Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best Travel Apps!

With my upcoming trip to the United Kingdom, I have a couple of apps that I use when planning a trip, and others for when I have reached my destination. Here are a few that I use!


  • Kayak (The best deals on flights)
  • Priceline (I name my own price when it comes to hotels)
  • Trip Advisor (I always check reviews)
  • Travel Zoo (Excellent cruise specials)
  • Home Away (Tons of vacation rentals at your fingertips!)
  • Airbnb (Great apartments, condos, and flats)

  • Pack The Bag (Create a list of everything you need and check it off as you go!)


  • Tour Wrist (View panoramic shots of sites that you'd like to visit)
  • World Lens (In a foreign country and don't know the language? This app will translate written words for you. Just point your smartphones camera and voila!)
  • Hear Planet (Amazing!! Carry your own travel guide in your pocket. Enjoy prerecorded explanations of landmarks and exhibits.)
Now...Get out there and explore!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Southeast Asian Porridge!

I am on a roll with the Asian recipes this month! I recently had an amazing dinner party where I delighted my guests with an authentic Cambodian hotpot! Well, after finishing up the broth, I had a ton of veggies left over! So, not wanting to waste them, I decided make one of my favorite hearty stews.

Porridge... I know what you're thinking and no it's not your typical porridge from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. This version differs from the European porridge (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) that uses oats, milk, or water, because it uses rice!

This recipe calls for the flavors of Southeast Asia, such as Korean juk and Cambodian Bo bor sach moan.

-chicken thighs 1 lb or any chicken you have... Thighs give more flavor
-1 large can of chicken broth or chicken bouillon
-1/2 cup fish sauce
-4 tbsp of ginger powder or thinly sliced raw ginger
-2 crushed garlic or 1 tbsp of minced garlic
-1 tbsp of star anise
-1bunch of chopped cilantro
-2 cups of rice
-2 stalks of green onion
-1/2 cabbage (not traditionally used but I had so much leftover!)
-1tbsp of lemongrass
-1 package of button mushrooms, sliced
-1 cup of mung bean sprouts
-salt to taste
-crushed black pepper to taste
-I add a heaping tbsp of beef pho paste for extra flavor
-pepper of choice for spice. I used Korean red peppers

Simply put in a crockpot, fill with water and cook on low overnight 7-8 hours. Delicious and hearty!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cambodian hot pot

I had tempted my friends with the notion of a delicious Cambodian hot pot dinner. Well, it is now winter and the perfect night to enjoy a tasty, spicy, hot pot has arrived!

Now, most of my friends are Chinese and Japanese and hadn't heard of a Cambodian version of their hot pot, so I just couldn't wait to see their reactions at the first taste of this spicy, slightly sweet, and flavorful portrayal.

The Chinese version is referred to as Chinese fondue, steamboat, or huoguo. The Japanese call theirs shabu-shabu. Below is the recipe and instructions for Yao hon, courtesy of my Cambodian best friend and her mom. Thank you mama Keo!

Step 1:

Find your local Asian market. You will not find these ingredients in your typical grocery store.

Ingredients (broth)
1 large jar of soya bean paste for sukiyaki
1 bottle of Coco Rico
4 jars of Dragonfly barbecue sauce
3 jars of shrimp paste
5 tablespoons of fish sauce
Raw peanuts
Chicken bouillon or chicken broth

Step 2
(Prepare broth)

Roast peanuts at the bottom of a large pot on medium. Keep swirling until brown.
Pour all of the other ingredients into the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes while you prep vegetables, meat and starch.

Step 3

Steam rice or make noodles
The best imported Jasmine rice from Thailand

Step 4
(Prep Vegetables)

Wash and organize the following onto platters:

Green onions
Mushrooms (bottom or baby Portobello)
Peppers for individual bowls
Bok choy

Step 5

Slice flank steak
Take shells off shrimp
Grill chicken
Fish balls
(We added roast pork as a bonus)

Step 6
(Prepare hot pot)

Set the table or places on the floor. I used an elective griddle and a Korean gas grill set with a skillet.

Your broth should be ready. Ladle enough onto each pot to fill it nearly to the top. Squeeze half a lime and add more to your taste preference!

Seat everyone around the pot with their bowls of rice, chopsticks or spoons.

There are two ways of enjoying this meal. Either each person can select their preferred ingredients and place them into the pot, watching them bubble and cook right before their eyes, or you can choose a leader and they can dump in a bunch of yummy veggies and meat and watch it cook. Then they can ladle the contents into the bowls of guests.

If the broth becomes thick and reduces, add more Coco Rico to the mixture, stir and squeeze more lime.

Now, enjoy the feast and conversation! I served 17 people with one pot and still have plenty to enjoy the next day!

There will be lots of veggies and meat leftover depending on how much your party are. I plan on making porridge in a crock pot with my leftovers. I will post that recipe as well! Yum!

Happy friends!

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

It's ten o'clock and The Hobbit doesn't release until midnight. Well, the line is already out the door and there is hysteria and excitement in the air. We are ready! Everyone chatters about Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trivia and enthuse about upcoming movies.

An hour later, we finally sit down and yes... The Hobbit IMAX 3D is spectacular!

The trailers were stellar as well. An extended trailer for Star Trek: Into the Darkness was so good! Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) may just be the best villain EVER! I predict that it will be ten times better than its predecessor!

The new trailer for Zack Snyder's, Man of Steel will give you chills! That movie is on my can't wait list!

Now, The Hobbit... It was ridiculously entertaining. Martin Freeman (Watson in Sherlock Holmes and from the British version of The Office) is the perfect man to play Bilbo Baggins. He is a remarkable mixture of clever and comical! Perfection!

The dwarves were all a treat. Of course Richard Armitage as Oakenshield was stunning. The other dwarves were all hilarious, charming, and full of vigor and surprises. I must give special appreciation for Ballin. That guy was amazing. He portrayed such emotion that made you forget he was in costume and makeup.

Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman returned to add nostalgia to the experience. There was even a cameo of Frodo! The game of riddles between Bilbo and Gollum was great, and Radagast and his rabbits were just pure fun!

There was never a dull moment. Each scene was cleverly crafted to bring the book and the appendix of the book to life! There is nothing here that will disappoint!

You must drop everything, right now, and run to the theater, because four years of waiting has finally paid off. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an A+ for me!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best British Dramas on Netflix!

Here is a pretty spectacular list of what British tv shows and series you can catch on Netflix. If you are an Anglophile like myself, you will definitively appreciate this one!

-Downton Abbey (um...duh!)
-Dr. Who
-Being Human (much better than the U.S. version)
-The Inbetweeners (love it!)
-North and South
-Wives and Daughters
-Catherine Cookson Anthology (they are all good!)
-The IT Crowd (hilarious!)
-The Grand
-Upstairs, Downstairs

Please, comment if I missed one of your favorites!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

When five people in the course of a week recommend a book, you better listen and buy it right away! This was the case for me.

Five of my friends raved about Gillian Flynn's new book, Gone Girl. It is an incredibly suspenseful thriller that is sure to keep you up all night, flicking through pages in rapt astonishment!

It is about a woman who has gone missing and her husband who is suspected of killing her. You will be amazed at how well done this story is. It is told from the husband, Nick's, point of view and through Ann's diary entries. You think you know how this will end. I guarantee you, you don't!

Trust me, this story, set in three riveting parts, is remarkable. You haven't read a book this twisted before. I will be picking up her other books ASAP. Sharp Objects and Dark Places are sampled at the end of Gone Girl, and I am already hooked.

This makes me wonder, should I be writing mysteries too? Well, Where's Katie and Dark Lake, my latest short stories are mixtures of horror and mystery. Dark Lake is up now and Where's Katie will be posted after the contest. Check out Dark Lake on my writing site. Http://


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anna Karenina!

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina has been revamped by director Joe Wright, and the result is incredibly intoxicating. Starring Hollywoods favorite period piece leading lady, Keira Knightly as Anna Karenina, Jude Law as her husband, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky, this movie is guaranteed to intrigue.

The cinematography was breathtaking. From the very first scene of the movie, the audience is pleasantly surprised by the excellent set which is constantly changing as if the movie took place on the stage. You go from one beautiful scene to the next with expert choreography. The actors move as if they are in an dance of some sort. It is both interesting and breathtaking in some scenes. Some may feel that this is distracting from the story, but I found it remarkably well done.

Now, the acting was also impeccable. Keira Knightly was a divine treat. She was able to convey her hesitation to fall for Vronsky, her love and passion for him, and her smothering feelings of misery with expert modesty. Her face can depict each emotion with such subtlety that the audience is left captivated.

Jude Law is also a treat. His muted personality and display of restraint in the face of betrayal is unnerving. He is wonderful and really captures the essence of that character. He really is a saint.

Now, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is adorable, yes, but he is not Vronsky. The only case of miscasting in this movie. Not only was it the ridiculous mustache but the very way he carried himself throughout the movie. It was painfully apparent that he was trying way too hard to be this character. We can kind of let this slide by, because of the superb acting of the rest of the cast.

Kelly MacDonald was lovely and had some of the best lines. Matthew MacFadyen was ridiculous in an excellent way! Emily Watson was a delight as well as a few surprise Downton Abbey appearances. Hello Mary Crawley!

It must also be noted that the parallel love story of Constantine Levi, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter) and his pure love for Kitty is a breath of fresh air.

If you have an adult attention span and an appreciation for classic literature and stupendous acting, then you will love this movie. It is a treat to the mind and the eye. Check it out in select theaters now, or wait until it is released on DVD. Either way, it is a must see!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

This week in movies!

As we begin the race to Christmas and all of the wonderful movies that will be released let's go over what Hollywood has in store for us!

This week I will be reviewing the new rendition of Anna Karenina, Rise of the Guardians, and Lincoln! Hooray, The Hobbit is coming soon and I already have my ticket for its midnight release!

We can look forward to Django Unchained (Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christophe Waltz), The Impossible (Naomi Watts and Ewan Mcgreggor), Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), and Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away!

Of course Les Miserables is coming soon as well! Very excited. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Joseph Gordon-Levitt=The new Batman

Rumors claim that the amazing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Robin in the new Dark Knight Rises, will portray Batman in the 2015 Justice League! Who is excited?!

I think he is an excellent choice and would love to see him put on the bat suit! However, there is a possibility that this rumor was leaked to promote sales of the blue ray/DVD release of The Dark Knight Rises. Hmm... cruel joke if it is just a publicity stunt. What do you think?