Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hell's Kitchen

I recently started watching Season 10 of Hell's Kitchen on Hulu.  I actually love watching cooking shows and competitions and, I'm a little ashamed to admit, I really like this show.  Why am I ashamed?  Well, because it's crass.  

The basic premise of this reality show is that a group of chefs compete to become the head chef at an exclusive restaurant.  This season, it's the Borgata.  They go through grueling tests of their cooking skills and endurance.

Except most of the time the real test is how much bullshit they can take from Chef Gordon Ramsey.  

(The hubby and I laugh because our joke is that if you want to add legitimacy/an air of seriousness to any reality tv show, all you have to do is add a Brit!  The accents are killer and Ramsey's is no exception.) 

Anyway, Chef Ramsey spends most of his time hollering at the contestants.  I mean, really hollering.  He screams constantly and hurls insults every 15 seconds.  He calls folks all kinds of names like "Fat Cow" and "Stupid Bitch" literally in their face while spitting and frothing at the mouth.   And the contestants just have to take it.  

What's even more hilarious (and ridiculous) to me is that he's doing all this while the chefs are trying to cook.   Of course, this frazzles the chefs and makes them lose focus.  Then he yells some more at them for being frazzled and losing focus.  Often he asks, "What are you doing?" And the chefs respond, "I don't know Chef!"  Which sends him kicking and screaming and spitting and telling them to "Piss off".   Most of the chefs are novices--far from professionals.  But even the most professional and experienced chefs probably wouldn't be able to perform with this dude yelling constantly at them in this extremely distracting and disconcerting way.  But what's very interesting is that many of the contestants say that they are learning a lot on the show and I'm curious as to what they possibly could be learning while constantly being yelled at and insulted.  Ramsey doesn't seem to teach anything to them (except maybe once or twice) and basically spends most of the time telling them how awful they're doing or complaining about how they are trying to make him look "styoopid".  I mean, he's rude for the sake of being rude and that is probably what pulls in the ratings.  People like to see him just acting totally inappropriately. 

Still, I like the show.  I like how the chefs handle having to work on teams but knowing that there will only be one winner.  I love trying to figure out who Ramsey will kick off the show.  I like the tenacity of the chefs.  I love the creativity of the dishes (when they are allowed to make their own dishes).  I like the drive I see.  I love the cooking. 

There's a look-alike show that comes on NBC I think.  The host is supposed to be a kinder, gentler sort of fellow (complete with a British accent).  Maybe I'll see how that one goes. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unlikely Expressions of Self-Love II

As mothers of young children, it's often easy for us to relegate ourselves to last on the list.  We realize that our children need us for every little thing and it takes a lot of energy and a lot of time.  It doesn't matter if we are stay-at-home mothers or work-out-of-home mothers, the time we have to focus on ourselves is limited.  

I find it encouraging to do little things that don't take much time that express to myself that I love myself.  I wrote about one unlikely expression of self-love a few months ago.  Recently, I've incorporated another unlikely expression of self-love.

Pre-kids, I used to spend at least an hour a week giving myself a pedicure.  This included soaking my feet, scraping off old skin,  massaging and moisturizing and painting my toenails.  Having good-looking feet was (and is) a high priority to me.  But, as much as I'd love to do that now, it's just not possible.   So recently, I've been taking one minute while in the shower to take care of my feet.  All I do is take a pumice stone to each foot for 30 seconds each.  I do it towards the end of my shower so that my feet are very wet.   Once I come out of the shower, I just apply shea butter/moisturizing lotion and I'm good to go.  It's very simple and over the course of a few days, it has left my feet supremely soft.  Here are some detailed instructions on how to do it properly

Sometimes I feel like I need to hurry out of the shower.  I have to cook breakfast.  There are diapers to wash.  Laundry to fold.  Programs we need to get to.  Groceries to be bought.  And the list goes o n and on.  But I have made a habit of talking with myself (not out loud--I haven't cracked up to that extent yet) and ask myself, "Can't you give yourself one minute?"  The answer is always yes.

And I'm sure I didn't spend more than $2.00 for my pumice stone (which is just like the one pictured) at the local beauty store (not $14 like the one I linked to).  

Having soft, touchable feet can be achieved cheaply--both in terms of time and in terms of money.  A wonderful expression of self-love indeed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie: A Review

Well, I renewed this book with the specific purpose of having it on hand while I wrote this review.  It was due yesterday but I didn't get a chance to return it so it will incur late fines.  This, at least, motivates me to get this review done.  

I honestly wish I could write as in-depth a review as I would like but the life of a mom with two kids dictates otherwise.  Instead of calling this an official book review, I will just write about how I felt about the book.

If you know me, you know I just *loved* Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun.  Now, I have always realized that I am biased in my love for the work because I am Igbo, my father fought in the Biafran War and my mother lived through it.    Her book served as a segue into a discussion with my parents about the war.  For some reason, we really do not talk about their history in Nigeria much.  I sometimes feel as if life started over from scratch for them when they immigrated to the U.S.  Or, more accurately, that life started for them when it started for me--that's how history starved I am.  So Half of a Yellow Sun became a great opportunity to learn about my family's history, the history of Igbo people and the history of Nigeria.  Some of it was painful to hear indeed but some of it was fascinating.  Aside from that, it was just a riveting read.  Adichie, in my opinion, is a gifted writer.  It's an opinion that Chinua Achebe shares as well so that's saying something.

I've also read Purple Hibiscus, her freshman novel, which though not as captivating as Half of a Yellow Sun, was beautifully written and established Adichie as one of my favorite authors.

The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of short stories which is one of my favorite styles of writing: literary instant gratification is right up my alley.  Right off the bat I will say that I think Adichie is more of a novelist than a short story writer but that is not to detract from her.  The stories in this book are very interesting to read and written in her characteristically charming style.  The plots have as protagonists Nigerian men and women--some in Nigeria and some newly immigrated to the U.S. and some who've been living here for ages, some born here.  I mean, the variety of the stories is stunning.  There's no two ways about it:  Adichie is a creative mind and force to be reckoned with.  I was held by every story and thoroughly savored reading each one.  If forced to pick my favorite story, I'd have to go with "Tomorrow is Too Far" which is about a girl who accidentally causes the death of her brother--a brother who was the favorite child, who elicited laughter from their mother in a way she never could, who was pleasing to everyone.  She (and her cousin) carry the truth of her brother's death.  A runner-up would be "The Shivering" where we catch a glimpse of something very taboo in Nigerian society: homosexuality.  This theme also comes up in "On Monday Last Week".  I was excited to see the topic being handled although since these are short stories, the topic was just broached.  "Ghosts" was also a really interesting read. 

I discovered that two of the other stories in the book I had read before in the New Yorker  Magazine  (and re-read again while reading the book).  The first is "The Headstrong Historian" and the other one is "Cell One".  These were enjoyable as well (worth re-reading) but not the best stories in the book, in my opinion.

Long and short, The Thing Around Your Neck was a fantastic read and highly recommended. 

Whipped Deodorant Butter

I've been using my homemade deodorant butter for over a year now and I love it.  Usually to make it I melt down the shea butter and mix in the other ingredients then let it harden in the fridge.  This works okay but usually the ingredients are not evenly distributed throughout the butter and it's hard.  The last time I made it, I decided that I would use a different method:  my stand mixer.  I got the idea when I was researching curly hair pudding.  [I (briefly--very briefly) thought about growing out my hair. ] So to make the stuff (and I was quadrupling the recipe), I dumped in softened shea butter and started the mixer up (using the whisk attachment).  I then added in all the rest of the ingredients one by one--just as if I were making frosting for a cake.  I let the machine run on high for about 5 minutes and the result was the fluffiest deodorant butter ever.  Everything was evenly distributed and it was light as air.  The clean up was a little intense and required lots of soap and hot water but the product was well worth it.

I wish I had a good picture to show you but I don't.  But here's a site that shows exactly what it looked like.  I'm so pleased with stuff!!

No Exercise Today

The boys have been sick with a cough and runny nose/sneezing and I kind of knew it was only a matter of time before I came down with it. I went to sleep last night feeling a little bit funny in my chest but thought I might be okay this morning. I really wanted to get a strong start to my workout week since last week I was kind of slacking (due to the start of my moon cycle). I popped in Jillian Michael's Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism even though I was coughing quite a lot this morning and I had that feeling in my chest (like something was stuck). My breathing was (and is) wheezy too but I thought working out would maybe help to break stuff up. I was mistaken. I could hardly breathe while trying to do the workout and I kept having flashbacks of my recent bout with bronchitis. I pushed for a bit . . . but only made it through one and a half circuits before I called it a day and sat my behind down.

Okay, I admit that my chest really does hurt because of the cough and this tight sports bra is not helping in the least and maybe I should have never even started to workout today. (((Sigh))) So much for my plan to kick it into high gear. I'm disappointed and wondering what this means for the rest of the week.

I really do prefer head colds.

P.S.  Turns out that using all but 10 of my 35 weekly Weight Watchers points and not consistently exercising last week translates into three pounds of weight gain.  Great. 
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