Archive | April, 2013

Looking for a fun date idea?

19 Apr

P and I just celebrated 2 x 2 years of wedded bliss, and this year, we were fresh out of ideas on how to celebrate.

Sounds awful, I know. But think: we’ve been together almost eight years, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and milestones; and we’ve lived in Atlanta that whole time. As much as we’d like to take a Caribbean weekend spree, it’s just not in the budget at the moment. Besides, I have a show.

When we got married, we had a very romantic, he-picks/she-picks layout planned for our anniversaries. The first anniversary was amazing. Things sort of fizzled from there.

Year one: dinner at a nice restaurant, live music and dancing at the venue where our wedding was held, an overnight stay in a luxury hotel and a tour of Chateau Elan Winery the next day.

Year two: A somewhat unsatisfying, theme-park-esque dinner at Dante’s Down the Hatch, followed by gorging on champagne cupcakes in lieu of actual champagne (I was seven months pregnant).

Year three: A well-intentioned but ill-fated jaunt about town on a rented Vespa–it was so windy that day that the entire moped blew over while we were trying to take a nostalgic photo at our wedding site.

So here’s a fact. The traditional gift of the 4th year of marriage is fruit and flowers. Not exactly inspired, for the year where things in a marriage are generally starting to get–let’s say, comfortable.  The “modern” gift is even worse–appliances. (Modern, my a**). We’d need to spin off a bit from that theme, unless we wanted to make smoothies for our celebratory dinner.

And that’s how we eventually found ourselves reserving our Wednesday anniversary date at a drink-and-paint studio.  And boy, are we glad we did!

Although I was the one who chose the place (there are several in the area), it was actually P’s idea. I never would have suggested it for fear it was too girly. I keep forgetting, even after four years, that I’m married to an artiste. I chose the place, Canvas by U,  based solely on the painting on the calendar for April 17: a colorful landscape, which I figured was sort of related to fruit. Right? It all grows out the ground.

Anyway. If you’ve never heard of this concept, it’s really pretty cool. An instructor walks you through painting a…well..painting step by step, while you sip and nibble on whatever you brought with you. It’s like college art class, only with booze and no grades. You don’t have to have any artistic talent or experience (praise the Lawd) to partake, and all the materials you need are provided with the class fee, right down the wine opener.

Maybe it was because it was a random Wednesday in April, but P and I were the only people who signed up for our class. I was worried they’d cancel for such a small showing, but they didn’t. WOOT. Private class! We’d be using a technique called palette knife, which was a really cool alternative to the more commonly taught brush painting. Even more exciting, our class was taught by the owner herself, filling in for a sick colleague. She was so cool. She let us break all kinds of protocol, and we chatted about music, art, cats, and life as we drained our bottle of cab and ambled through our landscapes.

DSC01729

The cost was extremely reasonable for everything you get to do–$25-$35 depending on the style. Canvas by U is one of the rare studios that does not ration the materials, which is really good for people like me who really just need a leeetle bit more burnt umber for their foliage. Canvas by U was actually the original Sips n’ Strokes, but  they underwent a rebranding a few years ago (Sips n’ Strokes still exists, but under new ownership–and a new ownership style, we’re told).

DSC01727It was totes grooves how all our paintings turned out completely different from each other’s and from the model.  Canvas By U doesn’t do Groupons, but if you like their Facebook page they’ll often post discounts on there, or if you’re on their mailing list (sign up at the website).

I highly recommend this as a fresh date night activity, for those of you who have SOs without security issues. But even if there are some issues, there’s wine. I won’t say I’m any better at art than before I walked in the door, but I had a blast. And anyway, as they say, it’s about the process, not the product!

MASTERPIECES, DUH

MASTERPIECES, DUH

Easy Slow Cooker Recipe #3 – Creamy Chicken

18 Apr

Recipe:

Put bag of frozen chicken breasts (3 lb) in the crock pot.
Put 8 oz block cream cheese on top of the chicken (NOT nonfat).
Dump in one can black or pinto Beans, drained & rinsed
Dump in 1 can drained corn.
Dump in 1 can Rotel

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, Shred chicken, let sit for 30-45 minutes.

My adaptations:

I used black beans, and I did not drain and rinse them. I think the bean juice (ew?) adds a little extra flavor.  Also, it eliminates the need for added table salt. I also cut the cream cheese into chunks, the better to space it more evenly over the chicken.

Level of Ease:

1

Level of Tastiness:

4

Kitchen Notes:

This recipe was the Pin that started it all–now this is what I’m talking about when I say easy; the entire recipe was right in the description! However, it wasn’t until a few weeks into my meal planning frenzy that the stars aligned to have all the  ingredients in the house at once. It was lucky that I managed to get it together to make it that morning, because on the way home from work my dad called to say he’d be dropping by (I know that if there’s anybody you can get away with not impressing, it’s your parents, but I always like to have something to offer anyway. Knowwhatimean?). Dad and I ate ours over brown rice, while P ate his as a burrito (he’s of the school of thought that there’s very little a tortilla can’t improve). I only have one caveat with this meal: the Rotel made it a touch too spicy for T. If you’re cooking for kiddos, I recommend using the mild version, mild salsa, or maybe just diced tomatoes and omit the peppers altogether. But overall, it was extremely delicious–although it must be said, not that pretty to look at.

Maybe P is onto something, hiding it in a tortilla. (source)

P.S. Have you heard about how it’s unsafe to eat tomato products from a can? Something about BPA and fruit acid? I use plenty o’ canned tomato products in my cooking, so it’s something to think about. Lay it on me, are YOU worried about this issue?

The Performer’s Medical Dictionary

11 Apr

Doubtless, you have heard the adage that one must suffer for his art. But not until now did you know just how much. In honor of the opening weekend of my show, I’m presenting this brief glossary of pain and injuries particular to the theatrically inclined.

Acute Bonkititus – Any injury resulting from hitting or being hit by something, including but not limited to set pieces, flying costumes, and fellow actors.

Backne (backstage acne) – Breakouts, common during closing week, caused by successive weeks of cake makeup soaking in to the pores. See red rim.

Character blisters – open welts or sores caused by dancing or costume shoes that are new, not the correct size, or are not properly closed; so named because they give you character, or at least something to complain about which amounts to the same thing.

Express Manicure – tearing, chipping, or loosing a nail, usually below the quick, during any production-related exertion.

Green Gall – difficult to cure due to its nearly unlimited sources, G.G. is a spark of envy for a castmate’s possession or circumstances. Possible causes include: hair that curls/straightens easier, the “fun” line, a better costume, or of course, the best solo.

Lift Bruise – spots of painful discoloration on the torso, often on or about the hips, as a direct result of practicing dance lifts repetitively.

Mic Tape Rash – raw, red patches, usually located on the face about the hairline, resulting from the hurried removal of microphone tape or wig glue.

Mystery Ache – Often first noticed while sleeping, a muscle or muscle group that hurts when moved. The origin of the pain is generally not discovered until the move is repeated in rehearsal, hence the name.

Out-of-body Odor – a funk originating from garments, shoes, or hairpieces that have gone unwashed for several weekends, usually because their fragility makes cleaning them regularly cost-prohibitive, or because the wearer is too afraid of forgetting to bring them back to take them to be washed.

Owl Bags – a condition resulting from staying up and out later at night than is accustomed, characterized by red eyes, purple bags, sallow skin, and parched mouth. May also be accompanied by slow thinking and a zombie-esque shuffle.

Pin Poke –  a sharp prick wound as a result of wearing costumes that are in various states of completion and/or held together with pins. May also occur during quick changes.

Red Rim – a red or bright pink line, sometimes tender or painful, around the eye brought on by the nightly application and removal of eye makeup, especially false eyelashes. Redness occasionally extends into the eye itself, often causing it to be mistaken for Owl Bags.

Shirker Syndrome – reduced productivity during the day at work or school, as a result of depleted energy stores. Increases with proximity to opening night, usually culminating on Wednesday of tech week.

P.S. Come see Jekyll & Hyde if you’re in the Atlanta area! You won’t be sorry!

Easy Slow Cooker Recipe #2: Pork Tacos

9 Apr

Recipe:

1 pork loin

1 cup of salsa

½  cup of brown sugar

Cook on high 4-5 hours, shred. Serve on taco or tortilla shells with your choice of toppings.

My adaptations:

I made this recipe once before, and based on that experience, I decided to cut the brown sugar. Sweet tacos? I don’t know, to me it was weird. I also didn’t bother measuring the salsa—I just dumped in an entire container of the Kroger fresh salsa (found near the cheese), which we love and eat all the time. But the biggest change was unintentional: P brought home pork loin chops instead of a pork loin. But since I like to award A’s for effort (and I didn’t have the time), I decided to make due rather than exchange them.  Big mistake.

Level of Ease:

1

Level of tastiness:

5 / 1

(explanation of scoring here)

Kitchen Notes:

I go straight from the first recipe I tried to the latest—this was dinner last Saturday night. Right now you’re thinking, 5 and 1? What in the world? And I am saying to you that what followed the making of this dinner was the biggest drama since the lasagna pie fiasco of 2012. As indicated, this was brain-numbingly easy. I threw the whole thing into the big slow cooker because the smaller one is currently housing leftover Easter candy. I set it and forgot it. I took T to the park and when we returned for dinnertime, the house smelled wonderful. I gave the pot a little stir and removed the bones (you’ll remember this was chops). I’ve made a few successful slow cooker recipes with bone-in meat before, and this was even better than most. The bones fell right off clean as a whistle, the meat was so tender. Awesome!

We put it in tortilla shells with shredded cheddar and it was delicious; even Baby T who is currently enjoying a picky phase was chowing down. All of a sudden, P freezes mid-bite. Then he emits this loud, caveman-like, guttural shout and runs to the trash can and starts heaving and gagging. “OHMYGOD, WHAT’S WRONG?!?!” I screeched, frantically turning this way and that trying to remember where I left my phone, since it was clear I needed to be dialing 9-1-1. (T meanwhile, is still sitting in the chair, with a look on his face that could only be translated as, ah yes, another day at the Young household). “It’s a BONE! IT STABBED ME IN THE MOUTH!” P shouted, from his crouch on the kitchen floor. I opened his tacos and fingered through the meat (this was no time to be not-gross), and sure enough, I found one or two more small, but not microscopic, bone slivers hidden among the shreds. I’ll spare you the details of the ensuing argument; I believe it’s commonly referred to as The Blame Game. Even though a thorough inspection revealed T’s half-eaten taco to be clean, as was mine, we decided it was really a nice night for a dinner of frozen yogurt.

So that’s how we ended up at SwirlyTwirl eating chocolate-almond-gummy bear yogurt twenty minutes before bedtime, and this recipe gets a 5 / 1.

I definitely recommend this recipe, with my adaptations, and the small but very significant recommendation that you use BONELESS meat.

Beauty Myths Busted

8 Apr

And now, back to your regularly scheduled superficiality. (You know, it’s really funny….I actually spend quite a bit of the day thinking serious, deep thoughts…but I rarely feel like talking or writing about them. This was recently brought to my stark attention when my dad commented that I’m very practical–not philosophical and thoughtful like my brother is. Wow! Never, ever thought of myself as practical before. It really goes to show the disparity between the way you come across to others and how you perceive yourself is gaping, especially if you are an introvert). 

Anyway, this actually is important. Sit down.

Someone’s been spreading lies again. There’s something about spring that makes everyone feel the need to re-beautify: perhaps it’s swimsuit season looming, or maybe we’re all just twitterpated. Whatever the reason (or the season’s trend), these perennial myths crop up every year like a bunch onion grass. Let’s root them out once and for all.

Men love a red lip

In an unofficial and unscientific survey, I discovered that it’s women, not men, who are attracted to bright lips. Dudes do like a little color on the smackers, but wearing anything “too bright is too much” in the eloquent words of my own dude. No guy wants to look like he was just attacked by the kissing wenches at the Renaissance Festival (unless he’s actually at the Renaissance Festival).

Cute and terrifying at the same time. source

Horizontal stripes make you look fat

Depends on how thick and where they are, but the vast majority of horizontally stripped garments are actually flattering (nautical stripes are my particular fave). And contrary to what the fashion mags want you to think, you do not need any instructions on “how to wear” them. (check out this stunner!). The most precarious place to wear stripes is the hips (on the other hand, if you could use some help in that area, go for it).

Do these stripes make my butt look big?

Do these stripes make my butt look big?

In related news, vertical stripes are still slimming, but let’s all agree to set a limit. I saw an outfit in this month’s Marie Claire that would only have been cute on a backup dancer in the video for a hip-hop cover of Jailhouse Rock.

Redheads can’t wear red (or pink, or coral)

I think Miss Jessica Chastain at the SAG awards this year finally busted this one once and for all with the pointy heel of her Charlotte Olympia pumps  (if Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge didn’t already do the job)—and that was right after JC got panned for wearing aqua to the Golden Globes, a color redheads are “supposed” to wear. And yes, this applies to red lipstick too, although…see item #1.

I’m basically pretending to be her for my role in Jekyll & Hyde. source

I mean, we're basically twins, right? LOL

I mean, we’re pretty much twins, right? LOL

No white (shoes or otherwise) from Labor Day to Memorial Day

I’ll be sitting here thinking that this one has finally begun to sink in, but then I head to the stores and everything’s gray, brown, and mustard. I think the problem is not that white doesn’t go with cooler temperatures, but that white isn’t associated with heavier fabrics.  White cotton and linen is classic, but let’s think outside the box, retailers. And no, faux fur is not the only way to wear white in the winter. I personally love the look of white denim year round.

orginally pinned by Blair Eadie // Atlantic Pacific

orginally pinned by Blair Eadie // Atlantic Pacific

Wash your hair every day

Even hairdressers agree—unless you have a super oily scalp, daily washing will really dry your hair and skin, not to mention the hot water you’re probably using to do it. And if your hair color has even a little – ahem – enhancement, it will strip out much faster. So at least every other morning, stick to the military-style shower: ‘pits and privates. (Lazy folks: rejoice!)

Shave only in one direction

Speaking of ‘pits and privates…not to get too graphic here, but hair grows willy-nilly almost everywhere on your body (excluding the legs below the knees for whatever reason). So if you want a really clean shave, you can’t just shave up. I bet many ladies and gents have figured this out on their own, but some people may still be holding out out of fear of ingrown hairs. Actually, shaving the same spot over and over is what increases the chance of ingrowns, which probably what you’ll end up doing if you stick to the same direction.

Slimming body wrap – no such thing

I saw a Groupon for these this week, and like 75 poor suckers souls had bought it. All these things do is suck the water out of your cells—temporarily. Basically just long enough to get you addicted to the short term results so you’ll buy the subscription package. The only people I’ve heard of who have seen lasting results are people on diet and exercise regimes, and—just a wager here—that might be more due to the diet and exercise. Having to fit into a tiny dress tomorrow might be the only exception, but I was pretty desperate and even I didn’t do that.

What beauty myths would you like to expose?

There are quite a few at ease with moral ambiguities

4 Apr

I wrote this post several months ago and forgot to publish it. It’s been a while since we talked about something more serious than lip color and food, so I say, what the heck. Enjoy!

Yesterday at the last minute, I was offered a chance to do a market research study. It was a taste test, and since it would only take 15 minutes and paid $25, I jumped at the chance.

Have you ever done a research study? They ask you all these questions to see if you qualify. The qualifications are set by whatever company makes the product, and the research firm simply finds people that fit. For this particular test, they were looking for folks under 30 who drank MagicX*. When I got to the office, we had to complete a chart asking how much of each kind of MagicX we drank per month. I brought it up to the moderator and she looked it over.

“You have to drink Magnum MagicX at least three times a week to qualify for this study.”

“..What?” Me.

“This column. You put that you only drink it once every three months.” She clicked her pen tip towards my carefully circled answer. It was already sort of a stretch—I’d definitely had MagicX before—but that was about it.

“Oh…” I trailed off, waiting for her to tell me I couldn’t participate.

“Yeah.” She said. “So just scribble through it and circle one of these three at the top.”

I did so and proceeded with the taste test, not really thinking much about anything except whether it’d be $25 cash or check, and whether I’d still have enough time in my break period to eat a real, non-liquid lunch. Then I looked around at my fellow taste testers (none of whom looked a day younger than 40) and thought about white lies.

It did seem ridiculous that you’d need to drink MagicX every day (or be under 30, for that matter) to do what we did—which was decipher which of three samples was different from the rest. But that didn’t change the fact that those are the parameters set by the company. This research firm was hired by that company to carry out those parameters. I looked at a framed certificate recognizing this as one of the top 10 most trusted marketing research firms in the country as the moderator handed over my check.

In the BT (before Tennyson) era, I wouldn’t have thought much of these little smudges of truth, this squeezing of square pegs people into round holes. After all it worked out for everybody: the firm makes its quota of people per study (without which they don’t get paid), the company gets its research results, and I get some new lipsticks.  But I’m raising a little human now. And although at 18 months he’s a bit young for honesty lessons, I have to think about what kind of human I want him to be, and how to make that happen. If I were telling him this little story, how would I explain it?

How would I tell him that when I had trouble telling the difference between the last three cups, I considered just circling one at random so I could get out of there in time to eat lunch? Could I honestly tell him that it didn’t really matter, when I know that MagicX is counting on the results of studies like these to make a better product? Could I tell him that advertising is based on lies anyway, so it was OK to fudge in that department? Because if I did, would he then conclude that his personal integrity was dependent on the integrity of others (if they are not honest, then why should I be)? Why is it OK for me to say I drink MagicX when I don’t, but it would not be OK for T to say he did his homework when he didn’t?  I don’t know. That’s why so many parents (am I going out on a limb if I say most?) wouldn’t tell this story to their children at all.

Maybe it’s better to be open. There are many shades of truth, and if we’re being totally frank, it’s easy to stretch and trim them to fit your own personal needs. Learning to do it is a skill—one that no parent teaches, yet we all somehow learn.

But when does a white lie become a black one? At what point are our little self-justifications beyond the pale (Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky…they must have taken Borax to their consciences nightly to keep them clear.)? At what point do you start questioning the authority figures who encourage you to do something wrong? When the moderator made it seem like it was nothing to change my answer to satisfy our purposes, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But what if T one day tells me he’s going to the library when really he’s going somewhere dangerous, because a cool kid said it would be fun? You may think that’s a big leap, but the essence is the same—we are rewarded by an authority figure for ethical dubiousness. The only difference is the stakes: in the former, nothing serious; in the later, safety and maybe even life. One might argue that adults can make the distinction while children can’t. But is that really true? The Holocaust happened.

It’s a slippery slope; someone else’s encouragement and conviction makes it easier to assure ourselves it’s OK. And Cherry Tree Fables aside, the  fact is that certain kinds of untruths are sometimes acceptable or even essential. I may not be able to instruct baby T in so many words how to tell the difference, but maybe, if I’m honest with him–If I tell him I don’t know the answers to these questions, but that they’re worth asking anyway–I can give him cleats for the slope.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Easy Slow Cooker Recipe #1: Honey Chicken

1 Apr

 

Recipe

1 package of BSCB (boneless skinless chicken breasts)

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 c soy sauce

1/2 c ketchup

1/2 c honey

pinch of basil

salt & pepper to taste

Cut chicken breasts in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in bottom of crock pot. Mix garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, honey and basil in a bowl and stir. Add mixture to crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Remove chicken from crock pot and transfer to covered plate to keep warm. Let sauce stand to thicken. Serve with rice and broccoli.

My adaptations:

Chopping garlic? HA. I used the minced garlic that comes in a jar (1/2 tsp = 1 clove). I also subbed chicken strip-tendery looking things for whole breasts cut in half, because I’m lazy that’s what I happened to have on hand. I also cooked the chicken from frozen, and added just a touch more time. I used lower sodium soy sauce and ix-nayed the salt altogether.  I didn’t let it stand or remove the chicken or any of that nonsense and as far as I could tell, it didn’t make a difference.

Level of Ease:

2

Level of Tastiness:

3

(Explanation of scoring)

Thoughts:

I picked this as my first recipe because I had just enough honey to make it, and I didn’t want anybody (probably me) to accidentally use it in their tea first. I used the smaller, vertical cooker for this recipe, for no reason other than I hadn’t taken the new one out of the box yet. It smelled delicious putting it together, and putting in the chicken frozen made it especially easy. I can’t give it a one for ease though, due to the necessity of using (and washing) measuring cups. But when we ate it (served over brown rice) it was just OK. But due to its ease and the fact that we usually have all those ingredients on hand, I will likely make it again. I might try knocking the soy sauce back a notch.