Monday, January 16, 2012

Newsweek's Downward Spiral Continues

There was a time when I used to enjoy reading Newsweek.  Then came the rise of 24-hour news channels and internet news sites, all providing stunning visuals and breaking news in real time. Weekly news magazines like Newsweek quickly became outdated dinosaurs   The only way for Newsweek to compete and try to stay relevant was to offer in-depth, thoughtful analysis. But, with the rise of political blogs, they lost even more ground.

Now, the folks at Newsweek are just plain desperate.

Their latest cover poses the question: "Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?"  Since when did elitist name-calling become a substitute for well-researched journalism? The editors at Newsweek are not even trying to pretend that they're a legitimate source of news anymore. I can't decide if it's more sad than pathetic.

This cover story is just the latest in a long line of questionable choices made by the Newsweek editorial board.  They've taken heat in the past year for their gleefully unflattering covers of Tea Party favorites Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, but those weren't the worst of it.

For me, the most egregious "jump the shark" moment for Newsweek came when they photoshopped a 14-years-dead-and-gone Princess Diana, digitally aged to appear 50 years old and walking alongside her son's soon-to-be wife, Kate Middleton. A new low that even the sleaziest tabloids have not attempted. Disgusting.

It was a blatant ploy to exploit the late Princess Diana's enduring popularity as a taken-too-soon icon. Almost a decade and a half after her death, Newsweek still couldn't resist going to the well one more time, disregarding the unseemly fact that it was the media's unhealthy obsession with capturing Diana's image that led to her tragic death.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TV review: I Cloned My Pet

I watched this show last night with my daughter. 

Dear lord. 

I love my pets, I truly do, but these folks were so, so, so far over the top in their obsessions with their dogs.  One man said, "When Wolfie died, everything that was special about me went with her."  

Is this guy serious? EVERYTHING that made him special--all of his unique qualities and attributes and talents--evaporated when his dog died. Really? 

One woman described her dog as her "soulmate." Another woman featured on the show said her deceased dog Trouble "was the love of my life." 

Pets offer unconditional love, and yes, they hold a very special place in our hearts.  But if you think a canine is the one being on Earth who is meant for you as a mate, above all need to get yourself some counseling. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bad Baby Names: Shame on you, Beyonce & Jay-Z

A baby is a miracle that takes 9 months to grow and a lifetime to nurture....and then you go and name her "Blue"??? 
There oughta be a law against that. Truly.

What is this crazy sickness that comes over people--especially celebrities--when they have a baby?  The quest to find a name that is "different" and "unique" and "unlike anything else out there" says far more about the prospective parents than it does the child..

It tells me that the parents are feeling the pressure to have their child carry on the family tradition and become a standout in life. It's as if they don't trust their child enough to achieve any sort of notable achievements on their on--the child isn't given an opportunity to "make a name for themself" because Mom and Dad have already done it for them. And that's sad.

I think celebrities get so caught up in the fact that their child is growing up with the pressure of having a famous parent (or two), they believe it's better to start out with a name that SO outlandish and different, the child can't help but be set apart from everyone else.

Wow. Do they have that little faith in their new bundle of joy? 

Is it so difficult to imagine that if their child were named Michael or Jennifer, it could have any less spectacular a future than, say, a little Romeo or Apple?

Congratulations on your new daughter, Beyonce' and Jay-Z.  I hope she has a wonderful and happy life, despite the unfortunate name you've chosen to saddle her with.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

AS SEEN ON TV: Review of Eggies

I love buying "As Seen On TV" products and trying them out at home. Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the product delivers on its promises.

This was not one of those times.

I love Deviled Eggs and egg salad, and my kids like hard-boiled eggs as a snack. Lately, I've been buying the Eggland's Best Hard-Boiled Eggs, which come already cooked to perfection and ready to eat.  Still, wouldn't it be great to achieve that kind of perfection at a fraction of the cost, along with the satisfaction of making them myself?

Enter "Eggies", plastic containers that are supposed to allow you to make hard-boiled eggs without the shells, so you can skip the messy peeling process altogether. No more cracked shells, no more burnt fingers!  Sounds too good to be true!!

Yeah. Hold that thought.

Here's the "official" photo of the product, and what the finished product is supposed to look like:

Oh, how delectable these egg appetizers look! So perfect, and with no peeling!

I bought the Eggies system for only $9.99 at the Bed, Bath & Beyond store. I had a coupon for 20% off, so the actual cost was closer to $8. What a bargain, right?


I followed the directions exactly.  In the commercial, they make it look super-simple, just crack the raw eggs into the eggie containers and drop them into boiling water. Nope--first you need to grease the inside of each and every Eggie with oil nonstick cooking spray, which is a time-consuming task. There were TWO sets of written instruction specifically warning you not to skip this step. Unfortunately, you can't just spray the cooking oil into the Eggies. According to the directions, "you must coat the insides of top and bottom pieces with cooking oil before each use. If using cooking spray, spray a paper towel and wipe the inside of each piece, do not spray directly into the Eggies." 

The Eggie is actually comprised of four separate pieces: a Lid, Collar, Bottom Half and Top Half.  After you've carefully greased the top and bottom pieces, you put them together and secure them with the collar. Then you crack the egg into the Eggie, screw the lid on, and place it into a pan of warm water. The instructions say, "Ensure that they are floating." They were.
Then you bring the water to a boil and cook them according to the chart enclosed (varies based on size of egg and level of doneness you want. It's 15 min for a large hard-boiled egg).

I did all of that. And here are the mutant Eggies that emerged.

Poor little Eggies. They emerged as "half eggs", looking more like Coneheads from the old Saturday Night Live skit than the perfect ovals shown on the box. Some were difficult to remove from the Eggie container (the instructions say to use a utensil to loosen the egg around the edges if they are not releasing).  They were all rubbery, oddly-shaped, and inconsistent in terms of doneness.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION:  Save your money!  Eggies aren't worth the "bargain" price. Either take the time to hard-boil and peel your eggs the old-fashioned way, or splurge on the pre-cooked, already-peeled version from Eggland's Best. They retail for around $3 for a bag of six eggs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm Not Really A Waitress

I treated myself to a pedicure today, and went with one of my all-time favorite shades: I'm Not Really A Waitress by OPI.  It's the company's biggest selling polish, and for good reason: it's the perfect shade of red with a nice shimmer to it.  Even my husband noticed. Not too shabby!

It's back to school tomorrow for my high schooler and middle schooler, after a long Christmas break. They're less than thrilled, as you might imagine, but I'm looking forward to getting back into our usual routine.

The Suffering of Sahar Gul

I just read a news report about a 15-year-old girl from Afghanistan that was held captive and brutally, systematically tortured for 6 months by her in-laws.  Sahar Gul has finally been freed, and is being sent to India for treatment.  Her husband is in hiding, but her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested. I'm sure, as women, they will be severely punished. Call me a cynic, but I doubt they'll be searching too hard for her husband. He will probably just end up re-marrying some other poor girl and getting away with his crimes.

It sickens me that this kind of abuse commonly exists in parts of the world. The Taliban may no longer be in control of the government in Afghanistan, but the mindset and lack of respect for women remains. Why hasn't the UN community worked harder to effect change?

The girl was rescued after her uncle reported the torture to local police. I'm glad he finally stepped in to help, but I wonder, what took him so long?  Are women so devalued in that society that a person would hesitate to put a stop to this level of abuse? Six months is an eternity for someone enduring this kind of agony on a daily basis.

Officials noted that this case was an extreme, one of the worst they've seen.  The fact that any level of abuse is deemed acceptable by a society is disturbing. According to news reports, the government rarely follows up on the abuse cases that are reported to them. I'm grateful that this young girl has finally escaped from the hell she was in, but I can't help but think about the thousands of other Afghan women who are still suffering.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cooking up some fun - 1/1/12

Like most New Year's Days past, today was a peaceful, quiet day spent at home with Rich and the kids.

If I had to describe what I did today, I'd say it was periods of intense productivity interrupted by periods of total laziness. Washed a bunch of dishes, then sat and surfed the 'net. Cleaned out and rinsed all of the old jars of sauce and expired stuff from the fridge, then took a nap. You get the idea.

I did some cooking, too, which included teaching my daughter Amy how to make one of her favorite meals, Pasta Fagioli. We made it from scratch, which first entailed a quick lesson on the differences between tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste.  I use all three when I make sauce, because they're made with different kinds of tomatoes, which offers layered flavors that enhance the finished product. I also schooled her on the finer points of "why we take the time to rinse the cannellini beans."  (Beans, beans, they're good for your heart; beans, beans...) The pasta fagioli turned out great, and gave her sense of accomplishment knowing that she can make it herself now.

I also made a lobster bisque soup, using the shrimp stock I'd made last week when I was cooking the shrimp cocktail for Christmas Eve.  The fish monger made a mistake and, instead of pre-cleaned shrimp, he gave me the ones with the peels still on. Instead of getting annoyed at all the extra work, I decided to save the shells and boil them up in the cooking water once the shrimp were done and cooling, which yielded about 6 cups of stock. I used Paula Deen's Creamy Shrimp Bisque recipe, but made a few small alterations. I didn't have any leftover shrimp, so I used chopped lobster tail, and I used lowfat half and half because that's what we had in the fridge. It seemed a little thin, so I mixed a few tablespoons of flour with cold water and added that to thicken it up. I also threw in a few sprinkles of paprika and dollop of tomato paste to get a nice, deep pink color.  It was delicious!

And now, I'm relaxing with the kids and watching "Star Trek IV: A New Hope."  I love this movie--saw it in the theater more than a dozen times back in 1977--and can't help but watch it whenever I come across it while channel surfing. I'm not surprised that the basic principles of "The Force" have given rise to an entire religion (The Church of the Jedi).  I didn't recognize it when I first saw the movie 34 years ago--probably too busy gazing at Han Solo--but with time, I've come to appreciate the universal appeal of the movie's more spiritual aspects. The concept of one divine force that connects all of us, one that can be used for good or evil...that's a basic principle that you'll find in every religion.

In case you haven't noticed, I've decided to experiment with using this blog as something of a journal. It goes along with that whole "2012 to-do" list item about wanting to write more. I'm not deluded or conceited enough to believe that the goings-on of my everyday life will be of interest to anyone but me, but this blog seems as good a place as any to jot them down.

Looking ahead in 2012

I've never been a fan of New Year's Resolutions. While it's admirable--and probably advisable--to periodically take stock of one's life and consider those things you'd like to change, I think people put way too much pressure on themselves come January 1st. They start the year full of hope and promise and excitement, and within a week or so when their resolve has left them, they end up disappointed in themselves, and feeling worse than they did before.

Using New Year's Resolutions as a vehicle for total transformation doesn't tend to pan out, in my experience. However, I do think there's value in mapping out goals for the coming year: a "to do" list always seems more manageable, especially when you have an entire year to accomplish it.

Here's my list of things I'm looking forward to this year. Some of them will be a challenge to achieve, others are already planned out and--barring any unforseen glitches--will surely happen, and others may not come to fruition at all. 

I'm ready to embark on the journey that will be 2012, and grateful for each new day that I'm given an opportunity to experience life, regardless of the outcome.

Goals for 2012 -- in no particular order

Work less
Write more
Find a vacation house in Florida
Travel to Alaska for the first time
Organize photos & computer files
Nurture the spiritual
Don't sweat the small stuff--particularly career-related angst
Brush up on my Spanish skills
Try 3 foods I've never had before
Count to 10 before reacting
End each day with a prayer of thanks