Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Wendy’s Word Goes Lowbrow – Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights November 29, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in Wendyland — wendy @ 5:01 pm

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I settled down to a Will Ferrell extravaganza — a double feature of Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights.  I’ve seen – and loved – both movies before, and the second time might even have been better than the first. 

In Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (Napolean Dynamite) play rival figure skaters who have to skate together in the pairs competition in order to win the gold medal in the world figure skating championship.  Amy Pohler and her husband play the cutthroat rival skating team, and Jenna Fischer (The Office) plays their sweet sister who falls for Jon Heder’s character.   Craig T. Nelson is great as the guys’ skating coach.

In Talladega Nights, Ferrell plays champion racecar driver Ricky Bobby.  Yes, this is a silly movie, but there are so many quotable lines and great performances.  John C. Reilly, who is fantastic in everything he’s been in, plays Ricky Bobby’s dumb best friend and fellow racecar driver, Sacha Baron Cohen plays a gay, French racecar driver who challenges Ricky Bobby’s championship status,  Jane Lynch (in everything, but my current favorite of her roles is Sue Sylvester in Glee) as Ricky Bobby’s tough but God-fearing mother, Gary Cole as Ricky Bobby’s deadbeat dad, Leslie Bibb as Bobby’s sexy and ruthless wife, and Amy Adams as the “sexy behind the glasses and frumpy hairstyle” assistant.

Both movies are immature, inappropriate for children (although my children and niece love them!) and raunchy, but they’re hilarious.  Or maybe my taste is suspect!

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The Godfather, by Mario Puzo November 21, 2009

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 2:07 pm

Sometimes you have to go back to the classics.  The Godfather is a fantastic book, not at all marred by the fact that I’ve seen the equally fantastic movie many times.  For those of you who have been living on another planet for the last half century, The Godfather chronicles the Corleone family, a leading organized crime family in New York, and how they adapt from a more “innocent” time to grimmer lines of business, like drugs.  (And speaking of innocent times, one of the heads of Family is described as buying a lavish house for $100,000.  Talk about innocent times!) The mafiosi in this book started out as poor Italian immigrants trying to live by society’s rules.  But when the rules of traditional society let them down, they turned to their own world with its strict code of ethics, where justice can always be obtained, for a price.  My mother loves The Godfather, because she says they’re so good to their mothers and place a strong value on the family.  Except they refer to it as the Family.  In other words, they’re just like us, give or take a few brutal murders and horse heads in the bed.

My only criticism is the few tangents that the book takes.  There are a few chapters devoted to the story of Johnny Fontane, a once-famous but now fading entertainer whose career the Don helps restore.  Although this side story is entertaining, it’s not germane to the main story.  Even more gratuitous is the story of Lucy and her doctor boyfriend and the detailed description of the surgery she has.  Huh?  There’s a reason they cut that out of the movie.

Other than that minor criticism, it’s a great book.  An American classic or a guilty pleasure, you decide.  It’s all good.

 

 

H1N1, The Public Health Message November 20, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in Wendyland — wendy @ 5:11 pm

The other day, I heard that the Centers for Disease Control was looking for influential mommy bloggers to spread the word about getting the H1N1 vaccine.  Since I fulfill 1 1/2 of the criteria (I’m a blogger and a mommy, although not really a “mommy blogger.” Influential? hmm…..influential is very close to influenza, isn’t it?), I thought I’d give it a go.  More to the point, I work for the public health department, so I have the inside scoop.

In short, get the H1N1 vaccine if you’re in one of the priority groups.  Priority groups include pregnant women, kids age 6 months – 24 years old, caregivers of babies under 6 months old, health care workers, and people aged 25-64 with chronic conditions such as asthma or compromised immune systems.

The vaccine is safe.  It’s made in the same way as all other flu vaccine.  If this strain of the virus had been discovered earlier, it probably would have been included in the seasonal flu vaccine, rendering this discussion moot.  The shot version of the vaccine does not contain live virus, while the nasal vaccine contains live virus that is weakened and won’t give you the flu.  There is also H1N1 vaccine without thimerisol for those of you who might be concerned about that.

It’s true that the flu has not been that severe, and that most people who have gotten it have recovered easily, just like other flus.  Most who have been hospitalized or died have had an underlying condition.  However, it’s best to take precautions.  The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.

If you do get the flu, stay home!  That’s my highly professional public health advice.  Of course, you should be taking care of yourself so you get better fast, but more importantly, stay home to avoid passing germs to others.  One of my public health colleagues says that the best treatment for H1N1 is “tylenol and tivo.”  Lots of rest, liquids, and crappy TV.

Other good ways to prevent passing germs is to cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve (the crook of your elbow – tell your kids it’s the Dracula move) and above all, wash your hands frequently.  And stay away from others who are sick.  Unlike me, who climbed into bed with my sick daughter to comfort her.  And I wonder why I didn’t get sympathy from my husband when I caught her cold!

Although there is a vaccine shortage, demand has decreased at the clinics our department has been holding.  So now the wait is only two hours instead of four!  Just kidding – but it’s true that demand has gone down, so be persistent if you want to be vaccinated.  If you live in Los Angeles, you can find out where to get vaccinated at www.lapublichealth.org or by calling 211.

 

Best Brownies Ever

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 1:46 pm

Dear readers, consider this a gift.  These brownies will make you popular at any pot luck.  They will raise a fortune at bake sales.  I call them “Christy’s brownies,” after the colleague who shared the recipe with me.  She used to bring them to the office and they’d be gone within seconds.  On the few occasions when I brought them to the office, she seemed miffed.  Oh well.  While decidedly not healthy (what brownies worth eating would be healthy?!), they are a cinch to make.  I’ve made them so many times, I could make them in my sleep.  Enjoy!

Best Brownies Ever

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a 13×9 baking pan with Release non-stick foil, or regular foil. (If you use regular foil, melt a little butter in the pan and spread all over the foil.)

In a microwave-save bowl (I use glass), melt three sticks of butter.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together 1 1/4 c. flour, 1 1/4 c. cocoa powder, and 1/2 t. salt.

In the bowl with the melted butter, add 3 c. sugar, and 7 eggs, 2-3 at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add 2 t. vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.  Add 1 1b. walnuts.  Pour into baking pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake for 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with a little batter clinging to it.  Do not overcook.

Cool in pan.  When cool, remove from pan, wrap, and put in refrigerator or freezer, depending on your time frame.  If you need the brownies in a few hours, freeze, and if you don’t need them until the next day, refrigerate overnight.  After the brownies have been frozen for a few hours or refrigerated overnight, you may cut them.  I generally cut them into relatively small squares or rectangles because they are rich.  They also taste great straight from the freezer.  Do not skip the freezing/refrigerating step or the brownies will fall apart when you cut them.  No joke.  I was transferring them from the pan to the freezer today and they slipped out of my hand onto the floor and broke in half.  Not a neat half, but a jagged, diagonal half which will require some fancy cutting to repair!  No worries, they’ll still be delicious.  I wonder how many new friends I’ll make at tonight’s potluck?

 

Pasta – The Old Standby

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 12:09 pm

Those of you who have read my past postings know that I subscribe to an online menu planning service, which makes my life much easier and forces variety into our diet.  Otherwise, we might have an all-pasta diet (with a smattering of quesedillas thrown in).  Sometimes, however, I must resort to my old standby, much to the joy of my family.  Foodies and experienced cooks may want to skip the recipe to come, since it’s laughably basic.  But for those of you who want something simple and relatively healthy for dinner, read on.

Pasta with Vegetables

Heat olive oil in a large skillet – a little more olive oil than you’d normally use since this pasta has no sauce.  Add a couple cloves of minced garlic, a few squirts of anchovy paste, and a few shakes of crushed red pepper.  Add vegetable of your choice.  I usually use zucchini or red bell pepper, but the other night I gilded the lily and used red pepper (sliced into strips and cut each strip in half), zucchini (sliced) and yellow squash.  Saute until tender but not mushy.  Add some salt – pepper not needed because of the red pepper flakes.  (And don’t say that salt is not needed because of the anchovy paste – a little salt is always needed!)

In the meantime, cook the pasta according to package direction.  I use short pasta such as penne, fusilli, or farfalle.  Just before the pasta’s done cooking, add a few large spoonfuls of pasta water (about a quarter cup or a little less) to the veggies to create a little sauce.  Not too much, or it will dilute the flavor of the veggies and make it mushy.  Cook the mixture for a few minutes so the water melds with the flavor of the vegetables and thickens a little.

Drain the pasta and add to the vegetable mixture.  Add chopped italian parsley for a fresh flavor.  Serve with parmesan cheese at the table.  Parmesan cheese is essential to the dish, but don’t add it to the pot because it will become gloopy and the poor soul who has to wash the pot will hate you.

I serve this with a simple green salad.  That’s it!  Yum.

 

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 11:49 am

Think of Old Man and the Sea with a Bengal tiger.  Ok, that’s a little pat, but it sums up Life of Pi pretty well.

Winner of the Booker prize, Life of Pi tells the story of a young Indian boy who’s shipwrecked on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an organgutan, and a Bengal tiger.  Pi is a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim, so his days are a combination of survival (feeding his tiger and himself) and prayer and contemplation.  Having grown up in a zoo, Pi manages to co-habitate on a lifeboat with a tiger for 227 days without getting eaten.  The story has elements of the magical, yet always stays just within the bounds of credibility.  The book is beautifully written and engaging.  I’ve read that it’s being made into a movie directed by Ang Lee, scheduled to be released in 2011.  I’m curious about how it will be adapted to the screen, since there is only one human character and not alot of action.  The interesting aspect of the book is the novel situation, and the juxtaposition of religiosity and philosophy with basic animal survival instincts.  I highly recommend this book.

 

The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flynn November 11, 2009

Filed under: Books,Food — wendy @ 9:00 pm

Yes, it’s another book about chefs and food.  This book chronicles Kathleen Flynn’s mid-career choice to attend Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  It was fun to read about the school and the various types that attend — the Asians, the wealthy women with too much time on their hands, and the occasional serious cook.  I would not want to attend this school — too much deboning of meat!  The recipes sound too complex and too heavy.  But I guess that’s why people go to classic cooking school.  This book is entertaining and a quick read, but it’s not as good as others in the multitude of cooking-related books I’ve read.  Heat, or something by Anthony Bourdain or Jeffrey Steingarten, would be a better choice if you’re going to pick one.