First Cookout

Last weekend was wonderful. Midwesterners finally crawled out of hibernation to drive their salt-encrusted cars through the car wash, rev their motorcycles, enjoy leisurely walks in the sun, and grill out for the first time this year.

And pick up all the newspapers that finally crawled out of the tower of snow.

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One of Dave’s coworkers came to visit on Saturday with his wife, and we took them to a few antique places in town, Call It New, Call it Antique and Kurtweil’s. Feeling hot in the 40 degree weather while driving in the car certainly is a lesson in relativity. Dave found a cast iron pizza pan that he was ecstatic about; I found a 24 piece plaid plate set for my mom, who I knew had been looking for some new dishes.

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I also really wanted this wall mounted coffee grinder….

007But at $168, it will have to be an investment.

Sunday dawned bright and glorious and as it kept getting warmer, I knew we had to grill out. Dave and I went to the grocery store for a Just Bare chicken and a can of baked beans. Baked beans just scream ‘summer’ to me, since we almost always had a can with us when we went on picnics growing up.

After returning from the store, I went on my first bike ride of the year, which fell rather flat after I first got stopped by a train and later couldn’t find a place to get my tires filled.

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When I returned home from my 25 minute bike ride, I unearthed Charlie from the moving boxes in the garage and scrubbed him ’til he shone like the top of the top of the Chrysler building.

011Meanwhile, Dave marinated the chicken in lemon juice, za’atar, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cholula, spicy mustard, and olive oil.

I started on a veggie couscous salad for a potluck at work the next day and enjoyed my first summer beverage: a Twisted Tea. Dave suggested malt beverages in lieu of beer, and these teas really were a fun twist on the latter.

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We invited our friends Dan and Em over to grill out and they contributed some tasty Jalapeno Cheddar Bratwurst and Naan to our Marinated Chicken, Baked Beans, and Grilled Brussels Sprouts and Fingerling Potatoes. I only wish I would have remembered to take pictures of the food…Guess I was too excited drinking in the sunshine.

 

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Weekend at ‘Beebs

Happy Humpday!

Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger lately. I have been training a new employee the last two weeks which has made for very long days. It’s also hard to shake out of my winter routine of ‘work-make dinner-watch tv-read-go to bed’ when winter just won’t end.

We had a nice break from the ordinary last weekend when our friend Shelby came to visit on Saturday. She arrived shortly after I came home from a co-workers baby shower, so my patience didn’t have to be tested at all waiting for one of my best friends.

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Cake for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do!

We didn’t have anything specific planned for the weekend, but it was nice just catching up with Shelby. We decided to go out to Habibi’s for dinner at my suggestion. Their food isn’t awesome, but the atmosphere is lovely, and I always have a good time there.

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Residents of Stevens Point call it “Gyro Kabobs,” I call it “Habibi’s” because it’s fun to say, and Shelby asked if she could start calling it “Beeb’s.” A place of many names.

We scored our favorite floor seating and ordered some appetizers and sides for dinner.

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Sampler plate with extra dolmas.

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Cups of Gyro Barley soup.

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And a side Greek salad. It was a pretty generous side salad, so I shared with Dave.

We headed back to our place after dinner, where I was pretty much dropping from exhaustion for no apparent reason, so I headed to bed just after ten.

Stevens Point has a lot of cool places, but the city tends to shut down on Sundays. After discovering that none of the antique shops we wanted to check out were open, we decided to head to Graffiti’s for Bloody Mary’s (in keeping with our ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ tradition).

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Graffiti’s has a build-you-own Bloody Mary bar where you basically get a glass with ice and vodka and you make your own Bloody to your tastes. As for me, I don’t turn my nose up at anything pickled.

Brunch was a little crock of French Onion soup for all.

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After Shelby went home, Dave and I lounged around the rest of the day, which looked a lot like this:

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Ready for Wellies

Hey, guys! How was your week?

The weather has been so whackadoodle lately–40 degrees and sunny one day, grey and gloomy with snow the next.

017All this stuff has to go before spring can officially make it’s entrance, and I think I need to invest in a pair of wellies this year, as I’m sure the immense amount of snow will soon be perfect for puddle-jumping.

Last weekend was just lovely. Dave and I decided not to make any plans at all, so we spent a bunch of time together with a little cleaning, a little cooking, and a lot of relaxing.

011 The highlight for me was grocery shopping.

003And Dave’s homemade focaccia bread.

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It was just as good as it looked.

In an effort to utilize the massive amount of groceries we bought (since we had pretty much nothing at home), I scrawled out a menu plan for the week.

St. Paddy’s day went by virtually unnoticed on Monday, which is kind of strange for me. My family and I usually go all out for the day, dressing to the nines, and I make a big, traditional Irish dinner for us to celebrate. This year, I made curry for dinner.

However, I’ve been led to believe that curry is actually pretty common in Ireland, so I think I did okay.

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Per Dave’s request, this curry was not hot enough to kill him. I used mild curry paste and added just a touch of hot curry powder to some frozen veggies, sliced mushrooms, diced tomatoes, coconut milk, and plain Greek yogurt. I love that I can throw whatever vegetables I have on hand in and it always comes out delicious.

Dave had Tuesday off, and I came home to a lovely ham dinner with roasted potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. It smelled like Thanksgiving in the house. So good that I ate dinner quickly without taking a picture. Oops.

Wednesday night was sandwich night (yes–it happened!) Veggie subs with mashed avocado, cucumbers, spinach, tomato, provolone cheese, banana peppers, and pickles. I had mine with a side of Pop Chips.

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It really was an epic sandwich.

I was very productive on Wednesday and prepped a Mexican lasagna that I put in the fridge for Thursday’s dinner. Assuming Dave would get home from work before me, I left a little note on top: 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I was going to let him know he could add more cheese on top if he wanted, but that was unnecessary.

018I laughed when I saw it, because not only did he add more cheese, but he put it on in slices instead of shredding it first. That boy. (Edited to add: When Dave read this, he shouted, “Hey! Those squares of cheese looked pretty! It looks like a checkerboard.” Ha ha ha)

Last night I went out with a group from work to celebrate one of my co-workers last days. I’ve only been there a short time, but it’s such a small clinic that you get to know everyone really fast, and she was one of my favorite people there. I’m really going to miss her! We went to a chain restaurant called Charcoal Grill. Dave and I don’t go to chain restaurants very often, but this one was actually not bad. I ordered a Bourbon Chicken Panini with waffle fries for dinner that was quite tasty, but I was not ready to start taking pictures of food in front of my coworkers at that point. Perhaps after I had a few drinks in me, I would have changed my mind….

All in all, it was a fun night, and now I’m headed to see all my co-workers again for a baby shower!

Sandwich Week

Sandwich week is not going so well. It turns out you have to have stuff to put on sandwiches to make them. Go figure!

Instead, I’ve been making meals from the paltry few ingredients we have left at home, which can actually turn into a decent meal if you know what you’re doing. And I do.

What we had in the house: one can of crushed tomatoes, a jar of pesto, a half bag of frozen shrimp, frozen salmon, a bag of frozen fajita mix (peppers and onions), cheese, dehydrated mushrooms, eggs, a bag of frozen gnocchi, and our regular baking supplies.

Monday night I made two different frittatas: one with shrimp, pesto, Parmesan, and sauteed frozen peppers and onion (from a frozen fajita mix), and one with the peppers and onion sauteed with cumin and oregano, and cheddar cheese, which I topped with salsa and Greek yogurt.

I adapted Alton’s recipe, but the frittatas got a little too browned on top–we must have an extra hot broiler.

032 I served my frittata with a toasted bagel and cream cheese.

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I had an early day on Tuesday, so I came home and made pizza dough. With yeast and everything! I was very proud of myself.

One pizza had homemade tomato sauce with green peppers and onions (seriously, we need more vegetables), rehydrated oyster mushrooms, black olives, mozzarella and Parmesan.

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The other pizza was pesto with salmon, green peppers and onions, and feta cheese.

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When I couldn’t get the first pizza off the silicone mat, I had to turn it into a calzone and served it with some of the leftover tomato sauce. The accidental calzone turned out quite well, and I really liked the dough recipe. It was fluffy and chewy, just the way I like it.

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Since the running theme of the week seemed to be sauteed peppers and onions, I used that and the leftover tomato sauce and cheese from the night before to top some gnocchi I found hiding in our freezer.

I cooked the gnocchi in the leftover ‘mushroom broth’ that came from rehydrating the oyster mushrooms.

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Even though our dinners have been relatively decent, I can’t wait to go grocery shopping this weekend. It’s definitely one of my favorite activities.

Birthday Weekend

My brother turned the big 2-8 this weekend, and he drove all the way to Point to celebrate it with me!

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Okay, there’s a slight chance he wanted to see others besides me, but it sure was nice spending my brother’s birthday with him after missing my sisters’ last month.

It was a nice little weekend with food, friends, movies, and board games. Together, Ty and I even convinced Dave to make some of his delicious bread Friday night.

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For Ty’s birthday dinner, we made One Pot Pasta with Mussels, and Dave made some amazing Cheesy Polenta with Jalapenos.

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Ty doesn’t like regular cake, so I made (hem, assembled) him an ice cream cake for his birthday. So easy and so good!

Layer ice cream sandwiches.

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Cool whip.

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Fudge topping or chocolate syrup.

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And crushed Oreos.

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Repeat, cover with foil, and freeze.

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It has been such a long time since I’ve made pretzels that I felt the compulsion to do so this weekend. The compulsion was heightened by a Valentine’s Day picture I saw of a Bloody Mary with a heart shaped pretzel garnishing it.

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Okay, you can laugh at how my hearts turned out.

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The poppers turned out wonderfully, though, and made an excellent addition to Sunday Bloody Sunday served alongside mustard, horseradish, and salsa con queso.

Then came everyone’s least favorite part of Sunday: the part where we say goodbye to each other and the weekend and prepare ourselves for the forthcoming week (which, in my case, generally involves laundry).

It was another wonderful weekend. Happy Birthday, Ty!  You are the best big brother and friend a girl could ask for.

Next weekend, Dave and I made a pact to do absolutely nothing but spend time together, which I am naturally looking forward to very much.

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Never Too Old

It is my brother’s birthday weekend, and he’s coming to spend it with me!

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So far we have discussed: making pasta, eating ice cream cake (I’m going to make it after work), watching Aladdin, and playing board games. We’re never too old for these things!

But we will also probably imbibe in adult beverages since we are old enough for that.

Hope you all have a swell weekend!

Thursday Things

1. My car is in the shop again after it stopped unexpectedly at an intersection two days in a row. Gaaaahhh! Will my car troubles never be gone? Fortunately, Dan and Em let me borrow Bob again, so I’ll have to make some more cookies for them.

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2. I ate salmon four days in a row. First,  I made smoked salmon brie en croute for the Oscar party on Sunday (plus I ate some of the leftover salmon).

073When I came home Monday night, Dave had made two different kinds of broiled salmon with vegetable rice pilaf for dinner.

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090Tuesday, I made lox bagel sandwiches for dinner.

015Yum! I was also really excited to have asparagus again, because it felt like spring. All I did was toss them in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put under the broiler for 9 minutes. Then I sprinkled some lemon juice and Parmesan cheese on top.

Wednesday, leftover bagel sandwich with Monday’s broiled salmon for lunch. I had to Google how much salmon I could eat before I died from some too-much-fish related cause.

3. I don’t normally read chick lit, but I downloaded an Amazon special on my Kindle a few months ago called The Husband’s Secret. Terrible title, great book. Since then, I have read every Liane Moriarty book. (I’m currently on the last one). I always think the titles and synopses sound uninteresting, and then I inevitably get sucked in.

Plus, I love the fact that her last name is Moriarty, a nod to my Sherlock obsession.

4. Dave and I were discussing money the other night and how we can curb our spending. We ordered takeout infrequently when we lived in Green Bay, but now we order it at least twice a week, which we have discovered is because our love of cooking does not overcome our hatred of doing dishes. So we have decided (or I have decided) to do more Sunday prep and eat more sandwiches. Thus, last night’s dinner.

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A hummus, aged cheddar, spinach, and mustard sandwich on German wheat bread with a side of roasted garlic broccoli. Never mind the fact that I had to make the hummus first and then wash the food processor….living without a dishwasher is definitely a change.

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5. When I got home from work yesterday, the garbage can was perched properly in the shoveled out spot, but it took me a minute to find the recycling bin, as it was halfway between our driveway and the neighbor’s driveway.

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You know it’s a bad winter when even the garbage man says, “F*&k it…..”

Three Days

That’s how long all weekends should be, don’t you think? Sure, a fourth day would have been nice, but the three I had off were quite lovely.

Saturday was concert day, so after running a few errands and doing dishes, we packed our bags and headed to Madison. Naturally, Dave drove; for one, because he hates being a passenger and for another, because I hate city driving with a fiery passion. I was surprised that the drive to Madison wasn’t that bad at all, even right in the city. Must be because the hipsters love walking. Good for them!

Dave found this gem of a hotel called Hotel Ruby Marie, and I fell in love with it as soon as we walked in the door.

018 I requested a room with a king size bed and a fireplace, and it was just lovely from the comfy armchairs to the pull-chain toilet and jacuzzi jet tub.

021After the snowy drive, it was nice settling down in our comfy room in front of the fireplace.

020We will definitely come back here if we’re ever in Madison again.

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Happy hour started in our room as our friends arrived and then we headed down to the hotel’s attached bar to redeem our free drink voucher that was given to us upon our arrival. After a drink, we headed past our hotel to their attached German restaurant, Essen Haus.

068 Obviously, we had to order a few boots of beer for the table.

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I wasn’t terribly hungry but I hadn’t eaten much that day and knew I needed something besides beer in my system. I ordered the Veggie Reuben with the Deutsch Salad.

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The Deutsch salad consisted of marinated kidney beans, carrots, beets, and coleslaw. I only picked at the salad, since the marinated vegetables were a bit sweet for my taste.

I had no trouble polishing off my delicious reuben, though.

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Mmmm, sauerkraut.

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At our friend JD’s suggestion, we hopped a bus to take to the Barrymore Theatre where Cloud Cult was playing. I think we startled the normal bus patrons as our group stormed the public transportation. There weren’t enough seats, so many of us grabbed on to the handle bars. and as I struggled to keep myself upright as we lurched and turned, I couldn’t help but think of The Knight Bus: “Take it away, Ernie!”

Cloud Cult had no opening band, they simply played themselves for two sets: one acoustic and one electric. As they played, two of the band members drew pictures that would be auctioned off at the end of the show. It was wonderful being so close to the stage–the lead singer, Craig, was so cute! There is no other way to describe his dimpled face.

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On our way out, our friend Nicole tried to get us a cab while Shelby and I got our picture taken with a polar bear advertising for…something.

061The Madison cab was apparently going to take at least a half hour to pick us up. A half hour? In Madison? Shouldn’t they have a bevy of taxis?

So we started to walk. Two miles. In the freezing cold. I stayed positive, but I don’t think anybody else wanted to try that hard.The night ended much later than I wanted it to, and Dave and I got fewer than six hours of sleep in our comfy, king-sized bed before I woke up and took myself to the jacuzzi-jet bath with my book.

After checkout, we walked to the hotel’s breakfast place, Come Back In, to redeem our breakfast vouchers.

069 I was expecting the menu to be simple: eggs, toast, and hashbrowns, but they had a wide array of delicious-sounding breakfast items. I ordered the Veggie Benedict, which was chock-full of veggies seasoned with curry and served with breakfast potatoes.

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It was so good, I wished I was hungrier.  Dave and I split so he could go home with Dan & Em, and I could drive to Green Bay to see my family for an Oscar party.

It’s always so funny when I don’t see my family for awhile, because when we’re all together, we just talk over each other and it’s really chaotic. Adding a toddler to the bunch didn’t help with the volume–that girl has got lungs on her!

We headed to the store to get groceries for our Oscar night. On the menu: Champagne (of course), White Chicken Chili, Brie en Croute, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Tuna Topped Wonton Crisps, Veggies & Dip, and Cheese & Crackers.

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These Tuna-Topped Wonton Crisps that Mom made were a recipe from Hungry Girl made a really tasty appetizer.

  • 12 square wonton wrappers
  • 2 pouches Starkist Tuna Creations Sweet & Spicy
  • 1 cup bagged broccoli cole slaw, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp lowfat sesame ginger dressing (Newman’s is great)
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray, and lay the wrappers on the baking sheets. Bake until edges have browned, about five minutes.

Remove from sheet and let cool.

Meanwhile, flake tuna with a fork in a medium bowl. Add chopped broccoli slaw and dressing and mix well.

Top wonton crisps with tuna mixture and sprinkle scallions on top.

Recipe can be found here.

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As usual, we printed off our Oscar sheets, made our votes, sat back and waited for the stars to dazzle us while munching on delicious food and enjoying champagne.

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075The highlights of the event included the hostess Ellen (love her!) ordering pizza and passing it out amongst the crowd (the delivery guy got a huge tip that night), Jared Leto looking like a Hot Jesus with his long unkempt hair, Benedict Cumberbatch being Benedict Cumberbatch, and Aurelia singing and dancing along to the songs.

Well, when she wasn’t sitting in a box.

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It was so fun watching it with my family, which included my mom, my sisters Emily and Moriah, my aunt Dina, my grandma, my uncle Howie, and Aurelia. Needless to say, it was a little loud. I insisted Dina get a hearing aid after she said, “Who won?!” for the hundredth time.

I lost spectacularly, guessing only 9 of the 24 categories correctly. Moriah won with 19, the little cheater. The injustice of it all! At least I guessed Best Picture (12 Years a Slave) and Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey) correctly.

After putting ourselves to bed, the next day we woke up with coffee and pretty much rewatched the Oscars as it was being rehashed on the morning TV shows.

The gang of us (minus Emily who had to work) went to Nicolet for brunch. It’s in a new building now in De Pere, but before that, nearly all of us had worked there before. Oh, how I miss the days of food service….

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I had to order an old favorite: A seaburger with all the fixings and french fries.

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The food is definitely not as good as the old Nicolet, but at least the taste of nostalgia is still sweet.

I said my goodbyes to my family soon after lunch and started the drive home to Stevens Point after my three day weekend, eager to see Dave, Athena, and Artemis again. There’s always something to look forward to, isn’t there?

Best Picture Reviews

In preparation for our annual Oscar Party this year, here’s my thoughts on the movies up for Best Picture.

American Hustle

Plot: Two con artists are forced by an FBI agent to set up a sting operation on corrupt politicians.

My thoughts: The cast in this movie was phenomenal. It’s hard to believe how young Jennifer Lawrence is when seeing her perform; I expected her to slip up, given how relatively new she is to acting, but she delivers again, as does Bradley Cooper, her co-star from last year’s Silver Lining Playbook. Christian Bale is also amazing, which isn’t really surprising given how much he always devotes himself to a film. Amy Adams, who I tend to forget about as an actress, makes a name for herself in this movie as well. Frankly, I was much more interested in the characters, the costumes, and the setting than the plot, which I got a bit lost in and, honestly, a little bored with. Still worth a watch to see Bale with a toupee.

My score: 6/10

Captain Phillips

Plot: A captain is taken hostage after his ship is hijacked by pirates in the Indian ocean in 2009. Based on a true story.

My thoughts: Honestly, with words like “hostage,” “hijacked,” and “pirates,” I was expecting more of an action movie than Captain Phillips delivered. The story was actually really interesting and of course Tom Hanks was good, but I thought it was a lot slower and longer than it had to be. With a little more editing and a little more human interest, I think it could have been even better.

My score: 6.5/10

Dallas Buyers Club

Plot: An AIDS patient given 30 days to live smuggles unapproved pharmaceutical drugs to Texas to help fellow sufferers of the disease.

My thoughts: I’m not really entitled to score this movie since I only made it through half. If only I had my grandma’s appreciation of Matthew McConaughey. The movie does its best to make this homophobic, smarmy individual sympathetic, and I feel they may have succeeded by the end of the movie (had I finished it). Jared Leto does a great job playing a transvestite and the main character’s right hand man.

My score: 6.5/10

Gravity

Plot: A space drama film about an astronaut’s desperate return to Earth after a space shuttle’s unexpected destruction.

My thoughts: I only want to go to space if George Clooney is there. This movie was beautiful and terrifying, and I was surprised how it caught my attention considering it was only a couple people floating around in space. The visual effects are stunning, and Sandra Bullock once again proves that she can capture pretty much any mood when it comes to acting.

My score: 7.5/10

Her

Plot: A science fiction romance film centering on a young man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system.

My thoughts: This was definitely the strangest movie on the list and yet one of my favorites. Samantha (the computer operating system or OS) reminded me a lot of the Star Trek character Data in her quest to become more human, despite her intrinsic limitations. It was nice to see Joaquin Phoenix return to the screen, and Scarlett Johansson made the computer system come alive with only her voice.

My score: 8/10

Nebraska

Plot: An aging father makes his trip to Nebraska with his son in order to claim a million dollar Mega-Marketing prize.

My thoughts: This movie is definitely not for everyone, but I loved it. Filmed in black-and-white, it is a slow, true-to-life tale of a Midwestern family struggling to make ends meet. I couldn’t help but see my paternal grandparents as the main character and his wife, which made me appreciate it more. The part where the two sons steal a compressor from a barn was just priceless. This is the only movie in the bunch with a somewhat happy ending.

My score: 8/10

Philomena

Plot: The true story of Philomena Lee’s 50 year search for her son with the help of journalist Martin Sixsmith.

My thoughts: Like Meryl Streep, Judi Dench can pretty much do no wrong. Though the film didn’t end as a Hollywood film generally does, it still felt like a heartwarming film due to Dench’s genuine portrayal of a forgiving woman who manages to find delight in life despite her troubles. One of my favorites this year.

My score: 8/10

The Wolf of Wall Street

Plot: A young New York stockbroker starts his own firm and engages in security fraud and corruption on Wall Street. Based on the memoir of the title character, Jordan Belfort.

My thoughts: As usual, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a stellar performance that makes viewers nearly sympathize with an asshole. The plot definitely kept me engaged, although the constant sex and drugs made me a little nauseated. A scene where Jordan counteracts the effect of Quaaludes with cocaine to help him save his friend from choking left me unsure whether to laugh or cry. After finishing it, I immediately applauded Leo’s performance and then cursed Jordan Belfort for screwing people over and then making more money by getting schmucks like us to watch a movie of his sad, little rich life.

My score: 6.5/10

12 Years a Slave

Plot: A New York State-born free negro is captured and sold into slavery in the south, which he endures for twelve years before his release back to his family.

My thoughts: This movie made me sick. Not because it was bad, but because it was true and horrible. I felt a special closeness to the main character Northup as the actor had a prominent role in Serenity, but I couldn’t help but think as I watched the movie, “Will we ever wash the blood off our hands?” I can’t deny that the movie was incredibly well done with plenty of great, well-known actors showing up, but I couldn’t help but think that this has been done before.

My score: 8/10

Overall thoughts: One of my favorites movies of 2013 was 42, the movie about Jackie Robinson, which was not up for Best Picture. My picks never seem to make it to Hollywood. I thought the movies, for the most part, were terribly depressing this year, and I had a conversation with my sister about why Hollywood thinks movies have to be depressing to be profound.

Best Picture

What I think should win: Nebraska

What I think will win: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor

Who I think should win: I honestly would be happy if any of the gentlemen up for best actor won, but I would like to see Bruce Dern win. It’s hell to get old, and he plays it well. Give him a medal.

Who I think will win: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Best Actress

Who I think should win: I’m torn between Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

Who I think will win: Judi Dench. Meryl Streep has enough already (but she deserves them!)