Monthly Archives: May 2008

My New Obsession…Ravelry!

Farmer’s Daughter Bean here again with some online obsessing of my own…

My friends Tevana and Nic have been trying to get me to join this thing for months and this week I finally did! Join Ravelry.com that is! Ravelry is an online knitting/crocheting community where you can keep track of your yarn, tools, and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.

The content on Ravelry is all completely user-driven and though the site is still in beta, so far it has been super easy to use. And now…I am hopelessly addicted! All I think about is adding my stash — yarn stockpiles for those of you not in the “know”– books and pictures of my completed projects to the site.

Another thing I really like about Ravelry is that you can see what other people have made from the same patterns you have or the same yarn. If you even ever thought about knitting or crocheting before, you have to check this site out…it’s quite fascinating!

So far I’ve listed all of my books (shown in the pic of my virtual library shelf above) and about 50% of my needles (below). As for adding my yarn stash inventory, I haven’t even skimmed the surface of that yet. Maybe that’s because doing so would require that I finally clean out my overflowing craft closet! Eek…

I think my favorite thing about Ravelry right now is that it gives me something to “nerd out” on while Tom re-watches the “Lost” Season Finale for the fifth time and obsesses over tracking down our “missing in action” Wii Fit — which still hasn’t arrived from Amazon!

So, while Tom fires up the Tivo one more time, off to Ravelry I go…

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“Lost” opens the coffin…

Wow. Just finished watching the “Lost” Season Four finale and though there were a couple times where I really wanted more answers, I gotta say, they tied up this season with a bang! My one complaint is that unlike some of the shocker endings on previous seasons, this year’s send-off had kind of an unfinished, “Empire Strikes Back” ending.

I’m not complaining, but I described it to Christine as being midway through a great book only to have it taken away from you for three months! Ahh! Sure they showed us who was in that damn coffin, but, in classic “Lost” style the show introduced dozens of questions for every one they answered. And though that probably frustrates the hell out of some people, that’s fine by us, baby!

Dissecting the show’s intricate, ever-changing mythology is one of the chief thrills of “Lost” for us…so the more layered and weird it gets, the more we love it!

And while I don’t wanna give too much away for those that are hoarding the season finale on their Tivo’s for the weekend, I am bursting to nerd out about some of juicy new developments that played out on last night’s show.

So, that said, if you don’t wanna read any “Lost” spoilers, thanks for checking out the blog but, please…STOP READING NOW.

OK, so how about that Desmond and Penny reunion!? Awesome, right? Something tells me that Ben — having vowed to kill Penny as revenge for his own daughter’s murder by Widmore’s goons — will try and put an end to their happiness in upcoming seasons, but for now, rock on “Lost” power couple!

And the island moving thing? Whoa…could that have been any damn cooler? Not only was the sound incredibly unnerving, but the look on the faces of everyone who watched it disappear was kinda priceless. Also, are we the only people in America that picked up the budding sexual tension between Sawyer and Juliet? Hmm…wherever the hell they end up, I think I see some sparks flying.

Also loved Kate’s creepy dream sequence. The whispers in the dark, the door opening downstairs, and then that backwards-talking voice on the phone — a tip of the hat to the iconic Man from Another Place on “Twin Peaks” — the whole thing was almost insanely terrifying.

And the site of Claire lurking ghost-like over Aaron’s bed…holy shit! I just about lost it! Christine feels that Claire’s presence in the dream answers the “is she or isn’t she dead” queston…but I’m not so sure. If you look at her forehead, Claire isn’t wearing the bandage she had on in the cabin.

But then again, who even knows when this dream is supposed to be happening? Is it the future? Or, wait, is the future now the present…? Who knows? Either way, it still scared the pants off us both!

Another thing that really broke our hearts was Sun’s anguished screaming on the helicopter. Man, give that chick an Emmy already…she rocked!

And her “chance” meeting with Widmore in London was even cooler. For some reason, it seems she and Jin are not huge fan favorites in the “Lostie” community…but we love them both, so, we were very glad to see her being so proactive in getting back to the island. And using daddy’s money to do it is just plain brilliant! Go, Sun!

Another reason we’re rooting so hard for Sun to succeed is that we — well, actually, it’s more me than Christine — still think there is a chance that Jin survived that hellacious explosion on the boat. I know, I know, it was a big old boom, but hey, is this not the same son-of-a-Korean-fisherman who survived an exploding boat in Season One?

And for that matter, didn’t Michael also survive said explosion? If you ask me, my odds are on the two of them living to see another day. Speaking of Michael, one of the many harebrained theories that I’ve been bugging Christine about since the show began was also given a huge boost last night as well.

See, I have thought for a long time that perhaps some sexual shenanigans went down between Sun and Michael when they first got to the island. Not sure if you remember, but there was a scene, way back when, where Michael “stumbled” upon Sun undressing and when she turned to face him, she didn’t seem all that eager to cover herself…know what I’m saying?

So last night, with a bomb ticking madly away in the hull of the ship, Sun takes the time to tell Michael that she is pregnant?? Weird, huh? And the long beat before he replied was even weirder. I might just be imagining things, but notice how they didn’t show the kid when she phoned home before meeting Widmore. Maybe it’s because Sun’s baby is…bum, bum, bum…Black! Just an idea…

Also, gotta say I loved the final Dharma training video for “The Orchid”. It was so fun to see that Asian dude explaining everything again…and the “time-traveling bunny” was amazing! Loved the look on Locke’s face as Ben kept piling all that metal shit in the machine…classic!

And what was the deal with the crazy-eyed redhead from the boat, Charlotte, talking about “finding where she was born”? Hmmm…as Lewis Carroll’s Alice — clearly a major influence on the writers — would say: “Curiouser and curiouser.” Love the fact too that former ship-mate, the ghost-hunting Miles knows something about her too. Very cool!

And finally…the coffin. Christine and I figured out the identity of the coffin’s occupant long before the big reveal, but it was still fun to see John Locke all dolled up for the afterlife. Love the fact too that the writers chose the name “Jeremy Bentham” for Locke’s off-island pseudonym.

I checked both Wikipedia and Lostpedia (I know, nerd partol!) and just as I suspected, Bentham, like the real-life John Locke, was a famous English philosopher. Oh, you crafty “Lost” writers…

Now, if Christine and I could just find a time machine of our very own to help us fast-forward through the summer and see what happens next…all would be right with the world!

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Season Finale night on “Lost”

Yeah! Nothing gets the bad taste of lame “Indiana Jones” sequels out of my mouth faster than the prospects of watching three full hours of “Lost” tonight! OK, technically, there are only two new hours of show, but ABC is re-airing the episode from two weeks ago with “new footage” so you know we’ll watch that too!

Now, for those of you still making your way through the previous season’s DVD collections at home — Mom and Courtney — I know you’ll get the urge to skip the horribly uneven Season Three and get to the meat of Season Four. But resist that urge! For while Season Three sucked ass most of the time, there are some moments of true greatness and I think Season Four plays better because of it.

But if you are a little behind in your “Lost” viewing (for whatever reason), I should also advise you to STOP READING NOW as I wouldn’t wanna spoil anything for you. That said, here we go…

First off, while Season Three of “Lost” played like the last years of J.J. Abram’s wildly uneven “Alias” — which we loved for two seasons and then truly despised for two more! — Season Four has been pitch-perfect at every turn.

Shocking, exciting and sometimes, even heartbreakingly beautiful — did you not shed a tear when Sun and Hurley visited Jin’s grave? Wow…sad! — this season on “Lost” has been the best yet.

Whether it’s the fact that the strike-shortened seaon forced the writers to trim the fat on this last batch of episodes or knowing that the show will end after two more 17-episode seasons, the writing this year has rocked hard!

I missed a bunch of episodes while in Santa Fe and every time I talked to Christine on the phone about it, she was literally flipping out: “Hurry home! You gotta watch these so we can talk about them!” So, once I got home, I planted myself in front of that Tivo and watched all five episodes in a row. And let me tell ya, Christine was right…Season Four was on fire!!

Seriously, not since “The X-Files” or that first magical season of “Twin Peaks” have I been so excited about a TV show’s mythology. And though they didn’t have fan sites — or even the internet for that matter! — when “Peaks” first aired, I have even taken to religiously following some of the “Lostie” theory and picture sites online. I know, nerd-tastic!

Speaking of, if you really want your brain to hurt, check out the time travel theories and timelines on TimeLoopTheory.com. I read through the whole thing the other night and my head was swimming. If even one of this dude’s theories are true…wow, just…wow.

For me, the mythology on “Lost” has always been compelling, but in this past season, it has taken the show in whole new directions — time travel, the idea of a “constant”, the “Oceanic Six”, Jacob and the other half-dead inhabitants of his cabin, etc. — that are just kind of…jaw-dropping. Really!

When the curiously-ageless Richard showed up in the flashbacks to visit a young John Locke and saw his child-like drawing of the island’s black smoke. Holy crap!! We just about fell off the couch screaming!

And when Richard then proceeded to give little Locke a strange Dalai Lama-like reincarnation test — he presented Locke with a knife, a compass, a comic book and a vial of sand and asked him to pick which items were his — we were mesmerized. The fact that John failed the test was even more compelling. What the hell does all this all mean?

Hopefully we’ll get some answers tonight, but with two seasons left to go, I kind of doubt it. But with the show operating on all cylinders, as it has all season, I ‘m sure they’ll give us something juicy to savor over the long summer break.

And even though we don’t have any grand plans for a Dharma Initiative Party — which looks and sounds like a blast! — with the prospect of John Locke “moving the island” on tonight’s episode, we are bracing ourselves for some pretty crackling good action on “Lost” tonight!

Ooo, gotta go…the show’s starting. Yes, we have a Tivo, but this is one show that demands “live viewing”. So, see ya in my next flash-forward…

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“Indiana Jones” @ the Arclight

After all the Indiana Jones build-up last week, you’d think I would have written at least something about the experience of seeing the actual movie by now, right? Well, as much as I’d like to say that I loved “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” so much that I’ve been busy hurrying back nightly to see it again…sadly, that is not the case, amigos.

The main reason I haven’t written about the movie yet is that there is practically no movie to write about. No there…there, so to speak. More of a preview for what I’m sure will be some very cool video games and theme park attractions than an actual movie, “Crystal Skull” is everything I hoped it would not be.

After the movie ended, while stumbling numbly to the parking lot…wait, I take that back, “numbly” would imply that we actually had emotional feelings about this crapfest, I think a better word would be indifferently. So, while stumbling indifferently back to our car I said to my brother: “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as “The Phantom Menace”, right?”

Shaking his head, Ryan pointed out something surprisingly wise considering the late hour. He said that while “Menace” was a huge disappointment, it at least had the promise of two other movies to come. And, the artistic value of the subsequent “Star Wars” prequels aside, that is totally true.

I mean, love it or hate it, “Menace” did have Darth Maul and the fascinating — and up to that point, never before mentioned! — concept of midi-cloriens: the little unseen mystical thingies that make up the Force.

And not only did Anakin Skywalker have a buttload of said midi-cloriens flowing through his body, but it was even alluded to that the annoying little “chosen one” from Tatooine was born of the Force itself. Wow! Now that is cool idea. And though he tried really hard at every turn, even musty old George Lucas couldn’t make that shit boring!

Unfortunately, “Crystal Skull” has none of those elements. And worst of all, it is really, really slooooow. At least “Raiders” started out big with the whole imploding temple bit. And that rock rolling after Indy? Kind of an iconic moment! But this movie opens with a groan and just keeps getting worse as it goes…

Of course, there were a few bright spots. Karen Allen looked great and it was really awesome to see her in a movie again. I thought Cate Blanchett was entertaining and despite the hisses from the rest of our party at her vicious scenery-chomping, it was very clear to me that she was having fun. And, hello…isn’t the queen of doom and gloom Oscar-bait allowed to have a little summer movie fun now and then? That’s right, you rock that crazy “Rocky and Bullwinkle” Russian accent, chica!

Speaking of over-acting, John Hurt — who I usually love — is also very strange in this. But hey, the summer blockbuster brigade isn’t exactly pounding on his door all the time either, so I cut him some slack.

On a positive note, Shia LaBeouf’s character, “Mutt”, didn’t totally suck. His Marlon Brando routine was lame and the fact that he had his name embroidered on his leather jacket was, well…kinda gay, but LaBeouf’s a great actor, and his chemistry with Harrison Ford was pretty nifty too, so it worked.

And while Ford still managed to work some of that Indiana Jones magic in spots — particularly during a scene involving Allen’s character and some quicksand! — overall, he felt more like a cartoon character than a real man.

I know, I know, the series isn’t exactly realistic, give Dr. Jones a break. But hey, realistic or not, audiences made some pretty big leaps of faith in the earlier movies too…I mean, come on, do you think anyone but Indiana Jones could hang onto the top of a Nazi submarine all the way to a secret island hideout? Please. But we were so into the movie back then that we bought it!

That is not the case in “Crystal Skull”. Here, the leaps of faith just seem bigger and way too hard to swallow. I won’t spoil it for you by going into detail, but there are at least two things that Indiana Jones does in this movie that defy the laws of physics in such a huge way that the audience actually laughed. And no, it was not in a good way.

Anyway, love to hear what the rest of you thought of the movie, so comment away. In the meantime, enjoy these pics I took of some of the cool promo posters and props they had strewn about the lobby of the Arclight. I know it’s hard to tell from the picture, but those giant banners above were actually draped down the entire length of an office tower on Sunset, cool, huh?

So, my advice is that if you live in Los Angles and you’re itching to see “Crystal Skull” on the big screen, see it at the Arclight. That way if you totally hate the movie — which you will — you can drown your sorrows by snapping some fun pics of Mutt’s groovy motorcycle in the lobby on your way out.

Hell, it worked for me…

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Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

Christine and I were both very sad to hear that legendary, Oscar-winning director/producer, Sydney Pollack passed away on Monday at the age of 73. Diagnosed with cancer nine months ago, Pollack died at his home in Pacific Palisades surrounded by his family.

I had been a fan of Pollack’s mid-career movies for years, especially “Out of Africa” and “The Way We Were” — which our family watched almost every weekend on movie night — but it wasn’t until I was in film school at AFI that I got a true appreciation for what a bang-up director he really was.

The first time I saw “Three Days of the Condor” I was kind of blown away. The quintessential paranoid 1970’s political thriller, this movie not only rocked hard, but it changed the way espionage movies were made.

Starring frequent collaborator and longtime-friend, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and a creepy Max von Sydow as the ultimate Euro-heavy, “Condor” shot to the list of my all-time-favorite movies overnight. And even though it came out in 1975, this taut, suspenseful thrill ride is anything but dated.

In fact, the timeless stylistic influence of “Condor” can be felt even today in scores or like-minded knockoffs (“Munich” and the “Bourne” movies to name a few) and even in last year’s vastly underrated “Michael Clayton”, which Pollack co-starred in and exec-produced.

What I liked most about Pollack’s films was that they weren’t flabby. There was nothing extra, no fat, just tight action, romance, adventure or whatever and some damn fine acting to boot. If you can compare him to anyone, he kind of reminds me of John Huston, who, ironically, also acted in several of his own films.

Like Huston, Pollack was a visceral, masculine director who could take something as potentially cheesy and syrupy as “The Way We Were” and make it real and authentic. Other directors might have skated by on the sheer star power of Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, but not Pollack.

His skillful direction — and a knockout script by Arthur Laurents and an an uncredited David Rayfiel — turned these potentially larger than life characters into living, breathing people, who we loved and hated, sometimes in the very same scene. Hell yes, you still cried at the end, but those tears were earned, baby.

A master of the silent emotional scene, Pollack also knew when to back off and let his movies breathe and this was never more apparent than in “Out of Africa”. Arguably his best known film, “Africa” — which won an amazing seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Pollack — has some of the most beautiful dialog-free scenes ever put to film.

Sure the airplane close-ups are totally blue-screened, but “Africa”, like John Huston’s classic “The African Queen” makes those lingering nature-filled silences speak volumes about the characters. I mean, wow, when Meryl Streep grabs that handful of sand at the end, you can almost feel that shit in your palm. Amazing…

And “Tootsie”? Wow…words can’t describe how influential this movie was to me as a kid. Every scene is comic writing gold. I remember laughing so hard when we first saw it that my brother and I missed most of the jokes and had to see it again the following weekend. Hilarious!

And though I wasn’t a huge fan of several of his recent directorial efforts — “The Interpreter”, “Random Hearts” and the Redford-starring bomb “Havana” — the bold, daring choices Pollack made as a producer never ceased to amaze me: “Sliding Doors”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, “Cold Mountain”, “The Quiet American”, “Sense and Sensibilty”, “Iris” and the mind-blowing “Michael Clayton” to name just a few. True, these movies weren’t always huge hits, but, man alive, they were always interesting.

Even cooler than his choices as a producer were the films Sydney Pollack chose to act in. Sure, his roles in his own movies always rocked — his performance in “Tootsie” alone sealed his street cred as a talented thespian in my eyes! — but I absolutely loved him in other people’s movies too.

My favorite will always be his loutish turn as Woody Allen’s newly-divorced friend in Allen’s pitch-perfect “Husbands & Wives”. Because of it’s unfortunate timing — the movie came out at the height of the Mia-Woody-Soon Yi mess — I think “Husbands” has always been kind of overlooked. But any true Woody Allen fan will tell you that this is one of his best movies ever.

And Pollack’s work here was just as worthy of Oscar attention as Judy Davis’s in my book. The scene where Pollack fights with his way-too-young-for-him girlfriend at a party is so real it’s almost painful to watch. And knowing that he was such a cool dude in person makes me appreciate his acting even more.

Sometimes, just the mere presence of Pollack in a movie or TV show lent the whole affair some class. “The Sopranos”, “Will & Grace”, “Frasier”, hell, I even liked him in “Changing Lanes” and that movie — which I half-watched on an airplane — was so God-awful, I wanted to pull the exit door open and jump out.

But I think my favorite memory of Sydney Pollack will be the time I spent listening to him speak at one of the Harold Llyod Master Seminars at AFI in 1994. Christine had snuck in with me to watch “Three Days of the Condor” on the big screen and stayed for the entire seminar.

Speaking onstage for about an hour and a half, Pollack talked about his favorite movies, his directing style, why he directs, actors, anything and everything you could imagine…and it was absolutely riveting. Trust me, I sat through a lot of those seminars, and Pollack’s was one of the best, and mostly that was due to the fact that the man, like his movies, was real.

Not only was Pollack a joy to listen to, but he projected such warmth and generosity of spirit that he totally endeared himself to both Christine and I forever more. And while I can’t speak for all the burgeoning film students that were in the theatre that day, I can tell you for damn sure that the super cool Sydney Pollack left his mark on me.

So, rest in peace, amigo. You will be sorely missed…

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Bean’s Roasted Beets & Beet Greens Salad w/Feta

Farmer’s Daughter Bean here again, and this time, I made something really good…hooray!

So, after my sunken cupcake debacle yesterday, I was a bit worried about trying out another new recipe, but I had picked up some really beautiful beets at the Farmer’s Market by my work and didn’t want them to go to waste. So after finally selling Tom on the idea of a roasted beet salad for lunch, I got to work…

First off, I should mention that I’ve never cooked beets before. But after scouring the internet for recipes, I cherry picked my favorite elements from each and then hoped for the best. And thankfully, my second experimental dish of the day turned out to be one of the tastiest things I’ve made in a long time.

And the healthy factor is kind of through the roof with this meal as beets — although not technically a “super food” — are amazingly good for you. I highly recommend them!

Now, the recipe below is a little time consuming, but, trust me, it’s not a lot of work and the pay off is amazing. My skeptical husband Tom liked it so much, he even had seconds! So, happy cooking!

First, roast the beets at 400ยบ F. I used 2 bunches and cut any that were larger than a golf ball in half or quarters. You can peel them before or after they’ve roasted, but I’ve found it’s easier to peel them after. Plus, that way they retain all that juicy beet skin flavor.

Cover them with foil and cook for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes. When they are done cooking, peel them with a paring knife and cut into smaller pieces.

For the greens, cut or tear into 2 inch pieces, then thoroughly wash and dry (they can be a little wet). Mince 2 cloves of garlic and slice 2 – 3 green onions. In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and cook for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the greens and some salt & pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes or until tender.

Combine the beets and the greens in a bowl and add more salt and pepper to taste. Finish it off with 1 tbsp each of balsamic vinegar & olive oil and then toss to combine. Plate and then crumble some feta over the top and serve. Delicious!

Serving sizes can vary, but this recipe above served the two of us for lunch. If it was a side dish, it would probably be enough for 4 people. Anyway, let me know if you try it and, as always…happy eating!

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Almond Butter Cupcake Disaster

Hey again, Farmer’s Daughter Bean here with another “make” post. Only this time, what I ended up making was a bit of a disaster.

Earlier this week, Tom came up with the brilliant idea of making some “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” cupcakes. I would make the cupcakes, he would make tiny crystal skulls out of marzipan to put on top and we would have “Indy 4” cupcakes to enjoy while waiting in line to see the movie. It all sounded so fun…in theory. The reality was something much worse.

To start with, I have given up sugar and white flour, so I needed to come up with an alternative. Sounds easy, right? Plenty of people substitute agave nectar for sugar, so I picked some up at Trader Joe’s and got to work. I figured the white flour shouldn’t be too hard to replace either, so I used some oat bran and almond meal instead. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the cupcakes were supposed to be Peanut Butter? But since I’m not eating that either, I just switched it out for some tasty Trader Joe’s Almond Butter instead. So far, so good. Everything went smoothly and even Tom agreed that the batter tasted really good. Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the process, but I was too wrapped up in everything to even think about bringing a camera into the mix.

Coming out of the oven, they didn’t look half bad. I’ll admit the tops were a bit sunken in, but they still looked like cupcakes. So, I let them cool and decided to taste one before frosting them. They didn’t taste bad, but the spongy texture was kind of strange. Tom said they tasted like “hippie” and something tells me that was not a compliment.

To me, they had more of the texture of a bran muffin than a cupcake. In hindsight, I think oat bran is just way too course of a substitute for white flour. Sadly, instead of Peanut Butter Cupcakes, I ended up with “hippie” Almond Butter Muffins, and weird one’s at that.

I did make some frosting too but that was an even bigger disaster, so I won’t even get into that. Tom called it “chocolate soup” and even I had to admit that’s kind of what it looked like. It tasted great, but when you coupled it with my sunken cupcakes, it was not a pretty sight.

As you can probably imagine, Tom never did get around to making those crystal skulls either (sorry, Indy). As for me, I think I’ll skip the substitutions in my cupcake recipes and stick to dark chocolate and fruit when I’m craving something sweet. Or better yet, I’ll just make proper oat bran muffins next time out!

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