The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (or the kind of kid you DON’T want to raise)

I’ll be upfront about it. I am the Ugly in this case. Because I do not have kids and I am being REAL ugly about someone else’s kids (really just one in particular who I will call GingerBad) that I spent some time with recently.

See, last year (2011) one of my goals was to learn the guitar and I had a friend teach me enough to give me confidence that this was something I could learn. I had previously had no musical experience of any kind and was worried that this would involve some long-atrophied part of my brain and I simply would not be able to do it. I loved my lessons with Megan, but wanted to add some formal training along with it, leaving my guitar / champagne / Jeopardy sessions with Megan intact but still building a solid musical foundation.

So, after searching around and getting recommendations from my musical friends, I was convinced to sign up for a beginner’s class. The class was not only guitar but also piano, bass, ukelele and …. one little girl with a flute. She was maybe ten years old.  Before the class even began I could tell she was going to be one of “those kids.” Whenever the instructor went to tune another person’s instrument, there she was, loudly talking about her flute. She told every perfect stranger in that room (there were 20 of us, kids and adults alike) that her flute was made of “real silver!” Most of us just stared blankly, but one nice older lady seated behind GingerBad indulged her and complimented the beautiful instrument. Still, this attention didn’t satisfy her. She insisted throughout the class on demanding the instructor’s attention at each turn. He would be instructing the guitars on making a chord, and she would repeatedly hold her flute up and make him acknowledge her finger placement. The instructor got so frustrated that at one point he even told her she was talking too much and that he was working with another group and that she should wait her turn. Her mother even urged her to behave from the sidelines, a maternal warning which she blatantly disregarded. In the middle of class, she turned and asked her father to videotape her. Loudly.

Now, as I am sitting there, I am wondering why the parents think it’s OK to let their child behave like this? Don’t they see how obnoxious that is? Don’t they know that this kid is never going to have any friends, just bully victims in that mean girl way that girls have to be her friend because they are afraid of her? Don’t they want to teach her better? I was this close to asking that the girl’s parents pay half my class fee because half of EVERYBODY’S class time went to her. Ugh!

I would have been totally not into kids at all had it not been for the GOOD, who I will call CurlyGood. A little curly headed boy who sat next to me and was so polite, but still had personality and good socializing skills. This 7 year old asked to share my music, politely corrected my left hand work (apparently, I was doing D7 wrong) and we chatted during the times the instructor was busy with someone else. I was encouraged about the state of the American Kid until I heard CurlyGood’s mom. British. Typical.

All in all, I think private lessons are for me. But more than that, private lessons are for GingerBad, at least until she is fit for public consumption. Maybe folks will get onto me about how I don’t understand and I don’t have kids, so I shouldn’t criticize. Maybe that’s true. All I can say is that I most certainly know and respond to well mannered kids. They are the ones I can see turning into adults I would want to hang out with. And me and Curly could grab a drink in like 20 years. But not so much with Ginger….


The Finder premiers tonight!

You know, people made fun of me for needing two DVRs.  They said, “Mai, you watch too much television.”  Well, that may be true, but it’s nights like these that are the reason.  I mean, of course I am watching The Big Bang Theory – it’s an Amy and Sheldon-centric ep and those are my favorites!  Additionally, 30 Rock premiers tonight, THANK GOD.  I mean, totes happy for Tina Fey and her baby, Alec Baldwin is always better with other people’s words coming out of his mouth, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I needed me some Donaghy with a Lemon twist, know what I mean?  I am also ready for Parks and Rec and the Office.  It’s the only hour in  the week I get to see both my TV boyfriends: Ben Wyatt and Jim Halpert. 

So, if this were a regular Thursday, I would already be psyched and my DVR would runneth over with NBC and CBS goodies.  BUT, tonight there is another premier I have really been looking forward to.


Please click through to Watch With Mai to read the full post.

If I can’t be a leader, I will be a follower…

I am hardly the first person to rave about the PBS Masterpiece Classic, Downton Abbey.  I am sure your Facebook newsfeeds have, like mine, been peppered with mentions of this English pre-World War I period drama.  I never paid it much attention, except when they kept winning stuff at the Emmy’s last year.  But even then I kept thinking, “Don’t they mean Downtown Abbey?  Is this some, like British affectation thing?”  

I mean, on the surface, it totally has all the makings of a successful British miniseries.  Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check!  Highclere Castle with its rolling lawns and splendour? Check!  Every single “Hey!  That British guy from that other thing?” Check!  But, I was a little weary.  I mean, they weren’t adapting something reliable or anything.  Nothing written by Jane Austen or a Bronte.  This was NEW.   But, then again, it was by the same writer who penned Gosford Park and I love that movie. Gosford Park had everything.  Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check!  Splendid English country home?  You see where I am going with this…

Continue to Watch With Mai for the full post

This is as Martha Stewart as I get. Mai’s English Toffee.

This is my one time of the year to Martha Stewart it up and I always love making toffee to give out as Christmas gifts.  This is my second year doing it and it seems to be popular enough that I thought I would share the process.  Some of you who are kitchen connoisseurs and commandos may not need my insights and tips at all.  But, as I learned from trial and error, I thought I would share. 

The recipe was originally found here

It’s a very simple recipe, with just four ingredients, Butter (salted), sugar, Chocolate and pecans.  You can add a tablespoon or two of vanilla as I did.  That’s all there is to it!  But, it does require some pretty contsant vigilance to get it right.  Also, besides the ingredients, you need a couple of tools to make this process easier.  For one thing, you need a candy thermometer since the temperature has to get to the “hard crack” stage of between 300 and 305 degrees Fahrenheit.  For another, the

Oxo scraper

 made all the difference in the world, as far as getting the pieces to break into regular squares and making the result quite pretty!

So, below, here is the original recipe with my pictures and my hints in parenthesis.

Best Ever English Toffee Recipe

  • 2 Giant 8 oz. Hershey bars, or 16 oz. (450 g) milk chocolate divided in half  (Trader Joe’s offers delicious 17 oz. bars of Belgian chocolate called Pound  Plus that are excellent for this recipe and that is what I used.  Cost wise, it ends up about the same)
  • 2 cups (300 g) finely chopped walnuts or pecans (I am a Georgia girl.  I used Pecans)
  • 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
  • 1+1/2 lb. (681 g) SALTED real butter Do not use unsalted butter or  margarine, or the recipe won’t turn out.

Recipe Directions:

  1. Break 8 ounces of the chocolate and set aside.
  2. Boil sugar and butter while stirring constantly (they mean CONSTANTLY.  This is the hard part.  This stuff will burn in a nanosecond.  Be vigilant) on medium heat to hard crack  level (300-305*F or 149*C) on candy thermometer. IT MUST REACH THIS LEVEL, NO  MATTER HOW IT LOOKS.
  3. Tip: Start off at medium high and then lower the temp as it gets closer to  300*F (149*C). Watch it like a hawk.
  4. Pour mixture onto large ungreased cookie sheet with sides (jelly roll size)  and immediately spread on the grated chocolate. Smooth over top.

I did the above step totally differently.  First, I lined the Cookie sheet with parchment paper.  This makes turning it over later on MUCH, MUCH easier.  Also, instead of immediately spreading the grated or pieced chocolate onto the hot toffee and letting it melt, I waited until the toffee had cooled enough to still be gooey, but thicker.  Then, I used the Oxo scraper to make score marks in the toffee.  Doin this makes the toffee eaier to break along regular lines later on.  See the pictures below for my way….

5. I melted the 8 oz. chocolate in my makeshift double boiler and poured it on the chocolate. See below.

6. Sprinkle half of the nuts on top. Cool till hard.   (When it is fully hardened and cooled, you need to spread some tin foil on the counter and tip the whole pan upside down.  This is where the parchment paper comes in handy.  It helps the whole pan of toffee come out with no trouble at all!  And it leaves the pan in one big piece which makes step 8 easier)  See below for before and after the chocolate pouring.

7. Melt the other 8 oz. (225 g) or other bar of chocolate in double boiler or  in small saucepan on very low heat, stirring constantly.

8. Tip the cooled toffee out onto wax paper (see my notes on step #6) and spread other side with the  melted chocolate ; sprinkle rest of nuts on and cool till hard.

9. Then crack into small pieces with knife. (This is where the scoring with the Oxo scraper pays off.  See below.  My pieces came out in almost perfect squares.  It wastes a lot less of the toffee because you get a lot fewer crumbs.  Of course, the crumbs aren’t really a waste.  You can top your ice cream with them or make your own Heath crunch Blizzards!)

I packed it all up into Christmas tins and they are ready to go!

Read more at Suite101: Best Ever English Toffee Recipe: How to Make English Toffee Candy |

Know what they call this in the ‘Couv? Barbeque weather!

I have been bagging on How I met Your Mother pretty hard lately, but tonight’s episode finally brought back the Good Stuff!  Let me be clear, I bashed HIMYM about their rehashing of various plot lines, episodes and devices.  But, tonight’s Disaster Averted managed to rehash in all the right ways, without feeling overdone.  It brought back old favorites in a  good way and left very little to feel irritated by.


1. Ted and his poor choices in boot-wear.  Ted used to insist he could pull off those awful red cowboy boots.  By comparison his pink rain boots were pretty funny, as was his reasoning.  Pink boots are easier to see from rescue helicopters.  Umm, ok.  I will let it slide because it was a good sight gag.

2. The Ducky Tie Resolution!  I KNEW there would come a time when Barney tried to weasel his way out of the Ducky Tie bet.  I loved the superhero story he wove regarding why he had to get rid of the tie (saving a child from falling off a building, naturally) even if I did see the tie gag coming from a mile away.  The best part of the gag, though, was….

3. Return of the Slap Bet!  I know that we all felt as Marshall did, a little anxious about the fact that we were down to but one slap.  Even though I was less than pleased by the last Slap Bet episode where he gives away a slap to either Robin or Ted on Thanksgiving, this Slap Bet storyline had lots going for it, including watching Marshall’s increasing desire to slap the crap out of Barney and Barney’s attempts to needle him  into doing it so that he would be out of slaps and have to renegotiate for more slaps.  The resolution was good, too, with the return of Lily acting as Slap Bet Commissioner.  Additionally, the Slap Bet story brought us…


To read the rest of the post, click here.






…happily ever after, part 2

So, yesterday we reviewed ABC’s ‘Once Upon A Time.’  Today we are talking about the other folklore-inspired offering this season, NBC’s ‘Grimm.”  Right off the bat, this struck me as a less than traditional take on the storybook elements it employs.  Our protagonist, Nick, is a small town cop who learns that his family has a mystery about it.  They are Grimms, or warriors of a kind who fight against ‘The Big Bad Wolves,’ in this case, literally.  His aunt comes to town and is attacked by a demony, wolfy creature.  Nick has to shoot it and it turns back into a human before the cops (the other cops) arrive.

Nick learns through his aunt that there are such monsters as exist in fairytales and that they aren’t merely stories.  She has been fighting them a long time and

click here to read the rest of this entry at

click here to read part one of this blog entry.

…happily ever after, part 1


Last week we got not one, but two fairytale and folklore themed shows.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  I mean it was Halloween.  But, to have two go head to head on different networks seemed to me to aggressively try to corner the market on whimsy, or something.  I was kind of ambivalent because if it was Whimsy we wanted, we never EVER should have cancelled Pushing Daisies (you hear me, ABC?  The facts were those!).  But, I Tivo’d both shows mostly to see why, or if, we needed two.  What was the difference?  Was this like Coke vs. Pepsi and would wind up as a matter of personal preference?  (For the record, don’t even think about putting Pepsi anywhere near me.)  And will that preference “split the vote” in a way and make the ratings-scared networks pull the plug on both, prematurely?

All fairytales begin “Once Upon A Time” so we will too.  Right off the bat, the best thing this show has going for it is that it is on ABC and has carte blanche

To read the rest of this post, click here and to read part two of “…happily ever after” and my review of ‘Grimm’ click here.

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