My The Hunger Games Phase

Happy 2012!

I think it was back in college (1997-ish) when I've had an epiphany. I was only my way to a lecture with a Baskin Robbins Mocha Blast in hand and I was feeling a bit guilty for my seeming routine to always get a Mocha blast on my way to class. Then I stopped and it dawned on me: I go through phases. That particular slice of time, I was into Mocha Blast. I knew I'd tire of it eventually, but during those days, especially during those lectures, they were my one pleasure. And see, even now, 15+ years later, I do remember those days fondly as my Mocha Blast days.

Just recently was what I call my "vampire phase". Gosh. I had lots of posts about Twilight & True Blood. I am over it now...and i'm thinking I am now in my Hunger Games phase. I have finished the whole series and don't think I've ever loved a series as much. Yes, I thought the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is GREAT, awesome even, but it was not an easy read. This one was soo un-put-down-able, and I just want to note here..in my journal and acknowledge this phase.

I don't think I do a great job in reviewing books since i'm not a big book person, and so i'll just answer some of the questions they posed at With A Good Book and go with that.

Here are their questions:

Who was your favorite character in The Hunger Games? Why?
While I love Katniss, Peeta has really won me over by the end of the book. I just fall for that kind of character. In Twilight, Edward was supposed to be the epitome of the "perfect man", but I hardly thought so, and his prude-ness was very off-putting. To me, the closest to being perfect in terms of what mean to me is Peeta. And to think that there's really no sex in this book, it's not about that, it's the goodness of his heart that comes across loud in clear in the series

What did you feel was the most emotional moment in book?  Which part was the hardest to read?
The deaths were pretty hard, especially Rue - even though we all knew she was going to die, but I did love the part where she sang the song for her, and even more touching was getting the bread from Rue's district

Why do you think fire is an appropriate symbol for Katniss?
She's raw. She's not one you can easily control.

How does Katniss’ early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes?
She just felt like she owed him her life, due to the bread and why and how on earth can she kill him? There's really no justification in her mind even if it's for the games to see the person who gave her the lifeline to live die. 

Did your perception of Peeta change over the course of The Hunger Games? How and why?
Yes and No. Ever since he said he loved her before the games, I just knew he did everything for her. But, because the book seemed to set it up that it was going to be Gale & Katniss, I did end up a bit surprised that I was rooting for Peeta in the end. 

Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch’s advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment?
Wait. Am I mistaken? She was going to go for it...but because she had the split second thought, she ended up only getting the backpack and a small plastic thing, right? Which was why she was cursing Peeta when she saw him going for it and she had to retreat?

Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group?
Of course he wanted to protect her. The Careers on the other hand were a bit stupid to think that he would lead them to her. The question was, what were the careers thinking!?

What did you think of the fact that they changed the rules partway through the games to allow two winners from the same district?
I actually like this part. I think this is what makes this book so compelling. The games are more comparable to Big Brother than it is a football game. The people behind it are real people who end up "falling in love" with the characters on the screen. As an example, in True Blood, in the books, Lafayatte was killed in the end of the first season, but since the actor who played Lafayette turned out to be a fan favorite, I think Alan Ball just could not kill him off. He made a conscious decision to change the course of the series. In a sense, the game makers were seeing that the love story angle was getting them the ratings and the need to prolong it somehow...and it was a brilliant move, for a little while. And then of course, announcing later that the rules have changed yet again. It's just as well.

Overall, I can't say enough about how good this book is, how greatly paced it is and compelling the characters are. I can't wait to see the movie


A Barenaked Ladies Tribute (and my favorite Songs)

I've been a fan of the Barenaked Ladies since their Gordon days, but admit I've kinda fallen off the wagon since Steven Page left the band. It was only recently, as the kids have re-discovered their music thru my iPad that I've felt a bit nostalgic. They were a pretty great band with lots of good music, and I do want to still love them without Steven, but Kevin is just not a strong a vocalist as Steven was. But with so many albums and so many concerts attended, they remain as one of my favorite bands with songs that get me. ever. single. time.

Here are my favorite BNL songs:

#1 Off The Hook | Maroon

This may be my all time favorite BNL song. I'm not sure if it's because it wasn't one of the hits and therefore, it doesn't feel overplayed (ahem, One Week). I also really love the melody, the play of words, and by gosh, steven can really sing thing. Video is from their Ships N Dips tour.

Notable Lines: The credit card receipts / the dirty sheets / the souvenirs of men who cheat / it all makes sense / with each offense / you wanted to believe him / he could get away with murder one / and you would clean the smoking gun / with every crime / you bought each line / but not this time

#2 What a Good Boy | Gordon
I really really love this song. A very close second. The words just really strike me, and even though for a long time, I was like, 'What the fuck is a hairshirt?', it still a really great song. To me, this is about a person right out of college and thinking about the pressures on them from family to do good, to be good, to be someone. Steven just really nails this song.

See this, one of his Steven's last performances. This one at Massey Hall:

But, Ed I think can also pull it off. See this from a Hard Rock performance.

Notable Lines:  we've got these chains / hanging around our necks / people want to strangle us with them / before we take our first breath / afraid of change / afraid of staying the same / when temptation calls / we just look away

#3 Break Your Heart | Born on a Pirate Ship
I don't mean for this post to be all about Steven Page, but, here is yet another great song with his great vocals. It's kind of a break up song that I think is more prevalent - that people don't break up, because they dont' want to break the other person's heart. Here's a good one from the Stunt Tour in 1999.

Notable Lyrics: you arrogant man / what do you think that i am? / my heart will be fine / just stop wasting my time!

#4 Just a Toy | Born on a Pirate Ship
This was another one that is not a hit, but after finding out that the song was about Pinocchio and how one of the other toys must've felt like once Gipetto created Pinocchio, it had loved it. The words are just great.

Notable Lyrics: first there was me / nothing but time / till he came along / you told me you'd always be mine / forever / ever mine / look at his face / somewhat like mine / but look at his nose / you can always be sure when he's lying / forever / ever mine

#5 Call and Answer | Stunt
This is such a lovely song, much to the same vein as Break your heart and What a Good boy, the lyrics are great and really a great duet. My favorite has to be from the Au Naturale tour with Alanis Morisette.

Notable Lyrics: you think / i only think about you when were both in the same room / i'm only here to witness the remain of love exhumed / you think / we're here to play a game of who loves more than whom

#6 Running out of Ink | Barenaked Ladies are Men
Ahh, I love this song! I do love a lot of their upbeat / fast songs, but this one is really cool that I used it for one of my video albums. Here's Steven doing the song in a songwriter's panel. 

Notable lyrics: it's bleaker than you think / i'm running out of ink / give a guy a break / this is what it takes / to drive a man to drink

#7 If I had 1,000,000 | Gordon

I actually really really love this song. The only reason it's lower on the list is that it's one of their most famous songs so, it can be a little overdone - but man, this song is great LIVE. BNL uses this song at the end of their concert and each performance is different. This is just one, not the best, by any means, but just to show how cool the song really is. 

Notable Lyrics: (it's all good!)...but i really like this part: but not a real green dress, that's cruel

#8 BNL Rap 

Ah, this was the reason I've gone to many concerts and am glad it was something my hubby escorted me to. The rap is different each time, but always, always entertaining. this was from Farm Aid, back in 2000. You just have to see it to love it. Here's another one.


Best Puzzle Type Games for this Generation

I love puzzle games. I was a Tetris queen as a youngster, not because I was great at it (I was ok), but because I loved playing the game. While my love for Tetris has died, my love for the Puzzle type game continued, and here are some of the best ones I've obsessed over the years:

Puzzle Fighter
This was my husband & my obsession for a few years, back in the glory heyday of Playstation 2. I can still hear the background music when I think about this, and the specific glory cries of each character (Sakura was my favorite!) This is a match game, good for 2 players.

It's pretty much in the tetris format where things are dropped down. Premise is simple: Create gems by combining colors together and when the swirly icon comes, it's the detonator and the bigger the gem you detonated, the bigger the shitload of gems to drop on your opponents side. The first one to have their screen fill up with gems loses.

This one is a PC game, I believe, but it does work well on the iPhone. As my hubby loves puzzle games too, this was one we've wasted too much of each other's time trying to "beat" each other's score. Too bad it's not a game we can play with each other. We were just relegated to giving each other smack talk while the other one plays. (Or we both play on our own phones and see who gets the higher score. We are dorks, we know.)

You start with a screen full of chuzzles and you move the chuzzles in a grid, up-down, left-right, until you line up 3 or more in a row and they detonate. You keep going until it gets harder. As you pass levels, you will get "locked" chuzzles which will not allow you to move a row.  FYI,  if you run out of moves, you just wait for one of the Chuzzles to roll their eyes and AHA! there's the move I was missing. You die when you run out of moves.

Bejeweled Blitz
My Bejeweled Blitz obsession was not as long as the Chuzzle, but I did still find it very very addicting. I only downloaded it after months of hearing Sarah (of Sarah & Vinnie) talk about kicking ass on that game. My hubby did not quite get into this one, I'm not so sure why...I was all alone with my Bejeweled Blitz love.

If you ever played "Sweet Tooth" in the PC games, this is similar. Like, Chuzzle, you already start with a boardful of jewels. you "swap" the jewels until you make jewels 3 in a row. The more you pop, the more points you get. You die when you run out of moves. I have never reached high levels, I don't think I've locked all of it's secrets, but it's good clean puzzle fun.

You're like, Bir...what!!? Yes, it's a weird name, I think they're trying to go for Bird-puzzle? Haha, regardless of it's funny name, it's my new obsession with the iPad. They try to get you in by giving you the free "lite" version. I finished all 8 levels in one sitting and was wanting more. 

The premise of the puzzle is the same. Get three of the same birds in a row to get a power bird, which can have great powers later. The higher the level, the more variation of birds, etc. etc. I can tell this will be one of our go-to games as the kids love it too. 

Know of any other Puzzle type game I'm missing? I'd love to know!


Team Food: A Sesame Seed Bagel shout out

I just want to give a shout out to the sesame seed bagel. Every monday, while it sucks to get out of bed, thinking about the entire week of work ahead of me, there is one shining spot. Every Monday at the office is Bagel Day! We get quite a selection of Panera Bread Bagels (yum!) with all kinds of shears.

The funny part is that within the eagerness of Bagel day is the subset of people called the Sesame Seed Bagel People. I started noticing since if I just end up getting in a bit late, all the sesame seed bagels are gone! So, I started keeping an eye out every Monday for the bagels to come in and... Ka-Bam! I'm maneuvering my way to the kitchen. Lo and behold, all the other SSBP are also in the kitchen! It's like 5 people all toasting the same fuckin' bagel. What is up with that!? They eventually figured it out and added more sesame seed bagels to the pile (it used to be 5% and now, it's like 30%), but it's a bit funny what people will do to food.

Go Team Food!


Replenish Cleaner

This is interesting! I happened upon this one reading this week's posts on Apartment Therapy regarding cleaning products. The idea is that instead of paying for the "mixed" in cleaning product everyone else is selling - why not pay only for the concentrated version and then add you own water. It helps keep packaging small, you get more for your money, and help the environment.

Replenish! The bottle looks pretty cool, and they have a few scents available.

I haven't tried it yet, but next time I go to whole foods, I will keep an eye out. The biggest question for me now is: will it really clean good?


Boon Bath Fun!

I'm already a boon fan. I have bought the frog pad for the tub for the kids and I love it. It's really great. It's really just a place for the kids toys, but why not make it fun?

Since my boys are a bit older, I've been out of touch to the next new! cool! toy! but came across this - soo cute! It's called "creatures".  Again, they're bath toy, but it's got fun colors and cool creature to create. I hope to see this the next time I go on a Target run. Hah!


Dr. Horrible's: Freeze Ray

So, it's no secret that I am a big big Neil Patrick Harris fan. He's just so good that when I hear him sing, my love for theatre grows. 

This one is from a really good movie slash musical slash he did with Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. It's a really cute little production. Here's my favorite song on there..

Video is the new Photo Album

This was one of the first video compilations I've made where I thought: huh, that was a decent job. I mean, really, this iMovie thing really works. As we are now a generation of YouTube viewers...seems to make sense that we resort to videos as a way to reminisce, and remember. 

I also can see the evolution of the movies I've made so far. In the beginning, eager to learn all of iMovie's goodness,  even had a beginning slide of Joshua's foot. I thought he had the cutest baby feet of all (Ha! As a Mom I should've known all moms would think that of their own baby's feet!), but I totally thought I can carry it through and showcase Josh's foot as he grew older.

YouTube was also still growing as back then we had a 100 mb limit (or was it 20??), and that really hindered the quality of the video. At my own computer, the quality of the video is great, but translated, it's a bit grainy. Oh well!

As I watch this back, it takes me to that time of my life, and see the places we've been, the people we hung out with, the events that have happened, and that's where we're at. It's a video album, a snapshot of that time and I think for the next generation, it'll be the way to compile memories. 

Audio: Float On by Modest Mouse


Orla Kiely & The Cabin Upright

One of the things I dream about in the "when-i-become-successful" variety is being able to travel and jet set around the world! Part of that is having the oh-so-cute-est travel luggage. That perfect luggage is, of course, Orla Kiely. I mean look at this, it's just the awesomest looking thing ever. Now, it must be small enough that it fits the overhead compartment. You won't trust this to be milling around with the rest of the luggages of the checked-in variety. That's because this luggage would be more expensive than anything inside it. 

Sigh. I just saw this one at See Jane Work and it's already marked 25% off and I still couldn't afford it. But who am I kidding. I should first wait for the opportunity to travel, no?

The Cutest iPhone SLR!

One of the best things about having a great gadget like the iPhone 4 is to have even better accessories! My friend has turned me on to Photojojo because of all the cool photography gifts for that photographer (or budding photographer) in your life. For my father in law last Christmas, we got him a thermal cup that looks like an SLR lens. Very very cute!

Now, look at this! It's a cute little SLR lens for your iPhone! Don't you want it? I know I do...


Source Code, A Movie Review

I just watched this movie twice in the last two days. I really liked it. It's funny because I'm not a big Jake Gyllenhaal fan.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a hater - but for the life of me, I can't think of any movie he had where I really remembered him. I just checked imdb, and he's done love and other drugs (which I will watch this weekend), prince of persia (I did not watch. long hair? sands? ugh.), jarhead (I hear it's good, but I didn't see it), the good girl (another good one, I hear, but I have not seen it yet). Anyway, he wasn't the pull...but in the end, I think he did a really great job. You feel for him and his character.

I really liked it. It sucked me right in the first scene where he's trying to figure out what's going on...It's nicely paced. Michelle did a pretty great job, and I find her very pretty. She was also pretty in that McDreamy rom com, title of which escapes me right now.

I still don't know exactly what a source code is, or the actually technicalities of these "alternate" universe, and for a movie to still be compelling, and easy to follow for such a complicated topic, I think it's worth applauding. It's a great movie, highly recommended.


My Portenzo iPad2 Case

It took a lot of effort and countless hours of searching the web, looking at video & blog reviews, but I finally have the case that I wanted. The winner is the Portenzo case in Retro. Do I love it? Yes, I do - but it does have it's disadvantages.

First, here are the winning points:
  • It's incognito. While I love the simple design of the iPad2, I'm not keen on having everyone and their brother knowing I'm lugging one around. I find it perfect for the coffee shop, meetings, and pretty much everywhere you are just waiting around
  • It's looks like a moleskin notebook. Simple design, with the signature band around it.
  • It's orange! I love the color of the inside (lime green) and outside. It's the fun of having the simple book design, but still having it's own personality
  • It's designed around the iPad2 best features: close to sleep, holes for camera, etc.
  • It's pretty tough, and holds the iPad2 well.
Here's a few things I'm not so fond of:
  • While it's not heavy, it does bring the weight of the iPad2 more.
  • The "Portenzo" signature at the back of the book is about 30% too big...a slightly less obnoxious one would've pleased me better
  • There's no real good way to prop the iPad2 for good viewing...I tried, it just kinda flips and flops unless you perfected the angle. I just end up propping it will pillows

Before I found this, I was thinking about getting the Dodo Case, which is local (San Francisco!), but there were a couple of reviews that put the doubt in me, hence, going with this, it's formidable competitor...All in all, it was worth it's 7-week wait time :) 


H is for I Am Sam

You know why groupon or living social actually work? I see this add for discount on Dr. Seuss "limited edition" prints and I was actually tempted to buy it. Really. At a time when we are saving every little bit up, this sort of thing just kinda sucks you in. Hmm...would this be so cool for the kids room? Maybe next time.

The Retro Phone Handset

Ahhh, it's a Retro Phone Handset!

Apparently, Lenny Kravitz was spotted rockin' one of these bad boys...so, it must be cool, right? right? Haha, I'd love to get one of these, I think they're more ergonomic than the square phones, and it's such a great visual out of the road.


Thoughts on Dexter (Part 1)

Wow. It's been more than a year since I've updated this blog. Funny how a Facebook account can just get the point across faster...but not when you don't have the friends that share your passion. Where are the Dexter fans?

I've just for the past few weeks watched all the Dexter episodes from start to finish. I've hesitated watching it all this time because I was afraid to see all the gore and the violence. Little did I know, I'd get so invested in the characters, the storyline and everything the way I was with other great shows like Six Feet Under, etc.

It all starts with a really amazing actor. Michael C Hall. Wow. I've loved him in Six Feet Under as David Fisher and I believed him in it. This, as Dexter Morgan, he is so different and true that I can hardly believe it's the same actor playing 2 very different roles. I am in awe.

As I've watched the entire 5 season in just a few weeks, I hope to remember all the nuggets that I've enjoyed in this roller coaster ride.

Random things in Season 1 to comment on:
  • Debra Morgan started out a bit clunky, I think, in the sense that she wasn't confident in her abilities as a cop. Always asking her brother to help her figure things out.
  • I loved that in the beginning, Dexter was looking through cold cases to find his victims (not something I'm loving in the more recent episodes).
  • It was alluded in this season that LaGuerta has a crush on Dexter. Not sure what happened there?
  • I hated Paul (Rita's ex) - and thought that Dexter banging Paul with the frying pan was one of the funniest things Dexter has ever done. To me, that was one real emotional reaction, which means he must've loved Rita.
  • I loved the Ice Truck Killer as the first big antagonist for Dexter and how that storyline unfolded the way it did. The pool of blood and Dexter slowly finding out about his birth mother was heartbreaking and intense as could be.
  • The reveal on Biney was also another really good turn at the end - the realization that he had a brother that was just like him and "Rudy" revealing himself to Deb...
  • I also really really loved Rita. I know what brought them together was for Dexter to "fit in" but I say that she did bring him a level of humanity. Their scenes in this season were perfect. They didn't say much but I thought they had some good chemistry. It was good acting on MCH's part to show someone who doesn't really know what "love" feels like to sort of have feelings, compassion and even a physical relationship. I thought he brought those to Dexter in a way that made you feel for him. Made you want him to find love and solace in the one person who loved him - even if she didn't really know what he was capable of doing.

Random Things in Season 2:
  • I hated Lila. I knew she was bad news the minute she laid eyes on Dexter.
  • I loved Doakes. I mean, I loved that he knew something was "wrong" with Dexter. It did get wild there by the end, but from Season 1 to portions of Season 2, it was just that you're-bad-news-but-I-cant-put-my-finger-on -it look that I loved.
  • Did I say I hated Lila? I think it bears a second repeating. Ugh. Parading around naked in the shower in the hopes that Dexter would stray. I did like that Dexter was just that socially inept that even that blatant come on did not work on him. She was persistent, though.
  • I loved Rita this season 2. She showed that she did have a back bone when she broke up with Dexter (because of Lila)
  • I also loved that this season, you see Dexter really falling for Astor & Cody. As much as a monster as he was, I believed he loved those children. Those little moments of Dexter making pancakes for them for breakfast is what endeared me to Dexter.
  • Bay Harbor Butcher. Lundy. Deb. Doakes. It's ALL good.
  • The montage of Dexter confessing to Deb about being the Bay Harbor Butcher was all kinds of awesome.
Will post about the next few seasons next!


Weekend Movie Marathon Reviews

It was a weekend full of movies for me, and while it's fresh on my mind, here's what I thought:

500 Days of Summer

I enjoyed this movie. It was not as *kilig* (I can't find the right translation, sorry!) as I thought it would be, but it was a very good movie. Here's a few things I was thinking of:
  • Man, that Joseph Gordon Levitt sure grew up nice. He was perfect in this role. He was a little dorky, a little hot. A guy in love. In a world where it's always the girl geek falling in love with the quarterback, this was a nice change.
  • Wow. Zooey. is. hot. All the shots of her were absolutely beautiful. I get it. I get why you fall in love with her.
  • The jumping of timeline sort of confused me. Every time they would flash to what day (of 500) it was, I immediately think: Wait! Wait! Was this pre- or post- break up?
  • It was also a bit too artsy for me. Did we really need that musical number in there?
  • 3/4 of the way through, I gave up the thought that they would get back together. Duh, they said it in the beginning, it was not a love story. Still - you root for the guy...
  • I also like that he was an architect. We never get a lot of representation in the movies...

This Is It

I was able to see this in the movies (trying to sneak one in while the kids were asleep) but I went ahead and splurged on a Blu-Ray since I fell for the ole Target $5.00 Gift Card trick. My few thoughts on this:

  • What can I say, like most of the dancers interviewed in the movie, we grew up on Michael Jackson songs! I remember performing "Billie Jean" with Gel & Jiki for the neighborhood in a contest (Yes, I was Michael, and NO - we lost to a boy who break danced to Bad)
  • The big reason why I loved this movie was that it had nothing to do with him being Wacko Jacko, it was just about the concert. Like most controversial issues, you have a stand - nothing can persuade you one way or another. This movie was not trying to do that. If you like his songs, you'd love this movie
  • I also felt a great deal of sadness and loss that this whole production - which looked fantastic would never see the light. All the costumes, all the rehearsals, all the props...
  • If the movie wanted me to see a version of him that is different from what the tabloids have been showing ,then it did it's job. What I saw was an artist - who still got it.
  • Man...those are great songs.
Sex and The City

I bought the DVD during Black Friday ($4!!) and have not whipped it out. I thought it was a good time to break it open as the kids were napping and it was a lazy Saturday afternoon. (Full review here) Here are my thoughts as I rewatch this movie:
  • The scene as just as powerful the second time around. I bawled, of course. The thing that struck me was that it was so believable. You wedding day is so hectic, if I lost my phone. I would not have noticed. I believed how Carrie can get Carried away without meaning to. I believed that Big would falter, if just for a second. It all rang so true (and yet, who among us have been asked to model all these fah-bu-lous dresses and have one given to you?? who among us have walked in an open house to a beautiful yet un-affordable house, turn to our partners and say "I love it!" and be living there the next month? Hah!!)
  • The Steve-Miranda storyline I still loved the second time around. The scene where Steve confessed....my heart broke. I thought it was great acting. The scene on the bridge...tears!!!
  • The only thing that seemed out of place - if ever, was the Samantha falling out of love with Smith. I don't get how Samantha would even get to a point where she was just managing Smith's career, and we didn't see that.


This was playing on Showtime last night and it was my third time watching it and this time, I had my handy dandy remote control with me. My thoughts as I watch:

  • What. an. absolute. piece. of. shit. movie. this. is.
  • Go through my archives - I was fuckin' in love with Robert Pattinson. As I was re-watching this garbage, I do not see it. Edward was not handsome in this move at all. He had horrible reading on his lines! The one that comes to mind was the car scene when he first picked Bella up from the men at Port Angeles. Horrible!! When I read the book, it was dashing the way Edward rescued Bella. This interpretation? Deplorable!!!
  • When Edward first said "We can't be friends" to Bella at the field trip, I was all, "What? When were we friends!!??" (It makes more sense in the book, but did not translate well on screen...)
  • Of course, Bella still can't act.
  • When Edward showed off his glittery body, I laughed. When he swung from tree to tree as he spoke of his "abilities" as a Vampire, I laughed. Every time tell Bella, "You are my life now" I laugh.
  • I see Jacob on the screen and I *bloop-bloop-bloop* fast forward (after I laugh...)
  • I counted 3 (three!!!) scenes where Edward was hot: 1) First time in school as a couple - as he walked with Bella in shades 2) The first kissing scene - before the super OA (over acting) flying against the wall part and 3) In the Prom - all parts where he was smiling.
I have not seen New Moon yet, but I already wonder what Twilight would've been like if it had a better director...If only we can see.


Novice Baker Adventure #3: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds

I made these cookies shortly after trying the cupcakes. Again, I was in my Giada phase, hence, all these Giada recipes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds
From Giada De Laurentiis (link to original recipe here)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, almonds, and chocolate chips. Stir until just mixed.
  4. Scoop out 1-inch balls of dough. Place on the cookie sheet. Bake until the tops look dry, about 18 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheets.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar and transfer to a serving plate
My Thoughts:

I didn't realize how expensive Pine nuts were! Giada's recipe calls out for pine nuts, but after a trip to Lucky and finding out a small bag is $5, I decided to use my leftover almonds instead. I thought, when pine nuts go one sale, then I'll try the recipe as it was designed.

I also didn't realize that this recipe didn't have an egg till I read one review mentioning this. The result is a cookie that's more like dry, more chalky. It's actually very good! My dad says it goes great with coffee. I loved dusting it with the powdered sugar, but I have not remade this recipe since I tried it a few months ago.

Overall, it was my first "successful" execution. It tasted good, an it was from scratch. I should definitely try this again.


Novice Baker Adventure #2: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes

This next recipe I tried because I had a Giada phase. Her foods always looked so good and easy to make. Plus, I loved chocolate and was very curious about "mascarpone" cheese.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes
from Giada De Laurentiis (link to original recipe here)

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, 1 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of the brownie mix. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the remaining brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Stir for 20 seconds until blended.
  4. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan (cupcake liners will be full).
  6. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out with moist fudgy crumbs.
  7. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting, about 30 minutes.
For the frosting:
  1. In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the cheeses together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.
  2. Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes and garnish with the remaining mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature.
My Thoughts:

I loved the taste of the Mascarpone & Cream Cheese blended together. It is yummy yummy yummy. What I didn't like is that the 3 cups of powdered sugar was just too sweet and took away from the yumminess of the two cheeses blended together. I have a feeling the large amount of powdered sugar is to make this a good frosting on top. But, it was too sweet.

The second time I did this recipe, I look down the amount of powdered sugar and loved the frosting. I love the frosting so much, Josh & I sat by the bowl licking the frosting away. But - this had consequences. It was only good when it is cold. On the other hand, I like my cupcakes warm. Therefore, predicament. If I topped the cupcakes and put them in the fridge, I was going to end up with cold/ thawed cupcakes. If I didn't want to put the cupcakes in the fridge, I'd have to frost the cupcakes at the very last minute.

The other thing i haven't mentioned was that I'm not fond of the packaged brownie mix. Although good, it still tasted like packaged mix - a bit generic. Still, it was a good try.

Other things I learned was that I should mix the nuts / chocolate chips in the brownie mix so that they can remain suspended in the air. Yeah! That was a good tip!