Top Chef: Masters… the Party

Okay here is my dress… if I’m leading with that it means the party wasn’t that exciting. Granted, I’m a jaded ole basic cable host.

1) My dress is Vivienne Westwood; it was a splurge for me, but it was 50% off. And I bought it at a small store near me that NEVER has customers, so I kind feel like I was helping the economy. The shop owner was so sweet; she held Rex while I tried on clothes. Which was pretty brutal, as I am still 15 lbs overweight, and as moms know, everything has settled oddly. Oh, and I have bad undergarments. It would have helped if I had a supportive bra (a la Jane Russell); instead I have these limp, cotton nursing things that send my guns downward. And I have Spanx, but they roll under my roll. It’s really better to have a Spanx slip. Those are good.

2) I added the broach to the hip. I thought it anchored the ruching.

3) There was a little bit of press, notably my people, TV guide Network. (It’s not a channel, dammit!)  I spoke to them, but otherwise I was there as Mark’s press coach. Mark is a warm, sincere person. So I would say, “Look, that was okay, but if you want them to be sure to use your soundbite say something like, ‘I was afraid the quick challenge would involve Mario Batali in a bikini.’

4) Campanile looked great; the place was packed with people who had worked on the show. But only a few chefs. And chefs and crew people= I could have worn sweats… and clogs.

5) Looking forward to seeing Mark in his episode.

6 ) The party was going strong when I left, but my feet were aching, and I know a sweet,little boy is waking me up at 2:30a.m. So, I think 9:30 is a good exit.

Mrs. Top Chef: Masters

Okay, so for you Top Chef fans, for which there seems to be a considerable amount, this Wednesday is the start of Top Chef: Masters where, instead of lowly rubes trying to win the prize, established chefs compete to be the Top, Top Chef. Well, my sweet husband Mark Peel is one of them. He taped it a couple of months ago. A long grueling production day from what he said.

Scary chef
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevingessner

“We had to sit around and wait forever; it was so boring.” That’s production work for you. He is used to the go-go of restaurant work. I think he enjoyed some of the game of the show. He couldn’t tell me much, or they come and find you!

I’m happy he is going to be on the show. Each week, it’s a different foursome. I don’t think he will be on this week; his is in a few weeks. These “master” chefs don’t compete for money; they compete for charity. Apparently no one told the producers that unless you are Wolfgang Puck, a chef doesn’t make that much money. Mark’s charity was Doctors Without Borders.

What I’m even happier about is that Bravo is having a premiere party at Campanile. There will be some press, lots of chefs, supposedly some celebs, which means I am getting my hair done! And it means I have to find something to wear. My one ace in the hole fab dress I can’t wear a bra with, and at this point in my son’s life, that is NOT an option.

If it’s a good party I’ll blog about it on Thursday.  If it’s not, I’ll just show you what dress I wore.

The Stages 1) Sadness 2) Barf 3) a Mix Tape

Years ago, TV reporter Betty Rollin wrote a memoir called First, You Cry about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer and then having a mastectomy (later made into a movie of the week with Mary Tyler Moore, natch). I kept thinking of that title the first few days after my husband called me on the way home from work one day to say we had lost the majority of our net worth. That we had invested in a scam. I was on my way to pick up Vivien from school. I was numb for a few minutes, but as I saw Vivien drawing near with her teacher, my eyes welled up, and I couldn’t keep quiet.  I blurted to her teacher what I had just found out and started crying, hard.  The teacher was very nice.

“We are going to have to sell our house,” I cried. I tried to pull it together and asked Viv to come home with me. She was not budging; she was pissed at my emotional outburst. That would be the last time I cried in front of her.

That evening I dropped Vivien off at my mother’s. I had to be alone. I drove around town in hysterics. I called my family members sobbing like you do when you’re a kid. I called one of my best friends and did the same. They were all stunned.

Mark and I had calm talks about what was best to do. We could stay in the house for as much as two years, but then if the economy didn’t turn around I’d be afraid it would like Grey Gardens, and then we’d have to sell it, cats and all. The first night I woke up every 45 minutes and vomited.  I spent a day returning all our Christmas presents except for most of Vivien’s (I couldn’t part with her recently requested super hero costume), and I kept back one each for my stepsons and Mark.

I cancelled every trip we had planned, told my pilates instructor to consider me dead. I cast about for things to sell. An older friend said, “Yeah, when people we’ve known have gone through this, they always panic and sell too much of their stuff.”  I was so taken aback.  I was so deep in my grief, pain, shock that I thought, “He knows people who have gone through this? There is a pattern?”  Kind of like after a break-up, I figured MY pain was the ONLY pain.

A few days later, I went next door and cried to my neighbors. They told me that they had a different kind of downturn and would soon be decamping to a rental apartment. That’s when I started to realize it was better to talk about it, and how widespread this reversal was.

Over the holidays, my wonderful stepdaughter Vanessa visited. She has amazing strength. She had lost her own money but was more concerned with us. She would say, “What can I do for you?”  I would often say, “Please play with Vivien; I have to go and lie down.” Not just ’cause I was 7 months pregnant, but because I was emotionally fatigued and wanted to cry in private without Vivien seeing me. And as I have often said, “When the going gets tough, the Brogdons go to bed.”

I kept waking up at 5 a.m., unable to go back to bed. I was scanning for new Madoff developments. To read that he was still in his NY penthouse at this time galled. I would look and see what houses were going for. I would look at Craigslist to gauge how much I could sell a couch for.

But one morning I woke up thinking these feelings were parallel to a bad break-up.  And I asked myself what I used to do after a break-up to help me get through it. Sleep with a stranger? No, that made me feel worse. Starved myself and lost 10 lbs.?  No, I’m pregnant, have to protect the baby. Ah, I used to make a mix tape. Eureka.

I went down to my computer and I made a mix called “ripped off”. It started with Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”

“You are riding high in April, shot down in May.”  How true.

Then the part where you want your lover/money back.  “Why,” Annie Lennox.

You want to feel the love/security of money one more time? “Touch Me in the Morning,” Diana Ross.

Just full blown wallow “We Are the Broken Hearted,” Back Porch Mary.

And then why did I date that guy/ why wasn’t I more diversified?  “What Kind of Fool Am I ?” Sammy Davis Jr.

Then a little anger creeps in… “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,”  Helen Reddy.

Survival… “Knowing Me, Knowing You” by Abba; “Don’t Look Back” by the Temptations, and of course like any good post break-up, I had to put on: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

Followed by Sam Cooke’s “Get Yourself Another Fool.” I dragged myself to look beyond the horizon with the Carpenters’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “No More Tears( Enough Is Enough)” by Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand. I began the next section of renewel with “Believe” by Cher.

Years ago I had a friend who was working in Yugoslavia as the civil war was ending. Cher’s song was new then, and he said when the peace accord was signed, people ran into the street and blasted that song. Thus, he had loved that song ever since. I figured if people who survived genocide and total civil unrest could look forward, I certainly could over some cash. I reminded myself of all that I have and that “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” (Fred Astaire) not “My Favorite Things” (Julie Andrews).

I wrapped up with “Not Going to Cry ” by Mary J. Blige, “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Tony Bennett, and finally, “Let’s Hang On” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

And then I ate a bowl of cereal and wondered if the drapes would fit windows in another house.

AV Guy: Watch Out!

So, we are in the midst of preparing for our big move. Now, the reasons behind the move and the details of the actual move itself are many and mundane enough for a few blogs of their own. But presently, my world is rocked because my husband just told my daughter and I that “There won’t be any TV for several days.” EXCUSE me?

I’m not ashamed  to say how much I need TV. First night in the new place is Thursday, and Mark says “Probably no TV till Tuesday.”  And he will be out of town ALL weekend. So just me and the kids for 3 days with boxes and NO TV? What kind of fresh hell is this? I tried to remain calm and think; OK, we will watch lots of DVDs ’cause I need to park that kid in front of the boob tube now and then for a little mental R&R. No, that might not work either. And that is when I got a little irate. “What kind of cockamamy AV guys have you hired?”

Mark went into a whole thing about complicated it is; yeah, for me, but isn’t that why we hired a pro?  ‘Cause we don’t know what we are doing?  I said, “Tell him it HAS to be  working by the weekend.” Blank face. “Do I have to call him?”

He gave me his number.  Okay, you don’t want to do it? Well, I will. I need my cartoons.

Mommy’s on the Phone!

So this video was about how kids talk to you when you are on the phone, but what’s the deal with husbands? I was talking to a girlfriend recently, and we both found our husbands started chatting with us when we were on the phone. Not a quick, “Is the rice done?” but long statements, and then they get a little bent when we look at them like, “Dude, shut up. I’m on the phone.” She said, “My husband can go hours without speaking to me, but as soon as a friend calls I’m his new best friend.” Are they insecure that we are yucking it up more with our friends than with them?

Sometimes my husband wants in on the phone conversation. After one of my “No ways!!” to a friend, he’ll say, “What?  What?!” I can’t recount this story when I’m on the phone. If it’s good I’ll tell him later, or it’s nothing that he would care about anyway.

Will I Get on the Oprah Show?

Update:  The show airs Monday, April 6, 2009!

Okay, I’ve got to tell you about how I was almost NOT on the Oprah show. It was days in the making. The producers were planning a show called “Real Moms Confess.” They were having various moms and mom bloggers send in videotaped bits. First, I got a call from a producer asking me questions about motherhood for about 45 minutes. I did a full nursing while we chatted.  I said, “I work in TV. I know this all is distilled down to a 30 sec bit.” She’s like, “Uh, huh.” Then more questions. At this point, it wasn’t for sure they would pick me to be on the show. Later, I got a call that they did want me to be on the show and were sending me a camera to record some of the things I said and instructions on how to upload them. Figuring all that out was another day.

I kept thinking, “Do I get to go to Chicago?” But no, they had other people destined for Chicago, but maybe I would be Skyped in. I waited. Then the call came: Yes, they wanted me to Skype in and was sending the equipment. Got the laptop, mic, cables, etc. and instructions on how to assemble it. Then a call to make a date to test equipment. Check and check; it all worked.  I left it set up in the husband office/playroom since there is a window there and thought the natural light would give me Oprah-like light. I was doing this largely so they would mention Cool Mom. I was told no by the nice producer that they weren’t plugging websites on the show in a sort of “This is the Oprah show; we are not negotiating” way. And what was I going to say? “Well, then I’m going to go on a bigger show!”  American Idol wasn’t going to have me on. The other reason I wanted to go on was just to say, “I was on Oprah!!”

A day or two before, I was told by the show that they needed me to fax my children’s birth certificates and my marriage certificate. Huh? It was required. I made my own assumption that after that author said he had written his memoir and then it turned out it wasn’t true, they weren’t messing around anymore and just taking people’s word for it. I could have invented some family just to get on Oprah. I could have pretended to have 8 kids and put on big fake lips. Oh, wait, someone really did that. So, fax I did.

Next day: do I have my stepson’s birth certificate? No. Is he on my taxes? The fact that I had neither handy made me think, maybe I have made this kid up? Who am I fooling? Then I said, “I have his report cards.” Crickets.  I have a copy of his passport…. Oh, but then I couldn’t find that either. Crap, I did make him up. Then I said to the producers, go to www.campanilerestaurant.com. Look at my husband’s bio.  All of his children are listed there. That sufficed. If the Oprah show says I have stepchildren. then I will believe it too.

The plan was that we would tape at 7 a.m. I had to get up at 6 a.m., turn on the Skype, and then I could go and have my coffee and put on makeup. I am not banking a lot of sleep these day,s so I hired a baby nurse to spend the night with Rex. She’s a doll, and in more prosperous times I would have had her 6 days a week. These are NOT these times, but Oprah needed me (or I needed Oprah), and I needed my rest. I still had to get up to pump, but it’s much easier than nursing and then getting Rex burped and back to sleep. At 5:45, the phone rang: “Get up; this is the Oprah show.” I slurred into the phone something and staggered downstairs in my bathrobe. I took the steps to turn on the Skype like before, and nothing happened. I was on the phone with their engineer who (I appreciated) kept his cool as I slowly started to panic. There was much advice and troubleshooting, and still it wasn’t working. He said, “Call Time Warner.” Oh, great, why don’t I call the DMV while I’m at it? I said, “They will not help.” The engineer said, “Tell them you are trying to get on for the Oprah show; that should speed them up.” I ran and got my husband, who (bless his heart) got up right away. He may be a man, but he knows Oprah is a big deal. I spoke to two people at Time Warner as the clock ticked to 7:00 and every passing minute a smaller chance I would get on Oprah. “I’m trying to get on Oprah”  No reaction. “Yes, ma’am, can you restart your computer?” I thought how bummed I would be when I later saw the show and there were other moms and mom bloggers on there and I wasn’t. Time Warner said that I didn’t have an active modem and asked when would l like to schedule a service appointment. I practically screamed, “I don’t want an appointment; I’m supposed to be on Oprah.” They didn’t care. Then at 6:51a.m., I said to the engineer and producer who were on the line, “My husband’s work is only a mile away; would there be time if I went there?”  Yes, they said.  I was so glad they hadn’t already bumped me. They must have like my anecdotes.

Oliver was eating his morning cereal Mark told him to grab the Skype and throw it in the car. Mark had gotten dressed and drove. I was getting calls from the show every 3 minutes asking, “Are you there yet?” Had I not hired the baby nurse, I would have had to call it quits. Mark could not have left, and I can’t figure out all the keys to get into his office. We went through the service entrance, up the stairs to his small, dingy office that he shares with half his staff. It has god-awful florescent lighting overhead (not Oprah lighting) and chef’s jackets hand about. But zip, zang, the Skype worked here. I had thrown on a bright orange top before we left and a pulled on sweat pants on my unwashed body. I slapped on some makeup as the Oprah staff said things like, “Can your husband get ride of those aprons?”  It was strange, ’cause they could see me, but I couldn’t see them. Another voice from Chicago said, “Can you do something about the light?”  I knew overhead fluorescent would not be a good idea for national TV. I grabbed a small desk lamp that was nearby and tried my best to aim it at my under eye as I had seen professional lighting people do with professional lights. The voice from Cchicago gave me enouragement: “That’s good. Now move the camera.” The camera is a tiny one hooked on the top of the laptop. Amazing that a big show has such primitive technology and amazing it all works!  I was thinking later, hey what to those reporters do who are stationed in Iraq and places like that? They have to wing it all the time.

As I waited, my dream hubby brought up a freshly made espresso from the bar. As I took my first sip I suddenly heard a woman say, “Put that down!”. Then the show came on my laptop. They had started late (apparently waiting for me, I was so honored). I could see the show, but there was no sound. During the second segment Oprah suddenly spoke to me. I was startled. Talking on Skype makes one very insecure because while you are talking you can’t see people’s reactions or hear if people are laughing. So whenever I spoke I thought, Am I making an ass of myself? Is Oprah going to be glowering at me?

Well, I have to leave the cliffhanger there because they asked us not to talk about the body of the show till it airs (made me write in my blood). I will say this, once it got rolling, it went well.  The whole staff was very nice to me even when I was holding up their production, and I now have more respect for Oprah than before. She is at ease and in charge and very good at connecting. It’s one thing to see it but another to experience it.  Also, being a host myself, I know that to have that many elements to interview and probably different producers talking can make a person jittery, but she is cool as can be.  As was I… in my dumpy office!

Older Dads

Here’s a Cool Mom video guest-starring my husband, Mark Peel! I wanted to get his take on having children who range in age from 25 to six-and-a-half-months in utero. Or as I like to say, Mark is single-handedly trying to shore up Social Security. I wonder if it’s ’cause he was raised a Mormon…

Cool Mom Poll: Husbands That Bug

Even the best, best husbands can set your teeth on edge sometimes – just like a roommate, but harder to evict. Most women will roll their eyes about their man once in a while. It’s always weird to me when a woman NEVER rags on her husband. Instead of thinking they have a perfect union, I think, “What is she hiding?”

It’s just human nature: our kids, our best friends, that fat guy who banged his car door into mine at Target – everyone bugs everyone at some point.

So, what is your chief beef with your partner (man or woman)? What is the one thing that bothers you a tad more than all the other annoyances?

Here are your choices… remember, you have until 5:00 pm, Thursday, October 16, 2008:

To view last week’s poll results, click here!