More Football Foods!

Football is here!!

This means it’s not only time to watch our favorite teams kick off, but also time for those special foods that we make specifically for football games.  Last week, I included three of my family’s recipes: deviled eggs, queso, and sausage balls.  Today, I’m adding to that list and sharing two more of our household’s must-haves… plus a few of our favorite adult beverages perfect for tailgating!

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Mom’s Drunken Weenies

The picture says it all… that’s all you need!

A crock pot
A package or two of party weenies
A beer of any kind, I used Bud Light this day
Any kind of BBQ sauce, although Stubb’s is might tasty

Dump, mix, cover, and cook!

Cook on high for an hour or two and then simmer.  It’s that simple!  And guys love this stuff…

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Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

One package of frozen, creamed spinach
16 oz. of drained artichoke halves, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons of jarred pesto
2 tablespoons of horseradish sauce (or mayonnaise if preferred)
1/2 cup of chopped onion
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the creamed spinach per the instructions on the package.  Mix together with bite-size artichokes, pesto, horseradish sauce, chopped onion, and a few shakes of the cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture into an oven-safe dish, cover with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for at least thirty minutes.

I saw this cooking segment with Guy Fieri years ago on Regis and Kelly, and Guy put together his spinach and artichoke dip in an aluminum baking pan covered in foil.  Of course, he used more ingredients than I do (he’s a culinary wizard, after all) and he grilled it outside!!  I haven’t tried grilling it yet, but maybe at the next tailgate…

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And now for our favorite quick and easy ADULT BEVERAGES.

By “adult beverage,” I mean NO ONE under the age of twenty-one should try any of the below drinks.

Margaritaville Skinny Margaritas

Just add ice!!

I love this stuff.  It is now a staple in my household and I always make sure to have a bottle in the pantry or refrigerator!

Ice-Cold Beer

Chill…

Pick your favorite flavor!  I like more than what’s pictured above… but everyone gets the idea.

Classic Bourbon and Coke

The BEST stuff ever!!

I’ve always enjoyed Whiskey and/or Bourbon and Coke with football.  Heck, I even knew a boy in college my friends and I called “Jim Beam Boy.”  Why?  Because he always kept us warm by pouring a little Jim Beam into our Cokes at the football games.  Now, that’s a good friend!

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Do you make anything special during football season?  What’s your favorite tailgating beverage?  Please share!  I’d love to hear from you.

And since it’s football season, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… available on Kindle and Nook!

Football Foods!

Football is here!!

This means it’s not only time to watch our favorite teams kick off, but also time for those special foods that we make specifically for football games.  Today, I’ve decided to share three of our household’s must-haves!

But first, I thought I’d share what football season means to me—and that’s friends and family.  Enjoy!

Me and my girls…
Red Raiders who keep Austin, Texas in check…
Me and my guy… we’re not afraid to wear matching shirts.
Representing the Red Raiders in Dallas…

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Now, let’s talk food!

The first two recipes were passed on to me from my mother, and I have enjoyed them both since I was a little girl.  The last one comes courtesy of a former co-worker (thanks, Amy!), and it is now a household favorite.

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Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

Peel hard-boiled eggs and cut in half (see my easy oven-baked hard-boiled egg trick)
Carefully remove egg yolk and place in a mixing bowl
Add 2 tablespoons of mayo
Add 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
Mix together with a fork
Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
Mix again until smooth
Add salt and pepper to taste
Scoop the yolk mixture back into the egg halves
Sprinkle with paprika

**These measurements work for six hard-boiled eggs…

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Mom’s Holiday Queso

Mom’s Holiday Queso

¾ cup of chopped onion
2 tablespoons of butter
1 can of diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 package of 8 oz. cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup of milk

In a sauce pan, sauté onion in butter until soft.  Add tomatoes and chilies and cook over medium heat.  Gradually blend in the cubes of cream cheese, stirring until it is completely melted.  Slowly add milk.  Mix well, heat through, and serve.

**Brown hamburger meat with the onions if you want to add a little flare to the queso…

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Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls

1 package of hot, ground sausage (Jimmy Dean is great!)
1 cup of Heart Healthy Bisquick (or regular Bisquick, it really doesn’t matter; I just try to add little bits of “health” where I can)
1 cup of grated, sharp cheese

Mix all ingredients together.  Pinch off 1-2 inch sections of the meat mixture and roll into balls.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for thirty minutes at 350.

**Once I have all of the mixture rolled into balls, I like to pat each of them in the extra Bisquick in the bowl before I throw it out.  This gives the outside a nice crispy texture after baking.

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Do you make anything special during football season?  If so, please share!  I’d love to hear from you.

And since it’s football season, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… available on Kindle and Nook!

Original Vs. Remake – A Kiss Before Dying (1991)

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and me to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Sticking with our usual ways, Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we tackle the noir film, A Kiss Before Dying.

First, let’s take a look at Catie’s summary that applies to both films:

A money-obsessed college student murders his pregnant girlfriend out of fear her rich father will disinherit her.  Then, he goes on to woo her sister, still in hopes of infiltrating the same wealthy family.

I didn’t realize that the 1991 film starring Matt Dillon and Sean Young was a remake until Catie suggested we add A Kiss Before Dying to our Original Vs. Remake series.  So, after a little teamwork, with the two of us researching and seeing which of the two movies we could actually get our hands on, Catie agreed to cover the original and I ordered up my usual—the reboot.

I remembered seeing the remake years ago, probably close to when it first aired on the cable movie channels.  But I hadn’t seen it since and couldn’t remember the details.  I knew the gist—poor boy wants desperately to inch his way into the wealthy family he has kept his eye on his entire life.  Literally.  From watching the copper trains pass behind his house as a small boy, to following the family in the news over the years.  So, I set my DVR and watched it again, ready to take notes.

A Kiss Before Dying is classified as a noir film.  According to Webster, a noir film is a type of crime film featuring cynical, malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography and foreboding background music.  And like Catie said, sometimes that background music is a bit much…

The 1991 version has been called a neo-noir, a modernized film that uses elements of the film noir genre but with updated themes (music, cinematography, style, visual elements, etc…).  It was all there.  The orchestra music, camera angles, dark shadows, and some things we don’t see as much in films anymore—boobs, sex, and a lot of smoking.  Granted, this film was shot back in the early ‘90s when smoking wasn’t as much a taboo like it is today, but still.  When watching today, in 2013, the smoking stands out.  As does the nudity and sex.  Films today have sexual encounters, but many of these scenes are not shown in detail.  At least in my opinion…

Anyway, the remake stars Matt Dillon as Jonathan Corliss/Jay Faraday, a guy from a not-so-wealthy town ready to get out and never come back, whatever it takes… and Sean Young as twin sisters Ellen and Dorothy Carlsson, heirs to the Carlsson Copper company, who find themselves stuck in a Corliss/Faraday web.  I’ve never been a big fan of Sean Young, unless you count her role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (LOL), but I’ve liked Matt Dillon since the first time I saw him in The Outsiders.  Perhaps his movie selections don’t land him a lot of award nominations, but let me just say this, he nailed the role of a sociopath in A Kiss Before Dying.  Nailed it.

The character of Jonathon is very calculating, controlled, and purely evil.  He takes risks but minimizes his chances of being caught.  And man, he is violent… he’ll push a pregnant woman from atop a building, strangle a man equal to his size or bigger without breaking a sweat, and he doesn’t hesitate to watch the life drain from anyone.  Yet, he’s superficially normal in social settings.  Matt Dillon may be cute, but he is uber-creepy in this film.

Like I said earlier, I had seen this movie before.  And despite not remembering much about it, I didn’t find it at all suspenseful.  Perhaps that’s the noir aspect… the music just gives too much away in my opinion.  I knew something bad was about to happen or someone was about to bite it before it actually aired on the television screen.  Plus, when the mystery begins to unravel, it does so very quickly.

Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this film.  Take for instance the story… I truly appreciate how everything comes full circle, from the opening scenes of the small boy watching the trains pass by, to the very end when Dorothy is running for her life.  I haven’t read the book by Ira Levin, but I have to assume he deserves the credit for this.

So how does the 1991 version compare to the original?  I can’t tell you… but I can say that I want to watch the 1956 film for one reason—Robert Wagner.  I’ve had a crush on him since I was a little girl.  Hart to Hart was one of my favorites growing up.  He was such a beautiful man back in the day; heck, he’s still not so bad… I simply must see him play Jonathon/Jay.

But back to the remake… I think the 1991 film is worth watching for Matt Dillon.  His performance surprised me the most.  I just wouldn’t expect to be clinging to the edge of your seat in suspense.  Other psychological thrillers have gotten me a lot more than A Kiss Before Dying did.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or remake of A Kiss Before Dying?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Multipurpose Products and Neat Tricks for Around the House

It’s time for a new kind of Friday FabOoolousness post… my Friday Favorites.

My Friday Favorites will include any products that make me say Ooo, ranging from multipurpose household products (like today), to kitchen gadgets, to my favorite candles, etc,  and the reasons why I love them.  I hope you enjoy!

For years, I have received interesting emails and seen numerous informative sites that list inexpensive, everyday products that can be used for more than what we originally purchased them for in the first place.  I have been using some of these tips since college, and I wish I had saved the original sources for referencing today.  Unfortunately, I did not.

So we’re clear, I’m in no way implying that these brilliant ideas were my own—I’m no Martha Stewart.  However, with all of the neat tricks for around the house floating around Pinterest, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites here at The Ooo Factor.  Because let’s face it, these multipurpose products make me say Ooo.

Favorite Multipurpose Household Products

Vinegar

  • Bathing in vinegar helps remove the heat/sting from sunburns.  It may stink; it may even be an old wives’ tale, but it has worked for me in the past.  Maybe it’s psychological?
  • Using vinegar in the rinse cycle of the wash helps keep the whites white, the colors bright, and the fabrics soft.  And no, the clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar.
  • Using vinegar in the rinse cycle of the dish washer helps remove water stains from the dishes and glasses.
  • When mixed with water, vinegar cleans your fruits and vegetables.  And with the cyclospora scare in multiple states right now, we need to be washing our fruits and vegetables.
  • When mixed with water, vinegar acts as a conditioner for your hair.  I still need to try this one and plan to soon.  I’ll report back as soon as I do.
  • Vinegar also shines silver; I learned this trick while working in the food and beverage industry.
  • AND last but not least, vinegar tastes good in deviled eggs and potato salad.

Apple Cider Vinegar

While many uses of apple cider vinegar mirror that of regular vinegar, it also has many health benefits.  Simply mix with water and/or tea, and apple cider vinegar can aid with stomach issues, sore throats, weight loss, heartburn (which sounds crazy, since it’s acidic, but it does work when diluted), and even teeth whitening (I still need to try this one).

Dryer Sheets

  • Fresh and crisp (unused) dryer sheets repel mosquitoes and other bugs.
  • Lightly used dryer sheets eliminate dust and static electricity from televisions and computer screens AND are safe to use on these surfaces.
  • Lightly used dryer sheets are also perfect to use as a dust rag around the house.
  • And since air fresheners are so expensive, try laying dryer sheets around the house for that fresh smell, replacing every so often.  This works when traveling, too… to keep suitcases smelling like a warm batch of clean clothes.

Pillow Cases

Besides the obvious… pillow cases, particularly the king sized ones, can be used to cleanse delicates in the normal wash cycle in lieu of hand washing.  Hand washing instructions can’t be avoided on some clothing, particular women’s clothing.  If you’re anything like me, you look at the wash care instructions before buying clothes.  But sometimes, we can’t resist the urge to buy it anyway, even if we hate using our sinks for clothes.  Simply throw the hand-wash item in the pillow case, tie the open end in a knot, and throw in with the rest of the load.  This may be one of my favorite tricks ever.

Your turn…

What multipurpose products do you love to have around the house?  Have any neat tricks you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

High School Movie Showdown – The Party Animals

It has been a while since the last High School Movie Showdown, a Friday FabOoolousness series here at The Ooo Factor where we take two popular movies in the teenage genre and pit them against one another.  We’ll feature the classics (like Grease), some popular Generation Xers (like Clueless), and some that are a bit more recent to the scene (like Project X).

Today, we’re taking a look at some party animals…

Late one night, as I flipped through the channels, I happened upon Can’t Hardly Wait.  Like I do with a handful of the ‘90s classics I have seen numerous times, I sat down and watched the film again from start to finish. I say again because it had to be at least the fifth or sixth time…  And while the movie might seem a tad dated, looking at the outfits and the hairstyles, it reminded me why it will forever be one of my favorite movies about high school.

Not long after watching Can’t Hardly Wait, as I was waiting for a new flick to begin, the channel I happened to be watching aired a preview for another movie—American Reunion.  I’ve already seen American Reunion a few times and truly enjoyed it; but if it weren’t for the first film in the franchise, American Pie, the highly successful sequels wouldn’t have been made in the first place.

Can’t Hardly Wait and American Pie… two ’90s greats about high schoolers, crushes, love, sex, and partying.

This got me to thinking… when paired up side-by-side, which of these films would win?

Both films do share a few similarities: both are loaded with popular young actors from that particular generation (Can’t Hardly Wait stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Peter Facinelli, and Seth Green… and American Pie stars Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Sean William Scott, and Chris Klein); both introduced new actors and actresses and are partially responsible for kick-starting their current popularity (Lauren Ambrose, Jason Segal, Clea Duvall, Jamie Pressly, Donald Faison, Selma Blair, Jason Biggs, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Shannon Elizabeth, and John Cho); and both relied on a few familiar faces in cameo roles—some of which were uncredited—to help get people interested in the films (Jenna Elfman, Jerry O’Connell, Melissa Joan Hart, Breckin Meyer, Blink 182, and Casey Affleck).

The overall messages of the two movies are not all that different—in high school, everyone wants to fit in, to belong to a group; everyone is searching for that one true connection, emotionally and physically; everyone is awkward and insecure in one way or another, regardless of their current popularity status; and more times than not, high schoolers look to blow off steam (and celebrate) the same way—to party.

William cutting loose for the first time – Can’t Hardly Wait

However, the two films are also different.  For one, Can’t Hardly Wait is filmed almost entirely at a post-graduation party (the opening and closing scenes take place elsewhere).  This was because the filmmakers believed the majority of the best scenes of the ‘80s teen movies took place at parties (such as Jake’s party during Sixteen Candles).  American Pie follows a group of guys (and their respective girlfriends) through their high school days, extracurriculars, and even their “private” time.

Also, despite the fact both flicks are categorized as teen comedies, Can’t Hardly Wait, for the most part, keeps it semi-clean; while American Pie falls into a sub-category I have grown to love over the years—raunchy comedy.  After all, the boys are obsessed with losing their virginity before graduation.  Heck, Jim even practices sex on a pie!

But probably the biggest difference?  Only one launched into a multi-million dollar franchise—American Pie.

Jim, his dad, and “the pie” – American Pie

Bottom line, both films were popular in their day.  And both will probably achieve cult classic success and live on through their fans year after year.  But which one would win in a head to head battle?  The love story of Amanda Beckett (JLH) and Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry), or the coming-of-age stories of Jim, Oz, Stifler, Kevin, and Finch?

The fact that I had to clarify who Amanda Beckett and Preston Meyers are probably gives my winner away…

American Pie.

How about you?  Can’t Hardly Wait or American Pie?  I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and the music in both movies will definitely take you back to the ’90s…

Can’t Hardly Wait includes artists Third Eye Blind, Blink 182, Smash Mouth, Guns N’ Roses, Boys II Men, Creed, Tone Loc, and even Barry Manilow.

American Pie also features Third Eye Blind and Blink 182, as well as Sugar Ray, The Barenaked Ladies, Tonic, and Everclear.

Summer’s Must Read New and Recent Releases

Summer is here!  And with the hot and humid weather comes one of my favorite pastimes… grabbing a book and heading out to the pool for a little R&R.

So today, I’ve decided to share seven new and recent releases that are must reads on my bookshelf.  If you’re looking for the next bestseller in the young adult, mystery, suspense, fantasy, or thriller genres, check these out and help support six fabOoolous authors!

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city_of_scars

It’s been three decades since the Blood Queen led her legions on a brutal campaign of conquest and destruction, and the Empires are still struggling to rebuild.  Now, in the distant aftermath of the war, the real battle is about to begin.

Haunted by the crimes of his past, fallen knight Azander Dane ekes out a mercenary existence as he drifts from one city to the next.  His latest job is to hunt down Ijanna Taivorkan, a powerful outlaw witch desperate to escape her destiny.

Dane and Ijanna find themselves in Ebonmark, the City of Scars, where deadly crime guilds and shadowy agents of the White Dragon Empire prepare for a brutal confrontation.  Pursued by apocalypse cults, mad alchemists, exiled giants and werewolf gangs, Dane and Ijanna soon learn a deadly lesson – in Ebonmark, only the cruelest and most cunning can survive.

City of Scars is the first volume of The Skullborn Trilogy, an all new epic fantasy adventure from the author of Blood Skies.

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Three years after a fanatical cult attempted to murder everyone important to him, Connor Maitland is still attempting to put his life back together. Accompanied by his business partner Alison and their new recruit, he is making a living as a jack-of-all-trades running a security company, sailing charters, and even photographing weddings; whatever it takes to get by.  Connor’s world was finally coming back together until the cult resurfaced in an effort to finish what they started.

After a violent attack, Connor finally has a lead on the founders of the cult and their motivations. The investigation is hindered when they are forced into taking a case to protect a family from a disturbing neighbor. As reports of residents disappearing begin to surface, Connor is caught between his desire to learn the truth about the cult and the need to save the family.

Connor is learning that sometimes high school memories do more than haunt you…

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FbM_Final cover

Prequel 1 to the Forged Series, Forged by Magic: Origins is a collection of short stories, featuring the characters from the Forged series. This is the first of two prequels to the series. Each story is told from a different character’s point-of-view.
Find out how the Amulet and the Dasht-e Kavir have been created, and how the powers of the Universe opened the gates to other dimensions, inadvertently releasing unworldly supernatural creatures into the Human World.

AND

cover design: Jeannie Ruesch

Forged by Legacy: Beginnings is the second of two prequels to the series. It is a collection of short stories, each told from a different character’s point-of-view.

These stories explain some of the behind-the-scenes facts from The Forged series. Do you want to know how the protagonists, Jatred and Jasmira fell in love? And what really happened during the deadly plane crash? How about the reason behind Savannah and Logan’s breakup? Or how do the teens shape shift for the first time?

Forged by Legacy: Beginnings answers all these questions—and more.

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The Silver SickleThe end of humanity will come through the Silver Sickle . . .

Farissa lives every moment with reckless abandon, for it may be her last. Any day now, the alien goddesses will harvest her and take her to the mysterious Silver Sickle, never to return. She’s accepted that. What she can’t accept is this new idea of freedom Zel has planted in her head. She’d give almost anything to be with Zel, but how can she run from her destiny if it means putting the whole kingdom in danger?

Everyone in the desert kingdom believes the goddesses are immortal, but Zel has invented a way to kill them. Now all he has to do is convince Farissa to run away with him and plant a seed of hope in her heart that she’s not destined to die. Little does he know that one seed of hope could change the course of the future.

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FIRELANDS CoverEighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who burns in the ritual fires that atone for society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble—a gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

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Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.

*****

Don’t these books sound fabOoolous!!  I’ve met all of these authors, either in person or online in writing communities, and I can’t wait to read their latest releases.  I hope you do too!

Have you read any of these books?  If so, please share your thoughts…  Do you have any other new releases that you think the rest of us should read or that you can’t wait to crack open?  I’d love to hear from you!

And, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!  Reviewers agree that FS is perfect for teens and adults alike and keeps everyone guessing until the very end!

FootballSweetheart_Digital

Here are some of the most recent reviews…

five stars“Football Sweetheart is a great mystery read for all ages! I was hooked right away, and had trouble putting it down. It definitely brought back many high school memories. The author does a wonderful job of capturing West Texas’ passion for high school football! Can’t wait for the next book in the series! Loved it!” ~ Carissa

five stars“Great adventure/mystery in the style of Nancy Drew. Written around the background of high school football, clues are all over and there’s several people you think might have done it. The ending is a great emotional wrap up to the story.” ~ Nigel

five stars“I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next books in the series. Being from the West Texas area I could really relate to the characters and felt like each were my friends back in high school. The mystery was very interesting and kept me reading. I brought the book along on a vacation and found myself reading all night to find out the conclusion. Tiffany is an astonishing author from whom I am looking forward to further reads.” ~ Jami

Pinteresting – July’s Recipes

Over the past few months, I have fallen into the Pinterest craze along with millions of other people.  At first, I didn’t know exactly what to do… but once I got the hang of it, I found myself spending hours on the weekends checking out neat Do-It-Yourself tricks for around the house, finding cute clothes that I needed to add to my wish list, learning interesting beauty and hair techniques, and probably my biggest downfall, discovering recipes that I absolutely must try.

Now it’s time for this month’s Pintersting post where I share a few Pinterest ideas I have grabbed from other users and share whether or not they work.

Today, we’re taking on a few of the recipes…

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Chicken Salad
Chicken Salad

I love refreshing foods during the hot summer months… salads, fruits, sandwiches, etc…  But up until recently, I only knew how to make a tuna salad that I liked.  I enjoy a good chicken salad; I just never had a recipe that sounded easy enough that I wanted to try.  So, instead of making it fresh, I’d trek to United Market Street and grab a container of already made chicken salad with grapes.  I love my chicken salad with grapes.

And then came Pinterest…

I wasn’t sure how my guy would react to my making chicken salad for a Monday night dinner, but he played along nonetheless.  He even helped me chop everything.

And let me just say… we both loved it!!  The grapes are my favorite part (surprise, surprise), and he likes the crunch of it all (celery, onion, and pecans).  It was so tasty; we’ve even made it a second time this month!  Twice in one month!

3 cups of cooked chicken
1 cup of chopped celery
½ cup of chopped pecans
1 cup of chopped grapes – we used purple grapes
¼ cup of finely chopped green onion
¾ cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip – we used regular mayo
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
½ teaspoon of onion powder

In a large bowl, mix chicken, celery, pecans, grapes, and green onion.

In a small bowl, mix the mayo, salt, pepper, and onion powder.

Cover the chicken mixture with the “dressing” and stir until well mixed.

Cover and chill until served.

We toasted some challah bread from Whole Foods Market, spread mustard on each piece, and covered it with large mounds of the chicken salad served open-faced.  Perfecto!

I do wonder though, what will Granny Smith green apples taste like if added?  Maybe next time…

*****

Italian Chicken Before
Crock Pot Italian Chicken

I’m a crock pot cooker.  Dump, cover, and cook.  How easy is that?  Give me any recipe to try in the crock pot and I’ll give it a chance… especially chicken.

Sadly, the last chicken dish we tried was extremely dry.  But not this one!  The Crock Pot Italian Chicken dinner is melt-in-your-mouth good.  Especially when served on Hawaiian sweet rolls.  And the peppers?  Oh, the peppers give it just the right amount of sweetness and spice.

2 pounds of chicken – we used frozen chicken breasts
1 jar of pepper rings (12 ounces) – we used mild
2 envelopes of Italian dressing seasoning and/or spice mix (.7 ounce)

Dump the chicken into the crock pot, cover with pepper rings, and sprinkle in both envelopes of Italian dressing.  Cover and cook for four hours on high (or eight on low).

Shred the chicken and turn the heat to low or simmer until ready to serve.  If low on the liquid, add broth or water.

Serve on buns with feta, peppers, and olives if desired.

My guy went with the feta…

I stayed away from all three…

Italian Chicken After

And I’m glad I did.  YUMMY!!  Seriously.  So good.

*****

Your turn—have you tried any Pinterest recipes that you would like to share?  Did it taste as good as its picture looked?  I’d love to hear from you!

Original Pinterest recipes found on these sites:

http://www.skinnymom.com/2012/04/25/skinny-chicken-salad/?_szp=163117

http://beyerbeware.net/2012/09/hunk-of-meat-monday-crock-pot-italian-chicken.html

And, feel free to follow me on Pinterest.

A Killer Curse – The Grudge (2004)

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and me to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Sticking with our usual ways, Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we tackle the horror film, The Grudge.

First, let’s take a look at Catie’s summary that applies to both films:

When someone dies with a deep and burning rage, a curse is born.  It gathers in the place where that person died and manifests on those who encounter the curse.  This film is a set of six vignettes, starring different characters, about a house in suburban Japan where a murder took place.

It may be hard to believe, but I didn’t actually request to cover the remake this month.  To be honest, I was hoping for the remake because I had already seen it… years ago, but either version was fine by me.  So, I let Catie choose which one she wanted to review before turning in any requests.  And with her decision to cover the original Japanese film, I found a copy of the American version via OnDemand and set it in my queue to rewatch.

And I’m glad I did.  Rewatch it that is.

I didn’t recall feeling favorable about The Grudge (2004) when I first watched it as a new release back in the day.  However, watching it again, my opinions of the film have changed.  After all, what is a sign of a good horror movie?  The suspense made me jump… impressive, considering I’d already seen it once before.

As Catie mentioned in her summary, the film follows six different vignettes, or small scenes, starring different characters who have all encountered the house and its curse in one way or another.

However, the main story follows a foreign exchange student (Karen played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar) who has been volunteering at a care center for a social welfare credit.  When a fellow worker doesn’t report to duty, Karen gets the call to take over looking after an older woman confined to her residence.

But Yoko (the co-worker) did report to her job at the older woman’s house…

And once she arrives, Karen realizes this was not the assignment she had been hoping for…

Rewind three years when the Saeki family lived in the house.  Once Mr. Saeki kills both his wife and son before taking his own life, the curse is born.

While watching the American version, I couldn’t help but think the son looked very familiar; he looked just like the boy in the movie poster for Ju-on: The Grudge.  How could that be?  Well, it’s because it was the same boy.  The actors portraying Toshio (the son), Kayako (the mom), and Takeo (the dad) all appeared in the Japanese film as the cursed Saeki family as well as in the American version.

Quite a few familiar faces are tied to the Saeki house, and therefore its curse: Bill Pullman (does he really need an introduction?), Jason Behr (from Roswell and Dawson’s Creek), William Mapother (Lost), KaDee Strickland (Private Practice), Clea DuVall (from Carnivàle, Heroes, and American Horror Story: Asylum), and even Ted Raimi (Xena: Warrior Princess), brother to the film’s producer, Sam Raimi.

Sam Raimi has had his hands in many other films, whether it is by acting, directing (the Toby McGuire Spider-Man franchise), or producing (The Evil Dead series, the Kevin Sorbo Hercules franchise, and many other “dark” flicks, including 30 Days of Night, Boogeyman, Drag Me to Hell, and The Possession).  And having seen many of his works, I can honestly say there’s a unique aspect he brings to each of his projects.  The Grudge is no different.

Perhaps one of the creepiest parts of the entire film is the sound the Kayako ghost makes when opening her mouth.  *Shivers* I almost forgot how freaky that clicking sound is. Ooh-waa-haa-haa-haa-haa-haa-haa-haa.  Forgive me, but I don’t know how else to describe it…

Oh, and speaking of creepy… the scene at the end of the film when Kayako moves down the stairs was supposedly not a special effect; it has been reported the actress really moved that way.  For anyone who has already seen the film, this scene is as disturbing as the Linda Blair head spin from The Exorcist.

Catie mentioned Ju-on: The Grudge and the story of its curse has some validity to it as far as Japanese folklore and mythology are concerned.  This probably helps explain why it’s rumored that the entire cast and crew of The Grudge (2004) were blessed before filming, hoping to prevent any evil from befalling upon them.

The Grudge spawned two sequels, also produced by Raimi.  I have not seen either of these films, but from what I understand, the story picks right up where the 2004 flick left off and continues.

You know, the Japanese police really shouldn’t have saved the Saeki house from burning to the ground…

So how does the American version compare to the Japanese film?  That’s  right; I caught Ju-on late last night on the movie channels and can actually compare the two!  Well, the stories are quite similar… with only a few small differences; the Japanese version has subtitles; and more importantly, Ju-on doesn’t have Sarah Michelle Gellar.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the Japanese film or the American remake of The Grudge?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  AND do you believe in curses?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Author Catie Rhodes on Ghosts, Hauntings, and Forever Road

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Catie Rhodes on social media back in 2011.  We pretty much hit it off immediately… talking about writing, TV, mysteries, movies, and more.

Author and Blogger Catie Rhodes
Author and Blogger Catie Rhodes

Some of you may recognize Catie’s name from our Original versus Remake monthly blog series.  She almost always covers the classics, also known as the originals, and she lets me review the newer films—luckily for me, my selections usually include eye candy…  No film is off-limits for our series; but if you leave it up to the two of us, we’ll almost always choose a horror or slasher flick.  Why?  Because that’s what we like.  I’ve only met a handful of people who like gore and psychological thrillers the way I do, and Catie happens to be one of them.

But what really drew me to Catie, besides her personality, was her love of true crime, ghosts, and hauntings.  Her blog, Long Roads and Dark Ends, is one of my favorites out there.  She has introduced me to plenty of haunted Texas spots, and one day I will go on a spooky tour.  Hopefully with Catie…

After a year or so of our chats on Twitter and Facebook, we extended our friendship to email and texts.  I cannot express how much I adore this girl.  We’ve never met in person, despite only living four hours apart, but I know we will.  It’s actually probably a blessing that we don’t live any closer; it’s likely we’d meet for coffee and desserts too much and not get enough writing done.

But before I ramble on, here’s a little bit about Catie in her own words:

Catie Rhodes grew up in the piney woods of East Texas where there wasn’t much to do other than daydream and make up stories. She decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after getting fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone. (That’s actually a lie, but it got your attention, didn’t it?)

The truth is, Catie knew from an early age what she wanted to do when she grew up. She just went down a lot of dead end streets on her road to becoming a writer. Her travels and trials taught her life is short, and one has to go for the gusto or get left behind.

Drawing on her East Texas roots, her love of true crime, and her love of the paranormal, she writes the kind of stories she wishes the bookstores sold. Catie relishes being that kid your mother warned you about, the one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog.

She lives in the overcrowded, overly noisy, and overrated Houston, Texas suburbs where all the houses look exactly the same.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Catie’s blurb for her debut ghostly suspense novel, Forever Road

Enjoy!

Seeing Ghosts Is Rough, But Owing A Ghost A Favor Flat Out Sucks.

Forever Road by Catie RhodesMy name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it.

Now I’m not sure I can anymore.

See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell.

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up.

None of this can turn out good.

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

The earliest memories I have are of wanting to be a doctor. By the time I was twelve or so, however, I wanted to write a bestseller. I loved making up stories much more than I loved science.

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

Life, current events, TV, folklore, ghost stories, true crime…you know, the normal stuff.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Larry Brown, Jim Thompson, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Billie Sue Mosiman, Todd Brown, Joe Lansdale, Robert R. McCammon.

When I was a teenager, I devoured Jackie Collins’s and V.C. Andrews’s novels.

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thank you, and no. lol

The illustration on the cover is by Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar of Darkstar Artwork. I had very clear ideas about what I wanted and was lucky enough to work with a professional dedicated to helping me achieve my vision.

Indie Author Services did the lettering on the cover.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Peri Jean and why?

Peri Jean looks a whole lot like Winona Ryder when she wore her hair in a pixie cut. I’m not sure why I chose Winona Ryder. That’s just who felt right.

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Paul Walker, who looks a lot like Dean Turgeau, the male lead in Forever Road.

Paul Walker… serious eye candy

Besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

Research. I love to find a topic that grabs my interest and learn everything I can about it. This hobby is probably clearly evidenced in my blog posts on true crime and paranormal.

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Only four?! You’re cruel, girl. Just downright cruel.  In order:

1)      Breaking Bad

2)      The Walking Dead

3)      The Killing

4)      Sons of Anarchy

I think I see a pattern…

What is your favorite movie of all-time?

Another hard one!

Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2

Okay, I cheated a little since that’s technically two movies. But it’s only one title. Sort of. Fine…I cheated.

Epic Movie…

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Sweet Tarts and bottled water. Count on me to live large.

You blog about so many interesting haunted and spooky locations.  Which spot was your favorite to visit and did you sense anything out of the ordinary? 

I used to visit New Orleans, Louisiana a lot. One place I found deliciously creepy was St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Marie Laveau is supposedly interred there. At least, there’s a grave with her name on it.

A photo from my trip to New Orleans in 2008... I've actually been to St. Louis Cemetry #1!!
A photo from my trip to New Orleans in 2008… I’ve actually been to St. Louis Cemetery #1!!  Catie should be so proud…

Though I saw nothing in St. Louis No. 1, the place had a great spooky vibe, and I could smell death. At the time we went, we were advised not to venture into the cemetery alone and couldn’t afford to take the tour again. But I’d love to go back and let my husband (the photographer) take some good pictures.

And while I can't remember if I took a picture of her grave or not, I definitely visited her Voodoo store... And yes, I bought a doll.
And while I can’t remember if I took a picture of her grave or not, I definitely visited her Voodoo store… And yes, I bought a doll.

Being a fellow Texan, any haunted locations I should visit? 

Next time you go out to the Hill Country, go to Longhorn Caverns in Burnet, Texas. Gorgeous place. Many of the structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during The Great Depression. It is also supposedly very haunted. If you feel like it, do a google search on “Longhorn Caverns + Catie Rhodes” and view my ghost picture from our visit.

*****

Isn’t Catie great?

Need more Catie?  I mean, seriously… who doesn’t want to go to a haunted location with her?  I do!  Be sure to catch up with Catie at her website, or follow her via her Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Catie?  Have you read Forever Road yet?  How about this—do you believe in ghosts?  Have any haunted tales to tell?  We’d love to hear from you! 

Before we go, Forever Road is on sale for 99 cents today and tomorrow (July 5th and 6th).  Be sure to grab a copy if you haven’t already… and check out Catie’s short story, Haste, while you are there.

Haste by Catie RhodesShe just murdered her cheating bastard of a husband and his whore. All that’s left to do is not get caught. Or is it?

A short story about rage and consequences.

TV’s Dark Dramas

I love dark dramas… mysteries, horror, psychological thrillers, slashers, you name it.  And in the past, I’ve had to turn to the Hollywood blockbusters to catch my fair share.  But not anymore!

Television entered this dark world last year with FX’s American Horror Story.  While this program wasn’t for everyone, I certainly enjoyed it, with the sinister and twisting storylines and the supernatural elements with the hauntings and ghosts.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when the network announced the show’s renewal… but was hesitant when I learned the cast (for the most part) and story would be completely different from the first year.  And while I didn’t necessarily enjoy the second season (AHS: Asylum) as much as the first, it kept me intrigued.

Looking back, the idea was quite brilliant actually… and now I find myself anxiously awaiting season three.  Again, the plot will be different, as will some of the cast, but the idea behind AHS: Coven is right up my alley.

But as far as dark television dramas are concerned, FX’s American Horror Story is no longer alone…

The 2012-2013 TV season saw a handful of dark programs that I really enjoyed:

Fox’s The Following

NBC’s Hannibal

A&E’s Bates Motel

ABC’s 666 Park Avenue

The CW’s Cult

Granted, only three of these shows will live to see a second season (666 and Cult died early on, but luckily the networks are airing the remainder of the taped episodes this summer for those of us who actually watched and enjoyed these mysteries).  Therefore, for the sake of today’s post, we’ll just talk about the surviving three.

To me, what really stood out with all three of these television series was the acting, character development, and the writing.

First, let’s look at The Following

Viewers are immediately taken into the mind and history of the two main characters.  The protagonist, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), is now a retired FBI agent, who is also a recovering alcoholic and a man fighting to stay healthy (he has a bad heart).  Hardy’s not limited to the rules of the FBI or other law enforcement agencies.  More importantly, he doesn’t care… he will do anything to catch his guy.  He reminds me a LOT of Jack Bauer from Fox’s 24.

Then we have the antagonist, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who’s a former literature professor obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe… oh, and he’s a mass murderer.

“Carroll was obsessed with the Romantic Period… in particular, his hero, Edgar Allan Poe.  And like Poe, he believed in the insanity of art, that it had to be felt.  He didn’t just eviscerate fourteen female students, he was making art.  He cut out his victims’ eyes as a nod to his favorite works of Poe: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat.’ See, Poe believed the eyes are our identity, windows to our soul.  To classify him (Carroll) as a picarist would be too simplistic.” ~ Hardy about Carroll to a group of FBI agents

But it’s not just that.  James Purefoy is perfect for the role of Carroll.  His charisma leaves audiences at home believing he has that special ingredient necessary to make hundreds of “crazies” follow him, thus the idea of the cult.  One moment I would feel sorry for his character, and the next, I would fear him unlike any other.  The character, and his performance, was creepy good.

Next, we have Hannibal

I personally loved the character of Will from the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon.  But then again, I adore Edward Norton.   When I truly enjoy a character and/or an actor’s performance, I can’t help but worry about the decision to re-do or continue the same character in another adaptation with a different actor at the helm.  However, I’m happy to report that I do like Hugh Dancy’s portrayal of Will Graham in NBC’s Hannibal just as much.

And since we’re talking about the films, what more can be said about Anthony Hopkins?  He will forever be Hannibal Lecter in my mind.  However, considering the TV series couldn’t land Sir Hopkins to resume his iconic role (well, maybe they could, but they didn’t), Mads Mikkelson will definitely do.  He’s got the creepiness down and he’s playing the demented sociopath quite well.

I only recently finished watching the first season, and I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed Dancy and Mikkelson as the lead characters.  But performances aside, the story is what really pulled me into this series.  It is dark, dark, dark, dark, dark… and creepy.  It’s fascinating, chilling, and intense.  The creators do not shy away from the gore; and the way the viewers get to experience the minds of both Will and Dr. Lecter via the cinematography and writing is fantastic.

And finally, we have Bates Motel

I wrapped up the first season of Bates Motel this past weekend, and much like The Following and Hannibal, the performances in this television series are what set it apart from all the other dramas on TV.

In this series, we revisit the Alfred Hitchcock favorite… only this time we see how it all began with a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his very-much-alive mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga).  Anyone who has seen Psycho understands why Norman is how he is as an adult, but Bates Motel shows us more of the sordid relationship between mother and son.

Speaking of the relationship between mother and son… just how inappropriate is it?  Well, we haven’t seen anything sexual between the two, but we have seen Norma undress in front of Norman… as well as crawl into bed with him.  What normal parent cozies up next to their teenage son and cuddles with him for a good night sleep?  Norma.  And Norman is such a “good boy,” he’ll do anything to please his mother.

But is Norman such a good boy?  Not if we believe all the things Norma tells his older half-brother (Max Thieriot)… not if we believe all of the hallucinations Norman suffers from… and not if we watched the season finale.

Bottom line, this family has issues… but the actors do not.  Highmore and Farmiga are great as Norma and Norman Bates.  I don’t know what I expected from A&E’s new series, but I will say the writers and creators have far exceeded whatever expectations I might have had.

What do you think?  Do you like these “dark” TV series?  Which is your favorite and why?  I’d love to hear from you!

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