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Top Chef – My Take 5/28/08

May 29, 2008

Top Chef, May 28, 2008

High Steaks

Well, I think this is one of the calmest episodes of Top Chef that we’ve seen yet.  The Quick Fire Challenge, though it had two parts, was pretty straightforward and went smoothly.  I was, like most of us, disappointed to see Stephanie do poorly, but she has never excelled at Quick Fires.

First the chefs had to butcher a big hunk of beef to the exacting standards of Chicago chef Rick Tramonto. Then they packed them up and returned to the Top Chef kitchen where they had to prepare the steaks. All of them looked pretty rare to me, though Antonia’s looked best.  But Spike was channeling his grandfather, the butcher (and his mother is a chef?), giving him a quick fire win, along with an advantage in the EC, which was squandered when he chose to work with frozen scallops. Not a good choice.  The other chefs all recognized that, so why didn’t Spike?

On to the Elimination Challenge…  and what a good one it was, though I must say, the atmosphere is still pretty calm.  I expected a little panic, or a meltdown, or a temper tantrum.  And I am a bit ashamed to say that I wanted to see Lisa burn some rice. But alas! All was well, and there were no real bombs.  This was truly a challenge of degree… some excellent dishes, and some just kind of okay dishes.

The chefs had to create an appetizer and an  entrée to be served at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood and the “special guests” were previous winners Harold Dieterle, Ilan Hall, and Hung Huynh. (Good to see Harold and Hung, but Ilan could’ve stayed home, in my opinion.)

Richard performed well, as always. His hamachi and sweetbreads appetizer impressed the judges, and his filet with potato puree, turnips and brussel sprouts, deconstructed (what’s up with that?) was good, though not great. Richard seemed more nervous that we’ve ever seen him in this challenge, which kind of confused me. Also, his plate was kind of messy looking, which is surprising as well.

Lisa’s performance made me have second thoughts about why everyone dislikes her so much. She was pretty likable tonight, and her food was good. If only she could take that sour look off her face at judges’ table! The chilled and grilled shrimp appetizer sounded delicious, but apparently did not go over well. As an entrée, Lisa made a New York strip steak with a spicy apple and caramel sauce, with peanut butter mashed potatoes! Peanut butter mashed potatoes? I can’t quite imagine it, but apparently they were quite good, and elevated Lisa in my opinion. Unfortunately, her steak was not terribly well prepared.

Antonia made a warm mushroom and artichoke salad with a poached egg, topped with a bacon vinaigrette. Sounds weird, but who knows. The judges love well executed eggs, and a bacon and egg combo sounds pretty cool. Her bone-in rib eye with potato gratin did well, with the gratin winning raves all around. If her appetizer had been more innovative, Antonia might have won tonight.

Spike blew it big time. Choosing frozen scallops was an absolute waste of his advantage, and using them in such a simple dish only highlighted the problem. Had they been in a creamy sauce or a salad preparation, he might have slid through. Adding canned hearts of palm at the end only exacerbated the problem. And though he butchered the meat well, his preparation of the tomahawk steak with an overly sweet sweet potato puree was less than stellar. Spike has the unique ability to turn an advantage into a disadvantage like no one I have ever seen.

Stephanie showed incredible maturity and class in this episode. There was no sign of the nervousness that has plagued her in the past, and she put out a great meal. The first course of crispy sweetbreads with a golden raisin and pine nut sauce sounded yummy, and the main dish of tenderloins (perfectly cooked) with salsify puree, wild mushrooms and apple sauce was well-rounded, well-executed, and interesting enough to shine. I love this girl! She can cook, and is a delight to watch. Go Stephanie!

And then there was judges’ table.  Spike, Spike, Spike, don’t you know that “defend your dish” and “act like an ass” are not the same thing?  At least he was insightful enough to admit to the others that he had acted dumb.  You don’t call the guest judge out on what was in his freezer! Duh.   He shoulda made a soup!

But that’s the way it goes, and yes, Lisa has squeaked through one more time….

Off to Puerto Rico!

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Reading

March 29, 2008

Writing about reading… hmmmm…..

My son has started a WordPress blog, and he wrote today about reading. He did not love reading as a child, but he has come to love it as an adult. That pleases me immensely. My two other children are readers also. It makes me know I did that right, anyway.

When they were little, I read to them. Every week the supermarket had a Sesame Street book on sale, and we collected the whole series. We had all the Little Monster books, and Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and Disney.

But there is one book that was special, and I recently bought a new copy, because it means so much to me. This is “The Monster at the End of the Book”, featuring Grover from Sesame Street. I must have read that book a hundred times or more, and I would do the voice of Grover, making the kids laugh every time. I can still recite many of the lines from memory, and I bet they can, too.

Now that is a memory worth preserving. Maybe the next time we are all together I will read that book aloud. I bet we will all still laugh, though I may find also that I cry, just a little bit.


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What A Winter!

March 24, 2008

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More Lighthouses

March 24, 2008

In my ever expanding quest to see and photograph as many lighthouses as possible, I found 3 new ones yesterday.

The first one is The Clark’s Point Lighthouse in New Bedford. It sits atop a Civil War site called Fort Taber, part of a beautiful park and walkway right on New Bedford Harbor.

This is the first lighthouse I’ve seen that sits ontop of another structure.

From the walkway at Fort Taber, I spied this little one out in the harbor. It’s called Butler Flats Light.

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In Mattapoisett, north of New Bedford along Route 6, we found Ned’s Point Light. This one is set firmly on land, surrounded by another really pretty park. I must go back when the weather is warmer and have a picnic!

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Plymouth, Massachusetts

March 10, 2008

There are pros and cons of living anywhere. Cost of living, weather, jobs, the economy – these things are very much on my mind now, as my husband and I are seriously thinking of leaving New England for someplace warmer, and cheaper.

Massachusetts has never been cheap, but our expenses keep climbing, while our income does not. Yet the idea of leaving behind the beauty of this area is hard for me, though I know other places are lovely as well.

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I am an ocean girl. I love living near, and spending time, at the ocean. I can sit for hours just breathing in the salty air, feeling mellow and complete. Even when it’s cold, the beauty is there.

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I think I shall have to find another place near the ocean. It is where I belong.

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Backwards is Not Forward

February 22, 2008

I had one of those light bulb moments this morning. You know, when you all of a sudden see something that should have been clear all along, and you say “Ah-ha!”

I was listening to the news in my car, and they were discussing the accusations that John McCain had an “inappropriate” relationship with a young woman eight years ago. My first thought was “Oh, jeeze, they’re trying to smear him,” and I was disgusted. Then I thought, “Who cares?” His wife, surely, and his family, but come on.

This is the 21st century, and it appears that we as a nation and a culture are moving decidedly backwards. Our last president was reviled for having an “inappropriate” relationship with an intern, and yet the current administration can lie, cheat and steal, showing favoritism to certain big businesses, and dismantling environmental laws intended to save the earth.  Science has shown us that we are in big trouble, and yet our leaders call it a hoax. They prefer a public which is blind, and which wants all the amenities of the good life without paying the price. Better to think about a candidate’s sex life than his policy on global warming…

Europeans laugh at our obsession with the sex lives of our politicians.   They are miles ahead of us in stem cell research, all because so many Americans mistakenly confuse science with religious morality, and who thrive on misinformation and ignorance.

In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in this land seeking freedom to practice their religion without persecution. Then there were the Puritans, with ever stricter rules on human behavior. When the founding fathers established the United States of America, they clearly set down a plan to separate these rules from the government’s purview. As an extension of the Pilgrims’ desire, they declared a separation of church and state, so that all citizens of the new country could worship as they pleased.

Yet in the beginning of this new century, we Americans have seen a strange phenomenon: some very vocal religious souls are trying to impose their beliefs on our legal system and our government. The neo-con movement gained pride and strength by preying on the fears of the ignorant and joining together in their hatred of anyone who is different from them.

The attitude toward gays is a perfect example. Homosexuality has existed for as long as there have been human beings. Yet some folks feel that they must rid the world of this perceived evil, and they will go to amazing lengths to deny others of their rights.

Well, I appear to have drifted, but that light bulb moment… The culture of the USA is going backwards. Instead of gaining insight, and increasing tolerance of others, we seem to be narrowing our view of what is acceptable!   We no longer strive to be the first with a new technology, or the leader in medical research. How could this happen?

Is it possible that we peaked as a nation in the 60’s, when there was optimism and a growing potential for greatness?  Are we destined to fall behind the rest of the world in science, technology, trade, education and even life style?  John F. Kennedy gave our nation hope, and the perception of a Camelot.  So what happened? We now have more millionaires than one could imagine, but we also have a shrinking middle class, and a growing number of working poor.  The American dream is out of reach for more and more of us.  Our social services and our health care have fallen sadly behind much of the world.  Even our infant mortality rates are high!

In a country where so many have so much, and many, many more have too little, there is something seriously wrong.

Instead of moving forward, are we going backward?  Are we reverting to puritanism with all of its rules and dictates?  Are we dismantling our Constitution and Bill of Rights to strengthen that upper echelon of citizens?  The executives of insurance companies get richer and richer, all while people are being denied the health care they need.  Corporations post record profits while polluting the air and water, and lowering the standard of living of their workers.  A ten dollar an hour worker faces a salary freeze while the CEO get a 12 million dollar bonus.

What used to be called “the greatest country in the world” has ceased growing.  We are reverting to a place where ignorance and fear controlled our lives, rather than knowledge and wisdom.

This makes me incredibly sad.

How Did I Get Here?

February 13, 2008

Yesterday I was 35.  Had 3 kids, a husband,  a home, and a dog.

Today I’m 56. Kids are grown, different husband, no pets, another home.

How did that happen?

Me, at 56.

I’m confused.

About Britney Spears

January 23, 2008

I know that there are a number of people who think Britney Spears is a spoiled Hollywood child, or an idiot who abuses her children and her fame, a waste of our time and energy, but I am not one of them.

I feel immeasurably sad for this girl whose life is such a mess. She has been used and abused by everyone around her since she was a very small child. She has been given money than most of us cannot imagine, and yet no one has ever said “no”.

She is a commodity to many, a fool to others. She is fodder for the paparazzi, a joke on late night talk shows. I suspect she is either an addict or mentally ill, though no one seems inclined to find out, or to care, except Dr. Phil, who clearly has an agenda of his own.

She is also an immature young woman, who had children too soon, and those children will suffer for her deficiencies.

I am sad for Sean Preston and Jayden James, the innocent little by-products of the ill-advised union of two self-centered young people. These two babies, unfortunately, don’t stand much of a chance.

But Britney – Britney the child, Britney the lost little girl, who apparently has never been loved except as a money machine – who will save her?

No one, I expect. There will come a day that I will look at the news and see that Britney, like Heath Ledger, is dead. Probably by her own hand, with the aid of prescription drugs that no one ever denied her. No one ever said no.

I am so sad. Britney is a child. A grown up child, who no one ever ever taught to take responsibility, who no one ever told no.

So sad.

I would like to take her in. I’d make breakfast for her, and give her a hug, and tell her she is loved. Would that help? I don’t know, but has anyone ever tried?

In A Hotel

January 11, 2008

We are in a hotel. Boston? Newport? I am not sure. I forget.
He is angry. Angrier than I’ve ever seen him.
What did I do?
I’m not sure of that either.
I’m not sure of anything.
Except I must get away.
I must hide.
I do not know this place, this hotel, so I take the stairway. Up two flights. Into the hallway. It’s all quiet. People are sleeping. Or out. Late dinner, maybe.
But not me.
I have to hide.
I know he will be looking for me.
He will be angry. Very, very angry.

I drank too much tonight. I know this.
Why did I do that? Because I can’t stand it. He wants to own me and handle me and hurt me.
Three or four black Russians. I’m not sure about that, either.

It should have made me numb; instead it made me scared.

I know he will find me.
He will be angry. Very, very angry.

There’s a room, I think there’s a piano. Maybe this is a lounge. Not used. Unoccupied. And dark. I can go in here and hide.
Yes! I have to hide.

He will find me.
He will own me and handle me and hurt me.

I have to hide. I squat behind a chair. In the dark.

An hour goes by. It is quiet. Then I hear him. He sounds so gentle, calling my name.
Oh, God! Don’t let him smell my perfume, or my fear. He will find me!
He comes to this room. I sense him there. I hear his breathing. Then he goes. Yes! He goes!

I am safe. For this moment, I am safe.

Am I Crazy, or Just Old?

December 17, 2007

Why is it that I can’t seem to complete a thought anymore? Is it the early onset of Alzheimer’s, or some other debilitating form of dementia? Or am I simply reacting to the stress of everyday life by tuning it out? (Not a bad idea, all in all…)

Nah. It’s just part of the normal aging process. We forget things mid-sentence, and often have to stop and ask a friend “What were we talking about?” before responding.

My husband often teases me that I have way too much “stuff” in my brain. I am the queen of trivial knowledge, and can pull up facts that 99.99% of people would have forgotten years ago. Perhaps it is that the filters in my mind are not working properly, or that they are missing completely. Thus, I know who Skeeter Davis is, I know all the words to 1300 songs from the 60’s and I can tell you my 7th grade best friend’s birthday and telephone number. I can recite the words to favorite movies before the actors do, and I can tell you what Archie Bunker said to Edith when she hit a car with a can of cling peaches, or what he told her to do about menopause.
So why can’t I remember the word for a sandwich that is flattened on the grill…. you know… um, not a grilled sandwich, um….. what the heck is it called????

Panini! (Phew! I was getting worried there. It’s hard to google something when you can’t remember what it’s called.)

And I have forgotten more passwords and user names than I remember, and need to put them in a little book that I carry everywhere. Without a list, I wander around the supermarket in a daze. Today, I stood in front of a copier I have been using for 10 years, and could not for the life of me remember the user code.

Am I destined to be one of those little old ladies who walks around muttering to herself about people who died long ago? Aw, shucks, I hope not.

I play games and do puzzles to keep my mind sharp, as recommended by all the experts. I meditate to relieve the pressures of everyday life. I eat properly, pay my bills on time, and obey (most) traffic laws. I do all the right things, so what is the problem? Why is my mind betraying me?

Do you know…..

Wait a minute… what was I just talking about?