"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dinner & Prison Break - John Doe

Sorry no DVD tonight. I picked up "Finding Nemo", which believe it or not I have not seen, and it didn't work. The DVD must be bad, but what did I expect from a free rental.

I'm also heading to Ft. Myers, Florida, tomorrow, so I will not be updating my blog until I return on Sunday. So until then, I leave you my recipe from tonight's dinner and my review of Prison Break.

A hearty dish for a bitterly cold January evening.

Crock O'Brats
5 bratwurst links, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can (27 oz) sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
1 medium tart apple, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Brown brats on all sides. In a slow cooker, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir in brats and pan drippings. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until potatoes and apple are tender.

Prison Break - John Doe

First aired January 22. It took me two mornings (Jan 29 & 30 from 630am to 7am) to watch this entire episode.

Prison Break returned with a brand new episode and it did so with style. Last time we were with the convicts, Kellerman (now disavowed by The Company) had shot Mahone (who ironically was meant to eliminate Kellerman) and had helped save Michael and Linc. Elsewhere, Captain Brad Bellick returned to Fox River as an inmate, T-Bag caught up with Mrs. Hollander and C-Note saw his wife get arrested.

The episode picked up exactly where the season left off before Christmas.

Linc and Michael grudgingly agree to work along with Kellerman who informs them that Terrence Steadman (the President’s supposedly dead brother) is in fact alive. Their extraction of Steadman however goes a bit wrong as Steadman commits suicide. We’re informed that due to The Company’s methods, Steadman’s finger prints and DNA are obsolete so his dead body is a “John Doe” and of no use. This annoyed me. I finally thought we’d start to get some closure but I guess they have other things lined up. I honestly can’t see how Linc’s name can now be cleared. Even if it is, they’ve broken so many other laws on the way they’ll get locked up again as soon as they’re freed.

T-Bag caught up with the Hollanders. Uncle Teddy has now locked the doors and informs the family that either they get along, or die together. Interesting! Guess he won’t be sleeping much then. Robert Knepper (T-Bag) needs an Emmy. He speaks so eloquently, yet still makes it so creepy.

Bellick returned to Fox River and suddenly finds himself attracting the attention of new inmate Bank, played by the 6’6’’ Lester “Rasta” Speight. As Bellick decides to stand up to Bank, he learns that Bank is ‘connected’ to the night guards, who Bellick placed on night duties and who are not fans of his. Expect another explosive confrontation in Fox River next week I say.

Mahone's not dead. Woo! In fact, he is well and alive and killing people again. Having tried to quit working for Mr. Kim, Mahone’s son is unexpectedly involved in an ‘accident’ so Mahone takes matters into his own hand and turns on The Company. Slightly unrealistic that he would be up and about so quick after having been shot and undergone surgery, but who cares? There is no time to worry about the little details. This is, after all, Prison Break!

I really feel for C-Note. He is informed that his wife had been denied bail and about to “enter the system”. He shouldn’t have been in Fox River. If you recall, he was set up when in Iraq. I sincerely hope the producers remember this and give him a happy ending. He deserves it.

Pheow! What an episode… fantastically fun-packed, full of tension and suspense. A great return for a great show. I'm ready for more.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Wine of the Week - Mark West Pinot Noir

Mark West continues the "Pinot for the People" revolution with their California-appellation Pinot Noir. A terrific value with intense flavors of red and black cherry leading to notes of spice from oak aging. This is a versatile wine that complements just about any cuisine.

World Market Price: $10.99

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Soup of the Week & The Dresden Files

I made this simple soup on this snowy, cold evening and it was delicious!

Black Bean Soup
(Ready in 30 minutes or less)

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash cayenne pepper
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained, divided

In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of broth over medium heat until onion is tender. Stir in the oregano, thyme, cumin and cayenne; cook for 1 minute. In a blender or food processor, cover and process half of the beans for 30 seconds; add to the saucepan with the remaining beans and broth. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 5minutes or until heated through. Makes about 2 servings.

The Dresden Files - Birds of a Feather

New show on the Sci Fi Network on Sunday evenings at 9pm (EST). First aired on January 21. I watched it January 28.

Plot: A young boy wants to hire Harry because he believes that monsters are after him and his mom. Harry doesn't want to take the kid's money, but he also knows from his own experience that a child's monsters are often all too real.

Pam's Review: I went into this show not knowing what to expect. I had stopped watching Desperate Housewives because it was insulting my intelligence, so I thought I would give it a try.

The Dresden Files enters an exclusive club of the supernatural detective. From Kolchak the Night Stalker to X-Files, Joss Whedon's Angel and least I forget, CW's Supernatural. I was a fan of all these shows and miss them all.

I was a little lost in the opening minutes of the show. I wasn't sure what was happening and the questions I had continued to grow as the show went on. Are everyday people aware of these powers? Why does a wizard have a listing in the phone book? By the end, these questions weren't really answered and I guess I'm okay with it.

It was a very interesting episode. The crows/ravens were very creepy. However, they became comforting in knowing that they were going to watch over the boy. The skin walker really grossed me out. I had to turn away when looking at both skinned bodies. As for Dresden, he's cute, charming and witty, and yet obviously has some sort of tortured past relating to his father and uncle.

I liked the relationship between Dresden and the detective. I was surprised that they killed off the other woman so quickly. She would have been an interesting character to get to know. I suppose she had to die after her betrayal. I also look forward to seeing more of Dresden's friend, Bob, a magical ghost version of James Bond's "Q." He also lives in a skull.

I'm definitely along for the ride. It should be a very interesting series.

New Music Downloads

A couple good songs came out recently that I downloaded today.

John Mellencamp's politically charged title CD Freedom Road finds the heartland rocker taking a harsh yet hopeful look at the state of America. "Ghost Towns Along the Highway" sadly surveys rural decay in this haunting song.

With all the buzz about Dreamgirls, the timing would seem perfect for the supreme Supreme to remind everybody who was the Boss. Diana Ross brings some of that old girl-group bounce to "More Today than Yesterday" in her recently released CD I Love You.

Austin City Limits aired the Dixie Chicks on January 20, which I finally watched last night. I have always been a "Chicks" fan and this show reminded me why.

After a couple of years spent enjoying their family lives and weathering controversy, Texas’ mighty Dixie Chicks return to the Austin City Limits stage with old favorites and new classics from their defiant, triumphant new album Taking the Long Way.

If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend you see "Shut Up and Sing". The documentary shows the band from their peak of popularity as the national-anthem-singing darlings of country music and top-selling female recording artists of all time, through the now infamous anti-Bush comment, and on through the days, months and years of mayhem. It was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.

Dixie Chicks Song List from Austin City Limits:
Lubbock or Leave It
Truth #2
Longtime Gone
Silent House
The Neighbor
Not Ready to Make Nice
Easy Silence
The Long Way Around
White Trash Wedding
Traveling Soldier

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Earnhardt Tails - Mr. Monk Meets A Friend

Ms. Pam and I have an understanding around our house on cold nights. I slip in the bedroom (I am very good at this sort of maneuver) and allow my little doll the honor of a warm body to curl up next to. This is not an unpleasant arrangement, especially when she wakes up and makes little manipulations with my ears, my favorite egregious zone. I cannot keep the ladies off me, to tell the truth, and have never been so crude as to complain about this.

We watched Monk's January 19 episode Mr. Monk Meets a Friend tonight. We don't watch this series because of the complex plots, because they're rarely complex. Clues to the suspect's identity are made more obvious than hints in A Midnight Louis Mystery, especially in this episode when a mysterious man strangles his lover in the opening scene, a man who is clearly Andy Richter even though they try to obscure him.

Of course, we find out about halfway through that Hal (Richter) really is the man who seduced a woman who used to work at the police station to help him sneak a priceless statue back from Greece. That's why he decides to befriend Monk, so he can check Monk's mail and intercept a letter from the dead woman that would pin him to the crime.

Monk, however, is so elated about having a new friend he doesn't notice all the clues building up that point to Hal. He wants to "pop the question" to Hal and ask him to be his best friend, and sits by the phone like a teenage girl waiting for the cute boy in her class to call her. It's both hilarious and heart-wrenching to see Monk so deluded, and even after Hal tries to kill him, Monk thinks it would be cool to go to another hockey game with him.

Friday, January 26, 2007

CSI - Sweet Jane

Overview: The team has a hard time trying to understand Michael who has become a team member since Grissom’s teaching hiatus. They investigate the murder of an unidentified girl who may have been killed by a serial killer who has been killing since the early 1970’s.

This episode aired January 18. I watched about about 1/2 this morning before work and finished the rest this evening.

Pam's Review: This one is definitely not a favorite. It had very little of the main characters, with the exception of Catherine, and the case was below average. This episode left me feeling pretty bored. Although I was a bit surprised to find out who the killer was.

Liev Schreiber (Michael Keppler) does quite well in the first episode of his guest stint on the show. Keppler appears to be very similar to Grissom in the sense that he is very low key and analytical and I like that.

What I didn't like in this episode is the good writing style that we have seen quite a bit in the past on "CSI." This episode seemed more focused introducing Schreiber's character than giving the viewer a good story to get involved in. I hope this flaw will be corrected in future episodes.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Name Is Earl - Kept A Guy Locked In A Truck

Overview: Josh dies in a tragic Murphy bed accident. He's the guy Joy accidentally kidnapped a few episodes ago, and Earl tries to throw him a funeral, but turns out no one actually KNEW Josh. Then, when Earl and Joy are cleaning out Josh’s apartment, people from all over the world (and just next door) start IM’ing him to ask where he’s been. Joy learns what guilt feels like and assumes responsibility of Josh’s cactus, dubbed Mr. Prickly by Crabman. And the online friends start getting together in person. Catalina and Randy move to Josh’s apartment together as a “married” couple should.

First Aired January 18. I watched it this morning before going to work January 25.

Funniest stuff:

  • The funeral home director set the dead people up for viewing in “living tableau” doing what they loved most. One dead guy relaxed in a recliner with a beer and a football game on, another fished, and the director expressed his recent desire to do a “Lethal Weapon” theme.
  • Joy, overjoyed that her only witness to the kidnapping is dead, sings the “Ding, dong the witness is dead” song.
  • When explaining Josh’s death by Murphy bed, the landlord says, “I probably should have rented it to a heavier guy.”
  • Upon viewing one of the tableaued bodies, Earl says, “He looks happy. Probably because of the staples in his face.”
  • Crabman is upset about Josh wearing his purple tuxedo because they can’t make that kind of tuxedo anymore because of the poisonous purple dye.
  • Earl practicing his eulogy in the mirror: “Josh. Cactus. Milk. Eggs. Gas bill.”
  • Eulogy delivered by an online friend: “Josh always made me LOL. I was always ROTFLMAO. He never gave you a BRB…”
  • Randy and Catalina sit on Josh’s deathbed after moving in. Randy gets up and the bed goes flying upward, but Catalina is spared a squishy death by the new chains installed to hold the bed down.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Review - Life of Pi

My office's book discussion group "Great Readers of M..." will be discussing the Life of Pi by Yann Martel on Wednesday, January 31. Unfortunately, I will not be at the meeting because I will be basking in sunshine & playing golf in Ft. Myers, FL, visiting my parents next Wednesday through Sunday.

Really not sure how I feel about this book. I like the first third - looking at Pi growing up in southern India, living with a zoo keeper father, falling in love with religion and becoming a practicing Christian, Muslim and Hindu (simultaneously). Nice insight, nice characterization.

Then the shipwreck and all the animals on the lifeboat. I just didn't really want to hear about a hyena eating a zebra alive and a tiger killing an orangutan called Orange Juice. I know, I'm a total softy when it comes to animals... and the ending does explain the violence but... still not sure I wanted to read that.

In fact, I ended up skimming the first few tens of pages of life in the lifeboat.Then it did get fairly interesting - tiger taming at sea was always going to pose a challenge. But then we have the surreal algae island.... still not clear about what that actually was. Nice image of sleeping up a tree surrounded by meerkats. But then, I like meerkats.

Actually the main thing that pissed me off was the ending. I'm getting a little fed up with books that use the 'it was all a dream' or 'he was barking mad' excuse to tie up fantastical storylines. Some books can pull it off because it doesn't undermine the 'reality' of the storyline. However, the ending was somehow predictable in that the author was hurried to explain away the novel by having Pi delirious and confused so much so that he made up the entire fantastic journey.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dinner & a DVD - Fever Pitch

Before you turn up your nose, I have to admit this was very good. I'm not a cranberry person, but I really liked the flavor of this. If you're looking for something fast but different for dinner, try this unique entree. Combining the chili sauce, brown sugar, and cranberry sauce gives the chicken a welcome zip.

Cranberry Chicken

Boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips **
Onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups chili sauce (I used one bottle - not sure what this measures out to)
3/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Hot cooked rice or noodles (I used Amish noodles I bought at the Farmer's Market this fall)

** I use the precooked Butterball Chicken Breasts Strips (grilled) - easy & convenient. A little expensive ($4.99 for a package), but I hate cutting up and messing with raw chicken. **

In a large skillet, sauté the chicken and onion in butter until chicken is no longer pink (or skip this part if you use the Butterball Chicken Breasts Strips). Add the chili sauce, cranberry sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles. Ready in 30 minutes or less

Featured Attraction: Fever Pitch

Plot: Lindsay(Drew Barrymore) is a business executive who meets Ben(Jimmy Fallon), a teacher. They soon start seeing each other. But, then, Lindsay finds out Ben is a Boston Red Sox fan. The problem? He is obsessed and goes to each and every game. Now, Lindsay must decide whether to break it off with Ben or accept his obsession.

Pam's Review: Fever Pitch was a light-hearted romantic comedy that offered something for everyone. Even though I'm not a baseball fan, I wasn't bored or lost throughout the movie. I thought the end lacked a little bit, but other than that, people who appreciate sports should be able to appreciate this movie for that aspect of it.

Jimmy Fallon did a nice job as well. He and Drew Berrymore had a nice and innocent chemistry. The jokes were not roll-around-on-the-floor-funny, but they were good enough to keep you entertained and attentive to the movie.

Those of us who appreciate romance in a movie will find that the romantic parts of this movie are cliché, but cute none-the-less. It is enough romance to officially make the movie a romantic comedy. Overall, it is a lighthearted movie that I would suggest to anyone, who is open-minded enough to appreciate a movie for what it is.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My Name is Earl - Buried Treasure

Overview: In classic whodunit fashion, Earl must determine who took his stolen "treasure" so he can cross it off his list. Joy, Darnell and Randy all give their own version of what happened to the buried treasure.

First Aired: January 11. I watched it January 22.

Pam's Review: Earl decides to do #52 on his list: Dig up and return the buried treasure. Several years ago, Earl, Randy, and Joy stole some Civil War silverware from the library/museum. It was too hot to sell right away, so they buried it. From this backstory, we learn each character’s underhanded participation in a story that ends up with the silverware right back in the museum. First “My Name Is Earl,” then “My Name Is Randy,” then “Joy,” then “Crabman,” then “Dotty,” the librarian.

My favorite parts (aside from the genius that was giving each character’s part as their own “My Name Is” mini-episode):
  • Earl is glad the library and museum are joined because “You could actually learn stuff there instead of just reading books.”

  • After hearing about the identifying mark on the Civil War silverware (a letter “C”), Randy marvels: “A ‘C’ for silverware! That’s smart!”

  • Earl wants his ransom note to look like he’s crazy and he’ll do anything, so he uses a nipple out of a magazine for a period.

  • The two Russian frauds are debating how to get the silverware from Randy. Man: “Is he the brains of the operation?” Woman: “Not exactly.” Man: “The heart?” Woman: “He’s more like the butt.”

  • Randy’s thoughts upon meeting the Russians: “I can’t wait to tell Earl I met a guy who sounded like Count Chocula and looked like Frankenberry!”

New Music Download

Another quiet music week.

I did download Sing You Sinners from Erin McKeown's new CD Sing You Sinners. On the swinging title track of her fifth abum - a not-so-standard collection of tunes from the '30s, '40s, and '50's - 29-year-old Erin McKeown seems to be possessed by the spirit of Rosemary Clooney.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Soup of the Week - Leek Potato Soup

I'm always on the lookout for easy soups because I love them particulary in the winter months. My friend Tony shared this recipe with me. I adapted it a little bit to come up with this rich soup.

Leek Potato Soup

1 lb leeks, cleaned & dark green sections removed
3 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
3 to 4 small Yukon gold potatoes

32 oz chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups of cheese
6 slices of cooked, crumbled bacon
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Chop the leeks into small pieces. Melt butter. Add the leeks and salt to taste. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are soft.

Puree the mixture until smooth. Stir in heavy cream, buttermilk, pepper, cheese, and bacon. Heat, but do not boil. sprinkle with chives.

Friday Night Lights - What To Do While You Are Waiting

What exactly do you do while you're waiting to learn whether your football team made the playoffs. Why, you file a lawsuit, battle domestic abuse, and go to the rodeo.

Plot: The Panthers' season depends on the outcome of a Friday game between Arnett Mead and Buckley. Smash is still trying (and failing) to date Waverly. Matt's dad says he is leaving the Army to stay home with Matt and Grandma. Tyra gets fed up with her mom's abusive boyfriend, and Coach Taylor finds out he's being sued by Jason's family. Gee, that games doesn't seem so important now, does it?

Aired: January 10. I watched it January 21.

Pam's Review: This was a great episode since it allowed us to look more closely at the characters and the conflicts that are developing. I laughed at Coach Taylor’s ‘stink bug” labeling of Matt, who has steadily grown into one of the best characters in the show. His conversation with his dad when he acknowledges that he’s a better soldier than a car salesman and urges him to return to Iraq is so honest.

I loved when Julie fixed tea for Grandma, whose insight into football seems to be dead on. And now I understand Tyra and her desire to leave Dillon much more. It will be interesting to see what Jason says and does now that the courtroom drama is sure to begin. It’s a good thing that football took a backseat in this episode, for awhile at least. But, the Panthers are in the playoffs anyway.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Earnhardt Tails - Dreamgirls

Another Saturday evening and I was left behind. My sweet little doll, Ms. Pam, headed off late in the afternoon to meet up with her co-workers, Ms. Jane and Ms. Pat, to see Dreamgirls. How sad that my singing voice is more scat than lyrics, for my personal theme song would have to be “There is nothing like a dame.”

Of course not all females are dames. Some are little dolls, like my petite roommate, Ms. Pam. The difference between dames and little dolls? Dames can take care of themselves, period. Little dolls can take care of themselves also but they are not averse to letting the male of the species have a role in the Master Plan too. That is why my Ms. Pam and I are perfect roomies. She tolerates my wandering ways. I make myself useful looking after her without letting her know about it. Call me Muscle in Midnight Black. We share a well-honed sense of class and long, sharp fingernails.

After returning home, Ms. Pam enjoyed a glass of Merlot and is still feeling overwhelmed by the emotion of the movie Dreamgirls, particularly the depth of feeling that Jennifer Hudson managed to convey in her role as Effie White, the 'fourth' Dreamgirl, the underdog with the genuinely awe-inspiring vocal talent.

Ms Pam continued to tell me that to say that the film is a monumental feat for Ms. Hudson is an understatement. Nearly halfway through, she delivered the song "And I Am Telling You" (which Ms. Pam recently downloaded last week), and that moment alone redefined the term "show stopper" ten times over. Ms. Hudson delved as deep into the core of her very soul as a person could possibly go to wrench out a performance that left Ms. Pam emotionally overhauled good and proper. Ms. Pam defies, in fact, anybody with any shred of feeling to sit through this number unaffected.

The rest of the movie worked too, in every possible way. Eddie Murphy especially is a standout, and this came not a second too soon - he'd been languishing away for years now in thankless roles, and it was a genuine thrill to see him come alive once again, in a part that allowed him not only to show what a fantastic singer he is, but also how overpoweringly magnetic he is as a performer and as a film star.

Ms. Pam had never seen the stage production, and she wasn't really familiar with the plot, so she was not prepared for the film to be so emotionally wrenching, but this is, of course, a good thing - it made her care deeply about the characters (Hudson's and Murphy's in particular), and this is what makes the film a success, in her estimation.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thirsty Third Thursday (MTTT)

About 1 1/2 years ago, a small group of us started MTTT (Thirsty Third Thursday). Our main purpose is to get together on the third Thursday of every month at a different bar/restaurant. We don't do chains and we don't repeat locations, except for Bell's Brewery (which is our yearly anniversary location in August). Although we have mulled around repeating O'Duffy's for the March MTTT since it is one of the best Irish-bars in town to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

John and I have the legendary honor of perfect attendance at all of the MTTT events (but since I plan them, it's almost mandatory that I attend. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it). Lindsey & Cheryl have only missed one outing and I can always count on them to show up. Bob attends whenever he is in town (although he doesn't like to go downtown) and always invites his friend, Kenn. On any given third Thursday, we could have from 6 to 20 people show up. But no matter the number, we always have a good time.

On January 18, we chose the Hangar Bar & Grill. This is a new restaurant on the westside of Kalamazoo. "Good food matches the good looks of the new Hangar Bar and Grill," wrote the Kalamazoo Gazette Food Editor, William Wood. Everyone was impressed with the industrial look of the Hangar and its aviation theme. Enlarged black-and-white photos of air shows decorate the walls. Large model airplanes hang from the ceiling. A TV was in view anywhere our heads turned. One of the restaurant's 37 TV monitors was in the men's restroom. Several TVs were positioned in the floor.
Photo: Maddy, Pam & Liz (newest employee - started on Monday)

The only compliant was from us shorter people who thought the tables & stools were too tall. I couldn't scoot my chair in very easily without stepping down first. Cheryl even broke two fingernails when she tried to scoot in. Plus the tables are bolted to the floor, so we had to separate our group. Also, Gary was not impressed that their bar did not have a better brand of bourbon. But, that didn't bother the rest of us since we all drink beer. They had Blue Moon on tap, so I was happy.

I ordered The Tuscany ($8.95) pizza, which has spicy chicken, spinach, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pomodoro sauce and feta, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. It was baked in a wood-fire oven and was very good and would highly recommend it.
Next MTTT - February 15 at Damon's, which is closing at the end of February.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wine of The Week

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot

From Maipo Valley of Chile. A ruby red color. Unique and unmistakable, in this wine you will find red berry fruit with chocolate and toasted coffee notes. On the palate, the fruit is interweaved with toffee notes; the tannins appear mature, giving a good structure, balance and roundness.

World Market Price - $9.99.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CSI - Leaving Las Vegas

CSI is still one my favorite TV shows after seven seasons. My favorite characters are Grissom and Warrick. So I'm going to be sad over the next four weeks while Grissom is off on his sabbatical.

Leaving Las Vegas aired January 4. I finally watched it yesterday January 16.

Plot: Catherine testifies in a murder trial in which a man is accused of murdering his own mother three years ago, but the suspect is found not guilty. Catherine, however, believes he did commit the crime and that he may also have killed two other people, so she sets out to find the other victims. Grissom prepares to leave on a four-week sabbatical.

Point of Interest: The guy who played attorney Adam Novak (Adam Rosenberg) is Marg Helgenberger's (Catherine Willows) husband in real life.

Pam's Review: A very intriguing episode. Grissom prepared to go on sabbatical and had a little something to say to everyone. Hodges had me cracking up with advice on Williams College and getting around out there. Nick was adorable thinking Grissom wouldn't be coming back and then being told "I'm coming back in four weeks. Stop hugging me."

It appears that some people are starting to guess at the relationship between Grissom and Sara. If only Nick and Catherine knew how close they were. The case Catherine and Nick worked was a little boring but the little boy broke my heart. Also, Catherine's "button" game to get the wrongly confessed guy in prison to answer questions was a little strange (but probably not to most guys who watch this show).

The final scene of the episode-a package being delivered to Grissom with another mini crime scene complete with a newspaper heading of "Another Body Found"-was a complete surprise. I was convinced that Ernie Dell was the killer, but obviously there is an accomplice. We'll have to wait for Grissom to come back to find out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dinner and DVD Night

Tonight's entree was Sirloin Roast, served with sausage stuffing (compliments of my friend Jean), and corn. This recipe is perfect for cold winter evenings (it's about 10 degrees tonight) and dinner was basically ready when I came home from work. The peppery, fork-tender roast creates a tasty meal. Plus I have leftovers for a beef vegetable soup now.

Sirloin Roast

1 boneless beef sirloin tip roast
1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground mustard

Rub roast with pepper and garlic; cut in half if needed and place in a slow cooker. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard; pour over beef. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until the meat is tender. My roast was approx. 1 1/4 lbs. I use a timer with my slow cooker so it doesn't cook to death.

Featured Attraction: Far From Heaven starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert.

Plot: Cathy (Julianne Moore) is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband, social prominence. Then one night she surprises her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) kissing another man, and her tidy world starts spinning out of control. In her confusion and grief, she finds consolation in the friendship of their African-American gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) - a socially taboo relationship that leads to the further disintegration of life as she knew it. Despite Cathy and Frank's struggle to keep their marriage afloat, the reality of his homosexuality and her feelings for Raymond open a painful, if more honest, chapter in their lives.

Pam's Review: The music and look of this film, was a homage to films of the 1950's and Julianne Moore reminded me of Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch, sugary sweet, a time when things were "simple". But looks are always deceiving, and I thought I'd fall asleep through most of it, but Moore, Quaid and Haysbert deliver in their respective roles. Moore, especially, after discovering her husband, played by Dennis Quaid, kissing another man and then she falls for Dennis Haysbert's gardener character (isn't he the Allstate guy?).

Definitely not the most entertaining movie, but it is a relevant social commentary. Quaid sees a psychiatrist about his attraction to men and Moore defies convention, by accompanying a single father from a different race (Haysbert). Overall this is a good not great drama. I liked the unhappy ending and the "what could have been" if it were acceptable at that time. Director Todd Haynes has at least reminded the public that "acceptance" of certain behaviors is still incomprehensible to many people, even if half a century has gone by.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Music Downloads

It has been pretty quiet in the music world lately. But I did download two recently released songs that I would recommend.

"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from the Dreamgirls Music from the Motion Picture. I have not seen the movie yet, but if it is anything like this song, which sends chills down my spine, I know I'll like the movie.

Carly Simon's new CD, Into White, has a dreamy version of "You Can Close Your Eyes", a 1971 tune by her ex-husband James Taylor. Talk about family harmony, her two children with Taylor, Ben & Sally, join her on this wonderful rendition. I love the piano accompaniment.

Speaking of music, I heard a great local band this weekend at the Old Hat. The Unknowns are four musicians who refer to their band as classic rock with some current songs thrown in. These guys play a couple of times a month in the area and have a huge following since most of them are from Van Buren County. I worked for about 10 years with Ron, the lead guitarist, before he left Manatron to pursue his rock & roll dream. He was previously with The Malibus before they disbanded.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Nevermind

One of my favorite new shows from the Fall 2006 Season is Friday Nights Lights. The show takes place in Texas, a state that loves their football. Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is a first-time high school football coach, finds himself helming a stellar team that has a real chance to make it to the top. The stakes are high, the reward is sweet, and the pressure is immense.

Episode Aired: January 3, 2007

Title: Nevermind is an allusion to the grunge band Nirvana's CD Nevermind released September 24, 1991. In this episode Jason Street can not find and eventually goes to a record store to repurchase the CD.

Episode Overview: The Panthers are preparing for another game they can't lose. Matt's father comes back from Iraq but his mother's condition is difficult to take in.Tami Taylor sees Tim Riggins regarding his grades. She believes he's not doing his homework by himself and asks Landry to tutor him for his next oral exam. If he doesn't pass, he won't play in the football team.

Pam's Review: There was a lot of pain and frustration in this episode, and not typical teen angst crap, either: no whining about not getting to use the car or stay out late, but real pain -- a father who can't see how his indifference is destroying his son, and real frustration -- a young man who can't do anything he used to, and has to learn to deal with that.But balancing all the pain were the brilliant scenes with Landry and Riggins, slogging through Of Mice and Men and forging some kind of bizarre friendship on route to a B- for Riggins' oral report.

Soup of The Week - Onion Tomato Soup

Tomatoes and herbs spark the taste of this savory soup. It tastes especially delicious when it's cold out.

Onion Tomato Soup

2 cups thinly sliced onions
4 teaspoons of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 2/3 cups tomato juice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons minced basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 cups diced tomatoes

In a large saucepan, saute onions in oil until tender. Add the tomato juice, water, basil, oregano, sugar, and celery salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes; cook 10 minutes longer.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Skinny Dip" by Carl Hiaasen

I finished this book the other night. This was the first book I had read by Carl Hiaasen and I liked it. A mystery comedy romance, all in one. I am definitely going to read more of his books. His newest one just came out called "Nature Girl."

You start rooting immediately for Joey after she is thrown off a cruise ship by her horrible husband Chaz. But it's the more minor characters who are memorable (like Janet Evanovich's). Tool, the bear-like "bodyguard" who is convincingly described and whose change of heart is wonderful; Maureen, the 80-something cancer patient who starts Tool's reformation; Medea, the hippie lover of Chaz who proves that she won't stand for any crap; Corbett Wheeler, Joey's sheep farmer brother; and the Captain, one-eyed mad hermit of the Everglades. There are some great comic scenes, particularly with Rolvaag's encounters with his mad, dog-loving neighbors (he owns two pythons of whom the residents of his building are terrified), and Chaz's attempts to get laid after Joey's "death."

Hiassen has a way of making the punishment fit the crime. Lives unravel, love is found, money changes hands, and I was entertained all the way. Who could ask for anything more?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Earnhardt Tails - "Old Joy" Movie Review

Friday night and this old man stayed at home while my young sophisticated roommate went out to the movies with her friend Ms. Leslie. I need to have a talk one of these days with Ms. Leslie. She is a children's book author but for some reason she writes about chickens. I know they are tasty and all, but in my opinion a book about a dark handsome, debonair man-cat would make for much more interesting tails. Ms. Pam has read to me Big Chickens, which I do have to admit made me lick my chops. Plus I hear Ms. Leslie was selected for the Michigan Reads program for the 2007/08 school year. A big meow for this accomplishment, Ms. Leslie.

Ms. Pam and Ms. Leslie went to see Old Joy, an independent film playing at Western Michigan University's Little Theater. The film was sponsored through the Kalamazoo Film Society.

Old Joy is a story of two old friends, Kurt (Will Oldham) and Mark (Daniel London), who reunite for a weekend camping trip in the Cascade mountain range east of Portland, Oregon. For Mark, the weekend outing offers a respite from the pressure of his imminent fatherhood; for Kurt, it is part of a long series of carefree adventures. As the hours progress and the landscape evolves, the twin seekers move through a range of subtle emotions, enacting a pilgrimage of mutual confusion, sudden insight, and spiritual battle. When they arrive at their final destination, a hot spring in an old growth forest, they must either confront the divergent paths they have taken, or somehow transcend their growing tensions.

Both Ms. Pam and Ms. Leslie thought the film was good, but a little slow due to the quiteness and silent periods that was filtered through the movie. And they were a little confused at the end, but this made for great conversation while dining at the University Roadhouse afterwards.

Afterwards when I snuggled up with Ms. Pam she gave me her thoughts: A simple film about two college friends who discover that their lives have seperated. I know that some of my friendships from my youth have stayed alive and others have died so it was easy to relate to. Recovering a lost friendship is essentially what the film was about. But at times it felt like it was about nothing since there wasn't a lot of dialogue besides the natural, every day sounds we take for granted.

The director made sure the camera was on everything that was important. The cinematography is what makes this movie spectacular. Every scene is shot with such clarity, that no camera movement is necessary. The movie was filmed in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. I have never been there, but the scenery was beautiful.

Will Oldham, who plays the part of Kurt, does a great role as a lost character. The film is open ended, which made it frustrating. But it makes you wonder if joy wears out naturally for some people, while others haven't given up it. Fittingly, at one point Kurt shares with Mark a Chinese proverb: "Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mr. Monk and the Leper

Plot: Monk becomes involved in a murder plot when a reclusive millionnaire suffering from leprosy hires him to solve a mystery.

First Aired: December 22, 2006
Notes: On it's original airing, this episode was presented first in black & white and then in color. USA Network then held an on-line poll for viewers to indicate which version they preferred, but I can't seem to find which episode was preferred on the USA Network website.

Pam's Review: Though a few weeks late, as an avid Monk fan, the black & white, film noir-ish version was outstanding.

The hysteria displayed by Monk after he learned that he shook hands with the "fake Leper", priceless! Putting kerosene on himself, and asking Natalie to burn it was oh-so funny. Also, his attempt to cover the phone that Natalie received the "Leper's" call was a nice touch. But, it showed some real courage for the detective to accept the deal.
However, I must say that my favorite part of the episode was Randy Disher's old, acne-filled photos hung on the docter's wall, was hilarious, and his claim that it was all part of an undercover job, too good.

Skipping some plot sequences here and there, another excellent scene was when Adrian's "skills" were put to the test by the judge. By figuring out that the judge was sleeping with his typist, our flawed, but awesome detective proved that you should never doubt him.

The plot between who was the real leper, Monk's or Natalie's was funny. "Not your leper, my leper!" as Monk says on the hot-air balloon. And the cliff-hanging scene at the end, forced with a decision between death and grabbing a real leper's hand, what a decision! Thankfully, or not for Adrian, he grabbed his hand and was saved.
The one thing that this episode missed most was the prescense of Capt. Stottlemeyer. That guy's a hoot whenever he's in a scene.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wine of The Week

Budini Chardonnay

An explosive effort, the Budini Chardonnay is as appealing an effort as one can find in marketplace; long and tasty with excellent depth of fruit. Tropical fruit and lemon aromas combined with gentle oak notes to provide an alluring complexity. It is medium-bodied and has well-balanced acidity with hints of lemon and pineapple fruit that lead to a dry, crisp finish. There is just a kiss of oak flavor that frames the fresh fruit flavors. It is a bright, crisp and captivating young wine to enjoy by itself or paired with chicken, pork and seafood.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Dinner and a DVD - Tuesday Pam Night

Tuesday Night is Pam Night. It's one of the rare evenings I'm home so I fix a good meal, pop a DVD in and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

I'm constantly on the lookout for good food that's ready in a jiffy. And since Basil Orange Chops requires one pan and little work, I give this flavorful dish high marks. It' a delicious main course that comes together easily when time is short.

From Pam's Kitchen: Basil Orange Chops - Ready in 30 minutes or less
Boneless butterflied pork chops
Onion, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

In a large skillet, brown pork chops and onion in oil. Add the orange juice, peel and basil. Cover and cook until meat juices run clear. Remove chops and keep warm. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over the chops.

Tonight's Feature Attraction:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet. A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
"How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!The world forgetting, by the world forgot.Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign’d."-- Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard.

Pam's Review: I liked it. This movie gives us what we all secretly wish for-- a chance to forget something that's hurt us in the past. The viewer can almost live vicariously through the two dysfunctional characters that are remarkably just like ordinary people. The relationship problems are the same. The little fights and bickers are things we all can relate to.
The acting was amazing- throughout the movie, I actually forgot that I was watching Mr. Ace Ventura himself. Carrey and Winslet pull off a great performance, both ditching the typecasts that they've been shackled with. Not only did the film give us the opportunity to see what it was like if painful memories were erased, but it also gave us the opportunity to see that everything deserves a second chance.
The way it ends leaves the viewer to imagine how the characters' lives will end. The idealist may say that they lived happily ever after; the pessimist may say that they just reverted to disliking each other again. Either way, it leaves you to imagining your own ending; a characteristic many films leave out. Basically, this movie makes you think, "What if...?" It truly gives new meaning to the phrase "You never know what you've got until it's gone."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Yoga Babes - Namaste Every Day

The Yoga Babes, a group of six women, meet on Monday evenings to share life, practice yoga, and to enjoy each others company. We have been practicing yoga for nearly 4 1/2 years and during this time deep and lasting friendships have developed. Meet the Babes (L/R): Leslie, Chris, Pam, Elizabeth, Barb & Jean

Tonight we met at Chris' home. Chris & her husband, Gregg, live in the country in a beauitful log cabin home and raise horses for thoroughbred racing. One of their new ponies was born on my birthday this past year!

We also celebrate good food & wine after an hour of yoga exercies. Tonight was no exception. We had beef kabobs, rice, corn, cuscus, spinich dip, fudge, and coffee cake. We are all wonderful cooks!

Namaste Every Day: You've probably heard it before and wondered what it means. The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart. The gesture is an acknolwegment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means "bow," "as" means "I," and "te" means "you." Namaste literally means "I bow to you."

To perform Namaste, we place our hands together at the heart, close the eyes, and bow the head. This is an especially deep form of respect. In the West the word "Namaste" is usually spoken in conjunction wtih the gesture; in India it is understood that the gesture itself signifies the meaning, and therefore it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

Leslie and Pam demonstrate the Namaste position.

This gesture of deep respect doesn't have to be confined to yoga class. You don't even have to physically or vocally express Namaste to send well wishes out into the world. Try connecting with people you encounter at work, or even with complete strangers you pass on the street, by silently acknowledging the Divine spark within them. Even though they probably won't relaize it, your kind energy just might have a positive effect on their day - and it will remind you to be filled with joy and compassion.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Bones: Judas on a Pole

I'm always a few weeks behind in watching my favorite TV shows. This episode aired on December 13 and was directed by David Duchovny (Fox Mulder from the X Files - still one of my all time favorite shows).

The title: Judas on a Pole is an allusion to Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 Apostle's of Jesus as portrayed in the Catholic and Christian religions, among others. He is the one who betrays Jesus, signifying the "betrayers" in this episode that burn on the pole.

Overview: Booth and Brennan are called to the scene where a man's body was found gutted, burned and hung like a scarecrow on the roof of a Federal Building. Booth determines the victim was a snitch working in a organized crime syndicate.

Brennan's brother, Russ, informs her of a phone call he received from their father, warning him that they are both in danger. Soon after a priest contacts Brennan telling her that her father insists on she and Booth to drop their case.

They determine that the body found was actually an ex-FBI agent, who was tracking Russ to kill him. Hence giving reason to Brennan's father's warnings. The deeper they get into their case the more they learn and finally make a shocking discovery that can cause serious repercussions for Booth and his career.

Zack must defend his dissertation to obtain his doctorate, asking help from a fellow colleague.

Pam's Review: David Duchovny (as expected) has crafted an amazing episode of Bones. One of the most memorable and moving episodes of the series, up there with 'aliens in a spaceship', 'two bodies in the lab' & 'the woman in limbo'.

What more could you ask for? The return of Brennan's family mystery and her brother, the confirmation that something is surfacing between Brennan & Booth (from the looks of it, its going to come to a climax sometime this season), as well as a whopper of a case for the team, which becomes very personal for Brennan.

The filming and editing in this episode caught my attention from the first second and I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. David Duchovny, from all his brilliant work with the X-Files over those 8 or so long years, has developed an incredible eye for angles and amazing skill in putting together a cohesive and stunning episodic storyline. Or I could just say he's great at what he does. The 2nd season has been very consistent thus far, and is very close to surpassing the intrigue of the 1st.

Soup of the Week

Sunday late afternoons are meant for making soup. Each Sunday I prepare a different soup that will get me through the next five days of lunches. Nothing is more comforting than a delicious bowl of soup.

Zippy White Chili

This chunky chicken chili doesn't require any fancy preparation or exotic ingredients. I like to serve the zesty mixture over crunchy tortilla chips.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 small onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley
1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (15 oz) white kidney or cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
Tortilla Chips (optional)

In a saucepan coated with nonstock cooking spray, saute chicken and onion until juices run clear; drain if desired. Stir in broth, chilies, garlic powder, oregano, cilantro/parsley, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 mintues. Stir in beans, cook 10 minutes longer. Seve over tortilla chips.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Earnhardt Tails

Earnhardt Tails

I'm the big bad black dude who lives with and protects my owner Ms. Pam. Ms. Pam adopted me from the Animal Rescue Society over eight years ago when I was just a little tyke. My original name was Spike, but Ms. Pam had other ideas and affectionately named me after the Intimidator, the Man in Black aka Mr. Dale Earnhardt. She also lovingly refers to me as "Man Cat." I have been her faithful companion ever since.

Ms. Pam and her good friend, Ms. Jean (who is highly allergic to me and doesn't like to pet me), went to the movies tonight. They saw The Holiday staring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black. Ms. Jean liked the movie. Ms. Pam did not, except for the parts with Jack Black.

When I asked Ms. Pam what she thought of the movie, she gave me this review while stroking the back of head. "What a MISSED opportunity. I like all the actors/actresses but something went wrong. It often looked like Cameron was fake acting and did not want to do this movie. The scene when she and Jude are sharing their life story is so shallow, insincere (by Cameron) and poorly done that I was shocked it got past editing. That Jack Black is the best actor in this movie should say it all. Kate Winslet did a good job and she and Jack alone would have made this a good movie."

However, all was not lost on the evening. Ms. Jean and Ms. Pam went to their favorite restaurant - The Oakwood Bistro where Ms. Pam ordered the Harvest Salad and Sauteed Walleye.
Ms. Pam is enjoying her wine of the week and I'm ready to snuggle in on her lap for some EGR (Extra Good Rubs) so until our next adventure . . .

Friday, January 5, 2007

Art Hop - January 5, 2007

Lindsey, Kenn, Singh, Pam

The Parks Trade Center is in an old factory building. They still use the original freight elevators.
Linda, Phil, Kullan, Lindsey, Jamie

Lindsey & I went to the Art Hop tonight in downtown Kalamazoo. Kenn Livingston, a good friend of ours, held an Open House of his new photo exhibit - "Fins, Chrome, and Color" Auto Parts - The Series.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

New Year's 2006 in Tucson with Tony.

Check out the rest of my photos at:


Wine of the Week for January 1, 2007

Di Majo Norante - Sangiovese

Made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the Sciabolone and Martarosa vineyards and harvested in late October. The wine is aged in large oak barrels for 6 months. This Sangiovese exhibits a fresh bouquet of violets and woodland berries. It is smooth and refreshing on the palate with loads of ripe fruit and represents an excellent value.