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Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I hope you’re all so busy with friends and family that you’re reading this days after the fact.  My husband is cooking up a delicious dairy-free feast to accommodate my annoying and untimely new food allergy, my mother-in-law will be visiting and bringing goodies of her own, and I get 4 blissful days off of work.  I’m also too broke to even think about shopping on Friday, but even with unlimited funds, I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

The first Black Friday I ever worked was at Shoe Carnival where I worked a 6am to 10pm shift and watched people behave like animals.  I saw two women get into a fist fight over a pair of shoes while their kids watched.  I witnessed the worst of people in a concentrated form, and it was terrifying.  These days, a 6am opening is lame compared to the stores who open as early as 2pm on Thanksgiving Day to give shoppers early access to sales.  It’s a horrible thing.

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Supply and demand keeps stores stretching further and further into Thanksgiving.  Midnight worked for a while, but even that wasn’t enough, so now, retail employees across the country find themselves having an early dinner (or skipping it altogether) so they can go to work and appease the crazies who have nothing better to do than map out a strategy to hit as many stores as possible in 24 hours so they can maybe save a couple hundred dollars.

I do most of my Christmas shopping online at this point because I see no point in going to stand in line at Target at 4am to maybe get a good deal on a flat screen sold to me buy some guy who would rather be at home playing Xbox while slowly slipping into a turkey-induced food coma.  There are places that definitely need to be open on Thanksgiving; you need gas stations, law enforcement, some type of food services (grocery, fast food, or otherwise), health care, and so on.  We do not need to have TJ Maxx, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, or other businesses who sell things no one really NEEDS on Thanksgiving.  Let those employees have a day off.  They’re going to suffer enough on Friday, why can’t we let them take Turkey Day off?

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If we stop giving in to the pressure and stay home on Thanksgiving, stores will stop with these insane hours and stupid sales.  Even if you don’t care at all about Thanksgiving, you should care about having a day off from the real world.  A day where everything can go quiet and you can focus on being with loved ones, being with yourself, or just taking some quality time for your favorite activity.  If you honestly can’t control yourself (or can’t stand your family) and HAVE to go shopping before you start convulsing, go online shopping.  Lock yourself in a room and go bid-happy on eBay.  Find something to do that doesn’t involve making retail employees leave their house so you can get $5 off a new jacket.

Today is either a wonderful day to spend with family or the perfect day to sleep until 4pm.  Either way, it’s a day we all deserve to take advantage of and stay away from the harsh neon lights of the Super Stores down the street.  Stop being a mindless retail puppet, lured from your home by the promise of 50% off Playstation games.  The only alarms you set should be food prep related, and the only reason to get out of sweatpants should be to change into a pair of even stretchier sweatpants.  And if you do choose to ignore me because the deals at Sears are just TOO good to pass up, try not to be a cunt to those who are skipping their holiday just so you can buy a weed wacker and electric drill.

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Improving Yourself From The Inside Out – @shellystins (Guest Writer)

I’ve always been kind of fascinated by people who can change their life in dramatic ways. It’s like one minute they’re living this life that leaves them feeling tired, empty, and lacking. And the next, they’re completely satisfied down to their soul and grinning from ear to ear because they feel so good about themselves and who they are. And what I’ve noticed most about the people who achieve this type of almost miraculous transformation is that it generally involves them altering their lives on both a personal and professional level. In the case of this post, it can occur when changing your diet and also pursuing a career in the field of health coaching.

It only makes sense, really, because when you go through the changes yourself, it puts you in the perfect position to help others who need to go through the changes to reach their own goals too. It gives you the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know how it feels, but I did it and I know that you can do it too!” It also enables you to give little tips and tricks that you used to get through the dreaded lack of motivation phase and to overcome the hurdles that threaten their ultimate success.



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Take the story of Jil Larsen, founder and owner of Magic Mix Juicery in New York City, for instance. She was diagnosed with melasma, a skin disorder. Upon doing research about how she could effectively deal with it, she learned that she was eating too much, but not enough of good, healthy, vitamin-rich foods. So she started juicing and eating healthier in an effort to regain her health, which she did—and her melasma joyously reversed. Born from this experience was her desire to help others eat less and eatbetter so they too could experience better health. This is when she opened Magic Mix Juicery and now serves healthy food to people in the Financial District in New York City. 

Of course, one part of achieving this level of life change requires making changes in your own life. How? Fortunately, there are a number of ways. For example, the American Heart Association recommends expending as many calories as you eat, eating a wide variety of foods, and making sure those foods are full of good nutrients. This basically means eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, poultry, fish, and other good-for-you menu items. It also means limiting the amount of processed foods you eat (think crackers, chips, cookies, and things like that). 

But if you need help figuring out exactly what changes can provide you the greatest impact and the greatest ability to change your life, another option is to do what Jil did. Take a health issue near and dear to your heart, maybe one that is affecting you personally. Then, learn as much about it as you can and start making positive health-based changes to help ease, if not eliminate, the condition or concern. You could then become a health coach (or enter a similar career path) to help others in similar situations make the necessary changes in their owned lives to enjoy a better and higher quality of life.

This is the same basic principle behind what makes Cancer Buddies Network such a success. When people can work with someone who has walked in their shoes, who not only struggles with the physical issues they face but the mental ones too, there’s no better feeling. It’s like receiving a hug from a long lost friend, reminding you that everything will be okay.

Say Cheese

I always wondered why certain people would choose to cut amazing food groups out of their diet.  Vegetarians, vegans, the “I don’t have a gluten allergy but I go gluten free for the health benefits” crowd.  I used to say often that if I was allergic to peanuts, I would lose my mind.  I love food that is worthy of the highest critical praise and I love a greasy basket of fried nonsense from the state fair.  Eating surrounds so many events in life and it’s best to go in with zero restrictions.  Or at least it was.

In early August of 2015, I was diagnosed with severe lactose intolerance and a milk allergy.  I can’t even eat something that “may have” come into contact with dairy without getting horribly sick and feeling miles south of the worst hangover I’ve ever had combined with what I imagine the human body feels like after falling off a cliff.  Farewell pizza, cheese curds, most baked goods and alfredo sauce.  Hello soy cheese and almond milk and butter made out of oil.  Forget casually going to a restaurant and ordering whatever sounds good because half the time, there’s some milk product hiding away in the meal that keeps me from getting close to it.  Hell, I washed dishes the other day that had sour cream on them and got a godawful rash on both of my arms.  Things are very different for me now.

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What I’ve noticed more than anything is that the world isn’t friendly to people with dietary restrictions.  Order something without cheese and be prepared for people to look at you as if you have leprosy.  It’s not fun being THAT person who has to turn down birthday cake at work or pizza parties with friends or Halloween candy because your body will reject it in all sorts of fun ways.  It’s difficult to avoid allergens when it seems that virtually everything is processed in a factory that also processes food items with nuts and milk and gluten.  I won’t even get started on how expensive it becomes to find things that are acceptable and safe.

At work, people look at me with sad faces when I turn down certain foods and give them an honest reason why.  When I don’t feel like giving a reason, they look at me funny, as if I’m a freak of nature for declining an 8am doughnut.  Dealing with this for the last month and a half has made me very confused about why there is barely any focus on dietary restrictions.  I have to make separate shopping trips to get what I need because stores just don’t carry it.  I don’t expect the world to cater to every individual need, but lactose intolerance is hardly a rare thing.  Mine may be more serious than most, but it makes me wonder why such a large population of people are left without reasonable options.  My goal is to find a way to get more options; I just need to find the starting line.

Greek-Themed Christmas Party Ideas

Décor, Bingo Games, and Food Suggestions For a Fun Night

The holidays bring cheer to everyone who celebrates it, and in Greece, Christmas is a special and festive occasion filled with fun and entertainment. According to the World of Christmas, a typical Greek Christmas lasts up to twelve days.  I don’t know about you, but I could get used to twelve days of holiday fun!  An Athens Mayor even constructed the largest Christmas tree in Europe. However, instead of gift-giving on Christmas Day, Greeks exchange presents on January 1st which marks St. Basil’s Day.

Since not everyone can afford to go there for a vacation this month (myself included), there is another option—add a Greek touch to our own Christmas party. Here are a few ideas for a Greek-themed night:

Décor and Costume
The shades representing the Greek flag should be the color scheme: white and blue. Good Housekeeping suggested adding a gold touch to symbolize the deities of mythology. Golden-yellow flowers may be placed around the house, and the host may use blue-and-white dishware. Guests should be advised to wear Greek-inspired costumes like flowing white dresses or togas.

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Games
For a twist to the usual party entertainment, a bingo game can be organized for the guests. The traditional bingo game with random numbers being called out will excite participants, especially with the promise of a prize. Human bingo is another option, especially for a big crowd—a bingo card with random descriptions should be distributed beforehand, and guests will find people who fit the bill. This is similar to the mechanics of collecting gods as the game levels up in BingoGodz, and the one who “collected” the most people wins.

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Food
A traditional Greek Christmas menu includes soup, salads, entrees, side dishes, and cheeses. Sample dishes are recommended by About.com’s Greek Food section; for starters, chicken and rice soup as well as Yiaprakia (stuffed cabbage) may be served. Salad choices may consist of Tzatziki, Greek country salad, and beet and garlic salad. For the main dishes, consider cooking lemon pork with celery or roast lamb with sage and thyme. Fried potatoes or spinach and cheese pie are the perfect side dishes, and slices of feta cheese will also delight guests.

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Amazing food, great games, and togas?  You can’t go wrong with that, plus it makes for a very unique and fun time!  Try it out, and please come back after the holidays to share your stories and photos!

I Hate Everyone

If you’re somewhat of a regular visitor here or on my Twitter page, you know of my crazy obsession with all things Gordon Ramsay.  Hell’s Kitchen just recently wrapped, so now my sole Ramsay fix is in the form of Masterchef.  Last night’s episode cut the contestants down to six in what was definitely an emotional and somewhat surprising episode.  As with many reality shows, Masterchef gives us heroes, villains, underdogs, and all kinds of real and manufactured drama.  Reality can sometimes be boring in the minds of producers, so they generally are always very careful in their editing choices and storytelling so that the audience remains hooked and continues to watch the entire season.

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Natasha Crnjac was the go-to villain when Masterchef kicked off.  The self-proclaimed beautiful and talented home cook was easy to despise with her bad attitude and her lack of compassion for others.  But lately, Natasha has shown a softer side, not giving the producers much “evil” to work with other than the occasional eye roll.  Somewhere along the line, she has become a bit humble.  We are now seeing that she is in fact making friends in the competition, even though that was probably not her intention when things began.  She definitely isn’t my favorite, but it’s nice to see another side of her.

Taking her place as the resident bad guy has been Krissi Biasiello.  She frequently claims to hate her fellow contestants and always seems to be in a foul mood.  Outside of Masterchef, Krissi has been accused of making a racist joke about rape and using the n-word on her personal Twitter page (it has since been deleted).  Doing a Google search for information on her will give you as many results related to her racist remarks as it will about her time on Masterchef.  On a recent episode, she expressed her hate point blank for fellow contestant Bri, who is a sweetheart.  Obviously there was no fancy editing there, but former contestant Ben Starr does offer up some background information on his blog showing that Krissi and Bri are in fact friends.

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For those who don’t read Starr’s blog to gain insight or who don’t do any of their own research, Krissi is nothing but a bitter, loud-mouthed ball of hate.  It’s nearly all we see of her on Masterchef, at least until last night.  The first challenge the home cooks faced was to cook a meal to honor their families.  To give the contestants some inspiration, family members were brought in and briefly reunited with each cook.  Each cook except for Krissi.  Her son was “unable to make it” for a reason that went unstated and Krissi was left alone with only a recorded message from her son to inspire her.  It would be a gross understatement to say that she was visibly shaken and incredibly upset.

Had it been me on that competition, watching my fellow contestants hug their children and parents and spouses, then seeing that not a single person was there for me, I would be a wreck.  I’m quite an emotional person and I enjoy physical contact and a lot of communication.  These contestants are denied both of these luxuries, unable to see or speak with their family and friends.  They are isolated, so a visit from family has got to put them over the moon.  Seeing Krissi’s face once she realized that she would have to go without a visit was pretty damn heartbreaking.

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I don’t agree with the nonsense that Krissi briefly posted on her Twitter page and I don’t enjoy her “I hate everyone” attitude toward her fellow contestants.  I think she needs to settle the hell down and stop being so hateful towards others; even if the hate isn’t genuine, the words are real and they are unnecessary.  That said, you have to be heartless not to feel for her after last night’s episode.  It’s clear that her son is her life, and clear from the audition that her son considers his mom to be his whole world.  She didn’t deserve the pain of being alone while everyone around her celebrated a few moments of joy and happiness.

If there is something positive for Krissi to take from last night’s episode, it’s that the unfortunate turn of events was key in showing the audience that Krissi is human and not just some hate-filled monster.  She is a loving mother of a sweet little boy who loves him dearly.  She is in this competition not just for herself, but for him.  She also has the unfortunate luck to have cameras following her every move and loving it when she says something cruel that makes for a great sound byte.  I don’t know a single person out there who hasn’t said they hated someone else in a moment of stress or anger.  Putting yourself in her place, in a stressful competition away from everyone she loves, can you really fault her for letting her emotions get the best of her sometimes?

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Krissi, like Natasha, is not one of my favorites in this season of Masterchef, but I am beginning to view them both as more than what the producers want me to see them as.  They are both perfectly normal people who were thrust into the limelight and who have no idea how to act in front of a camera.  They aren’t 100% sure on how to censor themselves or how to behave.  They surely forget at times that a camera is on them and recording every little thing.  Through editing choices, they are being molded into characters that don’t necessarily represent the people they truly are.  We don’t know them and it’s unfair to pass judgment and go so far as to harass them on social media over what we see in an hour or two of reality programming.

With former contestant Josh Marks facing heat over felony charges and subsequently catching crap from people on social media sites, the danger of judging a book by its heavily edited cover should be clear.  The fact that reality shows mostly consist of people who are no different from the rest of us needs to be crystal clear.  It’s fine to have opinions and to express those to your friends, but it’s a whole other thing to be making harsh judgments and reaching out to these people in a malicious way.  Understand that these people do have a softer side to them, one that we can relate to and sympathize with, as we saw last night with Krissi.  Understand that the magic of television can do wonders to a person’s demeanor and that the stresses of the camera can bring out things that are very uncharacteristic.  Cut them a little slack and don’t become that horrible kind of person that attacks someone on their Facebook page over a random remark they made on an episode.

Well Hey Y’all

Everyone has heard about Paula Deen’s latest dilemma.  According to CNN.com, “accusations against Deen stem from a lawsuit filed by a former manager of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. Lisa T. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of Jackson’s five-year tenure at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House eateries in Savannah.”  She is also accused of using the dreaded n-word and of being a racist.  Deen has been very vocal about denying these allegations, claiming that she used the n-word when being held at gunpoint by an African American male about 30 years ago.  She admitted that she has used the n-word, but it was a long time ago and during a time that our country viewed other races very differently.  She also stated that she may have also said the n-word while repeating a conversation that took place between black people.

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As a result of the lawsuit and the fact that Deen has admitted to using the n-word, she has been dropped by the Food Network, by Caesars Entertainment (she has restaurants at four casinos), by Wal-Mart, by Smithfield Foods, and other sponsors are considering cutting ties as well.  Lucky for her, her cruise has gained so much popularity that a second voyage was added.  As damage control, Deen went on NBC’s Today Show for an interview with Matt Lauer.  This was her first appearance that did not involve smiles and cooking up some of her famous dishes.  She stated the following:

[In reference to the sponsors who have let her go]  “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.  I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me.”

[In response to being asked if she is a racist]  “No, I am not.  The day I used that word it was a world ago.  It was 30 years ago.  It’s very distressing for me to go in my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other…It’s very distressing for me.  Because I think for this problem to be worked on, that these young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl.”

“If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me.  Please — I want to meet you.”

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Some say the apology was decent, or at least well coached, but others think it did more damage than good.  David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and branding agency based in Suwanee, Ga., called it “the worst celebrity apology in history” and says that she “totally bombed.”  He went on to say that “by referring to “hurtful lies” and “someone evil” out to get her, as Deen did, “it’s obvious she thinks she’s the victim of this entire situation. This is a bigger issue than just her.  Instead, there were crocodile tears.”  Mark Pasetsky, CEO of public relations and marketing firm Mark Allen & CO stated  that “it was really by far the most uncomfortable celebrity interview I have watched in a very long time.  She really needed to take full responsibility for what she said, and it appeared to me that the strategy for this interview was to be pointing the fingers rather than to take responsibility.”

I fully understand that Deen grew up in a different era than I, a time that was still heavy with resentment, anger, and hatred towards other races.  I get that the n-word was once considered an acceptable term.  What I cannot accept is that during her younger years, the n-word was okay to say.  She is close to my parents in age and they sure as hell knew that there were certain words you do not say unless you’re racist and insensitive.  I won’t speculate on her level of racism, but I feel confident in saying that this beloved southern cook is most definitely a racist person, whether she will admit to it or not.

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But let us not forget that Deen is not in hot water simply for using the n-word a few times in her life.  Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit, filed last year, claims that Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, stated they should send President Obama to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so he could n***er-rig it and that Deen used the n-word frequently in front of employees.  Jackson says she was appointed by Deen to handle the catering and staff for Bubba’s wedding in 2007, and upon asking what the servers should wear, Deen told her “well what I would really like is a bunch of little n***ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.  Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”  The allegations go on, including sexual harassment allegations against Hiers, but you get the jist of it.  Jackson left the restaurant in 2010 after management did nothing to assist against her claims.

Deen has already admitted to using the n-word at the restaurant in her deposition, although she insists that it was only in recalling conversations that others had.  She insists that the use was not derogatory.  Now, I have recalled conversations that others have had and I state “n-word” and not “n***er.”  I do not see how her reasoning is a valid excuse for the language.  I do not see how “well he said it, so I can say it too” is an excuse that a grown woman should be using.  I don’t understand why her defense is that everyone screws up, that people are out to get her, saying that the person trying to ruin her with allegations is an “evil opportunist.”  She said, point blank, “there’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it.”

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I’ve heard a lot of people getting extremely worked up over these allegations.  Their defense of Deen has been that she’s just a sweet old lady, that she grew up when it was okay to say the n-word, that it’s not a big deal, that people are jealous, and so on.  If this was simply a case of jealousy, why would her sponsors be dropping her?  Why would this lawsuit have gone so far?  Why would Deen make those admissions?  The bottom line is that Deen screwed up.  The extent of the screw up has yet to be determined, but her fans need to quit feeding her innocent victim act.  Part of being an adult (and especially a public figure) is accepting responsibility for the things you have done.  Unless she does so, her empire could very well be destroyed and millions of fans will have to get their butter fix elsewhere.

Ugliness In MasterChef

Masterchef Season 4 is underway and, as with all of Gordon Ramsay’s projects, I am hooked.  The format has changed slightly to challenge the contestants more, raising the pressure and no doubt causing a great deal of stress among the contestants.  The format of each episode generally begins with a competition pitting two teams of home cooks against each other in a cooking challenge, usually asking them to cook for a large group of people.  The losing team is then subject to a pressure test where at least one contestant will be eliminated.  Some episodes begin with a mystery box challenge, where constants receive a box of secret ingredients that they must put together to create a wonderful dish.  The winner of the mystery box receives a reward (deciding the pressure test for other contestants, safety from elimination, or items/advice to help them in the next cooking challenge).  The top two in the mystery box challenges generally go on to be team captains in the aforementioned team competitions.  There is a lot going on at all times.

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This is a reality competition about cooking, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is reality TV and the public demands certain characters from it.  We want a villain, an underdog, a hero, a backstabber, a sex symbol, a nerd, and lots of quirky people who can make us laugh, get us worked up, and maybe make us cry.  Luca Manfe, who auditioned for S3, came back this year and we’ve already seen him come close to losing an apron quite a few times; his welcome to the show was prefaced by long pauses to make the audience think he was going home once again.  We were given the typical sob stories and inspirational wishes during the audition phase, prompting the viewers to become emotionally invested in the new cast.  Nearly every reality show used creative editing and producer prompts to create drama, and Masterchef is no different.

As far as the villain goes for this year, I don’t think the production team has had to do any work at all in order to get the audience to feel hatred towards one of the home cooks.  Natasha Crnjac began her audition by telling us how beautiful she is and how she must be judged by both cooking and her beauty.  She felt that her competitors would be threatened by her beauty, possibly underestimating her, and beauty beauty beauty.  Did I mention she thinks she is beautiful?  If not, don’t worry; she will take the time to remind you over and over again.

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She quickly made an enemy of Krissy, a strong-voiced woman from Philadelphia with a booming personality and a big mouth.  Krissy hates her, very vocally, but then again she seems to hate a lot of people she is pitted against.  Savannah, a quiet California girl we have not seen much of yet, may feel that Natasha has her back since she saved her after winning a challenge, but Natasha threw her the save only because she thinks Savannah doesn’t have the skills to be any sort of threat to the title of Masterchef.  I can’t stand Natasha already, but in the beginning it seemed as though she had the skill to back up all the praise she heaped upon herself.

This last episode, aired on July 12, 2013, was a two parter that began with a group challenge to serve 101 steak dishes to firefighters who would then vote on the best dish.  Natasha’s team decided to pair their Wal-Mart steak (you won’t ever forget that Wal-Mart sponsors this show, not even if you try) with sautéed mushrooms and a cauliflower puree.  Their opposition chose to pair theirs with potatoes and asparagus, which won them the challenge.  Natasha, who was in charge of preparing the cauliflower puree, overheard teammate Beth say that the puree was disgusting and that is why they lost.  I agree that it probably was, but Natasha lost her mind on Beth.  While Beth was in tears, consoled by Bri (a nerdy girl who is shaping up to be a favorite for me), Natasha verbally tore her apart.

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Natasha seemed to take glee in the fact that she made poor Beth cry.  The losing team, except for Bime (team captain) and Jordan, was sent into an eggs benedict pressure test to decide who would leave the kitchen.  In a twist, Natasha, Beth, Luca, and Kathy created dishes so awful that they were catapulted into a second pressure test where they were sent to Ramsay’s Vegas restaurant to cook gourmet burgers for 75 people.  The producers naturally paired Natasha with her new enemy, Beth, but their burger edged out their competition and saved both the girls.  Natasha should have exited gracefully, but instead had to throw in a quit about the challenge not meaning a thing; Beth was not her friend, she didn’t need friends, and so on.

With some reality TV stars, the audience can tell that some of the evil is constructed by the producers and editing staff.  With Natasha, it seems 100% genuine.  She is painfully egotistical, a “beautiful” stay at home mom who can cook circles around anybody (except when she turns hollandaise sauce into mayonnaise).  She is cruel; Beth was on the verge of a serious breakdown and Natasha took joy in standing over her, poking her with a sharp stick.  She is selfish, nearly costing her two-woman team the burger challenge because she refused to “help” her teammate by making any suggestions.  She is needlessly mean, harsh with her words, and seems to not give a damn about anyone but herself.

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I get that this is a competition, on television, where it’s every man for himself ultimately.  That doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to go out of your way to hurt a fellow contestant, be it emotionally or through some sort of sabotage.  It’s not necessary to get down and dirty, refusing to form any sort of bond with competitors because a bond would somehow affect your performance.  I don’t know why anyone would be content to be hated when it’s so easy to be cordial and friendly.  Drama sells, so perhaps they are simply striving for more screen time through their viciousness.  But if all we love is bad behavior, how do you explain the popularity of Christine Ha from S3 or Ben Starr from S2?

Natasha is certainly making a name for herself, but it’s a shame that it’s for all the wrong reasons.  Even if she tears herself out of the downward spiral she’s been on as of late, I can’t see her winning the title unless she changes her attitude.  The producers aren’t going to let the bad guy win, even if her cooking is superior.  We want to see a person like Natasha for drama’s sake only, we don’t want to see her rewarded for acting like, to put it bluntly, a bitch.  If she has any hope of winning, or at least making it to the final four, she needs to drop the Perfect Me act, must stop pushing her fellow competitors into the dirt, and must start acting more human.  And PLEASE can we stop with the “I’m so beautiful” nonsense?  The more you say it, the uglier you get.

Monkey Jobs

I was browsing the internet yesterday, reading various articles on CNN, when I noticed a group of links to the side showing what articles have recently received comments.  One happened to catch my interest, showing a headline relating to waiting tables, which was a big part of my life a few years ago and I job I sometimes miss.  When I clicked the link, it brought me to the comment rather than the beginning of the article, so I was greeted with “a monkey could wait tables” with a reply of “they’re doing that in China and it works great!”  I was so irritated by the monkey comment that I immediately clicked reply and readied myself to begin a full on verbal assault of the person who posted it.

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I restrained myself though, not because I wanted to spare anyone’s feelings but because I didn’t see the point in trying to reason with ignorant people.  I feel confident in saying that the people who think a monkey could do a server’s job are the same people who go into a restaurant and are rude to their server for the entire service before leaving a 5% tip and a bad review on Yelp.  People who think a monkey could do a better job are people who don’t place any value on anyone performing a service job, choosing instead to treat them as beneath them.  These people are beyond reason because they are too caught up in their own little worlds to care about anyone else.

Waiting tables is one of those jobs I wish I could force everyone in the world to do at least once.  It took me doing the job for years to fully appreciate and understand what my server does for their tables on a daily basis, just as it took me working in retail dressing rooms to appreciate what that poor attendant has to deal with from dirty and lazy customers.  Waiting tables is a thankless job but also a rewarding one.  It’s more than get drinks, get food order, deliver food, deliver check.  It goes beyond simply keeping an eye on a guest’s glass to make sure their cup never runs dry.  It’s not like working an assembly line where the same exact scenarios are dealt with in the same exact ways.  It’s more complex than most people give it credit for being.

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Sure, you could train a monkey to press keys and deliver food, but a monkey can’t master timing the way a server can.  After a table is sat, they must receive enough time to settle in and decide on drinks, but the server cannot allow too much time to pass and the table to get restless.  Drinks need to be prepared or fetched from the bar quickly, as many guests act as if they are dying of thirst when they arrive.  The order must be taken when the table looks ready, which can sometimes require a bit of analysis, as not everyone closes their menu and looks up when they have decided.  The appetizer is rung in first (in some establishments) and the server must then ensure they wait long enough before ringing the entrée to allow the table ample time to munch on their salads or cheese sticks before they are presented with an entrée.  If there are kids present, they may need their food first, or at least some crackers.  The server must check back on the table soon after the meals are received and tasted, but not too soon and not with too big of a delay in case something is wrong or condiments are required.  The list goes on and on.

A monkey is a cute little novelty and would probably be adorable carrying a tray to a table, but it can’t replace what your server can give you.  A big part of waiting tables is being able to read people.  A couple on a first date receives different treatment than a family out for their weekly dinner.  A group of single guys will get a different kind of smile than the table full of elderly ladies on a shopping break.  Some people will invite a bit of conversation, while others will desire the bare minimum from you.  Properly judging a customer’s needs can be the difference between a great dinner and a lousy evening.

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A monkey, if properly trained, could possibly handle a single table with little to no disastrous outcomes.  Your server juggles multiple tables all at once, one right after the other, until the end of their shift.  They are there to answer your questions about dishes, make recommendations, and give you great service while also tending to three or more tables (depending on the size of their area and the time of their shift).  They also get pulled away to run food for other servers, sing birthday songs, refill pitchers and ice, make fresh tea and coffee, put side salads together, and that’s not even getting into the times they are called away by tables that don’t even belong to them.  And good luck getting your monkey waiter to split a check for the party of 12 who didn’t think to mention it until the end of their meal.

I get that the monkey comment wasn’t made to be taken literally, but that doesn’t make it any less rude and insulting.  Serving may seem like a simple and basic job, but it’s extremely complex and layered, moreso than anyone tends to realize.  Even at its simplest state, it is incredibly high paced and stressful.  Servers work hard not only because their money depends on it, but because they are (mostly) very passionate about their work.  Even on various blogs dedicated to server rants, you’ll notice that the majority of them do love their job.  I miss the chaos sometimes, the running around like a mad woman with fifty different things running through my head.  I hate to think that one bad server is giving people the idea that the profession is a joke across the board, because it’s anything but.

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To all my servers out there, I am applauding you between mouthfuls.  I have been incredibly lucky lately to have received wonderful service at places we’ve dined at, be it a fancy spot like Peterson’s or somewhere cheap and family friendly like Applebee’s.  But regardless of how experienced my server is, or how quick on their feet, I hope that I’m successful in treating every single one of them like an equal rather than like my personal servant.  I hope that I’m able to make their job a little easier and that they take that one extra step that make me want to tip them above 20%.  I hope I brighten their shift a bit by being an easy customer, and I really hope they are spared the annoyance and headache that comes with waiting on one of those people who refers to servers as animals.

Eat This And Pop That

We live about a mile from my husband’s mother and another mile away from the center of the city where the majority of the grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants are located.  It makes it convenient to both visit with family and to run our errands and grab a bite to eat.  Earlier in the week, my mom-in-law invited us out to the newly remodeled Chicago’s Pizza for dinner.  I should say rebuilt, as they knocked down the entire building and started from scratch.  Chicago’s has been a favorite of my husband’s, so I was pretty excited to try them out and have a bit of family time.

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We arrived just as the buffet was in the middle of the set-up, so a few items such as spaghetti had yet to make it to the line.  I made a plate for my boy first so he could get started, as he is the world’s slowest eater when he’s in an environment where even the smallest distraction exists.  After setting him up and ensuring he was settled in with my mom-in-law, I returned to the buffet line in search of my own dinner.  While grabbing some pizza sauce and cheese sauce for my breadsticks, I was blocked from the sticks themselves by a large pair of women who were excited about the spaghetti that had just been set out next to the sticks.  Since there was not an inch of room to spare around these two women, I patiently waited for them to pile their plates high.

As the pair added cheese and extra sauce to their pasta, they continued their animated discussion on some new pills that they purchased last week.  Both were excited to “finally try them out,” raving about how incredible their results would be.  The talk continued as they moved along and I was able to grab the last of my meal.  It turned out that the pills in question were some “miracle” diet pills they had purchased at Wal-Mart.  The two were convinced that these pills meant that they could eat whatever they wanted to, so long as they took two pills with a glass of water with their insanely large meal.  That night was the night they were beginning their “diet” and they chose a pizza buffet to kick off their weight loss.

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I’m no stranger to the difficulties of maintaining a healthy weight and staying out of double-digit pant sizes.  I was up to a frightening 170 pounds at one point and had to work hard to get that weight off.  It’s still something I have to keep an eye on and even now, I’m working to drop about ten annoying pounds.  I have gone down the diet pill road many times myself.  Right now, I take green tea supplements and various vitamins to boost my metabolism.  I also know damn well that pills, vitamins, and other similar substances that promise weight loss aren’t going to do jack unless I eat properly and ensure that I work some sort of physical activity into my day, every day.

Sensa, a weight loss product that has the user sprinkle the drug on their food before consumption, is one of many products that gives consumers the hope of a miracle cure.  They even allow you to try it for free if you go to their website and give them some information.  Their website also states the following:

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This is what people such as the women at the buffet focus on; no counting calories and no dieting.  Eat what you want, use our product, and lose weight.  It gives the impression that the drug is what does all the work while the user can continue to indulge and lounge around.  In Sensa’s defense, their site does state that their product should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise plan.  This recommendation is included with just about every weight loss product out there and is also the most ignored bit of information; it’s either skimmed over or missed entirely as the consumer eagerly jumps into their new, quick and easy weight loss plan.

Obesity is a serious problem in our country.  People are getting bigger and instead of striving to get healthy, they demand that the world around them work harder and do more to accommodate their expanding waistlines and enormous bulk.  People who simply eat too much are claiming that they have a disease, an illness that causes their obesity, which is an insult to those who truly do have ailments that cause excessive weight gain.  In the building where I work, obese people consider themselves handicapped and will use the handicap line, beg for handicap parking, and use scooters to get around the building rather than take a walk.  Heaven forbid anyone say something negative about an obese person; we will no longer stand for this type of bullying.  We have to accept and love the body we are in and respect the choices of others, not bring them down and make them feel poorly about their weight.  Right?

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When you take the mentality the general public has about obesity, plus the mentality the obese have about themselves, and throw in some pills that can fix it all in a snap, it’s no surprise that the women at the buffet were expecting a miracle.  Our always advancing world has made us all a bit lazier than we used to be, and that laziness extends into our health and our maintenance of our bodies.  When you present the average person with a choice between going to the gym three times a week or taking a supplement twice a day, chances are the supplement will win out almost every time.  Why else would anyone choose to take Alli, the amazing weight loss pill that can also make you crap yourself:

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It’s sad that people continue to fall for the shiny outer covering of these so-called miracle diet pills and supplements, especially considering how much money these companies are making off of gullible people who are fond of the easy routes in life.  It’s a bit disturbing to think that the women I overheard at the buffet are just two in a sea of many who are currently out there, chowing down and expecting a pill or a powder to do all of the work for them.  It’s pretty pathetic that we have come to the point where we are too lazy to get up and do something, even if it’s as small as taking a 15 minute walk or choosing the stairs over the elevator.  It’s even worse that we can’t stop pigging out for a week or two, choosing instead to ingest mystery drugs to shed unwanted fat.

We are in control of our bodies, and with that control comes responsibility.  That means not relying on other people to fix problems that we can and should fix ourselves.  We should want to ensure we are consuming the proper nutrients to get our metabolism moving rather than popping a Stacker II because of the promises it makes.  We should incorporate physical activity into our daily lives because it’s good for us, not dismiss it in favor of whatever pill the Kardashians are promoting these days.  If these pills worked in the way they portray themselves to, we’d all be skinny little things.  Have some sense, and not some Sensa.

Scotty’s Brewhouse

I always love going downtown.  The town we live in is very quiet, with typical restaurants in typical locations.  Whenever we have a chance to go downtown, a whole new world of food opens up to us.  One of the places downtown that we had been wanting to try for a while was Scotty’s Brewhouse.  We had been hearing rave reviews from friends about the amazing food and the exciting atmosphere; a perfect place to watch a game or to pregame for any event in the city.  Since we were attending Survivor Series nearby at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse on Sunday for my husband’s birthday, it seemed like the perfect time to finally get in and see what the hype was all about.

This is not quite worthy enough a story to earn a place on the Dinners From Hell site, but it was only a couple slips-ups away.  The first no-no happened when we were seated.  The booth seats were filthy; I had to wipe off the entire thing end to end before sitting down while the hostess silently watched.  On the table, there was a lonely diced tomato just staring up at us.  There was no excuse for the table and seats to be dirty; the table was set with new silverware and appetizer plates.  I expected our hostess to grab a rag to wipe down, but she just glanced at the leftover tomato, set our menus down, and retreated back to the front.

Dirty tables happen, I know, but I didn’t feel that there was any excuse seeing as how the establishment was nowhere near filled with customers and there were staff members everywhere we looked.  We were greeted fairly quickly by our server and put in an appetizer order for Loaded Tater Tots, covered in cheese, bacon, and sour cream.  At $11, I was expecting something truly delicious.  What we got was a platter of slightly burnt tots, very burnt bacon, and what tasted like gas station cheese.  It was definitely a let down, but we were incredibly hunger and very hopeful that our meals would be much better.

For my entrée, I ordered the Mo’fo Buffalo wrap; a honey wheat tortilla wrapped around breaded chicken tossed in mo’fo hot sauce and garnished with lettuce, tomato, cheese and ranch dressing, with onion straws for my side item.  Priced at $10.50, it was a pretty delicious wrap.  The breading on the chicken was amazing and the hot sauce was definitely mo’fo HOT.  The onion straws were also good, although a bit greasy towards the end; there were small puddles of grease on the plate after I had gotten through about half of the straws.  I definitely have to give high marks for the wrap, but it was something I could have also gotten from Buffalo Wild Wings for a few bucks less.

Sadly, the birthday boy didn’t have as much luck as I did with his meal.  He ordered the Breakfast Burger, which included a fried egg, ham, cheddar cheese and spicy mayo on a pretzel bun.  He requested a side of macaroni and cheese to go with his $10.50 burger.  The side was either written incorrectly or entered into the system incorrectly because he ended up getting waffle fries.  A blessing in disguise, as he said that this was the best part of the meal.  The bottom of the bun was burnt and the slice of ham was stone cold, an odd contrast to the hot burger patty and fried egg.  To top it off, the burger was undercooked; closer to medium rare rather than medium well.

It’s really odd for me to write a negative review like this, as I’m not a super picky person and I’m equally as happy with a Whopper from Burger King as I am with a filet from Morton’s Steakhouse.  The food at Scotty’s just did nothing to impress me whatsoever.  It was a definite let down, especially with all the hype and build up from our friends.  As far as the atmosphere, I will say that it would be a fantastic place to go watch any sporting event; there are televisions everywhere you look, plus smaller TVs in the bar booths.  Perhaps I needed a few drinks in me in order to better appreciate their food, but I don’t think I’ll be back to find out.

There are a couple minor oddities I do also need to point out.  First, the napkins were actually blue terry cloth towels.  Thick towels.  I’m not generally a fan of the white cloth napkins, but at least I feel confident that they’re clean; it’s hard to hide stains on white.  These strange blue towels just confused me and I was glad I had some leftover movie napkins in my purse.  Second, upon dropping the check, our waitress left us two boxes of Red Hots candy with the bill.  I get leaving mints, and I get that Red Hots will make me smell like cinnamon, but it felt like we were being handed some leftover Halloween candy.  It was just odd and it was the deciding factor in my husband’s promise never to return.

Perhaps we went at an off time, with key staff not scheduled to come in until the kick off of that day’s Colts game.  Scotty’s is obviously successful, as we’ve seen countless times when we couldn’t get a table because they were so busy.  Something is being done right.  Unfortunately, that something simply wasn’t done when we paid them a visit.  The night was quickly redeemed by excellent drinks at the Hard Rock prior to heading to Survivor Series, so it was by no means a blemish on our evening.  Scotty’s and I simply don’t click.

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