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This is about as simple a tomato sauce recipe can get, but the thing that makes it so much better than anything else I’ve tried is the fresh ingredients, especially the tomatoes, basil, and cheese. If you have vine ripe farmers’ market tomatoes, you have to make this. I mean, check out the ingredients on the jarred sauces in the store – we’re talking about all sorts of weird things like high fructose corn syrup.

I also like to make this healthier by using turkey sausage and serving the sauce over whole wheat pasta, which I swear is just as good if not better than regular pasta. And, of course, we like to run to the bakery down the street and make some garlic bread to sop up the extra sauce.

Fresh Tomato, Basil and Spicy Sausage Pasta

15 or so ripe plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
some fresh basil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic (or however much garlic you’d like)
salt to taste (watch out – the sausage is salty so don’t overdo it)
optional: freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and garlic in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and chopped sausage. After the sausage is cooked through, add the chopped tomatoes (you can peel and seed them if you want, but I just throw them in) and crushed red pepper. Cook on low for about an hour – the longer, the better. Add gently shredded basil right before serving – you don’t want the leaves to cook, you just want them to turn bright green. Serve over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.

Eat while watching the first season DVD of 30 Rock, which has totally turned you around on Alec Baldwin.

Read Sunday Dinner #1: Beef Stew 

There is a moment in Cutting Secrets when the main character’s therapist (played by the shamelessly-paycheck-collecting Rhea Perlman) says, “Cutting is a very complicated and serious problem.” I agree. However, this proves to be the only time in the movie when cutting is treated as a complicated and serious problem. Did I love every minute of it anyway? Yes, I did.

Dawn Cottrell (do I have to tell you it’s pronounced Cut-trell?) is a high school student with a bevy of problems. Girls are mean to her at school, her boyfriend is pressuring her to go farther than she’s comfortable with, her parents are in a loveless marriage, and she has the pressure of designing decorations for the Winter Ball dance on her shoulders. Whenever she hears people talking about her behind her back (which seems to happen every five to ten minutes, with commercial breaks) she runs to a stairwell or bathroom and cuts herself. This sends her into a weird trance-like state. The cutting escalates until it tears her family apart and lands her in the hospital. Then she realizes she has a problem and seeks help.

This movie was nothing less than a tour de force of the teenager-in-trouble genre of Lifetime films. In fact, since its inner workings showed through so plainly, it was a great chance for me to nail down the calling cards and tricks of this particular formula.

The math class red flag. In every one of these movies that I’ve seen so far – Cyber Seduction: His Secret Live, A Killing Secret, Broken Silence – all of the kids in trouble show their inner struggle in one way: their grades in math start to drop. It might be calculus, it might be geometry, or, as in this case, it might be logarithms, but whatever mathematical concept it is, it is very much affected by pornography addictions, coach rape, cutting, and knowing that your boyfriend is a murderer. Sure, math is a difficult subject, but try to solve a matrix when you have secrets and silence on your mind.

A quirk in the main character. Kimberlee Peterson, the actress who plays Dawn in this movie, is a pretty talented actress, especially for LMN. However, about half an hour into the movie, I noticed that her left eyebrow was always about two inches above her other eyebrow – as if she were constantly intrigued by something. I could barely focus on anything else for the remainder of the film. Sure, she needed help with the self -mutilation thing, but that eyebrow was also seemed to be a serious and complicated problem.

Secrets. And silence!

A baffling rape scene. No matter what your teenaged addiction, secret, or affliction, not seeking help for it always, always leads to a baffling and confusing rape. No, not a run-of-the-mill rape, but a real honest-to-goodness novelty rape. In this case, Dawn’s cutting intensifies to the point where she is involved in a gang-date rape. I wish I could explain it to you or at least erase it from my memory, but I can’t do either. Either way, I’m sure whoever wrote the teleplay is patting herself on the back right now.

Weirdo Editing. Since these directors are often limited in the usual resources used to tell a compelling story (talented actors, a tight script, believable sets, special effects, an eye for truth and beauty) they often have to fall back on weirdo editing and weirdo cuts. This movie was no exception, as the editor did a lot of weirdo cuts each time Dawn had the urge to cut herself. And the movie’s last scene ended so abruptly that I thought my TV was broken. If only there was some sort of instructional video to teach these LMN editors how to splice their films. Maybe I would call it The Secrets to Cutting.

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, Dare to Hope

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, A Killing Secret

There is a moment in Cutting Secrets when the main character’s therapist (played by the shamelessly-paycheck-collecting Rhea Perlman) says, “Cutting is a very complicated and serious problem.” I agree. However, this proves to be the only time in the movie when cutting is treated as a complicated and serious problem. Did I love every minute of it anyway? Yes, I did.

Dawn Cottrell (do I have to tell you it’s pronounced Cut-trell?) is a high school student with a bevy of problems. Girls are mean to her at school, her boyfriend is pressuring her to go farther than she’s comfortable with, her parents are in a loveless marriage, and she has the pressure of designing decorations for the Winter Ball dance on her shoulders. Whenever she hears people talking about her behind her back (which seems to happen every five to ten minutes, with commercial breaks) she runs to a stairwell or bathroom and cuts herself. This sends her into a weird trance-like state. The cutting escalates until it tears her family apart and lands her in the hospital. Then she realizes she has a problem and seeks help.

This movie was nothing less than a tour de force of the teenager-in-trouble genre of Lifetime films. In fact, since its inner workings showed through so plainly, it was a great chance for me to nail down the calling cards and tricks of this particular formula.

The math class red flag. In every one of these movies that I’ve seen so far – Cyber Seduction: His Secret Live, A Killing Secret, Broken Silence – all of the kids in trouble show their inner struggle in one way: their grades in math start to drop. It might be calculus, it might be geometry, or, as in this case, it might be logarithms, but whatever mathematical concept it is, it is very much affected by pornography addictions, coach rape, cutting, and knowing that your boyfriend is a murderer. Sure, math is a difficult subject, but try to solve a matrix when you have secrets and silence on your mind.

A quirk in the main character. Kimberlee Peterson, the actress who plays Dawn in this movie, is a pretty talented actress, especially for LMN. However, about half an hour into the movie, I noticed that her left eyebrow was always about two inches above her other eyebrow – as if she were constantly intrigued by something. I could barely focus on anything else for the remainder of the film. Sure, she needed help with the self -mutilation thing, but that eyebrow was also seemed to be a serious and complicated problem.

Secrets. And silence!

A baffling rape scene. No matter what your teenaged addiction, secret, or affliction, not seeking help for it always, always leads to a baffling and confusing rape. No, not a run-of-the-mill rape, but a real honest-to-goodness novelty rape. In this case, Dawn’s cutting intensifies to the point where she is involved in a gang-date rape. I wish I could explain it to you or at least erase it from my memory, but I can’t do either. Either way, I’m sure whoever wrote the teleplay is patting herself on the back right now.

Weirdo Editing. Since these directors are often limited in the usual resources used to tell a compelling story (talented actors, a tight script, believable sets, special effects, an eye for truth and beauty) they often have to fall back on weirdo editing and weirdo cuts. This movie was no exception, as the editor did a lot of weirdo cuts each time Dawn had the urge to cut herself. And the movie’s last scene ended so abruptly that I thought my TV was broken. If only there was some sort of instructional video to teach these LMN editors how to splice their films. Maybe I would call it The Secrets to Cutting.

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, Dare to Hope

Read my review of the Lifetime movie, A Killing Secret

shrimpBen and I worked hard this week – even harder than usual. We’re both working on multiple writing projects four or fives hours a day, we are working full-time jobs, and we are cooking well-balanced meals consisting of lean proteins, greens and whole grains each night. We go to the gym each afternoon, systematically exercising our muscle groups while simultaneously building our cardio (watch out, Brit!). Before we fall into an exhaustive sleep each night, we read various tomes of literature and think complex thoughts about them.

By Thursday afternoon, we were both suffering from soreness, eyestrain, and, most importantly, a sharp, gnawing hunger for fatty protein and partial grains. Morale was low and lactic acid levels were high. It was time to switch gears from work hard to play hard.

I emailed my manager and asked her if I could call in sick on Friday. She said yes and jokingly told me to feel better, further cementing in my mind that she is the most understanding and utterly amazing person in the entire corporate world (at times it almost pains me that she gives me no reason to complain about her). I was free and Thursday night was mine for the taking.

When I got home from work, a bit early, Ben and I tried to wait for dinner time, but after about five minutes of sitting quietly on the couch and both privately thinking about shrimp, we decided that it would be less crowded if we left immediately and ate shrimp as soon as possible.

The experience was everything I could have hoped for. Not only was my meal paid for due to a lost football bet a few weeks before, but the waitress was determined to get us as many shrimp as she could find. If you don’t believe me you should know that after we ordered our endless shrimp entrees but before our meals came, our waitress stopped by our table as we were munching on those awesome cheesy biscuits and drinking delicious brewdogs.

She asked, “Would you like to order more shrimp?”

We looked down at our shrimpless bread saucers confused.

“If you order more shrimp before your meals come, you won’t have any downtime between servings.”

Yes, wonderful Red Lobster waitress, we would like more theoretical shrimp in the future, even before we have tasted the first of our Round One shrimp. Thank you.

In the end, though, the shrimp won. We both put in a strong showing and destroyed many shrimp, but there are many, many left in the world, to be eaten on other nights.

After our delicious meal, we drank a brewdog while playing Big Buck Hunter at our local café/bar/arcade (I won). After that, we played Madden (Ben won) and watched the Colbert Report and drank a brewdog. In short, we played hard.

This morning I got to read in bed and stay in my jammies and eat cereal and watch the Lifetime Movie Network. And then we got back to work.

Read another entry about The Lobster.

It’s hot today – almost ninety degrees and humid. As I made my way down the one bad crime block (28th St. and 5th Ave.) that I pass through on my way home from work, I thought that this might be the last real summery day in the city.

And as I picked my way through peddlers and suspicious loiterers, A Mister Softee ice cream pulled up at the curb. I watched as the drug dealers and knock-off sneaker hustlers tucked their illegal wares under their sketchy unmarked vans and lined up for ice cream cones, cookie sandwiches, and rocket pops. Man, did it make me smile. I’ll tell you this: no matter how street tough you look, no one can appear threatening while working on a lemonade freeze bar.

It also makes you wonder – do they refer to Mr. Softee as their ice cream dealer?

It’s hot today – almost ninety degrees and humid. As I made my way down the one bad crime block (28th St. and 5th Ave.) that I pass through on my way home from work, I thought that this might be the last real summery day in the city.

And as I picked my way through peddlers and suspicious loiterers, A Mister Softee ice cream pulled up at the curb. I watched as the drug dealers and knock-off sneaker hustlers tucked their illegal wares under their sketchy unmarked vans and lined up for ice cream cones, cookie sandwiches, and rocket pops. Man, did it make me smile. I’ll tell you this: no matter how street tough you look, no one can appear threatening while working on a lemonade freeze bar.

It also makes you wonder – do they refer to Mr. Softee as their ice cream dealer?

spearsIt’s been a busy week for both Britney and me as we race against each other to see who can have the more productive, happy, and successful life. Sure, you might think that Brit’s falling behind me a bit what with her child custody battle, hit and run charge, and ecstasy drug rumors, but what we can’t forget is that I have yet to have a number one hit, a child, or a hot bod.

Think about it. Even though Britney was involved in a hit-and-run in a Studio City parking lot, at least, unlike me, she can afford a car. Not to mention that she was being chased by a throng of paparazzi at the time, whereas I only sporadically get catcalled by city workers and the homeless. Face it: I have a lot of catch-up work in front of me and catching up while Spears is distracted is just what I’ve been waiting for.  

But here’s what I’m really scared of: that Brit will hit rock bottom. Let me explain. As we all know from various episodes of Behind the Music and other rockographies, hitting rock bottom is an essential turning point in the lives of pop artists that leads to comebacks, happy marriages, bullet-proof abs, and clean urine tests. Yes, her family is being ripped apart, her career is in shambles, and her body is a shadow of what it once was (a bigger, jigglier shadow). But now she’s just a child molestation accusation, lost limb, or celebrity murder charge away from realizing that she’s got to change her ways and turn her life around.

What does this mean for me? It means that I can’t stop and rest, no matter how many times Brit shaves her head or swallows a sedative. I have to push forward in my own life and focus on my own goals knowing that Brit has the ability to hit the top …one more time.

I’ve decided to start small and not worry about my music career just yet. I’m focusing on the little things that will make me surpass Brit’s fame and glory. I try to go to the gym every day and work on my hot bod. Right now, I have Britney’s slightly doughy built, minus the spectacular boobs and angelic face. I’m most concerned about my abs, which are not hard (and not because I’ve spawned two kids in the last two years), and which my significant other likes to jokingly call my TIRE (are you smirking at that Britney? At least he still loves me.).

I also try to surpass Britney in fields where she often fails. For example, I go out of my way each day to wear underwear.

I know that these days it seems easy to outdo Brit, but you can’t pretend she isn’t a force to reckon with. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has orchestrated all of the drama of her descent in order to throw me off the track – to see if I would give into sloth and Hostess products as soon as I saw a crack in her tight, tight veneer. She’s probably just waiting for me to skip a day at the gym or give up my dream of one day publishing a book that rivals the emotional and philosophical gravity of A Mother’s Gift, and then she’ll pounce, producing a song with ten times the catchiness of “Toxic” and an accompanying music video with even more sexily futuristic stewardess outfits.

Even if that’s not the case, even if Britney’s entire life is in a nosedive that will be impossible to pull out until she crashes, I still might be in trouble. As far as I’m concerned, every step Brit takes toward hitting rock bottom is one more step toward clawing her way back up again.

Click here for the first installment of Sarah vs. Spears.

I like grammar. I might not be among (not between, although amongst is also correct if not a little archaic) the best and brightest, but I like to think I know my way around a sentence. It wasn’t a formal part of my school curriculum, but my mom knows her stuff about words and, as recently as yesterday, continues to keep me on the straight and narrow:

Not to be critical about your blog, but you should be using the possessive form of pronouns modifying present participles. I know that everyday English has become sloppy, but I think it sounds better in its correct form.

For example:  my being (not me being) or his giving (not him giving)Professor Aswell

And so we come to yesterday afternoon, when I was discussing Monday Night Football with a coworker. I said, “The game was close when I went to bed. I wasn’t that emotionally involved in it. I guess I like to see the Saints win, although I could care less about the Titans.”

To which my coworker, whom (not who) I should mention I like a lot, said, “What you meant to say was, ‘I couldn’t care less about the Titans’.”

To which I held myself back from saying, “No, what I meant to say was don’t tell me what I meant to say.”

So. Could I care less about the Titans? Yes. Let’s say Vince Young had a season-ending injury – then I would care less about watching the team. Or if a better game were on a different channel at the same time – then I would care less about the Titans. And the use of the word although in my sentence implies (not infers) that I feel lukewarm about both teams.

I guess my point is that even though some people confuse the two sentences doesn’t mean that the phrase I could care less doesn’t exist at all as a correct sentence at some points in time. It could mean, “I care more than I might, even though I barely care,” or, “If I really dug deep and put some effort in, I could find it in myself to care less. But it would really be a struggle.”

I find the same phenomenon has popped up concerning when to say “me” and when to say “I” when referring to you and another person. There’s been a lot of overcorrection towards “I” in the last few years. I think it’s because so many moms and English teachers corrected us, and we didn’t think long enough about why. Even though it’s correct to say, “Sarah and I went to the store,” it isn’t correct to say, “The teacher talked to Sarah and I.” All you have to ask yourself is, am I the subject of the sentence or not?

Well, I can feel this entry quickly devolving into an aggravated lecture. I guess the point is that we could all care more — not only about the rules of grammar, but about how and why the rules are in place. Perhaps we couldn’t care more. I’m not really sure.

I like grammar. I might not be among (not between, although amongst is also correct if not a little archaic) the best and brightest, but I like to think I know my way around a sentence. It wasn’t a formal part of my school curriculum, but my mom knows her stuff about words and, as recently as yesterday, continues to keep me on the straight and narrow:

Not to be critical about your blog, but you should be using the possessive form of pronouns modifying present participles. I know that everyday English has become sloppy, but I think it sounds better in its correct form.

For example:  my being (not me being) or his giving (not him giving)Professor Aswell

And so we come to yesterday afternoon, when I was discussing Monday Night Football with a coworker. I said, “The game was close when I went to bed. I wasn’t that emotionally involved in it. I guess I like to see the Saints win, although I could care less about the Titans.”

To which my coworker, whom (not who) I should mention I like a lot, said, “What you meant to say was, ‘I couldn’t care less about the Titans’.”

To which I held myself back from saying, “No, what I meant to say was don’t tell me what I meant to say.”

So. Could I care less about the Titans? Yes. Let’s say Vince Young had a season-ending injury – then I would care less about watching the team. Or if a better game were on a different channel at the same time – then I would care less about the Titans. And the use of the word although in my sentence implies (not infers) that I feel lukewarm about both teams.

I guess my point is that even though some people confuse the two sentences doesn’t mean that the phrase I could care less doesn’t exist at all as a correct sentence at some points in time. It could mean, “I care more than I might, even though I barely care,” or, “If I really dug deep and put some effort in, I could find it in myself to care less. But it would really be a struggle.”

I find the same phenomenon has popped up concerning when to say “me” and when to say “I” when referring to you and another person. There’s been a lot of overcorrection towards “I” in the last few years. I think it’s because so many moms and English teachers corrected us, and we didn’t think long enough about why. Even though it’s correct to say, “Sarah and I went to the store,” it isn’t correct to say, “The teacher talked to Sarah and I.” All you have to ask yourself is, am I the subject of the sentence or not?

Well, I can feel this entry quickly devolving into an aggravated lecture. I guess the point is that we could all care more — not only about the rules of grammar, but about how and why the rules are in place. Perhaps we couldn’t care more. I’m not really sure.

haloHalo is the best video game that I have played. And today, right now, the third installment of the trilogy is available for sale. As corny as this might sound, I actually have real, true emotions for this game and its characters. Maybe it’s because of the memories attached to the games that include family and friends. But, then again, maybe it’s that special feeling you get from standing high up on a ledge, aiming your rocket launcher, and pulling the trigger.

Here’s a look back:

MARATHON

My relationship with Halo begins long, long ago – way back to when Master Chief was no more than a twinkle in someone’s awesome helmet visor. The year was 1994 and the game was Marathon. Also made by Bungie Software, Marathon was everything to first-person shooter computer games that Halo would prove to be to first-person shooter videogames: the story was just that much more complex, the graphics and possibilities were just that much more insane, and, to the delight of me, my brother, and sister, you could hold a weapon in each of your hands.

My brother was just getting into Apple computers around this time and we had several around our house in differing states of tinkering and disrepair. When the multiplayer Marathon arrived at our house, he quickly connected the Mac in our parents’ home office to a Mac on the dining room table and to a Mac up in his bedroom.

It was perhaps the most primitive form of online play – as I snuck around the maps I listened for any sounds from the other rooms: was my brother laughing? Was my sister’s mouse so quiet that I knew she was laying in wait for me? It was, we all agreed, the most fun ever. Little did we know it was just a precursor for awesome things to come.

HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED

I started playing Halo the year I graduated from college. I had gotten a job as a local reporter and was constantly stressed and angry. My work environment was unhealthy – frantic bosses, a dirty and cramped desk, and long hours covering stale events in a small, rural town. Waking up each morning was the worst thing that had ever happened to me until I woke up the next morning.

But there was one hour of the day that was my own. At noon, I would rush down the two blocks from the office to my one-window studio apartment and I would turn on my Xbox. For one solid hour, I would pick up a pistol and a shotgun – maybe a few hand grenades – and kill everything I saw. The Covenant morphed into my shitty job and my stagnant life. The action both focused me and relieved me. I could go back and face the afternoon, calm and collected. Each time I beat the game, I upped the difficulty level and started it again.

On the nights I didn’t have to cover a story, I would play at my boyfriend’s house with our friends – six or seven people switching in and out of a four-player game. When we got tired of it we played Madden, but we never really got tired of it.

HALO 2

Sometimes it’s hard for me to get to know people. I’m shy, I’m awkward, and my interests don’t often match my appearance. So when my boyfriend Ben took my on a trip to Las Vegas last year with the Mixed Martial Arts team he trained with for a grappling competition, I was a little nervous. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be liked, but why would these tough guys even give me a chance?

I was sitting silently in the hotel room with a crowd of them on the first night, not able to relate to the guys and definitely not able to relate to their girlfriends, who were comparing different brands of self-tanning lotions. But just when all hope was lost, one of the guys pulled out an Xbox, four controllers, and Halo II. That world, those maps — they were a place I would always be in my element.

After they played for a while, I got up the courage to ask for a turn. A few minutes after that, I could tell a few of them were shocked or at least won over. “Ben,” one of them said, “I want you to know that your girlfriend just shot me in the head.”

HALO 3

Unfortunately, I don’t own an Xbox anymore and therefore won’t be buying Halo 3. I don’t have the money and probably shouldn’t spend the time (I tell myself). Each time I see the commercial for it, I find it nothing less than touching. And as sad as that is, especially on this day, it’s nice to know that Halo 3 is out there, and it will be out there when I’m ready to play it.