Homemade Pomodoro

The last time I tried to make my own spaghetti sauce it ended in disaster. The whole apartment smelled like warm tomato juice, and not in a good way. I have two tips for you if your cooking experience consists of assembling cooked pasta with a can of store-bought sauce. First, don’t cook hungry. I’m almost positive the reason why my first sauce didn’t work out was because I was already hungry, cranky, and impatient. Today we had a late lunch, and at 6pm neither of us were hungry. But I was bored, so I thought why not tackle another pasta sauce. When I was done making the meal, Drew commented that he still wasn’t that hungry yet. Ten minutes later, both of us had finished our bowls.

My second tip is that you should do basic research on the components of your recipe and find out why certain ingredients are included, if they aren’t already explained in your cookbook. I made a variation of the “Spaghetti with Salsa di Pomodoro” recipe from my Williams-Sonoma Italian cookbook. The onions and carrots add a sweet flavor to the sauce that balances out the acidity of the main ingredient, which is tomatoes. I made some changes and added fresh garlic just because I had some. I also ignored the snooty suggestions from my cookbook, like only “use vine-ripened plum tomatoes in summer and the best-quality canned tomatoes, such as Italy’s superb San Marzano variety, the rest of the year.” I literally used the cheapest version of these ingredients that exist at your average grocery store, and it still tasted delicious. I can only imagine how it would taste with all the best ingredients.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings, I cut it in half for 2)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

2lb (1 large can) Roma tomatoes, chopped

Salt & Pepper (sea salt if you’re fancy)

Fresh basil leaves, shredded (I just used dried basil leaves from my spice rack)

Grated Parmigiano cheese

1lb spaghetti (I used angel hair)

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large frying pan, add chopped carrots, onion, and garlic and stir frequently until carrots are tender. 10-15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook on high until the sauce bubbles. Then reduce to low and simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers on low, boil water with a few dashes of salt and then cook the pasta until al dente. Once the pasta is done (you can always use my favorite test–throw a noodle against the wall and see if it sticks), if the sauce looks too thick for you, drain most of the water from the pot but leave a little bit left with the pasta. Pour pasta and leftover water (if necessary) into the sauce and toss in the pan, heat on low. Add the basil and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

Toss again, then remove from heat and add 1/2 cup cheese. Then serve immediately. You can also put more cheese and basil on top of the pasta in the bowl if you want it to look pretty for serving to guests.

Fake Posts on Tumblr & Pinterest, and also a short rant.

Lately, one of my biggest pet peeves has been inaccurate posts on Pinterest and Tumblr. Lots of posts usually feature some sort of jpg image of text in front of a photo or design background. The text can be anything from an item to add to your bucket list on Pinterest to a shocking statistic about a universal issue. But occasionally, because the people who make these posts are your average blogger, fake photos and misquotes get passed on as fact without question. This is a problem. The copy editor in me means I usually make a point to fact check anything remotely controversial that I re-post, not just for my reputation as a journalist but to stop the never ending progression of bad information.

It occurred to me that this is a prime example of why we will always need journalists. Seriously I will freak out if one more old person tells me “oh no, all the newspapers are going out of business, what are you going to do!?” Maybe if you didn’t get all your “news” from Fox, CNN, and Dateline you would realize the constant flow of information that is the internet. There will always be a demand for fact-checked information and quality reporting. The difference is the platform, which has resulted in the transition period we are going through right now. Also, don’t even get me started about CNN’s “iReport.”

Stephen Colbert Mocks CNN iReporters

Anyway, what bothers me about these inaccurate posts I run across on the internet is the fact that everyone seems to take them at face value. People re-post random things that may not be true without even questioning where it came from or how accurate it is. Now, I’m not saying that sites like Tumblr & Pinterest are anything like news outlets or that they should always be taken seriously. But at the same time, all these facts and random ideas that we constantly re-post do have an effect on our thoughts and perception of facts and truth of information.

My first example: the Martin Luther King Jr. misquote that went viral after Osama Bin Laden was killed. This one is a little different than usual just because it spread so widely about a controversial subject that it was covered by larger news outlets (ahem, once again the need for larger news outlets with trusted information). What made this misquote hard to detect at first was because the second half is correct, but the first sentence, of course the most relevant in light of Osama’s death, is not. It all started with one innocent Facebook status that was misinterpreted.

Jessica Dovey: I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.

Next up, yet another Gandhi quote. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” I will admit that I could not find any definitive answer as to whether or not this quote is accurate. It is listed on some quotes websites, but disputed on many blogs, Wikipedia, and news sources. Some critique the quote because it creates an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy with the phrase “your Christians,” which was supposedly very unlike Gandhi. So I say, if you can’t prove it correct, then it’s out. There is evidence that this quote was actually misappropriated out of the following quote: “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians–you are not like him.” —Bara Dada. What bothers me about this quote is how it is often used as a way for people to support their disapproval of Christians. Christians are never going to be like Christ because they are human, not God. No matter how hard we try, we will never live up to Christ, which is why we need God’s salvation. This quote actually emphasizes how different Christ was from the average person, which in a way supports the idea that he is in fact the son of God. Another widely disputed Gandhi quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The best way to figure out if a quote is suspect is to think about the time period that person lived in, and also the nature of the quote. If it sounds too concise, too bumper-sticker-y, then it’s probably been completely reworded to modern standards and possibly convoluted in the process.

Another thing that bothers me on Pinterest & Tumblr–blatant grammar and spelling errors. Maybe this is nit-picky and stuck up of me, but I can’t help it. No, it’s not the word “funnier” that’s wrong. Aloud, really, REALLY? At first I thought this was maybe on purpose, considering the subject matter, but I’m not so sure. If you didn’t get it by now, “aloud” should be “allowed.”

Here’s the next one that has been circling the Tumblr-verse. “At the age of 16, 80% of people have met the person they are going to marry.” First of all, the original source for this post on Tumblr is a sketchy “psychological facts” tumblr that really shouldn’t be calling what it posts “facts.” Second of all, the only other places I could find on the internet about a statistic relating to this always cited it back to a random tumblr site. And lastly, this stat may have been true a long time ago when people rarely traveled far away and got married at a younger age. Nowadays, people can move farther away from home and get married at a later age. If you ask anyone who has graduated high school in the past 20 years, it’s definitely the minority of people who end up marrying someone they knew in high school, and I think it’s safe to say high school peers make up the majority of people the average 16-year-old knows.

Okay last one, I promise. The other day I repinned a photo on Pinterest of this crazy castle on a rock, thinking it looked cool. I briefly glanced at the caption that said, “Dublin, Ireland.” Then my friend Allie, who recently studied abroad in Ireland, pointed out that this photo is definitely not in Ireland.

This made me think about the photo a little harder. Maybe I’m just not that observant and most people initially assumed that this is a fictitious structure, but the caption on Pinterest seemed to indicate that it was a real place. I’m not a Photoshop expert, but the likelihood of something like this existing within the rules of physics seems pretty slim. I couldn’t find the source of the photo, but I did find what I think is the source of the “Ireland” confusion that probably started the notion that this place exists in real life. A tumblr user posted the photo, and her small bio includes where she is from, Dublin, Ireland.

We are all guilty of this, including me. But maybe we should be more careful about the information we are passing on, or the inaccuracies we inadvertently spread, on social media sites. While you may take the harmless photos and facts you see with a grain of salt, as you should, not every person you pass it on to will.

Twelve Days of Christmas Movies

It’s time for a post about Christmas movies. Scrooges out there, I am fully aware that it’s not December yet. But I waited until Thanksgiving is officially over, and I think

I’ve been patient enough. Bring on the Bing Crosby, gingerbread cookies, and pretending the heater vent is a crackling fire.

Here’s my list of the top twelve Christmas movies, not necessarily in order or ranked, that are the most festive without being annoying or overdone. (Cue “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”)

1. Christmas Vacation (1989)

A Christmas classic. The season wouldn’t be the same without Audrey’s frozen eyes, Clark’s lights fiasco, and of course cousin Eddie. Not to mention the fact that Elaine from Seinfeld even makes a debut as a stuck up neighbor.

p.s. it’s crazy how old Chevy Chase looks now. Anyone else watch Community?

2. Love Actually (2003)

Nothing says Christmas like British accents and a movie where the quiet boy gets the girl. The wanna-be American versions that keep coming out, like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, will never have the same charm.

3. Elf (2003)

A classic comedy from Will Ferrell’s good days. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” And who doesn’t love Zooey Deschanel.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (original)

The original cartoon version of course. No offense to Jim Carrey, but he’s just not scary enough. Also, Cindy Lou Who, aka Taylor Momsen, not the best role model anymore with those raccoon eyes! Maybe the kids of the 2000s will think otherwise, but the kids of the 90s won’t turn our backs on the original 1966 Dr. Seuss Grinch.

5. The Holiday (2006)

I know there’s a lot of Cameron Diaz haters out there, but this is one of those movies where her unchanging pretty-successful-flustered character no matter what movie is perfect. Also, who can turn down Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and Jude Law? I watch this movie and dream of a cozy cottage in England while Drew dreams of the nice house in LA. It’s only been 5 years since this came out and already this rental store scene dates it:

6. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

This is one of those movies that can still be watched year round (and should be) but still has enough Christmas to make it festive. It revolves around her progress each year after her resolutions and of course her parent’s Christmas party. Bridget’s sad existence is hilarious, and her self-pitying activities are pretty relatable. And, two words: Colin Firth.

7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Pretty much any Harry Potter movie will do, but I chose this one because of the Yule Ball and of course the Weird Sisters rock out scene. This time, it’s three unforgettable words: “Happy Christmas, Harry.” I would upload a clip but all of them have been deleted for copyright infringement, and all that’s left are super cheesy/hilarious fan vids.

8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

A classic Leo movie, especially if you are craving some Leo after watching Kate in The Holiday, and are holding out from watching the Titanic until it comes out in theaters again in April like me. This one makes the Christmas list because of the annual phone call Frank makes to Carl. I also love this movie because of how lonely you feel just like Frank and Carl who spend their lives at work or running away, which emphasizes the importance of family and friends during Christmastime.

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol (original)

Although I wouldn’t mind watching the new one in theaters this year, nothing beats the Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992. Maybe this is just another 90s kid thing, but the Christmas spirit brings me back to my childhood. And it should bring you back to yours too, even if it wasn’t the best childhood. Who doesn’t want to feel the mysticism, wonder, and unquestioning joy that revolved around Santa and the Christmas spirit like you did when you were a kid?

Side note: The Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t on Netflix, even though if you google it, it shows up under the Netflix link, but it’s nowhere to be found when you actually go to the website. Yet another Netflix letdown.

10. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

I’m sure many of you have a different favorite Disney movie for the holidays. But for some reason, one of my favorites growing up was the Lady and the Tramp. Nothing says Christmas like a puppy in a box with ribbon! Those Siamese cats are pretty scary, but I will always love Lady and the Tramp.

11. Die Hard (1988)

This one’s for Brian Jarchow. I watched this for the first time a couple weeks ago. Granted, it’s not the most Christmasy movie around. Apparently he watches it before bed EVERY Christmas Eve. This one is for the guys out there who need an action movie that just happens to revolve around Christmastime to break up the succession of romcom, cartoon, and comedy Christmas movies.

12. Seinfeld “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode

I decided to include an iconic Christmas TV episode on here. Nothing else on TV comes close to the hilarity of Seinfeld’s Festivus episode. Time to air your grievances and make this a holiday season to remember.

I do not own the rights to any of these video clips. This blog is for creative purposes only and not for monetary gain, and I do not condone the illegal download of movies or videos. Help save the internet & fight against the Protect IP/SOPA Act recently introduced in the Senate. If this bill, or the new House bill that was just introduced, is passed, it would mean my blog and many others would be censored by the government for copyright infringement just for one post like this. If anything, posts like this provide free advertisement for the films. The companies behind Protect IP or SOPA are using the context that it will protect jobs, but if passed it threatens websites we love like YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook, and leaves the average person even more susceptible to crippling lawsuits just for uploading something online that has a song in the background. To learn more, go to www.americancensorship.org.

True Life: I’m Still Trying To Be A Runner

Here's a super grainy photobooth picture of me pre-run.

It’s been a month or so since I first posted about my new running endeavor. The truth is I haven’t had much progress. My endurance is still pretty limited. I have to run a few minutes on and then a few walking to recover, with some inhaler puffs mixed in. But I have noticed an improvement in my circulation and cardiovascular ability to keep going. Now the only thing that’s stopping me from running longer distances (and by longer distances, I mean more than one mile…ha) is my breathing. My heart rate seems more steady while I’m running, and it’s a great feeling. Now only if my lungs would catch up! I know my first mistake is expecting results too quickly. It will take more time to get used to it. My goal is to reach a point where my body craves and needs exercise out of habit.

I haven’t gone on too many runs with Drew–it’s a little discouraging when his breathing pattern while running a mile is literally the same as if he was sitting on the couch or taking a leisurely stroll. Speaking of Drew, he has set his sights on another ambitious goal, climbing Mt. Hood this spring. As far as mountains go, Mt. Hood is supposed to be a good one for beginners. The climb starts at midnight, and they hike through the night when the ice and snow is more frozen and secure, and then reach the peak at sunrise. The second Drew suggested doing this, I had visions of us taking an epic picture at the top together with the amazing view.

Reality check: someone who’s 4 foot 11 and 90 pounds with asthma probably isn’t going to do well trying to climb high altitudes at freezing temperatures. I guess I’ll just have to wait for Drew at slightly above sea level worrying about disastrous avalanches and icy cliffs. Feel free to join my pity party.

Anyway, back to running. I haven’t been as consistent as I wanted to be. Sometimes I only run once a week, other times I go three times a week. I refuse to run on a treadmill, and the rain isn’t helping. But maybe I’ll just embrace the rain.

Why You Should Stop Hating on Coldplay

I’ve never understood why many people always have this vendetta against Coldplay. Of all the ridiculous and horrible music that’s out there today on the radio, Coldplay is the one that deserves so much criticism?

Coldplay's fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto, October 2011.

My defense for Coldplay is a result of this article by Claire Suddath from Time Magazine, “Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto: Do I hate Coldplay or Just Think I Do?” First she starts off by saying she didn’t like one of Coldplay’s first hits, “Yellow,” because it was “too sweet, too comforting.” Then a few paragraphs later her first complaint: “Chris Martin appears to have written every lyric while weeping hysterically.” Apparently weeping hysterically while writing lyrics creates something that is also sweet and comforting.

Yes, their single is called “Every Teardrop is A Waterfall,” but that’s a broad generalization for the rest of the album. She also mentions listening to the album in “Coldplay-friendly situations,” which is apparently wherever anyone wants to be a loner. I’m a pretty positive person, and I consider Coldplay to have a good mix of upbeat melodies and slower serious songs. I don’t listen to it because I want to feel lonely and emo–I listen to it when I want to feel inspired.

Another complaint from the review: Their songs are designed to be sung in unison by thousands of people holding lighters. Who doesn’t love a good lighter-waving concert? First people complain about Coldplay being too depressing and “weepy,” but last time I checked “lighter-waving” (or phone-holding) concerts were pretty uplifting and entertaining. That’s fine if you don’t always want serious music, but one band can’t and shouldn’t try to be everything. I appreciate the fact that I can always count on Coldplay to have a sense of continuity in their music throughout all their albums, while bringing something a little different each time.

What’s wrong with people today? When did inspiring poetry about the human condition become not good enough? Maybe we should spend less time tearing down musicians who are dedicated to their art, and spend more time criticizing the ones who glorify money, sex, and cough syrup.

Viva La Vida album cover, December 2010.

My top 10 Coldplay songs:

1. “Fix You”- X &Y

2. “Green Eyes”- A Rush of Blood to the Head

3. “Lost?” – Viva La Vida, bonus track

4. “Paradise” – Mylo Xyloto

5. “Us Against the World” – Mylo Xyloto

6. “Life in Technicolor ii” – Viva La Vida (Prospekt’s March)

7. “The Scientist” – A Rush of Blood to the Head

8. “Strawberry Swing” – Viva La Vida

9. “Daylight” – A Rush of Blood to the Head

10. “Warning Sign” – A Rush of Blood to the Head

Fix You

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Green Eyes

Honey you are a rock
Upon which I stand
And I come here to talk
I hope you understand

That green eyes, yeah the spotlight, shines upon you
And how could, anybody, deny you

I came here with a load
And it feels so much lighter, now I’ve met you
And honey you should know, that I could never go on without you

Green eyes

Honey you are the sea
Upon which I float
And I came here to talk
I think you should know

That green eyes, you’re the one that I wanted to find
And anyone who, tried to deny you must be out of their mind

The Bon Rouge Lounge & Bistro

For our honeymoon, Drew and I went to Victoria, B.C. It was amazing weather and I had never been to Canada before. On our last night we went to this French restaurant across the street from our hotel called the Bon Rouge Lounge. Of course Drew was slightly afraid of the cuisine this French restaurant might offer, but I was drawn to the restaurant because it had the most beautiful flowers and patio gardening I had ever seen. Even though it was the beginning of September, all the flowers still looked magnificent.

We sat inside because it was a bit chilly, but we were still next to the window for me to admire the foliage and the sunset from indoors. The waitress told us the gardener comes four times a week to keep it up. Luck was already on our side as we discovered that it was “Wine Wednesday” and any glass of wine on the menu was $5. In an attempt to enjoy the local fare we got the Sandhill BC Merlot, and it was divine. But the best part was our starter, the charcuterie plate with proscuitto, soppresatta, chorizo, cheese, pickles, and mustard. The mustard was actually mustard seeds–they were delicious! And I usually don’t like mustard.

The charcuterie plate was my favorite part about this restaurant because it brings me back to the trip to Europe with my dad in 2007, and I loved all the sliced meats and cheeses that seemed to be a regular part of meals at Italian restaurants. My appreciation for wine, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as developed at that point. All in all, the Bon Rouge Lounge was a relaxing break from the endless sea of British pubs that line the streets of Victoria. The modern French interior combined with the romantic floral setting on the patio set this restaurant apart and made us wish there was one like it back in Portland.

(Note, these were taken on my iPhone so they may not do this place justice!)

Inside of the restaurant

The charcuterie plate

Garden and patio view from inside

My crab salad, quite different from the usual Newport Bay crab salad!

True Life: I want to be a runner

Earlier this week I decided that I want to become a runner. I’ve always been terrified of running, and I’ve never even run a full mile in my entire life. The first time I attempted (ahem, was forced…) was one year during high school cheer camp training, and I ended up having to walk half the time. I’ve just always been better at physical technique and dance types of exercise.

Not that I’m about to make excuses, but having asthma doesn’t make things any easier. The last time I tried to run was a couple years ago in my parent’s neighborhood. A huge mistake, considering we live on a giant hill and it was the height of allergy season. It’s so frustrating when I feel like my muscles can do more but my lungs just can’t support it.

Yesterday, I went on the first run of my new endeavor. With my inhaler in hand, I was ready to go. Of course my husband Drew, who has run the Portland marathon, Eugene half-marathon and a few 5k’s here and there (nbd), decided to come with me. This may be a good thing because I need someone to force me to do things like this, otherwise I will just take a nap instead.

I read on http://www.runnersworld.com (at Drew’s insistence, he doesn’t take running advice from anywhere else, apparently) that beginners and people who have asthma should alternate between a few minutes of running, and then like 1-2 minutes of walking to recover your breathing. All in all, the first run was fairly successful. It wasn’t too cold out so that helped my breathing. Drew says we probably went a little under a mile (I know he was attempting to hold back the laughter at this point). He literally didn’t break a sweat, and he hasn’t even run at all for a few weeks either. Maybe one day I will get to that point! Stay tuned.