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Archive for February, 2011

Dear Readers,

This is a continuation of Mimi’s Oscar Picks from February 22, 2011.

As far as acting is concerned, “The King’s Speech” fills the bill. King George VI of England takes the throne after his brother abdicates.  He stutters and needs help to be able to address the nation in a clear and distinct voice. He employs a speech therapist to help him.  Colin Firth, who plays King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist, Lionel Logue, have great scenes together. They are two great actors playing off each other.  In fact, I think the real star of the movie is Geoffrey Rush.  Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth and has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Her small part does not justify an Oscar nomination!

L. Kent Wolgamott of the Lincoln Journal Star called “The Illusionist” ‘a simple story with emotional depth’.  Tatischeff is an illusionist or magician performing during the late 50’s.  His type of entertainment where a rabbit is pulled from a hat is no longer appreciated.  Audiences want to see and hear Rock ‘n Roll bands.  After running out of jobs in Paris and London, he ends up at a pub in a small Scottish town.  It is there he meets Alice, a young girl who loves magic shows.  He buys her a new pair of bright red slippers and gives them to her as part of a magic trick.  She is enchanted with the “magic” and follows him to Edinburgh, where they form a kind of father-daughter relationship.

The movie is animated but not computer-generated.  It is hand-drawn in a distinct manner where each character is elongated and rather clunky.  The real beauty is in the background scenes of the city.  Full of eye-pleasing color and detail, each scene could be a framed piece of art.  I found this movie to be a real treasure!

The last movie I saw was “Winter’s Bone” and I consider it to be the best movie of all.  A 17 year old girl living in the Ozarks searches for her father in order to save the home, where she is raising her 10 year old brother and 7 year old sister.  Her mother has given up on life and is mentally unstable.  The meth-cooking father used the family home as collateral to post bail.  He failed to appear in court so the bond company is poised to seize the home.  The girl has to find her Dad so she can save the house and keep her family together.

The movie features life in the poverty stricken Ozarks where cooking meth has taken the place of making moonshine.  It is a dull and dreary place to live.  But there is one bright light in this hopeless landscape and that is Ree Dolly, the 17 year old played by Jennifer Lawrence.  She portrays a strong young woman determined to keep her family’s home.  Lawrence does a superb job and is worthy of an Academy Award for Best Actress.  She is a newcomer but I hope the Academy is smart enough to recognize her considerable talent!

Here is how I rank the 7 movies I’ve seen:

1.  Winter’s Bone

2.  The Illusionist

3.  The Fighter

4.  The King’s Speech

5.  True Grit

6.  Black Swan

7.  The Social Network

How would you rank these movies?  Let me know and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Every year I try to view the Oscar-nominated movies before the awards ceremony to see if my picks are the same as the Academy.  I didn’t get to see all of the nominated movies but here are the ones I’ve viewed along with my impression of them.

“True Grit” is a good, old-fashioned cowboy story starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and the young Hailee Steinfeld.  It chronicles the adventure of Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) who hires a US Marshal (Bridges) to find her father’s murderer.  The marshal is Rooster Cogburn and Bridges does a super job of playing a dirty, dusty, drunken cowboy.  Jeff Bridges was born to play this role.  Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf, a Texas ranger, who joins up with Cogburn and the girl to help track down the killer, played convincingly by Josh Brolin.  Hailee Steinfeld is a talented, fresh young face and has a great career ahead of her.

Jesse Eisenburg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, in “The Social Network”.  He appears to be an arrogant nerd who apparently stole the idea of social networking from Harvard twins, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.  Zuckerberg does not know how to make friends.  He treats his one friend, Eduardo Savarin, quite shabbily and shuts him out of his company.  If this movie is true, Zuckerberg is not a very nice person.  The movie is not worthy of 8 Academy Award nominations; especially the one for Best Original Score!

“The Black Swan” starring Natalie Portman is a real downer.  It starts out very intense and the intensity level stays high throughout the entire movie.  It is very dark and very sad.  Natalie Portman reportedly lost 20 pounds to play the role of the tortured ballerina and she really looks the part.  Nina is a perfectionist who is slowly going mad.  She tries so hard but never seems to please anyone, including the cruel ballet director and her mentally unbalanced and domineering mother, played by Barbara Hershey.  I think Natalie will probably win an Oscar but I feel it is not a stretch for a talented actor to portray a character slowly going insane.  This was not a fun movie to watch.  Mimi was ready for a couple of margaritas after watching it!

“The Fighter” was an enjoyable movie about two brothers, Micky and Dicky Eklund.  Dicky, expertly played by Christian Bale is a washed-up fighter addicted to cocaine.  An HBO documentary is being made about him.  He thinks it’s about his glory days as a fighter but it’s really a story about drug abuse.  The real fighter in the family is his brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg).  He has to learn to break free from his dysfunctional family to find success in the ring.  Amy Adams does an excellent job as his girlfriend.  She’s an under-achieving bartender from Lowell, Massachusetts.  She nailed the working-class accent of that area.  She should get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The mother of the Eklund boys played by Melissa Leo is very convincing in her role as a Mom who favors one child above the rest. 

To be continued on Friday, February 25.  Until then, be sure to

Keep smilin’!

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Miz G’s Southern Pimiento Cheese

Dear Readers,

Recently served this appetizer at a Super Bowl party and everyone enjoyed it.  It was submitted to the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper by Susie Whaley of Durham.  The recipe came from her mother, Geraldine Martin Sorrell.  It is simple and delicious.

Miz G’s Southern Pimiento Cheese

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons diced pimientos

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste.

Thoroughly mix all ingredients.  Store in refrigerator.

Mimi’s Tips:  Buy packaged cheese already grated.  This cuts down on prep time.  Also a 4 oz. jar of pimientos contains a little more than 3 tablespoons of pimiento.  It can be found on the grocer’s shelf near the pickles and olives.  Serve with fancy crackers or tortilla chips.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

We live in a condo development comprised mainly of seniors.  The only children we see are visiting grandchildren of ours and our neighbors.  Upon returning to the desert in November, we were pleasantly surprised to learn a family with children had moved in.  They weren’t toddlers but teen and pre-teen age.

The girl, tall and slender with long brown hair, appeared to be about 14.  Her younger brother, shorter but full of energy, seemed to be 11 or 12.  They each had a dog and would walk them throughout the development, always talking and laughing together.  It was so nice to hear the animated chatter of two young people.

One afternoon while reading by the pool, I heard beautiful music coming from a piano. It was a classical piece and was being played expertly.  The melodic sound was heavenly and was enamating from the upstairs unit where the sister and brother lived.  The very next morning I saw the young lady and inquired if she played the piano.  She nodded in the affirmative.  I encouraged her to keep up the good work and related how enjoyable the music  was to listen to.  She smiled brightly and said “Thank you”.

A couple of weeks later a moving van sat parked outside their garage.  The movers were just loading up the last few items, when I strolled by.  The family had already left.  It was disappointing not to be able to say goodbye to them.  But most of all I’ll miss the wonderful piano music floating through the neighborhood.

Where has the music gone?  I’ll never know but our loss is some other neighborhood’s gain.  And I hope that young girl never stops playing!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Bake something different for your honey this Valentine’s Day.  Instead of brownies or cookies, why not bake a pie?  Mystery Pecan Pie is the perfect dessert for this special day.

Mystery Pecan Pie

15-oz. pkg. Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crusts

1 teaspoon flour

Filling:

8-oz. Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/4 cups chopped pecans

Prepare pie crust according to package directions for “filled one-crust pie”.  (Refrigerate remaining crust for later use.)  Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In small bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup sugar and salt; beat at low speed until smooth and well blended.  Set aside.  In another small bowl, beat 3 eggs.  Stir in 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla; mix well.

Spread cream cheese mixture in bottom of pie crust-lined pan.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Gently pour corn syrup mixture over pecans.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45  minutes or until center is set.  Cool.  Store in refrigerator.  Makes 8 servings.

Tip:  Cover edge of pie crust with strip of foil during last 10 to 15 minutes of baking if necessary to prevent excessive browning.

This recipe came from a Pillsbury cookbook entitled “Celebrate 50”.  Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

In less than a week, we will be observing Valentine’s Day.  Candy hearts, flowers and romantic dinners are a big part of this celebration along with tales of everlasting love.  The typical modern love story consists of two young people who are usually quite attractive.  They live exciting lives in interesting locales and are passionately in love.

Well, this is quite a different love story but a love story none the less.  The lovers are certainly not young or beautiful.  They appear to be in their middle to late eighties.  He wears large aviator-type eyeglasses that were in style during the 70’s.  She is a small, frail white-haired woman confined to a wheelchair and can no longer speak – probably the result of a stroke.  And their locale is a nursing home.

I had the distinct honor of observing these lovers for about six straight days while visiting a relative in the home.  The husband visits his wife daily for about four to six hours.  He constantly sits by her side and strokes her face lovingly or pats her hand.  She responds by watching him intently and smiling occasionally.  He never seems to be in a bad mood or in a rush and is ever so gentle and patient.  I’m sure she feels the love enveloping her.  Seeing this man and woman together is thrilling and makes my heart sing. I am witnessing a wonderful and tender love story.

This is my Valentine wish for all of you:  to experience a love as comforting and steadfast as the love between this couple.  I would wish them a Happy Valentine’s day but then everyday is Valentine’s Day for them!

Keep smilin!

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Dear Readers,

Recently served “Holiday Honey Chicken with Fruit” along with brown rice and Armenian Vegetable Salad (posted on Jan. 21, 2011) at a dinner party.  It was a delicious combination and the preparation was fast and easy.

This recipe came from “Matzoh Ball Gumbo” by Marcie Cohen Ferris.  It is a recipe from the author’s mother, Huddy Horowitz Cohen of Blytheville, Arkansas.  Mimi’s note to Huddy:  This is a wonderful main course!

Holiday Honey Chicken With Fruit

2 cups orange juice

1 cup honey

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons grainy mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 (5- to 6-ounce)skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves, trimmed

1 cup sliced pitted prunes

1 cup sliced dry apricot halves

In medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, honey, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken breasts in a shallow glass dish or a large zipper-top freezer bag.  Pour the marinade over the chicken or seal and squish the bag to coat it.  (If using a bag, place in a bowl to guard against leaks.)

Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.  To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large roasting pan.  Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the prepared pan, and scatter the dried fruit over and around the chicken.  Pour half the marinade over the chicken, discarding the remainder.

Bake, basting the chicken and pressing the fruit down into the juices once or twice, about 45 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the thickest part.  Serve the chicken with the fruit, pan juices and fluffy white rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains 358 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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