Saturday, July 23, 2016

CHOPPED


I love to watch CHOPPED.  My husband (who does not care for the show) just rolls his eyes, because every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I'm setting the DVR to record any unfamiliar episodes.  CHOPPED is a perfect show to watch on the small TV on the counter, while I'm working in the kitchen.

DURIAN
I've learned much from CHOPPED - many professional terms, dishes, and ingredients that were unfamiliar.  That's where I learned that meat is supposed to rest before serving it, or what an aioli is (a garlicky mayonnaise), or many other cooking terms.  In China, I recognized several items that had been used on CHOPPED, such as durian, a very stinky fruit!.  (People in the Chinese Wal-Mart would inspect the durian carefully, and then put several in their basket.  I sneaked a sniff of one after the other people were left.  It smelled terrible.)

The format of the show is sound.  It doesn't resort to crazy premises  to put itself across to the public.  It's a straightforward cooking competition in which the contestants are given baskets of required ingredients, usually very disparate, to include in their dishes.  One contestant (four start the show) is chopped in each of three rounds, leaving one $10,000 winner standing at the end.

CHOPPED has changed some from the early episodes, when the focus of the editing and judging appeared to focus on catching the "snarky moment."  Now it seems to be more solid in just judging the cooking.  And that is how the show is definitely NOT politically correct.  Age, color, gender, do not seem to matter in which chefs win and which are chopped.  And usually the judges do seem to make sound, objective decisions.

The creativity of the chefs is interesting to watch.  It's unbelievable how some of them can do so well at creating dishes from such disparate ingredients, which have gotten weirder in recent seasons.

It's a little disconcerting the way many contestants try to use a "gimmick" to sway the judges (who do not, however, appear to succumb to that).  Cancer survival, loss of a family member, "make my (parents, husband, children, boss, etc.) proud of me," are just a few of the pegs used by some of the chefs.  And some seem to depend on winning this show to define their existence, or to decide whether to continue as chefs, or to even determine their worthiness at life.  I find that to be sad.  It is a cooking competition.  If a parent or child or boss or whoever loses their pride in someone because he or she loses a contest, then something is very wrong.  Just cook, and win or lose, and accept the consequences graciously.

Which brings up another point.  Even the cockiest of contestants during the actual cooking, if he (and it's usually a he) leaves with a gracious spirit, leaves with a good impression made on the viewers.  And the ones who act like they were way too worthy to be chopped, do not leave the viewers with charitable views toward them.

And finally, as in so many areas of life, the principle of "words written on their hearts" (Romans 2) carries through here.  The prideful, arrogant contestants usually end up doing something foolish or being chopped for some reason.  The ones with a more humble spirit often end up winning.  The disrespectful contestants obviously raise the ire of the judges.  People know what is right and wrong even if they do not acknowledge it outwardly, and it comes out even on a television show.

So, I love CHOPPED, and its spin-off program, CHOPPED JUNIOR.  And will continue to watch it, and learn from it, and enjoy it.





Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday's Fave Five, 7/22/16

 LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Last Sunday my dear friend and I took off for Savannah on a 3-day trip.  We got a good deal for a hotel right on the river.  This was our view!  Watching the cargo ships go by was really a treat-- Sometimes it seemed like they were going to come right into our room.

Another view from our room without the cargo ship in view.  The bridge in the background was beautiful also.

2. We took a trolley ride - the only way to see Savannah if you've never been.  Well worth the money. And then later in the afternoon we took a river cruise, up to the port and down the river almost to the mouth of the ocean.  This pic is from the deck of the boat with our hotel in the background.


3. And you can't go to Savannah without driving out to Tybee Island.  This is one of my favorite spots there -- it's not really visible in this picture, but this beach is on the south edge, right where one of the many rivers meets the ocean.  It is a beautiful sight, and different from just seeing ocean.

4. Safe trip back after a couple of great days.  

5. On Thursday morning, when Mike was off, we got up and went out to a new place to look at some of the birds.  We saw at least a dozen great egrets, as well as an unusual new bird - a little blue heron that is changing from a juvenile to an adult.  Those are usually found at the coast, and not in our parts, so eBird flagged it as a rarity.  Then this morning we returned there and took my mom also.  I got this pic with my new camera at quite a distance.
A Little Blue Heron 
And got this pic as well.  I thought it looked a little "arty" with the birds and their reflections.
I love my new camera!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday's Fave Five, 7/8/16


LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Working on camera distance shots - Tuesday morning Mike and I got up early and went to a couple of our nature "haunts"--and I got to try out my new camera.  I probably need to work a little more on closer shots first, but these were taken with the 40x zoom at a couple of locations nearby.  The redheaded woodpecker shot is my favorite - and unfortunately could have been even better because there were TWO of them, just a couple of posts apart, but just keeping the camera steady to get a picture of one of them was difficult enough.  




2. A family dinner.  Son and new wife, and my folks, were here for a summer supper Tuesday night.  Chicken on the grill and lots of fresh vegetables.  I love summer food.

3. A cool house on a hot day.  More important than it may seem!!  Our temps have been in the 90s all week and today are predicted to be close to 100.

4. Ebay.  I'm not a big seller, but just keep an eye out for textbooks that can be purchased mainly by homeschoolers.  It's a way to keep my personal Paypal built up for my own "fun money" and purchases.  I have a lot of textbooks - collected from various sources - but, surprisingly, they haven't been selling very well.  Usually new workbooks, that match various high school textbooks, sell like hotcakes, but it's been slow.  I surmised that maybe after the 4th of July holiday it would pick up, and it has.  Been selling about one set per day.  And the Paypal is building up!!

5. My sister, who has been job-searching for several months, got an offer this week that she is happy about and has accepted.  I am happy for her!!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Romans 2 and Macarthur

Romans 1 & 2 are so full of good theology that they could be studied for months.

Romans 2:2-3:  "And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and who do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?"

The first part refers to the gross sins mentioned in the last half of Romans 1.  But the second part refers to those who have not committed those kind of sins, but who sit in judgment on those who do, as from a moralistic "I am better than you" way of thinking.

Macarthur remarks, on p. 115 of his Romans 1-8 commentary:

"Men are so used to God's blessings and mercy that they take them for granted, not realizing that they receive those things purely because of God's long-suffering and grace.  God would be perfectly just to blot out any person or all persons.  But human nature trades on God's grace, believing that everything will work out all right in the end because God is too good and merciful to send anyone to hell.  As someone astutely observed, 'There is some kind of a still little voice in everybody that constantly convinces them that in the end it's going to be OK.'  That little voice speaks from a person's fallen nature, which constantly seeks to justify itself.

"Paul sternly warns against such false confidence.  Although he was conscious of no specific unconfessed sin in his life, even he knew better than to rely on his imperfect human judgment, declaring, 'I am not by this acquitted' but the one who examines me is the Lord' (I Cor. 4:3-4).  He knew that every person's discernment is hopelessly distorted and cannot make a proper evaluation even of his own spiritual health, much less that of someone else."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Other Than Puffins

Well - we actually did a lot more on our trip last week than take a puffin cruise.  Here are a few pics for those who are interested.

We spent the first night at the home of my old college roommate, Brenda, and family.  I hadn't seen her in 30 years.  They have a large and comfortable apartment above the church where her husband is a pastor, and we had a very nice 18 hours with them.

Border crossing into Canada.  So everything seems to be going fine - and then the officer in the cubicle announces that we have been randomly selected for a search.  Only 2-3% of people get chosen for that.  Of course we would be one of the small percentage.  We had to wait inside while an officer with gloves on went through everything in the car, including luggage, very carefully and thoroughly.

This is apparently the resident pheasant at the Inn at Whale Cove on Grand Manan Island.  We saw him several times, and saw a female with a chick also.  We were walking out of the dining room our first night there, and heard a huge commotion and rustling of feathers - he had been in the weedy area close by, when apparently we startled him!  Hadn't seen a pheasant in 30 years.

Mike got this beautiful picture of our view, early one morning.  At the time, my view was of the top side of a pillow.

This was like the "icing on the cake," seeing this beautiful bird while waiting on the ferry to leave Grand Manan.  This was taken with my new camera - the eagle is actually quite some distance away.  I've got to practice taking zoom photos, because holding the camera steady for distance shots is not easy to do.

Leaving the harbor at Grand Manan.  Not sure what those poles in the water are - we saw them in several places.

We had to take photos here, at the easternmost point of the U.S.  True confession time: we didn't go on into the town, just took our pictures and then turned around.  :-)

View from the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel balcony at our room.

This was quite the experience.  The Big Chicken Barn was a huge, huge building - this picture only shows about 3/5 of the length.  The entire first floor is antique stalls, and the entire second floor is books, magazines, and prints.  I wanted to stop.  Mike grudgingly said he'd go in also, but he knew he'd be ready to go before I was.  Which one of us do you think spent the most time awaiting the other one?

Looking straight ahead, as far as possible, is one-half of the books floor.

And the same is true for the antiques floor.

Not really sure when Mike took this picture, but we saw so much water, and so many boats, in Maine that it could be just about anywhere.

I could move to Maine!!  (I've been informed that we should visit in the winter sometime before making that "blanket" {pun intended} statement.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday's Fave Five, 7/1/16

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog.

1. Wonderful trip to Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, and Maine.  The puffin cruise, last Saturday, is written about in detail here.  And in a day or two, as time allows, I will post more pictures of the other parts of our trip.  This is one of the pictures taken on Machias Seal Island with my new camera.  So pleased with the quality.

2. Lots of lobster!  I informed Mike that I planned to eat lobster every day.  And that promise worked out.  I can't get enough of the stuff.  This is a half-eaten "lazy lobster" meal.  Meaning - the staff picked it out of the shell and all I had to do was eat it.  This was our last meal in Maine, so I decided to do it up right.

 3. The view from our cottage on Grand Manan Island.  That is an inlet off the Bay of Fundy.  We could see the ferry as it crossed back and forth several times a day.

4. Southwest Airlines.  Their philosophy of travel is different, and it shows.  First of all, our fares were unbelievable - TWO tickets for a total of $408.  That's round trip, and the good price on the fare was the main reason we were able to take this trip.  

Then, when our flight from Baltimore to Manchester, NH, was canceled due to weather, we were able to re-route into Portland, ME, which was actually closer, and was a through flight on the plane we were already on.  However, our luggage was already checked through to go to Manchester, where it would have gone on a later flight.  Mike talked to a flight attendant, who talked to the pilot, about keeping our luggage on the plane.  During the stop in Baltimore, we could see out our window the pilot talking to the luggage crew and making sure our luggage was not put on the transfer cart.  Now that is service!!

Furthermore, on Monday morning, a reservations clerk named Rita helped us to get an earlier flight on the return trip.  There was no fee to change the reservation, and she was able to honor our original fare.

That's the way airlines ought to serve their customer base.

5. Home Sweet Home - Trips are great, and coming home is even better.

And that is my Friday's Fave Five from a very good week!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Machias Seal Island & A Morning With Puffins



Machias Seal Island is located about 10 miles off the Maine coast in one direction, and 10 miles off the coast of Grand Manan Island in the other.  Grand Manan is part of New Brunswick, Canada, and is about twelve miles long and maybe 5 miles wide.

There are two tour companies who are permitted to bring tourists to Machias Seal Island.  One is out of Cutler, ME, and the other is Sea Watch Tours, which operates out of Grand Manan and which we took a puffin cruise with last Saturday.  Each company can bring 15 tourists, six days a week, during puffin nesting season.  The Maine cruise is booked until next spring, which is why we were brave and adventurous, and went with the Grand Manan cruise.  It too is mostly filled; however, because of the extra effort needed to get to Grand Manan, and for Americans to get across the border, it does have a few openings.  We happened to snag two of them.

Machias Seal Island is actually a disputed territory, and has been for over a hundred years.  Both Canada and the U.S. want it - not so much for the actual island, but for the valuable fishing beds around it.  Apparently both countries have adopted a "live and let live" attitude toward the place, but the sea captain indicated that it could possibly re-erupt at some point.

During the nesting season, several biology researchers live on the island.  Lighthouse keepers also live there, year-round.  Two keepers alternate in four-week blocks.

Lighthouse on Machias Seal Island
Thousands of seabirds nest on Machias Seal Island every year.  While the puffins are best known, just as many razorbills and common murres build nests there.  All of those birds are members of the auk family.  The nests are deep in the rocks, unseen.  The pairs take turns sitting on the nests while the second member of each pair stays above ground and also goes to sea to catch food.  However, arctic terns build nests right on the ground.  In fact, there were several nests very near the area where we were oriented to the island.  And those terns make sure that their babies are protected.  Anyone who goes to close runs the risk of being dive-bombed by an angry tern!  That makes it difficult to go to and from the boat, as several nests are located close to the boardwalk.

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If you have read this far, and are not bored yet, the following is my journal record, as written on the plane ride back, of this memorable day for Mike and me:

Saturday, 6/25/16 - Up at 5:00 to prepare for the main event of this trip - the puffin cruise.  The captain's wife had said on the phone that we should dress warmly.  I added Mike's long johns and hoodie to my other clothes.  We collected binoculars, cameras, and guidebook, and headed out.  

Rose and Pop's convenience store was the first stop, for breakfast biscuits.  There are very few places to get an early breakfast on this island.  The biscuits were OK.  They were in a cooler and had to be warmed in the microwave.  They were similar to Egg McMuffins.  Then on to Seal Harbor and Sea Watch Tours!



We parked at the harbor and made our way down the steep metal ramp. Several people were already on the boat.  It was an unusual combination of people - One lady we called the "African Explorer" because she was so decked out in expedition clothing and boots.  She was one of several people who brought massive camera outfits, that they had to work on getting set up, throughout the 1 1/2 hour trip to Machias Seal Island.



As we approached the island, birds were everywhere - puffins as well as other sea birds we didn't yet recognize.  They all looked so small, floating on the open ocean.  



Getting on the island was not easy.  We each had to transfer from the boat to a 15-foot skiff, which had to be used for three trips to relay everyone to shore.  Once there, each person had to transfer to the walkway, which was covered in wet seaweed.  I had to go first, and was relieved that it went just fine.  But everyone had to be extra careful not to slide down that seaweed.  And as we walked up the boardwalk, we were dive-bombed by Arctic terns whose nests were in the grassy areas on either side. They were serious about protecting those nests.



We were taken to an orientation, held in a small picnic table area, and reminded that to be on Machias Seal Island to see the puffins close up was a privilege, not a right.  The first mate on the boat, who served as the host, reminded us that he was authorized to remove anyone who did not follow the guidelines.  The longer we remained on the island, the more we realized what a privilege it truly was.
Waiting and orientation area.  Boat out at left.

Then he split us up into groups of 3-4 to go into the blinds.  He had been talking to us on the boat, and must have liked us, because aside he said he would see to it that we didn't get in a blind with someone who had one of those huge camera outfits (which because of their size can completely ruin the experience for other watchers).  And he kept his word.

So we were divided into our blinds groups, and were taken along wooden walkways to the blinds, which were tiny wooden sheds with wooden windows that could be raised on all four sides.  Four people could fit inside.  Barely.  There were no places, or room, to sit.  We were paired with Fran├žois and Isabelle, a very nice French-Canadian couple.


One of the blinds at left.

As soon as we were in the blinds, the door hooked shut, and some of the windows pushed up, the show began.

Mike and I agree that this was by far the best experience we have had in thirty years of birding together.  Puffins were everywhere, as were razorbills and common murres.  They were at a distance; and they were also as close as 3-4 feet away.  They would run across the metal roof to the blind, and then would jump down to the rocks directly in front of us.  They would do a running take-off every time they flew.  They came so close that we could see individual feathers and could have reached out and grabbed some of them.



This show continued for an hour and a half - a ninety minute period that felt like ten.  It was an incredible experience, and I do not use that word lightly.  No painting of puffins, no cute little drawings, or stuffed animals, or any memento of puffins, came anywhere close to the opportunity to see them in the wild, in the close proximity that we were to them.


video









A Razorbill.  No, not a puffin, but impressive in its own right.





Great Black-Backed Gull also on the island.  Gulls are not appreciated too much as they like to turn baby puffins into lunch.  Most gulls are the common herring gull type; this one is more unusual and was the only one I saw out there.
After the ninety minutes were up, we were escorted back to the picnic area to wait for all the group to come out.  By this time the boat from the American side had arrived and needed to get in our blinds.  We also had to wait awhile for the tide to come up, to make the transfer to skiff and then the boat easier.

The lighthouse keeper came out to talk with us.  We also met one of the summer researchers.

There was so much to see even when not in the blinds.  The thousands of birds around and on the island could still be easily seen.  The arctic terns nested all over the island, some so close to us that we could see their chicks.  There was a porta-potty close by; however, a tern nest was close to it, so someone had to "go" very badly to risk the attack.


Arctic tern, with fish for the babies, right next to the outhouse!!  It is perched on the rib bone of a whale.  

We added the Atlantic puffin, common murre, razorbill, Arctic tern, and northern gannet to our life lists.  We're also adding the black guillemot, because we did get a brief look at a pair of them flying.




After transferring back to the boat, the captain took us around the island, and also to another one called North Rock, which was covered with seals.  They were interesting to see, but after the experience with the birds, that was not very exciting.







Mike spent a good bit of time on the trip back talking with the captain, and then with the first mate about hunting.  So he was well occupied.  I just enjoyed the surf, and the ocean birds, and seeing Maine on one side, Grand Manan on the other, and open ocean off in the distance.

We disembarked, saying goodbye to the new friends who had shared this wonderful experience, and returned to the Inn at Whale Cove.  We were in awe of the experience we had just participated in, and very grateful for the opportunity to experience God's marvelous creation in a new and beautiful way.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Two Years Ago Today

Andrew put this picture on Facebook this morning - it popped up on his feed as a memory from two years ago.  Apparently I landed in Beijing on June 20, and this is the selfie he took.  He wrote:

After 3 reroutes and about 36 hours, my mother finally made it to beijing!(I was asked to qualify that she had been traveling all day before this picture Welcome to china Ann Klopfenstein Bailes!
That was an incredible trip.  There is a verse in Lamentations 3, paraphrased, "My eye affects my heart."  That certainly happened to me with this trip.

Yes, seeing the Great Wall of China was a great experience.



So was seeing Tienamen Square and the huge government buildings in downtown Beijing.  I really appreciated our missionary hosts who took a detour to that area just so I could see it all.


But what I really appreciated about this trip was seeing China - regular, everyday Chinese people in everyday situations that no average tourist would ever see.

Sights such as the employees of the restaurant right in front of Andrew's residence building, taking a Sunday afternoon break to cook "chuar" (barbecue).  This was my very first day in his city.

Sights such as the "dumpling lady" who had a little booth on the street.  She knew Andrew well and was glad to see us coming.  

Sights such as a dumpling party with some of his students in the home of a teacher at his university.

Sights such as delivering a small afghan made by women here in Anderson, to a "sister" there who would really appreciate the gift and the expression of Christian unity that it expressed.

And sights such as this one - the street outside Andrew's residence.  That street has probably made the biggest impact on me.  It is so regular, so normal.  Chinese residents living Chinese life in a remote part of the world (to us).


video
My eye affected my heart.  Two years ago starting today.