Oscar Night 2014!

It’s Oscar time again, and once more I’m nestled into my parents’ living room with the fam, munching on Chinese food and watching the show.

– Ellen’s opening monologue was almost too kind, like they’re trying to come back hard from some of the snarkier hosts… but I like it. I like her. So we’re all good hah.

– Jordan Catalano just won an Academy Award, yo. Dear 90’s me, you’ll never believe what just happened! They let him talk longer than I thought they would… but he had some good stuff to say, go Jared ūüôā

– Nice shimmy, Meryl! Way to start the show with such a fun song in the first half hour.

– How many more times will Ellen reference Jonah’s penis?

– Harrison Ford’s earring & goatee & hairstyle all combine to form an interesting… image.

– Oh Kim Novak. It’s hard to look at you, dear.

– French animation nerds, I ‚̧ you. The only nominee out of that group that I saw was "Get A Horse", which was awesome, but I really ought to make an effort to see some of these others. I know I say that every year, but… yeah.

– I know who **I** want to win best feature… I love Despicable Me, and I love that they're nominated, but it's gotta be Frozen… and it is, yay!

– I adore Sally Field's dress, that beading!

– This "heroes" montage is like a list of my favorites and a list of what I should be watching. Awesome.

– Seriously, HOW did the Lone Ranger get so many nominations?

– How to tell you're a nerd? Your favorite movies are all nominated for visual effects and tech awards.

– I'm sure Gravity deserved it, but it would've been SO cool to see Star Trek win an Oscar ūüėČ

– Karen O, not yelling. Odd.

– Every year, somehow I forget just how awkward and stilted all the presentations can be. Every year it surprises me when everyone seems ill at ease, fumbling through their words. Such is the Oscars, baby.

– When Ellen offered pizza, Kerri Washington's hand went up ALMOST as fast as Jason's. Awesome.

– So that singing was a little awkward (20 feet from stardom), but Bill Murray stood up SO fast. As dad said "that was awkward, I'm for it".

– I love Kevin Spacey's voice, he's just a pleasure to listen to.

– Oh Tyler Perry. I've heard you've done some decent stuff, but there's just SO much crap, it's hard to wade through. Your name just kind of makes me want to roll my eyes.

– U2, you still bore me. Sorry.

– That McDonalds commercial was pure genius, seriously. "Mine took video."

– That group selfie was lovely! Jennifer Lawrence was sitting on Meryl Streep's lap… then Cumberbatch photobombed Brad Pitt. ‚̧

– Ok so as much as I know Lupita is going to win, she's gotta, but I would really love to see Jennifer Lawrence pick up another Oscar. This is one hell of group, they should just all win. And there she goes, congrats Lupita!!

– Ellen actually did it… Brad Pitt is passing out paper plates while the pizza delivery guy distributes. This is fantastic. This whole family is VERY worried about whether or not Kerri Washington will get her slice!!

– So, this new motion picture museum? That looks *amazing*, I WILL meet there in 2017!

– Bill Murray & Amy Adams, lovely. "You're the brains, tell them about the shooters". And then he adds in Harold Raymis for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters & Groundhogs Day! (Cinematography.) Presh.

– They played "Cups" when Anna Kendrick came out, nice!

– I'm still not sure yet whether this Wizard of Oz tribute is going to be painful or awesome… let's find out! Alright, Pink, home run. Beautiful.

– Ellen is working those wings, love the Glinda outfit!

– Garner & Cumberbatch in the same place, be still my heart! I love you both, and your cheekbones.

– Set design and production to Gatsby. It may not have been an amazing movie, but Baz knows how to do *beautiful*.

– Another Heroes montage, another long list of loves and want-to-sees!

– Another great commercial, the mini Pepsi can!

– Carmen Zapata, It's still weird that we lost Paul Walker, Peter O'Toole, Richard Griffiths, Sid Caesar, (The battlestar galactica/star wars designer?), Esther Williams… Aw, no Ralph Waite.

– Bette sounds amazing, but it looks like she had trouble opening her jaw! And the arrangement was terrible… but again, she SOUNDS amazing.

– I'm not sure what Travolta said when he introduced Idina, but that's ok. It's Frozen time! … rough start for her, but she really shines on the high notes anyway, wait for it… Damn girl.

– Jaime Foxx brought his own theme song. Ok so it was borrowed from Chariots of Fire but it's all good.

– And any oscar goes to… Gravity! ūüėČ

– I pretty much want anyone but U2 to win best song… and it goes to Frozen! I’m so glad it did, because their speech was amazing! They have the two luckiest daughters. Let’s do frozen 2!

– Ellen passing the hat… boy that lady can get away with just about anything. Lupita’s lip balm!

– Writers are weird, ’nuff said, you know I’m right.

– Sidney Poitier, it was LOVELY to see you tonight.

– Was not expecting Daniel Day Lewis!

– McCannaghey has really come along way while still being the exact same guy. Alright ūüėČ

– Will Smith gives the big one… “And the Oscar goes to… 12 Years!” Congrats, wow! Somehow I didn’t know Cumberbatch was in it… now I suppose I must go see this movie.

– Well, that was lovely. Another year well done.

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The Smoothie Sessions: A Good Start

Well, my practice smoothie may not have been a winner, but this one was much better! As the weather warms up, I’ll start ramping up my exercise, so eventually I’ll need to start adding some protein to these shakes, but for right now this simple and delicious treat hit the spot.

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The Smoothie Sessions: Warm-Up

In March, 8 of my friends and I are starting a grand effort – we’re training for the Tower of Terror run in October, 2014! ¬†Part of my training is going to be daily smoothies full of super foods, so I thought I’d use today to practice a bit…

Sara Seinberg makes it look so easy, effortlessly whipping up flavorful combos, but it’s hard to find the right balance!

This smoothie was close, but no cigar. ¬†Between the thick texture (the chia seeds) and the flavor, this ended up feeling like I was drinking a really thin devil’s food cake batter. ¬†That’s not inherently a bad thing, cake batter is delish, but it’s not really something that I want to drink a full 8 ounces of.

Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow!

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It’s Oscar Time!

Ah the Academy Awards, one of my favorite nights. ¬†Winter is long, and by this point it’s just grating on my soul… so I’m all for embracing a whole night of glitz, glamour, and sitting around with my family ripping on it all.

And through it all, I’ll be blogging about it right here!

Seth McFarlane… he really was made for this stage. ¬†He’s got the jokes, the presence, and the *voice*!

Now, I was just starting to wonder where the opening sketch was, then the Shatner-screen dropped in. ¬†This is a marvelously non-traditional way to kick things off! ¬†We saw ¬†your boobs (the gay men’s chorus!), the way you look tonight, the “another rubber tree” song, and be our guest. ¬†How Hollywood, how classy! ¬†Well done, Seth and company ūüôā ¬†(I love you, Channing Tatum.)

**Best Supporting Actor**: Christoph Waltz! ¬†I called it with one second to spare… not based on anything real, just ’cause I think he’s adorable. ¬†If you didn’t see him on SNL, catch it online! ¬†(Side note, Samuel Jackson looks awesome.)

Alan Arkin (Argo), DiNiro (Silver Linings), PS Hoffman (The Master), TLJ (Lincoln), Waltz (Django).

Paul Rudd & Melissa McCarthy on The Actor’s Voice… off to a slow start, but funny! ¬†Melissa really is pretty… but it’s a no on the hair, dear.

**Best Animated Short**: ¬†Paperman! ¬†The only one out of all of them that I’ve actually seen, huzzah!

**Best Animated Feature**: ¬†Brave! ¬†I mean, it’s a Pixar movie, so we can’t possibly be surprised. ¬†Nice kilt, buddy ūüôā

Our first look at the nominees for Best Picture… honestly, it’s a really thin category for me this year. ¬†I have no desire to see Les Mis or Life of Pi, but Beasts of the Southern Wild looks pretty cool.

Now… the Avengers presenting for **Cinematography**. ¬†They traded a few tasteful barbs, but that was a little… eh. ¬†Nothing special. ¬†And the dude who won for Life of Pi? ¬†Welcome to earth dear?
What HAPPENED between RDJ and Sammy there?

**Visual Effects**: This is a tough one, I’d love it if pretty much anything other than Life of Pi won, but we all know that won’t happen… and it goes to Life of Pi. ¬†Feh.

OMG. ¬†The “Get Off the Stage” music… is Jaws? ¬†That was super-obnoxious.

So, Jennifer Anniston joins the delicious Channing Tatum for the “Make Us Pretty” awards. ¬†I loved the little haunted look on his face when talking about waxing… heh.

**Best Costume Design**: ¬†Anna Karenina. ¬†It’s really a category that I don’t have much to say about, save that *all* of the nominated movies were absolutely gorgeous.

**Best Makeup and Hairstyling**: ¬†Les Mis. ¬†Some days I really feel like I’m the only one not taken in by this show.

The Bond tribute Рwell done!  A short montage (of course) followed by Shirley Bassey (who as mom helpfully pointed out is 75) KILLING Goldfinger.

**Best Short Film**:  Really not a category I ever got into much, but some cool stuff comes out of short films!  So, Curfew it is.

**Best Documentary Short Film**:  Innocente.  Looks cool, I should check it out!

More Best Picture looks… Argo and Lincoln are the two I still plan on seeing at some point. ¬†Zero Dark Thirty is a must-see, but on my own time… at home. ¬†At some point.

And now, Benjamin Affleck! ¬†(‘Cause he’s so respectable and stuff.)

**Best Documentary Feature**: ¬†In a category full of topics like AIDS and war, it’s just fascinating that Searching for Sugar Man gets the award! ¬†Congrats guys.

**Best Foreign Nation Film**: ¬†Check it, a Norwegian nominee! ¬†Amour wins it (or as Seth called it earlier, “This is 80”.)

This is a surprise to me… the Academy Orchestra plays live… at a building down the street? ¬†Crazy!

Travolta is here to talk about Movie Musicals… and cannot pronounce ANY names (save the Scandinavian one.) ¬†Oh well, CZJ is singing now, so who cares! ¬†“All That Jazz” was and is one of the most bombastic numbers, LOVED it. ¬†I could’ve done without Jennifer Hudson’s number… she’s talented, but just not my bag. ¬†She also just still looks slightly wrong to me.

Well, I guess it’s time for the big Les Mis number. ¬†Who, in the audience, will cry on camera first? ¬†Anne Hathaway’s dress for this number is incredible… but really, this is awful, c’mon.

Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana get to talk about the techies.  Trekkies for tech!

So, Wahlberg and TED.  Movie magic!!

**Sound …Mixing?**: ¬†Life of Pi and Les Mis in the same category… who’s more heartfelt? ¬†Oh, Les Mis it is!

**Sound Editing**: ¬†Oh look, Life of Pi is nominated again… wait, “No BS, we have a tie.” ¬†That happens? ¬†Crazy! ¬†Zero Dark Thirty takes the first. ¬†And the second is for Skyfall. ¬†How great! ¬†Awful lot of long-haired blonds this year.

Georg VonTrapp, where are you? ¬†“They’re gone!” ¬†And now, the real Christopher Plumber ūüôā

**Actress in a Supporting Role**: ¬†“You’re right, they’re going to give it to Anne.” ¬†I love her, I do. ¬†I’m totally ok with this. ¬†What was the thing taped to the bottom of the seat? ¬†Was she hiding treats?

The President of the Academy announced the upcoming museum, and I can’t WAIT to check that out. ¬†Loved the college kids who are presenting.

**Best Film Editing**:  Argo, congrats!

Oh Jennifer Lawrence… you’ve been such a beacon of grace when it comes to issues addressing your weight, and yet you stepped on stage looking like a scared twig. ¬†Adele, however, looks about a thousand times better than she did at the Grammys. ¬†It’s amazing what a good dress can do for a girl!

The last segment of Best Picture nominees РSilver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, & Amour.  Good stuff.

Radcliffe & Stewart… “everything the Christian-right says is wrong with Hollywood”.

**Production Design**:  Lincoln, how wonderful!

And now, Salma Hayek (the most understandable in a set of three including Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz) brings us the Governor’s Awards. ¬†Hollywood humanitarians!

Clooney lends his dignity (and profoundly Stromsten-like hair) to the “In Memoriam” segment… ¬†which I LOVE. ¬†But I am not really a fan of the fact that they’ve added some overly-heartfelt song over it in recent years.

Chicago cast, you’re awkward but adorable. ¬†You managed to make my baby BROTHER feel old, though, since you won BP 10 years ago… wow.

**Best Original Score**: ¬†Life of Pi. ¬†Well, it’s been a while since we’ve seen them on stage. ¬†“My beautiful FOX family…” (Brendan: “I want a family of foxes!”)

**Best Original Song**: ¬†Nora Jones is here singing Seth’s very own “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”, presh! ¬†Skyfall wins, and it deserves it, it’s pretty awesome. ¬†Still, would’ve been cool if Ted won.

Pink Panther music got MOM’S attention.

The ever-lovely Charlize Theron seems to just keep getting more gorgeous with time, talk about aging incredibly gracefully!

**Best Adapted Screenplay**: ¬†Brendan’s calling this one for Silver Linings… ATOGT, Argo!

**Best Original Screenplay**: ¬†Tarantino for Django Unchained, and the little brother is SHOCKED. ¬†How great! ¬†That was a *marvelous* speech, well done. ¬†And what a dork ūüôā

Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, second generation Hollywood “royalty”… she’s definitely double-dipping in her own closet. ¬†Looks like an 80’s frock…

**Best Director**:  Life of Pi, hi again.  Meh.

**Best Actress**: ¬†Jean is back! ¬†Mom’s happy. ¬†Jennifer Lawrence, awesome! ¬†And what a lovely graceful little fall.

Meryl Streep, we saw that wedgie pick ūüôā

**Best Actor**: ¬†“We hope Joaquin Phoenix is on his meds.” ¬†Daniel Day Louis wins it for Lincoln, wow, nice! ¬†Enjoy your farm, you deserve it. ¬†Wish I could’ve seen you as Margaret Thatcher, though.

**Best Picture**: ¬†Jack Nicholson, you’re a wack job. ¬†Love it. ¬†How sneaky, though, he was there to introduce Michelle Obama! ¬†Aw, that was cute.

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Les Miserable

Life of Pi

And ARGO takes Best Picture (as announced by Mrs. Obama).  Congrats to the three sexiest producers alive!

And another Academy Awards ceremony is behind us… that was marvelous! ¬†Now, looking forward to another year of movie M A G I C.

HERE’S TO THE LOSERS!

Trends of the night: ¬†Gunmetal silver and lipstick stains on cheeks. ¬†Both look good on everyone ūüôā

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Sometimes, it’s just not fair.

A friend of the family was diagnosed with creutzfeld-jakob disease, a prion illness similar to mad cow disease. He has months to live and will spend that time in a hospital bed losing control over his body and mind.

I am having a really hard time wrapping my brain around it… This kind of thing happens to nameless patients on House, not to a man who carried me off-stage in the Nutcracker as a little kid. He is very involved in the Village, an active member of the fire department, and has three kids in their 20s who lost their mother to cancer just a few years ago.

It’s hard not to just sink into a grey world of anger. Not to let the “this is so unfair, haven’t they suffered enough” take over… it’s happening, and no anger or frustration will fix that.

I am somewhat (unfortunately) accustomed to death, but this is a new thing for me. This is grieving for a vibrant man while he’s still alive, this is caring for a family that will have to watch their father deteriorate over the next few months, this is wanting to do something for a friend who will soon not recognize his children any more.

… So that’s it, I have to *do* something. I just haven’t figured out quite what yet. But when the right thing comes along, I’ll know…

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For The Birthday Boys and Girls: Root Beer Float Cupcakes!

Several years ago I got my hands on some root beer flavoring – an additive used in making sodas at home. I figured that it was close enough to an “extract” that I could use it to flavor some cupcakes! I looked around online and found inspiration from some other folks who had the same idea but I didn’t *love* any of their recipes. I took the best from each one, mixed it with a healthy dose of the basic ingredients from Michelle’s vegan chocolate cake, topped it with some vanilla bean frosting, and bam! We had a killer root beer float cupcake!

Root Beer Float Cupcake

I made these cupcakes for the first time in 2008, for my brother’s birthday, and then a few more times after that. The root beer flavoring bottle I had held just enough for about 7 batches, though, so it wasn’t long before I was all out! Worst of all, I didn’t know where to get any more…

Then Brewtopia opened up in downtown Port Jefferson! I went in to the store the day after they opened and asked about home-brewing soda supplies… they had a pretty decent section, but no root beer flavoring. I asked the guy behind the counter about it, and he was more than willing to start carrying some if there was a demand for it. Yay! We picked up a new bottle today ūüėÄ

I’m right smack in the middle of a TON of birthdays, including my brother’s once again. If I had the time and money I’d make everyone their favorite cupcakes, but as I don’t the root beer float cupcakes seem to be pretty universally popular so I made a double batch today!

Ok, enough about the backstory, you just want the recipe!

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Yield:
A little over a dozen

Ingredients:
1 C root beer of your choice (I like Stewarts!)
1 t apple cider vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C canola/vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract
2 t root beer flavoring
1 1/3 C flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Combine the root beer and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Whisk gently, then let stand for a few minutes.

Add sugar and oil, whisk until frothy. Add vanilla and root beer flavoring, whisk again. Gradually whisk in flour to combine, being careful not to over-mix. Let stand a few more minutes – batter will thicken up a little as the baking soda and vinegar interact.

While you’re waiting, preheat oven to 350 degrees, line a cupcake pan with papers, and fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops are springy and a toothpick comes out clean.

Be patient and let those cupcakes cool! Use this time to make your…

Frosting:

1 C solid shortening (I use Crisco sticks)
3-4 C powdered sugar
2 T milk (dairy, almond, soy, whatever)
1 T vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, if you want.

Put shortening in the bowl of a stand-mixer and beat with paddle attachment for 1-2 minutes. Start adding sugar, gradually. When you have incorporated at least 3 C of sugar, beat frosting on high for 2-3 minutes.

If you want to use the vanilla bean, now’s the time. Lay the bean on a cutting board and slice open end to end with a sharp knife. Being very careful of your fingers, scrape along the inside of each half with knife. Drop the accumulated “vanilla bean paste” into mixing bowl.

Add vanilla and 1 T milk, beat on high again. If needed, add more sugar or more milk to get a nice fluffy texture. When you think it’s *just* right, beat for another 30-60 seconds then start frosting your cupcakes!

RBF with Vanilla Bean

I like to serve these cupcakes with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to really drive that root beer float flavor home!

(Note: all of my recipes tend to be a little heavy on the vanilla as I use my own home-made stuff. If you’re using store-bought vanilla, use a light touch.)

Posted in Food, Good Enough Living | 2 Comments

Lessons about Loss

I do not like people who take someone else’s tragedy and make it their own.

You know the kind of people I’m talking about. The ones who instantly co-opt a death and turn it into their own personal sob story, who make it all about themselves. “Oh, you knew him? Oh my god let me tell you all about how this affected mememe.” Everyone is entitled to grieve in their own way, loss is a very personal thing to deal with, but these people take it to a different level. A very selfish and self-centered place.

I have dealt with a lot of loss in my life. An unfortunate side effect of having a large family and a wide variety of friends is that the more people you know and love, the more you have to lose.

I have one particular sphere of friends that I hold very dear to my heart. These people are not close friends, I don’t see them regularly, but I admire and treasure every single one of them. They are all creative, beautiful, flawed, bright shining stars in a sea of grey. They are all weird and strange and quirky in so many different ways. They want a lot from this world, and they give just as much back to it.

This past weekend one of those wonderful kids, Michael Peggs, died in a car accident mere steps from his family’s home. Peggs had his problems, his demons, but you would be hard pressed to find a bigger smile and a better friend.

Michael Peggs

Photo borrowed from his facebook page

In spending some time with his friends who have come together this week to support his girlfriend and each other, you can see the love for Peggs and for each other exploding outward. Reality will set in when everyone goes back to the places they came from, but for the moment they are all floating on a cloud they worked hard to create.

With this group of friends, I have always felt a bit like I was on the outside looking in. This is my own hang-up, not theirs. They are all so welcoming, loving, but they are their own family. They have a decade (or more) of shared experiences, adventures, and trials that I have only been peripherally involved in. To be honest, I am a bit jealous of the amazing connections they’ve forged. I love being with them, catching up on all the things that have happened since we last saw each other, and enjoy the time we get together.

Tonight, I realized a rather unfortunate thing. I have focussed so hard on not being the kind of person who co-opts others’ pain that I haven’t let myself feel the pain that I *should*.

In a room full of people who gathered to remember Peggs and lean on each other, I felt more like an observer than ever. I was friends with Peggs, but I wasn’t his girlfriend, who was in the car with him at the time of the accident. I wasn’t his best friend, who battled cancer with Peggs at his side. I wasn’t his middle school crush, his bike-riding buddy, the one he always got in trouble with in high school. I wasn’t *supposed* to feel like they did, because I was just his friend.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t feel anything at *all*.

So tonight, with my dog at my side, I let myself get angry. I let myself cry. And I let myself really truly miss that goofy, skinny, curly haired crazy kid who absolutely always had a kind word and a hug for me.

More Beach Time

No llores porque ya se terminó... sonríe, porque sucedió.

Michael Peggs, you are so very loved. By so many.

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