Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Take Home Chef

Every now and then, I get waylaid by a reality television marathon. I purposely don't watch them first-run because for the most part, I'd rather watch TV that doesn't pretend it's not scripted. However sometimes I will be home cleaning or putzing around and I'll get sucked in (hello Real Housewives of Orange County.)

One "reality" show I will watch first-run is produced by my blog bud Ms. Ahmad - or Glam as I like to call her. It's called Celebrity Duets and it features celebrities that no one knew could sing (and to be sure, some can't sing...) I thought Jai Rodriguez from Queer Eye and Alphonso Ribiero (who promises to do the "Carlton" dance if he wins) were pretty good. The legendary songwriter/producer David Foster is a judge - which is quite a coup in my book. And so is Marie Osmond, who had the nerve to tell Hal Sparks that he was a bit "white" to sing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Then again, Marie Osmond ought to know white when she sees it, right? Ha! The third judge is Little Richard, which needs no explanation (!)

But my favorite so far? Well, I don't know if it counts as a "reality" show, but I just love the Take Home Chef.

The chef is an Aussie named Curtis Stone and basically he ambushes some unsuspecting (lucky!) shopper in a Whole Foods supermarket - so far only in California. He stops them with an interesting offer. ("Basically, I'm a chef - an Aussie that lived in London for a while and I've written a couple of cookbooks. And I've worked in some pretty fancy restaurants around the world. So here's the offer: I'll help you shop. I'll buy the groceries and I'll help you cook an incredible meal for you and your (husband, boyfriend, kids, friend) So, what do you think?")

I think the Take Home Chef needs to come to New York Curtis! I live within 30 minutes of a Whole Foods but, unlike some of your California surprises, I don't have a car. That means you and your crew would have to take the train back to my apartment (or we can catch the bus - hey, it's your choice!) And I must warn you that I live in the 'hood, but really - you'll be alright. Hey, I'm a single woman, and I make it. My building is very international actually (Indian, African, European, Latino) and I've got a great view and a decent sized kitchen. Sadly, I don't have much in the way of furniture, but your crew can just chill on the ledge (or whatever it's called) by my bay windows. And I don't have a husband or a boyfriend yet, but I saw on one show how you cooked for a woman who was making dinner for a friend that was graduating from college. You know, the one that weasled the free bottle of Veuve out of you? I've got a lot of interesting friends and family members to choose from so trust me, it'll be an adventure!

I loved that Organic Chicken wrapped in Prosciutto you made for the girl with the curly hair. And the Tiramisu looked amazing too. Oh! And the Strawberry Flambé with Cognac? Magnifique! The obligatory bottle of wine you bring doesn't hurt either.

So, what do you say mate? Are you ready for the big city?


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Obama and Oprah Africa Update

That's Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama getting tested for HIV-AIDS inside a mobile clinic in Kisumu, Kenya. He told the cheering crowd who gathered to watch, "If a Senator from the United States and his wife can get tested, then everyone in this crowd, in this town and in this province can get tested." And yes, not surprisingly, both tested negative.

Earlier, the senator met with Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki while Michelle visited Nairobi Women's Hospital. She is pictured with Joyce Musyoka, the matron-in-charge at the hospital.

Barack also visited his ancestral home, Kogelo, where his father was born and herded goats as a child. He was greeted by his grandmother (that's Mama Sarah Obama with him) uncles, cousins - and of course the international media.

CNN's Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange has done a great job following both Barack Obama and Oprah (do I ever call her Winfrey here?) in Africa.

The school Oprah built is called The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and she did it based on a simple request - from Nelson Mandela. Apparently in 2002, Oprah asked him what he wanted from her as a gift to the nation and he answered, "Build me a school."

That's all I'm sayin...

According to Koinange's report, The Leadership Academy is set on more than 50 acres of land just outside Johannesburg and includes not only traditional classrooms and dormitories, but a library with a fireplace and a 600-seat auditorium, where Oprah can check up on her girls via video-conferencing.

Koinange said to Oprah, "You've spent $40 million on the school so far," and she interrupted,"$40 million and counting, I think I'll stop at $50 million. You can build a good school for $50 million."

Hey, I would think so!

Here is the CNN video of Oprah surprising the 150 girls who will be attending the school in January (scroll to the bottom right side.) She only told them that they were invited to an "informal get-together" before she went back to Chicago.

Update: Just in case you're wondering: a rundown of how Senator Obama's trip was financed from Lynn Sweet's column in the Chicago Sun Times.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Girl, Put Your Records On (Live!)

Here's a great New York story for you.

The day before yesterday, I was walking up Sixth Avenue in the Rockefeller Center area on my way to the bank. Even though I was on my way to the bank, my mind was on hair and as I walked, I found myself noticing different hair styles - especially natural hairstyles since I'm natural (Again. For now.) As I approach the corner of 53rd street, I see a mass of curls in front of me - smooth, chunky Shirley Temple-like (in a good way.) The light turned red so we were stopped at the corner, giving me the perfect opportunity to spy on these perfect, smooth curls (rods? fingers?) while the girl (Versace sunglasses, shopping bags on both shoulders) chatted with her friend. Then it hit me:

"Are you Corinne Bailey Rae?"

She says yes and I point to my iPod and she starts laughing. And then I gush a little: "I just love your music! I've been telling everyone about it and I've even written about it on my blog!" And then I think about telling her that and say "Don't be scared!" She starts laughing and says, "No, no thanks so much! Listen, we're playing Webster Hall tomorrow night so if you'd like to come..." I told her that I knew all about it - I just hoped it wasn't sold out yet! She and her friend (assistant? manager?) both said at the same time - "No, it's not sold out." And then, the pièce de ré·sis·tance. Corinne says, "We can put you on the guest list. What's your name?" Her pal then pulls out his wallet, takes out a slip of paper and asks me for a pen! Of course, I spell my name for him (N like Nancy, I-C-H...) Then Corinne says, "Do you want to bring someone? It's up to you. You can bring as many as you like." I immediately think three, but I didn't want to be greedy, so I say two.

How awesome is that?

I haven't been to Webster Hall in years - and I forgot to check online to see what time the show started. So, after I ran a few errands, I got a manicure and a pedicure and then I walked from the nail salon on 8th street over to 11th to remind myself where Webster
Hall was because I figured I'd have time for a quick iced coffee. I figured wrong. The show was starting at nine, but with two opening acts, Gran Bel Fisher ("I'm just a country boy from Ohio... When Corinne comes out, you guys are gonna f*ckin' flip!) and Kevin Devine ("Hey... I'm Kevin Devine from Brooklyn...) I saw a line of people waiting - and another (much shorter) line of people getting red wrist bands. I went to the red wrist band guy and told him that I was on the guest list. I was hoping that there would be no drama because I never asked Corinne's friend his name and I'd look real foolish saying, "Well, um, I just ran into her on the street..."

But there was no drama. I produced a valid I.D. and he tied the red band on my wrist. Inside the club, I walked up the steps to a woman with several guest lists and my name was on Corinne's - spelled correctly - plus two!

Damn! I love things done well...

My "Plus Two" couldn't make it, so it was just little ole' me and my fresh mani/pedi in the house. I want to apologize for the lack of great pictures. I actually
pulled the stage pictures from a Corinne fansite because my camera phone SUCKS! (Damn the LG 8300! What the hell?) Look at this mess:

The blurry white blob in the center is Corinne mid-Like A Star. I swear, even the busted LG 6000 I had before this one took better pictures. I can't figure the stupid thing out...


She was fabulous of course. Really amazing like I've been saying all year. And would you believe that she sounds better live? Her voice is much clearer and prettier in person. And she looked great too. In fact, I chose these pictures in particular because she was wearing the same dress last night. She started with "Call Me When You Get This" and then went into my insomniac anthem, "Trouble Sleeping" (It's late and I'm feeling so tired, havin', trouble sleeping...) I was also glad to finally hear the cover of Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You" that all of the critics have been raving about in her reviews. When she picked up her guitar for "Breathless" and "Like A Star" you could hear a pin drop. This was the real thing ladies and gentlemen. Svengali producer at the controls not necessary. The crowd sang along to most of the songs - especially for her biggest hit so far "Put Your Records On." "I'd Like To" was a crowd pleaser too.

As she was playing, I kept wondering if the blonde guy on the keyboards was the same one who took down my name on 53rd street. I still can't decide.

But I have decided that Corinne Bailey Rae is cool as all get out!

Update: I got the top photo from The New York Times review of the show.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 21, 2006

Obama and Oprah in Africa

Our only black U.S. senator Barack Obama arrived in South Africa on Saturday to begin a two-week, six-nation trip. This will be his first time in Africa in fourteen years - and his first trip as a U.S. senator. He will be writing dispatches from the trip on his site and after South Africa, he will visit Rwanda, Congo, Djibouti, Chad and (of course) Kenya, where his father was born and where he still has a ton of relatives, including his grandmother Mama Sarah Obama. She had this to say about the impending visit of her grandson:

"I don't see why the heavens should come down just because Barack is coming to Kenya and Kogelo," Mama Sarah Obama said. "Our culture demands that when a grandson goes visiting his granny, he should eat a lot of eggs and that is what we will prepare for him."

Okay... I am loving Mama Obama...

The gentleman pictured with Obama is giving him a tour of Robben Island - and he is not just any tour guide. His name is Ahmed Kathrada and he spent 26 years in jail at Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela. Mr. Kathrada, who has also guided dignitaries and celebrities like Bill Clinton and Denzel Washington through the former prison, told Obama that skin color dictated what prisoners could wear and how much food they were allowed. For example, Mr. Kathrada was classified in the apartheid system as Indian, which made him "superior" to black South Africans. Thus, he was allowed to wear long pants (wearing shorts was considered a humiliation) and he got bigger portions of food than his fellow black prisoners. Would you believe that the prison wouldn't even tell them about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969?

Amandla bastards!

After his release, Mr. Kathrada became one of President Mandela's top aides and now heads the Robben Island Museum.

The senator was also hoping to visit Sudan, but the Sudanese government (surprise, surprise) repeatedly delayed granting him a visa. Looks like they're afraid of any more truth about the atrocities in Darfur coming to light!

Amandla to y'all too...

One thing that I found interesting among all of the hype on Obama's trip is his own trepidation about the impossible expectations being laid on his shoulders. The Chicago Tribune noted that he was worried that his visit had "mistakenly raised expectations" that he could bring sudden prosperity to impoverished parts of Africa, especially Kenya. "There is a sense that somehow I can deliver the largess of the U.S. government to that region and I can't."

Meanwhile, Oprah is also in South Africa. She went to announce the first students who will attend the school she built there, the Leadership Academy for Girls. The 73 girls announced Saturday - many of whom are orphans - were selected from over 3,000 applications and screened by Oprah herself. They will attend the school free of charge and begin classes on January 2, 2007.

Since they were going at the same time, Oprah offered her pal Barack a ride aboard her private jet - which he wisely declined. He told reporters, "She offered but I told her we don't take rides on corporate jets!" He was also asked why he wasn't planning to spend any time with Oprah in Africa and he answered, "I see her in Chicago."

Good move there Senator!

Can you imagine the field day reporters would have had with that one? Forget Africa - the focus would have been on Oprah and Obama chilling in her private jet!

Update: Sen. Obama has announced that he will "lead by example" and get an HIV test next Saturday. African AIDS activists praised his announcement, saying it could help wipe away the stigma of getting tested.

I think he deserves a ride back to Chicago on Oprah's jet for that one...

* pictures via The Chicago Tribune.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 18, 2006

Age Is Truly Just A Number

Quick question. How old do you think this woman is?

A.) 40

B.) 56

C.) 86

D.) 63

The correct answer is C.

Yes, you read right C - as in this woman is an 86 year old
great-grandmother and champion bodybuilder!

*taping her picture to my treadmill*

Her name is Mojorie Newlin and I remember seeing her on Oprah a few years ago when she was 79. By the way, she didn't even start exercising until she was 72! My friend Donna emailed this story about Mojorie and I'm glad she did because anytime I don't feel like exercising - or doing anything for that matter - I'm going to think about this woman and get moving.

Are you out there Glib? Avin?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hollywood Has Spoken: Africa Is Hot!

And I'm not just talking about the weather. Apparently Hollywood - and not just Angelina Jolie - has decided that Africa is hot. Even Madonna has "cast an iced-blue eye" toward the continent. It's officially legit!

As for the Gwyneth Paltrow ad above, I understand that it was for a good cause and everything, but seriously, did they really think it would not be mocked?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Omigod! Halle's 40!

So, in honor of Halle Berry's 40th birthday today, I'm going to tell the Halle Berry story that I tell everybody.

Halle was the very first person that I ever interviewed. Nothing big - it was a beauty pagea
nt magazine, my personal Ishtar if you will, but the pageant connection was how I got her in the first place. As a teen, I competed in a pageant called Miss New Jersey Teen All-American. I was about the 80th runner-up, but the national winner that year was a pretty black girl from Ohio who sent me an autographed picture. Five years later, I met her at the premiere of her first film, Strictly Business. Remember that one?

This was back in the day when you could barely know anyone and still be able to get into a movie premiere or an after party. I worked at a magazine at the time, so it helped. I don't remember where the party was that night, but I remember who was there - Nia Long and Wesley Snipes come to mind. The minute I saw Halle, I brought up the pageant. By that time, she had also competed in both Miss USA and Miss World, but no one really knew or cared about pageant stuff in that crowd, so I'm sure that mentioning it to her made me stand out. I told her that I was having no luck with her publicist in getting an interview with her and she told me to try again the next day. A week later, we were having lunch at a restaurant on 57th street in Manhattan (which is no longer there) called The Symphony Cafe. I asked for an extended lunch hour that day and my uncle, bless his heart, lent me his AMEX so I could pay for our lunch. Thankfully, Halle had mercy on me. She ordered a salad and iced tea - and damned if I didn't order the same exact thing. As if I would chow down in front of Halle Berry!

Anyway, she was very sweet and nice - no different than what you see today (from what I can tell) and yes, gorgeous. I mean, truly flawless - exactly like her pictures. And not much has changed apparently!

She was shooting Boomerang at the time and she was telling me about how she had to scramble for that role - and her roles in bo
th Jungle Fever and Strictly Business. She also mentioned how she was very, very interested in not just acting, but producing movies.

"Have you seen Little Man Tate?" she asked me. "Now, that's a movie to me. That's what I want to do. That level."

And damned if she didn't do exactly what she said she would do. She starred in and produced Introducing Dorothy Dandridge - and snagged a few awards in the process. She also produced Lackawanna Blues which won a few Emmy awards last year.

And of course, we all know about her historic Oscar win and her uh, eventful love life - but that's what the papers are for. I'll leave all of that drama to the tabloids - and the tablogs - and just say

Happy Birthday Halle! I'm glad somebody in Hollywood is making 40 look good naturally!

God bless you girl...


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hey DJ, Play A REAL Singer For Me!

I'm sorry, but I miss real singers.

I'm not going to name names 'cause I ain't one to talk about people 'cause it ain't right - but what happened?

Bona fide singers can't get any airplay - or press - unless they're in their drawers? New singers can't get signed unless they have a blonde weave or a belly ring? What the hell??

Did Phyllis Hyman see this coming? I used to think that she was just trippin' about the Pebbles' of the world taking over - but it has happened. At this rate, we'll never see another Anita Baker or Phyllis ever again.

And, I'm especially wary of the so-called real singers lately. Especially the performers who take an obscure song from the 70s or 80s - add a few lyrics - and call themselves songwriters. FYI: Real songwriters write original music and lyrics. Or original lyrics (lyricists). Or original music (composers.) With NO sampling. Got it? Good!

I'm especially missing my fellow Jersey girls Whitney Houston (Happy Belated Birthday!) and Lauryn Hill.

I swear, the minute these ladies get it together, any ticket sale record by Madonna or Barbra Steisand is out the window!

It's got
ten so bad that 90% of my playlist is "old school" - Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Stevie. Not that it's a bad thing - but I'd love to enjoy something new! I can barely hear something new now without thinking "Hey, they sampled _________."

I just thought I'd put it out there...


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Gay Husband Checklist

So, I found this article in the New York Times about the struggles of gay/bi-sexual men who are married to women. Now while I understand societal pressures and bias, I think it's pretty selfish for a man - or a woman for that matter - to drag another person into their madness. I'm sorry -in fact, no I'm not sorry - that I want to be more than just a "best friend" or "perfect co-parent" when I get married. Why should he get to have his cake and eat it too while I pop out babies to make him look good?

Please... I like cake too motherf**ker!

Now if that person goes into the situation knowingly, that's different. Some people absolutely do this and that is their business
(Be nice! I'm not naming names...), but apparently people are still getting suckered into sham unions. The article linked to two organizations that help the straight spouse cope in this situation. One site, Gay Husbands/Straight Wives, started by a woman who was once married to a gay man, has a checklist for women who may not know what to look for. I found the list interesting because some of the tips seem so obvious (He watches porno movies with gay scenes? He visits gay bars? Duh!) But then again, maybe it's not so obvious to everybody.

Personally, I've gotten some great tips from some gay men I know on what to look for - especially the good looking ones. I'm sorry, but they get hit on more - especially by alleged "straight" guys - so I think they know what they're talking about.

Here's the checklist from the site. What do you think of it?

GAY HUSBAND WB01372_.gif (406 bytes)LIST

You have a normal sexual appetite, but your mate thinks you have excessive sexual needs.

There is a decline of sexual activity early in your marriage.

Your husband is repulsed by normal sexual activity.

Your mate admits to having had more than two homosexual encounters.

Your husband reveals he's bisexual.

Your partner visits gay bars claiming he’s there only to hang out with his gay friend (s).

Your mate watches porno movies with gay male scenes.

Your mate makes continual homophobic comments.

Your partner’s ego appears to be boosted by compliments from gay men.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Damn, I'm A Hungry Girl!

No, seriously I'm starving here...

I've been trying to eat correctly while getting my black sweat on and I'm going a little crazy. Just a little bit...

Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a price to pay when you actually start doing what you're supposed to do to get the results you want. Oprah's trainer Bob Greene said on her show that when you get a little hungry late in the evening, that's when your body is burning fat (or something like that.) So that's what I'm thinking about around this time (11 pm to midnight) and later when I start avoiding my late night refrigerator trips, Bob said that when you get that "Hmmm, I'd like a little snack" feeling in your stomach, tha
t means that your body is burning calories...

Bob... you better be right man!

It doesn't help that my apartment is a SWEAT BOX! I can't afford my gym right now, so my treadmill and my FIRM step have had to do the job.

And it doesn't help that I'm still trying to finish my book. I can barely concentrate at home, so I've found myself using my school's facilities - and why not since I am paying through the nose to go there!

It does help that I'm not the only one
on the weight loss trail - Glib Gurl and Avin have chronicled their respective weight loss adventures too.

I've lost a lot of weight before - about 50 pounds in my early twenties that came roaring back the minute I hit my early thirties. Thankfully, I'm very toned - but I can do better. Besides, I'm pushing 40 and it's the wise thing to do. I want to be in good shape when I have children one day, I don't want to develop diabetes -- and I want to look Fabulous. Off the charts... Smashing.

Which reminds me, I need to rinse my mask off now. And finish my hair... and stay out of the refrigerator.