Do You “Super Bowl?”

Welcome to the first day of February, friends. The US of A is kicking off 2015’s second month with its biggest party of the year, I guess. (I’m wondering if New Year’s Eve might be the frontrunner, but Americans will jump on any positive event to celebrate—yes?—and a sporting event always seems to be that much more fun.)

Super Bowl Sunday is usually a double-sporting event for me. Just finished watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships: Novak Djokovic is starting to own Melbourne Park the way Rafael Nadal is Rolling Garros reigning monarch. Congrats to Novak, and to finalist Andy Murray. Their display was dynamic, especially those first two sets.

Later in the day, of course, is the crowning glory of the NFL’s season. All the best to the Seahawks and Patriots—and to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s repeat MVP (another personal favorite of mine–the guy seems a class-act :)).

FullSizeRender (3)  Okay, so I fell short on the plates, lol. At least they coordinate with the napkins. Pizza dough is on the rise and onion dip’s a-chillin’ in the fridge. (No tacos and no brownie–the oblong bake pan I used went to pieces a while back… 😦 )

Before I was actually into “the big game,” I always looked for a party. (What’s better than one more excuse to chow down on junk food while hanging out with folks you like?) Since the NY Giants’ crazy run to the championship game in 2011, I decided I wanted to stay home so I could better focus on the action. My kids planned to have a few friends over that night, and a friend of mine showed up as a surprise.

I threw together a few pizzas—maybe tacos too—slapped snacks and drinks onto the table and baked a football-shaped brownie. Some football-themed paper goods rounded it all out and our Super Bowl tradition was born.

So, do you celebrate the Super Bowl? Are you a party person or do you prefer to be in front of your own big-screen so you don’t miss a play? Do you wish the hype would just go away? Any votes for Super Bowl SATURDAY? (Hear, hear!) Should the US declare Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday?

No matter how you spend it, have a wonderful day–and a great upcoming week too! Someone kindly tell that pesky ground hog in PA to feign temporary blindness against any shadows–just sayin’… 😉

Happy Birthday, Danny!

Joanna

Are We Giving It Away? (Part 1)

Hi everyone,

Hope all of you who celebrate the USA’s birthday did so in style this past (hopefully extended) holiday weekend! We made it up to my brother’s for a good old-fashioned family BBQ. Got home in time to watch our town’s fireworks display from our backyard. Those ended just as the televised Macy’s display got underway on NBC. Can’t ask for better!

Mega-congrats to newly-crowned Wimbledon 2013 winner Andy Murray! He has grown so much as a player in the last year or so. What an awesome show of power, variety and mental hanging in there again World Number One Novak Djokovic. (Felt so bad for Djok, too. He had to fend off Murray AND the English crowd vying for the end of a 77-year English-winner drought at their prestigious tennis venue.) As seems to have become typical on the men’s tennis tour, these guys were pure class while being interviewed. I hope both are proud.

Okay, enough tennis talk. (I’m actually tennised out. Yep. It happens.)

Now back to our originally scheduled post…

Folks, I hate waxing political but every now and again “ya just gotta.” And as I said a couple posts back, this is my blog and I can grump if I want to.

Background: had the TV on the other day. Second time in just a few months I caught advertising in a language other than English, on a well-established, English-language-based, cable network no less.

The first commercial was for a popular household product. It involved two characters conversing; the first spoke non-English (with subtitles) while the second character translated to English, as per the first character’s request.

This irked me—has been irking me—enough to keep reminding myself to write a letter to the company. Not because I don’t understand the language. I studied it in both high school and college and am fairly fluent. And, I am a first-generation American child of parents who immigrated from Italy. Technically, Italian is my first language. It bugged me because it targeted non-English speaking folks first, a practice that seems to be implemented more and more, in more ways than one.

Guess I watched another, completely non-English commercial one too many times. This one was for a major national retail chain, and this time, there was no English at all.

That got on my nerves.

So…

I went to the retail chain’s Facebook page and wrote this:

Love your store. Seriously dislike the advertising you’re doing in _____. (BTW, I speak THREE languages, including ______.) Last time I looked around, though, this is the UNITED STATES. Our primary language is ENGLISH. Just sayin’.

Please understand: It’s not that I am without compassion for those who struggle with a language barrier. My issue is with “corporate”, if you will.

Speaking of, the company in question has yet to reply to my comment. (Doubt it will.)  I got quite a few Likes and a few supportive comments from good friends. One person, however, had this to say:

“And one the primary values of the United States is the freedom to conduct business in whatever language you choose.”

Person got 6 likes to my 25 or so. (Fist pump. Hey.That’s encouraging.)

My response to author of comment:

(Shakes head @_____.) Little by little this country is giving itself away. One day, you might wake up and not have a clue what language is coming at you. Sad. Go to other countries. You’ll find everything written in THEIR language first, usually English second. (And BTW, plenty of people from around the world speak better English than many Americans. What’s up with that?) Here, we don’t care. Just cater to the masses, who aren’t being put into a position to learn the language of the country they came to. Again, just sayin’.

I’ll stop here and pick this up next time.

I’d love your thoughts on this matter so far. What do you think about advertising in a language other than English on English-speaking television channels? I mean, have you ever tuned into the Italian station and listened to advertising in English? If you’re a tennis fan, what did you think about Murray’s win? Or Djok’s loss? Or Nadal, Federrer, Sharapova and/or Serena Williams’ losses? (Did I ask enough questions, lol?)

Enjoy the day, folks. Thanks for indulging me.

Joanna

To Seed or Not to Seed: Wimbledon 2013

Hi all. Hope all of you are doing well.

My apologies for having gone missing these past weeks. The 2012-13 school year should have been done, but we earned the better part of an extra week in to make up for Superstorm Sandy lost days. (She will haunt us for a very long time, on many levels.)

Not that I’m off for the summer. Extended school year (a.k.a. “summer program”) starts June 30th  and runs through July. What can I say? It helps cover August and September bills when cash flow is definitely “out” with very little “in”. Then again, one needs a whole lot of $$$ to buy time.

Anyway…

Wimbledon, considered the most prestigious of professional tennis’ Grand Slam Championships, starts today.

The seeds are seeded. (Translation for non-tennis fans: Based on their world ranking and likelihood to win a particular tournament, professional players are “seeded.” At the grand slams, 32 spots in each of the women’s and men’s draws are considered.

So: The draw has been drawn. (Translation: This would be the line-up of who will be playing whom for the first round, which of course, will impact to some degree, who will play whom in subsequent rounds).

Maybe—just maybe—the powers that be who seed the players ought to take another look at the system. And I, who like to believe the best about anyone and everyone, wonder if there wasn’t some inside fan of a particular top male player who wanted to make that player’s road a little easier. Seems as though three of the other top names have a much harder road to the final based on the seeding and the draw.

But what do I know? I am merely a fan. The articles I’ve read though, bring out my cynical side.

Fine. I AM BIASED.  In the words of Michael Baisden, “I said it. Yes I did.” And because this is my blog and I can grump if I want to, I will. 0:-)

My favorite, Rafael Nadal got seeded 5th, partly because he went out in the 2nd round last year. That means he’ll go head-to-head with a higher seed (most likely Roger Federer, who is seeded third) in the quarterfinals. This will result in a major fan favorite top player eliminated one round shy of the semis, and with no chance at the final. Andy Murray won at Wimbledon at the Olympics, but has technically never won this tournament, yet he’s seeded ahead of Fed (who only won 7 measly Wimbledons, let’s get real, people). David Ferrar is 4th, which is fair enough given he’s been fairly consistent, but he’s NEVER won ANY slam, let alone the one considered most prestigious among the men’s and women’s game.

Truth is, no matter the seeding, whoever plays his game and possibly has a bit of luck on his side will come through.

But…

Who is the ONLY guy besides Fed and Novak Djokovic (current World Number One who has only won it once, thank you very much) who’s won it in the past ten years???? Oh yeah! (Slaps self in head.) Rafa! The number five seed, who, BTW, is currently ranked NUMBER ONE for this year in finals and titles (9 and 7, respectively) and the first to qualify for the Barclays ATP Men’s Tour Finals, despite being ranked Number 5 in the Emirates/ATP rankings.

Just sayin’.

Have a great week and happy Wimbledon to those of you who love the slams as much as I do! Special thanks too, to ESPN and Tennis Channel, for awesome coverage! Beats how it was once-upon-a-time when coverage was kind of limited to weekends and quarterfinal-and-on action.

Joanna

Red Velvet Pancakes At Home?

Hi all,

Trying to get myself back into a routine. I am so good at getting in my own way. 😛

Wow. We may have entered a new era in clay court tennis. (View the winner of “The Little French Open” here.) So mad I missed the match! (Yes, I know I can find it somewhere on line. We’ll see what time–and overloaded memory–allow.)

Let’s move on. Last week older son said something about a renowned pancake chain and a new (?) red velvet variety. Mom thinks: Hmm. Can we make this for son at home?

Anyone who REALLY knows me is in on the fact that I don’t necessarily like to cook. I do, however, enjoy trying new recipes and getting creative with adapting them.   I have a special place in my heart too, for recipes that look complicated and elegant when done, but are actually quite easy. (Make the “chef” look amazing, know what I mean? ;)).

So I hit up the internet and found a few recipes. (I SO love the world wide web.)  I wound up going with this one that I found at recipegirl.com. I invite you to go to Lori Lange’s blog for the recipe (which, actually, came from a guest blogger, Tidy Mom, a.k.a., Cheryl). Are you all with me?

Here I’ll list the two minor changes I made to Tidy Mom’s recipe. (Hubby thinks I should follow a recipe to the letter, but those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen know tweaking is often what makes a certain recipe our own.) I also went with a basic cream cheese glaze. (That recipe follows.)

Tidy Mom’s recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of flour. I’m thinking I used about 2/3 white whole wheat and 1/3 white flour.

As per Cheryl, I also used a “buttermilk substitute,” (1 ½ cups of plain non-fat yogurt mixed with 3 tbsp of milk). She linked to here for this one and other alternatives. My choice worked really well.

Finally, I added a bit more milk to thin the batter to my liking—not unusual for any pancake recipe.

Note: I saw no significant difference using liquid food coloring (less than the 1 tbsp called for, since I ran out). Some recipes suggest red food paste gives a deeper red. IDK as I have no experience to fall back on.

I happen to like preparing pancakes on a griddle, but a good (preferably non-stick) frying pan works every bit as well. Also, rubbing the griddle with a canola oiled-napkin worked better than spraying it with cooking spray. I’ve never liked the speckled appearance pancakes get with that.)

Basic cream cheese glaze (easily increased as needed):

4 oz. cream cheese* (softened)

4 oz. butter* (softened)

2-3 tbsp milk

½ cup confectioners sugar

(*I use the whipped versions. Think it makes for a lighter glaze.)

Using an electric mixer (or by hand) cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add milk and confectioners sugar. Continue mixing until glaze is as smooth as you want it. Serve over warm pancakes. Refrigerate (or try freezing) leftover glaze.

There you have it! These really were excellent, rich with flavor and brought together perfectly by the cream cheese topping—my favorite part of anything red velvet, hands down.

The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.

So, where do you stand on cooking? Do you follow recipes to the letter or does your brain start tweaking whenever you read one the first time? Are you a fan of pancakes? If so, what’s your favorite kind? Would you rather make reservations?

Have a great day and ttfn,

Joanna

Does Andy Murray’s Olympic Gold Count?

The 2012 Olympics are complete, flame’s out, flag’s been passed and the athletes gone.

Hi all. Just beginning to catch up after a week away and a very busy weekend. Hope all is well and that y’all missed me terribly while I was ‘out.’ 😉

Okay, I had to go here. This one wouldn’t leave me, and I’m sorry, but it’s a bit of a rant. (Besides, US Tennis Open qualifying action starts in a few hours. I’ve got tennis on the brain, lol.)

Until Wimbledon 2012, Andy Murray was, simply put, a top-five player. I respected his game—you have to have some skill to be the world’s Number Four—but he didn’t excite me as a fan. The tennis world didn’t seem to consider him a major contender either. Recent slam wins were reserved for Rafael Nadal (Rafa), Novak Djokovic (Nole or Djoker) and “the great” Roger Federer (The Fed).

Well, go figure. Andy signs on former champion (and very stoic) Ivan Lendl as coach and is now hanging in much tougher at the big venues. He made it to this year’s Wimbledon’s final and held his own big-time against The Fed, who’s earned many a trophy there. Murray played a great match, took second place and gained a tremendous amount of respect and fans that day.

Fast forward to one month later: Centre Court, Wimbledon, London 2012 Olympic gold medal tennis match. Andy vs. Roger, in a rematch of four weeks before. This time, Andy emerges with the title.

And what do the commentators say?! “Does this count?” (As in, is this title big enough to be the equivalent of a slam?)

REALLY?!

I mean:

REALLY??!!

Andy Murray wins his first REALLY big tournament at a venue that takes place ONCE every FOUR years. He claimed gold at Wimbledon, in his home court of London, representing Great Britain as he has since he joined the circuit. The addition of pros to Olympic competition—especially in tennis—kind of makes it REALLY hard for any non-pro to medal at all, let alone take gold.

So, essentially, Andy Murray won the gold Olympic medal against his peers, the elite of the elite when it comes to tennis. (BTW, let’s not forget Roger walking away with silver and Juan Martin DelPotro taking the bronze from—OMG!—the world’s Number One player, Djoker! You think DelPo’s not proud of THAT achievement? And while we’re at it, let’s recall that DelPo beat Rafa in the semis to beat The Fed in the 2009 US Open Tennis Championships. Nuff said.)

Unfortunately, since the days of Nancy Kerrigan taking silver (God-forbid) for her figure-skating grace and poise, anything but a gold medal seems glossed over and almost non-important. (Geez, Louise! I took second place in a writer’s contest and was every bit as excited as if I’d taken the top spot. Soon as I opened that email, I started shouting, “I’m the first loser in the contest!!!” all over the house. That’s hubby’s line, btw.)

Back to tennis: I do not pretend to understand pro rankings, but I do know playing in the Olympics “counts” toward rankings. Guess what: the commentators know that too. Perhaps they were being facetious and I heard the words and missed the tone? I suppose anything is possible. But, uh, commentator guys—you know who you are—let’s not downplay Olympic gold. No one’s forgotten Rafa’s (garnered in Beijing). I’m thinking most tennis fans—and especially Murray’s—are all going to remember well Andy’s first ‘BIG’ win.

Whew. Done. Thanks for letting me vent.

Here’s a link to a great photo of Andy sporting his gold medal! (No fun not being able to post a picture in the blog, what with copyright nightmares another blogger is dealing with.)

If you please, SHARE via one of the buttons. I do so thank you!

Have a great day and TTFN,

Joanna

Clay Court’s King Stakes SEVENTH Claim on His Reign!

So psyched about Rafa Nadal’s win at the French Open Tennis Championships Monday! Rafa fans know, that boy NEEDED to show the awesome Djok  the world’s current Number Two player hasn’t gone away yet. I am so interested to see what the following two slams will bring! (Can you imagine to what level each of these guys will be lifting their game assuming their ‘rivalry’ continues?? Whoof!)

Congrats to both champions–I hate that someone has to lose but so glad Rafa won! And both winners were gracious as always in their post-game interviews, pure class acts. (Rafa’s language barrier is definitely decreased, too.)

dailytelegraph.com.au

Photo courtesy bostonglobe.com

ricky.org

blog.zap2it.com

globaltvedmonton.com

english.rfi.fr

Thanks so much for indulging me! And VERY special thanks to those of you  kind enough to SHARE. So much appreciated!

Have a great day–I certainly plan to 😉

Joanna

Just in time for Super Bowl Weekend!

I’m celebrating my 200th post! To everyone who visits regularly, I so thank you for doing so. And to you first-timers, my humble thanks and a special welcome too!

So, friends, here we are on the Friday preceding the biggest Sunday of every football season.

  (Yes, I’m just a little excited about Sunday’s big game :D)

Photos courtesy of my older son and his I-phone–thanx! Love the Giants’ colors, too. Oh, and before I go further I’m adding a disclaimer: I don’t pretend to fully understand that whole (somewhat complex) wildcard and Rounds 1 and 2 progression parts of the Road to the Super Bowl. Please forgive any errors as I’m still learning a lot of how it all comes together on that first Sunday in February. 

Anyone out there been following NFL post-season play? Excuse me, but did somebody bother telling the NY Giants that they weren’t going to make it to Super Bowl XLVI?

Maybe it’s just me, but seems like Eli Manning and the boys missed a few memos, and those may have gone something like this:

You may not beat the Dallas Cowboys to win a wildcard spot.

Let’s see you get past the Atlanta Falcons to win the wildcard game.

Forget winning against the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV winners and super-season record holders of 15-1.

You’ve got your work cut out to get past the San Francisco 49ers, those mega-aggressive guys who literally snatched the win from the Saints the week prior—now there was a nail-biter of a game—to become the NFC champions AGAIN.

Oh, and you could get past the New England Patriots, seeing as you upset the H-E-goal-posts-minus-the- crossbar last time y’all met? (I mean, has anyone been watching footage of the last 90 seconds of that match-up? Eli was Houdini getting out of the pocket—he had NO business not being sacked. Then David Tyree had even less business making that too-amazing-for-words catch to set off that final, victory-claiming, drive.)

  It’s a mother-son thing! We both turned down SuperBowl parties to watch the game together at home.

I mean, all I’ve been asking myself since the Sunday night they manufactured the 2011 season’s miracle is: How did they get here? Pull off what may be their most memorable run yet? And how do they continue to do it?

I wrote this as I watched Rafael Nadal walk off the quarterfinal court victorious at the Australian Open Tennis Championships. At end of the second set, Rafa was one set-point down.

As is true of most tennis champions, set and match points are simply something to get past. It’s a mindset. Rafa is frequently described as relentless, as he bats away ball after ball until he forces an error or hits a winner. (His forehand has this lasso-like action that’s so cool to watch, and I’m noticing current Number One Novak Djokovic using a very similar motion with his forehand. Hmm!)  Oh, and Rafa is also known for this quote: “Every point is match point.” (BTW, Rafa wound up rallying from 2-5 in the fourth set to tie things up in the final match against Djokovic, and take it to their first five-setter–wound up being one of those matches one wishes both players could win.)

Years ago, when I first got into tennis, my first all-time favorite player was Stefan Edberg. Like Rafa, he was a pretty humble champion and one who never gave up. During the 1992 US Open he was down three match points to hard-hitter Ivan Lendl.

Want to guess how that one turned out? I’m sure the little bit of rain that suspended play until the next day didn’t hurt, but Stefan fought off those match points and went on to win not just that match, but the whole darned thing as well. (Was I happy then. I had tickets to the final and got to watch my first mega-favorite win his last grand slam title.)

Brings to mind the Giants and their past five games. As I said, they don’t seem to have gotten the memo—or, like any great champion(s), they blew it off.

As a writer—and an occupational therapist, I’m a watcher. Observation skills were usually my forte on most of my evaluators’ write-ups. So, I watch Eli Manning’s game.

Now mind you, I’ve gotten highly annoyed with him at times. Not that I could coach or head up a team but I’ve learned a whole lot about the mental part of football this season. (Think I need one more season under my belt before I totally get the ‘running game.’) I am, however, starting to get Eli’s game—and his brilliance. And having watched the Giants these last five weeks—and even some old footage from Super Bowl XVII—the word relentless comes up over and over.

So do the notions of “progress not perfection” and “easy does it.”

Watch how, little by little, Eli inches his team down the field toward the red zone. He obviously keeps his eye on the prize (i.e., touchdown or field goal) but tends to use smaller efforts to get them there, as in one first down at a time, and of late, a third-down conversion (kind of that “never say never” attitude over and over until payoff).

Not only did the Giants not get the memo, but I don’t think they realized they weren’t going to be Super Bowl contenders this year, especially going in to play the Packers. (I hated seeing Aaron Rodgers roughed up, but his team kind of fell through a little on that one too. Almost a smaller-scale version of what the Patriots did to Tim Tebow and the Broncos—and there’s more fodder for that never-say-die attitude: what rookie Tebow accomplished with his flailing team this year.)

OMG, make sure you check out these photos: the best shot ever and another that show it all!

Yes, I’m done now. For now. Who are you rooting for and/or which teams would have made up your dream Super Bowl?

TTYS and go Giants!

Joanna