Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Food Photography

When I read blogs, I'm always amazed at how good the pictures are that people take of their food. First I'm amazed at the quality of pictures taken during the process. I am incapable of doing this.
1. My hands always seem to be too messy to pick up the camera.
2. When I stop to wash my hands and take pictures, I usually end up burning the food.
3. The above concerns are assuming I'm not just too caught up in the whole process to even remember to take pictures.

Then there's the pictures people take of the food once it's ready. These people actually spend time "styling" their food and setting up the perfect photo of it. I don't know about you, but when I make something that looks delicious, I am more concerned about eating it while it's hot than taking the time for food styling.

I guess I'll just always be jealous of these pictures because, let's face it, I'm not putting off eating something I just spent hours creating just to get the perfect shot of it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guest Post Sunday!

For those of you who don't know, my husband watches a lot of television. I know, I know, most husbands do. But television is a very important part of his life. He reads blogs and reviews about his favorite shows, and sometimes about shows he doesn't even watch. So when the Emmy nominations came out, he wanted to talk to me about them, a lot. Thus the idea that he begin doing guest posts to my blog about the Emmy nominations and selection process. We chose Sunday since the Emmy awards show is on Sunday. So without further adieu...

I love tv. Television is an amazing medium for storytelling. On a weekly basis you can see individual character arcs, relationships form and crumble, detailed world-building, and experiments in narrative structure. The Emmys provide a platform for recognizing those singular achievements in television production. Thanks to Melissa I have an opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the nomination process, who deserves each award and why, and who was unrightfully snubbed. So, in leading up to the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards on 9/18/11, I will be doing a multi-part guest series on ‘A Listful Life’. Hope you enjoy!

Part 1: Nominations. This can be a complicated process depending on the category and area. So, I have given a simplified version for the most prominent categories.

Stage 1: A program will submit themselves for nomination. Individual actors, directors, writers, etc. can also submit themselves. A show is eligible if it aired in primetime between June 1 and May 31. Members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences can cast their popular vote of up to ten votes in each program category.

Stage 2: Once the votes are cast each show is asked to submit a single episode. The episode is accompanied by a ‘For Your Consideration’ packet including a description and information to put the material in context. Episodes will usually be the season premiere or finale as these episodes are clearly designed to attract the most in viewership. Occasionally, holiday specials or other standout episodes will be chosen for consideration. The materials are then reviewed by a Blue Ribbon panel consisting of appropriate Academy members; e.g., writers evaluating writers. Depending on the category, 5 or 6 candidates are chosen.

Stage 3: Stages 1 and 2 are combined, the results of the popular vote and the Blue Ribbon selection. Both sets of results are weighted equally, each contributing 50%.

Stage 4: The Stage 3 combination is finalized and the nominees are announced. In addition to a call for judges from the Academy to its members, some will volunteer themselves for the judging process. During the month of August each judge will screen their category’s nominees at home. Each judge will cast a vote for their favorite and mail it to Ernst & Young. Ballots are counted and the majority vote wins. Interestingly, an Ernst & Young employee is appointed keeper and will hand the award envelope to the presenter minutes before walking out on stage.

For me I think it would be interesting to calculate the probabilities of certain nominees winning based on past nomination and winner history. But, I don’t really have time to do this. During the Oscars I had found a site that not only listed probabilities for winners, but explained the math and assumptions in doing so. (I know. I visit some pretty awesome sites.) While the probability discussion is cool just by itself, I have a problem with how the whole nomination process shakes out. For example, in the category of ‘Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series’, out of 6 nominees, ‘Modern Family’ is nominated 3 times! Now, of course, each episode is different with a different director, but doesn’t this seem like stacking the deck? I really think that each program should appear only once per category, don’t you?

Friday, July 22, 2011

My favorite things

My friend Rachel is an English teacher. I’m pretty sure she rocks at it because she recently resolved a debate between my husband and me over whether a specific word in a sentence is an adjective or a past participle. This summer, she attended a writing project where the idea was approached that you should write a list of 100 things that make you happy. Since I love lists, (see #70 below) I decided I needed to make my own post on this. You can read her entry here.

Rachel placed some restrictions on herself, which I thought were pretty valid. I tried to follow these restrictions and think I did a good job for the most part. Here are her restrictions.
• No 'good fortune' items - health insurance, employment, shelter, etc. Not that I'm not grateful for those things, because I am, but it would be too easy to just start listing them.
• No specific books, music, and movies. I could do lists of 100 of each of those probably. Or at least 50.
• No inventions that make my life easier - sorry Internet, dishwasher, and car.
• keep the list items short - no time wasted on lengthy explanations of why something made me happy
Following the list was difficult, and you’ll see that I’m really stretching it by numbers 98 and 99. I’m sure if I thought really hard I could come up with more, but it’s Friday and my brain is tired! Also, Rachel alphabetized her list. I did not. It would've been a nice touch, but I think reading it as it came out of my brain adds a little something extra. :)

1. Headbands
3. Rolling Yahtzee
4. Playing Pit
5. Game night with friends
6. Playing dominoes with my family
7. Baking
8. Eating at a new restaurant
9. Chips and salsa
10. Avocados
11. One-Ingredient (Banana) “Ice Cream”
12. Clinique dramatically different moisturizing lotion
13. Finishing a book
14. My gold sandals
15. Chase
16. Hosting parties
17. Planning wedding and baby showers
19. Weekends at the lake
20. Seeing a movie in the theatre
21. A good workout
22. Volunteering
23. Checking things off my list
24. Planning vacations
25. Warm vanilla sugar body lotion
26. Christmas trees
27. Woodwick candles
28. A new pair of jeans
29. An old pair of jeans
30. Farmers Markets
31. Growing my own food
32. My nephew Alex
33. Baseball games
34. Margaritas
35. A good beer
36. Kindergarten food-Chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese (admittedly, I stole this one from Rachel because she worded it so well herself)
37. A fresh coat of paint
38. Hobby Lobby
39. Pedicures
40. Singing in my car
41. Listening to comedy radio
42. Whole Foods
43. Drinking wine
44. Sitting on decks/patios in the summer
45. Blankets
46. Fans
47. Playing volleyball
48. Beating my goal for a run
49. Traveling
50. Holding new born babies
51. My new lunch bag from Chase
52. My adding machine at work. Everyone is jealous of it.
53. Post-It notes
54. Getting letters in the mail
55. Getting letters in email
56. Cee Lo Green
57. Bruno Mars
58. Sara Bareilles
59. Photography
60. My education
61. Drinking coffee on rainy days
62. Drinking coffee on sunny days
63. Moose Tracks Ice cream
64. Thanksgiving dinner
65. Football season
66. Leaves in the fall
67. The first blooms on my rose bushes in the Spring
68. Reeses miniatures
69. Watching terrible movies nobody has ever heard of, like The Smokers.
70. Lists!
71. Clean towels
72. A clean (just washed) car
73. Taking walks with Chase
74. Weddings
75. Wedding planning-I would make this a career if I thought I could really make enough money
76. Organizing
77. Thank you notes
78. My coffee mug at work
79. Travel mugs
80. Cupcakes
81. My cubical walls (they weren’t always there)
82. My black Old Navy flip flops
83. When songs that were played at my wedding pop up on my iTunes
84. Family photographs
85. Musicals
86. Weekend naps
87. Coupons for things I ACTUALLY buy!
88. Glue dots. They’re amazing.
89. Scrapbooking paper
90. The color teal
91. Crest Glide floss
92. Target
93. Grilled Hotdogs
94. S’mores
95. Fans (even in the air conditioning)
96. Colorful pens
97. Diet coke
98. Flash drives (I might be stretching at this point)
99. Colored paper clips (Yup, now I’m just naming things that I can see)
100. WATER! (this is for real. I love water. I drink at least the recommended 6-8 glasses a day and it is the most satisfying feeling for me. I think it deserves a spot on the list)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer goodies!

I love summer.

1. My birthday is in the summer.
2. The days are longer, leaving more time for outdoor fun!
3. Fresh, colorful food is abundant!

Chase and I have tried really hard this summer season to take advantage of fresh and locally grown foods. And when I say local, I mean local. Remember my garden a few months ago?

Look at it now! I wish I had a better picture but I took this at night, right before a heat wave hit here. In all honesty, it's been looking a little sad and hot the past few days.

Chase and I have a goal to make it up to the City Market at least once this summer. So far, this hasn't worked out. Luckily, we have lots of smaller farmers markets and stands around our neighborhood. Last weekend we went driving around in search of some goodies and scored all this! (Okay, obviously the beer didn't come from a farmers market, BUT it is from a LOCAL brewery, and it's from our favorite little liquor store down the street. Also, all those zucchini in the background came out of my garden!

On Wednesday evenings, there's a single man stand in the YMCA parking lot from 5-7. His food is all organic and hand picked from a farm in Belton. The past few times I've stopped by, I've only picked up one or two things because I was leaving that weekend and didn't want anything to go bad. But tonight I scored all this for $7. The green peppers were 3 for $1!!! Those cost almost $1 for 1 at the grocery store. And I'm extremely excited to cook an eggplant for the first time.

What's your favorite farmer's market?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weeding through Recipes

I enjoy food. This is a truth-fact. I like baking/cooking it, growing it, reading about it, and mostly eating it. Actually, the only thing I don't really enjoy about food is grocery shopping. I'm not sure why, but I hate this task. I enjoy farmers markets. And once in awhile, Chase and I will be out running errands and stop in at Whole Foods to browse for a bit. I'm also excited to check out the newly opened Trader Joes in Kansas City to see what interesting things I can find (and to add some 2 buck Chuck to our wine collection, of course!) This is the extent to which I enjoy food shopping.

While preparing for some weekend company, I was looking through my recipe cabinet and found a huge pile of recipes I've printed off from various blogs, websites, magazines, etc. Of the approximately 100-150 recipes I've printed, I've probably only made 5 of them. The excuses are endless as to why I've not made these: time, money, it takes too many ingredients, etc. Let's face it, if the ingredient list includes more than 3-4 things that aren't currently in my pantry, I have no desire to wander around the grocery store to find them.

Case in point, last night my husband and I were grocery shopping for our weekly groceries. I had started to make a menu for the week, but had not made a grocery list yet. As we were tired from a long weekend with friends and neither of us enjoys this task, we quickly abandoned the entire weekly menu because 2 of the meals required a number of ingredients we didn't have on hand. Instead, here's what our menu for the week looks like (please don't judge me):

Monday-I'm having dinner with a friend, Chase is having SpaghettiO's.
Tuesday-Frozen Viola meal
Wednesday-Grilled sandwiches
Thursday-Sandwiches/Whatever you find in the pantry (I play in a volleyball league on Thursday nights so dinner is always an "on your own" situation)
Friday-Pesto pasta with grilled chicken-An attempt to use some of the basil from my garden before it goes bad.

I originally planned to grill some kebabs on Wednesday, but it's just too hot here to make Chase stand outside and grill. And I had hoped to make this Thai Peanut Chicken pasta recipe I had scored off a friend's blog on Friday, but the ingredient list was just way too long for my attention span. This made me realize that I need to be better about cooking a variety of foods. Chase and I have become too comfortable with eating the same things week after week because they are cheap or easy.

Idea: Incorporate at least one of those printed recipes into my meal plan each week. Starting next week, I begin my effort to go through the massive stack of recipes I've printed or cook books I've purchased. I will incorporate at least 1 new recipe a week into our meal plan and share it here. I'd like to commit to more than one, but that just might lead to failure. And I'd like to start this week, but as I previously mentioned, the grocery shopping trip did not go too well last night.

On the bright side, I did sort of start this task over the weekend when making dessert for our weekend company. Stay tuned for Coffee Heath Bar Cheesecake!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not all kitchen tools are created equal

My husband believes in the power of knives. He is a firm believer that if a knife can do the job, then you don’t need a special tool. For the most part, I agree with this philosophy. We have a relatively small amount of storage space in our kitchen and I don’t like clutter. This frame of mind kept us from registering for a plethora of unnecessary kitchen gadgets when we got married (I’m looking at you waffle iron, Panini press, electric griddle, bread maker, the list goes on!) However, I have a small wishlist of kitchen items I could really use. I frequently read recipes that call for some little tool that I just don’t have, which tells me I cannot make that dish. Other times, the tool seems pretty basic so I try to find a substitute. Sometimes it’s suitable, other times, not so much. For example, a few weeks ago I tried to make apple chips. I got out my knife and sliced the apples, seasoned them with some cinnamon, and popped them in the oven to bake. When I pulled them out half burnt and half still soft and soggy, I added a mandolin to that wishlist. You just cannot make things like apple chips without having consistent slices.

1. Double boiler (I have a makeshift solution that works for the most part, but
it has been known to let steam into my chocolate making it seize up.)
2. Mandolin
3. Funnel
4. Apple corer/slicer (The flat one that cuts them into wedges, not the big one
that hooks to counters and spiral cuts around the apple. My husband is
adamant about NOT having one of these. It has led to many arguments.)

That’s it. For now at least. Is that really too much to ask for? I’m sure as my cooking skills progress, (they will progress right? They have to.) I will find other tools that I need. Someday I would love to have a mortar and pestle, but just don’t really see the need for it at this point in my life. But I’m guessing by the time I need a mortar and pestle, hopefully I’ll have a bigger kitchen to store it in.

For now, I will continue to make recipes I know my kitchen tools can handle. My husband will just be missing out on all the delicious things I could be making, like non-burnt or soggy apple chips.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm back!

So I've been on a 3 week hiatus. This is not because I didn't want to blog, but because my husband and I took a 2 week trip to France and well, the week before leaving I couldn't think of anything but packing and preparing for the trip.

But we're back now so I'll start blogging again soon! I'm working on some ideas for regular blog posts. I'd like to get a recurring theme one day a week, like Recipe Sunday or something so I'm bouncing around some ideas. Maybe if I tell the blogging world about these ideas, I'll be forced to follow through with them. No promises though.

So what's on our list now that we are back?

1. Catch up on the bills--I'm pretty certain there are bills that need paid today but I haven't had the mental energy to look through them yet.

2. Clean our house--how does so much dust accumulate when you aren't even there?

3. Hit the gym--we haven't been in over 3 weeks and really need to get back to it. Luckily we did TONS of walking on our trip so we didn't feel too guilty. We both even managed to lose a pound or two! :)