Notorious NPH

It's Oscar night (I think there's supposed to be a "™" or maybe an "®" in there somewhere), and as per usual for the last ten years or so, I am unprepared.

As a former (recovering?) film student, I take the Oscars very seriously. Perhaps too seriously, but what can I do? I love the movies, always have, and -- this is the part that has become the most important to me now, in my "advanced" age -- I also really, really enjoy watching people wearing clothes that cost more than my house.

Also: Neil Patrick Harris. I will watch anything he is in (and I actually HAVE, since I watched every. single. episode. of How I Met Your Mother).

So help me, I am a bonafide red-blooded American woman, despite all my attempts to avoid becoming such a creature for basically my entire life. I'm a stereotype. I make no excuses.

Used to be, back in the days when we were still dating, G and I would go out of our way if necessary to see all the nominated films. It was easier when we were in college and they would show movies on campus for $2. The hardest part about seeing Oscar movies back then was coming up with the $2. Then we got engaged and got jobs and got married and got a mortgage and got a kid ... and now we barely have time to change our underwear, let alone carve out countless hours to spend at the movies. (I won't even mention that $2 no longer buys a soda at the movies any more -- hell, you care barely get a movie theater box of Junior Mints at Target for less than that.)


I'll spare you all the long and boring details (TOO LATE, haha sucker!) and just get to the part I think you're waiting for anyway: "So, which Oscar-nominated movies did you actually see this year?" And perhaps as a corollary: "What did you think of them?"

Here you go. This is the entirety of the list of Oscar movies I've seen this year.

  • Boyhood. I honestly can't say enough good things about this movie. It's the best movie I've seen in a long time, perhaps ever. Go see it and get back to me. (You can probably still get it at Redbox, which has been a godsend to patient cinephiles with nice TV's at home.) Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were both beyond fantastic in this movie. I never really gave much thought to Richard Linklater's films (not usually my thing), but I have since reconsidered. I think it would be super if this wins Best Picture, as it is expected to. I usually root against the frontrunner, but I can't in this case.
  • Gone Girl. We liked this one well enough. I'd read the book before we saw the movie; my husband didn't. I was not a particular fan of Rosamund Pike in this movie, but I'm not sure it's her fault; could have been the character. Ben Affleck was perfect, which are words I never thought I'd ever say.
  • Into the Woods. It was pretty much exactly as I expected it to be. G and I both liked it (me more than him, but that's because he is not always hot to trot on musicals). Chris Pine was a revelation and probably the second-best thing in this movie after James Corden. Maryl Streep absolutely DID NOT deserve a nom for this; they gave her one anyway because she's Meryl, and that's bullshit.
  • Big Hero 6. Highly recommended. Will be picking up the Blu-Ray on Tuesday. Okay, Shae? Can we stop with the civil disobedience now? Jesus Mary and Simon Peter. Mommy and Daddy can sometimes bend the laws of physics and space-time, but we just don't have the power to make Big Cinema do what you want it to.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2. Liked it. Basically The Empire Strikes Back, but with, y'know, cartoon dragons. My husband and I very much enjoyed playing our favorite game of "Name That Voice" while watching.
  • Maleficent. Yes, this movie got nominated for an Academy Award -- for Costumes, but you know what? An O is an O. It was fine. I like watching Angelina Jolie chew the hell out of some scenery.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy. My favorite movie of the year, but I am biased because I love Chris Pratt so hard right now. Not the best movie of the year, but my favorite. Already own the Blu-Ray, and already watched it at least six times. No regrets.
  • The Lego Movie. Nominated for Best Original Song for "Everything is Awesome" which you are probably singing right now. I am disappointed that this movie didn't get nominated for Best Animated Feature because I thought it was the best animated movie of the year (and I am absolutely in the bag for Disney).
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past. Liked it a lot, but thought Peter Dinklage was criminally underutilized.
That's it. Eleventeen hundred nominated movies, and I've seen nine of them. I suck. I can't make predictions in any categories because I haven't even seen enough to clips to guess what way the Academy might want to go. Although I can say this: I really hope that J.K. Simmons wins for Whiplash -- a movie I haven't seen -- and I hope that Michael Keaton wins for Birdman -- again, a movie I haven't seen -- just because I like those guys a whole lot and want them to have lots of success and stuff.

And if Meryl wins again? I'm flipping a table.


Can't Talk, Eating

Hey, look! Two blog posts in the same calendar month! One month into 2015, and I'm still keeping one of my actual, CURRENT-YEAR resolutions! Go me!

Plus, this post is going to be about MULTIPLE resolutions at once. I win at ... something.

Anyway. When last we spoke, I mentioned a bunch of "guidelines" that I set for myself for this year and I am happy to report that I have been hard at work at #5 especially. Now that I have a semi-regular schedule (i.e., I work most days and am almost always home by 4:00, so I have time to make "real" dinner instead of just throwing random assorted frozen things on the table), I have been trying to expand my repertoire in the kitchen. I mean, I think I'm a pretty good cook anyway, but it never hurts to improve.

This means -- pretty much as I predicted -- that I'm experimenting a lot more frequently with recipes I find on Pinterest. And so far, I've found one that has been an absolute, unqualified slam dunk, and so I am sharing it here.

But first (OF COURSE), a story, which begins thusly: I just CAN'T with pancakes.

I mean, I love pancakes. LOVE THEM. That's the problem. One is never enough. Three are usually not enough. Add in butter, syrup, etc., and I end up feeling fluffy and sluggish for the whole day. (Carbs!) But I love them, and my daughter and husband love them, and I feel so ... difficult when I make them for everyone else, but don't eat them myself. Difficult, and sad. Everyone else has a plate full of golden-brown hotcake deliciousness in front of them, and I'm eating a sad little serving of scrambled eggs.

Enter the cream cheese crȇpe.

trying something new: cream cheese crêpes with (fancy!) blueberry preserves.

This recipe has been floating around Pinterest for a while, usually under something like "low-carb pancakes." I tend to stay away from recipes like that, because many low-carb recipes out there contain ingredients I can't eat or don't like -- almond flour (allergic), coconut oil (not worth the cost, I don't think), Stevia (ick), erythritol (what?). But I found one that has two ingredients, both of which I (1) recognize and (2) have in my house.

Cream cheese and eggs. That's it. WHAT?

Believe it or not: these are GOOD. I don't know what kind of culinary alchemy makes cream cheese and eggs (plus a little bit of vanilla extract, which I add, because I never follow recipes exactly) turn into something that tastes almost exactly like pancakes when you pour the batter out of a blender, but HELLO LOVER.

I made these for the first time about a week ago, and they were good. I was not 100% satisifed with how they turned out -- I had trouble getting them to come out "pretty" -- but they tasted fine, and instead of syrup, I only needed a little bit of topping. In that first batch, I only used three half-teaspoons of blueberry preserves (half a teaspoon on top of each crȇpe), and it was enough.

But, as I said, I wasn't completely sold. They were good enough, but not perfect. Something wasn't quite right. I needed a second taster to try these and guess what was wrong with them, or tell me I was bananas for liking them so much, or something.

We tried them again this morning, and this time they were an unqualified success. My husband declared this recipe "a keeper" -- and I'll agree, especially because I figured out what was wrong with the last batch.

made cream cheese crêpes again. you should too. they're amazing.

Here's the recipe: 3 ounces of softened cream cheese (lowfat cream cheese [American Neufchâtel] will work just fine) and 3 large eggs (or equivalent -- I used 2 medium eggs and 1/3 cup Egg Beaters). That's all. I added about 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, but you don't need to. Mix in a blender or Magic Bullet-type device, then pour onto a heated griddle or skillet. You'll get 6-8 crȇpes from this recipe, depending on how big you make them. They'll be thin -- they're crȇpes, after all -- but they taste like pancakes (somehow!) and satisfy that craving. I don't know how, but they do. Magic, maybe?

When I made this batch, I put about half a teaspoon of preserves in the middle of each crȇpe and then rolled them up, with a little extra of the top, and a squirt of whipped cream to look pretty. They tasted AMAZING, even better than last time, when I used all Egg Beaters.

And now I can have pancakes with everyone else. THE END.


As If We Never Said Goodbye

Forgive me, Internet people, for I have sinned. It has been 420 days since my last confession.

my christmas "elfie" got photobombed.

There is literally no reason for this picture to be here ... and yet, here we are.

(No, wait: that’s not true. It’s been 17 days since my last confession -- yes, really! -- but it’s been 420 days since my last blog post, which is what I really mean. Or, at least, that’s all you care about, anyway. Which is fine, because nobody cares how often I go to confession. Except maybe that poor priest who had to hear my first actual confession in 15 years. But he’s not allowed to rat me out, so you’ll just have to sit there and stew in your own juices and wonder what I had to confess after all that time.)

[Okay, fine. Can’t have you all worrying about me since it’s been so darned long. I’ll give you the short version, which is basically what I gave that priest, anyway: you know those Commandment thingies? I broke just about all of them except the ones about murder and adultery. I’m also pretty sure that I committed all of the Cardinal Sins, too, especially gluttony. I mean, Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass, but my “good-butt” jeans are most decidedly not.]

{Oops, there I go busting out the Pride already. But trust me: I still fit into these pants right now, and I intend to keep it that way, and if that’s sinful pride (prideful sin?), so be it.}

Gaaah, that’s a lot of parenthetical-type markings at the beginning of a blog post. ANYWAY. The point of all of this is to say that one of my resolutions for 2015 is to post more often. You know: like, more than once every 1⅙ years.

INCIDENTALLY, if you happened to find yourself wondering what I did during my mostly unintentional (yes, really!) hiatus, allow me to direct you to my Instagram and Twitter feeds. If you don’t know what those are (hi, Mom!), then let’s just say I spent a lot of time having something vaguely resembling a “normal” life, reading everything I could get my hands on, and trying to figure out (1) what in the Dickens my kid means when the words come out of her mouth and (2) where in the Dickens she picks these things up, anyway.

Oh, and I stopped being a grad student and became an actual, real-life, certified teacher of 7th-12th grade English Language Arts in the state of Pennsylvania. I have all kinds of paperwork to prove it and everything (including the student loan bills). They’re somewhere in this house, anyway. I can tell you where my diploma is, at least. Which, if you know anything about my life, is definitely progress. Victory in our time!

Anyway, I fully intend to get back to business now, beginning with my New Year’s resolutions. Except: I don’t really “do” resolutions, really. I mean, I make them, just like everyone else, but I also break them pretty easily (see: my attempts to learn to make a flaming dessert, which have been ongoing for approximately eleventeen years at this point).

But now that I’m mumble-something years old, I’ve finally gotten around to realizing that broken resolutions aren’t really fractured promises so much as they are detours -- or maybe I mean “scenic routes.” Sometimes you have to break a resolution in order to find out if it was one worth making in the first place. So I guess what I am saying is that I plan to make these resolutions more like guidelines (not unlike recipes and speed limit signs).

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Blog more often. (See paragraph 5, above … the one after the {squiggle brackets}.) This one is self-explanatory and doesn’t require any clarification; yet here I am, writing at least one whole additional compound-complex sentence about it, including a properly-placed but entirely gratuitous semicolon.
  2. Treat myself better. Not necessarily in a “splurge” sort of sense (although I do intend to at least try to get massages and pedicures more often), but more in the “give myself at least a small break once in a while” kind of way. Stop beating myself up for small mistakes and lapses in judgement. Wear my “good-butt” jeans just because. Have an extra pudding cup because I want to.
  3. Take better care of myself. Again, not the usual “stop eating food that tastes good and work out 4 hours a day.” I’m 40 years old -- it’s okay, I’m fine with it, really -- and I’ve been on a diet for, like, 39½ of those years. That isn’t what I mean. (Although I do need to lose weight and exercise more.) Of course I’ll refocus my efforts on eating healthy food and not having Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs for dinner four nights a week. But I should also get a mammogram and a Pap smear and maybe some baseline blood work to make sure that my blood isn’t made up of 75% bacon grease. And I should definitely check in with a therapist for a tune-up.
  4. Keep learning. One of the things that I learned (or that was reinforced) while I was in grad school was how much I love to learn new things. I completely changed careers and lines of intellectual inquiry, which was so revitalizing for me. I know I was annoying, and I appreciate everyone who tolerated (and continues to tolerate!) my insufferable excitement. But I know I’m not done learning, and I want to keep learning something new every day.
  5. Try new things. This is, of course, related to “Keep learning” -- but the differences between those two resolutions are vast. It’s one thing to know who The Doctor is, but something altogether different to experience Doctor Who. I like to know what my students are reading, but it’s important to also read those things as well. Knowing and understanding are not the same, and unless I try to apply the things I have learned, my “personal education” will always be incomplete. (This might mean that I make more Pinterest recipes or try again to tackle Don Quixote; hard to say how this one will pan out. Hopefully this will give me plenty of things to blog about this year.)

So. I guess I’m back. And already it’s as if we never said goodbye. (Probably because we didn’t, but still.)


Happy Halloween (A Little Late) (Okay, A LOT Late, Shut Up)

Here are some pictures of our trip to Hersheypark in the Dark. It was awesome, as you can see.



This costume turned out to be one of Shae's better ideas -- and, yes, it was hers. She wanted to be "Bad Sandy" from Grease. I drew the line at the leather pants because I am decidedly anti-yeast-infection. She really looks like a generic "Pink Lady" but with her particular hair and the faux-pleather jacket it's pretty easy to make the connection. (She's also on record more than once as being dressed as "Lela" from Teen Beach Movie, if you're into that sort of thing.)


Movin' up in the world! Last time I took a "you must be this tall" picture at Hersheypark, Shae was a Hershey's Kiss (36" to 42" tall). Now she'd be a Twizzler (54" to 60" tall) if she'd stand up straight. I am not complaining, because I got to avoid roller coasters for most of the day by claiming height restrictions. We'll see what happens when we go back later this year, around Christmastime.




It's much more funner to be at Hersheypark when you're with other kids -- Shae had a "ride buddy" for most of the day. By the time my niece is finally tall enough to go on the big kid rides and coasters with Shae (in approximately 2025), I'll be able to just hang out in the Food Court, as God intended parents to do.



Yes, we had a costume change in the middle of the day. My niece went to participate in the Hershey Half Marathon Kids' Fun Run and while we were already in the parking lot, we switched over to warmer clothes and more comfortable (read: not school) shoes.




We stayed out until dark, which we've never done at Hersheypark before. Granted, we normally go in the summertime, when it doesn't get dark until 10pm instead of 6pm, but still. Shae was even going to get a chance to go on a coaster with her Daddy, until it started to rain and all the "good" rides shut down. (Her word, not mine.)


A (mostly) good time was had by all. (And of course there was free candy, which never hurts.)


Children of the Candy Corn

Earlier this month, we took a seasonally appropriate trip to the pumpkin patch to go ... pumpkin patching, I guess. Is there a verb for what one does in a pumpkin patch when one is not Courtney Stodden? (Don't run out and Google "Courtney Stodden pumpkin patch," okay? Trust me on this one.)

Patchin' Fashion

This is what you wear to the pumpkin patch when you're my kid: a Halloween-themed T-shirt that is maybe but not quite too small, but still big enough to wear in public, generally speaking; pieces of not one, but TWO years' worth of Halloween costumes over capri pants, because hey, why the hell not; an assortment of LiveStrong-style bracelets from only God knows what organizations (I think one of them might say "Got Milk?"); and one leg warmer as an arm cover.

Oh, and let me take this opportunity to point out that it was in the mid-70's that day. So, you know.


The short version of the story is that those tiny little pumpkins were a huge hit. Also the gourds. I am a fan of gourds, and I have to say that the kids all had an excellent eye for nice, nubby, grotty-looking gourds that look positively fantastic in a nice arrangement that my husband made at home in a pretty red bowl. LOOK AT THAT: married almost fifteen years, and I am still learning about his special skills.


Children of the (Indian) Corn

Perhaps unexpectedly, my favorite part of this pumpkin patch trip was traipsing "through the corn maze" -- a/k/a looking for Indian corn. The kids found some pretty Indian corn, too, and we let them run around in the cornfields for so long that I'm pretty sure we had them convinced that they were actually in the corn maze that was advertised in great big letters all over the place. (I don't "do" corn mazes, because with my luck I'll get stuck out there forever and they'll need to call out the National Guard to find me and it will be too late because Voldermort will have already ported me away to Little Hangleton and I think it's possible at this point that I might be getting my pop-culture references confused again.)



SPOILER ALERT: There were pony rides. There are ALWAYS pony rides at these things.


Shae did end up finding us a lovely pumpkin that she and G carved up the very next day, and which ended up in the trash already because hey did you know that fresh pumpkins can get all gross and moldy and "smell like the cat's butt"? Trust me on that one, too: we learned that the hard way.

Special thanks to Anthony's mom for letting me us his picture. Thanks, Anthony's mom!