Arizona Tea Can: More Than Meets the Eye

I have kind of a problem when it comes to Arizona green tea.  I just love the stuff.  It’s refreshing and sweet and energizing, and I want to drink it all the time.  Pretty much, if the city could make it come out of my faucet, I would sign up for that shit in a heartbeat.  In fact, I grabbed a couple cans of it yesterday when I went to the grocery store, and I subsequently consumed them in short order.

On a slightly related note, I’ve been trying lately to decrease the amount of waste I generate on a daily basis. I’ve been composting and recycling, and just generally cutting down on the amount of disposable products I use. It’s been pretty good so far. If nothing else, I don’t have to take the trash out as much. So I was sitting around and I had these tea cans in front of me, and I started thinking about what I could do besides tossing them into the recycling bin.

To Pinterest! Most of what they had to offer was upcycled can jewelry. Some of it was pretty, but I knew I would spend time and money making cute little baubles that I’d never wear.

During my recent trip to California and their various farmers’ markets, I saw a lot of people peddling little succulent gardens in all sorts of funky containers. Old jewelry boxes, watering cans and hollowed-out books were all being filled with those colorful little desert plants. I liked them. I didn’t want to spend money on them. The memory of those little planters came back to me. Why not plant some succulents in a tea can?

So I did.

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For this project I used:

  • 2 Arizona green tea cans (any can would work)
  • 1 small bag of succulent potting soil (or regular potting soil mixed with sand)
  • Assorted succulents (I bought two small pots of them from Lowes for $2.98 each)
  • 1 can opener

First, I watched this video to learn how to safely remove the tops from the cans. This method uses a standard can opener. I messed up the first one and lost the rim. The second one I did the right way. I still used both cans.

Rinse the cans out and use sandpaper or a metal file to file down any remaining sharp edges

Complete the rest of this activity outside, or put down some newspaper. I should have put down more newspaper.

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Fill your can(s) with potting soil. I didn’t have a small shovel of any kind, so I used the little metal scoop that came with my ice bucket. I did note that it was a lot easier to get the soil into the messed up can with the wider opening.

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You’ll probably have to pack down the soil a few times. Leave about 1/2″ between the top of the soil and the rim of the can.

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Gently remove your succulents from the pots they came in, and separate them if you need to. I had six individual plants between the two pots I purchased.

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Burrow small holes in the soil in the can and place your succulents as desired. I ended up packing a little more soil around the bases of my plants to keep them firmly in place. At this point in the project, if you didn’t file down your sharp edges, you’re going to have a bad time.

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Water your plants until the soil is just damp. And there you have it.

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Put it on your desk or in your window or on your coffee table. Wherever you want, really. Don’t let me tell you what to do.

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Living Alone

Living alone was completely uncharted territory for me. Since striking out on my own as a young adult, I’d acquired a kickass job and lived in some great (and not-so-great) places. But it was always with a significant other, roommates or both. I considered myself independent and self-sufficient, but living by myself was something I’d never had the chance to experience. And I didn’t really feel like I needed to.

Then, a few months ago, I went through a really rough breakup. All the gory details aside, I was completely blindsided and really unprepared. All I knew was that I had to pick up the pieces and start over again — alone. Like, for real this time. I was terrified. In my fragile emotional state, I couldn’t even handle the idea of being by myself for a few hours, let alone having to go home every night to an empty apartment. The loneliness would be overwhelming, I thought. But, with no other viable options (I could have stayed with family until I found a roommate, but remaining in that state of limbo seemed infinitely more unpalatable), I charged ahead and found a place. Moved my stuff in. Made a budget. And waited for the bog of loneliness to suck me down.

But, much to my surprise, I was okay. Happy, even. I’d been worried that my new apartment would be an environment fraught with dread, a symbol of my failures, a purgatorial waypoint I’d have to endure until I figured out what to do next (I know, that’s super over-dramatic, but that was where my hyperdriven emotions chose to take me). But I quickly found that it was the complete opposite. It was a refuge of my own creation. A home all my own with no rules except the ones I created (and could change at will). It showed me how strong I was and how much ass I was kicking at life — and one person’s rejection couldn’t change that.

Four months in, and I’m loving my solo life. The realizations I’ve had over the past months are maybe very obvious to a lot of people out there. But to me they’ve been liberating revelations.

1.) Friends are just a phone call away

Those first few weeks, being alone was terrifying to me. Being by myself equaled being alone with my thoughts, which equaled a lot of crying and distasteful self-pity. I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. I worried that, in my new apartment, I’d be faced with way too much alone time. The prospect made my heart race.

It turns out, though, that there’s these things called phones and a vast series of tubes called the Internet that I could access through my wifi-capable electronic devices. Did you know that there’s people on the other sides of these devices? All sarcasm aside, I severely underestimated the power of my social circle. I had people who loved me and who wanted to talk to and see me. All I had to do was press a few buttons. Even if I couldn’t get anyone to come over or meet up at the moment, there was always someone to talk to over chat, text or phone. But as it was, I was going out or having people over just about every night.

Internet: It's a thing!

Internet: It’s a thing!

If I hadn’t had such amazing friends, this part might have been harder. But I was meeting new people as well, establishing deeper connections with casual acquaintances, and reconnecting with friends I’d drifted away from while I was caught in the relationship vortex.

This didn’t come without some effort on my part. I could have easily sat in my apartment, waited for people to call me, and felt sorry for myself when they didn’t. But that wouldn’t do. Reaching out to others for help and companionship, admitting that I was in need, wasn’t the easiest thing. But then, it really was, because I found so many willing and eager friends that I was overwhelmed with love and support. To those people, I can’t possibly express my gratitude enough. I also apologize for any incoherent blubbering you may have had to endure.

2.) Saying yes is easier

Pretty soon after my move was complete, I decided I wasn’t going to say no to any invitation. Barring illness or conflicting engagements, I was up for anything. Any outing had the potential to either become a new and fun experience, or, failing that, an interesting story. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve flown across the country twice, drank flavored vodka straight out of the bottle while on a boat, bounced myself to exhaustion in a trampoline arena and run my first 5k, among other fun and interesting experiences. Nothing is holding me back, so why not?

In a relationship, or even with roommates, it’s so easy to say, “Let’s just stay in tonight.” But alone, there’s no one to coordinate with. No one to worry if I decide to stay out until the bars close. No one to feel guilty dragging along or leaving behind if they don’t want to go. It’s just me, and I can pick up and go with a moment’s notice. I’m safe and I’m with people I trust. I can be comfortable anywhere.

3.) My apartment reflects my style

This is going to sound like an absolute no-brainer. But everything in my apartment is mine. That sounds like such a small, simple thing. But to someone who’s never had a place of their own, that’s huge.

When I moved in, I got all my stuff unpacked in short order. As someone who’s never moved without unpacked boxes from my previous move, this was unprecedented. It was partly because I was anxious to be out of that in-between limbo period, and partly because, when I was home alone, I wanted to stay busy in order to stay out of my own head. But a part of me also really enjoyed putting all my stuff out. My mismatched collections of knick-knacks, figurines and wall art somehow managed to fit really well. Within two weeks, my friends were remarking at how it looked like I’d lived in the place for months already. I was surprised to find how easily I felt comfortable and at home in this new space.

I'd live there. Oh wait, I do!

I’d live there. Oh wait, I do!

I’ve always had to share space with other people. I’m an easygoing person, and so have been the people I’ve lived with, so it’s never been much of a problem. I didn’t realize, though, how much I would enjoy being in a place where everything belongs to me. The trinkets on the bathroom shelf? They’re just how I want them. The blanket over the back of the couch? It’s there because I say so. My Game of Thrones collectible figurines? Displayed proudly in the living room. I know, this sounds really obvious, but it pleases me more than I thought possible. It’s like having my teenage dream bedroom, but in a whole apartment.

4.) It’s much easier to keep everything neat

I would not call myself a slob. I’ve never let my mess get too out of control. But I will say that I’m not the neatest person. I throw clothes on the floor. I may leave dishes in the sink for a couple days before I get around to doing them. Junk mail, craft projects and other clutter tend to accumulate on my dining room table and other open surfaces. Living with other people, it’s easy to blame the mess on someone else. And perhaps there’s a bit of hope there that the other person will be in a cleaning mood so that the mess magically resolves itself while I’m out of the house. Pretty much, it’s just easier to say, “I’ll get it later.” This doesn’t make sense. But it’s my only explanation.

Because, much to my surprise, my apartment is pretty damn clean. Sure the clutter builds up now and then, and sometimes I don’t get to the dishes right away. But, where I’d previously have to set aside half my day to clean the other places I’ve lived, my cleaning now takes about twenty minutes usually. An hour, if I want to go all-out with dusting and cleaning the bathroom. Because I keep up with it for the most part. Ain’t no one else around to go through the junk mail. No one to blame the dirty dishes on but myself. It’s so much nicer to come home to a clean apartment, and I know that no one is going to clean it for me.

There’s also the little factor of it being only on person’s mess instead of two. No more asking, “Can I throw away these Amazon boxes?” or “Can’t you find a better place for your ethernet cable collection?” Cleaning is less of a hassle when everything in the place is mine.

5.) Being alone is actually really nice

Alone time is something I always treasured. I never got a lot of days where it was just me in the house, but when I did, I tried to make the most of them. Watching movies no one else was interested in but me. Working on personal projects. Bingeing on video games (okay, maybe I wasn’t making the best use of my time). Point being, I was never bored or lonely being by myself.

When the breakup first happened, I guess I confused being alone with being lonely. Without the idea that someone was coming home to me at the end of the day, without the ability to just walk to the other room if I wanted company, wouldn’t being alone be different?

Turns out that it’s not. I spend a lot of time by myself, and it’s wonderful. I play my games, I knit stuff, I watch eight episodes of 30 Rock in a row — and I can do it all in my underwear if I want to. I might call a friend or go out if I need human contact. But I don’t feel that need as often as I thought I would, and certainly not as much as I did in the first month I spent in my new place. I even go out alone sometimes — to restaurants or to the beach or on walks, which is something I never did. But I like it a lot. Now that the voices have quieted down, I find that most of the time I’m my own best friend.

The funny thing is, everyone told me it was going to be okay. Y’all knew I’d be fine way before I did. But I’m glad I learned it myself.

Romantic Red Infinity Scarf

Sometimes I get it in my head that I need something, even if there’s no logical reason for me to have that thing. I just get obsessed with it. I spend hours browsing Pinterest for it, and sometimes after a while I can convince myself that I can live with just lusting from afar.

I'll get you one day, Octolabra.

I’ll get you one day, Octolabra.

In this case, it was a snood. A friend of mine showed up to one of my holiday parties wearing one, and I loved the idea. I could make one of those, I thought. I spent some time browsing patterns, and finally decided that I’d just have to make one up myself. It would be bright red and reversible and just lovely. I would look amazing in it. Even though I live in Florida, where scarves are appropriate maybe two days out of the year. But goddammit, I’d make those two days count! Approximately three years later, I’ve finally delivered on that project.

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I intended for this to be an infinity-style scarf with a single twist so that it could be doubled up while keeping clean lines. But, as is tradition with me, I didn’t pay attention to gauge or anything. In fact, I started this once, frogged it, and started over with bigger needles because I was worried it would end up too short. So, of course, I ended up with a scarf that was unnecessarily long.

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On me, this can be looped three times for a nice drapey look.

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Or four if I want it a little more cozy.

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Eh, I’ll definitely still wear it.

I opted for an easy checkerboard pattern with borders in a modified moss stitch. Easy. Reversible. Totally works with the chunky knits trend that we’re still enjoying.

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For yarn, I used two different yarns held together — KnitPicks Galileo in Valentine (4 skeins) and a variegated red sock yarn that I foolishly threw away the label for (3 skeins). With the big needles I used (13), this ended up being a pretty loose knit. I recommend sizing down (maybe an 8 or a 10) if you want a tighter knit and/or shorter scarf.

Here we go.

You will need:

Size 13 20″ round needle
4 skeins KnitPicks Galileo yarn
3-4 skeins variegated sock yarn

C/O 200 stitches
When joining ends, make sure the stitches are twisted around one (and only one!) time
Rows 1 & 3: k2p2 to end of row
Rows 2 & 4: p2k2 to end of row
[Rows 5 – 8: k4p4 to end of row
Rows 9 – 12: p4k4 to end of row]
Repeat brackets 4 more times. This should give you 10 rows of k4p4 checkerboard pattern
Repeat first four rows for lower border
Bind off (I did a sewn bind off)

Easy, right?

Let’s Try This Whole Blogging-About-My-Personal-Life Thing

2015 is beginning as an odd year for me. For the past as-long-as-I-can-remember, I’ve had some major life goal I was working toward. When I was living with my family, it was moving out. When I started dating Kyle, it was to move in with Kyle. Before I finished school, it was to finish school (that one was a goal for a really long time). When I was done with school, the goal was to get a job that let me use my degree. I’ve accomplished these things. So now I find myself at a point where I don’t have any major milestone that I’m working toward. It feels…odd.

I suppose I was at this point six months ago when I landed my current gig. But between getting settled in, taking a trip to Chicago and dealing with the holidays there was no time to think about the longer term. Now that 2015 has officially started, my outlook for the year is “Now what?” It’s freeing in a way, but also a bit scary. Scary in that I can see myself spending years not really doing much of anything, at the end of which I’ll look back and ask myself what the hell happened.

So I have to figure out something to work toward. Kyle says I should start writing a book, for serious this time (I’ve started many, few of them have gotten beyond a couple chapters before they were overwhelmed by my disgust and self-loathing). The idea of doing that and failing scares me. I like writing but I don’t actually think I’m very good at it (I’m being frank, not fishing for compliments, so don’t take that as a signal that I need to be reassured; I’m pretty satisfied with the current amount of ass I’m kicking). Perhaps leaving the idea of a novel in the realm of “things I could do but don’t feel like doing” feels safer than trying and having it turn into “things I definitely can’t do”. But I suppose being afraid of it is more of a reason to do it. I’m not committing to anything because I don’t want to be one of those people who always talks about “my novel that I’m working on”. If I do start writing a thing chances are that no one will hear about it until it’s done or close to being done. I’ve said in the past that the only way I’ll ever write a novel is accidentally. So maybe one day I’ll come on here to say, “Oops, I have a novel now.” But no promises.

A smaller goal that Kyle and I have been working on together is getting the kitchen in his house renovated. As with most things decor-related, Kyle doesn’t have an opinion, so I have mostly free reign as far as aesthetics. He just knows he wants to knock out a wall and have it be open to the living room. So if that progresses in the coming year, I’m sure I’ll be posting pictures and updates here. It’s something I’m very excited about.

I thought I wanted straight-up modern, but after hours of browsing Pinterest, the pictures that touched me most were the mixed-media, modern-meets-rustic-urban-chic.  So basically I want a kitchen with everything.  And a yellow stove.  Sigh.

I thought I wanted straight-up modern, but after hours of browsing Pinterest, the pictures that touched me most were the mixed-media, modern-meets-rustic-urban-chic. So basically I want a kitchen with everything. And a yellow stove. Sigh.

And while renovating the kitchen is well and good, I know that this isn’t the house we’re going to be staying in for the rest of our lives. So although it’s exciting, I know it’s not permanent. In a vague way, I know that I want to branch out and move somewhere that’s not in Florida, to experience other things before I settle down. So I suppose that’s my ultimate goal. But it’s kind of an abstract notion, in which the where, when and how of the idea are vapor that have yet to gel into anything approaching certainty — it could be this year, five years from now, I wouldn’t know. Before that becomes a reality, I’m really just waiting to get bored with what I have going on now. So I guess that’s my goal? To become bored to the point of leaving my current life behind. That’s…not really what I think of as something to strive for.

So I guess it’s not that I don’t have goals. When I think about it, it appears that I have several. Maybe this year will be super exciting. I know that I want to visit Jean in California, I know that I’ll become a GIA-certified Accredited Jewelry Professional through taking courses that my job is paying for (that probably looks good on a resume, right?). Who knows what else? Writing this has made me feel a bit better. Thanks, blog!

Pushing 30 Reading Challenge — His Dark Materials

I really dislike Buzzfeed, so I want to make it clear that this post (or series of posts, we’ll see how far I get) is in no way condoning Buzzfeed or their clickbait articles. But a friend referred me to an article of theirs (not an article, actually, a list is more accurate) boasting “65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s.”  (Not including a link, because suck it BF.)

Well, I’M in my 20s, I thought. Let’s see how well I’ve done on this OH SO ESSENTIAL list of literature. Turns out, not very. I’ve read maybe three books on the list, and most of them I’ve never even heard of. I consider myself pretty well-read, so this made me a little angry. Why did I need to read these books? What was so special about them? I’ll show you, Buzzfeed, I thought. I’ll read all those goddamn books, you just watch, and they’ll probably be stupid anyway.

Yeah, I’m really not sure what I’m trying to prove with this one, but I’ve been cruising through books lately and continually looking for suggestions on what to read.  With a year and a half left in my 20s, it seems like an interesting challenge to take on, at least to see how far I can get.

It just so happened that at the time I perused this list, I was actually re-reading one of the books (a trilogy, actually) that was on it. So if I’m going to document my journey, that seems like a good place to start.

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I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy for the first time when I was about 14/15. It pulled me in from the first chapter and kept me captivated all the way through to the last sentence. It made me feel emotions I’d never felt before, bringing me the greatest happiness I’d ever gotten from literature while simultaneously breaking my heart into little pieces that I struggled to make sense of in the days and weeks after I finished it. It’s been a favorite of mine since, and I’ve had to rebuy all three books multiple times when they’ve been lost to roommates, friends or relatives with whom I wanted to share the complex joy the story brought into my life.

The narrative of the first novel, The Golden Compass (originally titled Northern Lights when it was published in the UK), follows Lyra, an orphan from a universe much like our own yet notably different in several ways. When her best friend is abducted by a group rumored to be doing terrible experiments on children, she goes to great lengths to rescue him. She befriends gypsy sailors, witches and armored polar bears in a quest that takes her into the secretive, bitter cold of the icy North. On her journey she ends up involved in plans and politics far beyond her comprehension, yet in which she is destined to play an important role. She leaves her own universe in search of answers and (Book #2, The Subtle Knife) ends up meeting Will, a boy who hails from our own world and finds himself in trouble as he searches for clues to the whereabouts of his missing father. The children agree to help each other and find that their objectives have more in common than they ever would have guessed. When Will inadvertently becomes the bearer of a knife that can cut portals into other universes, they gradually come to realize that their actions may have great consequences across many worlds. Book #3 (The Amber Spyglass)…well, a lot happens and I really have no idea how to summarize it without giving spoilers, but it involves journeying to the world of the dead, a mysterious substance colloquially referred to as Dust which has some unknown connection to human consciousness, and a war against (or to liberate) Heaven itself.

I thought, perhaps, that reading it as an older adult (I did read it another time at about 20/21) might not have the same effect it had when I was young. Perhaps my raging hormones and anger at the world caused these novels to affect me much more then than they would now. I was wrong. It was just as heartbreaking this time around, leaving me, as I turned the last page, feeling like I was saying goodbye to my greatest friends.

This is not to say that the books are without flaws. Particularly in the third book, some characters just seem too pure to be believable, and their adversaries seem too willing to be bowed by that purity. Plans seem to go too perfectly and dialogue seems, at certain points, too forced or elegant to be genuine. But at no point did these flaws take me out of the story, and they didn’t bother me enough to sully my love for the trilogy as a whole. I really can’t say enough how much I love this story.

Perhaps it seems that I’m ignoring the elephant in the room. The name of said elephant is Religion. These books received quite a bit of criticism for allegedly promoting an atheist, or even anti-theist, agenda. The outrage over this went so far as to have religious groups picketing screenings of the film adaptation of The Golden Compass. It’s true that Philip Pullman is an outspoken atheist and his trilogy contains strong atheist undertones — after all, one of the supporting characters literally sets out to kill God. The church and its priests are constantly working against the protagonists, and their aims and beliefs are portrayed as misguided at best, malicious at worst. Where the main characters are almost too pure, the agents of the Magisterium (thinly-veiled portrayal of the Catholic church) are almost too one-dimensionally evil. Is it still a great story? Absolutely yes. I would say that this is not a book to have your kids read if you’re raising them to be religious, but I think it’s a worthy flip-side to the coin of beloved Christianity-heavy fiction like The Chronicles of Narnia — which I also really enjoyed as a kid. (As a side note, yes I am an atheist, and no that’s not because an impressionable, young version of me read these books — that decision didn’t happen until college and was the result of a lot of study and careful consideration.) More than anything, I think that His Dark Materials encourages the reader to live a good and enriching life, rather than slogging along in anticipation of what might come after.

These books span a lot of time, space and action. They’re about a lot of things, and different aspects of the story evoke different emotions from different people. Some people will say that it’s about vanquishing religion or about finding love in an unlikely place or overcoming your flaws to do what’s right. None of those answers are wrong. I think that for me, at its core, this trilogy is about following your instincts. It’s about friendship, trust, the purest love and the consequences of those absolutely essential things. It’s about living your life with kindness and curiosity, giving it meaning through your own actions. Those are the lessons that I carry with me from my readings of these novels. Honestly, I can’t wait to read them again.

So, if I feel like it I may continue documenting my journey through this list on my currently defunct book review blog, Mal Has Bookworms. So check there for updates if you’re at all interested. I can make no promises as to the regularity of those updates, or if they’ll happen at all. All I can say is that something might happen there, and it might be interesting!

Saturday Spook Fest Movie Marathon

For the first time in my life, I have a job that gives me weekends off.  My entire professional life so far has been spent working in retail while trying to find a way out of working in retail.  I am supremely thrilled to have achieved this goal, and it just comes with the added bonus of free Saturdays and Sundays.

The first couple months, all of my weekends were totally booked.  I used them to catch up on projects, make plans with the people I never see and go to events I would ordinarily miss.  This past weekend I actually thought we had a party to go to, but I was mistaken.  So Friday rolled around and the question came up, what do we do these next two days?

I love horror movies.  Lucky for me, Kyle does too.  It’s one of the interests we share, and something we bonded over early in our relationship.  I suggested that, if we were going to have a lazy weekend, maybe we could spend Saturday having a horror movie marathon?  And make delicious snacks to eat while we watch?  Who could say no to that?  Neither of us.

I was pretty impressed with ourselves — we started early and got through six movies.  I was expecting to do only three or four.  Most of the movies we watched were free with Amazon Prime video, and the others were on Netflix.

You’re Next (Amazon, also available on Netflix)

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Snack:  Breakfast, really.  Omelettes with bacon, feta cheese and sauteed onions, garlic and halved grape tomatoes.

This one starts out as your typical slasher flick — family gathering in remote vacation home turns into a bloodbath when a crossbow-wielding psycho starts picking off helpless yuppies.  You had your typical stock characters — Asshole jock and bitchy girlfriend counterpart, overly-trusting nice girl, quiet redshirt who’s just there for bodycount, judgmental gothy chick, whiny intellectual and heroic badass.  The interactions between these characters are about what you’d expect, though not all of them end up being exactly what they seem at the beginning.

You’re Next doesn’t come out with anything groundbreaking, but a couple twists and turns definitely keep things interesting.  I wasn’t even sure how many killers there actually were until pretty close to the end of the movie.  It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t win any awards, but keeps you in your seat and rooting for the good guy(s) until it’s over.

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We definitely started out on a high note with this one, because this ended up being our favorite out of the movies we watched that day.

 

Apartment 143 (Amazon)

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Snack: Cocoa Rice Krispie Treats with Butterscotch Drizzle (Kyle made this one up.  We just followed the standard Rice Krispie Treat recipe with Cocoa Krispies, and melted some butterscotch chips to drizzle over the top)

Apparently we had already seen this movie and forgotten about it.  It was forgettable enough that, even halfway through the film, we still weren’t positive if we’d already seen it.  It’s a found-footage flick about poltergeist activity in this family’s apartment.  It’s reasonably well-done, as far as cinematography in these films goes — very little shaky cam and multiple angles while still maintaining a realistic found-footage feel.

The characters and storyline, however, are completely forgettable.  They try to paint this portrait of a family with a hidden troubled past, but fall short of getting the viewer to actually care about any of the family members.  The only character I sort of found myself caring about a little bit was the camera guy, but he didn’t do very much that was relevant to the plot.  This movie really wants to be the next Paranormal Activity, but doesn’t have enough of a storyline or a powerful creep factor to achieve that.  Apart from one or two jump scares, it really wasn’t scary at all.  I do have to give this film credit for having a small child as one of the main characters, but not having him be creepy or possessed.  In the end, though, I wasn’t sure exactly what all had happened, but I didn’t really care either.

 

Jug Face (Amazon, also available on Netflix)

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Snack: Grapes.  Because grapes are delicious.

This movie was like Deliverance meets Children of the Corn — and is that a hint of Juno I detect in there?  The teenaged female main character belongs to a redneck compound who lives in the woods and makes illegal moonshine, and also they are a cult who periodically sacrifices their members to a muddy clay pit that they worship.  Sacrifices are decided by a potter who goes into a trance and creates a clay jug with the face of the next person to be claimed by the pit.  The main character finds out that she is next in line to be sacrificed, and hides her jug face in hopes that no one will find out.  Also she finds out she’s pregnant.  The rest of the movie involves her trying to hide both of these secrets from the town and her abusive parents while the clay pit kills hillbilly after hillbilly in attempts to satiate its bloodlust.

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Horrifying.

 

I have to give Jug Face points for originality.  Also for good character development — the main character and her friend, the awkward friend-zoned potter, were the most sympathetic characters out of all the films we watched.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I enjoyed this movie more than I gave it credit for when we were watching it.  As far as horror movies, though, it wasn’t chilling or suspenseful enough to really grab me.  Despite the gore and one or two attempts at jump scares, it really didn’t scare me at all.

For original, disturbing content, though, I have to call this movie all right.

 

The Bay (Netflix)

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Snack: Goat Cheese and Leek Fritters (a recipe I cobbled together based on a similar appetizer I had at a restaurant in Georgia — just diced up leeks mixed with goat cheese, salt and pepper, shaped into bite-sized balls, and rolled in a seasoned flour and corn meal mixture.  I deep-fried these at a high heat so the outside got brown and crispy while the cheese held its shape)

Our second found-footage flick of the day caused Kyle to complain that we were watching too many found-footage flicks.  I had to remind him that we’d only watched one so far.

The Bay takes place in a quiet Maryland town with a history of chicken farming and no qualms about dumping excess chicken poo in the nearest body of water.  The opening titles claim that some horrible catastrophe took place here that was never reported by the media.  Narrated by a young former reporter, the film is supposed to be a collection of footage from a town festival where things went awry.  Some THING was in the water!  Oh noes!

I had high hopes for this film because it touted its connection to the producers of Insidious, which was a film I really liked.  But the plot was weak, the acting was horrible, and it was all barely held together by cell phone, camcorder and surveillance footage that I don’t even understand how the narrator got, if this whole thing was supposed to have been covered up by the government.

I’m kind of mad that we wasted our time on this one, but at least my curiosity is satisfied.

 

House on Haunted Hill (1959) (Amazon)

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Snack: Jalapeno Popper Grilled cheese (cheddar cheese, cream cheese and sliced jalapenos — Kyle said it wasn’t really a snack, but if you cut the sandwiches into four or more pieces, that’s totally a snack.)

We wanted to watch at least one classic.  And how can you not love Vincent Price?  I’ve never seen the 1999 remake, so I had no idea what it was about.  I really enjoyed it, in that funny old horror movie kind of way.  There were a couple parts that were actually scarier than I expected, and others that were so horribly cheesy by todays standards that I couldn’t help laughing (the skeleton at the end?  Come on, that’s hilarious).

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This one was second place for me.  I can’t say a whole lot about it that hasn’t been said already.  I really liked it, and I can totally see why it’s a classic.

 

House of the Devil (Netflix)

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Snack: We were done with snacks by this point.

By the time we got to film number six, it was pretty late and we weren’t even sure we could make it through another film.  But this was one I’ve been wanting to watch for a while, and I thought I could make it through.

House of the Devil is about a college student who gets hired to “babysit” an elderly lady on the night of a lunar eclipse, but ends up caught in a messed-up cult ritual.  It took a little while for things to get going, and by the time they did, we were both starting to doze off.  I know I fell asleep for at least a few minutes of the movie, and since I don’t know what I missed I really can’t judge it properly.

The film is set in the 1980s, and the director definitely tried to give it that feel.  He did a really good job in that aspect.  The soundtrack and the opening credits made me question if this movie was really made in 2009.  The acting was decent, too.  I might have stayed awake and enjoyed the whole thing if the action hadn’t started so late in the movie.  I know we were both awake for the ending, but I honestly don’t remember what happened.  Did she live?  Did she become brainwashed?  I don’t know.

 

So, overall I’d say it was a successful marathon.  I’d love to do it again with other kinds of movies.  Superhero movies?  chick Flicks (not if Kyle can help it)?  Anthony Hopkins marathon?  I’m loving all the possibilities.

 

If you have any horror movies you think we’d love (warning: we’ve watched a LOT of horror movies) or great movie marathon ideas, I’d love to hear suggestions!

A Scatter-Brained (But Healthy!) Jambalaya

For a few weeks now, Kyle has been on a diet.  I’ve been doing my best to be supportive by cooking him healthy meals, but it’s been difficult.  Weighing in at under 100lbs, I’m really not at a point in my life where I need to worry about dieting.  But obviously I’m not going to sit here an mow down on a pound of greasy french fries while he gazes at me forlornly over his plate of salad.  I’m all about solidarity.

It’s not that I don’t eat healthy.  As much as possible, I eat whole, non-processed foods.  I have a lot of fruits and veggies in my diet.  But I like cheese and butter and chocolate.  I like pasta and good, crusty Italian bread.  So it is tough for me to devise several weeks’ worth of meals that do not involve those things.  I guess no one ever said that dieting is easy.

It’s been easy to get pulled down into the monotony of what’s simple.  Chicken and a salad.  Fish and a salad.  Those are kind of the go-to things for a healthy dinner if we’re not feeling creative.  I will say, though, I’ve gotten really good at throwing together a delicious marinade.  Yesterday, though, I was over it.  I wanted something different, something with lots of flavor that didn’t taste like diet food.

I happened to catch Ina Garten on the Food Network making a batch of Jambalaya.  I could make that healthy, right?  Chicken and turkey sausage, and substitute the white rice for brown?  The rest is all spices and vegetables.  It was genius.

I’m a good cook, I really am.  I think it’s half the reason that Kyle sticks around.  It’s just that sometimes…I forget things.

Fortunately, I didn’t ruin this jambalaya!  It came out really good.  And now I know what to do next time to make it perfect.  So, here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

1 package turkey smoked sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces

1lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 each green and red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp red pepper

1 tsp ground mustard (optional*)

1 tsp fennel seed (optional*)

1 cup brown rice

2 1/2 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth

Olive oil for sauteeing

Salt and pepper to taste**

*These don’t appear in traditional jambalaya, so you don’t need to put them in if you don’t want.  I just like the flavor they add.

**You don’t need much.  The sausage adds a good amount of salt flavor.

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 Once you’ve got all your prep done, brown your chicken over medium heat with a little salt and pepper.  Set this aside in a covered bowl — you’ll be cooking everything else together, but you don’t want your chicken to get dried out. DSC_1400 Next, in a large pan, brown your sausage.  Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan, and throw in your veggies.  Sautee until the onions are translucent. DSC_1408   Add your spices and your rices (it’s only one kind of rice, but I couldn’t resist the rhyme.  I realize how lame that is.).  Sautee for about 8 minutes.  Add your chicken, tomatoes, and chicken broth.  I messed this part up and forgot to add the rice until after I’d put the broth in.  Also, I forgot the tomatoes completely until the last minute.  But you won’t make the same mistakes I did!  I believe in you! DSC_1409 Bring this to a boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Let simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid. DSC_1415 And now you have a delicious (and surprisingly healthy) jambalaya!  If I hadn’t made it myself, I would not have thought that this was a healthy dish.  It certainly didn’t taste like it.