Whole30 Halfway Point!

HalfwayPointToday is Day 16 of my 30-day, Whole30 challenge so I am just a little over half way there! Has it been challenging? Yes. Can I finish this? Absolutely. The fact that I have been eating “whole food healthy” 75% of the time for the last handful of years has been my saving grace; this program is more of a temporary state of eliminating certain ingredients, additives, and foods which requires diligently reading labels, particularly when it comes to making sure all added sugars, both natural and artificial, have been keepgoingeliminated.  Read a few labels at the grocery store or take a look at your pantry…any product containing the word sugar, sucrose (along with anything ending in “crose” or “tose”), syrup, nectar, fruit/cane juice, honey, molasses, sorghum, aspartame, Equal, Nutra-Sweet, saccharin, Splenda, Stevia, Truvia, Sweet-n-Low, or a bunch of sugar alcohols (i.e. glycol, glycerol and anything ending in “ol”) is off limits. On top of that, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol, etc.

Rather than focusing on what I can’t eat, below is a quick snap shot of what I have been making from scratch and totally enjoying!  This entire experience has reminded me how much I do like to cook and I plan on doing that more often.  In addition, the sincere support of my family, friends, and co-workers has been invaluable.  Thank you so much!

spaghetti squashCreamy Tomato Basil Chicken over Spaghetti Squash (left) courtesy of my cousin Camilla Maybee’s website TGIPaleo.com

crabcakesCrab Cakes and Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup (left) courtesy of Jan’s Sushi Bar

tacosaladMexican Salad with homemade guacamole via  Whole9life

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And the Oscar Goes To….

oscarWell, I did it!  I saw every Oscar-nominated movie in contention for Best Picture prior to the airing of the Academy Awards.  Actually, this is the first time I have seen every movie nominated for best film for a specific year, period.  Wow! The Academy should award me with my own honorary Oscar but that isn’t going to happen. Nice to see that blogging really keeps me honest with achieving even the smallest goals so small victory for me!

amour_ver2_xlgHaving seen all nine movies nominated this year, which one should win and which one will win?  In my opinion, seven of the nine nominated movies were really good for a number of different reasons, making this guessing game very difficult. My mind toggles between three movies whereby I think one of them should win Best Picture. In no particular order, those three movies Argo Posterare: 1) Amour, 2) Argo, and 3) Django Unchained. As we all know, movies that should win don’t always win. I sincerely doubt the Oscar will go to Django Unchained due to “award politics” although the Academy did award Eminem the much deserved Best Original Song Oscar in 2003 for “Lose Yourself” (which I thought would never happen).  imagesWhich movie will win? My guess is Argo although I am not ruling out the dark horse Amour to possibly steal the award.  Also, Director Oscar should go to Ang Lee for Life of Pi although I suspect it might go to Spielberg for Lincoln.

While I haven’t seen every movie associated with Best Actor and Actress in Leading Roles, my quick two cents.

Actor in Leading Role:  Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) although make no mistake; Bradely Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) clearly demonstrated that he can act; also, I did not see Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in The Master and either one of these gents could pose an upset.

Actress in Leading Role: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour); yeah, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) was good but Riva was better.

There you have it; my picks for Oscar based on nothing other than my own opinion!

Movie 9: Les Miserables

les misBased on the historical novel written by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is a British musical taking place in 19th-century, post-revolutionary France that chronicles the life of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who breaks parole to make a new life for himself using a different identity. From there, the film spans over a course of 17 years, whereby Valjean vows to look after an employee’s daughter Cosette, all while evading the wrath of inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) and keeping his past a secret from Cosette. As a young woman, Cosette falls in love with Marius, a student of the revolution and Valjean decides to leave as he believes his presence endangers Cosette.

lesmis2Was this movie entertaining? Sort of.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of musicals and I knew that this movie would be a stretch for me. For the most part, the acting was pretty good. I was expecting to tag Anne Hathaway as over-rated but her performance was way better than I anticipated. Hugh Jackman was good but not outstanding enough to be in contention for Best Actor in a Leading Role.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were perfectly cast as the evil innkeepers and delivered entertaining performances.

lesmis3Did I think about the movie much afterwards? With the exception of the complete mis-casting of Russell Crowe as Javert, I did not think about the movie at all afterwards.  The move was long, long, long…what could be effectively expressed in a sentence was bellowed out in a song.  I know, I know, it is a musical.  I get it but, like I said, not my cup of tea.

lesmis4Would I see it again? No. Would I recommend it to others? It depends. If you liked or loved the stage version, I suggest you see this film. Chances are, you will enjoy it. If you did not like the stage version but do enjoy musicals, there is a 70% chance that you will like the movie more than the stage version. With that in mind, it is up to you to decide if you want to take the chance of falling in the 30% who will not like the movie version either. Finally, if you don’t like musicals or are indifferent about musicals, I suggest you pass as it is highly likely that you will not like the movie enough to spend $9 to see it. And ladies, DO NOT drag your boyfriend or husband to go see the movie with you, particularly if they don’t like musicals. They will not like the movie and you will gain more points by giving them a free pass to stay home.

Movie 8: Lincoln

lincolnLincoln is an American historical film dramatizing the president’s struggles with the ongoing Civil War and his decision to end slavery in the United States. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis (Abraham Lincoln), Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levit or 3rd Rock from the Sun fame (Robert Lincoln), James Spader (W.N. Bilbo), and Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens).  Just like all the other movies nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, was this movie entertaining, did it make me think and would I see it again and/or recommend it to others?

lincoln2As surprised as I am to say, I was very entertained watching this movie.  Despite the serious nature of the film, humor was interjected appropriately, making it fun to watch. On top of that, the way the story was told kept my interest which is a testament to Spielberg’s talents in using the camera to make the movie work.  Coming into the movie, you already know the outcome since it focuses on a historical event but to be able to make the viewer get engrossed, to me, is an indicator of a good movie.

lincoln3Did I think about the movie much afterwards? No, but it wasn’t designed to be that kind of movie so this isn’t a negative.  Would I see it again and/or recommend it to others?  I would probably see it again and would definitely recommend it to others.  Interestingly, this movie is long in terms of length but it did not feel like it while watching. Overall, this movie is simply delightful.

Whole30 “Ice Cream” that is Unbelievable!

If you haven’t heard, I am in the middle of my Whole30 program and dairy, amongst a few other things, has been temporarily eliminated from my diet. Thanks to my sister Bunki, I accessed a very easy ice cream recipe from that requires just one ingredient (frozen bananas!) to make something that tastes as close to ice cream as you can get without actually eating ice cream!  If you LOVE ice cream (and don’t despise bananas) but don’t want to ingest all the sugar, cream and/or fat, you really need to make this at home.

Here is what you need to do step-by-step:

1.  Cut a regular banana into 1/2 inch slices and place on a plate as show below:

icecream-start

2.  Place banana slices in the freezer for at least 2 hours

3.  Remove the bananas from the freezer; allow to slightly chill (5 minutes or so) and then place the frozen slices in a cuisinart.

icecream-step2

4. Start the cuisinart to cut up the banana.  Initially, the banana mixture will start to look like this:

icecream-patience

5.  Continue using the cuisinart to cut up the bananas; it will be necessary to stop the cuisinart, take off the lid, and use a rubber spatula to move the banana around only to re-start the process a few times.  BE PATIENT GRASSHOPPER because suddenly, the banana magically whips into a creamy, custard like concoction like so:

icecream-prestrawberry

6.  The banana “ice cream” is ready to eat unless you want to jazz it up by adding fresh strawberries or other berries (black berries, blueberries) and/or some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa.  Depending on the ripeness of the banana, the flavor will vary; although this is a Whole30 no-no, you can add a pinch of Truvia or Stevia to sweeten the ice cream up although I don’t think you need to.  Go ahead and stuff your face guilt free! Anything you don’t eat, stick in the freezer for later.

Banana w/cinnamon

Plain Banana w/cinnamon

With blended strawberries

Strawberry Banana

Movie 7: Beasts of the Southern Wild

beastsDirected by Benh Zeitlin (born and raised in New York City), Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantasy-drama of a devastated small little town and one six-year-old girl’s journey to overcome the associated challenges.  Quvenzhane Wallis, who is currently nine years of age, was only five years old when she auditioned for the role of the little girl in this movie. She is one of five actresses nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in this year’s Oscars, making her the youngest actress to ever receive that honor.  So, what is my take on this movie?

beasts-of-swEntertaining? Yes.  This movie is very different from most of the others which made it intriguing.  The artistry in the form of the photography and sound effects was well done.  Did this movie make me think after watching it? Yes, but not in the same way as Amour; Beasts of the Southern Wild offers a high-spirited message that New Releasesleft a smile on my face.  How much I will think about the movie tomorrow or the next day I am not sure but it is a movie I would see again and one that I would recommend most to see in hopes that they at least enjoy the film.  Available for rental via redbox.com and others, you can watch this movie from home if you wish but I decided to see it in a theater to be consistent across all the nominated movies I will go see.

Movie 6: Amour

amour_ver2_xlgWritten and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, Amour is a French-language drama about a retired couple’s experiences during a time where their bond of love is tested by a family situation. Jean-Louis Trintignant (who plays the husband) and Emmanuelle Riva (who plays the wife) put in believable and beautiful performances that are Oscar-worthy.  Note, Riva is up for Best Actress in a Leading Role whereas Trintignant was not nominated in either the Leading or in a Supporting role.

I went into this movie knowing nothing other than I knew I would need to read subtitles. Was it entertaining? Yes.  Did I think much about the movie Amour-Jean-Louis-Trintignantafterwards? Yes. Even if you don’t like the movie, some of the thought-provoking scenes should make you wonder (or actually think) a little bit. Would I recommend it to others?  Yes, assuming you appreciate foreign films and realize that the action isn’t comparable to “Die Hard 37”.  Keep in mind that I am not guaranteeing that you will like the movie; nevertheless, it is worth a shot to give this movie a try if you are the least bit curious.