Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Top Products of 2010

The fact that I have not made a blog post in several weeks is indicative of the fact that school has started again. I only had one minor breakdown last week after losing a $50 book about two hours after I'd bought it. It's also sad that I just wrote "boughten it" and then changed it. It's also sad that I have a seminar in Restoration  British literature and I didn't even know what was being restored. Hint: it's not the church.

It's the British Monarchy.

Good thing I'm an Americanist.

Anyway, I meant to post this a while ago but apparently got sidetracked by the British. It's sort of a New Year's throwback to 2010.

Andrew has always said I am a gadgety person, and I hesitate to disagree. Gadgets to me are like the new elliptical bicycles --they're intriguing and I find ways to convince myself I need them (I suppose the Elliptigo is also a gadget...). There's just something so exciting about acquiring a new technological device which accomplishes some (likely unnecessary) purpose in life. That being said, I have compiled a list of gadgets and products that have greatly impacted my modern experience in the past year. Not everything on this list is technologically driven but all have served some, arguably, life-changing function. Perhaps in ten years I will laugh at this list for its archaic nature, but until then...

My iPhone 4

When I was in the 4th grade, I remember reading a futuristic story about what the world would be like in 50 years. In the story, two kids were talking to each other by means of a projected video image of the other person. In my reading group, we were asked to answer the question, "Do you think this kind of technology will be possible in the future?" I can't remember what I wrote, but it was probably something to the effect of "no, that can't happen because I don't think it can." I was alway such an optimist.

I sometimes feel strange when I remember that story while using Facetime on my iPhone. Perhaps Facetime is not exactly a holographic video projection, but it is pretty darn close.  I honestly don't remember how I lived without a smart phone -- which is probably a terrible thing to admit. But really, it's so convenient to have internet access every second of the day. Not to mention that I can use WiFi on my iPhone and it never affects my data plan. Needless to say, one of the best things about owning an iPhone is the apps. There really is an app for everything, and here are my favorite apps of the past year.

The Sleep Cycle App

To quote one of the reviewers of this app..."It just works." The iPhone has some type of sensory movement device in it and the Sleep Cycle app takes marvelous advantage of it. Not only does this app track your sleep cycle (by sensing your movement), it also wakes you up when you are in the lightest part of your sleep cycle so you feel more "awake" when awoken. Ya know? I'm not kidding -- it's amazing. It also has the most dreamy ringtones with names like "Warm Breeze" and "Distant Memories." This app has been my bff in the mornings. Along with coffee. And Dr. James Dobson.


Speaking of cycles...
Now I must note, if you are like Andrew and do not believe words like "uterus" fit for social conversation, you should probably skip this description. I won't be overly descriptive about its nature, but this app lets you track all the symptoms, moods and days of your menstrual cycle. It also lets you know when you're ovulating in case you are trying to get pregnant...or in case you're trying to avoid getting pregnant. I'm often unsure which of those two categories I belong. Either way, it's helpful to track other symptoms that may be hormonally related like migraines or road rage.
It is now safe to uncover your ears (and eyes).

Bank Apps that let you Deposit Checks

This Chase app lets me check my balance, transfer money and deposit checks from my phone. Enough said.

 Escali Kitchen Scales

I have this scale in gray and it's been indispensable. Baking is so much more accurate when you can weigh ingredients (especially flour) versus just measuring them. I use this to measure ingredients, meat, even postage. This scale comes in a ton of different colors and even the pros use them (I always see them on the Food Network [like on Iron Chef]). I gifted a few these for Christmas with positive results...right, giftees?

Oven Thermometer

I really think everyone should have an oven thermometer. Even new ovens can sometimes vary immensely in their temperatures. I learned this the hard way when we lived in Augusta. For some reason, everything I baked kept burning. At one point when I was baking bread, I turned the oven to 500* and it literally melted a part of itself. An oven thermometer acquisition later, I learned that my tiny little oven was actually 50* hotter than whatever it actually read. That makes a huge difference when you're trying to bake cookies at 350* and instead you're frying them at 400*. Thankfully after I started using an oven thermometer, I was able to adjust my settings to 50* less than whatever the suggested baking temp was. Fire averted.

DiorShow Mascara

2010 was the year I found the best mascara ever. I haven't used over-the-counter mascaras in several years; meaning, I swear I've used every Clinique, MAC and Sephora mascara in existence, with positive results, and the DiorShow beats them all. However, a few months ago I decided my fears of lead in mascaras and my belief in the superiority of expensive mascaras were unfounded. I went to Target and bought the nicest mainstream mascara I could find. After a week, my old notions were reaffirmed. There really is a massive difference (in my unimportant opinion) between over-the-counter mascaras and their more expensive upgrades. I honestly feel confident in saying that the DiorShow mascara is the best mascara I've ever used. For $24 you'd think this mascara has real gold flecks, but I think it's worth it. Speaking of gold, I also just spent a relatively high price for a new Shiseido eyelash curler only to discover too late that I could have owned this gold-plated beauty. Too bad. After I was done with it I could have taken it to one of those places that melts your jewelry for cash.

 I'm sure I could add more to this list, but I must go read a thousand books and pretend to be smart.

Also, I think I ended, like, five of my sentences with prepositions...

Forgive me. But sometimes ending with prepositions is where it's at.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Sometimes I forget I am married to a foreigner. My husband, Andrew, is pale-skinned, has blue eyes and speaks perfect English. It's easy then to lose sight of the fact that he spent most of his life in Spain. That he didn't grow up watching Saved by the Bell. That he doesn't care about Zack and Kelly's prom. That he doesn't even know who Zack and Kelly are.

Sometimes, this cultural difference is hard. Mostly when I want to talk about non-important pop-culture items like when Lyle Lovett was married to Julia Roberts or when I can't remember the name of Doug Funny's best friend who was blue-colored and I have no one to ask.

Other than those times, I suppose I benefit quite a bit from my husband's foreignness. Especially as it relates to food and coffee. Therefore, it is noteworthy that today is El Dia de los Reyes or King's Day in Spain. This holiday is essentially the equivalent to the United States' Christmas. People give and receive gifts, parades are had, and food is eaten.

So to help Andrew feel somewhat connected to his homeland, I make Spanish tortilla for Reyes. This is by no means culturally traditional; in fact, last time we were in Spain for King's Day, my mother-in-law made rice and milk and someone brought a fruit cake. Both of these foods had some strange object hidden in them and whoever happened to find, bite or unfortunately swallow the weird little toy was granted good luck for the next year.

I'm scared of plastic toxins leeching into my food so we went without the prospect of added luck for the year. Hopefully this works out for us.

All that is to say, if you've ever eaten Spanish tortilla (and by that I mean tortilla de patatas) you know it is has nothing to do with Mexican tortilla shells, but rather, is a wonderful egg and potato dish, something of a potato omelet. For those of you who actually care to have this recipe (Sarah, Holly, three people maybe), I have included my Spanish tortilla recipe for all your nostalgic moments.

Spanish Tortilla:
3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
6 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

The most important part of making tortilla is to slice the potatoes really thin. If not, they won't cook and life will be hard. So slice 'em up good.


You also really want to use a non-stick pan because tortilla requires the acrobatic art of "the flip" and you can't flip it if it's clinging to the pan. So in the pan, pour in a bunch of oil. 1/2 cup is really conservative. My mother-in-law covers the potatoes completely in oil...I just can't bring myself to do that -- mostly because olive oil is more expensive in the States, but if you are rich, or from Europe, bathe them in oil. I blame my oil frugality on the weakening dollar.


Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the potatoes.


Cook the potatoes until they are soft, about 7-10 minutes. You should be able to easily break them with a spatula.


Next, drain the potatoes from the oil, saving a few tablespoons for later use. Again, if you are my mother-in-law, you save the olive oil for when you make tortilla again. I try to do this, but since I usually make tortilla a few times a year it proves problematic for my cupboards.


In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine the eggs with some salt and pepper. Temper the eggs by adding a few of the potatoes and mixing everything together, allowing the eggs to come to come to a warmer temperature without cooking them.


Add the rest of the potatoes to the mixture. Add a tablespoon of oil back to the skillet and return the egg and potato mixture to the pan.


Be sure to scrape down the sides of the pan and press down the potato mixture. It also helps to shake the pan back and forth a bit to ensure the tortilla doesn't stick to the bottom. When the sides of the tortilla have set and the middle is beginning to gets a bit trickier. Now comes the part where you have to flip the tortilla. It helps if you have a special plate designed for flipping tortilla, which I'm sure many of you have, though any large plate will work just as well.


Carefully place the plate over the top of the skillet.


Then, flip it. I can't take a picture of myself flipping the tortilla, but if you did it successfully, the guts of the tortilla will still be contained within the plate and not all over your stove. Add a little bit more olive oil to the skillet and carefully slide the tortilla back on the skillet so the underside is now being cooked, being careful to tuck in any lost potatoes.


Cook several minutes longer until the tortilla is set, but not burned and remove from the skillet. It should have a lovely golden color.

Slide the tortilla from the skillet to a serving plate.


Tortilla can be sliced into wedges and served warm, or cut into smaller squares and served cold as a finger food. But I think if you want the most out of tortilla, you must have bocadillos de tortilla -- tortilla sandwiches.


Just don't be like my parents and try to add ketchup. It's blasphemous.

Feliz Reyes!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Precious

It's like I've finally arrived in life...

The Starbucks Gold Card: a sign that one has spent a fiscally irresponsible amount of money on coffee in 2010.

I was just trying to help the economy.

But really, I'm not sure exactly what I feel when I use this card -- something of a mix of pride, guilt, maybe a hint of self-loathing?

But it's just so golden and shiny.

I find myself making a lot of Lord of the Rings quotes around it:

One card to rule them all,
One card to find them,
One card to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

Let's just hope Andrew doesn't decide to go all Frodo on me.

He might lose a finger.

P.S. If you have not read the Lord of the Rings [or at least seen the movies], I cannot help you make sense of this post. Your life is likely unfulfilled and you should seek to resolve this issue immediately.