Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Silly Things You Shouldn't Do, But Do Anyway

Tonight, we had one of the summertime activities for cub scouts. This time, the pack rented out a skating rink and we paid ten bucks a family to do laps on the wood.

Chef was excited, he's been to this rink twice before, and he's slowly getting the hang of it-but he falls more than he glides on those wheels. Game Teen does not have the coordination. Ed said no way, no how.

Me? What did I do? I laced up a pair of skates.

Shall we go into the reasons why I shouldn't:
multiple wrist surgeries
a couple of leg surgeries
benign positional vertigo

Yeah, I know, those are all big reasons not to do it. But I did it anyway. Six laps around the rink before everyone got out there. (A half lap skating backwards, too)

I didn't fall, but the one leg was NOT happy with me. Thus, once more people got out onto the rink, I packed it in. No trips to the ER and no need for Ed to laugh his head off at me.

Thankfully, he didn't realize he had the camera or the Flip, so you won't see it.

Hey, some people bungie jump or dive out of planes. I tempt fate by putting eight wheels on my feet...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Next Food Network Star Week Four

Week 4-The heat is turning up on the finalists. Who will crack completely, who stumbles, and who hits their stride? Well, if you didn't watch this week's episode, here's what happened.

The lucky seven file into the Food Network kitchens to find Bobby, Susie and Bob. If they're in the kitchen, there has to be a challenge, and this week's is to create a burger for Bobby's new restaurant in Connecticut, Bobby's Burger Palace. Each contestant has twenty minutes to make a burger that capture a region of the United States.

Some contestants dive on this with great ideas. Others seemed like same old, same old.

Michael-Mulberry Street Burger-Burger stuffed with Mozzarella, grilled with pancetta on both sides and topped with basil and tomato and served on garlic bread
Melissa-Burlington Burger-Heavy on the Vermont cheddar cheese, and some turkey chili on top. (YUM again)
Jeffrey-California Burger-Hot and Sweet again with roasted chiles and fruit
Katie-San Fran Market Burger-a turkey spinach burger
Debbie-Seoul Burger-Boyagi burger, Korean BBQ burger
Teddy-Pennsylvania Burger-a bunch of fresh veggies and cheese
Jamika-Bayou Burger-Cayenne spiced burger with sliced sausage beneath it

[What would Suzanne Serve? In a nod to the 16 years in Maryland, the Chesapeake Burger. Beef seasoned with copious amounts of Old Bay, cheddar cheese and a remoulade sauce]

All the concepts sounded good, but Michael's sounded like the clear winner right out of the gate. Teddy described his burger and well, it sounded like more BS-he was clutching at straws. Considering his restaurant serves upscale bar food, the fact that he didn't have a clear vision is troubling.

Katie seemed on top of her concept and it was worthy of trying out-too bad she didn't have a hot grill. She tried to cook them in the oven. Note to Katie-that oven had a broiler feature-that would have worked better than baking.

Presentation time-Teddy once again sounds like a smarmy late night tv huckster and the burger was too big, Jamika was channeling Teddy by sounding like a commercial, Melissa made me want to come through the TV for that Burlington Burger, Michael was a bundle of nerves but the food shone through, Jeffrey seemed distracted and his food showed it, Debbie presented well, but the burger didn't bring enough Asian flair for the judge's liking and well, Katie has done the ultimate in faux pas-her burger was raw.

Bottom two are Katie and Jamika, and top two are Melissa and the winner of the challenge Michael. His burger will be featured on Bobby's menu.

At this point, it seems like Melissa found her inner cheerleader, the one saying "Are you going to let those guys say you can't do this? You know you CAN!" Meanwhile, rock steady Jamika and Jeffrey have shown they can stumble, too.

Time for part two. As seen in the previews, they're ushered onto the USS Intrepid. Guy Fieri comes out and announces the challenge-cook a meal for homecoming soldiers and their families, with a basket of goodies from a specific state. The winner of this challenge will get their recipe featured on the cover of USA Today's Weekend magazine.

It's not clear how those seven baskets are assigned, but each contestant has three ingredients that must be incorporated into their dish.

Hawaii-Michael-fish, pineapple and macadamia nuts
Wisconsin-Jamika-cheese, beer and kielbasa
Arizona-Melissa-skirt steak, chili peppers, and honey
Maine-Jeffrey-Lobster, blueberries and ??
California-Debbie-Chicken, almonds and Cabernet Wine
New York-Teddy-Duck, cream soda and something else that isn't what I think of when I think of my home for 21 years!
Katie-Catfish, turnip greens and squash

There was a mishap in the kitchen towards the end of the challenge. Michael grabs a sheet pan and spins around, hitting Debbie on the cheek. One, first rule of kitchens is to say "Behind", which Debbie did not. Two, be glad that wasn't a hot pan coming from the oven that tagged you.

Michael shows his strength is playing off a live crowd, he charmed them and his food was solid.

Jamika stumbled, when her potatoes weren't cooked through, she used the food processor on them. WTF, that's the recipe for GLUE!

Jeffrey had no clue what he was going to do and it showed. He had a lackluster presentation and a lobster pot pie that was not well received.

Debbie's meal was considered bland, and she is seen post accident whining "I'm not sure if I can finish this." It seemed like she was playing it up to an extent.

Katie's food was middle of the road, her presentation was heartfelt-and the audience thought she was the girl next door.

Teddy comes off smarmy once again. It's painful to watch the guy checking the stuff he wrote on his hands(!!) to remember what he's going to say! Dude, this isn't a Chemistry final, it's a cooking competition. You know, the thing you're supposed to ace.

Melissa's light shines when she talks to the crowd. The meal wows the crowd. What's interesting is that she does not normally cook with peppers, so she tasted all the varieties and lined them up by heat to determine how to best use them in her dish.

Elimination time. Not surprising, Melissa wins the challenge and immunity. Girl, I'm glad you threw down the gauntlet. Next, Michael and Debbie are told they're safe. We've got four in the bottom, who are quickly ushered out of the room to allow the judges to deliberate.

Interestingly, when each finalist is critiqued, they hear 'You need to work on' and that's a good indicator that the person is safe. One person didn't get that tell tale instruction, and I posted to Facebook as soon as I heard Teddy's critique, because he didn't hear those five words.

Commercial break and back to the four on the chopping block. Without much tension, Bob said "Teddy, I'm sorry, you are not going on." A quick glance at Katie's stunned expression and out we go.

Next week, look for the run of people screwing up worse than Katie to end...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Right now, I am very thankful for parents who indulged and fostered my love of music. If not for that exposure to so many different kinds of music, I think this Issues in Music class would be far more challenging.

Instead, odds are great that the composer and/or the work we're asked to listen to three times in a chapter's review? I've got it in the music library or have listened to it many times over. Right now, I'm preparing to take the test on the chapters covering Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and Beethoven's music.

I've been fortunate to see a live performance of the former and I thought for sure I had a complete recording of the latter's 5th symphony. Nope, 2 copies of the Pastoral and one of the Ninth. Only the first movement of the 5th.

The music library isn't largely populated by classical music, but there's a decent amount. More heavily covered are those contemporary artists who pay homage to the heavy hitters in my collection: Bach, Mozart, Mahler, Sant Saens, Beethoven, Hayden, Orff and a few others.

Who knew that someday, the pleasure listening of these composers would serve me well when the time came to earn some college credit?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

THIS is Why Leo LaPorte is Worth Watching!

When the Phone Rings at 8:45 am

My phone rang very early (for us, anyway) this morning. I didn't get to it in time, then Ed's phone rang. His was in yet another room, then mine rang again. At least I knew by the ring tones, it wasn't family.

However, Game Teen (aka Monster Child today) was off camping with Boy Scouts. They were camping at the state park where he successfully hiked ten miles two weeks ago. Today, he refused to leave the tent when it was time to step off on another ten mile hike. He wasn't budging, and apparently, the leaders who are very skillful in motivating him couldn't get through to him.

So, by 9:15, I was on the road with Chef to pick him up. After getting to bed around 4am. Ugh.

We are very clear on some rules in our house. If you disrupt an activity or have to leave it, you are punished for the remainder of the days the activity lasts. Soooo, if Game Teen thought he was coming home to watch TV and play his video games, well, that wasn't happening.

He's complaining of boredom. Too bad. If you can't respect others, you lose, kiddo. He asks for chores to earn them back, then balks at the easy chores suggested because he doesn't like them. Too bad, so sad.

Instead of the studying I thought I'd bang out all day with the house quieter than normal, I napped for a few hours to get rid of the fatigue headache. I'm about to crack the books in a few minutes, which is the usual time lately.

The sad part of this is that I think part of the push for these hikes is that our Scoutmaster is bound and determined to get these boys to work on Eagle required merit badges with the support of all the leaders around to help them out.

This is the one of three fitness type (Swimming, Bicycling or Hiking) that Game Teen is capable of completing. It's likely that the Scoutmaster's motivation for getting Game Teen out there-get that one out of the way, since it's a tough one.

I suppose it is a good thing that the upcoming trip to meet up with Giggle's family will have a hike or two involved. Not ten miles long, as neither Giggles nor I is up to it-but it's something.

Let's hope it's enough.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Bunnies Do Harry Potter!

I love the Bunnies. Today's email contained this message:

Harry Potter Years 1 through 5 hits 30 Second Bunny Theatre. (Note: If you watch it with small kids, as soon as the Terminator screen comes up, PAUSE IT!)

Check out the out takes!

Confession Time

I may be the only person on the planet who is not upset about The Gloved One's passing. Yep, I admit it-I was never enamored of Michael Jackson.

When you realize that I was a high schooler at the peak of his explosive solo career, finding those who, like me, aren't listing their favorite five MJ songs on Facebook is going to be difficult. Sure, I watched the videos, but it was more out of the mindset of 'well, that's what MTV is playing' than thinking it was cool that the long version of Thriller was on this time.

When Giggles and I had the chance to do one of those Record a Song things at Opryland years ago, the song chosen was not "Beat It", but the Weird Al parody "Eat It." (Besides, Giggle's ad libs were much more suited to Al's song.) It probably speaks to where he ranked in our musical tastes.

Artists are eccentric, so I can't begrudge him that. However, in his case, the weirdness overshadowed the music. The fascination with hanging out with pre pubescent boys, that glove and the obsession with plastic surgery creeped me out, even as a young adult.

Years ago, he took the advice of then-friend Paul McCartney on how to wisely invest his millions. McCartney pointed him towards buying the rights to music catalogs, thereby earning the royalties when others wanted to do covers, use them in movies, play them on the radio or wanted to use the tunes in commercials.

When the Beatle's catalog came up for grabs, Michael got his hands on it before Paul did-and minutes later, you could hear Beatle's tunes used to hawk everything from sneakers to diapers. Not exactly what I think John or Paul had in mind for their music. It turned my stomach a bit, to know that John's widow and his writing partner had no say say say in the matter.

Yes, the man made significant contributions to pop music and inspired many other musicians. No, I'm not devastated by his passing. The two can be mutually exclusive, can't they?

Let's just say I'm happy the only stations my car radio gets right now are country stations...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Class Down, One To Go

These web based classes are great, but taking them during the kid's summer break means I can't crack the books until they're in bed. There is all sorts of chaos going on in the house when they're up.

I know what you're thinking, that I should just send them outside to play. If we lived just about anywhere but here, that would probably happen. However, the Florida experience is the opposite of most of the country: when you're freezing and hiding inside, we're enjoying the cool weather by barbequeing, camping and hanging out on the lanai for dinner most nights. Then, by the time you are starting to emerge from your houses and enjoying the glorious weather, the blast furnaces are turned to FULL here-and WE hide inside!

Thus, my studying tends to happen after 10 most nights. At least for another eight weeks. I think it's working.

Today, a classmate sent out an email, asking if anyone was going to dispute their grade. It sounds like a lot of them will-the extra credit for turning in a report early wasn't calculated correctly, on top of the several questions on the final that were poorly worded. (This is where I am thankful for being an extremely fast reader-I didn't sweat spending five minutes or more on the few that were designed to trip us up).

My final grade hasn't shown up on Blackboard, it still shows the 98.45 that doesn't factor the assignment that didn't get done. Wait a minute, how are they disputing it if they're not posted on Blackboard or OASIS?

Then I was given the tip that many a veteran student in Florida is aware of: Go to your Graduation check in the state education website and you'll find it. Sweet. Off I go to check my SASS audit and there it was:

0905 ARH3001 4.00 A

Perhaps my email to her disputing the question as soon as the final closed did it. Maybe she thought .4 away was good enough. In any case, I've got my A.

Now, if you'll excuse me. The kids are in bed-it's time to study. At least in this class, I haven't missed a single test and I'm running at a 97.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Recently, I mentioned on Facebook that I was making Stir Fry for dinner and boom, there were a bunch of comments. A friend mentioned that she liked to use Trader Joe's Sweet Chili sauce to stir fry.

Inspiration struck-how about I make a marinade with sweet chili sauce? All week, that was in my head. Question was, what would I use it on. I decided this afternoon, grabbing a package of chicken legs because the kids love them. The usual package means there are two each for me and the kids and three for Ed to enjoy (he's working, so I figured he'd come home to them.)

The marinade I'd envisioned ended up being Sweet Chili sauce, pineapple juice, lemon juice, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. The taste test said it was sweet with a tiny szechuan pepper afterburn on the tongue. Nice.

Only problem is that Chef Junior liked the flavor so much, he ate four!

I suspect that when Ed eats his lone chicken leg later, I'll be asked to make some more ASAP.

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Quest For Knowledge

The college experience has been enjoyable so far. Granted, I've got an easy time of it with only two web based classes. Now that Art History is done, I get to focus all my attention on Issues in Music and prove how much of a musical geek I really am.

How is that?

Well, I've viewed/listened to six of the programs that comprise the lecture portion of the course. The "Issues in Music" programs were recorded in the mid 90's by the gentleman who created the course. Each week, there's two or three musical performances to compare and contrast classical composers with contemporary and current. Some focus on musical styles.

Without fail, each one has sent me trolling the Internet, in search of a work or composer that the performance reminded me of. For instance, one of the performances featured jazz artist Nat Adderly, composer of "The Work Song" (I'd been familiar with the Herb Alpert cover). While not part of the instructions for the week, I just had to compare the different performances of the song.

The other night, three songs by composer Henri Duparc were on the program. The accompanying study guide asked "What are the differences between French and German music, as described by the Duparc biography?" This question was not answered in the program, and this isn't uncommon. However, the search for the answer is enjoyable.

Anyway, I listened to the works, two piano and mezzo soprano, the third, Phidyle, mezzo, tenor and piano. Each were very evocative of Franz Schubert. The third piece sent me searching once again. You Tube to the rescue, or so I thought.

Duparc, a French composer, reminded me of works by a German, specifically Standchen (Serenade). Into the search box Schubert and Standchen went, and out came not one, but THREE works by Schubert with that name. It took a little bit of work to discover that D920 is the work I was familiar with, as the men's group in high school had performed it at festivals the year I was in ninth grade. (fantastically, I might add-I wished I had the vocal chops to do the female solo back then!)

The history of two of the works is quite interesting. Schubert had been commissioned to set a poem to music to be performed for a Fraulein Gosmar's birthday. Schubert, exclaiming how beautiful the poem was, completed Standchen D920 in three days, composing it for a Soprano soloist and male choir.

However, the student who commissioned the work had envisioned it being performed by friends of Fraulein Gosmar and asked Schubert to rewrite it all female voices. He complied, and thus Standchen D921. What is interesting is that the works are essentially the same, but the master really understood the strengths of each gender's vocal abilities. The changes made to the completed work accentuate these strengths nicely.

So, in an effort to teach about a French composer, I went on a quest to find a work by a German one-and learned a bit more in the process. Isn't that what learning is all about?

If you're curious:
D920, for Male quartet and Mezzo:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Next Food Network Star-Week Three

This week's episode was interesting, in that you see how the finalists handle shopping on a budget, provide information on the fly and work when paired with a teammate. It was a pressure cooker and some handled it well, but others showed their true colors.

The episode started off with the eight getting in a van,then being dropped off at a supermarket. Once inside, they found Tyler Florence, who issued a two fold challenge: shop for ingredients to make an appetizer, entree and dessert for twelve people for SIXTY bucks, as well as come to the camera station and provide a thirty second budget tip for the viewers.

Cook a meal for twelve under sixty bucks? Been there, done that many a time, but that's a hard thing for a restaurant chef to do when a high food cost equals raising menu prices. It was good to see Debbie struggle with this, in that she would only hurt herself this time, not a few teammates. Others were familiar with shopping on their own or a client's budgets, like Jamika, Jeffrey and Melissa.

[What Would Suzanne Do: Italian. You can serve a lot on the cheap. Pancetta wrapped Asparagus with Asiago cheese, Chicken Parm and Cannoli filling topped macerated fruit]

Shopping in an unfamilar store threw several for a loop to the point that some contestants had to adjust their menu on the fly. Eddie was looking for sale shrimp. Good luck with that, dude, you're in NY, where shrimp doesn't come out of the local waters. Teddy and Michael both struggled with the budget and their taste for expensive cheeses. It was clear that Jeffrey had a handle on the budget, as his menu came out to 48 bucks. Several contestants had to put stuff back, including the aforementioned Debbie (insert sarcastic HA HA here)

The other part of the challenge felled the majority of contestants. Michael clearly wasn't in the game today, making no sense at all. Teddy came off as an annoying side show barker yet again. Dude, stop yelling at us! Katie initially faltered, but when Tyler criticized her work, she stepped up to the plate with practical advice (cut back on protein portions and serve a heartier appetizer to save money). Jamika suggested to do something that I have heard a couple of FN chefs offer up on their shows-reuse your marinade for a sauce and Tyler chewed her out for it. Eddie's made no sense, Melissa did a decent job.

Jeffrey was declared the winner with his suggestion to make Crepes and fill them with Nutella for a budget dessert or as a breakfast with your kids. As result, he would have an advantage in the next day's challenge, which would be to use those ingredients to cook for guests to be revealed later.

The next day, they're on the bus and headed out to the East end of Long Island. As a former LIer, I would have immediately assumed the destination: Ina Garten's, the Barefoot Contessa. Indeed, they arrived at Ina's, where the finalists were told their challenge would be to cook a meal for Ina, some guests (owners of several high-profile restaurants) and the selection committee.

Then the twist-this challenge paired up the contestants. Jeffrey got to choose his mate by virtue of of winning the previous day. He chose Michael, a wise choice IMO, as they have similar culinary abilities and seem to get along great. (it seems like Michael has made a bunch of friends here)

The rest of the pairings were Melissa and Eddie, Jamika and Katie and Teddy and Debbie. This was an interesting pairing, as Debbie complained in an interview that she didn't want to work with him after he threw Melissa under the bus the week before. That's curious, as the editing of elimination implied that he said NOTHING bad about Melissa the week before, that Brett did it all the trash talking. What did Teddy say that we didn't hear last week?

Each team inventoried their combined ingredients and had an hour to prepare three dishes: one individual item each and then a collaborative effort. Two of the teams melded well, Jeffrey and Michael, as well as Jamika and Katie. Eddie felt that Melissa was calling the shots, acting passive/aggressive to her the whole time, complaining in interview that HE was the chef and she was JUST a home cook. She was getting flustered at the lousy treatment.

Debbie and Teddy worked on their menu and it seemed like Teddy did not like Debbie taking charge. Debbie told him he would be making the dessert, as she was making her pasta, they shared a meatloaf dish and the dessert was the only thing left. Teddy said desserts weren't his forte. Hello? This is the woman who decided to serve STORE BOUGHT Angel Food cake to Food Network luminaries! Clearly she has no clue on that front. Do you really want to let her submarine you with a crappy dessert?

Michael continued to have issues, but Jeffrey showed a lot of respect (and class), redirecting Michael as needed. The pairing was a good one. We saw limited coverage of Jamika and Katie working together, just a snippet of Jamika sweating her store bought marinade that she doctored and later worrying that the salmon didn't have enough flavor. Limited means that she and Katie worked extremely well together.

During the cooking portions, we see that Debbie pours her sauce into the meatloaf, but Teddy is spending a LOT of time on that meatloaf, to the point that with five minutes to go, he has not made a dessert. Did Debbie purposely sabotage him, or is it that he has no time management skills? He threw together cake, fruit, caramel sauce and store bought pudding just before time was up. This from the guy who wants to show us "The Mind of a Chef" as he's belittling the 'home cook' Melissa? I know many a 'home chef' who could blow this man away with a far superior five minute dessert! (Shout out to Karen in Maryland!)

Next, we see each teams presentations and the feedback from the judges:
Eddie and Melissa-Melissa charmed the judges, Eddie not so much. Melissa's chicken looked great, but needed more flavor and Eddie's watermelon salad was deemed 'inedible'.
Jamika and Katie-Jamika once again was the gracious presenter, and Katie looked good, but she had to put that lesson in her presentation. If she didn't mention 'healthy chicken sausage' perhaps the judges wouldn't have even noticed!
Michael and Jeffrey-Jeffrey's calm demeanor impressed the judges and Michael's zoning out was obvious. The judges loved all three dishes and said they did not look or taste like budget items.
Teddy and Debbie-Teddy was saved from looking like an ass in front of the judges because Debbie's calm smooth presentation caused him to be relaxed, too. They were asked what each contributed, verifying Debbie prepared the pasta, Teddy the dessert and the meatloaf was a collaboration.

The judges were blown away with the first two dishes, with Bob saying it was his second favorite meatloaf ever, behind Ina's. The dessert was anticipated as being a great finish, but it was unanimously ruled horrible.

Next stop-Elimination. The eight file in and get feedback on their dishes. This is where two idiots shoot themselves in the foot. If there was an integrity rule, they both would have been eliminated.

First Teddy, by claiming the meatloaf as his own, which gets "Ms. Lack of Integrity' herself upset because it was a shared effort, that they conceptualized together and it was her sauce that went into the meatloaf. All because Teddy didn't want to fess up that "Hey, I ran out of time and threw together the dessert."

I will say this: every time we saw those two in the kitchen, Teddy was working on the meatloaf, while Debbie was working on her dish. Perhaps he felt that since he did the majority of the work, he should get the credit? We'll never know-but Teddy, you need to man up and admit your mistakes. (and stop with the annoying yelling...and the 'mind of a chef' BS...and the belittling of those with less training than you...)

Melissa and Eddie get their feedback and Melissa is informed her dish LOOKED good, but needed more flavor. Eddie was told his dish had far too much onion, that it seemed like it was something he'd done before. He chirps up "Yep, I actually got it from a Paula Deen cookbook."

Are you freaking crazy, Eddie? Not only fessing up it being someone else's recipe, but a Food Network cook's own? What a moron you are! So much for culinary training!

Time to name the winners, and Jeffrey and Michael's effort earns them safety. They hug and head up to the townhouse. Then, others are informed they are safe and free to go: Katie, Jamika, Melissa and Debbie.

The bottom two: Eddie and Teddy.

I'm fine with either going, heck, at this point, either one can go for their lack of integrity. My preference would be Teddy, because he's annoying and just as condescending to Melissa for being a home chef, but to not own up to a lousy dish sucks. I won't watch someone who would rather cover their butt than admit a mistake.

Eddie has emerged as one of those entitled types that thinks that they are the end all and be all of the cooking world. He needs to learn humility. Arrogance is NOT a virtue, especially when the results don't merit that kind of behavior.

The judges deliberate, with Bobby and Susie voting to dump Eddie, since he doesn't have the culinary chops. Bob dissents, saying he doesn't trust Teddy-but he won't 'throw himself on the sword for Eddie', especially since they haven't seen ANY improvement from him in three episodes.

Thus, the two are ushered back in and Eddie is sent packing. When he goes in to tell the rest of the contestants, there is a collective groan. The kind of groan that says "Oh crap, we're stuck with the guy who we can't trust, instead of the guy that we'll beat because he's just not as good as his personal hype thinks he is."

Previews for next week show what looks like the Intrepid battleship/museum and the elimination room, in which the finalists get the requisite "You all suck and shouldn't be here' bashing that happens at least once every season.

Curiously, though, Bobby says something about "You are the last seven to have this opportunity and no one is grabbing it." Was he talking specifically about next week's challenge, or was he implying that this is the last season of Next Food Network Star?

Tune in next week to find out.

Previous recaps:
Week One

Week Two

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

On Mother's Day, I talked of the music that reminded me of Mom. Today, it's Dad's turn.

My dad was the designated chauffeur for Giggles and I, driving us all over Long Island for our varied activities, mall shopping, to see movies at the best screen (in his opinion) and out for many enjoyable meals. Then you add vacations and weekend escapes and we were in that car a lot.

This meant one thing: we were going to hear a LOT of music.

Yes, we would check the news, but primarily, that radio was tuned to one of the dozens of music offerings that we had in listening distance of Manhattan. As a result, we were exposed to a large variety of genres: Jazz, Big Band, Show Tunes, Rock, Golden Oldies. Thankfully, it was rare that Dad wanted to listen to the elevator music stations.

There are songs that remind me of trips taken:
Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven" and Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" remind me of a trip to Connecticut and upstate NY that was cut short because Ramada screwed up our reservations and made them for Charlottesville VA, not Newburgh, NY.

Amy Grant's "Next Time I Fall" and Debbie Gibson's "Shake Your Love" remind me of a trip to Pennsylvania with Dad and Giggles to visit Legacy after she wrecked her car and her leg. Debbie was a classmate of Giggles, and Dad was teasing her that she should have auditioned to blow the whistle. (Giggles was not the best singer...)

Show tunes would inspire many debates and trivia questions for the two of us, since I was involved in theatre. For years, we'd hear "The Gentleman is A Dope" a sultry, languid vocal and Dad would Insist it was from Pal Joey. I disagreed, but he said it'd been cut from the movie version.

Finally, when I became a Technical Theatre major, I took Theatre History. We got to the unit on musicals and I asked what show the song was from. The answer: Allegro. Oscar Hammerstein's most autobiographical work, it only had a run of 315 shows and never was made into a movie. Dad had seen it during that brief time and had seen Pal Joey a few years later.

I loved discussing the Broadway musicals with him, but even better were the times that we saw them together. For the quantity of shows I've seen, Dad and I never took in a straight play together-it was always musicals.

Now that he's gone, it's always nice to hear something from one of the shows we'd seen together or one of those songs we'd debate in the car while driving. Those journeys should have been forgettable, but they're not because the music lives on.

Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tampa Fire Museum

Today, we drove over to Tampa to join the scouts in a tour of the Tampa Fire Museum.

It is housed in what used to be Station #1 of the fire department and was pretty cool to see.

This was the switchboard that took all the calls from the fire call boxes until 1981, when things were switched to phone lines.

The fire department purchased this truck new for $13,000. It's still fully functional and sometimes is seen in parades. (I may have a picture of it at the Gasparilla Children's parade a few years ago)

Quote in the Memorial room. The memorials had news clippings, pictures and fire department records of the events surrounding these men losing their lives in the line of duty. It was a nice tribute, rather than just seeing names on a plaque, the kids could see who these men were.

Game Teen proves that you're never too old to want a fire had.

I'm glad we went.

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Friday, June 19, 2009


I took my final last night. I scored a 96.

One question was wrong because I goofed entirely. Trust me, I will never forget that "The Toreador" was influenced by the Egyptians visiting the Minoan society.

The other question was about this work:

For the second time, I was felled by an awkwardly posed question. I suspect that the majority of my classmates got the question wrong as well. (I will post it after the testing period closes, just in case). If a number of students get a question on my exam wrong, as an instructor, I would revisit the materials and information provided to the students.

In the final exam web cast, we were told that the significance of this work is Keith Haring's use of line. That was not what was asked and the choices given weren't clear. Well, one most definitely WASN'T right and the other two were WTF options.

So, I end with a weighted average of 92.6. That gives me an A minus. You're wondering what would have given me an A? A 93.1. One half point.

Or one more correct answer on that final.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday Thursday

Last night, I had plans of an Asian style stir fry. However, studying kept me from getting my chicken into the marinade until a few hours before dinner time, and I preferred that the meat have a good long soak.

Instead, last night we had the chicken in marinade that I've featured before. Tonight was deliciousness delayed. Ginger infused rice and Asian Chicken Braise:

If you are curious, google Junior League's Asian Pork Tenderloin recipe. You can use that marinade for pork, chicken, beef or shrimp. I braised the chicken with onions and multicolored peppers, made a cornstarch slurry and got a nice sauce out of that pan, too.

Some things are worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In 24 Hours...

I will have completed my first college class in fifteen years.

I'm busy procrastinating studying for my Art History final. One, maybe two more listens to the final review that basically tells us what the exact questions are for two parts of the exam, then I'll review the part one web cast and reread five chapters.

This professor has been interesting. Listening to the lectures made me realize I'm a linguistics snob. I won't miss that part of the course. For a class that I probably wouldn't have taken if it wasn't for the degree requirements, I was pleasantly surprised at how much foundation in the subject matter I had. It probably was a good way to get back into school, with a professor that was unyielding in the deadlines.

That proved to be a problem during the week from hell, when Ed was in the hospital, I was sick and my laptop died. I was denied an extension of a deadline and missed one assignment that counted for 6% of the grade.

Since then, I've achieved a 99.1% weighted average of the assignments I have completed. The criteria vary from professor to professor, but in this class, I need to score a 93.1 overall to earn an A in the class. What does this mean? If I obtain a perfect score on the final, I'll have the A.

Otherwise, it'll be a B+.

I know a B+ is nothing to sneeze at, but I really want that A.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Next Food Network Star-Week Two

As each week progresses of The Next Food Network Star, we get to see more of the personalities of the finalists. Sometimes, the initial impression was off base, but more often than not, that first vibe is accurate.

The show opened with the nine finalists filing into the Food Network Kitchens to find covered platters on the counter and a guest from Esquire magazine, Ryan D'Agastino. The contestants lift the cover of the platter in front of them and two ingredients that must be incorporated into a dish. Some of them just sounded wonderful together and made sense, others made you scratch your head. Examples:

Beef and Peanut Butter (Debbie, the Korean inspired cook got these.)
Pistachios and Pork Tenderloin (Jeffrey)
Chicken and Maraschino Cherries (Melissa)
Bran Cereal and Lamb chops (Katie)
Coffee Beans and Steak (Eddie)
Ground Beef and Dill Pickles (Brett)
Porterhouse Steak and Maple Syrup

As a viewer, I had to wonder if these happened to be random, based on who was standing behind a dish or if they were told the order they had to go in, because the healthy cuisine person got the bran cereal and the Asian/Southern fusion cook got the beef and peanut butter. Gimmes in my book.

Now, some of these inspired instant ideas from both Ed and myself, but when these challengers are on the spot, they probably had a hard time deciding. Like Melissa's Chicken/Maraschino combo? I would have grabbed some goat cheese and blended it with the cherries in a food processor for a sweet/savory filling, stuffed the chicken breasts with it, then pan fried the breasts.

Each contested had to do a two minute presentation to the camera-an improvement over earlier competitions. Get them comfortable ASAP to weed out those who can't relate to the audience if it isn't people in front of them. Some showed great promise, others seemed stilted or forced. Brett was over the top once again, but the judges appeared to enjoy it.

Katie stumbled, serving raw lamb chops. Melissa ran out of time, so the cherry sauce she'd planned to serve didn't make it to the plate.

The winner of the challenge was Eddie, and he got the greatest praise of his dish from Susie "If a date made this for me, I'd run away with it." His recipe will be featured in Esquire.

Another day, another magazine. The nine are now taken to the Hearst Building, to the Good Housekeeping kitchens, where they meet Rosemary Ellis, Editor in Chief. This challenge is to create a meal around one of nine holidays.

Good Housekeeping's audience is women with families, so tasty and easy are definitely things to keep in mind. Unfortunately, that is missed by a few of the contestants.

Eddie, by virtue of winning the Esquire challenge, gets to pull the holidays from a stocking and choose who gets to get each holiday:

Melissa-Mother's Day
Eddie-Valentine's Day
Katie-Earth Day
Debbie-Mardi Gras
Jamika-New Year's
Teddy-Labor Day
Brett-April Fool's Day
Jeffrey-Groundhog Day (WTF? Who celebrates THAT?)

Good Housekeeping provides props and the meals are presented on trays, which each person brings into the dining room to introduce to the judges.

The holidays made us think of traditions, like a barbeque for Labor Day, Jambalaya, Etouffee and Gumbo for Mardi Gras, Earth Day having green foods and April Fool's just cried out for making something that looked like something else.

In the kitchens, some people were frantic, while others calmly went about their preparations. Jeffrey decided to make Mexican food for Groundhog Day, while my thought was Ground Hog, make something with ground pork.

Melissa was a little frazzled in the unfamiliar kitchen and was in a time crunch, so Brett offered to help plate up and Teddy joined in, since they were both done. She'd cooked her meal, it just needed to be plated-she even had one done as a template when the guys jumped in.

In the dining room, once again, some shone and others missed the mark. Debbie took the Mardi Gras holiday and made spicy dumplings. The judges liked the flavor, but commented that there were far too many ingredients. What did dumplings have to do with this holiday? Debbie's warm and comfortable presentation probably helped her out.

Melissa's Mother's Day brunch hit it out of the ball park, with a scrambled egg bake and french toast. All agreed that the dishes were tasty, they wanted the recipes and that Melissa understood the audience they were trying to reach. Melissa once again was warm, engaging and accessible.

Katie's meal once again faltered, with the beans being declared awful by the judges. Once again, my comments from last week were in my head-hospital food is NOT tasty. She seems very sweet, she must have really wowed them in her audition and the semifinal in person audition-where is that now?

Jeffrey didn't really connect his mexican stuffed avocado meal with Groundhog Day, but it was well received. He's still got that laid back, mellow thing going on.

Teddy, worked too hard at presenting, his surf and turf for Labor Day really didn't translate, but they said it tasted good. He's really hard to read, but both times he had to present were painful to watch.

Eddie went way into TMI territory, stating that the meal they were enjoying was the same one he'd prepared for his girlfriend for their first Valentine's day when his roommates were out for the night. Then, to make a little announcement to the camera at the girlfriend? Sorry dude, you've got a few minutes to impress the judges, NOT your girlfriend-use them wisely!

came in and blew a horn announcing the New Year. She shared a story of the traditions surrounding the dishes, Spicy collard greens and corn bread. Jamika sweated the fact that these were two side dishes, but the raves in that room made it clear that she has championed her cuisine AND has genuine charm that will take her far.

Humor is tricky to pull off and I felt Brett missed the boat. He brought in his tray, announced that he had decided to leave the competition, then said "April Fools". He made a meal that he said was inspired by mom, which had a judge stating "We just got two Mother's Day meals." and Bobby Flay complaining of shell in his lobster.

The last contestant, Michael, enters the room in a Witch's hat, which he removes to show his funky dye job. (until now, it was hidden under a military style cap.) He is witty, the food piqued their interest and one of the Good Housekeeping people said that Michael understands their reader well. This is exactly what he said when they found out what the challenge would be.

As the episode draws to a close, it is elimination time once again. Jamika is announced the winner of the Good Housekeeping challenge, as her presentation was the epitome of bringing food to life.

Melissa is commended for her meal, and then Brett gives Teddy's arm, saying "Good job" and trying to get him to speak up to say what Brett wanted to say. Teddy declines, and Giada asks Brett if he'd like to speak up. Brett says to Melissa "Teddy and I helping you really saved you." (No, moron, those plates may not have been garnished, but the food is what matters, not the garnish). Teddy is asked if he would like to say something, and he is somewhat diplomatic "I am not here to throw someone under the bus."

Until this point, it seemed clear that Katie would be the one going home with two extremely tasteless dishes. Eddie had made them very uncomfortable in talking about the girlfriend at Good Housekeeping and I wasn't sure who the third would be.

The first week, the contestants were charged with having integrity and Brett just threw that out the window. He was all about showboating and misrepresenting his role in assisting another contestant to get her out and had made several comments throughout the episode about "Melissa doesn't have the training WE do", as if to imply that you have to be trained to be good.

Meanwhile, it seemed pretty clear that he was trying to play on her one weakness, because she has everything else they're looking for. I got the vibe that Brett was very threatened by Melissa's likeability.

As soon as he made the scene, Ed and I looked at each other and said "That's it, he's gone." It wouldn't have mattered if he won both challenges. We'd have to wait a few minutes to find out.

The bottom three were Eddie, Katie and Brett. Katie was instructed "You have to bring more flavor to the party", which told us she was staying. When she was the first of the three to be told she was safe, it was only a question of how long they'd make Brett wait to find out he would not be moving on.

Not long, as it turns out. He was the next one called, then told he was going home.

Honestly, I think it was the right choice. He was brash, he was condescending and someone who pretends to be a team player while waiting to stick a knife in someone else is not what Food Network needs.

Apparently, according to Bob Tuschman's blog, they were irritated at the fact that he made what HE wanted, not what he was asked to do in either challenge. As a show host, that's not what he would be paid to do.

On to next week. If Katie has another week like this one, she will be the next one to get cut. Part of me hopes she can make healthy food interesting...

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Love Facebook, But...

sometimes it dredges up things from your past that were probably better buried.

There is a lot that is enjoyable and good about Facebook, and I've got an entry soon about that, but today, I just want to tell you a story that I'd done my best to forget. When these types of things happen, I need a day or two to process the thoughts, what they do to me and how to write about it. If you haven't figured it out by now, this is my therapy. Whatever is bothering me will sooner or later end up written down.

This is a long one, so if you want to grab a cup of coffee to mull over it or skip entirely, go right ahead. I think it speaks a lot about the person I've become.

When I was 6 years old, my parents bought a house on the South Shore of LI. The town was chosen because, at that time, the schools were in the top 5 in the state. They pushed to get there when Giggles and I were young.

On the first day of school (really second day-they kept me home the first day), I walk into Mrs. L's classroom and got called Freckle Face Junior by one of the boys. I burst into tears. The stage was set for twelve years of teasing.

It didn't help that I was the nerdy kid, more interested in books than dolls, talking to the adults than hanging out with my peers. I ended up with a friend here or there, but most of my friends lived on the street behind me that went to the elementary school I could see from my house, but was in another school district.

Cut to middle school. I was still being teased, but finding my way. A family friend taught confirmation class out of his house and asked that I be in his class, sort as a good influence on the 'bad kids' that were too disruptive for catechism at the Catholic school. The only girl with six or seven budding troublemakers. That's where I met Jimmy.

We had the same taste in music, played the same video games and we started to become friendly. He'd come over to my house and watch movies. It was 8th grade and I wanted to be liked. Jimmy was the kid who'd get detention, got suspended, told me how he took extra Ritalin 'because taking 4 of them was like taking a downer'. I didn't care, because I was getting attention from a boy. Around Christmas that year, he told me he wanted to be my boyfriend and gave me a pair of earrings.

Let's just say his only goal in life was to get in my pants. I was the good Catholic girl-no way. I was pressured into doing more than I thought I should, but I was crystal clear that "It" was not happening. He tried and tried. Eventually, I gave him back the earrings and lamented my rotten choice in boys.

If you hadn't already guessed, six years of snide comments and some pretty cruel teasing battered my self esteem. The fact that I had a boyfriend thrilled me, and I didn't even stop to consider his request 'to keep it secret' anything out of the ordinary. My two best girlfriends knew, but that was about it. I found out the reason for being secretive about a month later.

His best friend bet him $100 bucks (a shitload of money to a 13 year old in 1980) to 'pop my cherry'.

How did I find out? One of the dirt bags came by my table at lunch one day "Suzie made it with Jimmy." My jaw hit the floor. I denied it (because it didn't happen), but this kid (I can close my eyes and see him, what he was wearing and his idiotic smirk.) He insisted that I did, because Al had bet Jimmy to do it. Of course, these guys all believed Jimmy, the kid who'd been caught in numerous lies over the years.

For a girl with self esteem issues, that's probably the worst thing that could happen-to find out that someone only dated you because their best friend wanted him to take your virginity at 13. I was a game to him, a notch in the belt that he had to say he'd made.

After the shock wore off (but not the embarrassment or mortification), I confronted Al to tell him that he lost 100 bucks to a liar. Of course, he didn't believe it.

It colored my experiences until college and beyond. I wondered if a guy really liked me for me, for what I had to offer, or if they were feigning interest because someone bet them if they could get the loser girl in bed. It was a little easier once I got to college, because except for a few people, no one had known me. I blossomed in the theatre department and radio station.

Why this and why now?


When I started the Facebook thing, I had my closest friends from throughout the years. Then some blog/message board friends and then some coworkers. I found some of my favorite people from the college theatre department that I missed terribly. A classmate from High School that was probably my worst enemy back then is a friend, but we're trading comments back and forth on each other's pages. (I know she still thinks I'm strange, but I'm okay with that)

Someone started a group for the HS Drama company, a guy who was a year older. We went through all three schools together, a somewhat rare feat in our town. He friended me. Then a few other theater people from high school. The two girls I considered my lifeline back then ignored my FB requests. Back then, it would have torn me up. Now, I say it's their loss.

Thanks to those self esteem issues, and the ignored requests from those two who I considered somewhat close, I have not 'friended' many people, preferring people to approach me. Oh, the blog world, message board and work people-I'll send a request, they don't intimidate me. I avoided the people from my school days, figuring it wouldn't matter one way or the other. Here and there, I'd get a friend request.

More requests have come in from people from my school days. Someone who was in my first grade class who was never anything but nice. I must have shown up in 'friends you may know' because I was in her list with the same schools and well, the requests are coming in a little more often.

With these requests, I've gotten some very kind messages and a lot of glimpses at how others perceived me. When you're the kid being teased, you get a distorted sense of self. Then add emotional abuse (as I was in my first marriage), my self perception is even more distorted. Those messages, without fail, mention my smile, how smart I was, and other positive things. Funny how I see myself completely different.

Then, I got a request from a guy who had lived up the block. The best friend of the guy who called me Freckle face junior. There for a lot of the teasing. He seems like a genuinely nice guy now. He asked how the heck the past 25 years have been, just the getting to know you stuff. Shared some funny memories of our neighborhood. I got to hear about his life, too and see some pictures of his wife and their travels.

After him, then came people who were in school at the same time, but I never really had any interaction back in the day (again, probably because of the growing numbers of people from my graduating class). Yeah, we were in the same year, but hang out, really know anything about each other back then? Not really. With those requests, the memory of the humiliation came back and the feelings of doubt started creeping back.

Are they sending friend requests because they want to laugh at me?

Why is it that thirty years can pass, but I feel the same emotions as I did that day in the lunchroom?

Elsewhere, in something totally unrelated, a poster stated "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me." Yes and no. Other than the Freckle Face Junior moniker, I can't tell you the words that were flung that upset me back then. That said, the actions of several boys definitely still hurt thirty years later.

As for how it shaped the adult Suzanne, I probably worry about what others think more than I should. In life, I spend a lot more time putting myself in the other person's shoes, because I never want to inflict the hurt I felt back then. I also feel I am afraid to put my foot down when I need to, for fear that I'll upset the other person.

I'll bet none of the guys have this thirty year old memory troubling them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

So, a few days in, I am really digging Pandora. So far, I think she's lobbed three or four WTF? songs. The majority have been artists I know, artists I love and already have on my iPod but didn't put into the "add variety" tab and those who I only knew the hits.

Last night, Pandora started a song and I instantly noticed the style of arrangement, the latin inspired jazz groove, the lyrical piano. The vocals began and I was proven right.


I promptly clicked over to the Pandora tab from the Blackboard I was on to see where this track was from, thinking it was one of the Matt Bianco songs I was unfamiliar with. (Basia and her collaborator, Danny White, are 2/3 of the group Matt Bianco. No, the third guy is not named Matt Bianco.) I know some, but not all of the group's catalog.

No, it was a solo track "If Not Now, Then When" and it was off a NEW ALBUM! It's That Girl Again came out in March of this year and you have no idea how stoked I am. Basia and Danny are renowned perfectionists, typically taking 3 1/2 to 4 years between albums. However, it's been fifteen years since the last release. Far too long for fans of the wonderful harmonies, latin inspired melodies and lush instrumentation.

This first song has me excited.

If you'll excuse me, Pandora, I need to get reacquainted with a musical love's new album. I hope you don't mind. Promise I'll be back, because I need to see what other suprises you have in store for me! :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hiker Extraordinaire!

Two weeks ago, Game Teen went camping with scouts and went on the Damn Hike, completing about 5.5 miles. That was pretty impressive, becasue this is the kid who hates any physical exertion, except for archery.

Today, the troop went on another hike. Ten miles. In the heat (mid 90's today).It didn't start off well-he snuck his DS out of the car and pitched a loud fit when I told him it was time to give it to me. He said he didn't want to go hiking and got mad when I said if he didn't go, he would have no games this week. (We call his bluff like this all the time)

I decided to leave the church before they rolled out, because we know if you remove the source of his obsession, he'll calm down. It worked.

It was at this time that I realized that my phone was at home and I was 40 miles away. I'd been told the troop would be back at 3pm, but I knew it was a moving target. Chef and I got breakfast and headed to the library. Yay, internet, I got in touch with one of the other leaders. She agreed to email me when the boys were leaving for the church, because her husband was leading the hike and would text her.

The email came just before 4pm to be at the church at 4:30.

One of the leaders came up to me before Game Teen even got back to the church (they caravan) and excitedly told me "Game Teen did the WHOLE TEN MILES!" Ultimately, all the leaders came up to me to share this news-gee, I think they were ecstatic!

How'd they do it? Several miles out, Game Teen asked "is it just another mile?" and they kept feeding him that. "C'mon, kiddo, only a mile more."

There was one little hiccup. After the hike was over, either he ate or drank too fast. Rule number one after activity like that: go slow. However, this is something we've been working on with Game Teen all his life. Maybe it'll sink in with hiking.

Camping in two weeks with another 10 miler. Now that he's gone the distance, I'm sure he'll do it again. Especially since he's surrounded by leaders and fellow scouts who cheer him on to 'do one more mile.'

Hurry Up!

If you hurry, you'll get the user name link you want at Facebook!

Bloggers may want to take their blog name. That's why I grabbed Suzanne Calling. Sorry to anyone who might actually possess that name-it's mine now! :D

What are you still doing here? Go grab the name of your choice!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Opening Pandora's Box

I opened Pandora's box last night. You know about Pandora, right? If you don't, maybe you should.

It's internet radio that utilizes the Music Genome project. Basically, you tell Pandora what you like, and Pandora uses algorhythms to find other things you may like. You rate it as like or don't like and Pandora further refines the play list to you.

For instance, if you say you like Billy Joel, Pandora might suggest Elton John, because both are singer/songwriters. Say, you don't like Elton, just click the thumbs down. Two thumbs down for an artist and they are forever removed from your play list.

The channel can be shared and you can have different channels for different moods. Ed's been playing with Pandora for a while with Progressive Rock artists. Pandora still throws crap out of the box at him, so I was curious what happens when a person puts some diverse artists together.

October Project
Jim Croce
Billy Joel
Joe Jackson
Alison Krauss
Flim and the BB's

I wanted to see what Pandora would send my way. The algorhythms are pretty advanced, because I had many artists played that are in my CD library, like some obscure tracks from the Rippington's, Yellowjackets and Howard Jones. Then I got tracks from other artists, and it was because my tastes indicated I liked jazz with latin rhythms, harmonies and syncopation. Cool.

We shall see what else comes out of Pandora's box, but I'll have fun with it. It's cool to get a new artist in the rotation that are chosen not because someone else loves them, it's because science says what I like is already contained in their music.

Curious? Go to www.pandora.com

Not curious enough to start your own music experiment? You can see what my varied tastes causes Pandora to play by heading to the website and putting Suzanne Calling in as the channel you want to listen to.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mommy, Make Me Happy

"Mommy, make me happy."

This is what Chef Jr said to me a few minutes ago. He said it in a silly, sing song voice, so I asked why he wanted to be hOppy, because beers are hoppy.

"Mommy, make me HAPpy."

I had a kid in my arms by this time, so I gave him a squeeze and some smooches, figuring that would do the trick.

"No, Mommy, make me HAPPY!"

I finally asked what exactly would make him happy.

"Mommy, make me FOOOOOOOOOOOD."

After months of getting meals like this for dinner
(Last night's dinner, swedish meatballs. From scratch. Nearly gone, so don't ask for some!)
I'd say the menfolk are just a little spoiled. Especially since the kid had two years of cooking school and is capable of feeding himself.

Ah, so 'Make me happy" translates into 'make me food'. Gotcha. I ask what food will make him happy and the response was pretty vague.

I've got an idea, and I tell him.

"Mom is going to go into the pantry, pick three cans at random (blindfolded), dump them in a bowl and make you lunch."

The child blocked me from the pantry. I finally get the door open and reach in without looking. This is what will be lunch today:

Somehow, I don't think that will make anyone's stomach happy.

So I made hot dogs.

Yes, it made him happy.

This is Why Geeks are Awesome!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Musing the Selling Options

Thanks to the fun of last month, this month is going to be interesting. Ed went back to work Saturday after three weeks out of work. I had some hiccups in reviving my Unemployment claim. This means there is NO money coming in until June 23rd.

The problem is there is rent to pay, along with water, electric, cable/internet and car insurance-not to mention Game Teen's medications. I have to admit, we don't have much to deal with, but when you have no money, these things are overwhelming. The bright side is that when we both have decent jobs again (even one of us at this point), we will be in great shape. We have been making do on about two grand a month. A decent job means we'll be able to get rid of the credit card billss and change the cell phone arrangement currently in place.

I've got stuff that we're not using and want to get rid of, but how to do it? Ebay has been a so so channel for selling. We had two yard sales last year, one at our house, one at the in laws, because our location in the neighborhood is not condusive to getting a lot of traffic. The better of the two efforts netted about $100 bucks.

The problem with that is some of these things won't get serious consideration at a yard sale. Thus, the question-Craig's List, Flea Market, Ebay or other channels that I haven't considered?

What am I selling? Lots of Disney stuff. If I can get what I paid for them, I've got a few sericels and a gallery framed print (the sericels aren't cheap, that's why I won't yard sale them). Mugs, clothes, toys still in boxes and stuff like that.

Any of you readers have experience with the options besides eBay that want to share some tips and the pitfalls to avoid?

My goal is to get the bills covered, the meds paid for and pay for our portion of a family trip to Virginia in July. (I'm working another trip thingy, but that would be 100% covered by a sponsor if I go).

Your thoughts, ideas and experiences with the various selling mediums is encouraged and appreciated. If you don't want to comment publicly, email me at the blog name at gmail dot com.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Moving on Up

Game Teen had his Boy Scout board of review tonight. Except for the swimming requirement, he had fulfilled the requirements of not one, but two ranks nearly a year ago. He was held up by the request for medical accommodation.

Now that we're in the new troop, getting his Board of Review done was a priority. Last week, he sat down with a leader and reviewed what he had done and what his goals are. Tonight, he actually went before the panel.

The verdict? He earned his Second Class and First Class scout ranks. Came through with flying colors, even. I was later told "He is SO adorable", which was sweet. You wanna take him for a weekend, ladies? :D

To earn the next rank, Star Scout, he has to spend six months in this rank and assume a role within the troop. He also has to work on some of those Eagle required badges. I think I know what's on tap for our summer!

Congratulations, Game Teen!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Next Food Network Star is Back

Those of you who have read the blog for a long time know of my attempts to be a finalist for The Next Food Network Star. Obviously, I didn't make it, but there's always next year, right?

Instead, I'll be among the ranks of those who watch and wonder if the people who were selected can handle the pressure, have the chops to pull off a show and if that lucky person is one of the people that initially appealed to us.

This year, it's time for some recaps. There is very little television that I follow avidly, so when there is something that tweaks me, perhaps it should be fodder for discussion. (It's a safe bet that Donna and Joyce will be sharing their opinions with me tomorrow!)

The premise of the show is that they select ten finalists from the hundreds of video applications sent to Food Network last fall. My opinions are purely my own, but after the first episode:

Brett August
-New Yorker, and boy it shines through. Not so sure about his comment last night about "we'll let the women talk about lipstick", because if I were there, he'd rapidly learn that some of us never bother with that crap. He was the Green team leader last night and you could see that he had a good handle on coordinating. Food didn't impress the judges, but with all of them, it could be a off week. My opinion is reserved, because he's kinda likeable, kinda condescending. He does get points for giving an ingredient to the other team, though!

Eddie Gilbert-Young, hip and a pretty boy from the west coast. That doesn't mean he doesn't know what he's doing. He seemed to have good ideas, but he was in the bottom two for an unexciting dish. The dessert he was *supposed* to make (more on that later) sounded really good. Kind of reminds me of Adam Gertler without the ADHD. Not a bad thing-reserving judgement.

Teddy Folkman-Seems like everyman. He works in the restaurant industry, but seems very approachable. That said, he got minimal coverage in the first episode. That may be because there was a lot of drama with other finalists-or because he's boring. Still not sure, but you can be assured that flying under the radar on this show will get the person eliminated before week five.

Melissa D'Arabian
Imagine Paula Deen without all the sugar. Warm, engaging and seemed real, especially when her Apple Tarts didn't get in the oven before the pastry warmed up. The tarts were the sleeper of the luncheon. She was later told that Giada and Alton scarfed up a bunch of them, Melissa's reaction was adorable. She seems like the neighbor who loves to cook and entertain, is really good at it, and does it for the love of cooking and companionship. Lack of culinary training could do her in, but it'll be fun while she's there.

Katie Cavuto-A cute, 30 year old brunette, she's a registered dietican. Unfortunately, food knowledge doesn't translate into cooking food that interests viewers. When have you ever raved about a hospital meal?
Unless she was holding back some pizazz in the first episode, I don't expect her to be around very long.

Jamika Pessoa
This young lady appears to have it all, an engaging personality, a concept that Food Network doesn't already possess and she seems to work well under pressure. However, her recipe was uneven.(Curry Shrimp that was "the gatekeeper of badness" according to AB.) Love the idea of a Carribean/Southern fusion, but the entire dish needs to be her A game. Cautiously optimistic that this was an early stumble while she tries to hit her stride.

Michael Proietti-Another hip, young guy, but this one is from NY. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, but I found him instantly likeable, with great presence and food that showed he knew what he was doing. It's kind of funny that Food Network doesn't have any flamboyant gay guys in the lineup right now. Michael would fill that void quite nicely with food from "Bed Stuy to Bangkok." (Personal aside-any chef who says that he cannot live without Siracha is worthy in my book!)

Jeffrey Saad This guy seems like the sleeper. He's smart and well versed, seems very mellow, but knows his way around the kitchen. He's one to watch, because I suspect he'll be the solid performer week in and week out.

Jen Isham
-Cute, bubbly, just seemed like the girl next door. Yes, seemed. She's the one who was eliminated during week one for a simple recipe that they felt wasn't up to the level that was needed. It's a shame, she had great presence. My opinion is that they should have done a challenge without an elimination to let the competitors experience what is expected, then do a double elimination in week two.

That said-the last contestant was:
Debbie Lee-born in the US to Korean immigrants and raised in the south. Has a great fushion Seoul 2 Soul, mixing asian and southern cuisines. Very articulate, good camera presence and her food blew the judges away. HOWEVER, she was the Red team leader and 1. did not lead, 2. went shopping and went over budget, so she left behind requested key ingredients for three of her teammates and possibly would have done so for the forth and 3. Made the decision to serve STORE BOUGHT angel food cake to 75 Food Network luminaries.

The worst part? She laid blame on others, said the cake decision was made by the group (when the video of her shopping clearly showed otherwise). While her concept is compelling, I don't know if I'd want to watch someone who would so blatantly lie or make the decision to serve something in a cooking competition that wasn't cooked by the team.

Did YOU watch? Who are your favorites? What dishes made you wish they offered all the recipes on the website.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

A search that brought someone to the blog this week gave me an easy topic. Well, that and the fact that I got friended on Facebook by someone I've known since FIRST GRADE, who told me I will forever be Suzie. (sorry, not many people get away with calling me that-Julie does, by virtue of using it for twelve years of school.) I'd mentioned name songs a while back and that when I worked at the radio stations, I was going to do a drop in with my name from various songs.

Back then, that meant a long time with a V block, reel to reel tape and a razor. Nowadays, it's a simple matter with my iTunes library and a few minutes of editing in a simple editing program.

So, in the event that someone else is looking for name songs, here's the list of songs that would have made a little montage. (Note, Sue, Suzie and Suzanne must be first names in order to make my list-I am not a middle name!)

I Love You, Suzanne-Lou Reed
Suzie Q-Creedence Clearwater Revival
Runaround Sue-Dion and the Belmonts
Suzanne- Journey
Wake Up, Little Suzie-Everly Brothers
Little Suzie-Styx
Suzie Lightning-Warren Zevon
That's My Little Suzie-Ritchie Valens
Suzie Baby-Bobby Vee
Fire and Rain-James Taylor (for the line "Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you")
Suzanne-James Taylor (apparently, he wasn't done singing about Suzanne)
Suzanne-Leonard Cohen
Suzie Blue-Ben Harper

There are others out there, but I'd put ones I like in my little jingle thingy.

I had no idea how many songs there are out there with my name!

How about you? Any good name songs out there for your name?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Virus Alert!!!

In the past week, I've had two attempts at infecting my machine with viruses, and a friend's machine got infected with a trojan keylogger.

Please, please, PLEASE-do NOT open any attachments if you are unsure of what they are.

The ones I received:

On Facebook: You got so buusted by our tiiny spy camera..

Via email: Robin sent you some photos via Tagged.

Let's be careful out there, folks. If it's coming to you and you're not expecting it or are unfamiliar with the link, treat it as you would an unsolicited email from your bank/ebay/amazon/paypal and avoid it until you can verify with the person sending it.

More than likely, they're sending an email around to tell you NOT to open that email! Such is the case with both items sent my way. The Facebook one, I actually opened the email, but not the 'click this link to see', because it didn't seem kosher.

Just spreading the word in case you haven't had this happen to you...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Another Turn at The Drive In

I am honestly getting addicted to enjoying a movie at the drive in. Tonight's feature was Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian with my usual movie companion, Chef Jr.

This time, we were viewing the other screen. My radio actually tuned in the proper channel-until I parked. Then I switched to a row with speakers and we sprayed ourselves generously with the bug spray (they still got my scalp-dirty hair doesn't keep bugs away, just a friendly PSA).

If you've seen the first, this one will make sense, but there aren't as many scenes with some of the original characters for my liking. Hank Azaria was hilarious, channeling Boris Karloff.

It was nicely paced, very funny and enjoyable. The funniest thing, though, didn't take place in the movie.

We're watching a tense moment early in the movie and Chef is caught up in the tension.
Chef: "Mom, can I have permission to say a bad word?"
Me: (think it'd be damn or something like that) "Sure, kiddo"
Chef: "Holy SHIT, they're in BIG trouble."

OMG, I missed a minute of the movie from laughing my butt off. Full disclosure here-Ed swears worse than a sailor, my mouth isn't G rated, so they've heard some bad words. It was just hilarious that he ASKED PERMISSION before saying a bad word!

I think the movie is probably going to be more memorable for that moment than the humor contained within it!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More Humor From Chef Jr

You've seen the Geico commercials featuring Cash, right? "This is the money you could be saving if you switched to Geico." Not as good as the Gecko, lame after the cavemen, but it sticks in your head.

When we went to Game Teen's doctor the other day, This is what Chef came to me with:

"This is the potato you could be saving if you switched to Geico," he said, gravely.

"Watch it, spud, or you'll be hash browns."

He succeeded in cracking us up. I don't know if we'll look at Mr. Potato Head the same again.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Yes, things are finally settling down here in the Suzanne house. I actually remembered to take pictures of tonight's dinner!

This has been featured before, but it's summer and time to think of the goodies we enjoy on the grill. London broil with packet potatoes, broccoli and mozzarella garlic bread. Yum.

So, what meal earns the "most popular" award when summer rolls around in your house?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Odds and Ends

We've spent the day running around.

Today was Game Teen's last appointment with Dr. N, his psychiatrist. As a patient at a teaching facility, you are assigned to a fellow who has a two year tour at USF. Alas, her time has come to an end.

We adored his Dr. D, his first psychiatrist here, but Dr. N was even better. It's sad to see her go. However, it's good that she handpicked his new doctor. Apparently, his new doctor is completing a two year fellowship in Adult psychiatry, and now begins two years in Child psychiatry.

Then tonight, we had scouts. It was my first night in uniform, as I am a committee member with the new troop. Yes, I decided to dip my toe back into leadership and had planned to do so when both boys were in the same troop. That said, the smaller group needs people now, so here I am.

When you start a new group, there are a lot of roles to fill. Probably one of the most important things is having merit badge counselors to guide the boys as they work towards any of the 140 or so badges. I was asked to look through the book and let them know what I'd be interested in counseling.

That is how I've got 14 badges to assist. Thankfully, that won't be a full time job, but the time at meetings now might mean answering questions and checking progress on cooking, photography, salesmanship or one of the others I agreed to do. It is pretty neat, though if we grow too big, I may regret this!

Finally, those papers I obsessed over? The ones I procrastinated about because I was afraid that they would majorly suck? The grades are in:

A+ and A+, with a comment on one. Hmm, didn't notice the comments column, but the museum report had a perfect score and the following comment:

You bring considerable knowledge to this assignment along with the ability to blend in your own concepts and experiences. Well done.

I stressed over the assignment, in part, because I feared I didn't know enough about the subject. Either I'm selling myself short or I can BS better than I ever thought I could! Now I'm wondering what it will be like when I take classes in subjects I'm very comfortable with!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Scout Roundup

We wrapped up one scouting year tonight.

Cub Scouts, unlike the boy scouts, end their official year with summer break. So tonight, the Cub O Matic was called into service. Chef earned his third year scouting service pin, a few more belt loops, pins, and a new slide for his neckerchief.

On the other hand, the boy scouts meet year round. I'm glad they do, because Game Teen thrives on routine.

His first camping trip with the new troop was a resounding success. The leaders involved know that he responds better if they make demands rather than requests. He did very well, even participating in a substantial portion of the ten mile hike. (I honestly had my doubts)

Game Teen has a very dry sense of humor. It's rarely on display, but he decided to share with those camping this weekend. When the Scoutmaster told the boys they'd be hiking to the dam on the reservation, Game Teen piped up with "We're going on a Dam hike?"

This explains the picture I got via email today "The 1st Annual Damn Hike at MacGregor Smith". He definitely was channeling his Gramps, the hiker.

I'm wondering what the kid is going to come up with when they spend a week camping this summer!