Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dear Top Chef Editing Staff: Please Stop Messing With Me

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't yet watched last night's episode of Top Chef Chicago, don't read on. Also, if you don't really care about this show, you probably don't want to read on either.

So, last week my current favorite television show hit me pretty hard. I wasn't quite ready to see Dale go, though I suppose it was inevitable the moment he became the executive chef for the obviously weaker "Restaurant Wars" team. I still contend that making two poor dishes and being a jerk who can't take either direction or criticism should have sent Lisa home before Dale. Am I wrong to think that the judges would normally think something like butterscotch scallops was exciting and different? And can he really be expected to show "leadership" with someone who so clearly disdains everyone and everything besides herself? Why is it that the executive chef of the losing team automatically has to go home? Anyway, I didn't see Dale as the troublemaker/difficult character the edit tried to make him into, and I think he is far more talented than either Spike or Lisa. I guess the lesson is you've got to figure out how to work with anyone if you want to be the Top Chef. Too bad it was the nicer of the two cheftestants that had to learn the lesson.

Speaking of the edit, I spent much of last week's episode trying to talk myself out of the fact that Dale would in fact be going home because he was so clearly upset in the interview portions of the show. I thought "no way is he the one going home, because they wouldn't give that away by showing him a little teary; they're just trying to yank my chain." But no, much of his commentary throughout the episode clearly came from a post-elimination interview in which he teared up in what I thought was a quite endearing way. Like, he really was just trying to cook the best way he knew how, and didn't want to deal with the drama some of the other 'cheftestants' were bringing into the kitchen. Maybe not the best strategy, but it won me over.

And then THIS week, the interviews were all about Richard not wanting to go home at this stage of the game, how it would be so sad for him to have been away from his wife this long and come home with nothing. I know all the chefs said some version of this at one point or another during the episode, but it seemed that Richard got at least five interviews along that line, and then there was the promo scene of Tom yelling at Richard to hurry up on his plating. It was cringeworthy, indeed. I know he's all about the smoker and the foams and the food that's a "riff" on thus and so. All that stuff I find pretentious and unintelligible, like talking about jazz. But it seems he's tried to rise above that lately, and mostly just make food that's good AND witty. So, let's give him a chance to prove that there's something more to this molecular gastronomy than whatever Marcel was "rapping" about.

The editing has been more than a little leading this season, when you also consider the huge buildup of Andrew's overconfidence the week he went home. But no, they were just messing with me this week, and thankfully, Spike and his frozen scallops went home. Don't you think these people would learn to just stay away from the scallops? There just seem to be too many ways to truly screw them up, or make them just ho-hum. I am glad to see both Andrew and Spike gone, as truly, I had a harder time telling them apart than made sense. I am not looking forward to having to look at Lisa's studied bitchface in Puerto Rico. I'm officially rooting for Stephanie hardcore, because I think she might want to be my friend and drink wine with me.

While I'm on the Top Chef topic, I just wanted to note that not long ago, I mused on my friend MEP's blog that a challenge with children as sous chefs rather than just diners was something that I'd really like to see. Those Bravo producers must be big NTB fans like me and picked up on the shout out. This being a kinder, gentler season of Top Chef, the children might as well have been seasoned line cooks for all the drama this added to the episode. Make them hold an infant and cook one handed, I tell you. There's the real quickfire.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What, May's almost over???

So, where did two months go? I'm not sure you'd be interested in the details, but we HAVE been busy, and for some reason, I've lost the ability to string together thoughts, and instead spend more time than is reasonable surfing around looking at nothing when I do get on the computer. April and May are busy busy months for us always, -- I think we were gone three out of four weekends a month from O's birthday until the Fourth of July last year, and we're on track to do half of that this year, with a infant in tow, no less. So, what have we been up to? I'll give a short version, though most of my readership I think is already aware of the highlights.

I'm ashamed to admit that I believe that I've passed along my over-fondness of birthdays to my progeny, as one of the major happenings of late was O's Birthday Week. I didn't mean for there to be a whole week, but when the actual birth date is on a Monday, you get free tickets to Sesame Street Live the Thursday before, your playgroup meets on a Tuesday, and the family wants to get together on Saturday, what are you going to do??? Ever since we had to do the countdown to the special days and their events, O. has developed an interest in the days of the week. "What day is it today, Mommy? What are we doing today?" As if each day has a party just waiting. And to a three year old, isn't each day a party after all? "We're going to the grocery store! Can I have a cookie? YAY! Mom, should we get a CAR WASH??!! We are going to the bagel place, this is going to be so fun!!
This year's birthday theme was O's Animal Adventure, due to his deep devotion to all things furred, hooved, scaled or tailed. Diego had a part, but largely, the animals stole the show, with many sets of tiny plastic animals lined up on all flat surfaces hoping for a spot on the big birthday cake. Here's the final product:

We had only a minor crisis in the cake production this year, surprisingly. O's first birthday cake(a bathtub with blue Jello water and rubber duck candles) was originally made without eggs by mistake and had to be re-baked. Birthday cake number two was a train, with separate mini loaf cars. The dog ate the caboose and log car while we were out to dinner the night before the party, and had to be rebuilt. This year's debacle involved O. breaking out in hives when he either accidentally ingested or just had a contact allergic reaction to some of the cleaning product used to disinfect said plastic animals before they went on the cake. Oops. A little Benadryl later, all was well.
What else? We've been enjoying the outdoors when it hasn't been rainy and cold -- here's the best of the thousand tulip pictures we took out front.

Additionally, J. and I got to take a trip without the babies to Cancun, due to his winning a sales contest. It would take far too much time to detail the angst and anticipation involved in the preparations for that trip, so I'll just say that all went well, even taking into account N.'s 12 hour pout on my return.
We're currently living in a mess around here as I try to renew my teaching license by taking some less than thrilling courses "at my own pace" (read: snail-like and disjointed) online. I'll try to keep you posted on my progress there -- so far it just makes me a little ill every time I have to try to put together more than three sentences about helping students manage their impulsivity or learn with all of their senses. Needless to say, I should be watching a video class right now rather than writing this, and the psychic pain that creates is clear evidence for why I can never return to teaching full time.
But, before some of the cute things my children are doing right now slip my mind (or really, before I lose the scrap of paper I've jotted them down), here are some O and N updates:
N. has learned to sort of wave, though it's more like a stiff armed taxi hail than an actual wave. She will also high five if she's feeling happy, and she has two crooked little bottom teeth to show off and with which to gnaw on zwieback, wagon wheels, bagel crusts, and any sort of small object she finds on the floor. She is capable of finding anything you dropped and thought you'd lost for good months ago. We're getting good at the finger sweep to the back of the throat. She cruises around on any and all pieces of furniture, and finds water sources such as toilets and dog bowls irresistible. But mostly, we spend our days keeping her away from the shoes. She wants them all, and she wants to lick them quite completely before surrendering them. Given my habit of leaving them everywhere, it's an uphill battle.

And some O-Speak:
  • At the park, he interrupts my conversation with another mom to ask "Mommy, is it okay if I be a squirrel?" Sure, bud...Huh? Oh, NO, it's really NOT! And then I had to hotfoot it over to drag him from the base of a crabapple where three kindergarteners are six feet up.
  • After dinner one night: "Mommy, babies can't be in your tummy. Food goes in your tummy. Did N. eat your food when she was in there?"
  • We've got lots of interest in digestion, evidenced by this overheard muttering from his car seat while he was eating raisins: "This is definitely, definitely, definitely going to be poop."
  • Daddy is stuck in a "hole" (AKA a dent in the carpet left by the ottoman leg) and needs to be rescued, so O. throws him a rope. When Daddy points out that it is not a rope, but rather a toy stethoscope, O. replies: "I KNOW. I'm using it AS a rope.

We're probably watching too much TV:

  • To another boy on the slide at the park: "You have a go!" (a favorite phrase of the British cartoon dog Kipper)
  • "Mommy, are we ready to go? Let's get ready to rumble!"
  • Playing Memory, when it is his turn to find a match: "Here goes nothing!"
  • In the car, as an ambulance passes us: "That's an ambulance, not a fire engine. It's kind of like a fire engine, but it doesn't have any ladders, or any pigs." Huh? Pigs? Fire engines don't have pigs, O. "Yes, Mommy, in Busy Town they do!" (This may be either book or television induced, as we've been Richard Scarry devoted on both counts of late)

We're headed to the Lake (our sister and brother-in-law have a place outside of St. Louis) this weekend -- see you back here to report on the weather, fishing, boating, swimming and the seven hour car trip.