Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chi Town

Chicago is a great city.  Last week I visited for the very first time, and had a great mini trip.  Of course, pretty much the entire nation was suffering from record breaking heat and Chicago was right smack in the middle of that heat wave.  I’m no stranger to hot weather, but my only complaint about it in Chicago is the HUMIDITY. Blech!  But once I succumbed to the fact that I would spend the entire time glistening with my hair piled on top of my head, I was good to go.   

So let’s go…
My friends live in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park.  It is just a few blocks from downtown, but has a great neighborhood feel with tree-lined streets of historic houses.
stuff 026  The neighborhood is in walking distance to Lake Michigan which is enormous. 

The Biograph (where John Dillinger was shot and killed) resides in Lincoln Park as well.

On my first full day in the city, we attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs played the Astros.  It didn’t really concern me who won, but it was fun to be there when the Cub’s won 4-2. I enjoyed seeing the bleacher seats atop buildings that overlooked the stadium. 

I took so many pictures so I’ll share more in my next post.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tableau Vivant

I’d been back from Chicago (which I’ll post about next time) for about 14 hours when some friends and I jumped in the car and headed to the beach – Laguna Beach to be exact.

Laguna Beach has long been a small art town.  During the summer, there are many art related activities and festivals like the Sawdust Festival, Festival of Arts, and Art-A-Fair.  The most popular event however is the Pageant of the Masters.

The Pageant is a show of tableau vivant or living pictures.  Works of art are recreated and “performed” on stage using beautifully costumed people and elaborate set design.  It has taken place annually since 1932.  Tonight was the first time I attended, and I was thoroughly impressed.  

This year’s theme is “Only Make Believe”. 


We weren’t really familiar with most of the pieces.  Regardless, they were very magical and quite beautiful.   01.pageant2.0703.lo

Fairy Wood by Henry Meynell Rheam

Alice's Adventures by John Tenniel

Arabian Knights by Virgina Sterrett

Confabulation of Dragons by Scott Gustafson

Between the lighting, makeup, costumes, props, and backdrops it was quite difficult to make out that the people were actually three dimensional actors and not flat.  The show was pretty incredible.

If you are ever in Southern CA during the summer, you’ll have to check it out.

**The photos were taken from The Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot website as cameras are NOT allowed in the event.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Farts From Our Butt

My plan for a Thursday post was thwarted by packing procrastination.  I leave for Chicago in a few hours, and since I am the worst packer in the whole world I don’t have time for a real post. 

Maybe while I’m gone the federal government will come up with some plan to resolve the debt ceiling issue.  Hopefully the plan will close some loopholes that would make ginormous corporations like Exxon and GE pay MORE taxes than I do.  But it’s doubtful. 

Anyhow, here’s a funny video poking fun at all the politicians who down right lie to get others on their side.  Loved it and the “4th grade boy” humor.   Enjoy!

See ya’ll next week!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tasty Tuesday


I’m not one of those Californians that doesn’t eat red meat.  Even though I don’t eat it often, I really like a good steak.  Unfortunately, as adept as I can be in the kitchen, I’ve never been very successful in cooking steak.  It either comes out too done or not cooked enough, and the flavor is always off.  I probably don’t cook it often enough to get any better at it. 

I found this recipe for salsa verde steak in Rachael Ray’s “Everyday” magazine.  Since I’ve been working on a corn theme the last couple of weeks, this recipe stood out as it calls for fresh corn.

Salsa Verde Steak (serves 4)
2 New York strip steaks (about 14 oz each)
Olive oil for rubbing
salt and pepper
3 cups fresh corn kernels (frozen can be used if thawed and patted dry)
salsa verde
3 oz queso fresco cheese (it crumbles like feta but is creamier)
lime wedges
I also added fresh cilantro
8 corn tortillas

1.  Rub steaks with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. 
2.  Heat cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the steaks to the skillet and lower the heat to medium.  Cook until bottom is seared (4-5 minutes), flip and cook 3-4 minutes longer for medium rare.  Once steaks are cooked, transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
3.  Spread corn in the hot skillet.  Allow to cook over medium heat for about a minute in order to brown.  Then stir and season with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until corn is browned all over. 
4.  To serve, cut the steaks in half crosswise and arrange on 4 plates.  Pile the corn over the steaks and sprinkle with salsa and cheese (and cilantro if desired). 
It’s delicious with lime squeezed over the top and tortillas on the side.  Grilled vegies were also served, and they made this dish a great summer meal. stuff 279
Since only 3 steaks were served, I cut up the leftovers the next day and made crispy shell tacos.  All the same ingredients were added to the tortillas.   It was very good.stuff 290
I enjoyed this a lot.  However, I think all the steak toppings made up for my lack of steak-cooking skills.  One of these days I’ll learn how to do it right.  Until then, this is a good alternative. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmageddon My A$$

This weekend was going to be IT.  Carmageddon, endearingly known as the predicted havoc due to closing down a section of one of our busiest freeways in Los Angeles, was going to paralyze LA this weekend. 

Los Angeles public officials announced the closure about 3 months ago setting off a frenzy that rivaled “The Rapture”.  Traffic backed up 50 miles was threatened.  I know someone whose wedding was canceled by the venue due to the closure.  My mom, who had planned to fly into LAX this weekend, changed her flight in order to not get stuck on the 405.  Many people were outraged that the closures were on a weekend because it would have been so much better during weekday rush hour traffic.  It was going to be a MESS!

Since I am a rule follower, I normally would have stayed close to home this weekend.  But as it happened, I had made plans months ago to meet up with some friends in Pasadena.  There is no need to take the 405 freeway from my house, but a pass right by it is necessary.  Only a few miles away from the closure, there was a possibility that I would face a traffic nightmare. 

The reality was SHOCKING!
stuff 045 stuff 049

There was less traffic than there usually is, EVER!  It seems as if most Angelenos heeded the advice and just stayed home. 

Which was great!  We enjoyed a gorgeous day in Pasadena. 

First meeting up at the Norton Simon Museum. 
stuff 055 stuff 020stuff 003 stuff 007 stuff 008 stuff 009 stuff 015  
Then on to some shopping along Colorado Blvd.
stuff 054 stuff 053 stuff 052 
As with most events, the media blows them out of proportion and leaves many panic stricken.  Lucky for us, Carmageddon was no exception.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blinded By Ben, Tom, and Carrots

Even though it’s summer break, I’ve been working at our school district office on various summer curriculum projects a few days each of those weeks. 

This week’s work was scoring writing prompts for the district.  Each year, every grade level takes an end-of-the-year writing test.  Most of these assessments are scored by the grade level teams at each school site, but a couple of the grade levels are chosen to turn in their tests to the district for district-wide scoring.  Since I am on the writing committee, I have spent the last two days scoring 2nd and 5th grade writing. 

I have also spent the last two days losing my eyesight.  We read SO many papers.  On the first day, 2nd grade’s summary of narrative writing was scored.  The story that was summarized was The Giant Carrot.  The word “carrot” has probably never been read so many times as it was that day.  I dreamt about carrots that night.  The only perk to that day was since I teach 2nd grade I was very familiar with the story and the requirements so was able to score each paper fairly quickly.

That was not the case on the next day.  We scored 5th grade’s persuasive essays about Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  Students were asked to write a letter to the US Postal Service explaining why they thought BF or TJ deserved to be on a new postage stamp.  These essays were not only longer than 2nd grade’s they were also written in cursive.  stuff 027These pages and pages of cursive writing started to play tricks on my eyes after just a couple of hours.  The only thing that got me through the afternoon was some of the non-factual reasons the students came up with like…
”I know you may think that it wouldn’t be good to have a hairless 81 year old on a stamp…”
”Just imagine what other things he (Franklin) will invent given the chance.”
At least those were good for a few laughs, in a depressing kind of way.  By the end of the day, I didn’t want either of them to be on the stamp!  If I never read about Franklin, Jefferson, or carrots ever again it will be too soon!

This task was my last of the summer until August 5.  Thank goodness as I may need to recover my eyesight over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

delicious3Last week I posted about white summer corn.  It was so yummy right off the cob, but I removed the kernels and froze them to use in some dishes over the next couple of weeks. 

I had been craving Mexican flavors – cilantro, lime, cumin, chili peppers.  So I threw together this super easy and delicious quesadilla – not just your basic cheese and tortilla quesadilla.  Instead one that included all those tasty flavors.

Chicken Quesadilla with Corn Salsa
Serves 4

4 medium-sized flour tortillas
1 chicken breast, grilled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup queso quesadilla, grated (any good melting cheese works, but qq is very creamy and doesn’t get oily when melted)
1 cup corn
1 handful cilantro, chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 Serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped (make sure to remove the seeds if too much heat is not welcome)
Chili powder – to taste for extra kick if desired
Cooking spray

1.  Mix corn, cilantro, lime, Serrano chili, and chili powder in a small bowl.
2.  Layer 1/2 of each tortilla with the following - a fourth of the cheese, a fourth of the chicken, and a spoonful of the corn salsa mixture.  There should be corn salsa left over to be used later.
3.  Fold over the other half. 
4.  Spray pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Add quesadilla 1-2 at a time.  Cook until browned.
5.  Lightly spray the top of the quesadilla, and then flip over to brown other side. 
6.  Remove from heat and let rest for a few moments to let cheese set up a bit.  Then cut the quesadilla in half. 
7.  Fold each half over and serve with a spoonful of corn salsa over the top.
stuff 253

Add a small green salad to make a nice light and summery meal.  The flavors are delicious.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Project Declutter, Days 1-3

My house is full.  FULL!  It’s been time to do something about it for awhile now, but now that I am on vaca I don’t have any more excuses to put it off. 
Project declutter began on Wednesday.  I started in the garage, but since I forgot to take before and after pictures you’ll just have to take my word for it.  It’s beautiful!

Yesterday, I moved upstairs to my bedroom.  Actually, my closet was in most need of help.  If I use it correctly, it is a very organized and efficient closet.  However, when I get busy I don’t put anything away, and my shoes and clothes end up on the floor.   It got so bad this time that I couldn’t walk in the walk-in closet.
  stuff 002stuff 001
After getting the first layer out, the shoe layer remained.
stuff 004
Clearly, I have a sneaker and flip flop problem. 

About 3 hours of refolding, rehanging, and removing.  My closet is now back to an organized state…
stuff 005 stuff 006 
stuff 007And the floor is visible again!

I only had a couple of hours to work yesterday, so bedroom/bathroom decluttering continued today. Bureau drawers were refolded and many items were discarded.  Moving on to the bathroom…I can not tell you how long it has been since I’ve decluttered the bathroom.  Well actually, yes I can if the antibiotic/pain killer prescription bottles are any indication
stuff 012
We’ve got 2009, 2008, 2005, and 2004.  I think 2004 is our winner! 

The medicine cabinets, drawers and under the sink cabinets were overflowing with unused and empty “stuff”!

stuff 011

stuff 013
stuff 014Oh look!  Another expired prescription bottle! 
 stuff 010stuff 009stuff 015 stuff 016

This part actually took no time at all because I simply threw almost everything away – most of it empty or expired!  
Everything left over was moved into one medicine cabinet…one is empty.
stuff 022 stuff 023 stuff 024
Although this was uncovered at the bottom of the empty one.  Hmmm, that’s a bit disconcerting isn’t it?

The under the sink contents now all fit under one sink.
stuff 018

stuff 019
And, I found my retainer!  I don’t think I’ve seen that thing since college.

stuff 002 stuff 001
And three drawers were downsized to using only two!

Decluttering has such a good feeling! 
stuff 021
After two days in the master, I have 3 bags to donate and 2 bags of trash.  Now only 5 rooms and a back yard to go before the entire house is half as full!

What is your summer project?