Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

OK, I am late to the party on this movie. But it just came out on DVD and pay-per-view.

No I don't care about the scenes of torture. No I don't care about CIA black sites. No I don't care about rendition. What I care about is that there are huge groups of people who think murdering innocents around the world is going to get them into heaven. Since 9/11 there have been over 20,000 suicide attacks by Islamic fundamentalists across the globe. This movie shows that we are at WAR with these elements.

Anything that needs to be done in a war is necessary. We are entitled to fight with everything at our disposal against those that wish to deprive the world of freedom, liberty, equality, civil and human rights. Ironic, no not really. No more ironic than the firebombing of Dresdan during WW2. No it does not matter how the enemy views the world anymore than it mattered how the Nazis or the Communists or any totalitarian ideology ever saw western freedoms. Only fools, who eventually wind up dead, worry about their potential enslavers' feelings.

Meanwhile if you are interested in a story about the bravery of those who work to keep us safe at night then watch this movie. Watch how those extraordinary individuals of the CIA worked for years in enemy territory to find and bring the architect of 9/11 to true justice. Then watch as Seal Team Six does their job and does it well.

For those that think this movie is a homage to Obama, guess again. Anything having to do with the White House is a mere ten minutes and not truly flattering (in my humble opinion). This movie showed that the political ramifications of a possible mistake was really all the Oval Office cared about.

When you are done, remember to think about all those who til this day live in harms way, so we all can sleep without fear. If anything the horror in Boston teaches us, is that perhaps these brave men and women don't have enough support, either from a politically correct White House or even Congress, to do their jobs properly.




Also don't forget that the doctor who helped us locate Bin Laden was put in jail for life by the Pakistanis. Our government did nothing to help him. Is this how we support our friends?

Remember too that on a wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, are hundreds of gold stars. These stars symbolize every CIA officer who died in the line of duty to protect this nation. Due to national security we will never know their names. Honor them. They deserve our undying respect and thanks.





Qi en Pace,


Elise




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some Personal Recipes and a Food Experimentation In Process....Cooking Different Types of Fish

The nutrition powers that be like to tell us how we need to eat more fish and alot less red meat. Well we  did get the less red meat down..sort of and were eating more chicken and turkey. But it really wasn't enough variety.

In the meantime the family was sticking to only two kinds of fish: tilapia and salmon on occasion. Hubby was not always fond of salmon. The smell started making him nauseous. I did poach the salmon in some white wine and herbs that seemed to help a bit.  The tilapia I cooked it as scampi. I did not use alot of butter, in fact my last time I only used some noncaloric spray. With all the herbs I threw in, you couldn't even notice the missing fat high from the nonexistent butter.

But as usual everyone was getting bored. Hubby does read Men's Fitness and they do happen to have interesting recipes every month. This month, lo and behold, their recipe section was dedicated to different kinds of fish. He likes to rip out the pages he thinks I would be interested in, mostly of course having to do with eating healthy and the nutritional content of antioxidant foods. I know he's been up reading on the days I wake up to a desk full of ripped magazine sheets.

Honestly these pages have come in quite handy. I leave them up on my bulletin board to remember what veggies to buy at the supermarket. Plus I leave up recipes if it sounds like something the family would enjoy. This time I actually went right out and bought the fishes they recommended: tuna steak, rainbow trout and red snapper.

The family loved the tuna steak. I even made it a little "medium" in the middle...pink but cooked. No raw fish for us. Apparently you are not supposed to cook the center of the tuna anymore. I could never figure out when and why that fad started. Granted everyone thinks eating raw fish because of the sushi craze is oh so uber cool But really, Homo sapiens invented fire for a reason and it wasn't to make sure to only sear the outside of a tuna steak.

Our experimentation with different types of fish continues. Tonight is snapper. Tomorrow we eat our red meat of the week, I am going to make stew.

My stew recipe:

Make sure the beef chucks are patted dry. This helps with the browning process. Heat the pot on the stove and add in butter and a little olive oil. Let the butter melt most of the way if the olive oil gets too hot it will burn so you may have to lower the heat. Put the chunks of meat in the pot. Brown on all sides. (I use a pair of tongs to help turn the meat rather than a large fork). Remove the meat from the pot and put to the side.

Throw in the pot one large chopped yellow onion, carrots and celery. I don't measure but about a cup of each. On a low heat let the veggies break down and become soft.

Put the meat back in the pot. It is OK if they are on top of the veggies. Add in enough beef stock (I do use chicken or vegetable stock too. It depends on what I have available in the house) to cover the meat. Season to taste. We like cumin, coriander, aleppo chile, thyme, rosemary (not a big fan of sage), garlic (if I have fresh I use that), pepper , salt and bayleaf. I then add about 1/2 bottle of red wine.

Let the sauce come to a boil and reduce the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot. Check it frequently and cook until the meat is close to tender if you want to add little potatoes. Add the potatoes about 30 minutes before the meat is cooked.

If you see the sauce dissipating (meaning the meat is no longer covered) add some more broth. You could add wine but it is not necessary.

Some people will add flour at the end, right before serving, to thicken the sauce. I find it totally unnecessary. But if you want to add flour use a fine sifted flour, something actually prepared specially for sauces. (No baking flour is not the same thing.)

My stew usually takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on which cut of stew meat I use.

Fish Scampi:

Heat skillet. Add butter and or olive oil. Put fillets int he pan and let them begin to sear. Lower pan heat so the fillet doesn't burn. Add in salt, pepper, capers, fresh garlic and a little lemon juice if desired. Turn fillet over. begin to sear second side. Add white wine. Depending on thickness of the fillet and desired doneness of fish, you may need to cook fish anywhere from 3-8 minutes per side.

Poached salmon:

Place salmon fillet in cool pan. Season as desired. I use salt, pepper, dill, rosemary, fresh garlic (if I have it) and bayleaf. Cover salmon half way with white wine. Bring to a boil. Cover pot. Lower heat to a simmer. Cooking time depends on thickness of the fillet.

Chicken recipe:
Taken from Ina Garten  
Beyond simple, but the chicken comes out unbelievably moist.

Split the breasts. Keep on the skin and the bone. Season to taste. Drizzle olive oil on the skin. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Done.

Sometimes the chicken may not be cooked enough near the bone. If that is the case you need to adjust your cooking time to the thickness of the breast and the efficiency of your oven. To solve that issue about 5 minutes before done time, I take out a breast and slice it in the middle to the bone to see if there is any uncooked part and then place it back in the oven, The doneness of the bird will dictate how much longer I cook it. But the little slice in the middle is a way to keep an eye on the readiness of the chicken.

I usually have to remove the breast meat for the boychicks in my family. They have real issues eating off the bone and waste half of the chicken Not that my dogs mind since they get the left overs once I strip the bones. But I would really like the meat in the boys' stomachs and not the dogs. Hence the helicopter-mommy chicken breast denouement.



Qi en pace,



Elise
P.S. I do substitute the butter for margarine. I know the powers that be in the nutrition world can't truly agree whether margarine is the devil's food or a godsend to those with cholesterol issues. I have chosen to try a margarine that claims to fight cholesterol. In all actuality we never use that much. I suppose that is the real key. When using fat, keep it infrequent and in small, very small, doses, no matter what kind you use, even the good fats. It's not as if good fats come with a "won't add twenty pounds to your tuchas" pass.





Friday, April 19, 2013

Because With the Week We All Just Had You Need to Remember the Beauty of Life

What an awful awful awful week. By Friday, my youngest was just a pile of tears. His para said he couldn't even keep it together during class today, so they walked out, had some soda and went back into ecology. It is times like these that I am thankful for such a caring youngman to help my son deal with his day.

As for the rest of us, we simply need to sit back, take a deep breath and remember the real beauty and treasures that life gives us. It is spring and the flowers have sprung (well some of them anyway). Here are some of the treasures from my own front yard.

My tulip beds are not flowered yet, but you can see the buds are about to open

Second part fo the tulip bed with the forsythia in full bloom



My cherry tree. Similar to the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, but the tree doesn't get as large. Last year we had a robin family that nested in the tree. I don't see them as yet.

We have also planted hyacinths all over the property. They are up and adding color to our yard.



More hyacinths.

Not sure what kind of plant this is. But it greets my guests as the enter my home.

One of the containers at the end of our driveway filled with perennials. Lucky I have a hubby who likes to garden and lets me pick out the flowers. As you can see there is a favorite color scheme going on here. Pinks, purples, and for some whimsy yellow with red. Actually the hubby picked out the yellow ones. He has a great sense of landscape design.





It is so important that we never lose sight of what is most important and we never let those who hate take from us the joys of life.

And of course we also need to remember that during all the death and mayhem in Boston and Texas,  somewhere on planet earth new life was beginning.




Qi en Pace,



Elise

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Flowery Pants.... a 60's Redux

As a young teen, I remember  my favorite pants were a pair of flowery bell-bottoms my mom bought me at Caldors. I wore those things till they fell apart. They made me feel so uber-groovy. 






Glad to see that the fun part of the 60's can be remade to modern sensibilities. Just adoring this new trend.

Shopping aol...Versace skinny pants



The Eff Spot



Campus Companion


She finds


No I don't own a pair today. Thinking about it though.....


Qi en Pace,


Elise

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I've finally decided to take care of my back...


Since this is a blog for parents of special needs children, to remind them to take time for themselves, I've decided  to let everyone know that well, I did it again. I ignored a major physical issue I was having and lo and behold I caused myself an even bigger problem.

Now I have always had trouble with my back. In fact since I was a cheerleader (yeah I was one of those) and found myself continually on the bottom of pyramids, my back, shall we say, is not what it should have been. Mom always wondered why I was never on the top of the pyramid. Why I let those fat girls climb to the top. They were the shorter ones. So it stood to reason according to our teacher/coach, me being 5 foot 7, that I should be on the bottom of the pyramid, even though I still weighed less.

Truth be told, in my teen years cheerleading wasn't what it is today. It wasn't high-stakes gymnastics overseen by competent coaches who knew a thing or two about sports. In fact when I was in high school our cheerleader instructor was an English teacher. She basically let us do what we wanted to do and quite frankly did next to nothing. We were totally on our own and doing our own thing. It's a wonder we all didn't kill ourselves.




Anyway, years later, after childbirth (Ironically my back felt great during pregnancy) and years at the gym, my back had not really gotten better. I actually went to my family doctor and he took an x-ray showing arthritis in my spine. OK I figured, I have arthritis everywhere. Heck when I had a car accident they had to take extra pictures of my neck because the arthritis hindered their view of the bone. So nope I wasn't surprised by the diagnosis. He sent me to physical therapy. I found it stupid and not useful at all. Stopped after a few weeks. But I kept exercising away.

Years later, yep I said years later, the problem was just getting worse and worse. There were days I couldn't even sit in a chair. I can't tell you how many configurations of my desk hubby went through to try to make me comfortable. In fact after we purchased a new tread climber my back was completely useless. I spent my days laying down on the couch trying to find a way to feel comfortable. Forget sleeping. I couldn't even lay on one side or the other it hurt so much.

Now the hubby hurt his shoulder shoveling snow this winter. It was so bad he couldn't lift his arm and he went to a local osteo doctor. (First he went to the ER it was so painful.) The doc was able to help him, without surgery, and I remembered a woman I knew from the gym telling me that this same doctor had helped her with her back. So I made an appointment. I had really reached my breaking point. I also didn't want to go to the rheumatologist, I wanted someone to take a look at my spine who knew what they were looking at when they looked at bones.

Well the doctor looked. It's not pleasant. Apparently I have a degenerative disc condition. I have worn away the discs in the lower 3 vertebrae of my spine. Plus the reason my hips are so painful is because my body is compensating for the problem in my back adding extra stress to my hips. My muscles have also seized up on the upper part of my tuchas and hamstrings making it difficult for me to bend over and touch my toes.  Oh yeah I have also developed a little scoliosis because of the spine issue. Fun right?

So I'm an idiot. It's official. All along I was ignoring my back issue thinking it was only arthritis and I should take some tylenol for the problem, exercise and it will go away. Not that it ever did go away, but I figured it was what it was and honestly I didn't give myself the time to do for myself. So now I get to take plenty of time for myself.

The doctor put me on steroids for the first week to jump start getting rid of the inflammation. Guess what? I can now touch my toes. YEAH! Now that was fun. I have to admit, it felt good to be able to do that again. (By the way Sheldon touching his toes is exactly what I looked like.)



Then he put me on some strong anti-inflammatory, but I had a bad reaction to the meds (it did to me what cruciferous vegetable night did to Sheldon in the video) so I am just going to take the Tylenol from now on. (Nope didn't call him about the med, don't want to take anything heavy. Tylenol is fine.) He also is sending me to physical therapy. I told him about my past experience and he explained that PT is not to get rid of pain necessarily but to strengthen the right muscles to make it less likely that I will injure myself in the future. He even gave me the name of a PT practice that specializes in lower back injuries.

I have gone to PT now three times and it is nice. I learned what I have been doing wrong, even though I have been exercising. Apparently I haven't been doing the right kind of exercise for my back issue (Figures right. Well if they were the right kind of exercise I probably would not have had the problems I did). They do this heat, electrode stim and area massage to help you get ready to exercise. They also have the arc glider machine there which they are letting me use for cardio. I can't use the treadclimber ever again and even though we have a recumbent bike its not the same kind of workout.



So three times a week for the next 8 weeks at PT and we will see what happens. The doctor wants to see me again. I think I'll go back. Depends if I have the time.


Qi en Pace,


Elise


Monday, April 8, 2013

In Memorium Annette Funicello

Anette Funicello died today from multiple sclerosis at the age of 70. You have to be of a certain age to remember Annette Funicello. One of the original mousketeers, she segwayed into movies as the quintessential California babe. Along with Frankie Avalon they made some of the most memorable beach movies of the early 60s. Movies for a more innocent time.














May she rest in peace.

Qi en Pace,


Elise

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Watch UPRISING: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year it coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Here is the video of a rather good made for TV movie about those Jews who stood against the Nazis for 6 weeks without any outside help.








Elise

Friday, April 5, 2013

Warp Drive Reality: ENGAGE

Seems I am a little late with this one, but better late than never...

For every Star Trek geek out there in scifi world, the reality of warp drive is coming to a physics lab near you. Popular Science Magazine, has an article about NASA scientist Harry White who says he has figured out a way to go faster than the speed of light. He talks about space bubbles and hyperspace, brigdging his theories on the work of another physicist Miguel Albucierre.

My take on the discussion is that neither man actually destroys  Einstein's theories, which scientist felt disproved the possibility of warp drive. They simply go around it. Thinking outside the box is just what scientists are supposed to do. Isn't it?

Seems the budget cuts were not really well thought out. Looks like we still need NASA afterall.





Last September, a few hundred scientists, engineers and space enthusiasts gathered at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Houston for the second public meeting of 100 Year Starship. The group is run by former astronaut Mae Jemison and funded by DARPA. Its mission is to “make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system to another star a reality within the next 100 years.”

For most of the attendees at the conference, advances in manned space exploration have been frustratingly slow in coming. Despite billions of dollars spent over the last few decades, space agencies aren’t capable of much more than they were in the 1960s. They may be capable of less. 100 Year Starship intends to accelerate the process of interstellar travel by identifying and developing promising technologies.

Over the course of several days, attendees could join symposia on such exotic topics as organ regeneration and organized religion aboard a starship. One of the most anticipated presentations was titled “Warp Field Mechanics 102,” given by Harold “Sonny” White of NASA. A nine-year agency veteran, White runs the advanced propulsion program at Johnson Space Center (JSC), down the road from the Hyatt. Along with five others, he recently co-authored the agency’s 16-year “In-Space Propulsion Systems Roadmap,” which outlines NASA’s goals for the future of space travel. The plan calls for all manner of propulsion projects from improved chemical rockets to far-forward systems like antimatter and nuclear engines. White’s particular area of research is perhaps the most far-forward of them all: warp drive.

Put plainly, warp drive would permit faster-than-light travel. It is, most assume, impossible, a clear violation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. White says otherwise. For half an hour at the symposium, he outlined the physics of a potential warp drive—walking attendees through things like Alcubierre bubbles and hyperspace oscillations. He explained how he’d recently computed theoretical results that could pave the way for an actual warp drive and that he was commencing physical tests in his NASA lab, which he calls Eagleworks.

It almost goes without saying that functional warp drive would have tremendous implications for space travel. It would free explorers not only from Earth’s orbit, but from the entire solar system. Instead of taking 75,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri, the star system nearest to our own, warp-equipped astronauts, White says, could make the trip in two weeks.

In the wake of the shuttle program’s termination and given the increasing role of private industry in low-Earth orbit flights, NASA has said it will refocus on far-flung, audacious exploration, reaching far beyond the rather provincial boundary of the moon. But it can only reach those goals if it develops new propulsion systems—the faster the better. A few days after the 100 Year Starship gathering, the head of NASA, Charles Bolden, echoed White’s remarks. “One of these days, we want to get to warp speed,” he said. “We want to go faster than the speed of light, and we don’t want to stop at Mars.” 

Read the entire article HERE












Full speed ahead Mr. Sulu.

Qi en Pace,

Elise

Thursday, April 4, 2013

LINCOLN

I can honestly say that there is very little that can keep me up past my bedtime. The movie, Lincoln, was able to do just that. A riveting account of the passage of the thirteenth amendment, it held my attention into the wee hours of the night. As you are drawn into the world of Lincoln, you do not even feel the passage of time.

Don't let anyone tell you that this is a mere costume drama. It is drama extraordinaire. The movie displays the machinations, the political collusion and intrigue that went into determining that all people in the USA are of equal worth regardless of skin color. It also highlights a little known fact about the negotiations to end the American Civil War. This I found very surprising and quite Machiavellian on Lincoln's part. It was a relief to see him being played as a human being rather than a deity for a change.

What you also see is that politics for all its worth hasn't really changed in over 150 years. It is democracy in its glory and with all its foibles. Lincoln is the American experience. It is us. It is who we are and what we have the ability to become and move beyond.

Yes, the performances are wonderful. The cast is a hodgepodge of some of the best character actors and actresses in Hollywood. Daniel Day-Lewis, as usual, definitely deserved his Oscar.




The movie is based upon Doris Kearn Goodwin's  book, Team of Rivals, and is written by play-write Tony Kushner. She is a well respected presidential historian. Her books are enlightening and interesting. However, in general I find Kushner's work preachy, dilettantish, self-righteous and generally devoid of any historical reality or context. But considering he had a checkable historical source he had to abide by this time,  there could not have been much maneuverability to add his own politics into the fray.

Yet in the end Kushner did insult Connecticut, which actually voted for the thirteenth amendment not against it. He claimed artistic license in the defaming of the Connecticut delegation. (Honestly, I am not convinced Kushner didn't have help with the script all along.) The ultimate sad truth is that while Lincoln was an honorable man, the same cannot be said for Kushner and sadly by extension Mr. Spielberg.


Qi en Pace,


Elise