Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anything Can Happen Week

"I am interesting enough for a blog!"

These were the kinds of thoughts I had towards the end of "Anything Can Happen Week." I had put some pressure on myself to come up with a truly scintillating installment of "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" because I wanted to keep you all clicking and scrolling for more! 

The week started out with a family barbecue, a flight to Los Angeles, a cold, The Hunger Games, all of which were perfectly satisfying.  (Except for the cold.)  But I didn't want satisfying.  I wanted epic!  I wanted my own bow and arrow, Katniss Everdeen!

I started feeling discouraged, sensing the shadow of my ever-looming deadline mocking me and my unwritable life.  In my desperation, I realized there was only one thing to do.  I had to do what all red-blooded American men do when they're feeling down on a weekday evening: stay at home and drink!

This, of course, required a bit of preparation.  I paid a visit to the local Soda Pop Stop to pick my poison.  Twenty minutes later, I left with no fewer than eight, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.  I was ready to get trashed.

But first, I ate a delicious vegan dinner. 

When I got home, I pulled out a pad of paper and wrote down the list of drinks in an order that would allow for a smooth transition of flavors.  That way, I could ensure my palette wouldn't be overwhelmed.  I also left a place for comments about each beverage and an overall grade.

Four hours later, I finished.  How did it turn out?  Well let's just say after Drink #4, I took a short nap.  After #5, I turned on Girl Interrupted.  And by #7, I really wanted to brush my teeth.  So basically, I was smashed outta my mind, yo! 

Which leads me to my report card:

Jeff's Egg Cream Chocolate Soda  (Yes, that's why I bought it…) 
"Tasty!  If you've ever wanted to melt down old Easter candy and drink it, this one's for you.  And I don't think there's actually any egg in it."  Grade: A-

Virgil's Root Beer
"For $7.99, I was expecting an extra special brew, but it's just Root Beer.  Still, it's very smooth."  Grade: C+

Sweet Blossom Rose Soda
"Light and refreshing, but with the slightest hint of cheap, little girl perfume."  
Grade: B

Calypso Triple Melon Lemonade
"It tastes like a Watermelon Jolly Rancher, perhaps a little too much."  Grade: B-

Plantation Style Mint Julep
"Strong carbonation to compliment the fresh mint taste.  I want it to have a maraschino cherry."  Grade: B+

Jeff's Egg Cream Orange Dream Soda
"This tastes like everything I loved about my childhood!"  Grade: A+

Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer
"Let this stuff go flat, and it's totally what I think Butter Beer from the Harry Potter books would taste like."  Grade: A-

Calypso Black Cherry Lemonade
"Officially my favorite lemonade.  I'm serious."  Grade: A

After I finished, I recycled the bottles and went to bed a little after midnight.  When I woke up, I could remember everything.  I didn't have a headache, and my pajamas were on.

So what can I offer you, the readers I've thought about so frequently during the past week?  Well, besides a lovely list of family friendly beverages, I can also promise you this: regardless of whether or not we feel ready for something dramatic to happen in our lives, we don't always need to go out and create it.  Anything can happen in life, but how and when it will is not necessarily up to us.  Sometimes "Almost Anything Can Happen Week" is just as fun.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- May 2012

So, just between you and me, last month's "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" was not a big hit.  According to my statistics, about 67% fewer people cared about April's Early Morning Week than March's Creative Workout Week.  Now that I look back on it, however, I can't blame them.  While I still believe my idea to wake up early seven days in a row was both valiant and personally insightful, it was also in its very definition, sleepy.

Which is why I have spent all of May wondering what on earth I'm gonna do this week! I've spent many a twilight mulling over what idea might thrill my readers, but all I was able to come up with was "Read a Book in a Week Week," basically the blogging equivalent of watching paint dry.

So as today is the very last day I can start "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week," I've decided to combat my empty tank of creativity with a page from one of the most important chapters of my childhood, The New Mickey Mouse Club.

MMC, as it was called by those brave enough to think that Mickey Mouse wearing sunglasses could be "edgy," was a children's variety show on the Disney Channel that brought me a lot of joy on weekday afternoons.  Those kids sang; they danced; they told stupid jokes.  I loved it.

And one of the reasons I think I loved it so much was because of the show's impeccable organization.  For a control freak like me, I loved that I could tune in and already know what sort of show I was in for.  Monday was Music Day, Tuesday- Guest Day, Thursday- Party Day, Friday- Hall of Fame Day, and Wednesday was Anything Can Happen Day.  (Do you see where this is going?)

In honor of the Wednesday theme of my favorite childhood TV show, I am officially declaring this week, "Anything Can Happen Week."  Interested to know what that means?  Me too.  Tune in next week to find out!

"Y?  Because we like you.  M-O-U-S-E."

View the results of Anything Can Happen Week

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Favorite Movies of the (last) Year

I created my 2011 Movie List on December 21st of last year.  With two months to go until the Academy Awards, my goal was to see all the movies on said list before Oscar told me which of the "Best Movies of the Year" was, in fact, the best.

Well, the deadline came and went, and unfortunately, my list remained.  But now, three months later and almost halfway through 2012, I'm proud to say I have finally done it!  And though the Red Carpet is no doubt in need of some serious vacuuming by this point, I would like to take this opportunity to announce, in no particular order, my three favorite movies of 2011.  The good news is if you haven't already seen them, they are all out on DVD.


Fact #1: Graphic violence in movies makes me graphically depressed.  Fact #2: Because of Fact #1, the only Martin Scorcese film I had seen prior to Hugo was The Aviator.  Fact #3: I am now officially a Scorcese fan.

I love Hugo because not only does it make movie magic, it makes movie magic magical!  So rarely does a glimpse into history educate an audience and encourage its innocence at the same time.  I have a feeling this will be a movie that I'll watch throughout my lifetime and continually be impressed by something new and moved by something familiar.

Midnight in Paris

It's no big secret that Paris has become Woody Allen's new New York, and as far as I'm concerned, thank goodness it has!  Midnight in Paris is one of my all-time favorite Woody Allen movies.  Period.

Everything about this movie felt fresh.  Mr. Allen cast Owen Wilson to play the part he would have played 20 years ago and surrounded him with the energy of an amazing ensemble.  The film is clever and fanciful, and I ate it up like a freshly baked croissant.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Let's get one thing perfectly clear; I hate being manipulated.  That "Christmas Shoes" song where the kid asks a country singer for money to buy his sick mom some shoes before she meets Jesus?  I can't stand it.  I feel like they were all in the recording studio, dollar signs in their eyes, thinking about all the suckers that would cry every time their song came on.

That being said, when I heard the name of this movie being parodied as "Exremely Loud & Incredibly Manipulative," it went from being at the top of my movie list to one of the last.  Then, I saw the lead kid win an award on TV, and I thought he was super annoying, so I was even less excited to see it.  Then, I saw it.

I loved this movie!  Even crazier, I loved the super annoying kid!  Perhaps what I was actually feeling when I saw him on that awards show was embarrassment, like how I'd feel now if my performances in childhood home videos had been released in theaters when I was 12.

My insecurities aside, though, I thought Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was relatable and touching and full of subject matter that could have gone wrong in oh, so many ways.  Family death and 9-11 make for one fine line, but every time I started questioning if this film could walk it, I was confidently reassured that it could.

So that's it!  A little late, perhaps, but those are my favorite films of 2011.  Before I start on 2012, however, I'd like to point out that these three films I chose share quite a bit in common.  First, both Hugo and Midnight in Paris take place in France.  Second, both Hugo and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close have young, male protagonists.  And finally, all three movies are, in their own ways, about miracles.  

I guess that means I need to visit Paris, pay a little more attention to my inner child, and keep an eye out for miracles of all shapes and sizes.  From steam punk robots to time traveling authors to that elusive sixth borough, I guess you never really know what kind of "cinemagic" your life might make.

Other films I really liked last year: 50/50The Tree of LifeTake Shelter, and Melancholia.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

There's something very relaxing about making pies.  In fact, if I had a Zen garden, it would probably look like a pie shop.

I love pies because they're both a science and an art form.  And whenever I watch a film or miniseries about a strong woman who turns her life around with the help of her famous pie making skills, I always wish I could bake more of them.  So, Ms Mildred Pierce, this one's for you!

First up, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, thanks to a recipe from  The recipe is below, as are some pictures of how mine turned out.  Not too shabby for a first attempt.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1 recipe All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough or double-crust pie dough of your choice
3 ½ cups (about 1 ½ pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in ½ inch think slices
3 ½ cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and slice if big, halved if tiny
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  (I like to fold my gently into quarters, to transfer it more easily, then unfold it in the pie plate.)

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl.  Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter.  Roll second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and cut decorative slits in it.  Transfer it to center over the pie filling.  Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only ½ inch.  Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough.  Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool.  When full cool (several hours later) the juices gel.

OK, so my pie came out a little runny, even after sitting overnight.  Maybe it was the generic brand tapioca?  Who knows.  But I really had so much fun, and the pie tasted, well…

May this be the start of a new tradition!  Take a breath.  Make a pie.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's a Costco Jungle Out There

There are many perks to living in our modern day society.  We have microwaves, and vacuum cleaners, and 3-D James Cameron movies.  We don't have to worry about slaying buffalo for dinner or walking several miles to find clean drinking water.  But there is a dark side to all these amenities, a threat of danger that lurks in the darkest corner of our urban wilderness.  I am speaking, of course, about the Costco parking lot.

Costco, in my eyes, embodies the true paradox of American life because it satisfies our desires for both economy and gluttony.  But the high from paying just $7.99 for a huge tray of double chocolate chunk muffins can only last so long.  Sooner or later, you find yourself sitting on the couch covered in muffin liners and thinking, "Was the Price really worth the Cost…co?"

It is this paradox, this emotional roller coaster, that I believe makes the Costco parking lot such a dangerous place.  From the get go, customers are both rejoicing and regretting their decision to be there.  They want to get in and out, but know it probably won't turn out that way, so to make up for it, they look for a place to park their cars like a lion looks for an antelope.  They are out for blood!

I have almost been run down on my way into the local Costco on more than one occasion.  It seems the special combination of drivers only looking out for empty parking spaces and the fact that I can't hear a Toyota Prius when it sneaks up on me have proven nearly fatal.

Not to mention those warehouse-sized grocery carts!  I've sat in smaller things at Disneyland!  And yet, when people use those carts to push giant crates of Sunny Delight back to their vehicles, they seem to forget how large and obtrusive they really are.  How else can you explain why they're left all over the parking lot, just waiting for that one gust of wind to chase you down?

The world as we know it continues to get a little more settled, but not necessarily more civilized.  It seems we'll always need certain skills in order to escape the dangers of the Wild, natural or not.  It's a Jungle out there, people, complete with gallon-sized jugs of Miracle Whip.