Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Extreme Makeover Edition

This is a picture of me with my brother Everest. It was taken in late 1969 in those halcyon days before K2 arrived in 1970. (Just kidding, K2! The REAL halcyon days were before 1964! Heh!)

I am 7, Ev is 5. I like that it looks like I am leaning away from him! Ewww, brother hug! And, of course, my SHORT-sleeved turtleneck.

But the best part is that this is only the "Before" picture! This was a photo shoot for the annual Christmas card photo. It's probably November, hence the turtleneck. It's also Louisiana, hence the sleeveless top. I guess?

Are you ready for the "After"?!

Here it is!

Our hair has been tamed into submission with a combination of Brylcreem (Ev) and pincurls (me). Ev's outfit has apparently been borrowed from the "Bing Crosby Collection for Young Men". And I am not sure where Ev's glasses went. I'm wearing a standard lacy party dress. I am pretty sure I remember those elastic sleeves digging into my arms.

I thought that perhaps the second photo's coloring was off but I do remember a large photographer's light that Pop used when taking our Christmas pictures. I think it is in use for the fancy picture but not the test shot. Or it IS used in both pictures and the second picture has yellowed a bit. Oh well.

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joining the Throwback Thursday Train

Yes, I'm jumping on the bandwagon of Throwback Thursday. I know it's lame but, hey! Easy blog entry!

I think this picture is HILARIOUS! That's me at 10 years old with my youngest brother K2 who's a few months shy of 2. (Nice pacifier, K2!)

Based on the completely unflattering angle I am pretty sure this was taken by my other brother Everest. He would have been sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table (which is not visible in this shot).  Ev had just turned 8 and this is EXACTLY the kind of picture an 8-year-old brother would take of his sister.

It's March 1972 and I am holding a TV Guide while staring at the TV. That pretty much sums up a good chunk of our childhood lifestyle.

I am wearing my school uniform shirt and what seem to be the shorts I wore on the days we had P.E. The uniform also had a blue jumper which I generally changed out of once we got home from school. And my hair is really long! But I am not yet wearing glasses (which I got when I was 11 or 12) so I didn't yet know that people on TV weren't SUPPOSED to be blurry.

I can tell it's March 1972 because that's when we briefly moved into this duplex when my parents decided to sell our house. After about 3 weeks the house still hadn't sold and we moved back to it. I don't remember why my parents changed their minds about selling. I'll need to ask Pop.

What's interesting is that during the 3 or so weeks we lived here is that we had visitors from out of town every single week! Basically we moved in and within a day or two we had company arrive. They left after a week and then we had a different set of visitors. And then a third set. Then we moved back to our old house.

My mom had packed and unpacked all our stuff TWICE and then entertained for three straight weeks! And she didn't know at the time that she had developed a (non-cancerous) stomach tumor so she felt terrible all that time. (She had surgery in the summer to remove it.)

And Orange Plaid Couch ALERT!!!! That stayed in the family until the 1990s!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Culinary Corner: Tilapia with Spinach

I have purchased a few issues of "Food Network Magazine" lately because I wanted to see if I liked it better than "Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine" for which I've had a subscription the past year.

I definitely like Food Network better! Time to subscribe!

My only real complaint about the recipes in magazines is that they will include the ingredients list and instructions for a main item and side dish as part of the same recipe. An example would be something like, say, Teriyaki Flank Steak and Rice Pilaf. I don't always want to make both things so I would prefer separate recipes for each component.

Anyhoo, there was a recipe for Lemon-Garlic Tilapia with Spinach that sounded good and easy. But the spinach part was just baby spinach leaves tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper completely separate from the fish. I don't know, the idea of cold spinach leaves tossed with oil didn't sound that tasty. It's basically a very plain side salad. So I changed it up. Here's my version:

Kelly's Lemon-Basil Tilapia with Spinach

6 tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tsp chopped basil
2 tbsp butter
8 cups baby spinach leaves
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1) Pat tilapia dry and season with salt and pepper. Coat with flour, shaking off excess. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Cook tilapia until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

2) Wipe out skillet and heat more olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, parsley and basil. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add butter and cook for 1 minute.

3) Add spinach and stir until the spinach is coated and slightly wilted. Serve over or under the tilapia fillets.

Serves 6

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We had it with a side of a "lemondrop" melon. Really good and goes well with the fish, too!

If you don't eat it all the first night you are better off adding the spinach fresh each time you heat up the sauce otherwise the spinach turns dark green and slimy like canned spinach. I actually just cut the recipe in half and cooked it two nights in a row. 

I am famous in my house for substituting things called for in recipes ("Didn't have fusilli pasta so I used rice!" "Didn't have clams so I used shrimp!") but in this case I actually had everything for the original recipe with only couple of changes or additions.

It called for fresh lemon and fresh parsley for which I substituted bottled lemon juice and dried parsley. I have frozen cubes of basil which I buy at Trader Joe's. The basil, because it's fresh (albeit frozen), adds a stronger flavor than the parsley so I think it's better (unless you don't like basil).

I think this would be good with almost any kind of fish fillet, especially salmon. But salmon is so pricey now and tilapia is much less expensive. Like halibut I consider tilapia to be the tofu of fish in that it has no real flavor of its own and depends on the sauce or seasonings to liven it up.

I am also famous in my house for adding onions to EVERYTHING. (Except desserts!) Hence added onion compared to the original Food network version!

I couldn't tell you if my olive oil is virgin or not (kind of a personal question!) but my stance on cooking oil is that you shouldn't taste it at all in a dish like this so you could probably use vegetable oil in its place.

As a kid and young adult I hated spinach. I still think canned spinach or frozen spinach are kind of gross but I really like the taste of the baby spinach leaves. I guess it has a milder taste when it's lightly cooked rather than boiled to death.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ten Books, Volume 5

Because I know you all wait with bated breath for what Kelly's been reading lately...

NON-FICTION
  • The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
    • This was a really interesting book. Starting with Herbert Hoover and his relationship with Franklin Roosevelt, the book covers how each current president gets along with the ex-presidents. (Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.)
    • Hoover and Harry Truman became close friends after working together, as have George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Nixon was surprisingly helpful to later presidents (and was the one recent president who benefited the least from the Club as the others had all died by the time his second term began). 
    • I have a new appreciation for President Johnson. He was really in a no-win situation with the Vietnam War. Pull out the troops early on and the Communists take over (unacceptable in the Cold War period) or ramp up the military force and American boys die (what happened).
FICTION
  • The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 by Chris Claremont and Len Wein and Bill Mantlo
    • A collection of the Uncanny X-Men comic books #94-131. My personal collection of X-Men comic books starts with issue 138. I really want to write more about this in a separate post so hang in there!
  • Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy
    • This was the first novel published in 1982 by Maeve Binchy, an Irish author who died a couple of years ago. Three of her books are among my favorites: Circle of Friends, Evening Class and Scarlet Feather. I re-read these three from time to time.
    • I liked this one but didn't love it. The main characters were fine but I hated the character of Johnny. It seemed ridiculous that Elizabeth and Aisling both fall for the same selfish man. Anyway, it's not one I will re-read.
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
    • This is the 8th book in the Outlander series. Definitely better than the last book which ended on total cliffhangers (yes, plural cliffhangers). The first 6 books had complete stories while also furthering the continuing story of Claire and Jamie. The last two have so many threads and characters that I think it must be very difficult to tie each book up in a neat bow anymore.
    • So I liked this book better than the last but I am kind of tired of the series too. Now the characters are in the midst of the Revolutionary War and only covers a few months of time. Since the fighting will continue for another few years it seems the whole series may just go on indefinitely. We'll just have to wait and see. The books come out every 3 or 4 years so it could be well over another decade before we get the completion of the saga.
    • The Starz TV series covering the very first book begins next month. I am definitely watching it. It will likely inspire more interest in the overall book series. This book, if the TV series makes it that far, wouldn't even get covered until 2021!
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
    • I know a lot of people loved this book but I didn't. SPOILER AHEAD!! You read a book and find out a character does something horrible so you expect them to get their comeuppance by the end, right? In this book, a child pays the price for the father's big secret. I think this must be why I didn't like the ending of another recent very well-liked book, Gone Girl. At the end of that book you learn that an innocent child will pay the price for the parents' doings. Ugh.
  • Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
    • This is book 1 in the Kate Burkholder mystery series. I have no memory of where I heard of it but the overall premise was irresistible: Kate is from a small Ohio town with a large Amish population. But wait, there's more! A murder occurs, similar in details to an attack on Kate when she was a teenager. The hook? Kate was Amish herself but the attack made her leave her hometown and become a police officer. Now she's back as police chief.
    • I generally steer clear of mystery series except for the first book; they all seem the same to me when read in bulk. But I think I may try to read some of the other 5 books in the series (so far). I think maybe pacing them out might help with the redundancy issues.
    • Plus, Amish!
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer 
    • This young adult series concerns what happens when a meteor hits the moon, moving it closer and causing havok to the Earth's climate: tides are more extreme and flood low-lying areas; volcanoes erupt that turn the sky gray, destroy crops and livestock and make the entire planet into a long winter; and earthquakes cause damage and tsunamis.
    • The first book is told from the viewpoint of a teen girl in Pennsylvania. The second book is the same story told through a teen boy's eyes. The third book unites the two and the fourth follows the heroine's younger brother.
    • All very interesting but it still seems incomplete. I think there may be more books coming? By the end of the last book society is formed into rigid societies of haves and have-nots. The have-nots spend a lot of time talking about revolution. A fifth book might cover that topic. I have read so many of these dystopian books and all of them end with some nod towards hope for the future. This one ends with an escape and society still fragmented.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mission: Movies

I have a Tivo DVR. I can record about 300 hours of programming. So now when I record a movie I don't really need to worry about deleting it before I watch it to make room for new stuff. I have only used about 19% of the space so it's not like I'm a movie HOARDER. Hmph.

That being said, it really oppresses me when I get so far behind. I have a choice: delete the movies and start over fresh OR watch them! The last week or so I have been really trying to watch some of these movies.

(It helps that "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are off for 2 weeks right now.)

(It also helps that CPA Boy had a couple of baseball games to go to, too.)

So here's what I watched over the last week:
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
    • Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello (Drew Barrymore's grandmother), Agnes Moorehead, Tim Holt, and Anne Baxter.
    • Orson Welles' next movie after "Citizen Kane", control was taken from him and the film was re-edited by the studio. And then they destroyed the removed footage!
    • Tim Holt's character is loathsome so it's hard to love the movie as a whole because his character is almost always front and center. I never recognize Anne Baxter in anything; she always looks different to me in every movie I've seen her in. (I do the same thing with Teresa Wright.)
  • The Merry Widow
    • Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chavalier, Una Merkel, Edward Everett Horton and directed by Ernst Lubitsch
    • Cute film but I have never been a fan of the singing style that Jeanette MacDonald uses. That operatic style was very prominent in those days. There is an MGM short starring both Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland. Deanna sings in operatic style that sounds old fashioned to my modern ears whereas Judy still sounds fresh today.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Edmond O'Brien and Thomas Mitchell
    • Good version of the story (though somewhat changed due to the Production Code of the era).
    • I always confuse Cedric Hardwicke with C. Aubrey Smith when I see their names. They were both in many movies. Smith was the ubiquitous kindly old man in almost every MGM movie in the 30s and 40s.
  • How Green Was My Valley
    • Roddy McDowell, Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp and directed by John Ford
    • Best Picture Oscar winner for 1941 (also had wins for Crisp and Ford).
    • The movie has a narrator, Roddy McDowell's character grown up. What's funny is that young Roddy sounded pretty much the same as an adult and the grown up narrator sounds NOTHING like young Roddy! This was something that took me out of "The Silence of the Lambs" too: when we flash back to Jodie Foster's character's childhood and the actress playing her looked nothing like young Jodie.
    • Good movie but not sure it deserved Best Picture over the others but by the time of the awards in 1942 the United States was at war. This might have been a more nostalgic choice than, say "Citizen Kane". Who knows.
  • East of Eden
    • James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Jo van Fleet, Burl Ives and directed by Elia Kazan
    • The film only covers the last section of the book which I loved. The book is great, a sprawling story and a bit of a potboiler. I think high school students would love Steinbeck a whole lot more if they read this book over The Grapes of Wrath or The Pearl, both great classics but oh so depressing reading. East of Eden has it all: adultery, attempted murder, prostitution, war, a Cain & Abel allegory. The Grapes of Wrath has people traveling from Oklahoma to California where one misfortune after another befalls them.
      • Yes, I know that many parents would be against their kids reading it but the goal should be to get students to read not make them more depressed!
    • The movie is okay. I am not a fan of James Dean or the 1950s version of Method acting (I think today's Method actors are much better). I feel the same about Marlon Brando. I see how powerful their acting is but it seems overwrought. I am taken out of the moment in those big emotional scenes. I find myself wondering what Dean's thinking about as he acts out a tormented moment. And since he spends much of the movie tormented...
  • Witness for the Prosecution
    • Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester and directed by Billy Wilder
    • This movie is based on an Agatha Christie story, a murder mystery. Tyrone Power is accused and Charles Laughton takes the case as his lawyer.
    • A couple of years ago I watched 1938's "Marie Antoinette" which starred Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. I had never seen him in anything before. I watched for a while before realizing I was keeping an eye out for Errol Flynn (who is NOT in the movie). Somehow, like Cedric Hardwicke and C. Aubrey Smith, I got these two actors confused! Now I am straight on who's who.
    • Tyrone Power was only about 43 when he made this film but he looks older. He would die of a heart attack within the year. As I was watching this film I realized that his voice is VERY similar to that of George Clooney's.
    • It's a pretty good mystery with a couple of twists at the end, like a good Agatha Christie story should have!
  • Robin and Marian
    • Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Shaw, Richard Harris
    • Basically a retread of the Robin Hood story: outlaws live in Sherwood Forest, Sheriff of Nottingham wants Robin's head, Robin loves Marian.
    • So the movie is not a great one. But any moment with Sean Connery or Audrey Hepburn is not a wasted one! Their scenes are great.
  • Seconds
    • Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Richard Anderson
    • A man played by John Randolph is unhappy in his life so he goes to the Company. They will give him plastic surgery and a new identity while faking his death for the benefit of his family and employer. Voila! He's now Rock Hudson!
    • This is kind of a horror movie in that the Company people are so creepy.
    • Salome Jens plays his love interest. She is known in Star Trek circles for having played the Female Changling on "Deep Space Nine."
    • Rock is great in this movie but the film moves slowly. It's not for everyone.
  • Vanity Fair
    • Reese Witherspoon, James Purefoy, Jonathan Ryhs Meyers, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Hoskins.
    • Based on the book by William Makepeace Thackeray, it's not bad. The book is better because the Becky Sharp character is utterly amoral and uses all devices to get ahead. In the movie, Reese Witherspoon could scarcely play such an awful character so she's softened up quite a bit. The movie, while following the book plot pretty closely, just doesn't have the same bite. And Gabriel Byrne just freaks me out.
  • Finding Neverland
    • Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore
      • Based on the relationship of James Barrie (author of Peter Pan) and the Llewelyn Davies family. He based some of his Peter Pan characters after the boys in the family.
      • Sweet little trifle of a movie with a good ending. I especially liked the performance of Kelly Macdonald as Peter Pan.
  • Blue Jasmine
    • Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale and directed by Woody Allen
    • Cate was fabulous but I didn't really like her character much. 
    • This was a movie where the performances are good but the screenplay is missing a bunch of scenes. One character just disappears after a while and breaks up with another over the phone later in the movie. That seemed weird to see only one side of the conversation (maybe the actor was unavailable for filming?). SPOILER AHEAD! The stepson hates Jasmine because she turned in her Bernie Madoff-like businessman husband to the Feds. Hello! Your dad was a CROOK who deserved to go to jail.
And I still have about 20 more movies on the DVR to go! And this weekend both "Frozen" and "Gravity" will record. Isn't this a nice change of pace from books?!