Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gift wrapping tip, to simplify your Christmas!

I am pulling out some gifts I have stashed away the last few months, 
and wanted to share my quick and easy tips for Christmas 
morning presents, for kids.

Seriously, I feel like this is a game changer!

 Items that arrive in a perfect box, I wrap and those 
are gifts from us ('us' being Zac & me).  

 Instead of searching for boxes and gift bags, irregular
shaped items are gifts from Santa, and are tucked
under the tree, sans wrapping, on Christmas morning!

This is great in more ways than saving you time on searching
for a box or gift bag, it also saves from the question you 
will ask yourself at 11pm on Christmas Eve, which
is the paper that Santa is using??? Seriously, 
kids notice more wrapping paper slip ups!

Hope this helps.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sundance Film Festival 2014, part 5

By the skin of my teeth, I am knocking out the 
remaining adventures of Sundance Film Festival 
2014, in 2014.  Lawdy.  No excuses. 
 I am going to have to put some serious perimeters on 
knocking out Sundance 2015... 
which is just a month away.  AHHHHH!  

First, I suggest you get caught up (again...come one now, it's fun) 
by flipping through the previous posts of this adventure.  
Here they are for you:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4...Enjoy!

The director, Cutter Hodierne, and star of the film Fishing Without Nets.

I have been lucky enough to check out a handful
of films at the festival each year, over the past 9 years and this
film ranks at the top.  The film premiered as a short
film during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and 
then received the necessary funding to make it into a feature length
film. Blessings to those who backed it, as it is a MUST SEE!

 The cast of Fishing Without Nets.

At the theater, the intro screen, introducing all of the
films of the US Dramatic Competition.

I still cover in chill bumps, when I think of this film.

 Part of the cast.  Lead character, in the middle.

I have said it a thousand times over, the highlight of seeing
 films at the festival is the Q&A with the people who created and acted
 in the film.  Hearing the ins and outs of this film was remarkable.
 I cannot stress enough that everyone needs to see this 
film. I except we will continue to see big things from this young
director, in the future. 

Oh, hey there, Adrian Grenier.  You snowboard?
I ski!!!  Want to make out, I mean hang out ?*

No for reals, could he be any cuter?  Me thinks not.
 Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Entourage at the theater, next
year! Have you all seen the documentary he whipped up a few
years back, Teenage Paparazzo?  Must see.

*praise the lord I married the sweetest man who
loves (keep telling myself that) my sense of humor.

 Kurt Russell in town promoting the documentary,
The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

Ahhhhh, you're on SNL!!!  We adore you!!!
-a "group of anonymous girls", grabbing lunch.

We were so excited to see Jenny Slate at
lunch on Main Street.  She was in town
promoting Obvious Child in which she stars.

This could totes be a rumor starting picture, right?
Yet, we all know Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette must
be super close pals after working together over a
decade on the film Boyhood.  This film is fascinating,
as it seems more documentary than feature film...
I cannot wait to see it.

Both are up for SAG and Golden Globe awards,
for their parts in this film.

Even though he looks rather HANGRY* in this
picture, he will forever be one of my favorites,
because he starred in Reality Bites. That film
was everything to teenagers in the 90s...
in my opinion.

* And no, he wasn't yelling at me.
Sure looks it though.

FLAWLESS!!! For reals, I was blown away
by how stunning she is!

 Aubrey Plaza of Parks & Rec. I asked her to wave (of course I did)
so I could send this to my friend, Kenny D, a year later...oops.

Jason Schwartzman. Enough said.

Director Rory Kennedy, promoting her documentary,
Last Days in Vietnam.

Director Gregg Araki, introducing his film
White Bird in a Blizzard.

The cast of White Bird in a Blizzard: Christopher Meloni,
Mark Indelicato, Shailene Woodley, Gabourey Sidibe & Shiloh Fernandez

Q&A after the premiere.
Yes, he was totally the little guy in the
television series Ugly Betty.

I really wanted to like this film, with all of the 
talent involved.  However, I did not like it 
much at all.  A few of the parts felt obviously
miscast and I found it hard to watch the
dude from Law & Order: SVU play such a 
vulnerable role.  The acting didn't feel authentic.
I did enjoy Gabourey's shoes!

Oh hey, Katie Couric!

Mary Steenburgen.  A forever favorite because
of parts in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Elf.

Ashley Greene

Well folks, I think that is finally a wrap on my pics from
 the Sundance Film Festival, 2014.

I will be back at it in a month, for the 2015 festival.
 Ahhhh, cannot wait!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee Pretzel Bites

Daaaang, that's a mouthful of a title...and by mouthful I mean you are literally going to want to stuff your mouth full of these tasty bite size morsels!  Side note: aren't they extra scrumptious, nesting in the cutie vintage bowl that once belonged to my grandma?!? Love!

Create a double boiler by placing a couple inches of water in a
saucepan and topthe pan with a glass or stainless bowl. 
Over medium heat slowly melt the chocolate 
(equal parts Ghiradelli bittersweet and semi-sweet is my winning combo)

Once the chocolate is completely melted, set up an assembly line.
On the counter set up mini pretzels, the bowl of melted 
chocolate on a towel (you might have to pop the bowl back over 
heat for a minute, to loosen it back up) and plates of toffee bits 
and raw almonds.

Line baking sheets with parchment.

Dip the pretzel in the chocolate, shaking off excess.  Then set on the toffee,
place an almond on the chocolate (where it will stay put, once the chocolate sets).

 Use your fingers to toss a bit of toffee on the remaining chocolate 
(toffee will be sticking to the bottom as well...the more the merrier!)

Place dipped and candied pretzels on a parchment
lined baking sheet to set up.  It will only take about
an hour for the chocolate to fully set.  Good luck 
waiting that long!

Place set candies in a dish or better yet package up to share with
friends, teachers, neighbors, etc.  This would be a delicious addition
to a cookie exchange, in my humble opinion.

Enjoy!  So easy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Frito Chili Grilled Cheese


If your going to mess with Frito chili, you might as well shove it in a grilled cheese.  Right?  Well, the thought came to me, I went with it and... OH MY. 

What you need:
sliced bread
tomato slices
shredded cheese (any variety you have on hand)
Frito chips
hot sauce (optional, but quite important if you ask me!)

I made up a batch of chili, to try this out.  I eliminated a lot of the
liquid that is normally found in a bowl of chili.  I browned 1 lb. of 97% lean
ground beef with a large onion, diced.  Once cooked I added chili powder,
sweet paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. 
 Once I thought it was perfect I added a few T. ketchup.  Then hot sauce!

You could certainly make life even easier by subbing a package of chili
seasoning...then add the ketchup and hot sauce to taste.

On a hot skillet melt a bit of butter and start layering on the base bread.
You could also bake these sandwiches, which I would do if I was making 
multiples.  On a parchment lined baking sheet build the sandwiches,
spreading a bit of butter on the top piece of bread and bake at 
375 for 12-17 minutes.  Until the bread is golden and a bit crusty
and cheese is melted and gooey.

I mean...whaaaat!  This is for sure will change up your thoughts
on grilled cheese!  I think I will be baking a bunch of these up for a
football party ASAP!  

And as Cousin Eddie (National Lampoons Vacation) so eloquently put it:
I don't know why they call this stuff hamburger helper. It does just fine by itself, huh?
I like it better than tuna helper myself, don't you, Clark?

Friday, December 5, 2014

3 Days in Paris!

Doesn't this look like a poster?  There happened to be a festival 
happening on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower, the day we strolled
around, and I was simply blown away by the beauty and random 
juxtaposition of the steel and balloons against the perfect sky backdrop. 

While booking a flight to Morocco, we noticed we would be switching planes in Paris, France.  It seems like it would go against every bit of who I am to just switch plans...instead, I switched flight dates, so we could spend a few days exploring the city of lights, before heading on to Morocco.

Some of my favorite studies from college were the history of both arts and architecture, so these precious few days often felt like flipping through the pages of well worn text books. I was in heaven!

Apologies in advance for the abridged and slightly scattered photographic journey of this trip.  We took hundreds of pictures, but I am just sharing a large handful here.  Please do enjoy!  

 I am the worst packer in the entire world.  no, for reals.  If there was an 
actual way to pack a kitchen sink, I would pack it.  So, the hubs
didn't believe it when I shoved everything I needed for our 12 days of travel, 
 into my old trusty weekend pack (est. as my favzy in 1997). I even had room to
throw in 2 vacant duffel bags, knowing I would go treasure hunting in Morocco. 

Where's Waldo (do you see me)?  We took the train from the airport
to our hotel, which was a block off  Luxembourg Park.
Not knowing anything about where to stay in the city, I
quickly realized we were very central and could walk absolutely
everywhere.  The stairs of the hotel were my most favorite thing.

Creaky old stairs wrapped in dizzying carpet,
sandwiched between red railings and walls...
sign me up!

 Arriving on the red eye meant we arrived in the city by
10am.  Much too early to check into our cutie little hotel
(which I do think was a blessing, because who wants to
catch a nap when you have so little time to explore?) so
we dropped our bags and set off on foot.  we headed
towards the cathedral Notre Dame.  Oh my, what a beauty!
Some fun bits of architecture to spot in this picture:
pointed arches
rose/wheel window
gargoyles (grotesques)
and on and on...

I am a total sucker for Gothic Architecture.  I felt overwhelmed
by this cathedral, when studying it in text books, so imagine how
crazed I felt standing before it.  Outrageous.

wheel windows for days!

flying buttress!

corinthian order
rib vaulting


I could have sat and stared at the stained glass
for hours!  Breathtaking!

Those lucky Parisians.
First they have the ridiculous architecture, then they have
double on the ridic pastry shops.  OMG, look at those meringues!

 Palmier, anyone?

When I bake these up, they are a few bites in size.  This was more
reminiscent of an American style treat, the Elephant Ear!!

Bellies full of pastries, we kept exploring.  We
wandered into every cathedral we saw.  I am
afraid I don't know remember the names of all,
but I certainly remember the magic I felt in each of
them. Again, the architecture.  Today we watch buildings go
up in minutes (wondering if they will stand
the test of time) and then you pause and look at the builds
of history and you see every second, minute, year of detail
that went into the construction.  Fascinating!

 Parisian streets.  Seriously, as lovely as I
could have ever imagined!

Hulk Hogan.  I suspect.

See, I was actually there.

See, I bite me lower lip, even on vacation.
Must work on that!

What a fun little surprise.  We got to our hotel to unwind for the night,
and I walk out onto the room's balcony and we could see the Eiffel Tower.
It looked fake, peaking out of from behind all the old residential buildings. 
I couldn't wait to get up morning 2, and head that way!
 After a morning stop at a pastry shop, of course!

 mmmm the breakfast of champions!

Seriously, bury me in a french bakery, when I leave this earth.

On second thought, bury me in a french bakery
 next to a french floral shop. 

 More cathedral love.  I was obsessed with 
this glass pattern.  

This felt like the Secret Garden.  Which
happens to be my most favorite musical EVER.

As if those aren't the coolest window surrounds,
in the history of window surrounds.

Oh my!

Did I just copy and paste this image from a
poster catalog?  Looks fake, right?

We didn't go to the top of the Eiffel Tower,
because the lines were outrageous and we only had
3 days to explore the city.  It was funny talking to my
father-in-law who had visited 50 years prior and he
talked of heading straight up to the top, no wait.
Oh how the times have changed.

We DID take the requisite kissing pic, in front of the tower,
however we looked like hot garbage, laughed and chalked
it up to the experience. 
The experience being: no one ever needs to see it.  

Arc de Triomphe

Close up of the arch.  Amazing carved details!
Just in awe of the craftsmanship of history. 

We should just call it like it is.  This man should
have been our tour guide.  Just up the block from our
hotel, he made the most ridic crepes and his shop was
a frequent stop.  Sweet or savory, we don't discriminate.

 Our third morning started off like the other mornings,
pastries and a walk through the park up the block,
Luxembourg Gardens.  What a lovely spot.  It
made us feel at home, while being so far away.

Much like a big city park here in the states, the park was
 bustling at an early hour with dog walkers, runners, children
playing, and people catching up on the paper news.  Just lovely. 

Looks fake, right?  I still don't understand the palm trees, but when
the overall place is sweet and relaxing, you let that oddity slip.

A must see.  A taste of local life, I would say.

Guess what you get when blog a trip a thousand years after you return?
You forget where you were when you snapped.  I do remember
we walked a long way (which direction, I have no clue), up a
hill and then around a bend...and there was a dude playing a weird
instrument out front.  Does this narrow it down?

Have no fear, Zac will remember. 
I will ask him when he returns from his ski
adventures with Logi...

From mosaic heaven, of unknown (will soon know) cathedral we
marched on to Moulin Rouge.  I would have loved to have seen
it all lit up in the night sky, but the street felt a wee bit seedy, so
I was more happy to be there during the day.

We continued our tour by foot and popped into the Paris Opera House.
I snapped this pic of the floor because A) I love a good mosaic and
B) the fret is beyond gorgeous! I am a sucker for fret patterns!

 After a long ass morning of walking and exploring, it was time to
get some profiteroles in our bellies.  I of course forgot to take
a picture of the beautiful plate that arrived, but snapped one after...
to never forget that moment.  OMG.


 Jelly fish rank quite high in things I am quite afraid of, but I looooved
this bit of street art.

I am also a sucker for key patterns.  Seriously. Love. Spotted on
a modest residential, multi-family building.  Lucky devils.

Quite by accident, but much to our happiness we stumbled upon
Cafe Procope.  The many haunts who have sat at these small tables.
Hard to comprehend, but a few names to throw out:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin,'s 
me guessing that Franklin had seconds on the profiteroles!

You guys, I am spent.  I am certain I am missing some key components of this adventure  

We sure did enjoy our quick adventure.  Stay tuned for some travels through Morocco. 

Shout out to my amazing in-laws, who drove down from Minnesota
to be with the littles, so we could set off on this adventure.  We couldn't have done it
without them.  I am forever grateful for them.

and to my French mates from high school (you know who you are... the ones who played Bravo (bingo!) on the weekly and learned next to nothing, I say to to you, my friends
(in English because I of course can't translate this to French)

ps. if you do translate that, knowing it was the one phrase you held on to from 
our rigorous studies, you quickly realize we actually learned nothing.  No comment.