I returned to my workout this morning, employing jumping-jacks, push-ups, sit-ups and weight-lifting in an effort to fight stress and get in shape. I especially made sure I did this today because I already knew how my day would end. More on that later. But first, after my workout, I dropped off another eBay sale at the post office, picked up the donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer and bought a couple of items at Wal-Mart that I needed in order to repair a hose at the dog park. I then dropped off the donations with food ministry organizer Karen and caught up with a friend I had told you about last week, who decided he desired to take our relationship to the next level…

After having sweet nothings whispered in my ear, I arrived back home and finally addressed the eBay bidder who, as I told you yesterday, was trying to abuse the site’s buyer protection program as a way to get a discount on shipping. I called his bluff, offering to allow him to return the item – at his expense – and he quickly changed his tune. I held off on eating breakfast and instead went to the dog park to perform a few chores, including riding around again on that miniature tractor…

I also filled a few holes the dogs had dug, repaired the hose and sprayed down a section of the artificial turf with water. I then returned home and watched “The Chew,” which again did not feature any recipes I wanted to try out for myself (I am sorry Katherine Heigl but your German potato salad looks about as bland and boring as your acting), and finally ate something – another plate of the delectable chili spaghetti I had made that resembles the delicious dish beautiful Cincinnatians are fortunate enough to to enjoy at Skyline Chili…

Speaking of food, don’t forget to add this Friday’s freebie – Annie’s Natural Macaronie and Cheese – to your Fry’s/Kroger account. I not only added it to my account but I also took the liberty of adding it to the accounts of the people I love so that they, too, can enjoy free cheesy goodness. Anyway, later I watched “Days of Our Lives,” listed a couple of more items for sale on eBay and troubleshooted some printer problems before finally heading out for today’s main event – the Friday fish fry at the Roadrunner…

Forget the flashbacks I had to last Saturday’s birthday/anniversary party during which I ate (and drank) entirely too much, I was ready to put my feed-bag on and go hog wild. I met family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary, who were the ones who so generously invited me out to this Friday night feast, and we waited for our fish to fry. My stomach was growling as I grew impatient but there was never a dull moment as I was entertained by Gary’s outspoken observations, which included a busty older woman in teenager’s clothing. Before I knew it, our food had arrived…

One of the worst feelings in the world is, after initially looking at a basket of three pieces of fish and thinking you’re going to at least eat two more baskets, realizing that your stomach can only accommodate five pieces total. I haven’t yet decided if that is progress or if I should be disappointed in myself, but one thing is for sure – the fish was delish. I had placed a piece of fish and a French fry in my empty cole claw container for my pet duck Frozen but the server threw it out when I briefly excused myself from the table to use the restroom. However, after explaining the situation to the server, she brought me my very own ducky bag… well, ducky box to be exact…

That was very kind of Brittany and an extremely cute gesture. My mom was quick to inquire about her relationship status, volunteering my availability, but Brittany has a boyfriend. Before I say goodnight, I should remind you to tune in to Breakthrough Entertainment’s Earth Day Special 10-11 a.m. PST tomorrow (Saturday, April 22) on KPHX 1480 AM, featuring an interview with Kara Fujita Jovic, creative and managing director of the Hawaii Film Challenge. If you are not in Phoenix, you can access a live audio stream on KPHX1480.com or on the KPHX 1480 mobile app. Additionally, you can check out our live in-studio audio/video feeds on host Dave Isaac’s Facebook Live and on Stream.Live/BreakRadioShow.

Tales from the Critic

I didn’t work out this morning. I needed to but I didn’t. I woke up with every intention of doing so but Internet trolls – no, not the cute ones with the big, colorful hair who sing and dance to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” in my favorite animated movie of last year but ugly-hearted, mean-spirited creeps – decided to attack me overnight on a forum where I shared my poor Century Link experience and I had to try to defend myself. I also had to tend to a few unpaid item cases on eBay. Why in the world do so many people bid on items only to later vanish from the face of the earth? That is not a hypothetical question. I would really like an answer.

Anyway, after all of that, I quickly bathed and then headed out to pick up donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer. By the way, did you know that they have Unicorn Frappuccinos at Starbucks? Well, they did. After one day, they have vanished like those aforementioned eBay bidders. I also ran into Wal-Mart to buy whole corn for my chickens before arriving back at home to eat breakfast – some salad. Shortly thereafter, my internet connection went down, proving that whatever “fixes” were employed yesterday did not work. I texted the Century Link tech, carefully choosing my words so that I did not get barked at again, and a while later he said he would bring by a new modem and build a new line from my house to the central office.

Working with an intermittent connection, I quickly went to work to book a guest for Breakthrough Entertainment’s Earth Day Special. Unfortunately, the timing was just not going to work out with the filmmakers of that documentary I had told you about yesterday so I reached out to the publicist for the Hawaii Film Challenge and, a short time later, I confirmed creative director Kara Fujita Jovic for Saturday’s show. I then walked to the dog park to continue to work on the “foxtail” situation and attempt to please people who clearly should never have moved to the desert because their expectations are entirely unrealistic. Nonetheless, I rode around and around on a miniature tractor…

After becoming a bit dizzy doing that, I used a hose to spray down the artificial turf with water and performed a few other tasks around the park for a couple of hours before returning home to watch “The Chew” which, once again, did not feature any recipes that I was enticed enough to try out for myself (although who doesn’t want maple bacon cupcakes). But I still have a stack of previously features recipes that I intend to try – including Cleveland baked beans and grilled German potato salad. I may even make some Swedish meatballs. However, I have already found a winner in the chili spaghetti (ala Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili) I whipped up yesterday and enjoyed again today for lunch…

After lunch, I watched “Days of Our Lives” and, since my Internet was still down, simply relaxed. Because I had basically blown my diet between last weekend’s birthday/anniversary and Easter parties and that mouth-watering chili spaghetti, I decided I may as well also enjoy a few Strawberry Nut M&M’s…

My Internet briefly reconnected a couple of times – just long enough for me to check e-mail – but, for the most part, I was disconnected from the outside world. (I am old school and do not have a mobile device with data service – just a slider keyboard phone for calling and texting.) After a while, two Century Link techs arrived and worked on my line, one at my house and the other on a telephone pole in the distance…

I do not know exactly what they did but I saw a bunch of wires being moved around and some copper being snipped. I was also given a new modem, just to cover all of our bases, and a wish of good luck for my connection to remain permanently stable – or at least stable through the weekend since both techs are off until Monday. I then set up my new modem and rewarded myself with a half of a pomegranate…

Once I had consumed my pomegranate (and my shirt was sufficiently splattered with sticky red pomegranate juice), I got to work on all of my Internet tasks that I had had to put on the back burner all day due to my disconnection from the rest of the world. One of these tasks was tending to an eBay bidder who won an item – a Ghost Face action figure from “Scream” – and left positive feedback only to later decide he wanted me to refund his shipping costs due to the plastic peeling off of the cardboard backing (even though I had clearly stated that in the item description). I have not yet decided how I want to deal with his blatant scheme to get away with a discount but I alleviated my aggravation with a Thomas’ Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffin…

It tasted… like a buttered buttermilk pancake slathered with maple syrup. The bacon bits were there but the bacon flavor was not. But the best parts were that the mouth-feel was amazing (ok, that sounds at least a little weird) and the aftertaste was authentic to the experience of gobbling up a plate of pancakes. I finished my day with the most recent episode of “Big Brother Canada” and using my writing skills to help a dear friend of mine prepare a very important speech.

Tales from the Critic

I did not sleep very well last night at all. I just generally feel like a failure. And, based on everyone on Earth yelling at me lately – from strangers in the Fry’s parking lot and old men in Kohl’s to dog park members and Starbucks employees – I would venture to go with my gut and say that my feeling is fact. So I crawled out of bed with my head hung low and printed shipping labels for a few items I had sold on eBay before working out. I then walked to the dog park and yanked a few brittlebush (encelia farinosa) out of the ground before picking up donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer and finding a familiar friend…

See, two weeks ago, I had spotted that little guy and tried to take a video of him skittering across the sidewalk. My mom warned me that he may be a stink bug and, if so, could spray me with his stench at any moment. I then felt something slap my arm and screamed like a little girl only to later realize that it had just been a bush that the bag I was carrying got caught on before springing back and hitting me. After apologizing to the little guy for screaming in his ears during that earlier incident, I dropped off the eBay sales at the post office and stopped at Ace Hardware, where I saw seeds for veggies that I would love to grow at home (but lack the green thumb to truly do so)…

I made a stop back at home to eat breakfast – the rest of the Subway sandwich I had gotten from family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary yesterday – and noticed that my internet connection had gone down. I have been experiencing intermittent connection issues for the past two or three months but a few weeks ago I finally made contact with a Century Link tech who assured me he would tend to the issue until it was solved. He had given me his business card and invited me to call and/or text him whenever my internet was down. So I sent him a simple text, telling him that my connection had dropped and then headed off to Wal-Mart to get garlic, kidney beans and finely shredded cheddar cheese for a recipe I would be making for lunch. I also found these – Thomas’ Limited Edition (6 weeks only) Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins…

When I got back home, the internet was still down and my modem had racked up 200+ link train errors so I sent the Century Link tech another text. I chopped some onions and did some other prep work for my recipe. After another 200+ link train errors, I decided to call the Century Link tech to see if he was even on-duty today because, if not, I may as well call someone else – especially since my intermittent connection issues appeared to have progressed to persistent connection issues. It was then that I was yelled at by yet another person, as the tech told me he is “a working man” and “can’t drop everything to help me” because he has “a supervisor he has to make happy.”

Why was I not born a cat? I mean, I could have just not been born at all but had I been born a cat everyone would love me. Sure, I may get a finger wagged at me or a mollifying lecture every once in a while if I couldn’t make it to the litter box in time, but at least nobody would yell at me. Better yet, my owner would never be disappointed in me and would love me unconditionally because I would not be expected to do anything except sit on her lap. And my tiny heart would never be broken by the knowledge that, as a person, I will never be good enough or amount to anything – at least anything worthy of love anyway. Then again, if I were born a cat, I would not be able to cook. After all, have you ever seen a cat try to wrap its paw around a wooden spoon – which is exactly what I needed to do to make my very special lunch…

I began with two pounds of ground beef, which I started to brown in two tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I then added one minced yellow onion and two mined cloves of garlic and continued to brown the beef until cooked through. After that, I added 1/4 cup of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, one teaspoon of ground cumin and one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and allowed the spices to toast. Then I added two cups of crushed tomatoes, four cups of V8 vegetable juice, one tablespoon of coco powder, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, two tablespoons of sherry vinegar and another sprinkle of salt and pepper.

While I allowed that mixture to simmer for three hours, I began troubleshooting my internet issues, plugging my modem into other electrical outlets, connecting my modem directly to the phone box outside my house and trying a new “plan B” modem I had on standby for situations such as these. None of this made a difference, of course, because the problem resides somewhere outside my home on the line or at Century Link’s central office. However, suddenly my connection was restored – just as the tech arrived. He had cut the line down the road to run a test and that jump-started it and brought life back to my internet. He informed me that he would be having another tech make some adjustments in the central office since this restoration of my connection was only temporary. Since my lunch was still simmering, I then enjoyed some chicken salad and broccoli salad that I had gotten on the discount shelf at Wal-Mart…

After that, I boiled some spaghetti and drained a can of kidney beans while watching two episodes of “The Chew” – yesterday’s and today’s. None of the recipes were particularly “print-worthy” but they did make me crave grilled mortadella and a patty melt with sauerkraut. I also would not mind making what they dubbed the world’s best baked ziti. But by then my lunch was ready. I placed some spaghetti on a dish, poured some of the mixture I had made on top, garnished that with layers of kidney beans chopped onions and finely shredded cheddar cheese and I was finally able to enjoy fresh, homemade chili spaghetti – just like the kind they sell at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati, Ohio…

It was absolutely superb and fit for an anniversary meal. I cannot wait to make it for my wife one day. Believe me, when I get married, the love of my life is going to eat really well. After all, making sure she enjoys delicious homemade meals three times a day is the least I can do in exchange for her agreeing to put up with someone so… unloveable for the rest of her life. Anyway, after lunch I listed a couple of more items for sale on eBay while continuing to catch up on “Days of Our Lives.” I also reached out to the publicist for an Earth Day-themed documentary titled “Tomorrow” with the hope that one of its directors might be able to join us on Breakthrough Entertainment’s Earth Day Special.

I finished my day by watching the two most recent episodes of “Big Brother Canada,” one of which was a double-eviction during which Sarah… I mean Emily… and Neda were sent packing, and enjoying a slice of cake I had brought home from the birthday/anniversary party I attended on Saturday and saved for today – the 19th of the month…

By the way, I have a very important question for you. And I want you to remember this moment because it is one that will forever change your life. Ready for it? OK… What is your favorite pizza topping?

Tales from the Critic

I stayed up late last night, making sure I was available for a friend of mine who needed someone to talk to. Sacrificing sleep is a small price to pay to ensure the people we love can receive comfort during troubling times. No one should ever feel alone – especially in life’s lowest moments – and I hope that my friends know that they can always count of me to lend an ear and offer a few consoling words. After all, when someone’s entire world is turned upside-down, they need to know that there is at least one constant in their galaxy. And I promise to always be that constant because my sun, my moon, every star in my sky and every planet in my solar system means more to me than anyone will ever truly be able to comprehend.

Even after that friend of mine drifted off to sleep, I continued to toss and turn, perhaps because my heart told my mind to remain on alert in case they suddenly needed me again. Once morning arrived, I worked out while watching “The Amazing Race” before bathing, shaving, picking up donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer and dropping off a few more boxes filled with items I had sold on eBay at the post office. I also took a short stroll around the dog park, assessing the “foxtail” situation after having received an e-mail from a member who I have decided just enjoys being a squeaky wheel. Too bad you can’t just spray WD-40 on annoying people. Or can you?

Sadly, the answer to that question is “no” so after I ate some breakfast – leftover grilled corn and roasted garlic soup with meatballs – I spent some time at the dog park, raking “foxtails” in the sun until I felt woozy from dehydration. Don’t worry, if I had passed out I am almost sure that the squeaky wheel wouldn’t have let her dog defecate on my face. She may have even kicked me off to the side so that I didn’t get trampled on. Maybe. Anyway, I grabbed a bottle of water back at home and chugged it before driving to the home of family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary to help them move some furniture in exchange for an oven roasted chicken sandwich from Subway, which I promptly consumed once back at home…

After lunch, I prepared three new eBay listings featuring “Anastasia” action figures while continuing to catch up on “Days of Our Lives.” A little later I heated up the nacho cheese I had gotten at Fuddruckers last week and dipped a couple of tortilla chips in it as an afternoon snack. At some point, someone informed me of a green moon occurring on Thursday, April 20 – a phenomenon that supposedly only happens every 420 years – but a quick fact-check later revealed this to be nothing more than marijuana propaganda. In other words, it’s a hoax, folks.

Nonetheless, looking at the same moon that someone else is looking at on the other side of the country can be a very special experience. It demonstrates that even though the miles may be many, two hearts can be feeling the exact same thing at the exact same time. As such, if the heart of someone we love is hurting, our heart hurts as well. That is why it is important to always keep our loved ones in our thoughts and prayers and, whenever possible, keep mementos of them nearby when they are far away so that we never forget who has our heart…

Tales from the Critic

Waking up on the day after Easter is always at least a little difficult. That is because, for people – like myself – who love holidays, the realization that there is a 3-month wait until the next one can be a bit overwhelming. The nearby existence of second-tier holidays Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter make the hangover from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve bearable. But once Easter has come and gone, there really is not much to look forward to until Independence Day. Sure, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day give us a reason to celebrate our parents and Memorial Day kicks off a series of summer BBQs and pool parties, but, for the most part, our costumes and decorations have to go back into storage for a little while as life resumes its normal monotony.

Speaking of which, after waking up and enjoying a cup of coffee, I stepped on the scale and discovered that I had gained 3 lbs. I was unsurprised by this since I had over-indulged on pulled pork sandwiches and lasagna all weekend. Even Saturday night’s purge could not save me from this inevitable fate. Still, sometimes I wonder if I should just starve myself. After all, it is getting too hot for me to wear the single pair of jeans I fit in at the moment. Anyway, I worked out while watching “The Amazing Race” and then got to work on packing several items that had sold on eBay the day before, including a few more pieces of Goosebumps memorabilia.

I then headed out to pick up the donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer and drop off the eBay sales that had been paid for at the post office before making a pit-stop back at home to enjoy a snack – some bread nuggets and marinara sauce I had been given by family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary…

After that, I dropped off the donations with the food ministry organizer Karen and visited with her for a little while, discussing (over a cup of coffee) Saturday’s birthday/anniversary party, Sunday’s Easter gathering and other noteable occurrences in my life over the past few days. Once back at home, I put a hamburger patty in a frying pan and prepared lunch for myself…

I enjoyed my hamburger (on a hot dog bun) while watching “The Chew,” which was back with new episodes after last week’s spring break of reruns. None of the recipes impressed me enough for me to add to my “to-make” pile of print-outs from the show’s official website but the Robin Eggs Fudge and Easter Peeps S’mores Dip did picque my interest. The latter one also reminded me that I still did not know the identity of the flavors of this year’s three mystery Peeps. As it turns out, I was spot-on with No. 1 – maple – but I never would have been able to put my tongue on Nos. 2 and 3 – blueberry and grape slushee, respectively…

A little later in the day, I watched the latest weekly vlog from my favorite YouTuber Tami Dunn as well as a few episodes of “Days of Our Lives” (I had fallen behind on my “stories” since last Thursday). I also selected the songs that will make up the playlist for Breathrough Entertainment’s Earth Day Special next Saturday. They include “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King,” “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” and – of course – Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole’s “What a Wonderful World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow” mashup. Hey, I guess we still have some holidays to celebrate after all! I wonder if I can find my Captain Planet costume – complete with tight red shorts – by this weekend?

Forgive the hard U-turn but because I compose this column throughout the day smooth segues are not always possible. Without revealing too much, let me just say that life is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Just when we think we have figured it all out – even in the short-term – we are thrown a curve-ball and our entire life is turned upside-down. Unfortunately, there is no way to escape this phenomenon. Nor are there any sufficiently comforting words we can share with someone caught in the middle of one of life’s tragic tidal waves. The only thing we can do – the only thing any of us can do – is hold the people we love close and live every day as if it were our last.

I have done my best to live my life believing that everything happens for a reason. That philosophy is, at times, more difficult to adhere to than others. If tragedy teaches us anything, it is that explanations, apologies and reparations are far less important than simply loving one another and therefore unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. And if right now you are feeling like everyone leaves you, please know that I never will. We are a team – always and forever. It is you and me against a cruel and grief-stricken world.

Tales from the Critic

Isn’t it strange how holiday traditions change over time? For some, the Easter morning ritual of hopping out of bed and finding a basket filled with toys and candy followed by an egg hunt – either at home or at a family or public gathering – is replaced by seeing such activities through the eyes of their children. For others, it is replaced by what could essentially be described as just another Sunday morning.

I remember the joy I had as a child when I would wake up and discover that the Easter Bunny (whom I had taken photos with a week or so earlier) had brought me a basket of jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies as well as some sort of Easter-themed toy – my most memorable being a stuffed bunny that “gave birth to” a few baby bunnies. As I grew up, that tradition obviously faded away but I always managed to find time to color a few Easter Eggs with my mom with the names of our family members, friends, pets and other loved ones scribbled on them with a clear wax crayon. This year, I had plans to dress up in my Easter Bunny costume (yes, I have one) and decorate an Easter-themed tree. But plans, like traditions, change.

People change, too. They wear revealing clothing despite the wishes of people they claim to care about and they exhibit a heartbreaking ability to be happy when others are sad. Absolutely, definitively and irreversibly heartbreaking.

So, instead of hopping out of bed to find an Easter Basket and instead of decorating an Easter-themed tree in an Easter Bunny costume, today is – for better or worse – just another Sunday morning. As such, I got out of bed and worked out while watching “The Amazing Race” and then gave my pet duck Frozen his weekly bath. Well, it is supposed to be weekly but he skipped last Sunday because he did not really feel like it. So it was especially important for him to wash up today…

He did not appear to be that into his bath, perhaps because he prefers an audience. My mom, her cat Midnight and I were there, though, and did our best to encourage him to wash his butt, clear his nostrils and do what we have dubbed “dunk-a-duck,” but he sort of just soaked his webbed feet instead. Meanwhile, Midnight was on the receiving end of “bad kitty pat-a-butt.” Whatever you are imagining, it really is not as weird as it sounds. But that is perhaps a story for another day.

Once Frozen was sufficiently clean, I used a towel to dry him off before heading out to pick up donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer. I then delivered the donations to their destination before arriving back at home where I enjoyed breakfast and wished some of my relatives in Illinois a happy Easter by phone. Some of them had gotten together to celebrate the holiday with one another over some lamb chops. Even though the Easter Bunny did not visit my house and leave behind a basket full of goodies or hide any eggs, my aunt did send me a box of treats that included some jerky, popcorn, licorice and – of course – some toothbrushes to keep the cavities away…

A short time later, I got in my car and drove more than an hour away (past IKEA) to the Chandler home of my mom’s second cousins for a small Easter gathering. I was the youngest attendee by at least a decade but it was nice to catch up with family I had not seen since last summer. After yesterday’s debacle at the family friends’ birthday/anniversary party that left me hanging my head over the toilet bowl, I decided to decline the offer of a mimosa upon my arrival and opted to stick with some soda pop instead. I also enjoyed a few crackers with slices of cheese and sausage as an appetizer…

I had planned on texting someone special in my life from the party thereby celebrating the holiday with them and sharing my experience with them remotely, since I was unable to spend the day with them in person as I would have preferred, but, unfortunately, those plans fell through. I found it especially difficult to hide my emotions when someone opened the refrigerator, revealing several containers of cherry tomatoes – something that is particularly meaningful to me and this person, who I was very deeply missing. After a while, dinner was served and I fixed a plate for myself that included two types of lasagna, meatballs, sausage, fall-off-the-bone beef, ham with pineapple, seafood pasta salad, deviled eggs, fresh mozzarella, pickles, olives and – of course – cherry tomatoes, much to my emotional chagrin…

It was an absolutely delicious meal that I feel fortunate to have been able to enjoy. I also feel fortunate to have family members who think highly enough of me to include me in their holiday gathering. And that got me thinking – perhaps holidays are not so much about what you do but rather who you do it with. It seems like a rather obvious and simple conclusion but sometimes we get too wrapped up in our own nostalgia to remember what really matters. Speaking of what really matters, the dessert was divine…

But back to my point, I am grateful for how I spent my Easter Sunday yet I am even more grateful for the people with whom I spent my Easter Sunday. Truth be told, there is someone else I wish I had been able to share my holiday with as well but, fortunately, Easter occurs every year and I have a lifetime of them ahead of me. And I won’t give up on us. Even if the skies get rough. I’m giving them all my love. God knows we’re worth it. So when you are safe at home, text somebunny you love and hop to any apologies, explanations and reparations needed to make next Easter – and hopefully every Easter thereafter – a bunnymoon…

P.S. – You must be a chocolate bunny because all I can think about right now is nibbling on your ears.

Tales from the Critic

Even if I had not been tossing and turning, the wildlife would not have let me get much shut eye last night. After what seemed like an entire night in and of itself feeling the restless pain of betrayal by someone I thought cared about me but obviously doesn’t, I was awoken by the annoying sound of rustling and snorting outside my window. A family of javelina had decided to root around. I grumbled, sat up and released a sound that could only be described as half roar / half  growl. Most of the javelina scattered but one stood his or her ground, snorting louder and more aggressively than before.  Frustrated, my next sound was a whimper followed by crying. I must have sounded so pathetic that the javelina took pity on me and promptly retreated.

I continued to toss and turn until it was time to get out of bed. My workout was then interrupted by the sound of my chickens clucking in sheer panic. I paused “The Amazing Race” to look outside and discovered a coyote desperately trying to break into the chickens’ cage. I quickly grabbed my Sound Grenade (featured on Breakthrough Entertainment’s most recent Holiday Gift Guide) and pulled the trigger. The coyote looked at me and appeared to shake its head as if to say, “Silly human. That sound does not phase me in the least.” It, too, must have thought I was pretty pathetic as it slowly turned and walked away.

I finished my workout then bathed and, before long, I was on my way to the KPHX studio for Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special. You can, of course, listen to the archived audio but if you did not tune into the live broadcast, you really should be ashamed of yourself. (You did say it was your favorite show and you wouldn’t ever miss it for the world, didn’t you? And wasn’t it you who begged to hear my voice if even for one final time?) Anyway, if you had watched our live in-studio video feed on Stream.Live/BreakRadioShow, you would have seen the Breakthrough Entertainment team’s Easter Eggs…

Eric’s is, of course, black while Tricia’s is every color of the rainbow, Kathleen’s is pink, Dave’s is red and mine is purple – a color I selected because I know it is significant to someone I care about even if they don’t truly care about me. After the broadcast, I stopped at Kohl’s. My mom and I had sat down for a few minutes in a pair of chairs near the front entrance but were quickly ejected from the seats when a man towered over us and said, quite sternly, “I am going to sit there.” I looked in the mirror but could not find the “Treat Me Like the Piece of Shit That I Am” sticker that is obviously slapped across my forehead so if someone could kindly point it out to me I would be forever grateful. The only silver lining is that my mom and I got to share a free one-scoop sundae from Culver’s…

From there, I made my way to a restaurant near my home for a party celebrating some family friends’ birthdays and anniversaries. I could not help but feel an emotional blow as I looked around the party and saw a past I never had, a present I still don’t have and a future that will forever be out of my reach. The only thing I could do was grab a glass (or three) of wine…

I saw my former classmate who is a father several times over, another former classmate who I at one time had an unrequited crush on and a former high school teacher of mine who I didn’t dare approach for I would be far too ashamed of not having done more with my life since she bestowed upon me an Outstanding Achievement in Language Arts Award. And for some reason, I kept hearing Ayo and Teo’s Rolex playing on a loop in my head as little angels wearing belly shirts laughed at me and called me a halfwit fool. I was in such a drunken  and depressed daze that I hardly even remember injesting two pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and chips…

The rest of the story I would rather not go into too much detail about for it involves the age-old adage, “What goes down must come back up.” I’ll leave you with a selfie of someone who has seriously lost a few of his Easter Eggs over this past week. Let’s hope that he can find them soon… before they go permanently rotten…

Tales from the Critic

Segment 1 – Host Chat: Tales from the Critic / Reviews: “Sandy Wexler” and “The Fate of the Furious”

Segment 2 – Joseph’s Craft Corner: Easter Egg Decorating

Segment 3 – Both Ends of the Spectrum: Spring Break Hall Pass

The past two days I have mentioned wanting to visit the Kuching Cat Museum in Malaysia and the Caturday Cat Cafe in Thailand. But did you know that there is also a similar destination right here in the United States? While I have every intention in the world to visit the Kuching Cat Museum and Caturday Cat Cafe one day, it is nice to know that Alliance, Ohio is home to The Cat Fanciers’ Association Foundation and Feline Historical Museum. There, you will find a variety of cat-related art, including paintings, porcelain and jewelry, as well as a small library of about 700 cat-related books and the “Cat House” originally designed by former Phoenix resident Frank Lloyd Wright for the Gerald B. Tonkens Family of Cincinnati. Occasionally, the museum even hosts events featuring real, live cats who have their run of the place and get to be held, hugged and played with by visitors. And who doesn’t love to hold, hug and play with a cat?

I am not ashamed to say that I hold and hug my cat You’re Next all night long. She was especially loving last night, licking my hand and closely cuddling up next to my body. It is somewhat of a miracle that our pets can always sense when we are not feeling well – physically, mentally or emotionally. Unfortunately, she must have not been feeling well either and I woke up next to some… let’s call it “number two.” My pet duck Frozen has occasionally been the cause of such surprises – including an especially humorous time when he removed his diaper and flung his feces all over the place before I finally realized the mess he had made – but I cannot recall when You’re Next has been the bearer of bad news like that.

And bad news it most certainly was as my cat must have been sending me a message about the quality of the day I had ahead of me. I worked out while watching “The Amazing Race” (the moral of the episode was you really get to know someone when the going gets tough, springboarding my day-long thought process about the relationships in my life and how certain people react in stressful situations). And that went rather well. But it was all downhill from there. I drove to a local restaurant to pick up their daily donations to the food ministry for which I volunteer and was told, quite roughly, by one employee that my “coming everyday to pick up donations is getting to be too much.” I was instructed to come less often. I guess people in need only deserve to eat every once in a while rather than every day.

I then walked across the parking lot to Fry’s Marketplace. I filled up a few water bottles with the machine outside before going in to do some shopping. My first stop, of course, was up front near the registers where a large display featuring this week’s freebie was on exhibition. Every Friday at Fry’s/Kroger, club card holders have the opportunity to register for a free item online and this week’s item is a bag of Sour Patch Kids candy…

Of course I registered for one on my account as well as on the accounts of the people I love. I then meandered down the frozen food aisle and literally broke out into tears when I saw something I had been searching for since I first heard about it a few months ago – Hostess Twinkies Ice Cream…

I had already enjoyed a bucket of Hostess Sno Balls Ice Cream, which was absolutely heavenly, and I did not have much interest in the Hostess Cup Cakes Ice Cream but it was the first time I had seen the golden goodness that is Hostess Twinkies in ice cream form and I did not know whether I should jump for joy or break down in tears. I also picked up a bottle of R.W. Knudsen Organic Tomato Sriracha Juice in the discount section because you know how much I love all things tomatoes…

After checking out, I walked back out into the parking lot and began to load my groceries and water bottles into my car. As I lifted one of the water bottles, my car door lightly bumped against the rubber on the side of the SUV next to me. Suddenly, a man twice my size wearing what appeared to be a vendor’s uniform, emerged from the other side of the vehicle and towered over me, shouting, “I guess you didn’t notice how you slammed your shit into my car!” I glanced at the point of collision and did not see even the slightest evidence of damage but expressed my sincerest apologies. He took a step toward me, appearing as though he was going to punch me. My mouth said, “I am so sorry! What can I do? I’m sorry!” But my heart and mind whimpered, “Just get it over with. Destroy me. Pull out a gun and end my misery if you must.” He then hopped back into his vehicle and sped away in a hurry while I remained in a state of extreme shock.

I then drove (with shakey hands) to Karen’s to drop off the donations and decompress the stress I had just endured. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and vented my frustrations. I also had time to silently organize my thoughts and feelings. One question (related to that “Amazing Race” moral I mentioned) that came to mind is can a broken heart be put back together by the breaker, someone who is able to carry on dancing with grace and jumping on backs with a smile on their face while one suffers, or must it be someone else supposedly willing to spend a thousand years on the potentially hopeless endeavor? I imagine that if two people were really meant to be with one another, it would be impossible for one of them to appear so happy while the other one of them is in so much obvious pain. I think there may have been a “Spongebob Squareface” episode about that.

Speaking of TV shows, have you seen the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why?” It follows a teenager’s quest to uncover the story behind his classmate/crush’s decision to end her life. I have heard an awful lot of good buzz about it and had thought about watching it with someone special. I just hope that everyone has not already watched it without me by the time I can enjoy it. After all, I have a few things to get to today – namely new movie releases “The Fate of the Furious” and “Sandy Wexler” – so that I am able to review them during tomorrow’s Breakthrough Entertainment. More on that a bit later. But first, before leaving Karen’s, I encountered a very friendly horse, who apparently has some very unhealthy boundaries…

Once back at home, I enjoyed a late breakfast – half of one of my Fuddruckers burgers – piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and ranch dressing – that I had gotten the day before…

Most of the remainder of my day consisted of screening those aforementioned new movie releases. You can hear my reviews of them during Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special, airing 10-11 a.m. PST Saturday, April 15 on KPHX 1480 AM and on 1480KPHX.com. You will want to tune in to our live in-studio webcam feed on Stream.Live/BreakRadioShow for the full effect as we will be decorating Easter Eggs and things are bound to get a bit colorful. I prepared for the project by hard-boiling a few eggs, with a little help from an Egg-Per’fect Color Changing Egg Timer…

Oh and one last thing before I go to bed (and hope that You’re Next’s stomach issues have subsided). Don’t you ever say I don’t go the extra mile for this column. I would do absolutely anything to put a smile on your face – even get a bit too close for comfort with something that could decapitate me with a single bite…

At least I didn’t jump on his back with a smile spread across my face that essentially says, “You don’t matter to me anymore.” But I guess one person’s week of Hell is another person’s week of Heaven.

Tales from the Critic

As I have already revealed, I have been catching up on episodes from past seasons of “The Amazing Race” while I work out each morning. I am currently watching the season in which half the teams are previously established dating couples and half of the teams are strangers who have been paired up to experience the race as sort of one great big blind date. If you are at all familiar with “The Amazing Race,” you know that it tends to bring out the worst in people as they butt heads with their teammates and bicker about who is to blame for their team being behind the pack. But it also sometimes brings people closer together as if their relationship can withstand the stressful situations of the race then it most certainly can withstand the stressful situations of life itself.

I could not help but bawl like a baby near the end of the episode (and my workout) when one man turned to his teammate and said, “I want to promise you that every morning before I leave to work I’ll tell you I love you. I want to promise that every night before I go to sleep I’ll give you a kiss goodnight. You’ve got to promise me that you’ll make me the happiest man in the world.” And with that he got down on one knee, pulled out a ring and asked her to marry him. Hopefully she allows him to keep those promises – because something tells me he will dedicate his life to doing so – and hopefully she keeps hers as well.

After I picked myself back up off the floor (from not only the crying but also the sit-ups), I headed to Starbucks to pick up their food ministry donations and then to the post office to drop off the Radio Flyer little red wheelbarrow I had sold on eBay the day before. After that, I dropped off the food donations with the ministry organizer Karen before arriving back at home where I was finally able to enjoy breakfast – half of a big kahuna cheese steak sandwich featuring grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, jalapeños and extra melty white American cheese from Jersey Mike’s Subs…

By the way, have you seen the latest Dignity Health “Hello Human Kindness” commercial with the father crawling into his daughter’s crib to comfort her and help her fall asleep? It asks the question, “Does being there for someone matter?” Of course it does. It is important to hold the people you love extremely close. And when you meet that person who has the power to heal you, you should never under any circumstances let them go. Moreover, I love the song that plays, with the lyrics, “You and me go together naturally. Don’t you think that we make a pretty good team.” When you find someone with whom you make a good team, it is you and that person against the world – no matter what challenges you two face.

Anyway, I digress. After breakfast, I tended to my email inbox. I followed up with the publicist for the potential Easter Egg decorating expert for Breathrough Entertainment’s Easter Special and was told that she was still waiting to hear back from him. Truth be told, I get nervous when I have yet to confirm a guest by the middle of the week but one way or another I am determined to dedicate a segment on Saturday’s show to decorating Easter Eggs. I also rescheduled an important personal appointment that I had previously scheduled for next week. I now have two important personal appointments tomorrow, making for a full – not to mention stressful – day. I decided to decompress with a cup of hot coco.

I then drove down the road to the home of family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary. They will be moving to Australia this summer and it was the first time I had been inside of their house since a massive yard sale they had to essentially liquidate their belongings. It was eerily empty but we still had a nice conversation as we caught one another up on various topics. Once back at home, I prepared a few more items I had sold on eBay for shipment, including some Goosebumps bookmarks, novelty cards and an old Halloween trick-or-treat bag. Later, I ate lunch – grilled corn and roasted garlic soup that I had made last week with a few meatballs added for substance…

The roasted garlic had been a little too strong for my stomach last week and proved to do even more damage now as my appetite, for some reason, has been a bit nonexistent since last weekend. Have you ever experienced that nagging feeling that you have forgotten something important but can’t quite put your finger on what that might be? I have been experiencing something like that except it is the feeling that I have been forgotten by someone important. Let’s just say roasted garlic does not help matters much. It may fend off vampires but it only makes stomachaches (and heartaches) worse.

A little later I watched “Days of Our Lives” before transitioning into my digital screener of the new Netflix war drama “Sand Castle” (my reaction is embargoed until its release on Friday, April 21). After that, I watched this week’s episodes of “24,” “Bates Motel” and “Prison Break,” all of which failed to enthuse me very much, perhaps as a result of my solemn mood. I also enjoyed a small piece of a rice crispy treat that I had gotten for free at Noodles and Company as part of a promotional offer.

You know one place that I would really love to visit? The Kuching Cat Museum in Malaysia. It’s main entrance is in the shape of a cat and it houses four galleries containing over 4,000 artifacts, including paintings and memorials related to cats. Exhibits include a mummified cat from ancient Egypt, a gallery of feline-related advertising and the five species of wild cats found in Borneo. One day I will go there and I am confident that the experience will be sweeter than honey and more beautiful than the moon. Speaking of which the moon is out and that is my cue to close my eyes and (try) to get some sleep.

Tales from the Critic

Yesterday I told you about the Kuching Cat Museum in Malaysia. Well “The Amazing Race” today introduced me to a place in neighboring Thailand that would make for an excellent accompanying activity. Imagine dining alongside 40 playful felines. That is what you will find at the Caturday Cat Cafe.

Everywhere you look in the restaurant (whose menu boasts things like cheese and bacon spring rolls and rainbow crepe cake), there are CATS – cats walking on the “cat-walk” hanging from the ceiling, cats sleeping on a treehouse-like structure, cats lurking under tables and on chairs. To some, this may sound like a nightmare. To others, it may be the closest thing to Heaven here on Earth anyone will ever find. I reside on the second part of that spectrum and will make it my mission to take the love of my life there one day. After all, as the delightful documentary “Kedi” taught us earlier this year, “A cat meowing at your feet, looking up at you, is life smiling at you. Those are moments where we’re lucky. They remind us that we’re alive.”

Anyway, after working out, bathing and eating breakfast, I headed out to my first of two important personal appointments. I drove to Laveen, an “urban village” within the city of Phoenix that has been the butt of many a joke on Breakthrough Entertainment when speaking with fictional civil rights attorney Dorris Markovich. (Sorry to burst your bubble if you have remained gullible all this time but Dorris is not real. She is and always has been me – albeit with some fluctuation to my voice.) Laveen is also more than an hour away from my house so I had quite the lengthy journey. But without it, I would never have seen this…

My appointment went as well as could be expected so I traveled back to a more familiar part of town to waste time before my second important personal appointment of the day. I walked around a very busy Costco and collected food samples such as several different types of cheese, a slice of ham and some soup. I also stopped at Fuddruckers to buy one burger and get one free, as part of a promotion I had been e-mailed…

I love Fuddruckers because they have a condiment bar featuring fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles and more. I also love their hot nacho cheese dispensers. The burger itself is more of less an afterthought – but it, too, is always delicious. However, I did not eat it but rather took it to go and will perhaps enjoy it tomorrow from the comfort of my own home. After all, I had already filled up on Costco samples, my appetite still is not up to par and it was time for me to get to my second appointment. That, too, went as well as could be expected. So all in all both appointments went well, although I wish I had someone who had reached out beforehand to help get me in the right headspace for them and again afterward to help me decompress the stress.

I then stopped at the post office to drop off three items I had sold on eBay before heading to the home of family friends and neighbors Bonnie and Gary to attempt to help them with some paperwork which ended up being way outside of my pay grade (which is another way of saying I was not smart enough to comprehend it). They had prepared a dish of food for me to take home, though, which included chicken, peas, mashed potatoes and a boat-load of gravy…

I was grateful to have such a hearty meal after such a stressful day, although my appetite remains quite poor. I ate while watching the latest episode of “Big Brother Canada.” Although I do not like Dillon, seeing him cry over missing his niece really struck a chord with me. We can only hope that the people we love are safe when we are unable to get in touch with them. That ultimate unknown is one of the most sickening feelings a person can ever experience. Moreover, when we are out of sight, are we also out of mind? How easily can the human heart forget all about someone?

With the day winding down, I decided to reach out to the publicist for the potential guest for Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special, to which I received a disappointing response implying that I may be leading the Easter Egg decorating discussion myself. I decided to call it a day and go to bed. And even though my cat You’re Next would be joining me, I knew that even she could not make me feel like life was smiling at me tonight.

Tales from the Critic

Don’t you just hate nightmares? I used to feel quite comfortable as I slept safe and sound at night but recently I have been having a lot of trouble fending off the monsters and other bogeymen from invading my mind in the wee hours. And last night was a whopper of one. And I did not have any relief upon opening my eyes, which made it an awfully difficult challenge as I attempted (unsuccessfully) to fall back to sleep.

The sun eventually rose, though, and I enjoyed a cup of coffee while watching last week’s episode of “Blackish,” in which Zoey and Junior attend a high school party. Note to younger readers: Please do not attend high school parties. They are filled with alcohol, drugs and other potential dangerous situations. That may sound like a strange thing for someone who has publicly admitted to going a little crazy at themed bar crawls to say but rest assured that that is mostly an act and that I would never put myself – or my relationships with the people I love – in jeopardy. And I hope that the people I love would always take the same precautions.

I then worked out while watching “The Amazing Race.” Some days are more difficult than others to complete my strenuous exercise routine but I am determined to live a long and healthy life and be the best (looking) version of myself possible for that extra special woman in my life whom I have every intention of eventually marrying. Even though she has often comforted me by saying she loves me no matter what I look like, etc., I would still like to make sure my large bicep is one she is proud to wrap her arm around and my muscular chest is one she is delighted to rest her head on. That is the best motivation to fight through the pain that anyone could ever ask for.

After my workout, I bathed – yes, I bathe instead of shower – and shaved. Although always relaxing, I could not help but feel lonely during these activities for some reason. Maybe I need some music to keep me company. You know, rock out to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” or process my emotions to Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up on Us.” (By the way, I won’t. Never ever ever no matter what life throws as us.) Once done, I headed to Starbucks to pick up their food donations for the food ministry for which I volunteer and, upon arriving back home, enjoyed a quarter of a smokehouse burger and a few fries that I had gotten for free on Saturday at Ruby Tuesday with a coupon my mom had received for her birthday earlier this month…

It was then that I heard back from Chef Norman Love’s publicist, requesting additional details about the proposed Easer Egg decorating segment on Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special. She asked about the segment’s length and the show’s live video stream platforms. I informed her that the roughly 15-minute segment would appear on Breakthrough Entertainment host Dave Isaac’s Facebook Live and likely also on Stream.Live – a platform we will probably be utilizing in place of Periscope. Should this be the case, our loyal listeners will be able to access our live in-studio audio and video feed via the Stream app on mobile devices and via Stream.Live/BreakRadioShow on PCs. This is, of course, in addition to the usual audio-only feed via 1480kphx.com and the station’s KPHX free mobile apps available on the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. The publicist said she would circle back to me after checking Chef Love’s schedule. All I could do was sit back, wait and enjoy a cup of hot coco…

With several of my eBay listings ending today, I decided to start pareparing the selling items for shipment. A set of four Goosebumps bookmarks – the highest earner – were easy enough to slip into a padded envelope with some protective cardboard. A Radio Flyer red wheelbarrow and a Goosebumps board game, however, posed a bit more of a challenge. I managed to make it work, though, and later I sat down to enjoy some cheddar cheese and pico de gallo stuffed mushrooms…

The cheddar cheese and pico de gallo stuffed mushrooms were a bit better than yesterday’s mozzarella cheese and spinach stuffed mushrooms, partially because the cheddar cheese had a stronger bit to offset the pungent flavor of the mushrooms. Well, that and because pico de gallo has tomatoes in it and God knows I love tomatoes – especially cherry tomatoes, which were once again atop the salad I also ate for lunch…

After an embarrassingly extended amount of time wondering and worrying whether or not someone about whom I care deeply and miss to the point of emotional exhaustion ever even thinks about me much less still plans on keeping important promises (yesterday was a special anniversary and I did not hear from this person, thereby causing my heart to ache), I watched “Days of Our Lives” and “Ellen” and was surprised to see some of my eBay listings for Goosebumps items be subjected to intense last-minute bidding wars. I rewarded myself with a glass of Prairie Farms Orange Peeps Milk…

Hoping to maintain my momentum (and divert my thoughts), I listed several more items on eBay before eventually allowing my day to wind down with the latest episode of “Big Brother Canada.” I had watched the previous two episodes (in which Gary was evicted and William won Head of Household) on Sunday afternoon while I was not feeling very well. I was glad to see Dillon nominated for eviction but sad to see Sarah… I mean Emily beside him. After that I watched the previous night’s episode of “2 Broke Girls” and drowned my sorrows in a slice of blueberry pie…

Oh and before heading off to bed (for what will probably be another round of nightmares no doubt), I would like to share with you an instant mood booster of a little squirrel who needs her ice cream. It brought a smile to my face and I am certain it will do the same for you. After all, the only thing cuter than a little squirrel eating ice cream is a little chipmunk: Squirrel Served Daily Ice Cream Cone at Holden Beach Business

Tales from the Critic

Call it an exercise in futility, an attempt to make sense of a clearly crazy world or maybe a way to reach out to and bring at least a little comfort to even one person in the entire galaxy, I have decided to start up a (hopefully) daily feature to provide an unfiltered look at my day-to-day life as a film critic. Now, before you go getting the wrong idea about this, thinking that you are about to read a bunch of boring posts about me sitting around watching movies, please know that – much like my life itself – “cinematic stuff” will only make up a small percentage of what you will see here. After all, my life is about much more than just movies.

If you are not yet familiar with me, I am Joseph J. Airdo and I am a producer, on-air personality and film critic for Breakthrough Entertainment – a talk radio show that airs Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM in Phoenix. I have lived in Arizona my entire life, having graduated from Barry Goldwater High School and Arizona State University, and my best friend is my pet duck Frozen. And although I am smooth with the pickup lines (Can I call you Starbucks? Because I think about you a latte.), I am very happily spoken for by the most wonderful woman anyone could ever ask for – someone who is my sun, my moon, every star in my sky and every planet in my solar system.

Over the course of this… “experiment,” you will learn a little bit about what makes me tick as I share sometimes interesting (and sometimes not so much) stories about my everyday existence. Maybe it will merely entertain you or maybe it will even earn you some sort of insight; but one thing is for sure – you will feel a lot more connected to that goofy guy you hear on the radio every Saturday morning. Trust me – I am lot like you. I have my moments of pure joy but I also have my moments of extreme sadness. Some of my days are exciting while some of my days are tedious. And I am just trying to make the best of the time I have here on Earth with the people I love more than my education in mass media and communication could have ever properly prepared me to put into words.

So without any further introductory rambling, let’s embark on this journey with one another.

I started my day with a cup of coffee followed by my usual 30 minutes of jumping jacks weekday workout supplemented with 90 push-ups, 5 minutes of sit-ups and 150 12.5-lb.-weight reps per arm while watching an episode of “The Amazing Race” from several seasons ago. (I had fallen behind on the reality show but am grateful for that as it is the perfect daily workout companion.) I was pleased to learn that I had lost 5 lbs. since the previous Monday. Granted, that is too much weight to lose in one week alone but I partially attribute it to the fact that I had actually gained weight the week before, skewing my results. Well, that and the fact that I had an extremely stressful weekend that had rendered my appetite nonexistent.

I then sat down to send an e-mail blast out requesting a guest for Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special. I had previously reached out to Papa’s Opera Cream Eggs and Jelly Belly Jelly Bean creator David Klein but neither responded so my sights are now set on an Easter Egg decorating expert.

After that, I drove to two local Starbucks to pick up their food donations for Calvary Chapel Food Ministry – a community service project about which I am passionate. I delivered the collection of pastries and breakfast sandwiches to the ministry’s organizer Karen and watched as she fed hay to her sheep and raw meat to her dogs (one gobbled up an entire London broil in one bite).

Afterward, I went to Chase Bank and Deer Valley Credit Union to do some banking and was pleased to find free coffee at Chase, an offering of which I never fail to take advantage…

It was about that time that I realized I had still not eaten breakfast. But at 11:30 a.m., that ship had basically sailed. Usually I would be starving but that aforementioned stressful weekend and missing someone essential to my heart still had me feeling unenthusiastic about eating. However, a good salad topped with a couple of ripe cherry tomatoes can cure just about anything…

I usually eat lunch while watching my favorite cooking-themed talk show “The Chew.” But the hosts are on spring break this week (which I should have guessed after Friday’s make-ahead Easter-themed episode) so I instead ate lunch while watching a video from my favorite blogger Tami Dunn. My delicious salad was accompanied by three mozzarella and spinach stuffed mushrooms which Karen had given to me when I dropped off the food donations earlier in the day. They were quite tasty but the mushroom flavor was a bit overpowering. I guess it is a good thing I like the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of fungus (boy do I know how to make something sound appetizing)…

I then took a few minutes to organize my eBay listings, separating out some of the items that will definitely sell and need to be shipped this week. I did this while watching “Days of Our Lives” – a soap opera I have watched with my mom ever since I could first form thoughts and memories – and talk show “Ellen.” I also checked in with my friend Danny via text during this time. He used to live in Phoenix before moving to across the country Roanoke. He is feeling down due to being passed over for a highly coveted job opportunity.

I then selected Easter-themed music for Breakthrough Entertainment’s Easter Special and, around this time, was overjoyed to receive a response to my query requesting an Easter Egg decorating expert from a publicist representing Chef Norman Love of Norman Love Confections. I immediately responded to her e-mail, officially offering Chef Love the segment and eagerly awaited her confirmation.

My day beginning to wind down, I completed some personal paperwork and enjoyed my DVR’d debut of the Ellen Degeneres produced reality show “First Dates.” One featured “blind dater’s” comment about the ideal partner being someone with whom you can not only laugh but also cry really resonated with me.

I then watched the previous two weeks’ episodes of “Bates Motel,” which gave new meaning to Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (a new entry for Breakthrough Entertainment’s next Songs Made Scary by Horror Movies show) and were filled with plenty of “wow,” “oh no” and “OMG” moments as Norman went full psycho. I also grieved for Rhianna’s Marion Crane character. Nobody should ever have to go through the pain of enduring an unfaithful significant other. I vow to remain devoted, loving and loyal to mine through eternity and beyond. Anyway, I enjoyed a slice of pineapple pie while watching…

So there you have it – my so called day-to-day life. I suppose you can take it or leave it. I, on the other hand, am stuck with it whether I like it or not.

Tales from the Critic

Segment 1 – Host Chat / Reviews: “The Void,” “Tim Timmerman, Hope of America” and “Aftermath”

Segment 2 – Review: “Mine” / Interview: Co-Writer/Co-Director Fabio Guaglione (“Mine”)

Segment 3 – Both Ends of the Spectrum: Getting Rid of the Other Woman, Sex Balm and Kissing on the First Date?

Original airdate: Feb 25, 2017 on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060

On location at MOD Pizza 75th Ave and Bell

Guests include:
Jaime Eisner @JmeEisner – Director of Content @FanRagSports
Kevin Guy @CoachKGuy – @ArizonaRattlers Head Coach/GM
Conrad West – GM MOD Pizza https://modpizza.com/

Guest Co/Hosts:
Derek Montilla @Cap_Kaveman
Ed Smith @ezluv87
Jim Marshall @basebaldaz

Full Show:

Listen to “Airdate: Feb 25, 2017 on location at MOD Pizza 75th Ave and Bell” on Spreaker.

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Original airdate: January 28, 2017 on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 on location at Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant in Phoenix.

Full Show
Listen to “Airdate: Jan 28, 2017 on location at Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant” on Spreaker.

Segment 1 – Host Chat / Reviews: “20th Century Women” and “Patriot’s Day”

Segment 2 – Interview: Writer Steve Alten (“Meg” and “Dog Training the American Male”)

Segment 3 – Interview: Special Events Coordinator Tricia Kramer (Litchfield Park)

Real Hockey Talk NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 on location at Dave & Buster’s (Tempe Marketplace) for the NHL Centennial Fan Arena.

Guests include:

Kris King, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for NHL’s central office in Toronto.

Mike Bowman, Head Coach/GM Phoenix Knights Jr. A Hockey Club

Full Show

Listen to “Original Airdate: Jan 7, 2017 at Dave & Buster’s” on Spreaker.

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Visit AZCopperCup.com for more information. Greg Cook and Pat Stroud with Arizona H2OMG Festival join host Dave Isaac to talk about the upcoming Festival. The Festival takes place from February 23-26 at Lake Pleasant.

Listen to “January 2017 – Arizona H2OMG Festival” on Spreaker.

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Butterscotch Mousse with Vanilla Salt

Serves 12

Granny was the ultimate Southern hostess. She always kept pretty little tins of candy in her sitting room. I loved the long candy sticks, but hated the butterscotch rounds. You remember? The ones in yellow wrappers? Mama, however, couldn’t get enough of those. She’d pop them in her mouth and I could smell the butterscotch from across the room. I had no idea what butterscotch was. I just knew I hated it.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m a professional chef who still hasn’t tasted butterscotch. I just had a mental block against it. One night, I went out to dinner with a group of other chefs and somebody ordered the butterscotch pudding. Everyone at the table started raving, “Oh. My. God. This is so delicious!” I took a tiny spoonful and realized they were right. It was so, so good. That was when I discovered that butterscotch is essentially caramel and butter— a combo I adore. I had to learn how to make it. I tinkered until I came up with a silky light mousse, which I paired with crunchy nuts. When I served the mousse in tuile cups at a catering event, everyone went crazy for them! This dessert is such a well-balanced blend of sweet and salty, crisp and creamy. And every component can be made ahead of time. All you have to do is put the pieces together when it’s time to serve.

Vanilla Salt

1/4 dried vanilla bean

1/4 cup kosher salt

Butterscotch Mousse

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

2 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 vanilla bean, pod split and seeds scraped

2 teaspoons dark rum

1 cup heavy cream

12 Almond Tuiles, shaped into cups if you like or left flat

1/2 cup Candied Almonds, coarsely chopped

  1. To make the vanilla salt: Coarsely chop or break the vanilla bean into two pieces. Combine 1 piece and 2 tablespoons of the salt in a spice grinder. Pulse until the vanilla is very finely chopped and blended with the salt. Transfer to a small bowl. Repeat with the remaining vanilla and salt. This makes more than you’ll need just for this dessert. Store any remaining in an airtight container for up to 1 week and use any way you’d like. It’s good on any caramel or chocolate desserts and on savory dishes such as roast pork.
  1. To make the mousse: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and 1/2 cup of the half-and-half until smooth. Press through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan to break up any remaining lumps of sugar. Whisk in the egg yolks and remaining 1 cup half-and-half.
  1. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until thick and bubbling, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla seeds, and rum until well combined. Transfer the pudding to a medium bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
  1. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Whisk a quarter of the whipped cream into the pudding to loosen it. With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until completely incorporated. Pipe or spoon the mousse into the tuile cups, if you made them, or glass cups if you didn’t. Top with the candied almonds and sprinkle with a little vanilla salt. Garnish with a tuile if not using tuile cups.

Catering Like Carla: The mousse can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

When I was catering, I usually made these as tuile cups filled with the mousse. Occasionally, my tuile cups would be especially lacy. To ensure that the mousse didn’t spill out through the cups, I’d brush a very thin layer of melted dark chocolate over the bottom and sides of the cups. When the chocolate hardens, it creates a seal. Be sure to brush very lightly. You don’t really want to taste the chocolate at all; it’s just there to reinforce the cup.

Almond Tuiles

Makes about 3 dozen

I first leaned how to make these in culinary school and was so excited by my ability to turn out such delicious, delicate cookies. And then I got over it. I’ll be honest, making these lacy tuiles is a bit of a pain. The dough is easy enough, but then you need to spread the balls flat before baking to get a thin, elegant round. I’ll never forget the time I was cooking at the Henley Park Hotel and we had to make a ton of tuiles. We put our extern in charge of them because the lowest person on the totem pole always got the tuiles. She stayed late to finish them and did a fantastic job. She put the tray of them on top of the ice cream machine and was relieved to be done with them. Later that day, when we were spinning the ice cream, the tray went sliding to the floor and the tuiles crashed and shattered like glass. It was one of those sad slow-motion moments when you watched the shards of cookie spray up in the air. We’ve all had those moments, right?

Have I convinced you to not try these by now? Well, you still should. You don’t need to make nearly as many as our poor extern did. Plus, the dough keeps forever. You can make only as many as you need or want to eat at any given time. When you’re doing a dozen or so, it’s actually a lot of fun. Crackly caramelized almond thins are absolutely worth the effort.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups almonds, finely ground (see Note)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the mixture is well blended.
  1. Stir in the almonds, flour, salt, and vanilla until well combined. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. The batter can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350[DG]F. Line two half sheet pans with Silpats or other nonstick silicone baking mats.
  1. Form the tuile batter into 1-inch balls and place on a pan 3 inches apart. (You’ll be able to fit five balls on a pan: one near each corner and one in the center.) Using a small offset spatula or wet fingertips, flatten the balls into thin 3-inch-diameter disks. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. While one pan bakes, prepare the batter for the next pan. Once the second pan goes in the oven, shape the first pan’s tuiles as instructed below. Keep going from one pan to the other, forming the batter, baking, and shaping. The baking time may shorten as the pans get hot.
  1. To make tuile cups, use an offset spatula to immediately transfer the hot tuile to an inverted shot glass. Gently press the sides of the tuile against the glass to form a cup. Repeat with the remaining tuiles. If the tuiles harden before you have a chance to shape them, return to the oven for a few seconds to make them pliable again. You can also leave the rounds flat or drape them over a thin rolling pin to make cradles. Cooled tuiles will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: To grind almonds fine, pulse them in a food processor. Stop before they turn pasty and start to clump; they should just be very, very finely chopped. Freezing them first helps prevent clumping.

Catering Like Carla: You can make these with any type of unsalted nut: pistachios, pecans, peanuts. Just be sure to grind the nuts very fine. Large pieces will cause the tuile batter to tear.

Sweet and Spicy Walnuts

Makes 4 cups

If you don’t consider yourself a cook, you’ve got to start here. Seasoned nuts are the very first thing I tried that made me so proud as a young cook. Before I started to learn how to really cook, I considered sugary spiced nuts a delicious how-in-the-world-do-you-make-that sorta thing. That was my mindset when I tasted the amazing nuts at an event celebrating the renowned cooking teacher and chef Anne Willan. That version was based on a recipe in one of her cookbooks. Those nuts were so good I went home, got the book, and made the recipe. It was such a great feeling! I did it on my own and it was amazing! While I passed a bowl of ’em to my friends, I was like, “Ooh! Aah! Look at these nuts!” I blew myself away with the savory, sweet, spicy balance in the mix and how crisp they were. Not sticky or chewy at all. Nowadays, I whip ’em out as an easy app. (And they are, even if you’ve never tried them before.)

Over the years, I’ve played with the sugar–spice mix to suit my tastes. The three options below are among my favorites, but you can tinker with other spices, too. Just be sure to keep the proportions of nuts to egg whites to sugar the same for each recipe style below (sweet and spicy, savory, candied) if you want to get the right texture.

This all-purpose appetizer can also be made with almonds, pecans, cashews, or a combination of nuts. Serve them as munchies on their own or scatter them on salads or simply cooked veggies.

1 large egg white

4 cups walnut halves

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 300[DG]F. Line a half sheet pan with a Silpat or other nonstick silicone baking mat, or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Add the walnuts and toss gently until well coated. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, ginger, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle over the walnuts and gently fold until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on the pan. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Separate the nuts with a fork and let cool completely in the pan. The cooled nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week, but are best when fresh.

Note: For candied almonds, preheat the oven to 250[DG]F. Substitute whole almonds for the walnuts. Beat 1 teaspoon water into the egg white. Omit the brown sugar, ginger, and pepper, then proceed as above.

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