Archive for January, 2007

That 70’s Chow

January 30, 2007

Shannon O'Donnell

It seems that cultural tastes in cuisine have changed a lot over the years, and mostly for the better. Nowadays, restaurants and home chefs alike regularly turn out such ‘in’ dishes as seared ahi tuna with wasabi butter or prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit. I suppose we have the proliferation of cooking shows on the food network to thank for our more sophisticated palates… at least, that’s where most of my more ‘hip and modern’ recipe ideas come from!

But sometimes I crave a good old-fashioned casserole, the hallmark of my Mom’s cooking. The casserole wasn’t only a good way to use up odds, ends and leftovers, but in the 1970s, this was considered the ‘hip and modern’ way to cook!

I think most of us raised in America in that era had plenty of such meals, most of which had recipes that began with a can of ‘cream-o-something.’ My favorite was Chicken Divan, that chicken-broccoli-cheese concoction that requires a can of cream of chicken or cream of celery soup. My brother preferred my Mom’s variation on this theme… she used a can of cream of mushroom soup, and somehow combined it with chopped tomatoes and green olives and turned it into something resembling a tasty french cassoulet. The first thing I ever learned to cook was tuna noodle casserole… I delighted in telling my fish-hating brother the meat in there was CHICKEN, watching him down every bite, and then gleefully breaking the news that he had, indeed, just consumed an entire plate of TUNA! He would gag and gag at the thought, even though he’d eagerly lapped up every morsel when he’d believed it to be fowl, not foul.

My husband does not like these types of meals that begin with a ‘can-o-something.’ He’s not a fan of ‘mystery meals,’ where he’s not sure exactly what he’s eating, and what exactly IS in cream-of-mushroom soup, anyway? The fact that it comes out of the can in an intact cylindrical blob IS a bit disturbing. However, I was able to convince him to eat a variation on ‘casserole cooking’ last night…we had ‘savory crescent chicken squares,’ also one of my Mom’s old stand-bys. I have her original newspaper clipping of the recipe, cut from the paper in 1974, where it was featured as the grand-prize winner of Pillsbury’s Bake Off contest that year. Instead of beginning with a cream-o-something soup, it instead features a chunk-o-cream cheese as its base. Not much difference, right? But the combination of chicken, cream cheese, onions, pimiento, and butter stuffed in a crescent roll and baked into a decadent, high-fat little bundle of yumminess might satisfy even the snootiest foodie in your family. Said husband, in fact, ate two of them!

For this recipe and plenty of other recipes that evoke memories of ‘That 70s Chow,’ visit

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist


Help Me See the Answer

January 29, 2007

Scott McGrew

Here’s a mystery maybe one of our viewers/readers can explain to me. I just got back from taking my 12 year old to the optometrist. His eyes haven’t changed since the last visit, so his glasses don’t need updating. But the staff was very interested in making sure he got some new glasses. We have both his regular glasses and a backup pair, so I was uncertain what the point was of having yet a third pair. The fella only has the two eyes in his head.

At any rate, here’s my question: why do glasses frames (not including the actual lenses, mind you) cost $150.00? We’re talking about an ounce or two of metal or plastic. And a pair of sunglasses at the drug store might cost $15.00 or a tenth of the price. And those have lenses – not prescription lenses, of course — but you see my point?

Sure, $15.00 sunglasses are pretty cheap. But are regular frames 10 times higher quality? Again, when we’re talking about an ounce or so of metal wire? And folks wonder why our health care costs are going up.

I do think the world of glasses is ripe for a sort of “Walmartization.” While the actual exam to investigate the health of your eyes is critical, and of course must be done by a qualified doctor, everything else seems rather pedestrian. If you’ve been to the eye doctor lately, you know the vision part of your eye exam (where they determine if your prescription needs to be adjusted) is done entirely by computer.

Already most people who want to save a few bucks on contact lenses then take that prescription elsewhere – there are several Internet sites that will sell you brand name contacts at cut rate prices. Seems to me you could do something similar with eyeglasses, particularly if you wanted to keep your current frames. Order the lenses only — and then pop the new lenses in the old frames.

Send me a comment if you think I’m wrong. Or if you can help me answer the “why do frames without lenses cost 10 times more than frames with sunglass lenses” mystery.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

“See” World

January 26, 2007

Laura Garcia CannonSometimes the adventures of a morning anchor go way beyond just reading stories and conducting interviews. That was the case recently when our own adventure reporter Bob Redell invited the folks from San Diego’s Sea World to visit our station. Bob has done interviews with them in the past. They unload the ‘wild’ animals in the front of the station and he usually does the interviews live, while experts describe why the Grey-Cheeked Mangabey prefers the rainforests just north of the Zaire River for example.

Well, Bob had some surprises up his sleeve this time, telling us a few minutes before our 10am newscast that they were going to be bringing a few birds into the studio this time. I thought, oh small birds, perhaps a medium sized Macaw?… uh… no, try a West African Crowned Crane – previously known for eating grass, seeds, corn, rice, insects, small reptiles, and fish but strangely enough now attracted to small morning news anchors pecking at their arms and gouging their eyes!!!

You see, when the cameras were out live on Bob at the front of the building, the animal handlers brought in these huge 5 foot cranes (huge to me – I’m about the same size) but they have a 78 inch wingspan. They jumped on the anchor set, started wildly fanning their wings sending our scripts flying everywhere. We were trying to listen to Bob out live in an interview when we had a little live chaos of our own behind the scenes. One particular crane seemed to like my jacket and jewelry and started pecking at my arm, hands then went for the face and my eyes!! Thank goodness I closed my lids! The bird swiped some skin off my lid. I tried not to let on I was bleeding from my eye and hand for the rest of the newscast, Brent didn’t even know, it was so crazy with the birds flying around. I just got up and left as soon as we said, “Goodbye thanks for joining us! ‘See’ you (no pun intended) tommorrow!” I was fine and so were the birds, just a little antibiotic gel and consealor hid my wound… but now it was the lemur and penguins walking around the newsroom we had to look out for. When they say a newsroom is a zoo of a place to work, they really mean it!!

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

Hair Raising Moments

January 19, 2007

Mike InouyeThis job with the morning show is fun but, let’s face it, I don’t need to be a daredevil to do it. My role consists mainly of monitoring reports, making maps, watching cameras and talking on the phone but last week I had a couple of hairy moments.

The first was when some folks from the San Diego Zoo came to visit. Some (okay most) who’ve worked in a newsroom know it can be zoo-like at times. This, however, was the real thing. Penguins, a lemur and a zebra roamed the front lawn. Next thing I knew, some HUGE birds were in the studio. After monkeying around with them for a few minutes (sans the actual monkey) we ended the show with Shannon, Brent, Laura and me flanked by two beautifully intimidating East African Crowned Cranes. I’d never been so close to a bird that big in my life. I was a bit stressed because Laura had just had her encounter with one of them (check back soon for her blog entry). I managed to get thru without injury but what’s more, I finally know what to call my hairstyle‚Ķ it’s the East African Crowned Crane-ium. What do you think? Hair twins?

The other was in preparation for Scott McGrew’s Gadget Friday. A young inventor came to the station with his Skate-Scepter; basically an outboard engine for your skateboard. Wonderful for those who may want to juice up their sidewalk surfing but it was a little scary for me. It had been years since I rode a skateboard. Even when I had ridden I was pretty horrible and I had never done it in a suit and tie. For safety’s sake, I wore a helmet.

For the sake of good manners neither Scott nor Will (the inventor of the Skate-Scepter) laughed at my timid attempts. When done I expected to have to fix my “helmet hair” before heading back for my last report of the day but to my surprise, the hair still stood. I was pleasantly surprised with my follicular fortitude.

Now this may be nothing compared to my colleagues and their hair raising feats: Bob Redell’s exploits in space capsules or at the North Pole, or Brent’s encounter with a killer whale… but who’s comparing?

I love my job, that’s for sure, and given my current coif I can honestly tell you that in order to get the East African Crowned Crane-ium going, EVERY day is a hair raising day.

Mike Inouye
NBC11 Hair Raising Traffic Anchor

Living in a State… A State of Shock!

January 15, 2007

Shannon O'Donnell

Kissing my husband or two little boys has been dangerous lately… and not just because my unpredictable 2-year-old sometimes wields that out-of-nowhere-head-butt-to-the-nose that so many toddlers use to keep you guessing (that’s another blog–if you noticed my slightly-fat-lip last week, now you know where it came from, and it wasn’t a la a collagen injection!) With such cold, dry winter air in place over California this month, we’re experiencing a problem not often seen around here: lots of static electricity!

It’s deemed ‘static’ electricity because it’s not moving (as in actively moving via a current), but you can sure feel it when that electricity DOES decide to move…often when you touch something metal, or even touch someone else! The zap you feel is the movement of electrons–the negatively charged particles that encircle atoms. Since we’re all made up of atoms, we carry electrons on us at all times. Usually, their jumping back and forth between you and the objects around you goes undetected…it happens all the time. So, why do you feel that sting and see that spark during cold, dry winter weather?

Items that hang on loosely to electrons are considered good CONDUCTORS of electricity. Metal, for instance, is a great conductor, which is why pots and pans are made from metal…they heat up quickly, in turn, conveniently heating up your food, too! Items that hang on very tightly to their electrons are known as INSULATORS. Air is a great insulator, particularly dry air…it just doesn’t want to give those electrons up.

When there is a lot of water in the air (which is usually the case in our mild coastal climate), the water molecules act like ‘WD40’ and kind of ‘grease the path’ for the electrons, allowing them to jump more freely between different items. During our normal climatic conditions, you don’t even feel the electrons moving off and on your body, as the moist air allows them to jump before they have the chance to build up. However, when the air is very cold it can get extremely dry (how are your lips and skin doing nowadays?), and without a lot of water in the air to help keep the electrons moving along, those little buggers tend to build up on us much more so than usual. So when they DO finally jump, the electric shock is much bigger, and usually results in an “owww!”, especially if that electron jump is between you and someone else!

Unfortunately, kissing may still be questionable for the next week or so–the forecast is still calling for cold and mainly dry weather. Hopefully we’ll be back to normal for Valentine’s Day!

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Try the Train

January 11, 2007

Brent Cannon

I had quite the flashback the other day as I watched coverage of the big avalanche in Colorado. The massive slide swept cars off Highway 40 going over Berthoud Pass – en route to the Winter Park ski resort.

I skied Berthoud and Winter Park many times while
I lived in Denver. Berthoud was a small ski resort with just a couple of lifts. But locals came because it was cheap – at one time less than ten bucks – and for what is now called “back country skiing.” The lifts are now closed, and the lodge is being taken down. But people still come to ski. Skiers can drive to the top of the pass and park – ski down, eventually coming to the highway – then either have a friend take you back up – or, hitch a ride back up. There are several things I remember about Berthoud. First, the road is treacherous. It was a narrow, two lane road. At times you felt like if you opened your door you’d plummet over the edge. I suppose it’s like highway one along Big Sur – except with snow and ice added to the equation. Over the years, they widened the uphill lane where the terrain allowed – but it’s still steep and narrow. Secondly, you have to really know what you’re doing to ski up there these days. I skied when the resort was open. I remember one run – I think it was called “The Plunge.” The name says it all. It was a double black diamond. I took a deep breath – and took “the plunge.” On my right – a wall of rock. On my left – over the edge. In the middle – a narrow run with moguls the size of small Volkswagens. I was going pretty fast and lost control. I hit a mogul and shot up in the air – head over heels. In a fleeting moment, several things went through my mind. One – I hope I don’t break several bones. Two – I hope I don’t go over the edge. Somehow, as I flipped – I landed on my skis – used the next mogul to regain my balance – and kept going. People watching from the chairlift were hootin’ and hollerin’ – like it was a planned stunt or something. Believe me – I just wanted to survive.

A few years ago, I took Laura skiing in Colorado. We decided on Winter Park – but I knew in order to get there we had to travel over Berthoud Pass. But if you go to Winter Park, you can also take the ski train out of Denver. We took that option. What a great decision. We relaxed all the way up – no worries about that crazy pass. We also got lift tickets on the train at a discount. The train opens its doors, and you’re on the slopes. Plus, it was such a beautifully scenic ride. While we were skiing, a storm moved in and it began to snow. Many people were not able to make it back over Berthoud, and were stranded. But we got back on the nice warm train – and cruised back home. After the avalanche story – I think the ski train is really the way to go.

Brent Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

My Lucky Charm

January 4, 2007

Laura Garcia Cannon

Brent and I trade off every year whose parents’ house we get to spend Christmas with when we actually get the holiday off. (Remember news happens every day – someone has got to work!) This year we were fortunate enough to have the time off and it was time to head home to Brent’s Mom’s house in Denver, Colorado. Brrrr. Yes, Denver in the height of its blizzards of ’06. In the days prior to our departure, after every news story we’d do, or live report we’d take, we’d glance at each other with the look of what are we getting ourselves into? Our flight was supposed to leave within 24 hours of the 5,000 people stranded at Denver International Airport. Oh did I mention we also were taking our puppy Chip? We thought it was such a great idea in August when we made our reservations! Now I pictured the three of us stranded in an airport sleeping in chairs. Would I have to bring dog food? Was this all wishful thinking that our flight would even leave? Five flights surrounding our departure time were canceled. But somehow, ours was a go! So, we loaded Chip up and took off prepared for quite possibly a very very long trip. I can’t believe it, but it was a breeze. Chip was treated to a free ride, posed for pictures with police officers, got a Jr. K-9 badge, this traveling with the dog thing during a blizzard is easy!! We arrived in Denver no problem and waited only a few minutes to get to a gate.

On the other end, coming back, ironically, another storm was going to hit. We had to get out of dodge fast! When we got to the Denver Airport the lines snaked around for miles!!! It was a three hour minimum to check your bags in which meant most people were going to miss flights! Chip to the rescue, we got sent to the “odd size packages” line (which we thought was going to be another long wait) but it was a whopping three minute wait! The baggage attendant thought Chip was so cute he could go for free, exclaiming, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” as she stapled a big “paid” sign to his carrier. Our flight was easily changed to an earlier departure and we once again had time to spare. Our biggest challenge was trying to put him in the carrier as airline workers kept telling us to take him out so they could see him. Chip was our lucky charm on what could have been a very long potentially stranded trip. He’s going everywhere with us now!

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

A Wii Christmas

January 3, 2007

Scott McGrewI got my father truly one of the weirdest Christmas gifts ever: a Nintendo Wii. Sure, lots of kids got Wiis (Wii’s?) for Christmas, but I suspect he’s one of the only 70 year olds to get one.

Why a Wii? Because I knew he would like it. Back last May, my dad was passing through Los Angeles at the same time I was in L.A. for the E3 video game convention. I invited him to stop by and see what I did for a living, interviewing video game makers about their upcoming products. He was bewildered by everything he saw — and predictably critical of many of the more violent games. Like many of his generation, he was uneasy trying his hand at game play. “C’mon, Dad, it’s left-trigger/x-button/left thumbstick! Everyone knows that”.

And then he tried the newly unveiled Wii. As everyone knows by now, the Wii uses wireless motion sensitive controllers which mimic real life. So to play tennis, you swing the controller like a tennis racket. To box, you punch the controllers in the air. And Dad was delighted. He “got it.”

Nintendo was pleased too. They were showing the Wii off for the first time and were eager to see what “non-players” thought of their new invention. Nintendo figures it will surrender marketshare of hardcore gamers to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 in favor of attracting everyone else — the moms, the grandfathers and others who would not otherwise try a video game.

So, I thought, the Wii was a perfect Christmas gift for the guy who has everything (and can buy himself anything he wants).

Come Christmas, I had warned my children ahead of time that the Wii belonged to Papa, and they were not to “just show him something real quick” and take away the controller, no matter how badly they wanted to play. And they resisted, for a time. Papa did share, as you can see from this picture of my father and my oldest son competing in a boxing game.

So I’m proud to say, my dad’s a video gamer.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter