Road To . . .

Have you ever heard of the "Road" series of movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby?  My mom is quite the fan of Old Hollywood black and white movies, so I watched a lot of these growing up.  Road To Morocco was always my favorite.  It's a mix of comedy, adventure, and satire and a bit of a spoof on the "Arabian Nights" genre of movies.  Every time I travel, I think of the opening sequence with Hope and Crosby riding camels singing, "We're off on the road to Morocco..." 

All of this is totally off topic and just intended to tell you that today I'm off on the road to Texas.  Nothing like Morocco, but a foreign land in its own right.  I'll be visiting my family for New Year's and may or may not have time to post very often.  I've been writing - and hopefully you've been reading - this blog for almost a year now.  It's been fabulously fun so ... thank you!  I'm looking forward to whatever mega-mushrooms 2011 may bring.  Happy New Year!!! 


Playing Hooky

I'm working remotely today, which means I'm having a hard time staying focused.  I thought I'd share with you some sweet little images from Christmas weekend.



Friday Foto - La Vigilia di Natale

Translation: Christmas Eve

I know it's more than one word but I didn't think you'd mind.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!  BUON NATALE!!!



Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. It's Christmas Eve eve!!!
2. Christmas used to be the one day of the year I was excited to wake up early. 
3. Now, I'm excited to sleep in.
4. I think some cookie decorating is in order for tomorrow.
5. Can't wait for The Boyfriend's family tradition of Christmas Eve crab cioppino... yum!



The Fighter

The Boyfriend and I have been so busy the last few months that we rarely see movies in the theater, much less the weekend they open.  This past weekend, we decided to treat ourselves.  So many good movies are out right now we had a tough time deciding, but ultimately we went with The Fighter.

The Fighter is based on a true story about two boxer brothers from Boston.  Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg play the brothers, Dicky and Micky.  Bale as Dicky is one of the more impressive bits of acting I've seen in a while.  Dicky is basically a washed up boxer.  He found success early in his career and then found the crack pipe.  Bale has been rumored to be quite the method actor so I wouldn't be surprised if he actually became a crackhead in order to properly portray Dicky.  He was just that great.  Dicky is the kind of guy that you feel sorry for but hate all at the same time.  He shirks responsibility, uses his family, abuses the system but still has a good heart.  You can't help but root for him, no matter how much you hate him.

Wahlberg as Micky is equally impressive.  Usually Wahlberg is the bad-ass cop/detective/gangster/thug/etc.  In The Fighter, however, he's kind of a sad sack.  At the beginning, he's more pathetic than sympathetic.  It's hard to understand why he doesn't just stand up for himself.  Slowly, as his family relationships begin to unravel, you see why.  Micky's struggle to find balance between his devotion to his family and his desire to succeed on his own represent an inner fight he must overcome before finding success in the ring.   

I'm not much of a boxing fan (actually, I'm not a boxing fan at all), but I was riveted by the fight scenes.  Knowing the story made me feel personally invested in the fights.  I wanted Micky to win for the same reasons I want my friends to succeed - not because he was the hero of the story but because I knew he would be heartbroken by a loss.

It's worth mentioning Amy Adams as Micky's college-dropout-turned-bartender girlfriend Charlene is pretty darn fantastic.  When the movie first started, The Boyfriend leaned over and asked "What is she from?"  All the movies I could think of -- Julie & Julia, Enchanted, Talladega Nights -- were not really in line with the trashy, assertive redhead on the screen in front of us.  Needless to say, she's definitely breaking away from her romantic comedy persona.

Overall this movie was right up there with some of my favorites of the year.  The story is a compelling drama all its own, but knowing it's based on a true story (and seeing the real Micky and Dicky at the end) elevated it to a beautiful story of overcoming incredible odds to find success.  The Fighter is the perfect mix of emotion, heart, and bloody punches to please any type of moviegoer.  I highly recommend it.


Doc Review, Shmoc Review

You may have noticed I missed a few posts last week.  That's because I was doing that thing most first year law associates dread... doc review.  We have over 200,000 pages' worth of documents to look over, and that's just the first batch.  (I can't tell you what they're about, else I'd have to kill you.)  For those of you unfamiliar with this miserable right of passage, basically two or three other associates and I sit in a conference room scrolling through docs on a laptop--coding and archiving--for about 10-12 hours a day.  Honestly, it's not nearly as bad as it sounds.  I like my coworkers.  In fact, I consider them friends.  So sitting in a room, hanging out, while doing a relatively stress-free assignment is kind of the perfect way to spend the last few days leading up to Christmas.  We even listened to Christmas music for a little while on Friday (it was the only genre we could all agree on).  The only downside is that I've been getting home around 9:30pm and I typically pass out by 11:00pm so ... not much blogging time!  Other than that, it's not a bad gig.  Guess it just goes to show that anything is bearable when you're in good company.


Eggnog Latte: The Wallet- and Waist-Friendly Version

It's no secret I love eggnog lattes.  Here's the thing though - a tall, nonfat eggnog latte has 350 calories!!  Not to mention, it costs around $4 at the Starbuck's near my office.  My wallet and waistline can't afford to splurge very often.  So, I figured out how to make one on my own and it's actually pretty darn good if I do say so myself!  I opted for light eggnog and fat free milk, so it's not quite as rich as the Starbuck's version.  You can change it up, of course, if you want it a bit richer.  It's worth noting that my version is only about 155 calories and a whole container of eggnog costs about as much as one latte from Starbucks!

Homemade Eggnog Latte 
Basically, it's a 2-to-1 ratio of eggnog to milk.  (This is why the "nonfat" at Starbuck's still has so many calories - they don't use nonfat eggnog so only the 1/3 portion of milk is low-cal.) 

What You Need:
Nonfat Milk
Light Eggnog

What To Do:
1.  Measure about 2/3 cup eggnog and combine it with 1/3 cup milk.
2.  Steam/warm the mixture the way you normally do for a latte.
3.  Add a shot of espresso and enjoy!  I also put a little sprinkle of cinnamon on top for added holiday flavor.



I'm hosting a Buy One Get One Free Sale in my etsy shop all through the month of December!  Pretty pictures make for great Christmas gifts! :)  Click here to browse my shop.


Take A Walk In The Country



Friday Foto - Cavallo

Translation: Horse



Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. I think I'm going to start counting how many mornings per week I discover people digging through our dumpster.
2. When I walk into the living room and see our Christmas tree, it never fails to make me smile.
3. Mmm... Eggnog latte...
4. This weekend might be a good time to make the first batch of holiday cookies.
5. Sixteen days till Christmas!!

(Apparently, Christmas is really on my mind today!)


How To: Make a Heart Bokeh Filter

I love DIYs.  I read blogs like Centsational Girl and wish on falling stars I could make goodies like that.  But, somehow, any project I attempt always ends up looking like it was done by a 5-year old.  Actually, it ends up looking like a 5-year old could have done it better!

I've heard of others making heart bokeh filters.  When I read one how-to I thought, "I can actually do that" but I worried it would still be a challenge.  Lucky for me, it's even easier than I thought.  If I can do it, you can definitely do it!

What You Need:
Black construction paper
A lens

1. Trace a circle the size of your lens onto a piece of black construction paper then cut out.  Leave little tabs on the edges so you can attach it later.
2. Cut a small heart (about 1/4 of an inch wide) out of the center.
3. Cut a 1/2-inch strip of construction paper and make a ring.  Attach the heart circle to the ring with the tape.
4. Slip onto your lens and shoot away!  Manual focus is much easier than automatic with this filter attached.  You may also need to compensate with your aperture for the darkness.  Also, be careful not to cut the strip in Step 2 too thick, otherwise you'll get a weird tunnel/vignetting thing in your photos (which can be cool sometimes, but mainly results in blurry too-dark shots).



Christmas Tree Love

I finally got around to making a homemade heart bokeh filter and checking one more item off my 30 Before 30 list..  It was much easier than you think - all you need is some construction paper, tape, and scissors.  Of course, what better "test subject" than a tree filled with lovely white lights!



Fall Foliage

I know it's December and half the country is covered in snow, but here in California it's still fall.



Friday Foto - Caramella

Translation: Mob boss's wife.  Just kidding!  It means "candy."



Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. Home.  Let me come home.  Home is wherever I'm with you.  This song has been stuck in my head all week, and I kinda love it.
2. Day Two of Advent means day two of a little chocolate with breakfast!
3. I wish I could still eat a bag of Cheetos and call it a meal, like I did when I was 8.
4. I hope San Antonio has some awesome fireworks this year.
5. Should I add a Diana or Holga to my Christmas list?


New Glasses

Hey guess what.  I got new glasses!  I don't have them yet - they'll be ready in 5-10 business days - but I'm excited nonetheless.  I've wanted new glasses since last December and, you may remember, Number 9 on my list of 30 Before 30 requires that I get "cool hipster glasses" sometime in the next 13 months and wear them out in public.  I figured, why wait another year?  I want them now!  I tried on many different frames today in a wide array of colors - hot pink, green, blue, multi-color, and even leopard print.  You'll have to wait till I actually have them to see what I chose but here are some of the options I was considering (sorry, can't find a photo of the leopard frames!):

Nine West Brown & Lime

Calvin Klein Tortoise Shell/Lime
(The ones I was considering were bright turquoise instead of lime)

Emilio Pucci
(Okay, I wasn't seriously considering these but they were fun to try!)

Armani - Classic black


Halfie, Decided

I know I toyed around with the idea a few months ago but I finally came to a decision.  I'm going to run the US Half Marathon in San Francisco on April 10, 2011.  That's almost one year to the day that I completed my goal of running a 10K.  I'm a little scared - 13.1 miles is WAY more intimidating to me than 6 miles.  Knowing my ineptitude for speed, this means I'll be running for approximately 2 hours straight.  A half marathon seems like much more serious and intense training.  If any of you are runners and have any suggestions or tips, please pass them along (Lord knows I need them!).  My training officially starts on January 18th (12 weeks before the race) but starting tomorrow I'm approaching my workouts with this goal in mind.  Don't worry, I'll update you along the way!

(Photo found through random Google search.  No, I didn't take it and no, it's definitely not me.  I wish.)


Thursday Morning Thoughts - Thankful

1. Thankful for my friends and family.
2. Thankful that I am loved and that I know how to love others.
3. Thankful that I never have to take another test again!
4. Thankful that our country loves food so much we have an entire holiday dedicated to eating, watching TV, and lounging with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


The Great Pumpkin Cheesecake

We all know my love of pumpkin but this recipe also satisfies my other great love - cheesecake.  If you're looking for a delicious way to update the traditional pumpkin pie this Thursday, I highly recommend this recipe!  (Beware, it's not light on calories!!)

What You Need:
For the crust
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling
1 and a half cups canned pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp bourbon (I only had Jack Daniel's whiskey and it worked out okay!)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 and a half tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
3 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, room temperature (I used the 1/3 less fat kind)

For topping
2 cups sour cream (about 20 oz. - again, I used the low fat kind, but not fat free b/c it's too watery)
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. bourbon (see whiskey note above)
A handful of pecan halves, for decoration

What To Do:
For the crust
1. Invert the bottom of a spring form pan (9 or 10 in. pan) and spray with Pam for Baking
2. If you haven't already made the graham cracker crumbs, place graham crackers in a food processor or blender and grind until pretty fine.
3. Stir together crumbs, chopped pecans (I put those in with the graham crackers to make the crumbs), and melted butter until combined.  Press mixture into the bottom of the pan and up about 1/2 inch on the sides.
4. Refrigerate for about an hour until firm.

For the filling:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon.
3. In a separate bowl, combine white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.  Add cream cheese and beat on high speed until creamy and smooth.  This could take about 3-4 minutes.  Reduce to medium or low speed and add in pumpkin mixture.
4. Pour filling into chilled crust, smooth the top, and place spring form pan on a baking sheet (just in case it leaks while baking).  Bake about an hour, until the center sets.  Cool for 5 minutes before adding topping.

For topping:
1. Whisk sour cream, sugar, and bourbon then spread on top of cheesecake and bake an additional five minutes.
2. If you want to decorate with pecan halves, let the topping cook a couple minutes to firm up.  Then arrange the pecans and place in the oven to bake for a few more minutes.

Note: Cool completely before removing from spring form pan (about 3 hours) and keep covered while cooling.  The top may crack but don't worry, it still tastes fantastic!  Also, after you bake it you can keep it chilled in the fridge and covered for up to 2 days before serving.  This definitely makes it easy to bake the night before and not worry about it on Thursday.


The News

As you may have read previously, today is the day our bar results came out.  Up until yesterday, I did a pretty good job of living in denial.  I stayed calm and refused to let myself get anxious.  That was until we had our associates' meeting at lunch yesterday.  Others started asking me if I was nervous at all.  "No, I'm surprisingly calm," I'd say.  And then, all of a sudden, ... I wasn't.  In the midst of discussing associate bonding events, I became overwhelmingly nauseous.  I thought I was going to puke my pizza all over my plate.  As I was taking deep breaths to let the nausea pass, I felt tears welling up.  Probably the only thing worse than puking in front of your colleagues is bursting into tears as they discuss plans for happy hour.

Last night was basically sleepless, today foodless.  (I forced myself to eat a minimal breakfast and lunch.)  The day dragged on and it felt like 6pm would never come.  At 5:40, I could stand it no longer.  I needed a distraction so I turned to the most reliable source: The Office.  During the bar exam, I watched past episodes to distract me at night and help me fall asleep.  It's only fitting that while anxiously awaiting the results I watched last night's episode to distract me once again.  The episode ended right at 6pm - I could avoid it no longer.

I hit refresh multiple times till the log in screen appeared.  I typed my info in with one hand, all the while my eyes were half closed and my lips uttering a simple prayer, "Please God, Please."  And then... there it was, the happiest words I've seen thus far: "The name above appears on the pass list for the July 2010 California Bar Examination."

I burst into tears while saying "thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou" over and over again.  I called The Boyfriend, then My Mom.  I'm overwhelmed with excitement, relief, and, most of all, gratitude.  I never would've imagined I'd be here today.  Congratulations to all who passed and bon courage to those who will be taking it again.

I'm still shaking but I made a hot toddy to help with that. 

Friday Foto - Vendita

Translation: Sale

As in, I'm having a Buy One Get One Free sale at my etsy shop to celebrate the holiday season!!  Come check it out!



Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. Lately at work, I feel more like a stoned hand towel than a well-educated young woman.  Oh man, I have no idea what's going on.

2. I wish traveling by train were still glamorous.  I could rock that.

3. Fedora or no fedora...?

4. It's eggnog latte season.  Eggnog lattes are my favorite, second only to pumpkin spice lattes.  (FYI, Starbucks is offering Buy One Get One Free on all holiday drinks between 2pm and 5pm today through Sunday.)

5. Just about 36 hours left...


Not That Kind of Bar

I promise I'm not ignoring you, dear Friends.  I'm just a little distracted over our upcoming bar results.  As of Friday evening (just over 48 hours), I'll know whether or not I'm actually a lawyer.  It's a little scary.  I'll be back soon.  In the mean time, enjoy a pretty pink cocktail!


Open for Business

Hello Lovely Readers!

Guess what I did.  I opened an etsy shop!  If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know.  This is a whole new adventure for me so I'm open to whatever advice you may have.

You can find a link to the shop over there to the left. ------>
Or you can just click here.


Friday Foto - Collana

Translation: Necklace



Happy Veteran's Day

Between my family and the boyfriend's, we have a few beloved veterans.  Thanks to all the men and women who have served our country both at home and abroad.


Fall Flowers

I bought some fall flowers to spruce up the apartment but then I thought the photo of the flowers needed some sprucing up too!  What do you think?



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I know I neglected my Friday Foto post this week so I'm hoping to make it up to you with this delicious fall recipe.  I found the original recipe here.  It makes two loaves of fairly sweet bread so I decided to adjust it to suit my tastes.  I had a little slice this morning with my latte.  Okay, maybe it wasn't little but it was the perfect fall breakfast for a rainy Sunday morning!

What You Need:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup or one handful of chocolate chips
2/3 cup water

What To Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray one bread pan with Pam for baking (or butter/flour the pan).
2. Mix together the sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and oil.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients so the spice are incorporated into the flour.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, along with the water, and mix until fully blended.
5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Pour into bread pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: You can also make muffins out of this recipe.  For baking in a muffin pan, bake for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!



Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. Lately, I've had the Sublime song "Santeria" stuck in my head, except I keep singing "I don't practice Renteria" because of the San Francisco Giants player.

2. I want to eat pumpkin everything.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin lattes.  You get the idea.

3. Can someone please tell California that it's November, i.e. FALL?  Enough with the 80 degrees.

4. Thinking about an etsy shop....

5. I miss my love.


Mmm... Soup

Despite it being nearly 80 degrees every day, I'm having major cravings for soup lately.  Last week, I satisfied my fix with some roasted butternut squash soup from House, a fairly new restaurant in downtown Sacramento.  It was fantastic.  Then I had some roasted red pepper soup courtesy of Trader Joe's over the weekend.  Again, fantastic.  But today?  Oh, today.  Today I had the richest, most delicious fall squash soup I think I've ever had.  I could eat buckets of that stuff.  We went to a restaurant called Ten22 in Old Sac.  Oh my goodness was it fantastic!  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the fried green tomatoes but the soup more than made up for it.  If you're ever in the area, I recommend getting a nice big bowl to go.

Roasted squash soup garnished with creme fraiche, pomegranate seeds, and toasted pumpkin seeds


In my quest to find the perfect Fun Camera App, I've been playing around with the phone a lot lately.  Right now, Retro Cam is at the bottom of my list (no offense to anyone who likes it!).  I've discovered a new one: Vignette.  I still love FxCamera and, frankly, I think FxCamera does a better job at recreating Polaroid photos.  But Vignette has more possibilities than I ever imagined for a camera phone.  Right now, I just have the Demo version but I'm seriously considering paying the $4.00 upgrade since the upgraded version of the app will now support the full resolution of the camera (8 megapixels for mine, not too shaby). 

Within the app, you can choose different types of "film," borders, lenses, effects, etc. and then go on to customize those as well.  If you're a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the "Favorites" tab already has a few pre-sets to play around with.  In addition to the pre-set faves, I added a couple of my own.  Of course, no digital enhancement can replace the quality, look, and feel of true film, but it's fun to test out different techniques without the price tag of film, developing, etc. (which can really add up if you're shooting on Polaroid).  New toys are so much fun! 

Here are some example of a few photos I shot quickly just around the house and office.

Pre-set Polaroid-style

Tilt-Shift (Landscape) - for those of you who may not be familiar with tilt-shift, it's a lens technique that makes scenery and landscape appear to be miniature versions of real life.  Kinda cool.

Pre-set Retro

My own mix using Retro and one of the Instant Transfer frames

Another of my own mixes using Toy Camera with Extra Light Leaks, Soft Focus Effect, and Instant Transfer border



The Giants just won the World Series!  Congrats San Francisco!!!


Gnocchi Gnight

We've made this gnocchi recipe a few times before but the last time we did it was in January.  With the chill in the air and fall fully on its way, I was dying to make it again.  I ask you - What's more comforting than perfect little potato pillows with warm butter and melted Reggiano cheese? 

Potato Gnocchi (Lombard-style) - This recipe comes from Silvia Sebastiani's cookbook "Mangiamo."  We got our copy from the Sebastiani winery in Sonoma.  Quite a few of the recipes are, um, interesting (calf brain ravioli anyone?) but overall we found some pretty solid staples that made the purchase worth it.  (Be sure to check out my storing tips below the photos.)

What You Need:
5-6 large Russet potatoes
1/2 stick of butter (4 tbsp.)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. baking powder
4 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup grated Reggiano cheese
Salt and white pepper

What To Do:
1. Peel, chop, and cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, like you would if making mashed potatoes.
2. Let potatoes cool just a little bit, then transfer to a large bowl and mash.
3. Mix in butter, eggs, and baking powder.  (I add these ingredients when I begin to mash.  The mashing action tends to mix it up pretty well.)
4. Sift in the flour.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.  (If you don't have white pepper, just use regular pepper.  The flavor is identical, the only difference is that you can't see the white pepper.)
5. Mix and knead dough until smooth.  Roll out bits of dough into long rolls about one inch thick (or the thickness of your thumb).
6. Cut into 1 to 1.5 inch sections  and press a little indention into it with your finger.  (I do it this way but the boyfriend insisted on watching The Godfather III and making it the way Andy Garcia does it.  Both work perfectly!)
7. Drop the gnocchi into a large pot of boiling water, a few at a time so they don't stick to each other.  When they rise to the top, remove immediately so they don't overcook.
8. Arrange in a baking dish then drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
9. In a preheated oven (350 degrees) bake for approximately 10 minutes until the cheese melts.  Enjoy!

Mmm.... Cheese and butter.....

You can skip the last two steps (8 & 9) and serve the gnocchi with any sauce you desire.  Homemade pesto or tomato sauce are some of my other favorite ways to eat it.

Also, this recipe makes A LOT of gnocchi so here are my tips on freezing the extras. 
1. Don't boil the gnocchi yet, and place wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Arrange gnocchi in one layer.  You can then add another sheet of paper on top of this layer to start layer number two.
2. Place in the freezer and let freeze overnight.  Be careful the gnocchi aren't too close together.  These little guys can be really sticky before they're frozen!
3. The next day (or once the gnocchi are all frozen) place in a plastic freezer bag, in one layer, and seal shut.  Try to get as much air out of the bag as possible.  When stored this way (in a freezer bag with little to no air inside), the gnocchi will last in the freezer for a few months.
4. When you're ready to eat, just drop the frozen gnocchi into a pot of boiling water and cook as directed above.  Using the plastic freezer bags helps you store it in portions, too.  You can usually fit enough for 1 to 4 servings in one bag.

Sealed up and ready for the freezer!
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