Sunday, July 31, 2011

You can't handle the truth

I must give my blogging buddy “Blobby” a shout-out for turning me on to my latest obsession. It’s called Songify, a free iPhone app that turns your spoken word into auto-tuned masterpieces. Check out Blobby’s first single, “A Promise Is a Promise”, in which he “sings” the welcome card that was left in his room at the Farifield Inn during a recent business trip.

So as I pondered joining the ranks of the cast of “Glee”, who have every sound that comes out of their collective mouths bent, folded, and perfected by auto-tuning, I had to decide which song to release as my first single. It had to be big. It had to be epic. I turned to the movies for inspiration, and found a well-known monologue that I thought would be perfect for Songify-ing. I selected Jack Nicholson’s “You Can’t Handle the Truth” speech from “A Few Good Men” (wow, it’s been 20 years since that movie came out).

So without further ado, may I present my first single, “You Can’t Handle the Truth”. I eagerly await your comments and calls from big-name music producers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A killer performance on "So You Think You Can Dance"

Don’t know if you’re watching this year’s “So You Think You Can Dance”, but this routine by contestant Sasha and her partner, “all-star” Twitch, is one of our favorite routines of the season. A beautiful, steamy, perfectly synchronized performance. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Are you a cheap first date?

I attended a conference this past week about the convergence of e-mail marketing, social media, and customer relationship management. One of our keynote speakers talked about the meteoric rise in popularity of web-based coupon programs like “Groupon” and “Living Social”. These sites have become so ubiquitous, he said, that it would be perfectly OK to take someone a first date to a restaurant and pay for dinner with a Groupon. But take that same date to the same restaurant and use a coupon you clipped out of the newspaper? A huge social faux pas, he claimed.

Mike’s Rule: No coupons – from online or printed sources – are allowed on a first date. A first date is not designed to be an exercise in extravagance or frugality. So it would be just as wrong to go to the fanciest restaurant in town and whip out your Groupon, as it would be to use your loyalty card at the local Taco Hut so we’d save $1.50 on my combination plate.

Don’t misunderstand: I love my Groupons and use them all the time. But when it’s all about first impressions and getting to know someone, I maintain that using any kind of coupon on a first date is kind of cheap and tacky. Your thoughts?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Brady Bunch photo needs a caption

Last week, in honor of the passing of Hollywood producer Sherwood Schwartz, I posted a photo from his classic TV show, "The Brady Bunch" and asked for your creative captions. I got such funny responses that I thought I'd post another photo and see what happens. So here goes: please have at it!

"I’ll have to call you back, Cousin Oliver. My dad needs to call the caterer; his men’s group meeting starts in 10 minutes, and the crust-less salmon tea sandwiches and Cherries Jubilee haven’t showed up yet."

Try this: Blueberry Crumble Pie

The picture was taken on my iPhone and doesn't do this dessert justice, so you'll have to trust me - this pie is really, really good.

One of the sweetest tastes of summer is a fresh fruit pie. Here's a delicious, easy-to-make pie that would be perfect for a weekend cook-out or a neighborhood potluck. The crust is foolproof (and buttery), and the zing of the lemon zest and juice really balances out the sweetness of the blueberries. 

This recipe was featured in recent issue of Bon Appetit, and we made it while staying with friends in Maine over the Fourth of July holiday. The recipe calls for fresh blueberries, but we used frozen, and the pie turned out just fine. If you're using frozen blueberries, don't defrost them beforehand.

Blueberry Crumble Pie

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for surface
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling and topping
  • 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups (1 pound 10 ounces) fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted, cooled slightly

For crust

Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces remaining.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Pulse until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, use the heel of your hand to smear each portion of dough twice in a forward motion to distribute butter. Gather all 4 dough pieces into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill dough until firm, at least 1 hour.

Dough can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13" round. Transfer to pie dish, gently pressing dough onto bottom and up sides of dish. Fold overhang under and crimp edges decoratively.

Pierce bottom of crust in several places with a fork, then chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with foil and place on a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°F. Line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and pie weights. Bake until crust is pale golden, about 12 minutes longer. Transfer crust to a wire rack; let cool.

Filling and topping

Whisk 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add blueberries and lemon juice; toss gently to coat and evenly distribute. Let filling stand, tossing occasionally, until berries release their juices, 20-30 minutes.

Whisk flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Add melted butter; mix topping with fingertips to blend.

Preheat oven to 375°. Spoon blueberry filling into crust, then sprinkle topping over. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and topping is golden, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cover with foil after 30 minutes if browning too fast.

Let pie cool on a wire rack. Let stand at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rest in peace, Sherwood Schwartz

Sherwood Schwartz, the man responsible for creating both "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" died today at the age of 94. I can’t even imagine trying to calculate how many hours of my formative years were spent watching these two TV programs. Thanks for the years of entertainment, Mr. Schwartz!

Think you’re funny? Hit the “Comments” button below and write a caption for this photo from The Brady Bunch.

"Damn it Alice...I asked you to make pork chops and applesauce!"

"Alice, I don't know how you do it, but That. Cake. Looks. AMAZING!"

Our Portuguese Water Dog avoids the leap of faith

Our dog Otis is a Portuguese Water Dog, a breed of working canines that are originally from – you guessed it – Portugal. We’re told that back in their homeland, this breed was invaluable to local fisherman because the dogs could be trained to herd fish into nets, retrieve objects from the water, and even act as ship-to-shore messengers.

There’s no place on earth that Otis is happier than on the beach, which is why we so enjoy his company during our annual summer vacation in Provincetown, located on the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Like us, he’s content to spend his day on the sand, relaxing, eating, and occasionally going into the water to play. But despite his breed’s long history with all things water-related, the one thing Otis just won’t do is jump into the water from a dock or any kind of platform.

A couple of summers ago, we went for a walk around the lake at nearby Ashland State Park. Otis was in and out of the water all day – but when we went to the end of a long dock and tossed his tennis ball into the drink, Otis went bonkers. First he tried to reach out with his front paw and coax the ball closer to the dock. Then he tried another angle. And then he shifted again, clearly getting frustrated. Finally, he broke into a full gallop back to shore, where he splashed into the water and swam like crazy to snap up the ball. Time and time again, we brought him to the end of the dock and threw the ball into the lake. And without fail, Otis would run back to the beach and then swim out to his ball.

So I was reminded of Otis’ reluctance to jump into the water today when I saw this video of this pooch who was bound and determined to get his rock out of the water and make it “stay”. The dog seems to have no qualms about jumping into the water or sticking his whole head under the surface.

So is it just Otis, or are most dogs reluctant to take a running leap into water?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Steal my bike once, shame on you. Steal my bike twice, shame on me.

There are eight million stories in the naked city; this is just one of them. My bike was stolen today. I had a weird feeling as I chained it to the light pole outside my gym near Boston’s South Station at about 3:00 this afternoon. I was using one of those long, curly wire locks encased in hard plastic with a four-digit combination. But I figured it was pretty safe, as it was on a busy city street, right across from the train station, and directly in front of a taxi stand where there are always at least a half dozen cabbies waiting for a fare. But when I came out of the gym at about 4:30, my bike had vanished.

About six years ago, my bike was stolen from in front our home. I was using the same type of lock, and had chained my bike to our front fence while I ran inside. About 10 minutes later, I came outside to run an errand and my bike were gone. A few days later, Peter surprised me with a new set of wheels. He had gone to our local bike shop, picked out a new model, and had it waiting for me when I got home from work. It was a wonderful gesture, and I loved that bike.

Now I’m bike-less again, but I’ve learned my lesson. When I get my next bike (tomorrow, I’m going shopping at our favorite bike shop, Community Bike Supply in the South End), I’m going to buy a sturdier lock. While I don’t know for a fact that Boston is the bike theft capital of the United States, I do know that I’m not anxious to be victimized again. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fireworks, stools, and Bristol Palin...Oh my!

A couple of random items:

I work for a safety organization, and over the years, I’ve seen enough photos and heard enough stories to have a healthy respect for fire and the damage that can occur when it’s misused or otherwise out of control. Ditto for consumer fireworks. I’ve always been leery of folks – usually in a crowd of people and usually with a beer full of belly – lighting off firecrackers and bottle rockets. For me, that’s way too much potential for disaster. So with the Fourth of July now behind us, I was dismayed to read about a young father in North Dakota who literally had his head blown off by a firework he lit during a family party earlier this week. Witnesses say they heard a ‘boom’ and when the smoke cleared, they found the guy on the ground, “empty” from the shoulders up. Very sad story, indeed. But what struck me about the news article was the last line that said the victim’s body was being transported to the morgue so that an autopsy could be conducted. Really? They think maybe he died from pneumonia?

My friend Julie is traveling this week for work, and forwarded me this snapshot of a sign she saw in a local window. Anyone guesses where she is, or what she might have picked up in this shop?

This one’s for all the moms out there. How many of these classic lines did your mom pull on you?

An edited article from The Huffington Post:

“During an appearance on ABC's ‘The Cluckfest View’ on Thursday, Bristol Palin was asked by The Cryptkeeper Barbara Walters about her suggestion that Levi Johnston, her ex-boyfriend and father of her son, stole her virginity. ‘I'm not accusing him of date rape or anything with that,’ said the 20-year-old victim daughter of former Alaska rocket scientist governor Sarah Palin. ‘I just use that analogy of losing your virginity. That's why it's called losing your virginity.’ She later added, ‘If I wasn't so stupid drunk, no that night wouldn't have happened.’”

Love the comment from “LiberalDawg”: “Did he spike her drink? Did he force her to drink those wine coolers? Did he kidnap her? She's just like mama, always the victim.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Screening a potential badminton partner

Here's an idea for a housewarming gift for someone lucky enough to have a yard...a badminton set. We brought one to Bill and Andrew's house in Ogunquit over the weekend, and it was a big hit. It's easy to set up, simple to learn, and the game can be as relaxing or aggressive as you want it to be. Here's my artistic shot of Peter and Andrew in the backyard. I was in the kitchen on "cocktail duty" and snapped this image from inside.

Try this: Summer potato salad

So we were visiting our friends Bill and Andrew up at their new home in Ogunquit, Maine over the holiday. Bill’s an avid reader and has a huge collection of cookbooks. Since I love to cook and am addicted to pretty much anything that’s broadcast on "The Food Network" (sorry Guy Fieri…I said “pretty much anything”), it’s a given that I also enjoy flipping through a good cookbook.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t give proper credit for the following recipe. The book it printed in was sitting on Bill and Andrew’s staircase and as breakfast was being prepared, I found this recipe for potato salad that I quickly transcribed onto my iPad. I had to make a few adjustments, but it still turned out great, and is now my favorite summer potato salad. Even Peter, a potato salad snob, termed this one a winner.

Summer potato salad  
  • 1 red onion (I used a vadalia)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 31/4 lbs waxy potatoes (I used small, red bliss)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • juice of 1.5 lemons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup black olives, roughly chopped (I used green. A combination of black and green would probably be even more delicious.)
  • 1 can anchovies packed in oil
Slice onion very thinly and cover with ice cold water and salt. Let soak for 30 minutes and then drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile, boil potatoes in salted water for 20-25 minutes. Drain well and cool slightly, cut into bite-size chunks. 

Whisk together lemon juice, chopped up anchovies, and olive oil. 

Add all other ingredients to the potatoes. Pour lemon juice mixture over the potatoes and mix gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A weekend visit to Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor

We had a terrific Fourth of July weekend, New England style. Hard to believe that I had five days off from work, and that it's over already -- boy, that went fast. 

On Friday, we rode our bikes over to the Moakley Federal Courthouse in South Boston (yes, that's where all of the pre-trial proceedings are being conducted for captured fugitive/mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger) where we caught a boat headed out to Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor. 

The island is home to Boston Light, the first lighthouse built in the United States. The original structure dates back to 1716, but was destroyed by British forces as they withdrew from Massachusetts in 1776. The tower was re-built in 1783, and in the mid-1800s was raised to its present height of 89 feet. If you can stand one more piece of trivia about the lighthouse, I will tell you that it’s the only lighthouse to still be actively staffed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Once on the island, we were pleasantly surprised that despite its historic importance, visitors are still allowed to climb to the top of the lighthouse (in small groups, via 76 steps and two steep ladders). It was pretty tight quarters at the top, but offered a great view of the harbor.

The folks staffing the lighthouse are really into their jobs. In fact, the lady who currently serves as the civilian lightkeeper dresses in garb from year's past - long checked dress, big bonnet -- and greeted us as our boat pulled up dockside, a big smile on her face and waving her white handkerchief. After sharing a brief history of the island, she sent us on our way to the lighthouse where other staff members guided us to the top. On our way back to the boat, the lightkeeper gave us all homemade chocolate chip cookies, and with a big, authentic smile on her face, thanked us all for visiting the island. 

If you're ever in Boston with a couple of hours to spare, I'd recommend a visit to Little Brewster Island and Boston Light, especially if you're a history buff. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A celebrity sighting (or two) in Provincetown

Hey, remember me? Summertime is finally here and I’m hoping that with a bunch new work projects launched, I can get back to this blog periodically. That being said, I probably wouldn’t be writing a blog post at nearly 10:00 pm on a Saturday if it weren’t for a little peer pressure from a fellow blogger.

If you read down the right side of my blog, you’ll see that one of the blogs I regularly follow is written by “BosGuy”. I don’t remember how I stumbled across his blog, but I started reading it about two years ago. Then when I joined a local gym, I met BosGuy “in the flesh”. He’s one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, always quick with a smile and something charming to say. He’s also made quite a name for himself with his blog, with lots of followers and pick-up in local media.

Anyway, Peter and I drove down to Provincetown today with our friends Robb and Salvador, and who do we run into at the Boatslip for after-beach cocktails but BosGuy. We all chatted for about 15 minutes, during which BosGuy asked me if I had fallen off the blogging train. “Just a little sabbatical,” I assured him. Then I thought the easiest way to get back into blogging was to post a photo, so here’s a shot of me and BosGuy on the deck of the Boatslip.

BosGuy wasn’t the only “celebrity” at the deck…we also spotted Reichen Lehmkuhl. Memba him? He and his former partner won season 4 of the reality game show The Amazing Race. He went on to date singer Lance Bass and recently starred in another reality program called “The A-List: New York”, which I’ve never seen but has been described as the gay version of the “Real Housewives” franchise. This afternoon, we saw Reichen and his posse strut through the crowd at the Boatslip. As Salvador pointed out, Reichen has very white teeth.


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