Of course you understand that any snark that follows here is not meant in any way to make light of the horrors still being experienced daily in Port Au Prince and surrounding areas. And I actually think that this kind of benefit concert-thing is one of the best uses of star power/influence/world domination/money. Still, it doesn't change the fact that when famous people get together, their self-importance borders on the ridiculous. Scratch that. It doesn't BORDER on ridiculous. It sets up camp right in the middle of Ridiculous. Or maybe permanent settlements.
If you missed the show, even better. You will come with no pre-conceived opinions and only listen to mine. (And so my own plan for world domination gains traction.)
And speaking of world domination, we should perhaps address Taylor Swift first. Nearly everybody wore black or gray or some variation on being appropriately somber. Ms. Swift wore white. I think she was adorable, and white can also be a color of mourning as well as hope. I liked it. She did a cool cover of a song by an alternative band, which is very interesting. Nothing to make fun of here, though Plantboy did say, "Do you think she ever actually eats?"
All right, all right, perhaps I should have saved the best for last, but I just couldn't help it. Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Keith Urban's cover of "Lean on Me" was just so amazing. Besides the fact that each of these singers has a fantastic voice, the harmony was sublime. Loved it. Worth the cost of the whole album, this, though each song is available on its own, too. And yet, as wonderful as it was, I wish the men had taken cue from Ms. Crow and buttoned their shirts up (even your snazzy, snappy, leather shirt Keith. That tatoo on your chest should be for Nicole's eyes only, if you know what I mean.) And who else thinks that Kid Rock might be bald?
While some stars are hairless, others are plainly suffering from a surfeit of hair. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Brad showed. I really expected he and the Angester to be down at the epicenter trying to adopt Haitian quintuplets. Maybe they wouldn't let him into the country on account of the creatures that he might be transporting in his face. Is this for a movie? Or is he making kind of a statement? And if it is a movie, I sat through three hours of him as an old man last year, I really don't think I could sit through one where he sports this disgusting mass this year. Maybe he grew the beard to distract the audience from that hat. Isn't he supposed to be cute? Honestly, what good IS Brad Pitt if he isn't cute?
I think this picture isn't actually from the performance as Mr. Timberlake sat at the piano the whole time. The song he sang, "Halleluja" has actually gotten the most downloads off iTunes. I think it is because this song has never before been released singly on iTunes--you can only buy it as part of an album or it is not available (except as an American Idol snippet from a few years ago), and let's face it, the song is awesome. Even if, I'm sorry to say, Justin, your fedora is not.
In an unrelated note, Justin T. looks a lot like my little brother, who I think is becoming a doctor, but maybe he has been tricking us all these years.
Ms. Roberts, you are just so cute, and though your hair is expertly colored, I really miss your red locks. (You too, Nicole. Why exactly DO women want to be blond?) I halfway wanted to call the telethon so that I could talk with Julia, but then I thought, "What are the odds?" When she gave her speech, she gave the horsey smile a rest and buttoned up that innocent looking coat only to reveal that the line of buttons was totally crooked. Not a pea coat, per se, but the coat definitely looked like something that might have come out of my 9th grade sewing class. Her hair was so disheveled it looked like she'd spent the afternoon in a wind tunnel. Plantboy said, "Oooo, boy, I don't think she went to wardrobe OR the wigmaster before getting on camera."
"Hello, hello. No we don't want your donation. You're Jewish. Isn't this somehow your fault?" Was that over the top? I'm sorry. I used to really like Mel Gibson, but in the last few years I've decided that he is just crazy as a loon. Again, isn't Mel supposed to be good looking? One day you wake up and realize that all of this once-hunky movie stars are older than your parents and it makes you weep.
Do you remember that really annoying shampoo commercial from some years ago wherein the sexy hair model said, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful?" And you were thinking, "I don't hate you because you are beautiful; I hate you because you are stupid." Okay, I have to own it. I hate these women because they are beautiful. *Grrrrr* All women are NOT created equal.
Yeah, she was awesome doing this song, even if my feeling toward her as a performer has never been anything but lukewarm. We knew a guy in Texas who went to high school with her in Pennsylvania. Every story he told about her contradicted the life story image her publicists have carefully constructed. Oh, and her hair was nearly black. And while nobody should be surprised to learn that shiny white is not an actual hair color, I'm just sayin' that Christina must have her roots done EVERY DAY.
I know that in real life these two are engaged, but it is just so weird to see Jim without Pam, and it is really hard for me to see laid-back midwestern guy with posh British girl. Still they look happy. I bet it lasts . . . . um . . . . four years. Practically an eternity in Hollywood terms.
Sting. Oh, Sting. How I love the Police. Which haven't been around since the 80's. And oh, Sting. How you keep coming back. If You Love Someone Set Them Free was good. Oh! And Fields of Gold takes me back to many spring time afternoons during my senior year of high school. Then there was that song they put on a car commercial a few years ago. Then there was the fiasco that was Friday night. We tried and tried to listen. You are STING after all, and it was a Police song. After about two very confusing and discordant minutes Plantboy said, "You know, his lyrics are really repetitive." Moments pass and then, "REALLY repetitive." We waited and waited while you did your version of wailing on your guitar and then one of us said (it is hard to remember; it may have been simultaneous), "This just really sucks."
When I put in a google image search for "Hope for Haiti Telethon" half of the first ten million hits (roughly) came back with the tortured and brooding vampire boy. Before your heart stops beating, no, Pattycakes refrained from singing. Thank whatever deity pleases you most here. He did, however talk. No, mumble. As if he wasn't hard enough to understand before (even in his native British), he has now grown a beard the size of a small hedgehog, the hair from his back finally winning the war for his face. The jury is still out if the beard is just giving up on shaving every day (this is probably 2-3 days' stubble for Sir Robert), or if his cameo role in New Moon made him realize that most girls prefer werewolves.
And is it ironic that in the books Edward is always referred to as marble smooth and Jacob is the big, hairy werewolf, when in person, these two characters are exactly the opposite? Taylor Lautner couldn't grow hair on his face if Bella's life depended on it.
Though she didn't during her speech on Friday night, apparently Nicole Kidman really CAN smile. But honestly, look who she is sitting with, what's not to smile about? Did I mention that Keith Urban performed? In a black, leather, snappy shirt? I wonder if he and Taylor Lautner see the same pluckist. (That is like a stylist for hair removal.)
And another. How did this one sneak in? I think this is from when he stole the show at last year's Idol finale.
"Want a beer, Keith?"
"No thanks Kid, I'm a recovering alcoholic."
"Cool. I'm just the regular kind of alcoholic."
"No thanks Kid, I'm a recovering alcoholic."
"Cool. I'm just the regular kind of alcoholic."
Madonna only comes out at night. She is terrified of what the sun will do to her face. As Plantboy says, "She DOES take good care of herself."
And as Science Teacher Mommy says, "How much botox can one woman have before permanently paralyzing her face?" Or, "How much plastic surgery do you get before they just automatically enroll you in the witness protection program?"
Is that a stogie? Nice job Leo. What are you like, 60? He looks less like a Hollywood actor and more like someone on Saturday Night Live playing a Hollywood actor.
There is that tatoo. Okay, maybe it isn't so bad.
Another one? It is like somebody took over my computer and just started clipping and posting pictures of Keith Urban. Darn it.
Bono, dude, I love you man, but could you please offer some sort of explanation for why you suddenly cropped up ten years ago with sunglasses glued to your face? Everywhere?
I like me some bangs. So much, in fact, that I cut some into my own hair about a year ago. It was a great move and I have no regrets. I'm really liking Beyonce's bangs. But I wonder if she is? She kept her eyes closed during her entire song and I think it was because her bangs were in her eyes. She also sang one of those songs that clearly had the word Haiti inserted into older lyrics in order to create a last minute, "unique" song, that she wouldn't have to learn. It sounded like it was written in the limo on the way to the studio. Still, she sounded great and I'm really glad she didn't opt for the red lingerie in public look. Which she has been known to do.
Help! They are attacking me!
What is the deal with Anderson Cooper? Is he cute or just creepy looking? Is he old or young? Is he buff or geeky? Is he human or a robot? Liberal or factual?
This signature performance of the night was pretty good. I thought they didn't have Bono's mic turned up nearly high enough, though the sound of this song, with The Edge on guitar, was clearly very U2. Rihanna sang very well, considering how embarrassed she must have been to have forgotten her pants. I don't think she understood that just because you wear black doesn't mean you have actually toned down your look. When Bono held her hand at the end of their song, he started getting really into it and raised her arm slightly. I was convinced there was going to be a major wardrobe malfunction.
Now onto how I spent the rest of the weekend.
Saturday night I put together a meal that will knock your socks off and into the dryer. The preparation is relatively easy, but the result surpasses anything you could buy in a restaurant, if you could even find a meal like this anywhere. Bookmark this page and when you grocery shop before Valentine's Day, just keep in mind this sweet spread. No honey for Valentine's Day? No problem. Just gather your girlfriends close and indulge in this goodness together. You'll be too happy to care. But if the last scenario is the case, I highly recommend the chocolate dessert.
I may have posted one or two of these recipes before. My apologies.
Your preparation for the Meal of the Month needs to start the night before. Yes, I know it sound ludicrous, but it will be worth it, trust me. The preparations here are for four people.
Lemon-Rosemary Artisan Bread
Before going to bed the night before you will do the actual cooking for this dinner, combine three cups of all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. of active, dry yeast, tsp of sugar, 1 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tsp chopped lemon zest in a bowl. Stir in 1 3/4 cup warm water until the dough is shaggy and sticky. Let it raise in a lightly greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap for 18 hours. That is NOT a typo. We'll get back to the bread later.
Also before going to bed, place 4 raw chicken breasts in a pan that can be covered. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, juice from two lemons, garlic powder, chopped fresh rosemary and black pepper. Do you want specific amounts? Sorry. I also can't tell you to do it "to taste" because I am certainly not going to advocate eating raw chicken. Trust me, this is hard to mess up. If you balsamic vinegar is young, don't use as much because it tastes vinegar-y. If it is older, it will be sweeter and had more tangy richness and you can be a little bit more generous. (Note: Marinades with acid in them, like lime, lemon or vinegar can do a great job of tenderizing your meat if they are given ample time to sit on them.)
With about two hours to go before you are going to eat, turn your bread dough out on to a surface that is lightly floured and dusted with cornmeal. Do NOT knead, just shape it. I like to cook mine on a baking stone, though many similar recipes tell you to use a Dutch oven of some kind. I also like to divide my loaf in half and shape them long and skinny--somewhere between a baguette and a loaf. This makes them cook faster and easier to limit ourselves to just eating half the recipe in a single sitting. Place loaves (or loaf) on the the cooking surface, Cover with the plastic for another 90 minutes
Now you are going to make your first side dish--Cindy's Perfect Pasta Salad. This a shout out to my friend who gave me the recipe. She said this serves eight, but who is she kidding?
Boil 2 cups small pasta until tender. Drain and run with cold water. Combine 2 chopped large ripe tomatoes (or a pint of grape tomatoes), 1 diced red pepper, 1 small, slivered purple onion (or 4 green onions), 3/4 cup fresh cilantro (the ingredient that makes this dish unusual and wonderful), 1 large cucumber chunked up, and 1 can of black olives in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine 4 ounces of feta with 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano and 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice. Whisk in a tbsp of olive oil until just blended. You still want much of the feta to be chunky. Pour over the salad and stir in the cooked pasta. Refrigerate.
This picture isn't exactly right, but it is close. We ate ours too fast for me to remember to photograph it. Imagine pasta where the tofu is.
Still with me? Heat up your oven to 400 degrees and turn on the grill. Bake two loaves for about 27 minutes--I like mine a little less dark and crusty than the picture below. A large loaf will take closer to 40 minutes.
While your bread is cooking, throw the chicken on the grill and steam some asparagus. (Stir-fried green beans and carrots would work too if your man resists asparagus the way mine does.) Pull the chicken off the grill and tent some foil over it if you don't quite have your table set yet.
Just before serving the asparagus, saute a couple of tablespoons of butter with a handful of pinenuts until golden brown. Pour them over your artfully arranged asparagus spears and squeeze the juice of a lemon over the top. Serve immediately.
For dessert, you should serve chocolate lava cake--which I gave the recipe for last year around Valentine's Day,
or you could make trifle. Kanaboke emailed me for my thoughts on trifle earlier this week and it got me thinking what a lovely contribution such a dessert would be to this meal. So here is Trifle: Science Teacher Mommy Style. (Yes, I know I lived in Australia for a year and a half, but don't kid yourself, this is the all-American version as they used Jell-O in Oz. I avoid Jell-O every chance I get.)
You need four ingredients for my trifle:
Family Sized Vanilla Pudding Mix
Quart of heavy whipping cream
Mixed berries (Fresh if you have them. Frozen in you must.)
Cut your pound cake into cubes and set aside. Make your vanilla pudding with a mixer, using half milk and half cream. Put the milk in first until the pudding is all blended in and then add the cream slowly while you continue whipping. It will be super rich and fluffy. It doesn't soak into the cake as much this way and has more of a mousse-like texture. Actually, you should probably make two boxes worth, you want some left over for the trifle when you are done licking the spoons. Whip up a cup and a half of cream with just enough powdered sugar to barely sweeten. The pudding makes this plenty sweet, you want the cream to make it rich.
In a pretty glass bowl--a trifle bowl if you are awesome like that--layer cubed cake pieces on the bottom with pudding on top. Add a layer of berries then whipped cream. Repeat at least once (depending on the size of your dish and the number of people you are serving) and finish with the whipped cream layer. I like to smooth my creamy layers so that the end result is flat instead of lumpy and holds together a little bit better when you dish it out. Garnish with berries.