And the Oscar goes to…

If inanimate objects could win Academy Awards, I would have given last night’s award to the baked Brie, because it was the star of the show.

But I don’t think we’ve sunk to that level yet, so I have to admit that Nikki won the Oscar ballot contest with 11 categories right.

I loved our party – with this great a group of friends, we could be doing our taxes together and we would still have fun.  (At least until I realize I’m the only one who owes money this year…)  We broke up the night with some creative cocktails and a round of Catchphrase that allowed us to record the show and fast-forward through the commercials later.

Which was good, because this was NOT my favorite Academy Awards show.  My favorite part of the show last year was the presentation of the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees.  In case you missed it, they had significant people from their careers on lit pedestals on stage, saying amazing things about each nominee.  Even before the awards were handed out, people were crying.  Nope, no time for that this year.  Instead, we had a mash-up of auto-tuned movies which was funny, but not touching, and a tribute to times past… that was too short and poorly executed.  I thought last year’s awards were funny, crisp, classy, and well executed, but now I feel like we’ve taken a step back.

My favorite part of the show was Melissa Leo taking home Best Supporting Actress, and losing her words on stage.  In the middle of her speech, she exclaimed “last year, Kate Winslet made it look so f-ing easy…!”  If John Stewart was there again, he would say “and THAT is how you win an Oscar.”

The ending of the awards was the only redeeming part, in terms of what was actually planned.  But more on that later…

Do you think the right people won?  Did you enjoy the show?  Or at least the baked Brie?

Glitz, Glam, Golden birds

The roommate and I are having our second annual Academy Awards party tonight.  When we were first looking to move to Boston together, we planned to celebrate our new lives with having people over for this show, but then had to wait eight months for satisfaction.  Now, we’re in our second apartment and the tradition continues.  We’ve even finished hanging up our curtains for the occasion!

And to help us celebrate tonight, we have this hideous lovely golden bird:

We designated this as our Oscar trophy last year.  I guessed the winners most accurately in 2010, so I’m adding my name to the bird before tonight’s ceremonies.  Whoever has the best record tonight will also get a chance to sign the bird, and we’ll see how things measure up over the years.

Want to compete from home?  Send in your guesses for at least ten categories in the comment section – the person with the highest percentage  right will get an honorable mention on our trophy.  See the nominees here.

For the record, I’m putting most of my money on “The King’s Speech” – that movie was a-a-a-mazing.  What do you think will take home the gold tonight?

Are you smarter than a… mega computer?

The answer for me, sadly, is “not quite.”

I recently took on Watson the computer in this NYT trivia challenge that resembles Jeopardy, where Watson beat two all-time champions in a face-off.  It was interesting to see what Watson would have answered for some of the questions, and to note the times when I knew the answer for sure and he was just going to guess, often without really considering the full question but instead getting caught on one word.  In the end, he won with 7 points to my 4, though I will say that I had four questions where I answered correctly but misspelled the word, something that wouldn’t matter in Jeopardy unless we were in the final round.

Scientists say super computers like Watson could be useful for answering questions in hospitals, directing people in train stations and airports, and providing other customer services tasks.  But even knowing how smart this computer is, I wonder how and when this will actually catch on.  The Museum of Science here in Boston had an exhibit for a while where you could ask a computer questions, especially about the museum, and even then it was a hassle to get even moderately correct answers out of it.

If I was in a store and looking for a case for my porkpie and Watson just directed me to the plain old hat section instead of hat storage, I would just go find a real person to answer my question instead.   Take the challenge yourself, and see how you and Watson compare on this question and more, and post your results – and your thoughts about the role of smart computers for our generation – here!

Cornflakes and Chicken?

You betcha!

This is my favorite fried chicken recipe (read: the only one I’m interested in making).  Cornflakes and peanuts combine to give the chicken tenders a great outer layer, and the pineapple salsa makes this dish feel fancy and perfect for a special occasion.  The roomie and I made this for Valentine’s Day and I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch.  This concoction is based on this recipe, another treat that was sent to my inbox a while ago.

Cornflake-fried Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

For the  salsa:

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple (non-negotiable – pay the extra cost, you’ll be glad you did), cut into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp red onion, chopped

For the chicken:

  • 1/2-2/3 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts, well chopped
  • 1/2-2/3 cup cornflakes, lightly broken up
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb chicken tenders or breasts, cut into tender-sized pieces
  • cooking oil

Now there’s just four steps to success:

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The little things

More than one person in my life says “it’s the little things” when details make them happy.  Here are some of the little things that are making me happy right now:

  • The sunshine. I love not having to wake up and go home in the dark.  Summer is on it’s way, I can see it getting closer every day!
  • My friends and family.
  • My laughable attempts to eat healthy. But let me tell you, the last three meals I had out at restaurants were amazing.
  • Valentine’s Day chocolate.
  • Being able to hit snooze from bed, thanks to my new iHome with a remote.
  • The return of Parks and Recreation.
  • My job. Three months in and I love it here.  More on that later.
  • Getting three Valentines in one day. Now, all I need is a good old GHS candygram!
  • The satisfaction of clearing the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Sure, new ice froze there the next day, but for a while it was perfect because of me!
  • The cute guy who I am lucky to get to enjoy the little things with.

Fuel for any time, any pantry

Pros about this dish:

  • It arrived in my inbox one morning and I easily and cheaply could make it for dinner the same day.
  • It’s healthy and adaptable to whatever you have around.
  • You can whip it together in 15 minutes once you’ve chopped and gathered all the ingredients.
  • It makes me feel smarter than Cameron Diaz.

According to Self magazine, this is her favorite dish, a breakfast classic she makes before surfing.  But the serving sizes in the original recipe don’t really make sense, and neither do the directions.  (Once you cook chicken and veggies in oil, there’s no way there’s enough liquid left to make a roux.)  Also, some of the comments on the blog warned about there being too much broth in the recipe, so I only added about a tablespoon and suggest skipping it all together.  Here is my twist on this recipe, which I just had seconds of because it was so good.  I might actually eat it for breakfast, too!

Cameron Diaz’s Garlicky Lemon Chicken


  • Olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups broccoli or some other green veggie
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or combine these two and use garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (one boil-in-bag packet will do the trick)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 eggs (1 or 2 whole, the others just the whites)
  • 5-8 large basil leaves

This is a recipe that cooks quickly, so you’ll want to get everything ready at once.  Otherwise, you’ll be like me, turning the stove off halfway through so you can get out more ingredients.

  1. Cook the brown rice.
  2. Sprinkle chicken and veggie with salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
  3. Add chicken and broccoli to a skillet with some oil, and cook until chicken is lightly browned and your vegetable is wilted.
  4. Add flour and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
  5. Add rice, garlic, and lemon zest to the pan.  Cook 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add eggs and mix well until the egg is integrated and well cooked.
  7. Add lemon juice and basil (or other spices, if you so wish).  Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is slightly brown and crispy.

And that’s that!  I really like the idea of this dish, like a healthy version of fried rice.  I’d like to try it with some cheese mixed in and maybe some peppers next time.

Working on a dream

When I picture my dream home, I imagine a large porch where I’ll relax and eat ice cream on warm summer nights, waiting for the fireflies to come out.  A large chair where I can curl up with a book, with windows all around and trees that will grow with my family.  A basement that can be taken over with toys, Barbies and Legos and board games.   A yard big enough to practice softball and grow cherry tomatoes, and a place for a swing.

I would also settle for this:

That’s the HGTV Dream Home for 2011, located in Stowe, Vermont.  I’ve entered frequently over the last two years, but I think this is finally my year.  If I won, I would take all my friends there for the weekend, cook with my mom in the high-end kitchen, sit in every luxurious arm chair and admire every piece of art.  And then I would sell it.

Because really, part of the dream is finding the home.  Spotting something set back from the street, laying eyes on it and knowing it was meant to be.  Dealing with its quirks and wishing for improvements.  What would I possibly do with a house that came with no work, just a giant mortgage?  I want to build my dream home from the ground up.  But I could get cozy in this one for the meantime.

[You can enter to win this mansion twice a day until February 18th.  Good luck!]

C is for cookie

It’s here.

The moment I’ve been waiting for all year.  Forget Christmas, my birthday, even election day.  They all pale in comparison to this day.

Because today is Girl Scout Cookie Day.


I was a girl scout for seven years, and I loved every minute of it.  Our troop was a bit rag-tag; on a particularly memorable camping trip in our troop leader’s backyard, it rained so much that the tent collapsed on me and Rachie in the middle of the night.  Usually, we did lots of arts and crafts, investigated our town and family history, had “lock-ins” at the YMCA.

And sold those cookies.

When I studied abroad in London, I eagerly awaited the package from my mom that contained that year’s cookies.  When they arrived, I tested a few and then brought them to my afternoon study group in place of the usual Twix we had with our tea.

Me: Here, I brought you Girl Scout cookies!  This is the kind we call “thin mints.”
Brits: Oh, mint cookies.  Yum.
Me: No, no.  These are special.  They are Girl Scout cookies.
Brits: What makes them so special?
Me: You can only buy them once a year, and then you just long for them the rest of the time.
Brits: So all the Girl Scouts make cookies at once.
Me: No… all the cookies are made by a few central bakeries around the country.  There are no girls involved.
Brits: Then why do they call them Girl Scout cookies?
Me: Because Girl Scouts walk around town and sell the cookies to pay for camp, and new books, and badges and things.
Brits: Ok.  So let’s get this straight.  Once a year, little girls get dressed up and wander around door to door, selling cookies that they didn’t bake, so pay for things that have nothing to do with cookies.  And they only sell them for a few weeks each time… and no one else is allowed to make a similar cookie.
Me: Yeah, basically.  Aren’t they good?

The next week, we went back to Twix.  But let me tell you, I enjoyed the heck out of the rest of that box.

[PS:  I bought my box in the Porter Square T stop, get ’em while they’re around!  Last year I saw a guy sprint through traffic to get to an ATM to get the last box of Tagalongs before the girls packed up.  This is serious business.]

ETA: Use this website to find out when and where you can pick up your own Girl Scout Cookies!

Love is all you need

Zach Wahls proved that point with poise and eloquence when he spoke up in the Iowa state legislature against a bill that would make civil unions illegal, referencing his own childhood being raised by two women along with a list of accomplishments that would make any parent proud.

As Valentine’s Day gets closer, take a minute to sign this petition supporting everyone’s right to get married.  Gay or straight, we all deserve to be treated the same under the law.   As Zach pointed out here, having great parents who are in a happy marriage is what matters – not what gender those parents are.