Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So much to write about!

I have been sick since Thursday. I think a mild stomach flu. But since everyone in my lab (or their children or spouses) has been sick with major stomach flus recently I wasnt taking any chances. I finally feel like I am going to recover and am at work for at least the majority of the day today. Yay! I hate when being sick ruins a weekend though. I left my house Thursday to walk to work, got halfway there and decided that I did not want to spend the day throwing up in my work bathroom so I walked back home and then didnt leave my apartment until yesterday morning. So yeah, fun times.

As for a quick life update, my parents are officially (as of Friday) the owners of two boats! The closing went through and there you have it. We are all going down to Annapolis this weekend to check her out, start working on her etc. Very exciting.

Ok, first off, movies:
Rachel Getting Married (2008). Basic story: Girl (Kym played by Anne Hathaway) is released from rehab and goes home to her family in the midst of her sister's (Rachel played by Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding-preparation. Not a comedy! This was one I added in my attempt to try to see the major Oscar nominees (Anne Hathaway for Leading Actress). This is not The Princess Diaries' Anne Hathaway. This isn't even Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway. She is fantastic. She really is. That being said, I could not relate to a single character in this movie. (This is also Matty's main complaint) It is probably good that I can't relate because these are some fairly dysfuncational characters. And I do not in any way think that this is a fault of the actor's or the movie at all really. But, as I have mentioned in the past, it makes it difficult for me to really enjoy a drama when I have no emotional connection to anyone. But the movie is really well done, the story is interesting, I would recommend it, but am not gushing over it.

The Road to Guantanamo (2006). Part drama, part documentary focussing on the Tipton Three, 3 British Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay for 2 years without being charged. Essentially 1 of the three goes to Pakistan to find a wife in late September 2001, the other 2 and another friend go to Pakistan for his wedding that October. While in Pakistan they decide to check out the situation in nearby Afghanistan which is being bombed by the US in response to 9-11. While there they are captured and end up in Gitmo even though they have no ties to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. I think the film was very well done and certainly paints a bad picture of the way the US does (or at least did) things. And what Pakistan and Afghanistan were like in those early months of fighting. But some major questions are left unanswered in my mind. I dont want to spell them out since I think it might take away from the movie. But I think you would have similar questions. I would recommend seeing it, but not putting it very high on my list of must-sees.

Ok, so I mentioned that I have been sick right? So that means I get to read whatever I want right? Right?! Ok, so I have been completely sucked in by the Twilight books. If any of you pay any attention to my little Goodreads thing on the sidebar you might notice that it takes me FOREVER to get through a book. So I started Twilight last Sunday night. I finished Thursday. I had Matty pick me up New Moon on his way home. I started and finished it on Friday. He picked me up Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Saturday (he is too good to me). I started Eclipse Saturday and finished yesterday and started Breaking Dawn yesterday and have about 200 pages left. So yeah. A little obsessive. But they are SOO fast to read. So it isnt just me. Now I know that some of you are thinking, "Oh My God, she is one of them!" But I am not. Really. Maybe. Ok, so first off. These are not GOOD books. These are fun books. They are entertaining. They are not terribly well written. The heroine pisses me off (even more often in the later books than in the first one) and the author (or at least her editor) really upsets me sometimes with slips in story etc. But these books were written for me and my friends when we were in high school. Yeah, I know my 10 year high school reunion is this year. And I admit that I am probably at the outside age of intended (or at least proper) audience. But they totally tug at the heartstrings and the memories of those days. The moody-aloof boyfriend, the drama, the wish to be a vampire. That was totally me. And yeah, I kinda still want to be a vampire. So there. I said it. I mean (and this is directed straight to you Beta) there is a vampire named Esme! For Christ sakes. So yeah. There ya go. Of course I am going to see the movie. But I do not expect it to be good, at all, there is no way a good movie could be made from these books. Because they are not good books. But I hope it will be entertaining. And I have absolutely no doubt that these books hold NO interest for any guys. So I would recommend staying away from them.

Just one, I have not much been up for cooking or eating. But Matty made this for me Sunday and it was excellent!
Hawaiian Ginger-Chicken Stew from EatingWell (of course) March/April 2009. (I forgot to take a pic of ours, sorry)

Makes 4 servings, about 1 cup each (I have no idea how much there was, I was not paying attention, and I only had a little little bit since I was not really hungry)

ACTIVE TIME: 35 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes


1 tablespoon sesame oil or canola oil (w e used canola)
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces (we used breasts)
1 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks or minced (we minced it)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (we minced this too)
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth (we used 2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups water (we used 1 cup)
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian red chile sauce, such as sriracha, or to taste
1 bunch mustard greens or chard, stemmed and chopped (6-7 cups), or 2 cups frozen chopped mustard greens (we used about 2 cups chopped mustard greens and then another cup frozen chopped spinach)

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs.
2. Add ginger and garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and water, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, chile sauce and mustard greens (or chard) and cook until the greens are tender, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy International Waffle Day!

Mmmm! Waffles!

Ok, so this is just going to be a recipe post.

Last night we made Couscous, Lentil and Arugula Salad with Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette from the latest issue of EatingWell magazine (March/April 2009). It was AWESOME! We will definitely be making this a regular I think. In case you couldn't guess, what it is supposed to look like is on the left and what it did look like is on the right. The dressing is so delicious, we will be making that to keep in the fridge as well.

Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups each (It made enough for the two of us for dinner plus 1 lunch, but we were both pretty hungry)

ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups vegetable broth or water (I used chicken broth since I had it on hand)
1 cup whole-wheat couscous (I used regular couscous since I had it on hand)
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup French green lentils or brown lentils, rinsed (I used Goya lentils, which I think are brown)
4 cups arugula, any tough stems removed, or mixed salad greens (we couldnt get arugula so used mixed spring greens)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (we used half an English cucumber)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

We also added 1 avocado, sliced

1. To prepare vinaigrette: Combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a blender, a jar with a tight-fitting lid or a medium bowl. Blend, shake or whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
2. To prepare salad: Bring 1 1/4 cups broth (or water) to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, cover, remove from the heat and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
3. Combine 2 1/2 cups water and lentils in another saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until just tender, 15 to 25 minutes. (Green lentils will be done sooner than brown lentils.) Be careful not to overcook the lentils or they will fall apart in the salad. Drain any excess water and let cool for about 10 minutes.
4. If arugula leaves are large, tear into bite-size pieces. Toss arugula (or greens) with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette in a large bowl, then divide among 4 large plates. In the same bowl, toss the couscous and lentils with another 1/4 cup vinaigrette; divide the mixture among the plates. Top each salad with cucumber, tomatoes and feta and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette. (Cover and refrigerate the remaining 1 cup vinaigrette for up to 1 week.)

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 549 calories; 18 g fat (5 g sat, 10 g mono); 17 mg cholesterol; 79 g carbohydrate; 22 g protein; 15 g fiber; 579 mg sodium; 630 mg potassium.

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A & Vitamin C (25% daily value), Iron (20% dv), Potassium (18% dv), Calcium (17% dv).
4 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 5 starch, 2 vegetable, 1/2 medium fat meat, 3 fat

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette (Step 1) for up to 1 week.

As I mentioned, we added a sliced avocado and we served it with toast points because I had bought a yummy loaf of bread that I wanted to have, but was unnecessary. Very very very good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Not the dairy product. The movie. We saw it last night. It was fantastic. See it. NOW! Sigh, you didnt go did you? Well you should. Because it was great. Sean Penn was great. Now, I have never seen any actual footage of Harvey Milk. So I cant say that he did a great job at being him. But there are a lot of people who were there who were either in the film, or helped with the film. (Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, Carol Ruth Silver, Danny Nicoletta) And watching the extra features, they seem to love Penn's portrayal, so that is good. Right? Ok, so as a quick summary, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to office in the country. And this is the story of his (too short) political career. Emile Hirsch was great as Cleve Jones, Josh Brolin was a pretty creepy Dan White, James Franco was absolutely fantastic as Scott Smith, Alison Pill was great as Anne Kronenberg. Gus Van Sant did a fabulous job mixing the archival footage in with the film and I really liked they way that it was filmed as a whole. I think it is a very important and perhaps prescient comment on many aspect of humanity and American culture in the San Francisco of the 1970s and of America today.

Once you have seen it, or if you know Harvey Milk's feelings on being closeted, you will see how offensive this is. I am not enbedding it here because if you dont know the full story of Harvey Milk, it kinda gives away the ending. But basically Harvey's whole idea for the gay movement was that if everyone came out and everyone was truthful about their sexual orientation, it would move the cause forward. Because it is a lot harder to hate people you know than people you dont know. So people realized that they actually knew gay people (your doctor, your lawyer, your aunt) maybe it would be harder for people to hate them so much. But when Fox News reviewed the movie they describe it as the story of "1970s politician," played by Sean Penn who "smiles a lot," but will probably have a small limited audience. A 1970s politician. Ugh! So yeah. See it.

Happy national chocolate covered raisin day!

Let me see. I guess I will do some weekend updates. Friday night we had dinner at Sidecar (chili, nachos and carnitas all half price) and then played Rock Band/Guitar Hero at Dan's. Matty has fallen completely in love with the chili at Sidecar. He wont stop talking about it in fact. I admit that it was pretty awesome. Especially half priced for happy hour. I think I am just tired of hearing about it.

Saturday, instead of letting me sleep in as promised we got up and met with some friends from Pittsburgh. They were visiting a friend of their's who was celebrating Match. Said friend doesnt like Philly and doesnt really know Philly, so we became tour guides for the day. We started in the Italian Market which was nice since Matty and I rarely go down there. Then we walked up to Sarcone's for lunch. Mmmmmm. . . . Sarcone's . . . . Mmmmmm . . . . drooling just thinking about it. After lunch we walked up to South and wandered "South Street" for a bit and then headed to the river. The weather was ok, a bit chilly in the shade, but sunny at least. I mean not spring weather, but not too cold. We headed up through Society Hill and into Old City and stopped for a drink (or a few) at National Mechanics. They have iTunes DJ running which is way cool. So since Matty has his iPhone, we could all vote for what to play, for free. So that was cool. I tried the Original Sin cider. Which, if you like apple juice is perfect for you. It tastes exactly like apple juice. Except it is 6% alcohol.

The rest of the evening was orchestrated by the med school friend, so not quite me and Matty's scene. After a bit of a side trip we all ended up at Black Sheep for dinner. We hadnt been, so Matty got to try somewhere new. I was fairly impressed with their beer list. I HATE that prices aren't listed though. HATE that. But everything we ended up with was in the $4-$5.50 range which wasnt bad. I was pretty disappointed with the food though. The burger I ordered rare was medium-well at best. The pulled pork was overly sweet in my opinion. But I am picky about bbq sauce. So that is just a personal preference. But the burger, that is disappointing. The fries were good. Everyone else seemed to like their meals. After dinner we went to Fado for drinks. It was absolutely packed with young drunk obnoxious "fratty" types. It was loud. And dark. So we all stood in a corner and had our overpriced drinks and tried not to go to the bathroom (to avoid the vomit). Finally we left and went to meet other med students. At a wine bar. A really nice restaurant and wine bar (which we werent dressed for) called Di Vino. It used to be Valentino's. It is adorable and the menu looks delicious. But it was closing 5 minutes after we arrived. It is a tiny little space (there were 8 of us) and we had all been drinking beer (or cider) all night. So yeah. We waited until her friends (who were getting the check when we arrived) left. And then she left with them to go to a party in the Art Museum area that we werent invited to. I went home because I was tired and had had enough. Matty went with everyone else back to Dan's for Rock Band.

Sunday we made breakfast (egg, sausage and potato sandwiches) then ran some errands. We are still looking for a tea kettle.

Yesterday, Lenka (the other GGR grad student in our lab) successfully defended. So she is now Dr. Yunk. One more defense in May (our MD-PhD student) and then me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It certainly doesn't feel like Spring!

Brr! It was downright chilly this morning. Certainly not very Spring-y.

Last night we made Corn and Scallion Griddlecakes for dinner. We topped them with fried eggs, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. And we had a side of sauteed mushrooms and jalapenos. It was very yummy though there were some setbacks to the cooking process int he beginning. The nonstick of the skillet is VERY important.

Then we watched The Kingdom at Dan's for movie night. The general consensus was that we learned a lot about Saudi Arabia that we didn't know before, the acting was generally good (Jennifer Garner) to very good (Ashraf Barhom) but the casting was poor in some places (Jamie Foxx, Jason Bateman), Jeremy Piven needs to stay out of dramatic roles, and apparently FBI forensic investigators and bomb experts are incredibly well trained in on-the-ground gun combat as well as hand-to-hand combat. It is not as bad-ass as some people thought it would be. Though it has at least a couple of pretty bad-ass scenes. I would say it is worth seeing, but maybe not putting at the top of your queues. And we had zeppole from Termini Bros. in honor of St. Joseph's Day! We had traditional vanilla custard ones and also ricotta cheese and chocolate chips ones, like a cannoli cream puff! The cheese ones were delish! I don't really like custard so I stuck with those.

I remembered to take a pic of the leftover Cajun-Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Chicken. So here you go.

In other news, my parent signed the sales papers today for their new boat, a 1987 42' Passport Cutter in Annapolis. Here is a pick from the haul from the survey last week. You can see other pics and info here. So as long as nothing goes wrong between now and the closing, they will very shortly be owners of 2 boats. So if you or anyone you know is in the market for a 34' Catalina in RI, let me know!

Corn and Scallion Griddlecakes from EatingWell July/August 1997 (makes 20-24 3" griddlecakes)

1 large egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked corn kernels (from 2-3 ears)
(I used thawed Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn)
6 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated smoked Cheddar cheese
(I would add a little more)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
(We added a little [~2 tsp] more when we couldn't flip them)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup tomato salsa
6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 200°F.
2. Whisk egg, buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in corn, scallions, cheese and jalapeño.
3. Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder and baking soda in another bowl; stir into wet ingredients.
4. Brush remaining 1 teaspoon oil evenly over a large nonstick
(VERY important) skillet; heat over medium heat. (We used a Le Creuset skillet, which was not nonstick enough so by the time the griddlecake cooked enough to flip, it was burned to the pan. First we added a little more flour to the batter. That didnt work. So we switched to our nonstick skillet and everything was fine.) Use about 3 tablespoons of batter for each griddlecake. Working in batches, spoon batter into hot skillet and spread into 3-inch rounds. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom and set around the edges, about 2 minutes. Turn the cakes with a spatula and cook until lightly browned on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more.
5. Transfer griddlecakes to an ovenproof platter, cover loosely with foil and keep warm in the oven until all of the batter is cooked. Serve hot with salsa and sour cream.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 269 calories; 10 g fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono); 53 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 10 g protein; 4 g fiber; 826 mg sodium; 412 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Calcium (21% daily value), Vitamin A (17% dv). 2 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

And Match Day for some of you!

Not much to report, but we had a lovely dinner last night with a new recipe to share. It is a bit of a combination of Picnic Oven-Fried Chicken and Cajun Pecan-Crusted Catfish, both from Eating Well.

Pecan-Crusted Oven-Fried Chicken Breasts
4-6 chicken breast halves (depending on size)
1/2 cup cultured nonfat buttermilk
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp bottled minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
~2 tsp hot sauce, divided
~1 tsp dried oregano
~1/2 tsp chili powder, preferably chipotle chili powder
~1 tsp dried minced garlic
2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup pecan halves

Mix buttermilk, mustard, bottled garlic, 1 tsp hot sauce (I used Sriracha for this part) in a small bowl. Pour over chicken and coat completely. I did this in the morning and then put it in the fridge for the day so it was probably about 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a food processor mix ~1 tsp hot sauce (I used Frank's for this part), oregano, chili powder, dried garlic and cornflakes. Pulse until coarse crumbs form. Pour cornflake mixture onto a plate. Add the pecans to the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add pecans to the cornflakes and mix together. Dredge marinated chicken in the cornflake/pecan mixture and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, flip over. Bake an additional 5-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

I forgot to take a picture, but I will try to remember to take a pic of the leftovers tonight and post it. It was really really really good! Very moist and the crust was out of this world. We had a salad on the side. Matty dipped his in Remoulade. I thought it was perfect on its own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Between Patrick and Joseph

Last night we met after work at Greek Lady for dinner which was great as always. Then we went up to Distrito for a drink before the movie. This is Jose Garces's (Amada, Tinto) new "modern Mexican" restaurant in The Hub in University City. The space itself is gorgeous. They did a fantastic job. We sat at the bar and both had the house margarita (figured we should start witht he basics). It was very good. But I am not sure that I would be able to have more than one. The $10 price tag is part of it, but it was very sour and so I am not sure that I would be able to go there for "drinks." It old Matty I thought it was a good dinner margarita. If you are just going to have one while eating it was very good. The menu looks interesting. A mix of small plates and entrees with a wide range of prices ($6-$32) and complexity (chicken enchiladas - pork belly mole). I would like to go back and try the food, but it is definitely a "special occasion" place.

Then we went to the movie, Watchmen. So I have not read the book (or books) so I can't comment on how well it matches. I hear it is pretty good. I would like to read it to compare. First off I will say that it was very good. Excellent even. The acting is superb. The movie is beautiful. And the effects are perfect. It was 162 minutes but didnt drag at all. So those are all the pluses. On the minus category, it was very gory. One of the bloddiest movies I have seen in awhile. And not just the stylized bloodiness like Sin City, but actual gory bloodiness that I looked away fromt he screen for. Which isnt necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing to mention. If you are not a blood and guts person, beware. The only actual problem I had with it was that, since I havent read it, I was awfully confused at times. I felt like there were some background points that I really wanted explained. I wanted to know a bit more about the Minutemen and why their were Watchmen to begin with. I wanted a clearer explanation of the changes in history/current events as they differ from what really happened. However, the movie is close to 3 hours, so I understand the need to forego some of the background. But I think a little more info-dump narrative even would have placated some of my questions maybe. And some of the background I am just interested in but wasnt really integral to the plot, like Rorschach's mask. But while watching the movie I didnt know if it was integral or not, like the cat, and so I kept thinking about it. But I dont want to give anything away. So there you go. I really really liked it. I like the story, I like that they are (mostly) like Batman ("real people") as opposed to Superman (not "real people"). I thought the movie itself and the acting was spectacular. I highly recommend it to anyone who isnt afraid of a bit of blood and guts and who is willing to suspend reality for awhile. It is a superhero movie, but with depth and plot.

So in other news, actual news. Things that caught my attention this morning and therefore I am bringing to yours. Firstly, in an effort to thaw "chilly relations" between Russia and the US, Hillary met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva earlier this month and presented him with a token of our willingness to "reset" our relationship - a small red button with the word "reset" written on it, in Russian. A cute little thing, maybe a little low on the dignified scale, but a gift to warm things up. Except the the button had "peregruzka" written on it, which means "overcharged." As opposed to "perezagruzka" which actually means "reset". Now the Foreign Minister and the Secretary took this all in stride and apparently the mistake was fixed and while the Russian media has poked a bit of fun at Clinton, and the US, its not like she accidentally declared war. But seriously. We dont have anyone in the state department who speaks Russian? Really?! Or no one with a decent English-Russian dictionary?! C'mon people! This coming just one day after the President and First Lady completely screwed up a gift giving session with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The Brown's presented the Obamas with
a pen holder fashioned from the oak timber of HMS Gannet, a Navy vessel that served on anti-slavery missions off Africa.
a framed commissioning paper for the HMS Resolute, a Royal Navy ship that came to symbolize British-American goodwill when it was rescued by the U.S. from icebergs and given to Queen Victoria. It is the sister ship of the HMS Gannet.
a first edition of Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill, whose World War II partnership with President Franklin Roosevelt symbolized the U.S.-Anglo alliance.
for Sasha and Malia, Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, gave each an outfit from Topshop, a British chain of clothing stores, and selected six children's books by British authors which have yet to be published in the U.S.
And what did we give them? A "special collector's box" of DVDs of 25 Classic American movies. AND "toy helicopters modeled after Marine One" for their 2 boys. Now Gordon Brown is not like a particular movie buff or anything. And Marine One toys can be found in the White House gift shop. So what exactly were they thinking giving these to the Prime Minister of a country who has stodd by us through some of our stupidest recent blunders and who was the first guests the President has had? I have no idea, but someone needs a better shopper apparently. It isnt like there isnt anyone in Washington who knows how to give state gifts right?! And while this was barely reported in the US, a few other people took notice, and are not pleased at all.

And fianlly for my rant of the day: Pope visits Africa, reaffirms ban on condoms. Ugh.
More than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to a 2008 UNAIDS/WHO report. Nine out of 10 children with HIV in the world live in the region, which has 11.4 million orphans because of AIDS, the report said, and 1.5 million people there died of the disease in 2007.
So yeah, the best idea is to go there and reaffirm that they are going to hell if they use artificial contraception. GRRR!!!!!!!!!!! But, on a positive note,
He has, however, assembled a panel of scientists and theologians to consider the narrow question of whether to allow condoms for married couples, one of whom has HIV
Though "it is still not clear how the pope will rule on the matter." So glad I am only a recovering Catholic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Ok, so first up, some pics from Dan's (apple cake, soda bread, Matty):

Sunday we got up (slowly) and went to Marathon for brunch. We were a little disappointed, for the first time really. Matty ordered gingerbread pancakes and got regular, possibly with chocolate chips. And my breakfast quesadilla was a bit lacking in veggies. Everything was very good, as always, but still. Just sayin'. Then we walked up to the Parkway for the St. Patrick's Day parade. Pics can be found here. This city loves a parade. A parade centered around a holiday best known (in this country) for drunken tomfoolery? They are in heaven. White trash, public drunkeness heaven. The parade itself I like. Lots of kilts and drums and bagpipes and step dancers and sweaters. The other parade watchers, not such a big fan. They are the biggest group of chain smoking, miller lite drinking (from plastic water bottles in many cases), disgusting people I have ever seen. They all show up for these things. They are hard up people. I dont know what it is, they are dirty and have bad manners and their kids are gross and they yell. A lot. Usually in an attempt to get free things. Usually things they have no chance to get. And they fucking LOVE Danny Bonaduce. Talk about a hard-up person. He was in the parade since he does a show on WYSP now.

Well anyway after the parade we stopped at Naked for a hot chocolate (for Matty) and a chocolate tea (for me). Then we stopped at DiBruno's for some dinner fixin's. We got turkey saltimbocca meatballs, roasted garlic and artichoke potato pancakes and broccoli rabe. And some Irish cheddar and a loaf of Sarcone's seeded bread. Mmmmmm! Everything was lovely. We had dinner while we watched Speed Racer. I was pretty pleasantly surprised. I went in expecting a complete disaster. But considering it is a movie, made by the Wachowski Brothers, based on a weird-ass Japanese cartoon about car racing; I was really impressed. It is very pretty and technically pretty cool. The amount of detail, especailly with the cars is remarkable and the plot, while not exactly complex, is enough to keep you interested between the races. I never watched the cartoon, so I have no idea how true it is to the story. But if you like cartoony-comic booky movies, cool car races, monkeys (sorry, chimps) or John Goodman (I love John Goodman myself) - I would recommend seeing it.

Last night we made Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas and Spanich Rice from Cooking Light (recipe follows) with Cuban Style Black Beans from Trader Joes. It was really really good. Would definitely make it again, with some changes (mentioned in recipe). It made enough for probably 4 dinners. I really really love the spanish rice. While eating we watched (finally) Sicko. Ok, now I am not going to get into the woes of our health care and insurance companies now. Hopefully I will have time to do a whole post on it, because I have a lot to say. And I know that Michael Moore does not present a fair and balanced story on any topic. But even if a quarter of the stuff in this movie is true, I just dont get how people aren't up in arms and revolting in the streets about this. Really. I am sure you have seen it if you want to see it. If you haven't and think that our health care system works and you think the evil's of SOCIALISM far outweigh the plight of the American people who can't afford their health care, dont see it, he isnt going to change your mind. If you think there is something wrong with our health care system and can deal with Moore's biases, see it.

Tonight we are going to go see Watchmen. So watch here for a review.

I am going to try putting recipes at the end of my posts so that you can just read them with my comments all at once. And then people who arent interested can skip all the discussion. Hope this works.

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas (their pic on left, ours on right)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
(I used dried minced)
1 (10-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
(next time I might use cream of mushroom)
1 (8-ounce carton) fat-free sour cream
(I used reduced fat)
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon garlic powder
(again, I used dried minced)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
(I used 12)

1/2 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
(I just chopped up 1 plum tomato)
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
(I used half of an onion)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare sauce, combine first 4 ingredients; stir well.

To prepare enchiladas, heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. (I added a little olive oil since it was pretty dry) Add mushrooms; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic powder, cumin, salt, and spinach; cook 5 minutes or until heated. Combine spinach mixture and 1/4 cup cheese in a large bowl; stir to combine. (I mixed it in the skillet, one less dish to wash)

Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Warm tortillas according to package directions. (We microwaved them under a damp paper towel for a minute) Spoon about 1/3 cup spinach mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place filled tortillas seam sides down in the baking dish. (This was pretty messy as many of the tortillas split) Spread remaining sauce evenly over tortillas; top with 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Top with tomato and green onion.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 2 enchiladas)

CALORIES 356 (26% from fat); FAT 10.2g (sat 5.6g,mono 2.8g,poly 1.3g); IRON 4.1mg; CHOLESTEROL 33mg; CALCIUM 475mg; CARBOHYDRATE 50.4g; SODIUM 874mg; PROTEIN 17.8g; FIBER 8g

Cooking Light, MAY 2002

Spanish Rice
Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves (I used 3). Sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/4 cups long-grain white rice; sauté 1 minute. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles and 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth. (We also added a 4.5 oz can of chopped green chilies, undrained due to a mis-reading of the recipe) Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Between the Ides and the Drunks

Let me see. I have some movies, some restaurants, some recipes and some updates.

Friday night we decided (at least temporarily) to avoid the Beer Week ridiculousness and stay in. We ordered Chinese from our new favorite take-out place Golden Empress. One great thing about this place is that they have a full vegetarian menu, even with some vegetables on it! As opposed to just being fake meat. Of which there is a lot. We have gotten both meat and vegetable items and everything has been great. I especially enjoy the pan fried pork wontons and the Moo Shu chicken. While eating we watched Changeling. I was fairly impressed. I honestly did not expect a whole lot from this, mostly because I didnt know anyone who saw it. But it was very good. Angelina Jolie was great and actually looked distraught and disheveled and overall not terribly attractive in some scenes. Which I totally mean as a compliment. You know those movies when a women is going through (quite literally) hell but is still well coiffed and made up? I hate that. The acting all around was very good, particularly by John Malkovich and Jason Butler Harner, with the notable (in my opinion) exception of Eddie Alderson. In case you, somehow, don't know the movie, it is about a woman (Angelina Jolie) whose son disappears in LA in 1928. The much-scrutinized, scandalized and criticized (in large part by John Malovich) LAPD reunites her with her son five months later. Except the boy they reunite her with is not her son. And the LAPD does not want to admit the "mistake." It explores police corruption, the powerlessness of the everyday citizen, especially women and a little bit of psychosis in 1928 while showing the power of organization, friends in high places and a little bit of hope. The movie is beautifully done and I believe it is well worth the 2 and a half hours.

After the movie Matty went to Doobies with Dan for the tail end of the Yuengling event there and met the owner and talked for awhile. I read. Currently nearing the end of Needful Things. I am enjoying it, though feel like I probably should have read the other Castle Rock books first.

Saturday we headed up to Northern Liberties for brunch at El Camino Real, the new Tex-Mex restaurant by Bar Ferdinand owner Owen Kamihira. We had really high hopes as we absolutely love Bar Ferdinand. And we were pretty disappointed. Our brunch was ok. We got the brisket hash (wagyu beef brisket, potatoes, poblanos, corn, with 2 fried eggs on top) and carnitas burritos. The brisket was very good, very tender but the whole dish felt like it was missing something. Hot sauce helped. And I think if my eggs were actually over easy (like I ordered them) the yolk would have helped pull things together. It was good, it just wasnt something I would order again. The burritos were interesting. Just onion, cilantro and pork, served in 2 flou tortillas. The pork was definitely on the dry side. Carnitas is not supposed to be dry. It was tasty, but dry. And since there wasnt much else going on the in burrito, it was pretty noticeable. Though it was served with salsa verde (which was very good) and that helped, as did hot sauce. We ordered chips and salsa as we were starving and the chips were good and both the red and green salsas were very good. But they were free and so we were wondering why we had to ask if they had chips and salsa instead of being asked if we wanted some. And the service was AWFUL. The place was about half full and they had plenty of wait staff but it took forever for us to get anything. We want to try it again before passing full judgement. We have heard great things about the ribs and the mac and cheese and due to our Bar Ferdinand love, we will give them another shot.

After brunch we stopped at the Foodery for some Irish cider for me for that night and then headed home for some baking. Matty (with my help) made Irish soda bread and an Irish Apple Cake. The soda bread is my mom's recipe:
4 1/2 C flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking Soda
1 tsp baking Powder
¾ C raisins
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 C buttermilk (I use cultured lowfat)
1 lg. egg lightly beaten

400 degree oven
1. In large bowl mix first 5 ingredients
2. Stir in raisins and caraway
3. Add buttermilk and stir with wooden spoon, then with fingers knead 10x with well floured hands
4. split dough into 2 round loaves and brush with egg.
5. Put 1 inch slash on each round.
6. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet for 35 – 40 minutes until golden.
*Dough may be a bit “crumbly” – just barely holding together
* I make the rounds about 11/2 inches thick so they cook through in 35 minutes.

Both the cake and the bread were great. Well, I dont like caraway or raisins, so I didnt like the soda bread. But everyone else did. It is a lot moister than most and is very tasty. The cake is really good too. It is mostly apple (4 apples to 1 cup flour) and the batter is very yummy. We served it with a caramel sauce with some whiskey mixed in (for good measure). Very yummy indeed. We made this all for Dan's St Patty's Day party Saturday night. We also brought Irish Potatoes candy. Again, not something I like but seems very popular around here. Dan made corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Your basic boiled dinner. And there was Guinness and Smithwick's and whiskey. And Bailey's for car bombs. A drunken time was had by all, or at least many.

Unfortunately, due to an emergency in the mouse colony, I will have to finish this up later. So come back for a parade and a Speed Racer review.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hoppin' John and some pics

Ok so first, some pictures from this weekend skiing.

Aren't we just fucking adorable?

Ok, last night we had new Eating Well recipe number 4 for dinner. Black-Eyed Peas with Pork and Beans. It is kind of a take on Hoppin' John. It was pretty damn tasty. I have a few suggestions. Firstly, I would use ground pork next time since I felt like I was eating pork and then rice and not really pork and rice together. And I think we would use mustard greens next time instead of kale. We used white rice because we had it and I actually thought it was brown. I would also add another half to full tablespoon tomato paste. And we both think it should have a little more spice. The smoke paprika was great, but we had smoked sweet instead of smoked hot. So next time I would either add some crushed red pepper or some chipotle chili powder (so you get some more smokiness). But over all it was pretty tasty and we would make it again. It was really easy and fast as well and made enough for 2 dinners and 2 lunches. The top picture is what it is supposed to look like and the bottom picture is what it did look like. Pretty close in my opinion. I am going to start trying to do this when possible for recipes since I know it is helpful to know what it is is supposed to look like. Though it is easiest (and therefore more likely that I will do it) to take the pics with my phone and therefore the pics are gonna kind of suck. Sorry.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

South Steet Bridge Update

So I told you awhile ago that Iwould take pics of the bridge progress every week and then post them here. Well I lied. Because did you really think I would be that up to date and stuff? But I have been taking some pics. So here they are.

December 17th, 2008

February 2nd, 2009

February 13th, 2009

February 19th, 2009

March 10th, 2009

This American Life and Stew

So we finished watching the first season of the Showtime This America Life TV show last night. If you dont know what This American Life is, shame on you. Just kidding, I am not that kind of NPR listener. But you really really should check it out. It is a radio show . . . where they pick a topic . . . and then offer vignettes on that topic . . . about life . . . in America. So yeah, it doesnt sound nearly as fantastic as it is. But really, you should check it out. Like yesterday. Because it makes me laugh out loud while walking to work. And cry on the walk sometimes too. The topics are timely and the reporters and content providers are excellent. And Ira Glass . . . . oh Ira. I had no idea how old he was! Not that he is old. But he just always struck me, as a radio listener, as a 30ish year old hipster type of guy. Not a 50 year old. But yeah. So check it out. And one good way to maybe check it out if you aren't a public radio listener or podcast subscriber is to check out the DVD of the show. Ok, so I was a bit concerned about turning a radio show that does such an excellent job of telling stories and relating ideas without needing to see anything into a television program. I was concerned that the visual representation would take away from the story they were telling. But it didnt. At all. It added in a nice way, but I think many of the stories could have been made for the radio as well. Because they are just that good. The format is the same, a topic, a lead story, Ira introducing the show from a desk in a . . . location (you just have to see it), then a few acts ont he topic. The shows are half hour instead of a full hour which left me wanting more. And there are only 6 episodes in the season. But I have heard that the show really didnt come into its own until Season 2. And if that is true I cant wait to see it because Season 1 was great. So yeah. Check it out! Or at least the radio show. Or hey, if youw ant to jump right in the This American Life Live show is being broadcast (maybe to a theater near you) on April 23rd.

Last night for dinner, while watching This American Life we had Pinto Bean and Andouille Sausage Stew. Again from Eating Well. We modified it some. Firstly we used 4 cans of canned pinto beans instead of dried. Because I didnt want to deal with dried. And so then we simmered it for half an hour, then added the sausage and bacon back and then simmered for another hour. And we only used 3 cups of liquid instead of 8. I used 2 and a quarter cups low sodium fat free chicken broth and 3/4 cup water. And I used a whole red pepper and a whole green pepper because I didnt read the directions and what was I going to do with a quarter of a pepper leftover anyway? And I used a whole jalapeno which was probably about 4 tsp. And I minced the garlic. And it was really good. Next time I might smash a can or half a can of the beans so it thickened it a little bit. But otherwise it really was excellent. And made enough for the 2 of us for dinner and then probably 4 lunch portions. Ours was a bit wetter, than that picture. Maybe I should start posting my pics of dinner too. Ok, well here is the best I can do, this is a pic of the leftovers (taken with my phone). So it wasnt as thick last night when it was hot and fresh. So maybe it will be even better leftover. Wow, that is not a very good pic is it? Well pretend it is less green looking. It really is really good and we will be making it again and you should try it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some recipes and an update

Quick update: Matty and I had a fabulous time this weekend skiing in New England. The conditions werent great (close to 50) but skiing in bad conditions is still better than not skiing in my humble opinion. We stayed at a cabin on Lake Winnipesaukee owned Sue and Don. Saturday we skied Attitash and then Sunday we played around on their snowmobiles and played in the snow and made a snowman and roasted marshmallows over the fire in their fire pit. It was a lovely mini vacation. And Matty is 100% officially hooked on skiing. Which makes me totally excited since that means I have a skiing buddy! And hopefully we will do it more often than once every 3 years or so. And he is an excellent skier. We had him on double blacks Saturday. His sixth day skiing! I will post pics as soon as I get them from my dad, I forgot my camera.

I have not been a very good cook recently, first we were preparing for the Mardi Gras party. Then I was sick. Then we had a busy week with a movie night, a Lost night and the hockey game. So we have been eating mostly leftovers and quickie meals the last few eeks. So this week I decided to try to get back to cooking and most importantly trying new recipes. First up on Monday we had Barbecue Portobello Quesadillas. They were excellent. We pretty much followed the recipe to the letter I think. The pic is from the Eating Well website. But ours pretty much looked like that. Matty cooked them the way he always cooks quesadillas. He put the tortilla in the heated pan with a little oil, once it starts to brown a little bit, he flips it over, puts the cheese on half, lets it melt a little, then adds the filling and then closes the quesadilla and cooks until filling is heated through. We had a side of chips and guacamole and each had 2 quesadillas. So this was actually a good size for us (even though it says it is 4 servings).
Last night (after drinks at Sidecar) we made Alpine Mushroom Pasta, also from Eating Well. Ours looked a little different because we modified the recipe a bit. We used Trader Joes Organic Sprouted Wheat Peppardelle since they didnt have whole wheat fettucine. We also used 5 large baby bok choys instead of the Savoy cabbage. It ended up being about 3 cups instead of 6. And we used smoked gouda because TJs didnt have any other smoked cheeses. This is excellent and I would highly recommend. It takes practically no time at all to make (the "sauce" takes about the same time as boiling the water and cooking the pasta). I would recommend (if you used the pasta and amount of cabbage we did at least, cutting a minute or two off the cooking time so the pasta is a little more al dente). It is pretty sagey and garlicy which Matty and I both enjoy, but just a warning in case you dont. It made enough for us to have for dinner last night and then to each take for lunch today. It is also very good leftover. We will definitely have this again. I think smoked mozzarella would be fantastic though the gouda did work well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy National Frozen Food Day!

3 posts! In one day! Just thought I would throw in a bit of an update since it is Friday and I dont have anything to do since something actually worked for me this week! and because we are going away this weekend to New Hampshire to go skiing! Yay!

Ok, so let's see, I was sick all last week which was awful but am doing much better now.

We had a busy week this week and I was sick last week and the previous week we were busy with Mardi Gras prep. So we havent been doing any creative cooking, but more will be coming soon I promise.

My parents may have bought a new boat! The survey is next weekend and then the decision date is the 19th. A big day for lots of people as it is also residency Match day, so everyone keep your fingers crossed for my parents and also for Beta!

Last night we went to the Flyers-Sabers hockey game. The Flyers got trounced. But we had a good time. At least partly because we were in the All-You-Can-Eat section which is a great and awful idea. All you can eat hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, soda and ice cream.

Hmmm . . . that might be all.

I am going to try my hand at talking about the economy in the near future I think. We will see. I highly recommend everyone to check out the The American Life episode - Bad Bank. It is available for free on iTunes and other places for the rest of the week, then it is $.95 and totally worth every penny. I would also highly recommend Another Frightening Show About the Economy which aired in October. The episodes are free to stream. I would also vicariously recommend the the Plant Money podcast. I havent heard it much myself, except the pieces that work their way into This American Life and NPR's Story of the Day. But what I have heard is fantastic. They do a most excellent job of distilling this terrifyingly complex and jargon-y topic into an easily digestible discussion that is equally terrifying for a completely different reason.

Battlestar Galactica, aka I am a dork

If you want an actual review and episode by episode guide to the miniseries and first season, I once again implore you to check out The Daily Drew. And I am going to say right off the bat that some of what I have to say comes from Drew, but I totally wholeheartedly agree with it and couldnt say it better myself. And I figure most (if not all) of my readers have never seen the show and so an episode by episode recap and review is less helpful. My facts are probably not perfect. So shoot me. I will try not to include many spoilers, but I have to tell you some things to get you interested. But I will nto tell you anything you wouldnt already know by the end of the beginning of the miniseries.

Ok, so Battlestar Galactica is a drama set in the trappings of a sci-fi show. Much like Lost is a sci-fi show set in the trappings of a drama. I have pretty much decided that I am going to avoid discussing Lost because nothing I would say would make any sense to anyone who hasnt seen it and it wouldnt give it justice even if it did. Just suffice it to say that if you are willing to watch all 6 (once the final ones are shown) seasons of a show, I would highly highly highly recommend Lost. Expecially if you are at all interested in JJ Abrams-style conspiracy and analysis stuff. Because it is all over the internets. You could probably spend a lifetime analyzing it (and it seems like many have tried) and still not be happy or have all the answers. Mostly, in my opinion because not even the writers have (or will have) all the answers. But if you are just going to watch a few episodes here and there, dont watch Lost. It isnt worth it.

But that is totally off-topic! Ok, so Battlestar Galactica started as a miniseries based on the 1978 series of the same name. I havent seen the original, I will say that right off the bat. I originally decided to watch because my dad kept nagging at me and I was impressed that a "sci-fi" series had such a large audience base today. So I will admit I am a fan of both the original and Next Generation iterations of Star Trek (and the movies) and my favorite show as a kid was Dr. Who (I have not seen the new ones at all yet). Whenever I am looking for a book I inevitably pick up something written or edited by Asimov or Herbert or Heinlein or Card, when I am not reading Stephen King of course. I actually liked The Postman. The book, havent seen the movie. So that is where I was starting from. But this is not Star Trek. This really is a drama. The emotion and the impetus behind watching and interest in this series is the stories of the people. And they are real people. They are 3 dimensional. None of them are wholly good, or wholly evil. They make mistakes and they make them for the same reasons we make mistakes. They make rash judgements based on raw emotion or gut feelings and sometimes, they are wrong. The show uses the setting (in space) and the basic plot (fleeing from robots) to move things along and set up a backdrop to watch how these people deal with stress and personal relationships. And that is what makes the show so neat and cool.

So ok. The basics. There are a few "spoilers" here but nothing that you wouldnt have gleaned from the first part of the miniseries. Humans create robots (Cylons) to do their bidding. The Cylons revolt. There is a war which eventually leads to armistice and peace. 40 years later the Cylons come back. They have evolved. They look and feel like people. (I totally took that all from the show's intro) They attack the 12 colonies and kill off mostly everyone. There are a few survivors, mostly on ships that were in space at the time of the attack. That is pretty much the basis of the show. The attack happens in the first part of the miniseries and everything goes from there. The first season covers what happens to the survivors in the first 3ish months following the attack. There is suspense because, since the Cylons look like people now, they have infiltrated the human race. And so no one know who is a Cylon and who isnt. And not only that, but not even all the Cylons necessarily know that they are Cylons! Boom bom bom! There is religion, but not the Bible. Because, I forgot to mention. There aren't humans from Earth. They are from Kobol, where (supposedly) the gods and man lived together. Then something happened and lead to 12 (or 13) colonizations by the 12 (or 13) tribes of Kobol 2000 years before now. These colonies are names (loosely) after our zodiac figures (Aerilon, Aquarion, Caprica, Gemenon, Leonan, Libris, Picon, Sagittaron, Scorpia, Tauron, Virgon) and their gods (The Lords of Kobol) sound awfully familiar as well (Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemic, Athena, Aurora, Hera, Zeus, Isis, etc). Which brings be to this "13th colony," in the "myths" of their religion, there was a 13th colony which left before the other 12. And this colony was on . . . . dun dun dun . . . a planet called Earth. So, like us some people believe that Kobol and the gods and the prophecies are myths and stories and some believe they are true. And this is a major plot point (or maybe crutch) of this whole show. And there is also discussion, by the Cylons of all "people," of a God. See the capital G there? And one of the sayings or proverbs of the show is "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Which of course leads to a question of when is this exactly? So there is a lot going on in the show. And don't forget, they are in space, fighting robots, some of whom look like people. So dont think that their aren't also awesome space fights and robot battles and such.

Ok, so main points -

This show is a drama set in space. It is enough sci-fi to keep sci-fi geeks happy (I think) but not too much to piss off the average viewer. There is enouch drama to keep the average viewer (I think) happy but not too much to piss off the sci-fi geek.

These are real characters with flaws. They make mistakes. They swear. A lot. Of course, since you can't swear that much on TV, they say frak as opposed to fuck. They have complicated relationships and emotional ties that make them do foolish and heroic things.

They have actual issues glossed over in many sci-fi and drama shows. For instance, they have to eat. They have to go to the bathroom. They have to have fuel. They have a government. It is a remnant (at least to start) of the colonial government, except that most of them died in the attack and so number 43(ish) on the totem pole, Secretary of Education, is now President. They also have a military, which as in most real life situations sees things very differently from the civilians.

So seriously. Check it out. I think you might like it. At least check out the miniseries. If you dont like that, dont keep watching. If you do, there are 4? seasons total, the final season is happening now-ish. It is a little hard to tell since there are a bunch of half seasons. We are on Season 2 right now. I will try not to talk too much about it from here on out since I have a feeling this is not my audience. But I had to at least try.

Death Race review

Ok, I am going to try to get through two posts today. First will be a movie review of Death Race. Then I am going to try to explain the basics of Battlestar Galactica (because I am a dork) in order to try to convince you that I am not really that big of a dork. We will see how far I get.

So first off, Death Race. Not to be confused with Death Racers, which also came out in 2008 but was a straight to DVD B movie starring the Insane Clown Posse. (I only know this because it came up when I Wikipedia'd Death Race. Really. I promise. Ok, so Death Race is very loosely based on the the 1975 Death Race 2000 starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone in which a the death race is a cross country sporting event where pedestrians are killed for extra points. In this movie (set in 2012 US after the collapse of the country's economy) the overcrowded prison system (sound a bit prophetic?) has been privatized and in order to make money one prison has started a television car race in which inmates try to win their freedom and kill over inmates. That is pretty much where the plot development ends and is all given as text before the start of the movie. Well there is one other plot point, that actually makes the movie a movie, but giving it away would give away the movie. I HIGHLY recommend this movie under the conditions that 1) you are not at all beholden to to such movie constructs as "plot", "character development" or "basis in reality". 2) you are at all interested in seeing an incredibly jacked and (at least in the unrated version) naked Jason Statham OR in seeing scantily clad hot women. 3) you like or at least are not adverse to car racing and blood, gore and violence. I am really serious about recommending the movie though. We saw it at Dan's almost-biweekly movie night this week on Blu-Ray on his big fancy TV, with surround sound. So maybe that helped. But it was a fun time, a good movie to watch with friends. Maybe I should start a rating system. Well, for now, let's just say, highly recommended for a thoughtless action-movie evening. Not at all recommended for the light of heart or those people who think that all movies should have a developed plot.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grab your popcorn!

It is time for some way overdue movie reviews. And maybe some TV thrown in if I have time.

Mamma Mia! I liked it. It was pretty much what I expected. I mean it is certainly not an amazingly high quality drama. It is a musical. Based on the music of ABBA. I mean, come on. But the story was cute, the singing was really well done (I thought, Matty disagrees, he is not a fan of Pierce Brosnan's singing). Not a whole lot else to say. If you sing whenever Take a Chance on Me or Dancing Queen and if you like silly musicals, see it. If not, well of course you should probably avoid it.

Horton Hears a Who! Umm. It has been awhile since I read this. But it seems to follow the gist of the story. But it is a bit weird. There are some parts that do not fit in and I am not entirely sure how a child would actually like this movie. I don't know. I was a bit disappointed. I mean I felt like in some ways they tried to stick to a very Seussian way of doing things but then it is like someone smoked a little too much and threw in a scene or too that fit more into an adult movie. I dont know. I wouldnt recommend this really unless you have nothing else to do.

Tropic Thunder
. I have to say I was very very pleasantly surprised. I had absolutely no hope for this movie and I ended up really enjoying it. It is raw. It is certainly not for the faint of heart or stomach. But it was pretty funny. I was concerned about having so many funny people (Ben Stiller, Jack Black) and so many strong and different personalities (Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte [who looks awful!], Tom Cruise [who was fantastic], Matthew McConaughey) in the same movie and trying to outdo each other. But they all wroked really well together. And I totally dont get the whole uproar about the "R" word. Because honestly, it kinda seems like they didnt actually see the movie. Sooo . . . yeah. On the other hand, Jewish movie producers and funders, they have something to yell about. Just kidding. Really though, highly recommended.

Paragraph 175. Yeah. Didnt see it. Sent it back. Couldnt come up with a night that felt like a "documentary about the Nazi's policy on gays during the Holocaust" night. I feel bad. But it was slowing up the queues. We will try again.

Angela's Ashes. This was Matty's answer to Paragraph 175 being too depressing. Sigh. He read it on his way to Ireland and so wanted to see the movie. I havent read it. He says it sticks well to the book. It was very good. The acting was good, the story was heartbreaking, the scenery was sad and dreary.
When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.
Pretty much sums it up. Well worth the watch, might want to grab some tissues.

The Duchess
. Yeah, I am a girl. A period piece about an obscure duchess who was the political and social force of her time in an unhappy relationship? Yeah. I am going to rent it. Shoot me. And I dont think Matty hated it exactly. I think he liked it better when he realized it was based on a ture story. I know their are Keira Knightley haters out there. But I think maybe they might not hate her in this. Maybe. I dont know. The costumes and sets (mostly actual locations) were superb. The acting was good all around though I disagree that Ralph Fiennes did much to make his character less awful. And it made Matty bring up an interesting question (to which he flip flops on his thoughts I think):
How is it different and is it "better" that we have so little surviving information about her (relatively important for her time) and about other people in history (both unimportant and middling important and very important) but what information there is is concrete (letters, paintings, castles) or that there is so much surviving but digital information (emails, tweets, flickr accounts, facebook pages, blogs) about every one of us?
Gran Torino. My dad knows this guy . . . never mind. But anyway, we watched this last night. I really really liked it. It was much different than what I thought it would be, but I cant exactly say what is different. Clint Eastwood was fantastic! He was so angry and disgruntled! That grunt he makes. Oh my god. And the comments he makes, the things that actually come out of his mouth! Matty thought it was too hammy. I think if they didnt throw in some humor (not ham, in my opinion) it would have been too downright depressing. And you are supposed to want to pull for him and I dont think you could if he was too serious. He reminded me a lot of Matty's dad. Which is probably not a compliment. Highly recommend it!

Ok, no more for now, but I will try to get back soon with some thoughts on The Wire: Season 2, Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries, Season 1 and Season 2.0 (though if you are actually interested in Battlestar Galactica, check out The Daily Drew [see sidebar]) and maybe if I am ambitious Lost: Season 5 (the current season). Also at home now we have Changeling and This American Life Season 1.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Ok. So I used to use this blog to rant about personal things so that I would be a calmer, less angry person, with whom Matty could more easily deal. So I might as well use it for that again.

So every year since I was a baby my parents and I have gone up to my godparents' for Easter. For the last 8 years or so Matty has been invited. And for the last few years he has been coming. We fly into Manchester Saturday morning and then fly back home Sunday night after dinner. Well this year Good Friday happens to fall on Matty's father's birthday. His 60th birthday. Which of course I didnt know, because Matty didnt know. And so since birthday's must be celebrated on actual birthday's in some families. Not mine, maybe that makes us bad people? Well anyway, since it is his 60th Matty's mom called tonight to ask if he could fly into RI Friday to have some sort of something for him. Which is fine. Whatever. I mean we had plans for the night, we have tickets to go see Bela Fleck which Matty wanted. But they were cheap. And I am sure I could find someone to go with me. Because that is the thing. She called to see if He would fly home Friday. Oh of course, I am invited if I want to go. But We werent asked to go home. And Matty would never say no to his mother. So he wasnt asked either. She said she wanted him to come home. So of course he would go home. Which is great. I mean I am very happy that he is that close to his family. But what I wonder and part of what really upsets me this fine frigid evening is if his sister-in-law is also invited if she wants to come. Or if she is expected to be there, while I am not. Because I am just the Girlfriend. It has only been 10 and a half years. I am Just the Girlfriend. That's the thing that gets me. I am just the girlfriend. I will stay just the girlfriend because we will never (I hope I am overreacting) get married. Because that is apparently beyond us. But fine. So I ask Matty, well, do you want me to be there? I mean they were cheap tickets. And it is only like $20-30 to change my flight. And I am sure my parents will understand and we will just drive up with them for Easter anyway. So does he want me to go? And all he can say is what he always says. I want you to do whatever you want to do. Whatever will make you most happy. Yeah. I know that. Obviously I know that you want me to be happy. That is why I am still here. I just want him for once to say "I would really like you to come and be part of my family." And that is stupid. I know that is stupid. I know that he probably would want me to be there. But I dont understand why he cant just for once say "I want you to be there." "I want you to be part of my family." "I want it to be a foregone conclusion by everyone that of course you would be there, because you are not Just the Girlfriend." Even if he has to add "But only if you really want to be there." Just say you want me there. Just want me there. And maybe in my wildest dreams at some point it would just be assumed that I would be there. Just like it is assumed that Marisa is going to be there. Because I am not invited to things by my mother. We are invited to things. It is just assumed that we come as a unit. Of course if he cant be there, or he doesnt want to be there, then that is fine. But of course he is invited. It was such a shock when I was there for his uncle's funeral. Why? Why is that such a shock? It is family. It is important family. Why wouldnt I be there if it was in my power to be there? And of course when they all went out to lunch after the service, where was I? I was at home, with my parents. Because I wasnt invited. I mean as they walked to their car Matty said "Oh, we are going to Twin Oaks, if you wanted to come, I am sure it would be ok, but I figured you would want to be with your folks." That is not an invitation. That is not what you say to family. That is not saying you want me to be there, to be part of your family. And so when later I was asked while I wasnt there, at the family lunch, what do I say? Do I say, oh, I wasnt invited, I am not really family, I am Just the Girlfriend? How can I say that? How can I admit that that is the truth? So I say that I wanted to be with my parents. I decide that I would rather be the selfish jerk instead of Just the Girlfriend.

Ok. I am done. I know it is stupid and overreactionary and very girlish. Maybe I am just pissed about the tickets. Whatever.