Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yay, Cake

I've got several posts knocking around my head that will see the light of day in the next week or so, but Game Teen decided that he'd work on sharing his nasty cold.

I am whipped.

Meanwhile, a plan I had months ago actually came together on Sunday. I'd called a bakery in Tampa to price out making a lemon cake with apricot filling and discovered that a simple 8" two layer cake would be considerably expensive.

When Ed and I married, I let him decide exactly what he wanted and gosh, it was good.
We inadvertently ordered more than we needed (40 guests, ordered a cake to feed 50, but it probably fed 80) and as a result, we spent most of the week of our honeymoon feasting on that cake. Well, you're supposed to drink honey, I suppose it wasn't too far off.

So, for the 12 years since we consumed the top layer, my husband has mentioned that wonderful cake. However, we live in Florida, where bakeries, real honest to God bakeries, are few and far between. I figured it wasn't happening.

Then Sunday rolled around. Chef and I worked at the Scout fundraiser, where a fellow student of my university that I'd met at a conference noticed me attired in the shirt I got at the conference and commented on it. She'd donated 200 portions of cake to the fundraiser and I recalled that she runs a bakery out of her home (fully licensed and everything).

Somehow, the conversation got around to the cake I was looking to give Ed and she said Tuesday was PLENTY of time to make one for us.

She went above and beyond on this beauty. I only wanted the lemon cake with apricot filling and didn't even need it to be decorated. She insisted that it was a special occasion and had to be spectacular.

It was.

Next time, I think I need to order a bigger cake.

Happy Anniversary, Hon. I hope this one lived up to the original for you. ♡

Monday, August 30, 2010

Plasticity, Mobility and Getting More than Expected

If you'd asked me which of the psychology classes I most wanted to take, if scheduling conflicts didn't occur, it's be courses in Industrial Psych, Educational Psych, Perception and Cognition. The idea of taking Psychology of Aging didn't appeal.

But the professor teaching the course did.

I've had this professor for two previous classes, like her teaching style and when she told me I didn't have to be on campus for class three days a week as stated in the course catalog (the third meeting would be a homework assignment and discussion topic online every Friday), I was in. The material might not be the most interesting, I thought, but at least the instructor would make it somewhat entertaining.

I was wrong. This is fascinating stuff that I would have missed if I hadn't looked beyond the mistaken notion that it was merely the study of 'old people'. Add to the positive of a good instructor the fact that she'd chosen a textbook written by the author of another text that I think I raved about here last January. (the author's blurb stated "John likes to contemplate the administrative abilities of Kirk, Picard, Sisco, Janeway and Archer while consuming chocolate.")

Then I actually got into the first chapter and wow, it supports a lot of things I've said about/to family members for years. The second chapter? Even more things that backed up things I've considered.

*The less active you are as you age, the more memory deteriorates.

*The more social you are, and continue challenging your brain with puzzles, and participate in some form of aerobic activity, the more brain plasticity you retain. (basically, this activity keeps the synapses firing)

The biggie, though-if you have hip/mobility issues that make you likely to fall frequently, if you don't engage in some alternative therapies (water therapy, rolling therapies to dislodge the ear crystals that affect balance), the more you will fall. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between frequent falls and mortality.

I'm wondering if there have been this many interesting revelations in three class sessions, what will the remaining 25 classes hold? It's really cool to see the proof behind things that always seemed logical.

Oh, and Gerontology? Not the study of old people! It's the study of those who have reached maturation. (Ed tells me they don't study him, because he hasn't reached it yet. Comedian)

And Dr. H? Thanks for encouraging me to take the class...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Now that I'm back to school, it's time to resurrect SSS.

This past summer has been an awakening of sorts for Chef. Always musically aware and having his own distinct musical tastes, there is a noticeable shift lately. We probably can thank the video games to an extent.

With the purchase of a new game system came a used copy of a game "Brutal Legend," which is heavily packed with the major players of heavy metal, such as Lemmy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne. The kid ate up all the classic music coming his way, some of it he'd heard in the past-but much he had not.

Other games for this system featured other classic rock, heavy metal and even classical music, all of which were either sung or whistled by Chef throughout the summer. It probably would surprise him when Mom or Dad would sing along and know the song, or in my case, I'd find the track on You Tube and play him the full version of these tunes.

In addition to the game system as a source of discovery of new (to him) music, Chef's later summer bedtime allowed him to watch quite a few documentaries from Palladia. His hunger for these programs is insatiable, with him asking good, insightful questions.

Early Sunday morning, Ed noticed that the Rush documentary "Beyond the Gilded Cage" was on and he captured it on the DVR, with plans to watch it last night. (This has been on my 'I hope someone buys it for me list' since it was released). So, he got home from work and proceeded to play it.

For me, Rush is one of my first loves but has a lot of emotional baggage. I got pointed towards them when I was in 8th grade and soon purchased an LP of 'Moving Pictures.' However, the love of Rush is a major factor in how the ex-husband and I hooked up, and all but one Rush concert was attended with him. So for years, I couldn't listen. (and last night, I heard one song that I probably will not consciously listen to again, unfortunately.)

However, last night, once again, Chef was fascinated by the story of these musicians, but he was more caught up in the music. As he and I had an event with Scouts this morning, I promised that I'd bring along my all time favorite Rush album for him to hear (even though, honestly, he's heard most of the cuts individually on my various iPod mixes for a long time without realizing it).

It was quite interesting to see him get into the album as he played a video game while I tooled down I-4. He asked if I'd put it on his iPod for more listening, and that pleases me greatly. It can counteract the 'Paradise City' he also requested.

As for me, I want my own copy of that documentary. It is one of those things that Rush fans will want to watch over and over.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yet More Humor from Chef Jr

Some of the things the kid has said today:

In the car, talking about his brother:

"He's going to eat death, and then laugh about it."
Me: "Don't you mean 'Cheat death?" and he tells me not to quibble about the details.

Talking about one of the Star Wars canons:
"I'm a clown, but this is the Clone Wars. One stupid typo from being in the Clone Army"

I'm just a pebble in the Rebel Alliance.

Playing a video game:

"This won't hurt one bit...it will hurt A LOT"

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Matters of the Heart, Sometimes Technology Really Bites

Today, the tale of a friend's current situation. Some names are changed to protect identities, but I was told that it was okay to share the jerk's name.

Back in my day, when a guy was being a selfish pig, a jerk or just yanking a girl's chain, he only had the phone or letters as alternatives to face to face communication. The addition of technology is a beautiful thing in many ways-but a curse in others, like what I'm about to tell.

The players:
Adam -27 year old guy
Betty-27 year old girl
Veronica-also a 20-something.

The situation:
Several years ago, through mutual friends, Adam and Betty met and became friends themselves. They shared many common interests-but each was dating other people. They agreed that they would make a very good couple, but the timing is wrong. They joked that someday, when they're in a nursing home, they will finally be reunited and become a couple. They remain friends, even after Betty's toxic relationship with her then-fiance dissolves.

Adam meets and marries Veronica and moves out of state. Veronica is an emotionally and verbally abusive sort, and several of Adam's friends (including Betty) tell him that marrying Veronica would be a bad idea. However, in Adam's mind, he asked her to marry him, he should go through with it. (There was trouble for Adam and Veronica prior to the wedding, with Veronica instigating many, many arguments.) Adam's friends, both male and female, still are his support system hundreds of miles away, even after the wedding, because they have MySpace, LiveJournal, emails and texting to keep in touch.

Veronica does not like this, and commands Adam to break ties with all female friends, particularly Betty. She feels threatened by Betty, even though Betty is not the type to move in on another girl's man. Adam sends Betty a message through MySpace "Veronica doesn't want me to be friends with you anymore because she is jealous of our friendship. I won't be contacting you any more, but know that I will cherish the friendship we had and the fun times we enjoyed."

This upset Betty greatly. She was sad to lose her good friend Adam, but she knows his reason for breaking communication was not something he wanted to do, rather something he had to do for the sake of his marriage. The way that he did it was the thing that hurt the most-why not call her to tell her this?

Two years pass and she's moved on in her life. Then, out of the blue, an email from Veronica shows up in her in box: "Tell me exactly what went on with you and Adam before he married me." Betty has no intention of answering this email, but she sends Adam an email, telling him that Veronica had contacted her. Originally, Betty was just going to ignore the email.

Adam emails Betty back that, after 2.5 years of marriage, things are very bad and he told Veronica about their(his and Betty's) past together-which Veronica doesn't believe. Adam tells Betty that he's requested a transfer with his job, that he loves Betty and he's going to move to her town to be with her.

Yes, the appropriate response here is WTF?

Betty, stunned by this news, responds with an email of her own. In it, she explains how she was hurt by the way he unceremoniously dumped their friendship and she's not going to be swayed into rushing into a relationship just because that's what Adam wants. Even though Betty would love more than anything to be with Adam when he is single, she is treading cautiously-her ex-fiancee hurt her in many ways. Betty usually thinks with her heart first, and to be calm and rational about this is difficult for her.

Adam's responding email seems like he thought Betty would just gladly welcome him back, that he's moving to her city to be with her. Adam states he'd propose to Betty that day and they can move in together, as he knows Betty will not move in with someone without a commitment to marry. After that, no emails from Adam-nothing.

After several days of no contact, Betty gets a text from Adam early yesterday morning and asks Betty if he could talk to her. She said she could, so Betty calls him. Adam says this:

"I only used you back then, I didn't love you then. We're not, nor were ever, soul mates. Everything I wrote you was a lie and I was using you. This is the last time you'll hear my voice-I want nothing to do with you."

Basically, everything he'd written in the emails earlier this week (and Betty's responses to these emails) was spit out in a one-sided monologue when she called Adam this morning.

Betty called me, crying. Adam has played the role of cad to perfection this week. While Betty was trying to be cautious, Adam the jerk was writing emails, professing that he had loved Betty all this time, wanted to spend his life with Betty and wanted to move hundreds of miles to be with her. Then, a couple/three days later, he renounces all of his words and tells her he wants nothing to do with her.

This sounds like the stuff of high school hallways, not a so-called adult who was mature enough (ha) to get married. It is bad enough for a teenage guy to do this type of thing to his teenage girlfriend, but from an adult? Deplorable.

My take on this was:
Adam's emails were him thinking the Cinderella fantasy world situation would play out when he told Betty of his true feelings. She'd drop everything and say yes to anything he said.

When Betty told him he had to atone for dissolving their friendship and she wasn't going to rush into a relationship after doing that once in the past with someone else, Adam rethought his plans and got scared. This caused him to back away from the everything he'd laid out in his emails to Betty.

Then he asks Betty if they could talk, and he spouted out a monologue that rebutted everything he'd written. It sounded to me like he had an audience of the wife (soon to be ex Veronica, no idea if that part of his story is even true) and he decided to 'pretend' that he was telling Betty to back off, when HE was the one who started this all, so that Veronica would get off his back.

My impression is that Adam is still pretty darn immature and he is not worthy of Betty's affections. If Adam doesn't hear what he wants when he laid out his feelings, he runs away. If he had to talk on the phone with Betty, he gave her a canned speech that canceled out what he said.

Spineless jerk.

After talking about it a couple of times today, Betty's in a better place about the whole thing. She won't put up with games, but she wants to know what the heck he was thinking when he wrote all those emails? All Adam had to do when Betty sent the email inquiry is "Sorry, I told Veronica about our past. Beyond that, I can't talk right now."

So this is where I think technology bites. Back when Adam was in diapers, a guy had to call a girl to break up with her-or send a letter. It took time for one of those to show up in her mailbox. None of this crap with sending multiple emails over a few days and then renouncing everything in them. Back in those days, if you put it in writing, it could be waved in your face that you wrote it-because it was your handwriting.

Is it bad that I want to head to Adam's city and kick him very hard in a sensitive place for putting Betty through an emotional wringer this week? One that came out of left field, all because his wife sent an email to her.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hard Core Gamer

Yes, he did fall asleep playing his DS.

There's a reason why he IS the Game Teen, after all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Three Days, Four Classes

Finally. I've now been to each class at least once.

Another semester of only female professors, the first where I'll be sitting in class for all of them, two repeat professors and it's looking pretty good. The good thing about taking five classes in a semester, then four over 10 weeks-four classes over 15 weeks doesn't seem so bad.

Tonight's class was with a professor that I've wanted to take classes with for three semesters, but she normally teaches on Tuesday nights. This semester, she added a Wednesday night, so here I am. While I wasn't in her classes, we've worked together on other things on campus.

She remembered a conversation from working graduation together last December, because she made an offhand comment "Suzanne's the IT person, she would know" when someone was having an email issue. That just blows me away.

So, the countdown to graduation begins:
15 weeks
60 chapters
4 classes
30 trips to Tampa

It's going to be a lot of FUN this semester.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Como se dice "I must be nuts to think I understand this language" En Español?

This semester, I'm in Honors Spanish.

Not because I am required to take it, but because I adore the professor and I've learned a lot in two previous semesters. Heck, a year ago, I'd look at those advertisements in Spanish that are everywhere in Florida and I actually understand them. The signs in the NY Subway system? No problemo.

Then, I sat down for the first class of semestre tercera. O M G! A mi profesora hablaba solamente en español. For 80 minutes. I think I understood about 50 percent of what was said, but was able to pick up the context of what she was saying.

And my fall back, the recorder that tapes lectures, so that I can listen to them in the car? Well, it was on lock and I didn't realize this until we were 45 minutes into the lecture. There I was, focusing so hard on trying to figure things out, but not freaking out because there was a tape to listen to later-BUT I DIDN'T RECORD IT!

This is the third semester with this instructor (and another class, too), so I know what to expect. The flip side is that she knows what I'm capable of, so there will be no slacking off.

It would be ironic that the class that I'm taking for pleasure is the one that will force me to work the hardest...

Monday, August 23, 2010

The First Day of School, or "Neither Kid was in Dress Code"

We were out of town when both boys schools held their Orientations last week. No biggie, right?

Yeah, that. Chef's school hasn't updated their site in two years, nor did they mail out any information ahead of time. None at all, not even BUS information that would be useful. (When I called this morning, I was told "Oh, we gave those all out at the Orientation." Nice.) I did get a nice voice mail on Thursday that informed me that the students would not be using lockers and could not bring back packs to school, but they could bring 'binders with straps' to better carry their belongings.

Ends up the child was supposed to wear a school logo t-shirt in a color other than what he was wearing this morning, all the better to recognize that a 6th grader is intruding into the 8th grade domain (and vice-versa)

He's got the binder, he's got the 'tude, I think he's ready for middle school!

Game Teen's school director had told me when he had the shadow day last April that they didn't have a rigid dress code. So, I let him pick out his clothes this morning. Heck, the kid who doesn't care about clothes and hates changing them (thank you, sensory processing disorder) called out from his bed last night that he wanted to wear the pictured shirt this morning. He cared about what he wore!

So, his first day of high school was not nearly as anxiety producing as for millions of students across Florida today.

Nerves of steel, all because he got to wear a 'Tron' t-shirt to school.

As for me, if it's green and has something USF on it, it will always be in dress code! (Thanks to Chef for not cutting my head off in the picture!) Alas, I only have myself to blame for the dorky, turtle-neck pose.

We all had good, but tiring days. I'm the only one with homework, though. The professor I followed to Tampa this semester (after two on my campus) may be teaching what looks to be a fascinating class on a topic I never would have contemplated taking if she wasn't the instructor. The other class also looks very good. Not a bad start to my final undergrad semester!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Vacation, a Recap in Pictures

I used today to rest, for the most part. Tomorrow morning will be a scramble and I need to be in bed shortly. So, for tonight, some pictures from the week:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recovering From Vacation

Usually, I need a day or two to recover from a day at a theme park, but I probably need more than that to recover from a vacation. Too bad three of us have school on Monday, because it means what should be a day to rest instead became a day of running around for various school items.

Some highlights of the trip:
*Spending lots of time with my sister Giggles and her family. The cousins sure enjoy getting to play together
*Going to Manhattan for a day, then visiting the Museum of Natural History
*Chef got his requested Dim Sum meal in Chinatown
*Enjoying some delicacies we can't get here in Florida
*Spending the day with Donna on the way home

Pictures and recap to come soon-hopefully tomorrow.

Alas, the pounding head is preventing me from doing the recap tonight.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Stupid Leg (trademark pending)

Doesn't like vacations.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cousins United in Evil

I wonder if the Batman shirt cancels out some of the Decepticon's badness.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Manhattan Bound

Thank You, Food Network!

First off, a blogger with a different point of view won NFNS. Yay, Aarti.

My favorite pretty much from the first week, Tom, is getting a show, too! While it's not actually him in the kitchen cooking, I'll take what I can get. Who knows? Many FN stars do double duty, and it'd be cool if Tom eventually did the same.

Where does this leave Herb? I am so hoping another announcement is coming, say from Cooking. I love latin foods, and I do a pretty good job of cooking and eating it. To learn how to make it less fattening without losing the wonderful flavors? Sign me up.

I mean, the guy had me drooling over a frittata and I hate eggs. Seriously, when I get back home, I may end up making a scaled down version of the recipe in the smallest skillet I have and see if adding all that good stuff to them can convert an egg-hater!

So, Food Network, thank you for the two shows-can we please have a third?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Next Food Network Star Finale

We are down to the end. Who will it be? Aarti, Tom or Herb? I’m pulling for the Big Chef, but I like the concepts presented by Herb and Aarti, and they are both such likeable presences on this competition.

The Big Apple, and they’re going to shoot their pilots. We see them walk into the Food Network kitchens while Rachael Ray walks out. She will be directing their pilots, while the production staff will be preparing food for the three pilots.

The pilots will be shown to a focus group of Food Network people, who haven’t seen the finalists before

Aarti (Aarti Party) wants to make an Indian Pizza on Naan
Herb (Cooking Con Sabor) will make a Fritatta with Egg Whites and Sausage
Tom (Big Chef) wants to make a Roasted chicken with mushrooms under the skin

Herb’s up first and he starts calm, cool and collected-and four and a half minutes over. He has a harder time , but comes up with the brilliant idea of taping pictures of his wife and kids onto the camera and the weeks of jitters evaporated!

Oh my gosh, he is a natural and I even wanted to eat the frittata and I HATE EGGS! He totally sold me on the food and his story about his mom cracked me up. (Please, Food Network, we need a healthy show with ethnic flair. PLEASE)

Now Aarti’s up and she becomes overwhelmed at first, but Rachel gives her some pointers and she works on focusing. When she comes back, she shares a personal story and it seemed so natural. It totally looks like she uses our favorite knives, too.

Tom’s turn and they go the choreography of the shoot-and Tom glazes over. He starts rambling and he doesn’t have a script, which is the recipe for disaster. Susie’s voice in his head started telling him “Shut up, Tom” and he asks to reshoot it. Tom says he needs to make it his own and it looks like his second try is the guy we’ve seen living bold and zany all through the competition.

Next, the finalists are seen vegging in their suite, talking about their pilots and their journey in life and the competition. It has been an amazing ten weeks, watching them take the advice and critiques and growing from them

The pilots are about to be reviewed by a focus group, but the finalists get to see them for the first time while watching the focus group’s comments! Talk about scary. Bobby, Bob and Susie are in the audience with the focus group.

Herb is great, having the focus group laughing throughout! It is so natural and Herb says it catches his essence. The focus group is says he was charismatic, one person wanted to jump through the screen, another said fat free usually means taste free, and this looked like it would be a great way to get flavor.

Aarti’s pilot went well, she was very relaxed and she said she hoped her personality was coming through-and it did. She had the audience laughing as well. One said she wanted to be part of the book club, another wanted her to slow down, and another said she finally learned what chutney was!

It is Tom’s turn. Aarti tells him she wants him to do well, but not too well. He describes it accurately, he was engaging. His show had plenty of tips to make the cooking easier and the crowd was laughing. He talks of being a latch key kid and no one told him what he was cooking was wrong, so he played around with the flavors of his food.

Comments were that he had star quality, viewers loved it and he looked like he was your friend who also knew how to cook. Ed said his scruffy appearance works for him because he just appears approachable.

Here’s the hard part, all three put up pilots that were great AND are shows that they need. I’ve said several times I would watch any of their shows before the pilots and now that I’ve seen them, would not be able to pick just one if it was just mine to make. However, I adore Tom’s personality, but gosh, Herb, you made me want to eat EGGS!

Judgment time. Three finalists were ushered into see the Food Network Wall of Fame and there’s a blank picture among other network stars.

Herb was told that he brought a strong presence to the screen, the point of view is something FN has struggled to fill.

Aarti was told she lit up the screen, Bobby loved the way that she introduced the Indian flavors in a way that was comfortable, and Susie said the friendly nature seemed like they were hanging out with her in her kitchen.

Tom was told Big Chef showed big heart, big flavor and big personality. He made cooking fun, and that’s the essence of what they were looking for. Bobby said he made it feel like it was going to have lots of flavor. Susie told him he brought it all together, made it fun and he showed expertise.

Bob tells them that all three have star quality and they made the right choice in this competition. They are asked to leave while the judges deliberate. If I were to base it on the comments, I suspect it’s tipping towards Tom-but any three of them is in contention!

The judges deliberate. Herb seems to have come the furthest and taken their notes and grew from them. Aarti’s challenge is that they’re worried that the self doubt worries them. Tom’s unconventionality might pay off for them, according to Bob.

Brooke Johnson comes out to talk and we still are wondering.

The next food network start is…


Cool, an Indian show. Can’t wait to DVR those episodes! However, I think that the other two will show up soon. The way it ended, though, seemed almost anti-climactic.

Herb, I also want to learn more about Cooking Con Sabor. Tom, keep going with your Big Chef ways, because I’m sure you have appealed to someone with your natural way and mad cooking skills.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How Times Change

When I was a kid, the house I lived in only had two air conditioners: one in the living room and one in Mom's bedroom. You did NOT turn on the air conditioners without permission, and it better be scorching hot to do so.

To us, 85 was extremely hot and we had to come up with alternatives to cool off. My trick was to take a washcloth and wet it down with cold water, then wipe my whole body down and stand in front of the fan. (They didn't raise the LILCo bill as much as the A/C, so we could use those.) If we were lucky, a late night thunderstorm came through and cooled things down to 70 degrees or something close.

Then, I moved to Maryland, to a valley in which the air did not move. No breezes off the ocean. The heat seemed to turn on the first week of May and it would stay hot until the second week of September. It was hot, it was sticky, but at least I paid the electric bill and I used those air conditioners! When we built the townhouse, we were excited to have central air.

Six years ago, I went house hunting in Florida in a car with no air conditioning. In June. I rapidly learned that 95 is not all that hot. The following summer, friends came down to house hunt and we stood outside a restaurant chatting, the heat radiating off the blacktop making them wither, and not even noticed by me. Now, 60 seems COLD, and we can sit outside on those 95 degree days without breaking a sweat.

We're visiting New York to take care of family business, and last night, we slept with windows open and enjoyed a 'cool' 75/80 degree evening. Windows open is not something that happens for us back home very often, because it's still in the mid 80's at night.

It can stay like this the whole time we're here, because this is so comfortable. It's probably the exact same range of temperature that would cause discomfort 30 years ago.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Does This Mean it is Business Time?

After all, the state slogan used to be 'Virginia is for Lovers.'. Why not combine the two? At least there is already a song readily available for the merger of the two slogans.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feed Me Friday

Carl Spackler and his brothers provided tasty sandwiches for dinner tonight.

No pictures, but a club with pumpernickel was enjoyed by me. The big surprise is that Chef got an over seasoned Italian Beef and was raving about it the whole time.

Once again, we had a variation on cole slaw that I will be duplicating at home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Safe Places

I done did it again, as Ed is fond of saying (no, he hasn't lived south of the Mason-Dixon for fifteen years).

Once again, I put something in such a good safeplace that I can't find it. I'm preparing to take a CLEP exam next month, but the study guide I purchased earlier this summer to help me prepare for the test is nowhere to be found. It probably went walkabout, knowing the plan all along was to read it in mid-August.

I could go to my fallback, the Western Civilization IICLEP guide that I'd purchased the previous semester, but that one is such a dry read compared to the American History book. However, if I don't find it by noon tomorrow, then I guess I'm taking a different book with me-and taking a different exam, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Next Food Network Star, Week Nine

Week Nine

The final four are in New York City, where they find a really nice hotel suite. They walk around Manhattan, get hot dogs and Central Park. Tom says “You are all my mortal enemies” and everyone laughs.

The next morning, they talk about being nervous and not knowing what the challenge will be. They walk in to smoke, and blue lights and they notice four iron chefs in front of them. The words “I smell fear” are uttered by Alton, and it’s then that they realize that the challenge is Iron Chef!

Two one hour challenges, contestant vs. contestant. The Iron Chefs will judge. If you’re not a contestant, you’re a commentator. Aria realizes that Alton is an encyclopedia of food, and he instructs that they should not dismiss this part of the challenge. Herb aptly describes this as the “Super Bowl for foodies.”

Then these four are introduced to their sous chefs-Brad, Brianna, Serena and Paul. Tom chooses Brianna, but the other three have to pull from a bucket and the pairings are:
Herb and Paul
Aarti and Brad
Aria and Serena

Aarti and Herb are the first to battle, and the secret ingredient is Shrimp.

Aarti’s dishes
Turmeric Stuffed Shrimp
Prawn Masala

Herb’s dishes:
Scallop mousse stuffed Shrimp
Shrimp Soup (almost like a Cioppino)

On the commentating side, Aria isn’t paying attention or giving it the effort it needed, while Tom was taking notes of the ingredients that Aarti was using. He even did the bumper perfectly. Alton had to chastise Aria on several occasions, and when the cameras cut to Bob and Susie, both had looks of annoyance.

Meanwhile, Alton and Tom have a good rapport. When Tom didn’t know what Masala was, he asked Aarti what it was and got back to Alton about it. Aria is bantering with Alton like they’re having small talk at a cocktail party.

It’s clear that Aria does not have any basic food knowledge behind the cooking skills, definitely not something that one wants to go into a situation like this.

Herb presents first. His first dish was Enchilada de Camerones, and he explains that his Mom would make it for his Dad on Sunday mornings because it’s a good hangover cure. All the judges love the dish and Morimoto loves his energy.

Second dish is the Shrimp soup. Herb hadn’t soaked the clams, and Bobby gets a gritty broth, after the other three chefs rave about the complexity of the broth. Michael Symon says that you have to take the time to make it perfect.

Smoked Shrimp with Avocado is not as well received as this one. The shrimp did not do well with roasting and the stuffing was deemed poor. Bob says the first two dishes show he can cook with finesse, but it’s sad that they are left with this final impression.

Aarti’s turn. Her first dish is a Tomato and Coconut Gazpacho with a season roasted shrimp. The description scared Cat Cora, but she loved the flavors in the dish. The second dish is Stuffed Shrimp and Bobby raves about the bold seasoning and Michael raves that this is outstanding, while Cat says this could be served in Kitchen Stadium.

The last dish is the South of the Border Prawn Masala and it earns raves across the boards, Michael says it is the third year he’s done NFNS and it is the BEST dish he’s ever had. Bobby tells Aarti that he wants to open an Indian restaurant with her tomorrow, and Cat says she wants in on it, too. Bob and Susie offer that they are members of the clean plate club.

Now it is time for battle number two, Bacon with challengers Tom and Aria.

Tom’s dishes:
Bacon Cakes
Bacon Steak
Savory Brioche with Clams and Bacon

Aria’s dishes:
French Toast with Bacon
Omelets with hash browns and bacon
Waldorf Salad

Tom’s PoV is about going bold, and he says that Kitchen Stadium is the perfect venue. He wants bacon to be the star of the every dish and comes up with bacon cakes, similar to crab cakes. Then, he’s cooking huge slabs of bacon as a steak. Finally, he’s got a savory French toast dish with clams and bacon (EWWWW)

Aria decides to cook family style and she’s serving breakfast. The judges are going to serve themselves off of platters, because Aria is keeping to her PoV of family style.
First, it’s a French toast ‘taco’, then omelets with bacon and home fries and finally, a Waldorf salad.

On the commentary front, Herb’s doing good, but gets tripped up and Alton insists he redo his throwback. Aarti was unenthused throughout and wasn’t proactive about getting the information that Alton needed for commentary.

Aria presents her dishes. It’s family style and she says they have French Toast tacos and she is beaten up for using the bacon as a side. Her omelet was not Iron Chef worthy and the Waldorf Salad did not have any bacon flavor. The bacon was not the star of any of the dishes. I don’t think one judge had anything to rave about, with the highest accolade being ‘it’s good’

Now, it’s Tom’s turn. He does a Bacon Cake with a Citrus Salad. It has good flavor, but is very dense and Morimoto’s was overcooked. He’s told it is an inspired idea.

They can’t even cut into the Bacon steaks. The presentation is nice, but the bacon is hard and inedible. Susie told Tom he shouldn’t have served.

Clams and French toast is horrible, but he gets points for trying new things. Now, I love clams, good crispy French toast and adore bacon, but I think I’d pass if all three were on one plate.

And we’re at evaluations.

Aarti is addressed first, and she is told that her food shone, while they worried that she’d get done in time. They expected good commentary and reporting from her, but she was tentative and meek. She agrees that she could have been more aggressive.

Herb is told that he is fun to watch and the Iron Chefs all felt his personality just popped upon their first meeting with him. Susie states that she can see his PoV easily fitting into the Food Network lineup.

Bobby tells him that the finesse of the first dishes were wonderful, but he should have taken the third dish and not presented it. The commentary was not well received. When he talked to Alton he was fine, but when he had to talk to the camera, he didn’t do well at all. Herb says that it will come with practice (and he’s absolutely right), but it’s a case of others getting there before he does.

Aria’s turn. (the stills of her dishes look mediocre). Bobby says that she did not push the envelope at all. She was supposed to hit them over the head with bacon and they didn’t even get the bacon. She was hell bent on doing her PoV and not doing what she was asked. Morimoto called it diner food, and Bobby says she needed to kick ass.

Susie says the commentary was bubbly, but had no culinary expertise whatsoever. Bob says this week was all about culinary authority and she showed neither in her commentary duties or the cooking.

Tom is last. His critique was confident and Susie says that his passion shines through. The food was three swings and three misses. Bob says the Bacon steak was easily the WORST dish he’s ever had in the history of NFNS. Ouch.

Judgment time. Aarti won her battle against Herb and will be going to NY. In Tom and Aria’s battle, both didn’t bring good food, but Tom won on the commentary portion. They’re both safe.

Now, we’re down to Herb and Aria, but I think it’s clear who is going home at this point-because the food is king. Bob says Aria made the simplest of food, but didn’t make them well. Herb’s food was wonderful, but he’s unpredictable.

Herb has more of the elements they are looking for, but he needs to be polished. Aria has a natural rapport with the camera, but not the culinary authority.

Aria is going home.

Next week, three pilots!

I will be completely honest-I would be happy to watch ANY one of these three. I’m kind of gunning for Tom first, because I just love his casual nature and nonchalance with his expertise. However, I would love to learn how to cook Indian and it would be amazing to learn how to cook the Latin cuisine we adore in this house, but in a healthier way.

No matter who wins at this point, I feel like I’ve won-because there will be a show worth watching.

Part of me suspects that there will be a runner up or two on the Cooking channel, because they can work with all three of these finalists.

Let’s see what happens Sunday night.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Next Food Network Star, Week Eight

Yes, I know this is very late. I didn't get to watch the episode until Friday night, kept a running Word document-and promptly forgot to post it all weekend long.

I knew who'd been eliminated before watching, and it disappointed me a little, so that had something to do with the delay in watching. As far as the most recent episode, I again know who got eliminated and thought I didn't have an episode to watch, but Ed very sweetly remembered to tape it while I was at my event.

Anyway, here's the recap for week eight:

The show opens in the kitchen and the five are talking about homesickness.

They walk into the Food Star Kitchens to Giada and nothing else. They are instructed to take 45 minutes to make a dish that is THEM for the camera challenge.
Aria-Anchovies brought in by her son Luca.
Aarti-Okra brought in by her husband
Tom-White Pepper, brought by his fiancé
Brad-Ranch dressing, brought by his brother Alex
Herb-Canned Peas brought by his wife and kids

They’ve got 40 minutes to make their dishes with those ingredients.
Brad-Bacon and Spinach Risotto with Ranch Dressing The presentation was a little stiff, but more pizazz than we've seen. He's got a new PoV and it seems much better
Aria-Mashed potato pizza with onions and anchovies The judges liked both the presentation and the food
Herb-Pork Medallions with a pea puree. The judges said he’s scattered and it was quite obvious in the camera presentation and in how the food turned out.
Tom-Poached salmon with white pepper, salmon cake. The judges liked the food and were mixed on his to camera outing today
Aarti-Lucia-Lucica indian fried rice. They weren't as impressed with this dish and Aarti was off of her camera game.

Aria wins, the families get to visit for a few minutes, then leave. To me, that would have been worse then not seeing them at all.

Part two, the finalists file in and find hearts on the table. Giada tells them she won’t seem the finalists until the final two, because the rest are going to NY. She introduces Todd English. The star challenge, each contestant gets an emotion and the dish is inspired by emotion.
Aria melancholy
Herb joy

Aria switches with Herb. Then it’s announced that they’ll be cooking for Giada, Todd and Eva Longoria. $300 and 30 minutes to shop. Then they'll have 90 minutes to prep in the Food Star Kitchens, with 30 minutes to finish at Beses.

Brad-Grilled steak with onions/Sea Bass with cream sauce
Aarti-Lamb pulauu
Aria-beef tenderloin Milanese and a potato gratin
Herb, braised short ribs, seared scallops and mofongo
Tom-tale of two tunas. Tuna Tartare, and Ahi tuna

Some of the finalists get the idea and run with it, while others founder. Brad decides to make a variation on Surf and Turf, but neglects to talk about the surprise in a way that pleases the judges. The potato coating on his fish (the surf) was not crunchy, to Bobby's dismay.

Aarti was a little subdued as compared to her normal demeanor and forgets to even mention fear. When asked, she said that fear came in because she was afraid of some of this competition and this is Mum's cooking, which calms her when she's in this state. Weak explanation, but Todd and Bobby love the food.

Aria was worried that she hadn't had enough prep time in the Food Star Kitchens, so as soon as she's ensconced in the kitchen here, she places portions of her gratin into single sized portions into a Blodgett oven. She runs out of time to taste the potatoes, which are crunchy. She talks to the judges and never mentions joy until asked, at which time she tells them that this is a family dinner for her, which brings her joy. She misses a huge opportunity to run with the emotion.

Herb's turn and he is worried that his mofongo won't turn out well, because it normally uses a ton of fat to hold it together. He's prepared for this and has a biscuit ring to mold it on the plate. The braised short ribs and the mofongo are well received and Herb's energy is finally back. Oh yeah, I need to see if they posted that mofongo recipe, because that looked so good. (I am on a quest for real mofongo after Guy Fieri raved about it)

Tom comes out and tells a tale of two tunas. One tuna was raw, tender and adored, while the other became jealous, crispy and fiery hot. The judges are pleased with both the food and the presentation and Tom shines.

It's time for elimination. Tom wins the challenge and he and Herb are told they are safe. Then Brad, Aarti and Aria are told the judges need to deliberate-the toughest one they've had. I'm thinking Aria is going home, because she's been stuck in neutral for a while. (I know the outcome, but based on watching the show, that would have been my call)

When they're called in, the three judges are visibly upset, with Susie crying. Aarti is told she is safe and then Aria...

is safe.

Brad goes home. (Whaaaaaaaa?)

We're down to four, who head to New York and two more episodes.

At this point, I'm rooting for anyone but Aria. She's just not creative enough compared to the other three and all three of them have personalities and culinary perspectives I would LOVE to watch, either on Food or Cooking.

Next week's episode up tomorrow.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Advice For Incoming College Students

One simple thing that will pay off big in your college experience:


Find at least one organization, activity or club on your campus that either is an interest you already have or one you want to know more about. Attend their meetings. If they offer training, outings or anything beyond the original scope of weekly meetings, do your best to participate.

I just spent a weekend with the STARS Alliance in Orlando, as my school was hosting this year's event. There was a large contingent from my school there, from all the organizations on campus-and it was an incredible experience. I participate in three four campus organizations, and it was cool to spend more time with people from my groups and others this weekend.

It seems that across the boards, the students who do get involved tend to be more successful academically. Think about it, you are more likely to meet up with others who are in the same classes and can study together or even ask a simple question about a lecture and get clarification.

Heck, there are a few professors teaching my major that, thanks to belonging to the groups, teach in a style that would frustrate me. I was saved from that because my club mates.

As you head on to campus in the next few weeks, find the groups and you'll find success.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Oxymorons R Us

Instant Classic?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The View From My Room

It's been many, many years since I've attended a convention for school. Last time, I shared a glorified closet with a friend in Pawling, New York at a Y retreat.

This time, I hit pay dirt:

So, that's a mini bar, eh?

Fun and luxury, all at one time-and I didn't have to pay for it? Sweet!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Feed Me Friday

The other night, I was asked to make burgers. If I bought the big pack of beef with the knowledge that it would be used for something else.

Chef mentioned last night that we should make empanadas with our favorite house dressing mixed in. Game Teen has been asking for apple empanadas ever since I started making them at home. This time, he got his wish.

A half dozen apple, 3 cherry for Ed. A little ice cream, too and this is the mess we enjoyed:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Should I Be Worried?

I bought a travel scrabble game because Chef enjoys board games in general and because it would be nice to have someone else in the house playing it with me. So, he asked to play it today.

This was his first word:

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Office With A View

This is a curiosity I came upon while on campus today.

Some people crave an office, some people crave a window with a view. Others decide to do something about it and take their office outside!

What you don't see is the other stuff that made it clear that this was a recent change of venue!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Two Years of Cooking School

And Chef really doesn't do that much cooking. Oh, he knows way more about food pairings and what will taste good together more than any 11 year old should, but he doesn't put his knowledge into actually using the stove or oven.

Until tonight, that is. After a Game Teen requested meal of homemade burgers (chimichurri salt and pepper on them) and an ABC salad, I got the ubiquitous Chef needs dessert signal. The mouth open, puppy dog eyes, quivery lip and index finger pointing to an empty mouth.

This time, though, I told him that he was perfectly capable of opening a box of brownie mix and cooking them himself. So he did, see?

Of course, they would not be Chef's creation without monkeying with them. Peanut butter, special dark and white chocolate chips and marshmallows on top.

He did good.

I think I piqued his interest when I said that I don't use the boxes, that mine are made from scratch (those are in there when there is no time and Ed is jonesing for chocolate) and use way more vanilla. I suspect that next week, the child will be asking for that recipe.

Brownies, the gateway drug to getting the kids cooking in the kitchen...

Monday, August 02, 2010

It's All Over But the Final

I drafted Chef into cameraman duties for my video. The boy did his best to ensure no one saw any of the floors of the house-missing my lovely vacuuming job (including his room!). He also missed showing the piano I was talking about!

The efforts paid off, as I got a 96 on this exam. It puts me at a 96.3 heading into Wednesday's final. That makes it safe to say that this semester's grades as an A, another A in Biology, of all things, a B- in a class that I really liked and another A.

I may put up some outtakes later on, because there were some requests and Chef did crack me up a couple of times.

Then this week, it's off to the bookstore in Tampa, so I can get ready for another semester.

Four classes left and I'll have a degree...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Does This Look Clean to You?

My last oral exam for Spanish is a video of mí casa. I'll be taping it in the morning and as such, asked the kids to clean their rooms. I've been asking since Chef got back from camp for him to complete this task.

Strangely, I got better results out of Game Teen four days ago and his room has stayed relatively neat since then.

He promised Ed he would clean when Ed was leaving for work yesterday afternoon. That didn't happen, so he was told no games today. The picture above is what he considers a clean room.

And your opinion?