Tuesday, April 30, 2013

recent pins

I have been having a lot of fun with Pinterest lately. There is no end to the interesting images one can find, past and present:

Vintage bridal display in department store window
Anatomical Barbie
Hercules stool
Laurie/Teddy paper doll
This chair makes me think of a 3D Magritte
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Monday, April 29, 2013

baby kleptomaniac

When I was around seven or eight years old I orchestrated a brief but successful crime spree. It is clear to me now (and probably was even clear to me at the time), that I was just trying to get my parents' attention. I remember snitching packs of gum or lifesavers from the supermarket, standing right next to my dad as he paid for our groceries. He didn't see it happen. I did it a few times. I probably asked him to buy me gum and he said no, so I not only filched a pack, but had to chew it when he wasn't around, so that he wouldn't find out. But the incident that stands out most strongly in my mind occurred at Woolworth's. Obviously not satisfied with pinching sweets, I was attracted, magpie-like, to something sparkly — some costume rhinestone earrings. They were for pierced ears, which I certainly didn't have, and my mom didn't have either.

Elizabeth Anne Periale, Mary Elizabeth Winship & Puddin', Wall Township, NJ

So what did I do with jewelry I couldn't wear? I put it on my large-scale bride doll (a birthday gift from my grandmother). Still no one seemed to notice. So one day I set myself up in front of my parents in the living room and started playing with the doll, waving her around, the earrings flashing in the sun. Finally my dad noticed and reacted. "Where did you get those?" I immediately became mum and must have looked very guilty. The truth must have spilled out (I don't remember how, exactly) as the next thing I remember we were on our way to Woolworth's. My furious father parked the car and told my mother to take me inside and make me confess my crime to the store manager. She took my hand and we walked in, me crying all the way. We walked around the store, circling the displays a few times. I stopped crying, not sure exactly where we were going. As we neared the jewelry counter my mom asked me to hand over the earrings. I gave them to her and she quickly tossed them in a basket with other costume jewelry. She pulled me away and said, "Come on." We walked quickly toward the exit, my anxiety easing. As we got in the car my dad asked her if she took care of it. She answered yes. "Did you learn your lesson?" I nodded. That was the day I learned how cool my mom was.
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

one of the great things about florida ...

... is being able to take a swim when you want to, even after it gets dark.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

jersey nostalgia

I was driving behind this truck the other day and it reminded me of summertimes in the New Jersey shore when I was a kid. Did we buy fresh corn off the back of a truck? Probably.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

they really love each other - really

Brothers Dash (tabby) and Harry (black Siamese) like to wrestle. Sometimes on my bed, with me in it, naturally. So no sleep for me when this goes on, but at least I get a ringside seat.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

film favorite: down and out in beverly hills

The comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills came out in 1986. That was 27 years ago, and it is just as fresh and funny to watch today as it ever was (echoing David Byrne's lyrics that open the film, "Same as it ever was, same as it ever was..." Directed by Paul Mazursky (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, An Unmarried Woman, Tempest), Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a modern adaptation of the French play Boudu sauvé des eaux, which was also made into a film in 1932 by Jean Renoir. Note to self — must track that movie down.

Dave wants to help Jerry get back on his feet
Mazursky sets his version in 1980s affluent California, with a pastel pink palette, oversized linen garments with wide shoulders, and lots and lots of exaggerated behaviors for its wacky cast of characters (including Little Richard as neighbor Orvis Goodnight). But Down and Out in Beverly Hills isn't all high ceilings and New-Age trends. The movie opens with the Talking Heads's "Once in a Lifetime" blasting over a montage of the homeless on the streets of Beverly Hills. The camera and story then zero-in on Jerry Baskin (Nick Nolte), a homeless man who becomes despondent after his dog Kerouac takes off for greener pastures while he was sleeping on a park bench. Jerry wanders all over Beverly Hills, trying to find his dog, to no avail. He eventually finds himself in the back yard of a huge mansion, standing at the edge of a pool. He fills his coat's pockets with heavy stones, and throws himself into the water, hoping to drown. But the pool's owner, Dave Whiteman (Richard Dreyfuss), sees the whole thing happen from inside his manse as he's yakking on his cordless phone and rushes out to rescue the homeless man, screaming, "Call 911! Call 911! Call 911!"

Jerry's dive into the pool changes everything. For Jerry, for Dave, and for everyone Jerry meets. Dave's wife Barbara (Bette Midler) is at first repulsed and suspicious of Jerry,
"He's going to give that dog fleas."
Jerry may have a cure for Barbara's headaches
But she and their maid Carmen (Elizabeth Peña), son Max (Evan Richards), and daughter Jenny (Tracy Nelson) are soon touched and transformed by his presence. As Jerry stays with the family he becomes all things to all people. He even manages to enchant the Whitman's dog Matisse (Mike the Dog), whose behavior has been so out of control that Barbara had resorted to consulting a dog psychiatrist to modify his behavior. Mazursky has a blast poking fun at Barbara's various New Age fads, showing her chanting and running on hot coals. He also turns up in a cameo as Dave's partner in the wire hangar business.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a comedy of manners, a sex farce, and also a cultural critique. But most importantly it is full of funny moments, like Jerry teaching the finicky Matisse how to eat dog food out of his bowl.

Barbara looks doubtful as Jerry teaches Matisse how to eat dog food
Jerry cleans up real good
Down and Out in Beverly Hills is not only funny, but it is a reminder of how wonderful Richard Dreyfuss's manic energy can be when channeled into the right role, as exhibited in a scene where Dave, not paying attention to his driving while listening to the car radio, runs into a police car:
Police Officer, "Sir, may I see your driver’s license?"
Dave, "Um  … yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, huh, huh, huh, huh, who … who hit who?"
Police Officer, "May I see your driver’s license please?"
Dave, "Nuh huh, uh huh, I’m just, I’m just trying to figure out who, who I’m mad at."
Dreyfuss's Dave Whiteman is at first thrilled with doing good — he has a real opportunity to help some one. When Jerry is reluctant to change, Dave is happy to take a walk on the wild side with his new friend. But when Jerry starts to not only be his friend, but to get cozy with all the women in his life, Dave's love quickly turns to hate. Nick Nolte cleans up real good, as Dave performs an Eliza Doolittle transformation-of-sorts on him (or more accurately a Pretty Woman), but his initial appearance is a bit of a harbinger of roles real and fictional to come. Bette Midler does more with her waving manicured hands and a running technique that involves wearing very high heels while taking very tiny steps than many other actors can do with a Shakespearian monologue. In short, Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a lot of fun to watch. One of the funniest films of the 1980s or any era.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

detective murdoch is back on the case, in murdoch mysteries, series 5

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Murdoch Mysteries, Series 5 on Blogcritics

Acorn Media has recently released the fifth season of the Canadian mystery procedural, Murdoch Mysteries, for the first time for U.S. audiences. Murdoch Mysteries is a CSI-style drama with a twist - set in Victorian-era Toronto, it follows follows Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) as he solves crimes and helps initiate "new" crime-solving procedures, like blood analysis and fingerprint analysis.

The series unfortunately hasn't been televised in the U.S., but thankfully mystery lovers in this country can now enjoy the series via the DVDs and Blu-rays released by Acorn. And if one wants to enjoy Murdoch Mysteries from the very beginning, Acorn TV is also currently running a Murdoch Mysteries Marathon, so viewers can check in on Murdoch and his crime-solving companions from the very beginning of the series.

Detective Murdoch is innovative in his techniques, and his constantly questing mind also brings him into contact with some of the leading thinkers and personalities of his day. In Season 5 Murdoch meets inventors Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, and writer Jack London. He encounters such otherworldly ideas as time travel and ancient Egyptian curses as he attempts to solve the various mysteries in this 13-episode season.
Murdoch and his crew, CW: Jonny Harris, Yannick Bisson, Thomas Craig, Hélène Joy, and Georgina Reilly.
As the season opens, Murdoch is still conflicted after the love of his life, Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) has married another man and left Toronto. Murdoch has also left (temporarily), to take up gold prospecting, but after he solves a local murder there he finds that he needs to return to Toronto and once again take up crime-solving with his old friends Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris), and his superior, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig). Julia's replacement, another female coroner, Dr. Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly), proves a feisty new colleague, as well as a potential love interest for Crabtree. Fans of the Murdoch/Julia romance will be pleased to know that Julia is not completely gone from the detective's life - she does return for six of the season's episodes.

Murdoch Mysteries is based on series of Detective Murdoch novels by Maureen Jennings. The Season 5 Blu-ray includes 13 episodes on three discs:

1 - "Murdoch of the Klondike"
2 - "Back and to the Left"
3 - "Evil Eye of Egypt"
4 - "War on Terror" (historical figure Emma Goldman figures in the plot which centers around a potential anarchist plot).
5 - "Murdoch at the Opera" (Opera star Measha Brueggergosman guest stars in an episode directed by Yannick Bisson).
6 - "Who Killed the Electric Carriage?" (This episode features American inventor and mogul Henry Ford.)
7 & 8 - "Stroll on the Wild Side (Parts 1 & 2)"
9 - "Invention Convention" (Murdoch gets some assistance from his idol, Alexander Graham Bell, played by John Tench).
10 - "Staircase to Heaven" (The episode was co-written by author Maureen Jennings)
11- "Murdoch in Toyland"
12- "Murdoch Night in Canada"
13 - "Twentieth Century Murdoch"
Murdoch contemplates "The Pendrick Bullet" in the episode, "Who Killed the Electric Carriage?"
Murdoch Mysteries looks great on Blu-ray, especially on a large-scale, high-definition television screen. The period details of sets, costumes, and surfaces are all sharp and well-defined, with the screen resolution of 1080p and an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is sharp and clear. Subtitles are available in English, SDH. The Blu-ray also includes a host of extras for fans of the series, including:
- "Season Five Overview" - Features clips from seasons 4 and 5, and cast interviews.
- "Murdoch Travels to the Yukon" - A "making of" featurette for the first episode of the season, "Murdoch of the Klondike".
- "Murdoch at the Opera" - An interview with opera diva Measha Brueggergosman who appears in the fifth episode of the season.
- "Who Killed the Electric Carriage?" - A featurette about the vehicle "The Pendrick Bullet," which races Henry Ford's gasoline-powered car in the sixth episode of the season, "Who Killed the Electric Carriage?"
- "The Costumes" - An interview with costume designer Alex Reda.
- Unedited Sound Bites and Photo Gallery - Cast members answer questions; a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos.
Murdoch discusses a case with Dr. Julia Ogden.
 Season 5 of Murdoch Mysteries ends with a look to the new century as Murdoch and his compatriots have an eye on the future. Luckily, so do the show runners of this entertaining mystery series. Murdoch Mysteries is currently airing its sixth season on Canadian and British television and will soon be in production for its seventh season. It's reassuring to know that we haven't seen the last of Murdoch.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

this week on game of thrones ...

I have to admit that when I heard that HBO was breaking up George R.R. Martin's third (and best) book of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords, I was a little dubious. Some amazing things happen in the book, and I wasn't sure that the impact wouldn't be diluted if stretched over two seasons. But I have to say, after four episodes into the third season any fears that I may have had regarding the show-maker's story-telling ability have vanished. There are quite a few characters and plot threads that have been emphasized or altered, and while such changes might ruffle the feathers of novel purists, they have actually made for some gripping and entertaining television.

Margaery studies Joffrey
Varys and Olenna are both masters in communication — and snappy dressers
David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show runners for Game of Thrones, have wisely realized that their television series can be a loose adaptation of the popular (and still currently being written) series of novels. Characters who hardly figure in the third or even subsequent books in the series have been pumped up for not only dramatic, but thematic effect. The most obvious and successful of these re-characterizations are Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and her grandmother, Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg). George R. R. Martin's books are so densely populated that the Tyrells, a family that aspires to power as much as any other faction in Westeros, have been pretty under-represented. Casting Dormer and Rigg has not only created the opportunity for some great new dialogue scenes, but has also added two very strong women to the cast of schemers in King's Landing. Watching Queen-regent Cersei (Lena Headey) seethe as Margaery wraps her lovely and under-clothed tendrils around her son, the gullible King Joffrey, (Jack Gleeson) is delicious.

What television and this adaptation has been able to do — what I would have thought impossible — is to make a repulsive character like Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) sympathetic. At least for a moment or two. Characters that were likable but rather slight in the books, like siblings Jojen and Meera Reed, are coming to life as they join Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor on their trek north to The Wall.

Sunday night's episode,"And Now His Watch Is Ended" was chock-full of scenes that built to an explosive climax. Viewers had to watch not just one, but many scenes where the characters' status quo was blown apart. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) proved she could be both ruthless and compassionate as she closed the deal for her army of 8,000, The Unsullied. The starving and beleaguered men of The Night's Watch fell apart at Craster's Keep, with deadly results. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), the ultimate odd couple, became more united the more their captors exhibited their cruel side.

Varys shows Tyrion that it's never too late for revenge
Brienne and Jaime get to know each other better on the road
This season Game of Thrones seems even more successful at weaving in the various groups of people that we want to follow around Westeros and beyond. In King's Landing Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is still fighting for his place in the government and his family, aided at times by Varys (Conleth Hill), but remaining always at odds with his sister Cersei and his father Tywin (Charles Dance). Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry have been scooped up by the Brotherhood without Banners, where they also see old enemy The Hound (Rory McCann). Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is playing a dangerous game beyond The Wall with the Wildlings and their leader, Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), who is planning an attack aided by a large army and giants.

As the momentum continues to build, the audience can only hold its breath and watch. Even for people very familiar with A Storm of Swords there are no guarantees as to how exactly the story will spin out on Game of Thrones this season. This is actually a good thing, as the novel, and Martin's world, keeps one on the edge of their seat, with the knowledge that anything, and not necessarily anything good, can happen to a beloved character at any time. And we haven't even seen that much of the deadly White Walkers this season. Yet.
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Monday, April 22, 2013

oh great — more fast food

We have been watching a new restaurant get constructed on the main drag. The company has even posted signs that say, "Are you curious?" WE had to admit that we were. I wasn't sure what exactly I was hoping it was going to be, but when they put up the sign the other day my heart sank. PDQ Chicken. Great. More fast food. Fried food. A nugget emporium.

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It looks nice — from the outside

Is this really what America should be eating — even more of the same old, same bad stuff? When I checked out the restaurant's menu online there were only three items on the menu that I could even consider eating — two grilled chicken salads and a grilled sandwich. But I don't expect I will be going there anytime soon. There have to be some companies that want to make quick-serve, more healthy food. We do have Panera Bread down here, but no Au Bon Pain restaurants.

Le sigh.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

merry sunday-go-round

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

catnip dazed and confused

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Friday, April 19, 2013

light shadows

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

it's all good — even delicious

I recently defended Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. There was an inordinate amount of internet snarking about the book, before it was even available to preview. Most of it seemed to be more related to the actress daring to style herself as a foodie and share recipes than the actual food she was showcasing. The book is peppered with glamorous shots of the actress with her kids and co-chef Julia Turshen as they gather and prep food in various lovely surroundings. Yes, Gwyneth lives the good life, but is she really living any higher on the hog than Martha Stewart or Ina Garten? There are also plenty of glamorous photos of the food in It's All Good, which I found helpful, especially when my first (and second) try at one of the muffin recipes didn't go as planned.

I'm not sure why there is still such vitriol surrounding "alternative" recipes. Many people, myself included, are finding that the food we eat, that we have always eaten, may no longer agree with us. In some cases it even causes pain. After my gallbladder surgery I have had to find a whole new way of thinking about and preparing food. I don't have celiac disease, but I am finding that gluten can cause stomach distress on occasion. Dairy products and other refined and processed foods are also more difficult to digest. So a cookbook like Paltrow's, which tries to take some "regular" food like muffins and meatballs and the like and come up with recipes that use more easily digested, less inflammatory ingredients definitely intrigued me. I've spent a week or so trying out some of the recipes and can say that a few of them are definite keepers.

Many have dismissed It's All Good claiming that they don't have $200 to spend on a recipe. I didn't buy everything on her suggested pantry list, but I decided to go for it and marked the recipes I wanted to try. I ended up buying supplies for what I didn't have at home. It was enough to make over 20 recipes and came to a little under $200 at a few combined shopping trips to Publix and Whole Foods. Here's what I've made so far, and please keep in mind I'm not a professional food stylist, either:

Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins (p. 41) - These muffins have been such a huge hit with everyone who has tried them. I am not much of a baker, and certainly have never made anything gluten-free before, but I was very pleased with the ease of the recipe and the end results, which were frankly, yum. The ingredient list is pretty basic — One large baked sweet potato, olive oil, almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, gluten-free flour (I used oat), baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and Chinese five-spice powder.The only items I didn't already have in the house were the flour, baking powder (like I said, I don't usually bake), maple syrup, and five spice powder (an amalgam of cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, clove, and licorice root). These muffins are going to become a regular thing around here.

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Batter for the Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins
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Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins out of the oven

Avocado Toast (p. 34) - Yes, it's just sliced avocado on toast with some spice on top — hot chili flakes or vegetable salt or whatever floats your boat. Less a recipe than a snack suggestion, but it's a tasty one.

Quinoa, A Bit Sweet (p. 33) - I made this for breakfast, using almond milk, maple syrup, a chopped date, dried figs, and shredded coconut. There are plenty of other suggestions for sweet toppings to try, as well as savory ones.

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Quinoa for breakfast, with lots of good, sweet stuff
Turkey meatballs (p. 105) - I'm part Italian and grew up with spaghetti and meatballs. I've been making turkey meatballs for years, usually dumping extra veggies in the tomato sauce to get folks to eat them. But what's great about this recipe (and even more so the turkey burger one below) is how many greens and flavors are already in the meatball and how delicious it still tastes. Apart from the turkey, the meatballs contain onion, garlic, sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, olive oil and sea salt and ground pepper.)

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Turkey meatballs in the pan
Turkey burgers (p. 108) - I have already made this recipe twice, first as burgers and then as meatballs. They were delicious both ways and the leftover ones tasted great the next day. It's All Good presents the recipe as Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers, with cucumber and yogurt sauce as an accompaniment. I'll try that too, but I wanted to first try a more Italian presentation to see how my nine year-old daughter would like them. She loved them. Besides the turkey, the burgers/meatballs contain shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, baby spinach (three handfuls, chopped in a food processor), lemon zest, olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. There is literally a whole serving of vegetables with the spinach and they are so good. Can't wait to make them again.

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Spinach-packed Turkey Meatballs

Almond and Kale Smoothie (p. 207) - I have also made this smoothie twice. This yummy shake, with kale, almond milk, almond butter, coconut oil, a date, and soaked raw almonds is going to become a regular feature here, too. It's yummy and a great way to get the kid (and me) to eat kale.

Creamy Avocado and Cacao Smoothie (p. 208) - This shake tasted great, but it's hard to go wrong with cocoa, coconut water, almond milk, raw honey, an avocado and hempseeds. I woud just advise to strain it before you drink it if you want to share with kids (or even for yourself). My blender, although pretty good, still had tiny pieces of avocado and hempseeds that I know wouldn't have gone over too well with the kid.

Banana Date Muffins (p. 46) - This is the only recipe I have made so far (twice) that flopped. The first time (using almond meal flour) was my fault, as I forgot to add the baking powder and the muffins didn't rise properly. The second time (using tapioca flour) they didn't seem to have the right consistency. They were too gooey, more like a pudding inside. Maybe it was the dates? I'm going to try again, as I love banana muffins, maybe this time using corn flour and no dates. Paltrow says in It's All Good that gluten-free baking is not for the faint of heart. I now know what she means, but the success of those sweet potato muffins give me hope. We'll see.

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The Banana Date Muffins look great, but I'm still struggling with the consistency
When I was at the library the other day I saw Paltrow's first cookbook, My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. After her father died in 2002 she wanted to pull together a lot of the recipes that they cooked together or were his favorites. It's a sweet book, filled with her memories of him and his love of food, which she inherited. It's also quite interesting, in view of her new cookbook, as she has completely changed her way of eating in just a few years. Paltrow still always leans toward making comfort food and food that children will enjoy eating.

Some of her recipes in My Father's Daughter include some of the same go-to items that she praises in It's All Good — Vegenaise, maple syrup, almond milk. But in her first book she is still using sugar, flour, and cow's milk products, especially cheese, which, because of various family member food sensitivities, she has found substitutes for in her new diet and approach to cooking. I'm not sure if it's just where I am at these days with my own ideas on diet and nutrition, but there were fewer recipes in My Father's Daughter that I fell compelled to try. I did jot down Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano (p. 128), Artichoke and Parmesan Frittata (p. 217), Blue Cheese Dressing (always a favorite, p. 72) and Anchovy Vinaigrette (p. 73).

But back to It's All Good. On my shopping expeditions I have assembled supplies for many more recipes and am still intending to make:

Quinoa Granola with Olive Oil and Maple Syrup (p.30)
Chicken Burgers, Thai Style (p.111)
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley (173)
Roasted Romanesco with Aioli and Fried Capers (p. 174)
Fresh Ginger Tea (p. 207)
Bernardo's Pumpkin Pie Shake (p. 209)
The Best Green Juice (p.212)
Japanese Chicken Meatballs (p. 239)
Kale Chips (p. 246)
Candy Bars (p. 254)
Almond Butter Cookies with Maldon Salt (p. 260)

I think that's a pretty good ratio of desirable recipes for a cookbook. There are still a handful more that I just haven't bought the required meat or vegetable for. Grilled Steak with Melted Anchovies and Rosemary sounds like something I definitely have to try. I'll be sure to post an update of any of recipes that are really great-tasting as I continue my gluten-free adventures.

As long as you're not thrown off by the idea of switching out some tried-and-true kitchen staples (white sugar, flour, mayo) for something less fattening or hard on your system (maple syrup, gluten-free flour, Vegenaise) you might enjoy taste-testing these recipes. One of the best things about the recipes I have been trying from It's All Good, besides the fact that I don't feel crampy or uncomfortable after eating, is that some foods that I have been avoiding, like baked goods, may now be back on the menu. How good is that?

Related:

BlogHer, "To All the Gwyneth Paltrow Haters: Her New Cookbook Really Is 'All Good'"
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

boston

Thoughtful at Cheers, originally uploaded by xoxoxoe.

I was born at the Jersey Shore. My father was born in the Bronx. We were, are, and always will be New York Yankees fans. But unlike a lot of my fellow Yankee lovers I've never hated the Boston Red Sox. A few summers ago we took a New England vacation in search of our Salem witchery roots and Boston was one of the stops on our trail. I really loved the city. Its history, its rough-and-tumble edge. We didn't see a ballgame, but we did lots of other touristy things. We took a ride in a swan boat, we went to the aquarium, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. We ate at Cheers. We drove and walked around town. We had a lot of chowdah.

I've been thinking a lot the past few days about faith, and what we all choose to believe. Although I don't believe all the pretty Bible stories, I do believe that God could walk as a man, woman or child (even animal) among us and might even do that on occasion. Maybe even more often than we think. But when confronted with the sort of human disaster of the past few days, all those beliefs and hopes seem shattered. All I can do right now is think about the innocent people who are gone and the people who are still grappling with their injuries, and all the people who are helping them and hoping for them and praying for them.

I'm so very sorry Boston, that this has happened to you. That this could happen to anyone anywhere.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

film favorite: logan's run

I remember going with my family to see Logan's Run in a movie theater (a fairly rare occurrence) when I was a kid. I loved it. I formed a huge and immediate crush on Michael York, who looked smashing as the 23rd century "Sandman" — a sort of futuristic cop whose job was to terminate "Runners." When I saw the DVD at our local library I thought it might not only be fun to see it again, but to see how my nine year-old daughter might respond to it — would she like it as much as I did?

The future is a mall full of color
Francis and Logan have a difference of opinion regarding Runners

Director Michael Anderson (All the Fine Young Cannibals, Orca) based the science-fiction film on a futuristic novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. In the 23rd century City everyone lives a carefree, even hedonistic lifestyle. Pleasure is the main pursuit. There's just one catch — once one reaches the age of 30 they must be "renewed" in a ritual called Carrousel (a public spectacle, much like a Roman amphitheater mixed with a Pink Floyd light show.) Some City inhabitants believe that the ritual helps them become born again. But there are skeptics, and they choose to run and try to escape Carrousel, the computer-controlled city, and what they believe to be their true fate, a fiery death. There are rumors of a place called Sanctuary, and potential Runners identify themselves by wearing the ancient symbol the Ankh. Logan (Michael York) meets one of these skeptics, Jessica (Jenny Agutter), and is intrigued, but it is not until the central computer sends him on an undercover mission to locate Sanctuary and terminate some missing Runners that he starts to realize that the world outside the City may be bigger than he ever imagined. Logan's best friend and fellow Sandman Francis (Richard Jordan) thinks Logan is a traitor and goes after him and Jessica, determined to terminate the runner and bring his friend back to the City.

Carrousel looks like a lot of fun — until someone bursts into flames
At Carrousel, Last Day inhabitants show off their flashing Lifeclocks
The special effects may look crude to modern eyes, considering today's CGI, but the holograms and matte paintings were state-of-the art in 1976, and they seem to suit the story. The DVD we borrowed from the library looked glorious and sharp on our high-definition large-scale television, with bright, vibrant and sharp colors. The City inhabitants are color-coordinated in yellows, greens and reds — colors that correspond to their current age and the time left on their "Lifeclocks."

As we watched Logan's Run my daughter pointed out its similarities to In Time, a movie we both like a lot. But as the movie progressed she forgot all about Justin Timberlake and got caught up in Logan and Jessica and their flight from the City and Francis. When Logan and Jessica finally make it outside the domed City (it's only a model!) their adventures are just beginning. They encounter an outsider, an old man (Peter Ustinov) and some unfamiliar creatures (cats). They have never seen anyone over the age of 30 before, and the old man hasn't seen another human being in a long time.
Jessica, "Those cracks — in your face — do they hurt? May I touch them?"

Old Man, "Oh my."
The 23rd century cats prove their superior nature in that only they and one old man could survive whatever catastrophe created this post-apocalyptic society. Ustinov is around to provide some (sometimes over-the-top) comic relief as he quotes T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and eats up all of the available scenery.
Old Man, "You mean to say that those people know ahead of time when they're gonna die?"
Logan, "That's right."
Old Man, "Oh, that's silly. What's the reason for that?"
Logan "That's the way things are. The way things have always been."
Old Man, "It takes all the fun out of dying."
Logan and Jessica, pre-run
Logan shops with Jessica for a new face before going on the run
The Old Possum stuff was a bit much, but the whole sequence with Ustinov was good-natured fun. The kid immediately noticed that Logan and Jessica are set up to be the next Adam and Eve. Michael York has never looked better or sexier, and Jenny Agutter isn't too shabby, either. Logan's Run also has some other wonderful visuals. The suburban mall-looking city (the film actually was shot in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex). The Lifesavers-colored polyester toga costumes. The silver shiny surfaces, from architecture to jewelry.

The look of the future in Logan's Run is playful. A future where everyone's hair is blow-dried and no one wears underwear. It would be remiss if I forgot to mention the star cameo from Farrah Fawcett, who looks beautiful, quite spacey, and is quickly gone from the story. There are some not-so-hidden messages in the film as well, touching on the '70s free love lifestyle, the potential oppression of organized religion, and overpopulation. But mostly Logan's Run, a pre-Star Wars, pre-CGI science fiction film is a whole lot of fun.

Note: There have been efforts for years to remake Logan's Run — the latest star attached was Ryan Gosling, but he just recently bowed out. Does Hollywood really need to try and remake everything?
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