Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday, inspired by my brother

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my rather unseemly, slightly shameful, undoubtedly strange fascination with horror/suspense/thriller movies. I can't explain it, exactly. Sometimes it's because I love the exhilarating feeling that comes when a poor, innocent character peers anxiously out of a window and the silhouette of a terrifying serial killer appears to lurk behind them. Occasionally it's because of the hilarity of a bumbling villain or a professed psychopath who has managed to do away with victim after victim despite the fact that he moves at the rapid rate of about 2 feet per hour. Whatever the case, we ALL have our little quirks, and this is one of mine!

My darling brother, who LIVES to tease and mock me, however lovingly, about my quirks, was watching Scream 2 one recent eve, and told me that I should write a Top 5 about the feistiest, toughest characters in horror films, the ones who didn't go down without a fight. There are always a few of those, particularly in more recent horror films. Keep in mind, he was inspired by Sarah Michelle Gellar's Omega Beta Zeta Cici, the "sober sister" who was thrown out of the second story window of her sorority house. I did like his idea, however, particularly in these uninspiring weeks before summer's end, so I've thrown together a list of my favorite courageous protagonists. You'll notice that Cici did not make the cut. Sorry, brother. She just doesn't hold a candle to this bunch.

5. Michelle Pfeiffer, as Claire Spencer, What Lies Beneath. Now before you criticize me for this rather obscure choice, consider this: Michelle was paralyzed by a super-powerful animal tranquilizer, naked, and in a bathtub, and SOMEHOW STILL MANAGED TO ESCAPE HER CHEATING, MURDEROUS HUSBAND. Go ahead and put aside the hard-to-swallow idea of Harrison Ford as a killer. I know it's practically impossible to believe.

4. Katie Holmes, as Rachel Wagner, Disturbing Behavior. This movie is worth seeing purely for the scene, oft-imitated by my brother, sister and I, when a formerly spurned, slightly nerdy jock turned super-perfect asks Rachel out once again, brimming with newfound confidence. Tattooed, nose ring-wearing Rachel turns him down and faces a brutal response. What's great about Rachel is that she doesn't need any convincing once the movie's protagonist, the delectable James Marsden, figures out something is seriously wrong with the in crowd. She's known it all along, and she is NOT having any of it!

3. Courtney Cox as Gail Weathers, Scream Trilogy. Some would criticize me for not including Sydney Bristow, the scream queen of the late 90's, on this list. Syd was quite the fighter, I'll admit, but would you really want to pit her against Gail, the ruthless, conniving, journalist with two dead camera men to her name? Say what you will, Gail did not take anything lying down. She even fought for her man, good ol' Dewey, in the end!
P.S. You should really check out Scream 3, even if it's just to check out Parker Posey as a high-maintenance actress playing Gail Weathers and the antics of her bodyguard, played by Patrick Warburton (It's Puddy!).

2. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Halloween. The Halloween movies are my favorite horror franchise, and there is none better than the original, which marked Jamie Lee Curtis' big break. She's the most authentic, realistic character on my list, the good babysitter who seems to know something is not quite right in Haddonfield the moment she looks at the slightly darkened house where her BFF Annie Barrett has just been attacked. Even though she hides in the most obvious of places (a closet), she puts up a good fight.

1. Josh Harnett, as Zeke Tyler, The Faculty. Hands down, my favorite protagonist of ALL horror/suspense/thriller films. I heartily encourage ALL OF YOU (my loyal few) to go check this movie out, if for no other reason than to see the awesome scene in the science lab. You'll know the one I mean, immediately. Zeke pretty much just takes over, employing one of those deadly paper cutters that I used to be fascinated by every time I walked by the teacher work room at school. It's actually a campy, funny movie, boasting lots of well-known actors (Salma Hayek, Robert Patrick, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, a pre-Lord of the Rings Elijah Wood and even Jon Stewart!!), with a kicking soundtrack and a highly satisfying conclusion. I've included the trailer for you.

What do you think? A heroic list, or slightly lame? Should I have included Cici after all?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cold Chicken Satay Noodles

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I am ashamed. That I have kept this most delicious, most divine of delightful recipes from you is nothing short of unforgivable. I KNOW I've mentioned it before, as it is one of my most favorite meals, and would definitely rank quite high on my list of most-loved Rachael Ray recipes, but I've never written it up properly.

Cold Chicken Satay Noodles made its first appearance in Everyday with Rachael Ray, two summers ago. As I am immediately taken in by any sort of combination of peanuts, soy sauce, and lime, I decided I had to try it. I love good recipes that employ the use of ever practical, ever flavorful rotisserie chicken, too. There's also the presence of the whole wheat pasta, something I am forever trying to incorporate into our weekly menus because we tend to eat pasta so much, and I know it's much more nutritious than traditional pasta. It's only one of two pasta dishes featuring whole wheat pasta that my SH will deign to eat. I suppose the peanutty sauce successfully masks (for the SH) what I consider to be a comforting, satisfying whole-grain flavor.

I am not at all exaggerating when I confess to you that I have been known to eat a heaping bowl of these noodles for breakfast. There have been days when I've eaten it happily for lunch AND dinner. It's possible I might have snuck out of my bed in the middle of the night and had a forkful or two, standing with no guilt whatsoever in front of the fridge with the door open, in a dark kitchen. IT IS THAT GOOD.

Considering that I've made it so many times, I feel that I have perfected the dish exactly to my liking, so I'll include my notes where appropriate.

Cold Chicken Satay Noodles, adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book, by Rachael Ray (also featured in Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2007)

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 to 1/3 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (I always use smooth, and I always use 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup warm water (eyeball it)
1/4 cup tamari (Rach uses tamari almost exclusively, and I find that I'm so accustomed to it by now that I like its taste better than regular soy sauce. Also, I've been known to shake in a bit more to taste)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (I've decided to dispense with the garlic clove-sometimes raw garlic is just a bit too strong for me. I've made the dish both ways, and I do prefer it without the garlic.)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Excepting the picture above, I use Cholula, and again, I've been known to toss in a bit more than a tsp)
3 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil (eyeball it)
A handful of shredded carrots (I take a shortcut here, buying the bags of pre-shredded carrots. Leftovers can be used for salads or, if you're like me, when you make the recipe AGAIN less than two weeks later!)
4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle (There have been times when I didn't have scallions, and I didn't feel I was missing too much)
1 cup fresh spinach, thinly sliced (Sometimes I slice up a few more handfuls. Makes me feel virtuous!)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 cups shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Run the cooked pasta under cold water to cool. Drain well.
2. While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, heat the peanut butter in the microwave in 10-second intervals until softened. Place in a large bowl with the honey and warm water. Whisk in the tamari, garlic, lime juice, and hot sauce, and whisk in the oil in a slow stream.
3. Add the noodles, veggies, and peanuts to the bowl and toss until the ingredients are well mixed. Serve the noodles in shallow bowls topped with the chicken and cilantro.

Note: I always mix the chopped chicken in with the noodles and veggies. It's just easier that way, soaking up more sauce and lending itself to family-style serving. I've also determined that it's best (for me, anyway) to make the peanut sauce in a Pyrex measuring cup (I use my 2-cup size), pouring it over the noodles, veggies, and chicken after they've already been mixed in the bowl.

Dear loyal few, please forgive me for keeping this one to myself for so long.

P.S. These pictures are crummy, but in all fairness, I took them months ago, before I was better with my flash or was able to use my SH's awesome camera.

Oh my.

I told you I would keep these coming.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This week's list is devoted to one of my favorite pastimes in the entire earth: curling up on the couch, or in a comfy chair, or perhaps perching at the kitchen table, to peruse a glossy new magazine. Sometimes, truly nothing is better. It could even be considered therapy of its own sort!

Now, since I have developed the slightly frustrating, yet highly practical habit of calculating the exact value of an item that I'd like to have, ensuring, for example, that I can imagine at least five or six occasions where I might wear a certain outfit before I buy it, or observing the unit price of orange juice when I'm choosing between a gallon or a quart, I can say with absolute certainty that if there is a magazine that you might consider buying even three or four times a year you are inevitably better off to purchase a subscription. Most subscriptions these days are in the $10-20 range, and individually they cost from $3.99 all the way up to $5.99! You really can't beat that lovely anticipatory joy of peeking into your mailbox to see a brand new mag every few weeks, either.

Okay, since I've bored you all with a ridiculous peek into my financial obsessions, I shall now proceed to list the magazines that I cannot live without.

5. Sunset. While this is a regional magazine, essentially devoted to the West Coast and Southwest, I would highly recommend it to any foodies, gardeners, or those who enjoy traveling. Each issue is chock full of great ideas for road trips, new restaurants, and vacation spots. My edition is specifically tailored to Northern California, so each issue will have suggestions for that month's gardening, a few delicious recipes that usually feature in-season produce, and a section detailing a fun day trip, always to local areas, like Santa Cruz. It's a wonderful magazine, and I now have a binder bulging with clippings that I couldn't bear to lose.

4. US Weekly. My sister-in-law and I always talk about how this magazine is like candy, a sweet bit of fluff, gone in an instant, yet SO enjoyable while it lasts. It doesn't have the substance, or dare I say it, reputation, as something like People, but that's not really why we love it, after all. This is the one magazine on my list that would be a splurge, as all weekly magazines are. My SH very sweetly purchased a two-year subscription for me a few years ago, and I was more than sad when it ran out and we opted not to renew. Maybe this year, for my big 3-0? By the way, you should know that I loathe all things Gosselin and would have opted for another cover image, but of COURSE could not in good conscience post a cover without a bit of RP!

3. Food and Wine. What I love almost as much as eating is READING about eating, and that is probably my favorite aspect of Food and Wine. There is inevitably a beautifully written, wonderfully descriptive article in each issue of the culinary adventures or some one or another, usually in an exotic locale that I'll likely never have the chance to visit. The recipes and direct association with Top Chef only add to the appeal of this magazine.

2. Bon Appetit. I think I've determined that Bon Appetit is my favorite foodie magazine, and I've subscribed to many. I appreciate its straightforward, unpretentious format, and especially like the Prep School feature. Molly Wizenberg contributes a monthly column, and in my mind, one cannot have enough Orangette! There's plenty of global cuisine amidst all the practical recipes and advice, too. A great magazine all around, if I must say.

1. Everyday with Rachael Ray. Hands down, my favorite magazine of all, the one that I eagerly search for a full week before it's arrival, that I instantly sit down and devour, and that I have not, as you can see, been able to dispose a single issue of. I've read and reread each issue, made countless recipes, used the party ideas and menus, and even found a few new interesting websites to search for improvement of my severely lacking fashion. I really cannot say enough about how great this mag is-my saved issues are practically as important to me as my massive cookbook collection. SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lovers, keep on the road you're on...

Monday, July 20, 2009

I have made no secret of my love for that incredible, source-of-all-that-is-good-and-pure-in-the-world-of-music band of Brits we all affectionately know as Coldplay. Yes, I've paid many precious pennies to ensure that I take in their performances, downloaded every speck of song I can find, followed not one, but MULTIPLE groups on Twitter relating to them, ruthlessly terrorized those who denigrate them in any way...I'm kind of hardcore. About Coldplay, anyway. It should come as no surprise that my fifth concert was, yet again, one of my most memorable life experiences.

Incidentally, our seats were the best I've had yet, providing a fabulous view of the band and Chris Martin's marionette-like moves. Of course I cannot leave you without a few of my favorite images, AND videos! You should know that both Jess and I concluded that the only negative aspect of the otherwise perfect evening was that the crowd was somewhat lacking. Granted, we'd never seen CP in an outdoor venue before, so that could have had something to do with it, BUT STILL! You should know that in the videos, it's me that you hear screaming as the opening strains of the songs emerge from the stage. The sole, shrill, scream in a lackadaisical crowd. Also, the videos are somewhat Guy Berryman-centric. I am not sure how that occurred. Hmm.

What appeared to be an eagerly anticipating crowd. Sadly, only about 3/4 of them joyously celebrated through the evening.

First song. I'm pretty sure it was "Violet Hill." I was beside myself with glee, so I'm not entirely certain.

"Fix You." Be still, my heart!

"Yellow." Always sheer perfection, and of course, the quintessential audience favorite.

I'm honestly not sure about the song, but I love the picture. I love watching Chris play the piano.

"Viva la Vida"!!! SUCH an amazing song to see performed!

My favorite song off the new album, "Lovers in Japan"-those are the thousands of paper butterflies shooting out towards the audience. We captured quite a few. I was quite competitive about them, actually. I might even have leaned out of my own aisle just so that I could have a blue one.

I don't know, but I fear it's possible I might wither away (musically, that is) in all the years left before they head back to the studio to make another album. They're the best.

I must trudge back to the living room (AWAY from the computer), so that I can finish Little Dorrit, which is truly wonderful and deserves my full attention. Perhaps I"ll turn on some Coldplay while reading?

P.S. Sound quality isn't so great in the videos, I know, but it was LOUD and I also am no whiz at editing. It's my humble attempt to capture an AMAZING memory!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"I thought he looked more like a Carlos."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I have been wiling away the hours of this past week with my kindred spirit and best friend, Jessica, otherwise known as Pretty Cheap Dress. There are loads of things to post about, including my nothing-short-of-amazing-and-incredible FIFTH Coldplay concert, which I've already briefly teased, but for now, I'm just going to relax with my Sweet Husband (yes, the elusive meaning behind my frequent SH abbreviation). We devoured thick, juicy NY strip steaks for dinner, which I prepared for the grill with a light coating of olive oil and an EXTREMELY liberal shower and subsequent rubbing of coarsely ground pepper. Among my SH's many talents is a great grilling sense-not only were the steaks perfectly medium, with a crisp outer crust and a delightfully juicy, reddish-pink middle, but he also managed to give the side dish of grilled asparagus the exactly-right mild char. Accompanying our meal was a simple arugula salad that I livened up with chunks of pecan and crumbles of my new favorite find at Trader Joe's-white stilton with apricots. I've seen it many times as I longingly admired the cheeses, wishing desperately that they were somehow all made miraculously and simultaneously healthy and cheap, but I never actually thought of purchasing it until Jess and I were putting together a picnic for our trip to Napa. In three words: Best. Decision. Ever. I'll be buying this cheese as long as they sell it at my beloved TJ's.

In the name of being equitable about all information related to a certain franchise that I'm borderline obsessed with, I feel that I would be remiss in not sharing the latest New Moon still, despite the fact that I'm unequivocally, absolutely Team Edward, THROUGH AND THROUGH. Should there even be teams? If you've read the books, however, you'll recognize that this image is utterly legitimate and true to the story, teams or no. Which does make me happy.

In other pop culture news that I can't escape from, Jillian the Bachelorette has made the VERY poor decision (IMO) to eliminate quirky, adorable Reid, the ONE bachelor that (a)did not waffle between work and true reality love or (b)does not give a vacuous, glazed-over stare whenever hard questions arise or seems to think that his only flaw is that "ab number eight is not as defined as the other ones" (Had to steal that HILARIOUS line from Lincee). How could one not heart Reid, with such spoken gems as "Is this going to be in Spanish?"-said when receiving the infamous forego card whilst in Spain and "I have two wives."-tart response when Jill was pressing him for info about sleazy Wes's cheatin' past and present. I miss him already, and am already disappointed aboot the finale. I don't even know if Lincee's antics could make me watch it.

Finally, Jess came through YET AGAIN and inspired even more new musical fascinations. If you must know, I've been compulsively replaying "Death" by the White Lies over and over ever since she told me about them. Love it.

Coming up in the next few days: garage organizing, breathlessly racing through the hundreds of pages I have left in Little Dorrit, and hopefully catching Harry Potter. Clearly, my movie theater anxiety precludes any attending of a blockbuster like Harry Potter, which made $100 million in the span of 24 hours, until there has been an adequate amount of time for the lines and bedlam to settle down. I think I'll wait until Sunday. A hint from the hilariousness that I watched this week with Jess, a safe several weeks after its premiere? "I added 4 more wolves to my wolfpack...4 wolves, running around the dessert..."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Even though I spent the whole of yesterday mere inches from my computer, and even though I compiled this list over a week ago, I did not manage, obviously, to get it all together and put the post up yesterday, on TUESDAY. I'm really quite atrocious at weekly blog themes, I know. I blame Little Dorrit, the fabulous Dickens novel that I'm reading for my summer class. I was very much behind on my weekly reading (surprised?) so I had no time to spend spiffing up my Top 5 list for the week, which I do love.

From a very young age, I've been deeply attached to movie soundtracks. I can remember the very first one that I owned, a beloved, played-to-the-death cassette of Girls Just Want to Have Fun: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. It still ranks quite high on the "best birthday gifts I've ever received" list. Over and over, I listed to such catchy tunes as "Dancing in Heaven" and "I Can Fly", of course reliving my favorite moments from the movie in my overly dramatic mind, thinking that Janey Glenn was the most beautiful girl in the world (yes, that would be the oft-criticized, occasionally viewed as "horse-faced" Sarah Jessica Parker) and that if I watched the movie enough times, I might be able to reenact the incredible dance routines, and maybe, if I searched hard enough, I would fine someone as manly and gorgeous as Jeff Malene. Oh, the dreams of an eleven-year old!

Other beloved soundtracks have graced my cassette and CD players, and I have continued to program my Ipod with my favorites. While there are many, many more than I'm listing here (particularly from television, which may warrant another list entirely!), I think this makes for a good starting list of what I consider to be the best, most well-selected and considered soundtracks for their accompanying films.

5. Pretty Woman. I'm not sure it's possible to count the number of times we rewound "It Must Have Been Love" while riding on the school bus to various junior high sports functions. It was our favorite, and it took me a few years before I realized what a great soundtrack this is, loaded with gems like "King of Wishful Thinking" and "Fallen." Definitely one of the soundtracks that I knew every lyric of long before I watched the movie.
Favorite Song: It Must Have Been Love, Roxette

4. The Big Chill. Even today, I can't confess to having actually watched this film. I'm told it's about a group of adult friends and their various relationship problems. However depressing their stories may be, the soundtrack is KILLER. All oldies, but definitely goodies.
Favorite Song: Tracks of My Tears, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

3. Garden State. Zach Braff personally selected each song for the soundtrack of the charming indie film that he wrote and starred in, and while I've never been a big fan of Scrubs, I immediately developed an affinity for Braff himself, based on his fabulous ability to put together a solid list of tunes that suited the quirky characters and story perfectly.
Favorite Song: New Slang, The Shins

2. Twilight. Another example of a soundtrack that was very carefully hand-picked, I could not have been more pleased with how this one turned out. I didn't know a single one of the songs before I downloaded the CD from ITunes, but now both Paramore and Muse frequent my playlists. I've listened to the album so many times by now that it provides me with a familiar comfort. I won't lie-Rob Pattinson's voice doesn't hurt. At all.
Favorite Song: Flightless Bird, American Mouth, Iron and Wine

1. Dirty Dancing.
A true classic, a soundtrack to beat all soundtracks, an incomparable example of soundtrack perfection. My mom bought the cassette in 1986, when the movie came out, and it was only a matter of time before we (my siblings and I) knew every word of every song. My friends and I were completely enamored with Patrick Swayze when he sang "She's Like the Wind", and put "Hungry Eyes" on repeat. My sister and I mimed walking across a log to "Hey Baby", and when I got married, I was sure to add "Do You Love Me" to our DJ's playlist. I'll always, ALWAYS love this collection.
Favorite Song: Cry to Me, Solomon Burke (prominent in the movie, but only on the Ultimate Dirty Dancing edition of the soundtrack)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

SK's Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's kind of embarrassing to think that the entire dear family I married into is aware of my abhorrence for mayonnaise. They all love it, of course, as most normal people do. I used to think I could slide by without anyone really noticing that the virtually universally loved condiment is always noticeably absent from my hamburgers, or that I politely decline when my mother-in-law offers to make tuna salad sandwiches for a picnic. Thankfully, my brother-in-law adores tuna salad so much, I've never had to really worry about being obvious about my strange mayo-phobia while on family vacations.

Needless to say, in recent months, I've realized that there is no need for subtlety. They all know I hate the creamy white stuff. My SH teases me when he piles cole slaw on his plate, saying "This version doesn't have mayo, I promise!" My MIL sheepishly apologizes for the egg salad she made as a snack. My beloved sister-in-law actually agonized over whether or not I would be able to taste the insignificant amount of mayo present in the delicious curry sauce she made for one of our vacation dinners (for the record, I could not!). Multiple efforts have been made to create dressings and sauces with substitutes like sour cream and yogurt. They could probably all quote the story that I shared as an explanation for my loathing: When left to my own devices as a young child, I spent the whole of an afternoon devouring mayonnaise sandwiches that I made for myself. I sat at my Strawberry Shortcake table with a pile of sandwiches, mayo slathered on white bread, eating happily. The absence of any positive mayonnaise memory after that time leads me to believe that I must have gotten dreadfully sick from overeating. My mother does not recall this event and has often expressed doubt of its veracity, but I have assured her that it's true. My four-year-old memory is quite clear.

I've tried to overcome my distaste, but there's nothing to be done. I simply cannot tolerate mayonnaise. I might as well accept it. Obviously, my family has! Hopefully, I can make up for it with contributions like this heavenly pesto potato salad, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, my fave food blogger. I brought the salad to our 4th of July celebration yesterday, and even though my seasoning left something to be desired (I've been having quite the struggle with the appropriate amount of salt lately!), I think it was quite good. The way I feel about pesto is comparable to the way I feel about gruyere cheese and anything with a crust. I could eat it by the bucket, with pasta, spread over a grilled portobello, smeared over a toasted slice of baguette...clearly, my feelings about pesto could not be more opposite than my feelings about mayo.

Since my photography skills leave something to be desired, check out SK's fabulous pictures and the full recipe here. It was a perfect, simple summer dish, and I definitely plan on making it again.

P.S. You should know that my culinary icon of choice, Rachael Ray, does NOT love mayo either. We're culinary soulmates, Rach and I.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dusseldorf, Day 4

Friday, July 3, 2009

When I woke up to a blanket of clouds and a dreary chill on my third day in Germany, I immediately decided to stay local for the day. Our hotel, as it turned out, was located a mere ten-minute walk from the Alstadt (Old Town), which, even in the rain, seemed so much more manageable (and familiar, by this time!) to me than hopping the tram, taking an illegal ride to the train station, and schlepping my stuff onto a train and then into Bonn. Illegal because, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out the ticket-purchasing process, and despite the fact that there were a plethora of people on the tram each time, I shied away from asking. For some odd reason, I found myself inwardly cringing at the thought of being identified in approximately 1.2 seconds as a tourist. And since I look Germanic enough to pass for a native, I opted to hop on the tram breezily, surreptitiously avoiding the tiny red box that passengers used to validate their tickets.

After making that not-at-all difficult decision, I had a luxurious morning, lounging in bed with a whole pot of coffee just for me before I took a hot shower and headed out to see a bit more of Dusseldorf. By this time, I'd walked down into the Alstadt for dinner twice, and fortunately, the sights that I elected to visit, the Goethe Museum and the Hofgarten, were just a bit past those charming cobblestone streets.

I marked a path towards the Goethe Museum first. Although most everyone would recognize him as the author of the play Faust (including me), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a tremendously significant figure in Germany's literary history, so I considered myself lucky that such a lovely museum devoted to his life happened to be located in Dusseldorf. He never actually lived in Dusseldorf, but visited frequently, and the collection of his works and artifacts is quite impressive. I was able to see Goethe's own copies of Grimm's fairy tales, correspondence between Goethe and his friends, lovers, and teachers, even a page from his personal agenda, shakily written just before his death. He never completed the tasks listed on the page.

A highlight of the museum was a peek at a first edition of Faust, and a Salvador Dali sketch, submitted as possible artwork for a publication of the play.

I strolled through the Hofgarten, which is essentially a large park spanning many city blocks, on my way back to the Alstadt, where I planned to find something reasonably priced and somewhat delicious for lunch. I opted to head straight towards the water, on a street that I had not crossed before, and I was rewarded with incredible views across the river. There was a beautiful promenade right next to the water, and I sat on a bench for a while with my book, though my hunger eventually overcame me.

Food in Germany had thus far been a big disappointment, although the various forms of breads I encountered were outstanding. My mother-in-law, a native Dane (and thus accustomed to various European cuisines), encouraged me to try the simple native specialties, bratwursts and wienerschnitzel, so on this day, footsore and starving, I was thrilled to find a little restaurant in the Alstadt with a small spit in its front window, which carefully turned, blistering the sides of bratwurst. I immediately ordered one, and was thrilled to discover that it was ensconced in a crusty white roll. I ate it in about five minutes, right there in front of the window, where I was sheltered from the rain that had begun to fall. It was GOOD. Vaguely spicy, with a crisp outer coating over the juicy sausage, made even more delicious by the roll. I could easily have devoured two, but I restrained, walked through the Alstadt a bit more, stopping to take note of Coldplay's presence in Germany

and eventually stayed the afternoon in a kitschy, funky cafe, where I had a heavenly hot chocolate, read more of my book, and tried to justify eating another bratwurst for dinner.

All in all, it was a great day.

How I knew our house was The One

I'm not even sure I looked at the interior once I discovered that an avocado tree flourished on the premises.

The fate of these precious spring-green pearls? Diced and sliced to add delectable creaminess to salads, chopped and mashed for spicy guacamole, layered on top of green chile and cheese to make burgers something just shy of heaven...

Behold my spoils! Pretty Cheap Dress will thank me when she arrives next week!