Taste Test

Late yesterday afternoon, Aay, Zee and I were enjoying a pre-dinner snack of Laughing Cow original swiss cheese wedges, which Arwen proclaimed to be TASTY! and finished off three wedges in quick succession. I grew up having the Laughing Cow bites, tiny foil wrapped squares that were shelf stable and a staple of my pack lunches as a child. Sadly Laughing Cow no longer offers the original version of in the bites here in the states (they were availble in Canada last year), only offering the very plasticky light version, which my girls rightly rejected.

Cheese 007Aay's evident enjoyment of the cheeses prompted her to ask if we could go and buy and taste a bunch of different cheeses. I told her we could, in fact if Daddy was game we could even make a dinner of it. So this morning after I took out my new bike for a quick ride to pick out of first delivery of fresh veggies from our CSA, Porter Farms's delivery point, less than 2 miles away, we headed out for our saturday family day. We played a round of putt-putt at Wickham Farms, we crossed the parking lot to our YMCA and went for a swim. They had a giant dragon play slide in the exercise pool, and then both girls practices many of their new swimming skills, like underwater diving and glides. After our pool time we drove down the road to the supermarket and wine store. Chris went off to replenish us and I set out with the girls to select the cheeses we wanted for our taste test. We ended up taking home 11 different kind of cheeses, Piave, Muenster, Brie, Campo de Montalban, Feta, Wensleydate with Cranberries, Fontina, Humboldt Fog, Beemster, Havarti,  and Emmenthaler Swiss. Once at home we set out several kinds of crackers, sliced meats, olives and bruschetta topping. Everyone got 11 little cards with the name of a cheese and a pen. As we tasted we were asked to jot down our impressions, and whether we judged the cheese good, okay or bad. Chris and Zee were juding on the same pace and Aay and I did them in the opposite order. 

We had a blast. The girls tried everything, even the Humboldt fog, which took some courage even to get Chris to try it. (I thought it was marvelous).Cheese 014 Cheese 015  Zee marked hers with circles (good), checks (okay) and Xs (bad). We had a ton of fun. Talking about how each flavor and texture was, what we liked or didn't like about them and then experimenting by combining the cheese and with the fruit and meats we had on the table and seeing what  combinations work. The  girls  really got into that, and we  talked about  on of the scenes in Ratatouille where Remy is trying to explain to his brother about tasting things not just gobbling it up. Great time!  For the record. Aay's favorite was Piave, Zee: the Feta, Chris: The Havarti and Me: The Humboldt Fog.


I just read a really nice email from the nice folk at www.cypressgrovechevre.com makers of Humboldt Fog, who really enjoying reading about our taste test. Since it was my favorite of all the chesses we tasted I want to make sure I shared their website with you.  (July 11, 2008) Buen Provecho!

Reading Narnia

Aay is 4 3/4 years old. We have kept her fairly sheltered in terms of movie action. She hasn't watched Star Wars, Spider-man, or other live-action fare because if she is anything like me she will internalize whatever she sees and will be reliving it via vivid nightmares for weeks on end. Yet she is getting older and more eager to try these films, especially as many of her friends (nearly all the youngest in their families) have already watched these movies.

In April I bought a copy of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and added it to our movie shelf. Chris will be hosting a panel on the movie and the book later in the year and I figured the extra features might be useful for his preparation. Aay was immediately attracted to the packaging made to look like the beautifully carved Wardrobe from the movie. The picked it and looked at several times during the following few days and repeatedly asked me when we were going to open it and watch it. I explained to her that we would watch sometime soon, but not right away and that she might not get to watch for quite a while.

One night at bedtime she asked me about the movie again, and I told her that it was originally a book and that it was one of her Daddy's favorite books growing up. She asked if we had a copy, and we walked to Chris' office and I took one of the slip-cased volumes off the shelf for her to look at. She asked me to read some of it and I read about a page and half.  She was fascinated, even if she didn't quite follow most of it and as to keep the book so she could look at the illustrations as she fell asleep.

A few days later I packed the book away, planning on reading it to her while on vacation.  We never really got a chance to read it then, and I was just about to put it away this afternoon (I have just finished putting away the last of the odds and ends from my suitcases) when she saw it and asked me to read it.  We all climbed into my bed, propped up pillows and under my light comforter and I began to read.

I read a few paragraphs at a time and then we would stop and review. I asked her what she had understood. We talked about Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan. She quickly made connections to Lucy, since she is a girl not much older than her. She also thought they reminded her of her favorite comic book family, The Power Pack, a sibling group of superheros, named Alex, Julie, Jack and Katie Power. Jack like Edmund can be very annoying and obnoxious to his siblings, often teasing his younger sister Katie unmercifully. In this way we ended up reading about 5 Chapters this afternoon, eventually moving out the bed and out the deck to enjoy a snack in the sun while I read some more and the downstairs on the futon, where Zee played with cars while Aay curled up with me.

Noticing how much she liked the small illustrations I asked her if she wanted to some stills from the movie on-line. We ended up on the Walden.com and from there Narnia.com where we looked at stills and then eventually clips from the movie. She was very excited by it all. "There's LUCY!, as a real girl" "Oooh, there the White Witch as a woman", "LOOK look ASLAN!".  She was very intrigued by shots of scenes she hasn't read about yet and by things she has read about like Tumnus, the Lamppost and the Wardrobe.

I think she would love to see the movie right now, and would probably be fine, but we agreed to finish reading the book together first, and then watch the movie. I hope that way the scariest parts, the Sacrifice on the Stone Temple and the Queen's castle might be tempered by the fact that she already will have encountered them in the story.

Next week we will test out how well pre-reading the story will prepare her for scary movie moments when we watch "The Wizard of Oz". We have a movie adaptation storybook of it her room. And we read all 45 pages of it last night, and she was mesmerized by the back-cover which had a still from movie, although she recognized right off that Judy Garland was way too old to ever play Dorothy, as her fist comment was, "Hey Mom, there a big girl, a woman really pretending to be Dorothy." I think she get the conceit, as she the noted how the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and Lion were all grown men too. I have put that in reserve at the library and we should be sampling it in the next few days. If it goes well, we will move on to Narnia after we finish the book, and from there eventually Star Wars which she is very eager to watch as soon as she turns 5. After watching Snow White and all others of the Disney Princess movies she should we well prepared for Darth Vader.

Weekend Movie Roundup:

In the last year Chris and I have mostly been watching TV-series on DVD, and as result our film-on-DVD watching has markedly decreased. We have made it to the same amount of films at the Theatre, but have still fallen behind, and have huge backlog of movie released since Aay was born, and we moved to Brooks.

This weekend was a bit of movie watching extravaganza, watching Ray, The Godfather and Walk The Line in quick succession.

Ray was highly touted, well-reviewed, and Oscar bound last winter when we missed its theatrical release. The movie lived up to the hype. I found it moving, well-acted, and satisfying. My favorite aspect of the film was the fact they didn’t sugarcoat Ray Charles, and honestly presented him and his story warts and all. It was stomach turning at points to see they way he treated some of the people who loved him most in his life. Seeing his self-destructive behavior contrasted with his creative genius was amazing. The scene where he rejects Margery (brilliantly acted by Regina King) and her pregnancy and then channels her anger into his aggressive rendition of “Hit the Road Jack” was just eye-popping. I predictably cried early and often. Chris was particularly impressed by the quality of the sound editing, and how it made multiple scene in them movie hit the right note.

Months ago, I promised Chris that I would watch The Godfather trilogy with him at some point. On Monday night I finally lived up to my promise. I had watched approximately 80 of The Godfather, almost by cultural osmosis, watching snippets here and there out of order thanks to its multiple television airings in my lifetime, and many of the scenes that I hadn’t watched I have seen parodied, particularly the Brando tomato garden death scene. Despite that, I did enjoy the movie, even if I couldn’t resist responding meta-textually to many elements, like Michael’s relationship with Apollonia and Sonny’s incredible ill-suited to be a Mafia Don. Some of the time-hopping transition were jarring and confusing to me, especially Michael’s return to America, and he reunion with Diane Keaton’s Kay. Both Ray and Walk the Line did a much better job of creating clear timeline with the simple addition of date captions. The information was there in the Godfather, but when Michael returns and he says he has been back for a year, the part of me who already knew that he would soon by lying to Kay routinely made me extremely distrustful of him. The one element of the movie’s hype that decreased my enjoyment was the adoration for Marlon Brandon’s performance. I spent the first part of the movie wondering why Brando seemed to be have mothballs in his mouth but once I just accepted that Don Corleone must have been hit one too many times in the jaw as young man, I was able to accept it as acting choice and appreciate the performance. I am eager to see how the continuing two films further the story.

To our probably irrational shock, we were pleased to discover that our local movie theatre was bringing in Walk the Line to Brooks this week. We took advantage of discount Tuesday, and our friend Anna Marie’s kindness and took in the film in last night. As we sat in the theatre, and watched the rows continued to fill, I realized how perfectly fitted Walk the Line is for our community. After all, the target audience of middle-aged Christian Country music fans is well represented in our community. I really enjoy Johnny Cash, but only knew snatches of his biography, and I have to admit to having allowed a significant amount of myth to enter into my mental biography of him, as a result. The movie carefully laid out the emotional and music chronology that lead to the Folsom Prison Concert and the June and Johnny’s marriage. I really enjoyed the film and I think they did a wonderful job weaving Johnny’s signature hits into the story-telling. The one character in the movie that I think didn’t get is due was Mrs. Cash, Johnny’s mother, who introduced Gospel and music to his life, but is equally cold to Johnny during his adult-hood. Her quiet rejection at the Thanksgiving dinner I thought was sacrified for the showdown with Elder Mr. Cash. The Carter’s however stole the movie. Resse Witherspoon’s performance as June Carter was fantastic. Her attraction, sorrow, conflict, and pain were wonderfully conveyed and if I didn’t know how the story ended I would I have been rooting June to walk far far away from Johnny, because as her mother plainly expressed it, “the boy is mixed-up.” Yet, the Carter’s go so far as to nurse him thru withdrawal, shoo drug delivery men of Johnny’s property with double barreled shot-guns and just help him do what he couldn’t do by himself, learn to love himself. The sharpest and truest thing I think June tells him was on the bus as they leave Folsom and he tries to propose yet again, was that things don’t just sort themselves out, but that others where always sorting things out for him. She constantly tried to force him to take ownership of his life and his decisions. This statement was then quickly followed up by Johnny’s onstage proposal. I find public proposals to be manipulative and dangerous, but I think it was Johnny’s words of public commitment, of his desire to be the one to take care of her (if I am remembering correctly) that finally make the difference for June, and she finally accepts, and not the fact that it is in public, for she has never been shy about fleeing the stage when he tried other stage stunts in the past.

So 4 nights, 3 great movies, can’t complain about that.