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Not Ready for Granny Panties
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St. Vincent–A Movie Review

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

St. VincentIt’s Grand Torino without the gangs.

Take a curmudgeonly old man, add a young new neighbor in need of some guidance, throw in lots of wisecracks, mix with a little conflict, have the kid learn and the cranky old guy redeem himself and there you have it–Grand Torino, or, in this case, St. Vincent, the new film starring Bill Murry in the title role.

Murray takes on the old guy role played by Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino with slight tweaks to the character. Murray’s Vincent is frequently drunk and his house is a mess, unlike Eastwood’s tidy home in his film. And Vincent enjoys visits from another stock-type character in the form of Naomi Watts as the hooker with a heart of gold. Oh, and she’s quite pregnant, which adds another, um, interesting twist to the plot.

As for the neighbors, instead of a Korean family, Vincent is met with newly single mom, Melissa McCarthy as Maggie, and her son, Oliver, played endearingly by Jaeden Lieberher. Oliver runs into the predictable new kid problems–bullies at school and loneliness, and Vincent reluctantly comes to the rescue in both instances. He also teaches Oliver how to bet on the ponies, and introduces him to Watt’s Daka, much to Maggie’s chagrin.

As always, Murray plays the cranky, disaffected grouch with just the right touch of disdain and vulnerability, allowing the viewer to easily fall for his relationship with Oliver. The other cast members are spot-on, especially young Lieberher and Chris O’Dowd as a religious brother who teaches at Oliver’s new school.

St. Vincent is funny, sweet and, alas, predictable. But in a world where the next unknown disaster is waiting to attack at a moment’s notice, maybe predictable isn’t so bad after all.  See the trailer for St. Vincent below.

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Farmhouse Dining Redefined

barleyBy: Chrysa Smith

 

The farm-to-table movement has changed the face of restaurant dining.  And thank God. There’s nothing quite like the tastes of fresh produce and meat just plucked, just butchered, just served quickly.

It’s funny, but having been raised in the city, way before this healthier dining phenomenon, I never realized just how delicious a farm fresh egg could be. Or fish just caught early in the morning. But those who grew up on the farm, well, that was a different thing.

But farm-to-table has taken that ‘of the earth’, dirty hands grittiness and meshed it with an upscale dining experience. And I was lucky enough to have it, while celebrating my 29th anniversary this pat weekend.

Enter The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm. Yes, it’s in Bucks County, PA. Holicong to be exact; just minutes from Peddler’s Village. But it could have been a lovely country manor somewhere in France, as we wound down the long, tree-lined driveway, toward a stone farmhouse and wooden barn, past a cobblestone court and European style fountain.  The first impression was thumbs up. And the rest of the evening was two.

The dining room had an open view to the kitchen. That was quite cool for a self-proclaimed foodie to witness, as the chef emptied his fresh ingredients, straight from containers, into his pans. But aesthetically, the room was gorgeous. A French Provincial décor was complimented by a wall of windows looking out onto bucolic pastures. It was getting dark when we arrived, so not able to take full advantage of the 30 acre property.

The menu is compact, but it’s one of those places that knows what it’s good at, and does it even better. I had the Halibut; Mark began with the Sweet Potato Bisque then the Ribeye. All delicious; all in reasonable portions that allowed for a taste of dessert, without having to unbutton the pants. Mark went for the pumpkin donuts while I indulged my sweet tooth with the chocolate pudding cake. Yum.

A BYOB made it especially attractive and kept the bill within a range of restaurants with less care, less atmosphere, less kitchen experience. Are we going back? Most definitely.

Reserve yourself a seat on OpenTable.com or visit their website: www.barleysheaf.com.

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Television Musings

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

rear view of a girl pointing remote to a televisionI don’t watch a lot of television, except for Say Yes to the Dress, which I binge watch every chance I get. (I cannot get enough of wedding gowns.) But as with everything, I have serious opinions about what I do watch.

And right now, Marty McFly’s mother is making me uncomfortable.

Actress Lea Thompson played the mother to Michael J. Fox’s Marty in the 1985 film Back to the Future, where she missed dancing at the high school prom, instead finding herself stuck in a car with the school lunkhead. She’s trying to make up for it now by cutting a rug on this season’s Dancing With the Stars.

I’d rather see her in the car with Biff.

Though she’s consistently placed high in scores, for some reason, I find her painful to watch. Not as painful as awkward NASCAR racer Michael Waltrip (how is he still on the show?), but still painful. And not nearly as annoying as Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. Can someone shut those two up, please? Also, as much as I love to watch Alfonso Ribeiro, I’ve heard him say the word “groin” just a few too many times tonight.

Leah Remini took over hosting duties for Erin Andrews, grating like a sharp hunk of parmigiano, while Tommy Chong stumbled through another routine, looking like he just emerged from his zillionth pot-induced haze.

The male dancers have decided that shirts are unnecessary, as, apparently, is body hair. Good thing they tape the show in California. Anywhere else and the men would freeze to death.

Then of course, there are the commercials for erectile dysfunction. Viagra and Dancing With the Stars. Pandering to the audience?

Oh, and let’s not forget the political ads. Because we haven’t had enough name calling and backstabbing from those pantheons of virtue we’re electing to office.

Okay, I’m done for now. It’s after eleven and bedtime. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just leave the TV off.

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Singing in the Rain with Dancing With the Stars!

Such an adorable number by Derek Hough and Bethany Mota last week on DWTS. A classic, classically done! Emjoy!

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Whatever Gets You Through Your Life

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By: Chrysa Smith

‘Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found.’

This is a little ‘ditty’ MaryFran will utter for things like finding parking places. Funny, leftover Catholic dogma doesn’t really resonate as a serious prayer with me, but perhaps a plea? I giggle at it, I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work every time we’re in the car together.

So, it was no joking matter today. Because in a desperate moment–a moment when I couldn’t begin to find a favorite silver necklace, I said the prayer. I looked everywhere logically possible at least six times. But as I was reciting it, I could hear my inner voice saying ‘come on–really?’ Did it anyway, and for some reason, opened the makeup drawer, pulled out my travel bag and voila–there was the necklace.

Now in a Catholic dictionary, there is probably no listing for ‘Totally Catholic.’  But, as many of you can attest to, there is most certainly a definition. And that includes going to mass, confession and daily prayer. It also means having certain religious articles in your possession. Those would be rosary beads, prayer veils, holy cards, mass cards, scapula (really?), crucifixes, statues of Mary, perhaps holy water and prayer books. It also was the basis of my upbringing. And although I’ve strayed ever so slightly in my later years, a lot of those comforting rituals help navigate those little frustrations in life. Bless a little circumstance. And I began to think about how many of them I still do.

Whenever I slice into a new loaf of bread or cake, I bless it with the knife. Maybe I’m giving it ‘last rites’ as I hone down on it with the blade. Whenever I pass some ‘road kill’ on the side of the highway, I quietly say a little prayer or visualize a blessing (maybe that’s just weird.) When I hoped to sell my house some two decades ago, I planted St. Anthony upside down in the corner of my yard (Poor guy gets all sorts of weird jobs). This is all in addition to the usual   wearing of  a little cross or religious symbol on a necklace or bracelet. And sending some love out to St. Jude (the saint of impossible causes)—motherly concerns direct to Mary.

Whatever we learned early on really sticks, whether theologically sound or just fun. And with all life dishes out, simple as a parking spot; serious as an impossible cause, I say whatever gets you through your life, or even one night, is alright by me.

 

 

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Alfonso Ribeiro Does “The Carlton” on DWTS–Amazing!

It just doesn’t get more fun than this. Alfonso Ribeiro reprises the famous “Carlton” dance from his days on The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire in a fresh, new way. What a delight–enjoy!

 

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All In A Day’s Work

By: Chrysa Smith

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Meet Violet, DoraLee and Judy. Three tough broads. Oops! Is that politically incorrect? Well then, you should hear Dwayne’s take on women in the hit musical 9 to 5.

My friend Ruth and I ventured on down to Philly to see the show this week. If you haven’t seen it or the movie, do so. It’s a funny take on the late 70’s workplace—which most of us, can—unfortunately, remember all too well. The gals are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens, sex objects, incompetents at Consolidated Industries. So, when their fantasies about change in the workplace are shared, they realize that maybe they do have some clout after all. Three female brains can certainly outsmart one chauvinistic, leech of a boss, and so it falls into place.

During a seemingly normal day at the office, boss Dwayne winds up bound and gagged and ultimately harness-hung above his bed, as the gals dictate what needs to change around there. Dwayne, who is nobody’s fool, finds a way around this mess with the added plus of moving up the corporate ladder. That is, until his boss decides ‘up the ladder’ is to a developing South American country. Violet is promoted to boss, the girls change the way of the world at Consolidated and all ends well. Except for Roz—she’s the former workplace manager in love with Dwayne. A funny stump of a woman, the sexy scene with her on the boss’s desk is a classic. She doesn’t realize her plight yet—she’s still hopelessly in love with the cad of a boss and will follow him to the ends of the earth.

This is all based on the work and talent of Dolly Parton. Who, in part, digitally narrates some of the production and provides some comic relief as well as a hit song or two.

It all brought back my time at a former toy company in NYC, when I worked in the Consumer Relations (aka: complaint) department. A young, naive gal just out of school, I remember the bosses having a little nip at the desk after work, relationships with employees, alcohol at company Christmas parties and sexual comments passed to women on a regular basis. Gee, what ever happened to those good old days? Just kidding. Well, they were good in lots of ways, but I think the workplace has gotten a tad classier than it was. Least I think so. And so has the role of women. Which got me thinking about today—fast forwarded three decades when some really major companies have female CEO’s. And while I’m not a politically correct woman, nor do I believe in the ‘quota’ system, I still have to agree that we’ve come a long way baby—-and I’m sure glad we have. Now if I could only make as much money as my husband!