldn't love staying at a winery.
Next stop, Florence!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blogger Meet Ups

Blogging is funny. You connect with people from all over the world that you would probably never meet otherwise. With my regular visits to Flickr and Blogger I see meet ups for this group or that and I've always been a little weirded out about it. I'm a pretty private person so it took me some time to open up to the whole blogging idea, and once I did, hearing about other bloggers who left the protection of their computers for meet ups at a restaurant or someone's home stressed me out a bit. Not that anyone was asking me to meet up, but still.

However my real-life friend Jason was becoming a force in the blogging world and wanted to go to a meet up last spring. This was not just any old meet up though, it was a MEGA meet up as Bossy was on her acclaimed Road Trip and making a stop in LA. This was Jason's first meet up (he certainly didn't start out small, did he) and he wanted some company. So after just returning the day before from 3 weeks in Africa I accompanied Jason to the Bossy's Road Trip Los Angeles meet up. I had only been blogging for about 3 1/2 minutes at that time so it was a good thing I was jet lagged and not really thinking about how intimidated I was. But it was fine. Everyone was very nice, but also very into their blogging and since I was a newbie I didn't have a lot to say. But overall it was a nice evening and it ended with Jason spending the night with Bossy (a fact that he doesn't ever fail to remind everyone of).

The second meet up I attended was this past summer. The lovely Grandma J and the handsome Hula Hank were both in town at the same time so we met up at The Grove for lunch. Since I was actually in contact with these bloggers, the meet up was much more comfortable and a lot of fun.

Yesterday, there was yet another meet up! Jason and I are in Orange County for a training this week and he has three blogger friends that are from San Diego that he scheduled to meet up with while we are in OC. He asked me to join him and I said that I would. The bloggers we met are not bloggers that I have read in the past, but they are now. We had a wonderful time with Cheri, Katy, and Jamie at dinner last night. They are delightful, fun people and were so comfortable with the meet up that one (and I won't mention any names) spit out their drink right in front of us.

These meets up are somewhat beyond my comfort level. I have no problem meeting new people, but I'm still unsure about the meeting up via the Internet thing. All three of them though have been low key and a lot of fun, and as a bonus, no one has been too crazy either (except of course for the spitting)! Thanks Jason, Cheri, Katy and Jamie for a great meet up!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stupid Banks

I think you can call me the latest casualty to the banking crisis.

Currently, like many homeowners these days, my home is no longer worth what I paid for it. Which, in the big picture, isn't that big of deal since I'm not going anywhere. However, the problem with the loss of equity is that I am not able to take advantage of the drop-bottom interest rates. Like most of us who don't make a whole lot of money, but pay our bills on time and do without a lot of "toys" the price decline has screwed us. Not only are we mortgaged with home purchased at the top of the market, but also can't take advantage of the lower than low interest rates.

Well, a couple of months ago Barack O'Boyfriend said that he wanted to help people like me. I emailed my friend, I'll call him "Republican Mortgage Guy" for this post, and asked him if it was true. He told me it remained to be seen if "my" democrat would make anything happen.

"My" democrat did come through. "Republican Mortgage Guy" called me while I was in Italy to tell me that Barack rolled out a program that would allow people just like me to refinance into a 30 year fixed loan in the 4% range (yah, that's right, 4%). There were a couple of stipulations one being that my current loan had to have been insured with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. "Republican Mortgage Guy" told me that it shouldn't be a problem since most loans are insured with the FMs. However, when he tried to look it up he couldn't find my loan. So I brought my loan paperwork to him to look into it further. The company who issued my loan told him that "all their loans were insured with the FMs" so I wasn't worried. Well I should have been. The company who insures all their loans with the FMs, didn't insure mine. So, Barack's big ol' fancy plan doesn't help me one bit.

I want to know why a company who regularly uses the FMs to insure their loans didn't with the loan I have. I bought my house around the same time that the banks were loaning money to anyone who applied with all sorts of crazy terms. Am I also a victim of their greed? Certainly not to the extent of those who have lost their homes, but I think so. I'm hoping "Republican Mortgage Guy" can dig up something else for me.