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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Newport Beach Film Festival

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On Friday, Marco and I went to see a film in the Newport Beach Film Festival.  It was a lot of fun, and we loved the fake “red carpet” backdrop.

Here’s Marco posing for the cameras.

He tried to get a good picture of me, but I didn’t stand still long enough.  I kind of like it, though!

We saw an incredibly gory movie called Portrait of a Zombie.  But don’t click on the link unless you can handle gore!  I was a little sick at times.  It’s a mockumentary about a film crew who follows a family with a zombie son, set in Ireland.  We got to meet the director, and we stayed for the Q & A.  He’s a nice, mild-mannered guy with a very sick mind.

The Festival is still going on, so now’s your chance to go meet and support some budding filmmakers!

Free Brie

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Sometimes brie appears in unexpected places.

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, and they were giving away samples of a pasta with brie and asparagus.

How could I resist?

It was pretty good, but I would add some ham or chicken to it, and maybe something a little crunchy, like pine nuts.

While I was there, I decided to try out their Chicken Gorgonzola.  We had it last night, and it was good, but it was a little too salty.  It was great for Marco, though, because it only has 9 grams of carbs, and 320 calories per serving.

I was at work late on Friday, so I decided to eat there.  I had been given a Starbucks card as a gift, and I went across the street to find something yummy.  I was very happy to find a meal with apples, cheese, almonds, flax seed crackers, and dried cranberries.  The best parts was the sizable slice of brie!

The box is about $5, and very filling!

Good Food and Good Friends

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Last weekend I met up with friends to celebrate an old friend’s birthday.  We met in North Hollywood’s artsy NoHo district, which is delightful.  I’ll have to take Marco back there for some walking and window shopping.  We ate at Pitfire Artisan Pizza, which started off a bit questionable, but ended up being great.  Two of my friends asked for draft beer, which the restaurant advertises, but they were informed that there was no beer available on draft.  They had a minimal selection of bottled beers in an open cooler next to the cash register, but they were closer to luke warm than cold.  The waitress jokingly said they were also out of pizza and pasta, so she scored points with us!  Since I was driving, I had a root beer.  It turned out to be a “microbrew” root beer, which has a much stronger flavor than mass market root beer.

The birthday boy and I ordered the same type of pizza, and it was wonderful!  It was simple pepperoni, but the sauce, cheese, meat and dough were all delicious.  I don’t recommend the flatbread, though.  It’s a little to crispy for my taste.

Here we are after a good meal, despite his less-than-cold beer.

California Adventure!

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Marco and I have passes to Disneyland and California Adventure, so sometimes we walk around the parks for exercise.  Last night, we decided to visit California Adventure.  I had my new camera with me, and Marco (photographer that he is) encouraged me to take many pics of our “workout.”

Here we are in front of a waterfall (I promise this is inside the park):

Us in front of a rock.

Okay, so technically he took this picture, but it was with my camera…

As we wandered the park, I wore my Shape Ups and Marco wore his new Gel Kahana Asics, which he says are the most comfortable tennis shoes he’s ever had.  I can definitely feel the effects this morning.  My legs are still tired from the 2 to 3 hours we spent walking last night.  Never discount the impact of walking!  We often think we need to go to the gym and lift weights for two hours to get in a good workout, but last night was EXHAUSTING!  We went home and slept for eight hours straight.

Not that we walked the entire time; here we are on Goofy’s Sky School.  It’s a roller coaster that is very jerky and jarring, as if you’re on a propellor plane.  It’s really scary!

Smiling through our fear!

But the rides were short, and the walking was long, so a few times, we stopped for breaks.  We discovered the Bug’s Life show in 3D, and it was so much better than we had anticipated!  It’s a little scary for young kids, though.  Black widow spiders come out of the ceiling to attack the audience, wasps “sting” the audience, and bugs crawl under the seat cushion.  Here we are in our 3D glasses.

Marco bugging out.

Me in my silly bug glasses.

We also discovered some exciting new attractions that will be opening this summer.  One section will be called “Buena Vista Street,”  which will have old Spanish style buildings and Mexican influences.  They are also adding a “Cars” area; it’s a real-life Radiator Springs.  We could see a little of it over a fence.  It looks perfect!

A peek over the fence at Radiator Springs.

I hope the walking will pay off when I step on the scale, but the beauty of the park is definitely better than a gym!

California Adventure at night.

10 Tips for Pinching Pennies

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Marco Montenegro Photography

When times get lean, I have a few tips for us all to follow:

1. Take advantage of the 99 Cents Store or the Dollar Tree.  The 99 Cents Store has groceries, toiletries, paper goods, and party supplies.  The brands and items change regularly, but I usually find many things on my list there.  The Dollar Tree has basic home supplies, party supplies, paper goods, cleaning supplies, and toys.  Count the items in your cart, and you know how much you will pay! When my niece and nephew want to go shopping for toys, my family members often make a trip to the Dollar Tree.  The kids each get to pick two toys, and everyone is happy.

2. Be aware of the stores you go to out of habit.  I naturally head to Target when I need basics for the home, but Target is more expensive than Wal Mart or Big Lots.  Yes, Target is prettier and cleaner, but the basic products at Wal Mart or Big Lots are just as good, and half the price!

3. Make coffee at home!  Coffee is expensive everywhere, but I go to a low-cost grocery store and get the store brand of coffee for $4.99.  This gets me a can of coffee that lasts about 2 weeks.  I buy coffee filters, creamer, sugar, and travel paper cups with lids at the 99 Cents Store.

4. Share your food.  When I’m making a salad, I use slices of fruits and vegetables.  With some lettuce as a base, I can stretch one pear, a few strawberries, two celery stalks, and one red bell pepper across many servings.  At a fast food restaurant, buy one drink and share it.  At the movies, share any snacks or drinks, rather than buying those for each person.

5. Do inexpensive or free date nights.  We go to the $2 movie theater, or to a free concert in the park.  Sometimes just going for a walk in a beautiful place is as good as going to a movie.

6. Limit your driving.  Gas is one of the biggest expenses in most households right now.  I think about our commutes, and I try to estimate how many miles we’ll be driving, and thus how many gallons we will need to get us through the week.  If I can get my errands done in one trip at a store close to home, I’m happy.

7. Practice a policy of $1 lunches.  I like to get Budget Gourmet frozen entrees, or I drive through a fast food restaurant like Del Taco or Taco Bell, where I can get two tacos or a burrito for less than $1.  Leftovers are great, too.

8. Look for printable decorations online before buying them.  My husband loved the decorations I made for Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t spend a dime.  Try Family Fun, Free Printables, Everything Etsy, or DLTK’s.  There are many sites, though, so do a google search!

9. Love your space.  We often spend money to go places we love.  When times are tough, though, find a place in your home to love, and have a relaxing time.  Marco bought a record player at Big Lots a few months ago, and I love to cut flowers out of my back yard for the table, have a cup of tea or glass of wine, and listen to some old records from our collection.

10. Invite people over.  Ask them to bring something, and have dinner at your place.  This is how we end up with wine in our wine fridge (which was a wedding gift), even though I rarely think to buy any wine.

Moving and Shaking

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Our journey toward health continues!  When Marco and I don’t feel like going to the gym, we like to take a walk.  Last night we went for a long walk in Riverside, following the riverwalk that leads up to La Sierra University.  It’s a beautiful spot, and I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in the area.  Some ducks followed us, and we watched a great blue heron wade through shallow water.  When we thought we had reached the end of our walk, we heard a waterfall.  We can never resist, so we wandered onto the La Sierra campus in search of the sound.  We continued up the hill, and discovered the beautiful art deco buildings of the campus.  I wore my Shape Ups and Marco wore his new comfortable walking shoes.  The campus trek took us up a big hill, and I can definitely feel the effects in my legs today.  The Shape Ups work!

The top of the hill at La Sierra University

Marco’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and my family bought him something he has been eyeing for quite a while: a Shake Weight!  He has been using it regularly, and I can assure you that it is working!  His arms are tighter and bigger…nice!

Marco and his Shake Weight

So if you’re in the market, Shape Ups and a Shake Weight are some good, useful purchases!

Enjoy a little brie

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I had the pleasure of attending a dinner party for one of my closest friends last night, and she had brie as an appetizer!   How perfect.  She served it with fig jam, which is wonderfully sweet next to the mild brie.  She also had a caprese salad, pasta with home made vodka and  bolognese sauces, and home made ice cream.  She is a wonder!  Here is my plate with two of the appetizers:

The brie is on the right, on a cracker, topped with the fig jam.

This got me thinking that I should post some brie recipes.  Here are three of my favorites.

1. Brie Sandwich:

Get a good piece of bread (french bread or any artisan bread) and put a few artichoke hearts on it.  Lay some slices of brie over the artichoke hearts, and sprinkle sliced almonds over the top.  Heat in the oven or microwave until the brie melts enough to hold it all together.  Add another slice of bread on top, or eat open-face.  This can be a full sandwich for lunch, or small canapes for appetizers.

2. Brie and zucchini:

Slice the zucchini part way, lengthwise (making slits in the vegetable, without cutting all the way through).  Take slices of brie and insert them into the slits of the zucchini.  Bake or grill until the zucchini is soft and the brie is melted.  Cut the zucchini into canapes, perpendicular to your original slices.  Everyone gets a striped appetizer that is very yummy!

3. Brie with raspberry sauce:

Place one brie cheese round in a microwave-safe 9-inch pie plate. Spread raspberry preserves over the top. Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes, or until warmed through. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and serve warm.
Serve this with crackers and/or apple slices.

Love Smart

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My background is in Psychology; I have studied it, taught it, done counseling, and done social work.  From what I have seen, it is obvious to me that there are a few things that mess up romantic relationships.  A big one is blind infatuation.

Blind infatuation is Hollywood love!  We all want it, and hopefully we all get it at some point, but it must be acknowledged and set aside when making lifelong decisions.  I know I sound a little callous here, but I had a professor once who said that infatuation lasts four years.  When you look at the divorce rate, I think he’s right.  People fall in love, get married, have a child, and then real life hits them square in the face.  They have to look away from each other’s beautiful, perfect eyes, and look at the real world.

Suddenly they see the differences between their world views, and they may have a hard time negotiating those differences.

The divorce rates in the US and Canada spiked in the 1980s, and have been in a slow decline ever since.  However, marriage rates are also in a slow decline.  That means more people are waiting.

Perhaps the change has to do with societal expectations.  People are now expected to get some higher education and start a career before settling down.  As a college degree becomes necessary for employment, people are older, on average, before they get married.

The moral of this story is to wait.  Date as long as you can before getting engaged, because this is the only way you will really get to know your partner.  Go through some big life changes and experiences with them before marrying them.  Oh, and listen to your friends.  They see the real person, even if you can’t yet.

The textbooks say there are two kinds of love in marriage: romantic (also called passionate) and companionate love.  What would be perfect would be to start out with passionate, butterflies-in-the-stomach, can’t-live-without-you romantic love, and then have it settle into long-lasting companionate love.  Think of your grandparents holding hands, and you have a picture of companionate love.  This is the goal, whether we realize it or not.  Here’s an article on the two types of love that explains it well: Passionate or Companionate Love: Which One Weighs More?


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To follow my  earlier post about food, I decided to write about exercise.  Marco and I walk a lot, but that really just keeps me the same.  If I want anything to change, I have to do a lot more than walk.  So tonight I went back to Zumba and my gym.  Here I am before the class (sorry for the blurry picture; someday I will figure out the new phone):


The class was very full, so it was difficult to see the instructor, but I love these classes.  If you’ve never tried it, it’s a mix of aerobics, latin dances, hip hop, swing, Indian dance, and belly dancing.







And here I am after one hour of my bad dancing.  I am tired and flushed, but proud that I lasted through the whole class:









Here’s a facebook post from a while ago, but it pretty much sums up Zumba:

Getting serious about the blog

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My husband is much more technologically savvy than I am, and he is a photographer.  I got a smart phone (and gave up my lovely pink flip phone) so that I could take pictures for this blog, and update it at any time.  He has shown me, however, that my phone’s camera is not quite good enough for a professional blog.  Here he is showing me a possible point-and-shoot camera that would work for me:

After thinking about it for a few days, Marco has ordered a new camera for me!  It will be here Friday.  He couldn’t find a pink one, but he did find a red one!  He was able to find this at for a good price.  Hopefully this will help me keep up with interesting photos for this site.

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