A quick review of “The Martian”

I am one of those annoying people who always read the book before seeing a movie. I usually end up comparing the movie to the book and finding the movie rather lacking. Sometimes, I’ll think the movie is a good movie on its own, even when it’s nothing like the book. In this case, I can definitely say that “The Martian” is a great movie on it’s own, as well as a pretty faithful adaptation of Andy Weir’s book.

This review has spoilers. It’s a quick review and the movie has been out a few weeks, so I don’t want to have to figure out what might spoil it for folks. If you haven’t seen it, you should. We saw the movie at a matinee and I would happily re-see it in the theaters again. It is almost unheard of for me to say this because I’m a cheapskate.

So here we go… Spoilers below….

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The Beaches of Charleston, SC

We got to take a last minute vacation recently and decided to visit Charleston, SC. I’ll probably write a couple posts on it, but today, I wanted to give a quick review of a couple of the beaches.

We visited Sullivan’s beach and the Isle of Palms.

Sullivan’s IslandSullivansBeachsmaller

Sullivan’s Island’s and Folly beaches are the most well-known of the beaches in Charleston. They are certainly large and Sullivan’s Island is a protected barrier island that has lovely sand, not many seashells and fairly tame waves compared to other beaches I’ve been to. Parking was fairly convenient and free. But you have to find it on the many side streets and hope to get within an easy walking distance of the beach. There were no restrooms that I could find. But after only going to this beach, I was seriously thinking it was one of the nicer beaches I’d ever visited. The only trash I found was a small piece that might have come from a cigarette filter, very little kelp washed up, the sand was smooth and easy to walk on. Just a lovely, restful place to spend a day. Sullivan’s also had more and possibly better restaurants than we saw at Isle of Palms. I can definitely recommend this beach. That being said, we tried Isle of Palms at the suggestion of a co-worker and again at another suggestion from the lovely lady serving us at Hello Deli in North Charleston (a deli so good, we ate there three times during our 5 days in Charleston) and that one became my favorite.

IsleofPalmssmallerIsle of Palms

Isle of Palms is smaller than Sullivan’s. But it is gorgeous. The beach was quiet– granted, we visited here on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, so I’m sure it was packed the day before. The waves here seemed slightly more intense than at Sullivan’s, perhaps just because of the day we came, but I got the feeling Sullivan’s always has comparatively tame waves. There were still very few shells on the very clean beach, but more than at Sullivan’s. On the beach was a beautiful pier that many people used for shade from the sun but also acted as a great little science show for The Boy on where seashells come from. The nicest thing about Isle of Palms, though, was the amenities. There is street parking for $1 an hour close to the beach, but because this is also a park, there was a public parking lot for $7/day extremely close to the entrance to the beach. Plus, the entrance to the beach included a large bathroom facility with separate changing rooms and an outdoor shower where people could at least rinse off the majority of the sand, and a lovely playground area for kids. To top it all off, the sand at Isle of Palms even made a much better sandcastle than Sullivan’s. This was a beautiful beach and we will definitely be back.

Truly, if you’ve got time to spend at the beach, either Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms would be great choices.

Cooking adventures with The Boy

apronOur son is 3.5 years old. He’s at the age where he wants to learn and do things “all by myself!” but still needs help. There’s one thing I love to have him help with and that’s cooking dinner. I want him to know that boys can cook. I want him to know how to make food for himself and be independent, and I want him to know what it takes to get his food prepared. He’s been helping me a lot lately and I realized something early on that makes me really encourage him to help me cook. He loves to eat the food he’s made himself. He’s willing to try new things. He loves going out with me to the container garden and picking a tomato and then (if it lasts that long and isn’t eaten first) seeing that tomato end up on the table in a dinner he’s helped to make.

One of our favorite things to make together is pancakes. He does everything once and then “lets” me take over. We talk about how much Bisquick mix we need. He gets to stir, pour it out on the pan and flip the pancakes when done. If we’re in the mood, he sprinkles chocolate chips on some of them.  I even let him flip the bacon the first time (before it starts to really sizzle and pop).

Yesterday, he got his first “burn.” We’d been talking about not touching hot pans. I’d just turned the pan on and it was beginning to warm up. I warned him several times to not touch. But, I also decided to step back a bit and see what he’d do. As I suspected, he reached out and lightly brushed the end of the pan with his finger. He jumped back to show me his “burn” and we dealt with it. The pan was just barely warm and the “burn” was not even a red spot. (By the time we turned around to the sink to run cool water over it and get the medicinal Mama kiss, neither of us could remember which finger was actually “burned.” We finally settled on the right since that had been closest to the pan). I hope it was enough for him to understand not to touch, though. He could tell that the pans continued to heat up. Considering they are talking about the five senses this week in daycare, I’m wondering if he’ll mention this incident for “touch.”

Yes, having my helper makes it harder to get dinner on the table. But it is so much fun. We are learning about hand-washing before food prep and washing after touching raw meat and eggs. We’re learning what food looks like cooked and un-cooked. He’s learning that there are ways to measure things and how to be careful so we don’t make too big of a mess – though some mess is required and the cooks definitely get to sample the chocolate chips. But he’s also learning that he’s part of the family and has responsibilities to help. All this and the memories are priceless.

Easy Homemade Donuts

chocolate covered donut
Chocolate frosted

My mother used to make us donuts at home. They were delicious. She’d mix the dough and spend the time to deep fry them. Then, we’d all choose our toppings from an array that she’d mix up from a base powdered sugar mixture. It’s one of my favorite memories from childhood. I decided this would be one of the memories The Boy would have of his childhood. But I don’t have the time or inclination to mix up donut dough from scratch. Thankfully, cans of Pillsbury Grands Homestyle Biscuits exist.

To make easy homemade (and delicious) donuts at home, you’ll need

  • The biscuit dough
  • Frying oil (I usually use the leftover peanut oil after I’ve made eggrolls)
  • Flavorings (like: maple, almond, vanilla)
  • Other toppings (like: cake frosting, cocoa powder, crushed nuts, sprinkles, etc.)
  • Milk (if you don’t have milk, you can use water, but the glaze tastes like it’s missing a little something)
  • Powdered Sugar

Making the Donuts

maple frosted donut
Maple frosted
  1. Open the can of Pillsbury Homestyle Biscuits
  2. Use a cap from a bottle, or a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pop a hole out of the center
  3. In a pan of hot oil, drop the donuts and donut holes a few at a time. Flip after they are golden brown on the bottom.
  4. After frying on both sides, remove from the oil and drain.
  5. While the donuts are still warm, dip them in your favorite toppings.

Making the Donut Toppings

array of donut toppings
From top to bottom: maple, powdered sugar, plain glaze, melted chocolate frosting

 

  1. Get a large bag of powdered sugar
  2. Split off a small bowl for just plain powdered sugar
  3. Mix the rest of the powdered sugar with milk to make a plain glaze. (This is what your Krispy Kreme donut is covered in)
  4. Split the plain glaze into several bowls,  depending on what flavors you like.
  5. Here is what we usually do:
  • Leave one bowl plane
  • On the second bowl, add a small amount of maple flavoring (or syrup if that’s all you have)
  • On the third, add cocoa powder (if you’re out of cocoa powder, a chocolate can of cake frosting microwaved for a few seconds until it’s melted makes an AMAZING chocolate frosting for donuts. That is what the chocolate donut above is covered in).
  • Line the bowls up into an assembly line and let everyone choose their own toppings.

Impressions of Ant-Man casting

We got to go see Ant-Man recently, thanks to getting a baby sitter after work one night. Here, I’m going to talk about the casting choices more than anything. I’m also going to give Marvel a pat on the back to go with the slap I gave them from the sexist issues they had with the last Avengers movie.

I liked that they did not have Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as Ant-Man but did show him as the original. I also thought it was good that they did address his anger issues at least partially. Pym is not a hero for today. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang was the perfect actor for the type of character Marvel is going for here after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. They are treating Ant-Man almost as a B-squad character, though really, he could easily be a greater hero than Iron Man. Because of that, he could get away with humor and bumbling sidekicks who still manage to beat the bad guy. Rudd definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously and that’s a good thing for the movie. And the suit was great. Loved the retro styling on it, though I hope for the next movie he gets an update to make it his.

I liked the little hints that they could possibly bring back Pym’s wife. Mike disagreed with me on that and said they were only going to have Hope (Evangeline Lilly) as Wasp, but I think they made too much of an effort to talk about what happened to the original Wasp, to point out that time and space don’t matter where she is, and to not show her face in photos, leaving open the possibility of choosing an actress to portray her in a future film. We’ll see.

Speaking of Evangeline Lilly as Hope, her character made me happy. Here was a self-assured woman, played by an actress who is not 20 years old. She is a full-grown, fully developed, fully aware of who she is, but still capable of growing emotionally and kicking-ass WOMAN, not a girl. I loved that they had an actress in her 30s play a character who was also about 35 years old. It was a breath of fresh air and I have to give Marvel a pat on the back for that. Especially after the stumbles they had in the latest Avengers. It was a great thing to see an older Hollywood actor have a more-than 20-something year-0ld-actress play his DAUGHTER and not his ridiculously too young wife. This casting was great.

The story was a bit campy. But it also fit with more of the worried about the world through the eyes of our family, rather than world-destroying super bad guys. That being said, Thomas the Train is scary enough when he’s little, let alone those creepy eyes the size of a real train. But I did like the growing little things big idea to lay the groundwork for a possible Giant-Man. Something Mike and I have discussed in the last two movies we’ve seen (the new Jurassic World and this) it is really bothering us both when kids are put into danger in these movies in ways that it would not have before The Boy came along. Guess we are starting to grow up too.

For me, I rate movies on whether or not they are worth full-price. Most movies are not. On this occasion, we even had to pay extra for the RPX (Regal’s version of IMAX) showing of the movie.

Most movies we see, are matinee that we catch before dinner on days when we’ve brought The Boy to stay with his grandparents for the night. Speaking as a parent to a young kid, I love date days like that since it covers much of his nap time and it guarantees we’ll be back before bedtime.

This was a good movie. I would rather have paid less to see it, but I did not feel like paying full price was asking too much, though I did think the price difference in the rudely sounding squeaky seats we got for RPX was definitely not worth it.

Rating: Worth full price, not RPX/IMAX

Dollywood and an unfair comparison to Disney World

Recently, we visited Dollywood with our family. We are new season pass holders. We had gotten passes at Christmas last year and thought we’d go a few times this year to make it worth it. We were extremely disappointed with Dollywood when we took family in May. We had Mike, Me, The Boy (3), Brother-in-Law, his 5-year-old son, and the two boys’ grandmother. I’m going to now, unfairly, compare Dollywood to Disney World.

Just a note: I use some patently unfair math below, but it’s to make a point about value for the dollar.

Reasons why it’s (possibly) unfair to compare the two:

  1. They are suppose to not really be in the same league and shouldn’t be compared.But why should they not be compared? USA Today even had one article that ranked Dollywood above Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. Dollywood is obviously trying to compete with the big boys. So shouldn’t it be fair to compare it to the bigger parks?
  2. Dollywood is cheaper on the surface, for a pass, it certainly is. Once you get in the park, not so much. And check out the value for the dollar math below.
  3. Disney World is the destination, Dollywood is a day’s distraction. Agreed. People go to Pigeon Forge for the shopping, Gatlinburg for the kitch and mountains and Dollywood is often a place to wear the kids out in between. Though locals, like us, do just plan on spending the day at Dollywood periodically as our only reason for braving the tourist traffic in Pigeon Forge.

So let me tell you about our recent experience and why we spent the day comparing Dollywood to Disney.

Rides

When we visited Dollywood, the park was open from 10a.m to 7p.m. Considering we were only interested in doing rides that small children could do, that limited us to about 1/2 of the park. That’s totally fine with us. Meant less walking. But here’s the problem. Many of these rides were either not working or had broken parts. We went on May 17, long after the website says the rides are to be open. Here’s a sampling.

The Carousel – broken. With no sign. It was spinning around and looked like it was working fine. People would walk up to the line only to be told by a half-hearted attendant that it was being maintenanced. There was nothing to indicate that the ride, which was spinning and playing music tempting little children to come to it was anything but functioning properly – until you walk through the line to discover it’s broken. The answer to the question of when would it be finished was a shrug. It was broken from before we took the train until after we left the elephants (a couple hours later).

Rockin’ Roadway – closed. At least the lady in front of it was nice about letting us know it was closed and should be working later in the day. But there was still no sign. And that didn’t help us when we were not going to be back in that part of the park.

Amazing Flying Elephants – several of the elephants were broken. Considering how long this stupid line was and the fact that some people seemed to decide they had to put their kids in one elephant and them ride separately, my brother-in-law and I spent most of our time at the park waiting in line for this low rent version of Dumbo with multiple elephants broken. If all of the elephants had been working, the line would have moved at a crawl rather than a snail’s pace.

This was the ride that really ticked me off. Why? Because Dollywood can’t do one simple thing that Disney does: Put up a sign that says how long your wait is going to be. How hard is it to do that? They could do it with a chalkboard.

So Dollywood has multiple popular rides either being fixed with no notice or in poor repair and broken and doesn’t post signs either about the fact they are broken or the times you’ll wait for poorly maintained rides. At least when Disney refurbishes a ride, they work on themeing the closure and their wait times and (free) Fast Pass + system are head and shoulders above Dollywood’s TimeSaver pass that costs $25 PER PERSON and just lets you put yourself in the line so you don’t have to stand there while you wait.

Winner: Disney

Food and Drink Prices

Drinks: We purchased the season pass beverage containers. They were running a special where the normally $20/each cups were on sale for additional ones. I think we ended up paying $20, and then $5 for three others. Something like that. Here’s the funny thing. The equivalent of these from Disney (which granted can not be used in the parks, only at your home resort) are $18 for your length of stay and then free refills. For Dollywood, each refill is $1, but the cup is good all season long. This kind of balances out for me. I might even give the winner here to Dollywood since the rapid refill mugs at Disney are only good at your hotel.

Drinks Winner: Dollywood

Since I went with a Gold Pass at Dollywood, we did get a 10% discount on our meal. I will say the food we got was pretty good for a theme park, though not as good as food at Disney sitdown restaurants. For this, I’m comparing Backstage Restaurant at Dollywood to Liberty Tree Tavern at Disney.

Positives for Backstage Restaurant – everyone can choose their own meal.

Positives for Liberty Tree – unlimited food, so many choices people can find something they like. YUMMY food. Awesome service

For me, Liberty Tree at Disney was much better for the taste. The food at Backstage was a bit uneven. Some was good, some not so good. Everything at Liberty Tree was great. Price wise, I’d say we came out slightly ahead per person at Backstage, but that included a 10% discount that we didn’t get at Liberty Tree (since we no longer have annual passes).

Split decision:

Taste Winner: Disney’s Liberty Tree Tavern

Price (with season pass discount): Dollywood’s Backstage Restaurant

Photos

We purchased the season photo pass for Dollywood. We purchased the Memory Maker for our Disney World trip. Mike and I both agreed that the $160 we spent on Memory Maker was the best thing we bought the entire time. Why? Unlimited photos from all the photographers around the parks. It was so easy to just scan our Magic Band and have the photos appear in our account. We got magic shots, we got posed shots, we even had photographers just come up to us during rainstorms to entertain The Boy and get great pictures. It was wonderful. And no, it is not expensive when you consider that for daycare school photos, we pay $150 to get 3 poses plus the digital image. We don’t care about the printed photos. We want the digital images. We got more than 100 photos on our trip and had so many good ones, I made a rather large photo book of the Memory Maker photos.

At Dollywood, the photo pass costs $50 annually and then you get to pay $2 per photo to get them to put it on your account. Considering that we have averaged exactly 1.5 photos per trip, that’s fairly expensive per picture, though granted, not daycare prices. We have both agreed it has not been worth the hassles for the quality of photos we’ve gotten.

Dollywood has very few places for people to get photos, so you are rushed constantly. On this trip, we got a photo before riding the train. Mike went to pay the $2 to get it added to our account while my BIL and I took the two boys to ride Elephants. Note: we were still in line for a 1/2 hour AFTER Mike got back from the ordeal of trying to GIVE THEM MONEY for our photo.

Mike was the first person in line for the photos since he didn’t need to stop and look at the photo to know he wanted to pay the $2. The attendant waved him back and said he had to wait until ALL the other people who wanted photos and who had NOT paid for the photo pass paid for their photo. So he was literally sent to the back of the line because he paid $50 extra for convenience. After he waited for an entire train’s worth of passengers to buy photos, he paid the $2 and was told it would appear soon. It was not there when we left. He had to stop at the window on the way out to ask about it. They said to give it 24 hours. He did. Called again. Give it another 24 hours. Called again, we finally had to go through the process of describing what we were wearing so they could manually go through the photos to find us. Surprisingly, they DID find our photo. So good on Dollywood for that. But this was a nightmare compared to the ease and customer friendly attitude you get with Disney.

Winner: Disney Memory Maker

Admission Price

For ease of comparison, I’m going to choose an annual/season pass for each park. I’m choosing the 2 park option for Dollywood since Disney’s pass gets you all 4 parks.

  • Disney Annual Pass: $654
  • Dollywood (2 park): $146

Looking at this, Dollywood wins. However, Disney is open 365 days a year. Dollywood is closed for nearly 3 months in January, February and March and an additional 45 days periodically throughout the year, when it has entire days in the middle of the week where it is closed. Be sure you check the calendar and not trust it’s open! So that means instead of getting 12 months as you do at Disney, you’re in effect getting 7.5 months where you can use the pass.

Let’s re-work our math:

  • Disney’s annual pass (per month): $54.50
  • Dollywood’s season pass (per month, this is assuming 7.5 months of usable time): $19.47

Wow, Disney is still nearly 3 times as expensive. But what do you get for the price?

  • Customer Service. No one can deny that Disney has the best customer service in the world.
  • Quality. Their stuff works. If it doesn’t work, they advertise it, they make it easy to know when it will be fixed, they handle it with style when things go wrong.
  • Choices: 4 parks to choose from compared to 2 for Dollywood.

Hey, let’s look at the per park math, shall we?

  • Disney Price per park per month: $54.50/4 = $13.63
  • Dollywood Price per park per month: $19.57/2 = $9.74

Prices aren’t looking too different now, are they? I’d say Quality, Customer Service and Choices are worth the extra money. That being said, it still is easier to go for a day to Dollywood than to run down to Orlando.

So there you go, for a difference of a few dollars per park, you get Disney. Is this math really fair when comparing the two? No, not really. But it sure does make me feel like I’m not getting the bang for the buck from Dollywood as I do from Disney. And that’s the important thing. My value for the dollar.

Value for the dollar: Disney wins.

Sexism and Disney

Truly, this is not just about Disney. But this post is related to the Sexism and Marvel post from a few weeks back and since most of the toys The Boy has are Disney related, they are going to get picked on here. This could really be a rant on most toy companies and attitudes in general towards what should be boy and girl toys.

The Boy absolutely loves the following three movie franchises in this order: Toy Story, Cars, Planes. These are Pixar/Disney films but it is Disney that handles the merchandising. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised when we looked for the 20″ Toy Story dolls for him that we were able to find a Jessie doll. At least those were something we could find. Maybe because both boys and girls are allowed to love those movies. But let’s look at Cars and Planes.

When The Boy let us know he wanted the characters from Cars (he is unaware Cars 2 exists except as a short-story that I edit as a read to him) we started looking for them – they made great potty training rewards and Christmas was coming up. It took awhile, but eventually, we found all of the Radiator Springs members. This was an old movie. We expected it would be difficult to find the cars. It was not impossible. Though, the only set we could find Miss Sally in was with her having dinner with Lightning.

But when it comes to the Planes movies, we noticed something odd. We could not find any of the female characters easily. These are PLANES, they are not gendered in real life. But it was very difficult to find Dottie. It was nearly impossible to find Lil’ Dipper – we finally had to settle for a larger, expensive version of her from the Disney store rather than finding the smaller version (like the other characters have) available at other stores. Pinecone (one of the Smoke Jumpers) is easier to find – but I think that might be because unless you pay close attention to the one line she has in the movie, you might not realize she’s female. But Dynamite? The leader of the Smoke Jumpers? The obviously strong female character? Impossible to find in any store. Oh yes, she’s available if you want to pay an arm and a leg from a collector on Amazon, but she is NEVER hanging on the shelf at Walmart or Target, or Kroger, or Toys R Us, or any of the other stores we diligently check to try to find female Planes and Cars characters.

I was even willing to buy the $100 set (later reduced and then discontinued) from the Disney Store that included all the characters in Planes Fire and Rescue in an attempt to get Dynamite. But, since many of the toys sold by the Disney Store are terrible quality, we had to return it after I dropped one of the cars on our rug while carrying it to the Christmas tree and it broke.

Note to Disney: I love most of  your merchandise. I love the quality of the t-shirts, kitchen items, beach towels, etc. But your toys are often pieces of junk. It’s depressing thinking I can find a better made toy at Walmart than I can at the Disney Store.

 

I was very glad I’d over-bought for his Christmas since this happened on Christmas Eve and we decided to not give him that set.

Not being able to find female characters in “boy” toys is common to all toy manufacturers, but it is really obvious in Disney and Marvel toys. Years ago, you could buy adorable prince outfits at the Disney Store that were similar to the princess costumes you see today. What do you see at the stores now? The Avengers. Hot, bulky costumes that a boy would never be able to wear to Disney World and would get uncomfortable wearing for the length of time it takes to Trick or Treat. If they have one of the other male characters, like Jake from The Neverland Pirates, the quality of the costume is so bad that it makes a not-very-creative mom like me decide to learn to sew it myself. (That Jake vest I made out of felt is still in use two years later and one of his favorite dress-up items. Thanks for the pattern!)

What about at the actual parks? There are plenty of dress up opportunities for girls. They can go to Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and get multiple versions of being a princess. Boys can choose a knight – that only includes the sword and not the outfit. At the Pirates League, boys can be a pirate (that usually includes scary face make-up) while girls can choose pirate princess or mermaid look. Why are girls always required to be a beautiful princess and boys are always required to be a protector with a weapon or a villain with a weapon? Yes, I know, boys can make swords and guns out of sticks. One of The Boy’s and my favorite games is to fight dragons in our front yard with special sticks we’ve collected. But boys and girls want to be able to do other things too.

This indoctrination happens young. We brought The Boy to the local Disney outlet a few weeks ago. He was picking up one of those cheap fans they have near the checkout counter. It had Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf, but was obviously geared more towards a feminine aesthetic. A little girl of about 5 years old explained to me that he shouldn’t play with that since it was a girl toy. She then picked up an Iron Man fan and said he could play with that one. How sad. There were other toys at the store that were so frustrating. Boys had bowling ball sets that were Mickey Mouse and blue. Girls could have the garden set that was Minnie Mouse and pink. What if a girl wants to bowl or a boy wants to garden? I think Disney actually does make opposite sex versions of these – but they are hard to find. This store certainly had none. Why not make them neutral?

Are we so afraid that by letting a boy play with a doll or letting a girl pretend she’s a firefighter that we are going to cause society to crumble? Sadly, many people in charge of toy companies either believe this or believe society feels this way to such an extent that they have to constantly categorize everything as feminine or masculine. Even things that shouldn’t be. I think things are changing. Slowly, but it’s beginning. Many parents are tired of the stereotypes.

I think our toy companies need to realize this. Wouldn’t it cost less to make gender neutral toys in some cases than specific boy and girl versions? Why alienate half your population who might buy a toy by making them feel like they shouldn’t get it for their child? Why are superhero toys or cars and planes considered to be boy only toys? Why is it such a terrible thing to think that a boy might want to play with a female car or superhero <or gasp!-> plant a garden or cook? Or a girl might enjoy race cars or want to pretend she’s a superhero, or play sports? The sexism goes both ways.

 

Stop offering only toys that have weapons to boys. Stop telling boys they can’t have feelings or take care of children. Stop suggesting that girls need to be either sexy or maternal but can’t be a hero and that they must ALWAYS be beautiful and smile. Just Stop It.

Black and White Brownie Pops

image

I needed something easy to make but interesting for our Memorial Day picnic at church recently. I had eaten some brownie pops that my best friend sent me from  Shari’s Berries for Valentine’s Day and was craving them again. The brownie pops they created were adorably cute (and extremely delicious) lady bugs where the head was a dipped cherry. browniebitesMy brownie pops were very simple since I didn’t have a lot of time to make anything complicated, but it would be fairly easy to do more with these. If you are looking for a place to order from though, I can tell you the quality from these and the chocolate covered strawberries she sent me were great.

Ingredients:

  • Brownies (I just made a box mix) – make sure you bake them for the bare minimum time so they are still gooey.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Dipping chocolate – there are many brands, follow the instructions for melting the pieces. I used Marzetti’s chocolate fruit dipping pieces because that was what I had at home.
  • Cookie sheet covered in wax paper

Instructions:

Cut off the edges and scrape the brownie out of the pan immediately after removing it from the oven. Put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool it off, enough so you can handle it, but take it out while still warm.

imagePull off pieces of the brownie and roll them in your hands to make large gumball sized balls. (about 1 inch in diameter)

Refrigerate or freeze the balls when done to firm them up.

 

Take 1/2 of the balls for dipping in chocolate and the other 1/2 for dipping in powdered sugar.

image imageUsing tooth picks, roll the balls in your chocolate dipping sauce.
Put them on the waxed paper covered cookie sheet to drip. After you are finished dipping all the chocolate balls, put this pan in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate completely.

Take the rest of the balls and roll them in the powdered sugar.

imageimage

 

 

 

After the chocolate balls are firmed up, place all of them on the plate and enjoy!image

Tip: The chocolate covered balls did eventually start to get a bit sticky in our summer heat, though the powdered sugar ones did fine. But this would probably be better for an indoor party.

Doctor Who – Capaldi as the Doctor

Note: If you haven’t seen the series 8  – this will have spoilers. Be aware.

Full disclosure. My Doctor is David Tennant. I tell my husband this, and he has no idea what I’m talking about. For those of us who love the series, we know that we all have the one Doctor we really enjoyed watching more than the others. And then…we have our significant others in our lives who may not be Whovians and don’t want to watch the show. Yes, we sit through their shows. But they won’t watch with us. I was told recently that Doctor Who is “too hard to get into unless you’ve watched it from the beginning.” That may be, but most of us who like to watch it would be more than willing to invest the time to re-watch it with our loved ones to get them caught up to speed. Ah well. This post is not about that. It’s about Capaldi’s first season as the new Doctor. To look at that, we have to back to Matt Smith’s last couple of series.

It took me a while to get used to Matt Smith. I thought by the end of his first series, he had begun to really own the role and I finally forgave him for replacing David Tennant. I thought his relationship with River was great and the actors had a real chemistry. I liked that they expanded his companions so that it wasn’t just two series regulars each episode. I loved Rory and liked Amy. The entire arc with Clara was written well. But yes, it was time to try out a new Doctor.

I firmly believe a lot of the reason Capaldi has not grown on me is the writing for this series. Too much time was spent developing an un-needed arc for Clara Oswald rather than developing the personality of the new Doctor.

Capaldi was at a bit of a disadvantage, I felt, because Clara, had a huge and important story arc that was really finished under Matt Smith’s tenure. Her character was created because of the chemistry she and Smith shared. That chemistry is mostly lacking between her and Capaldi.

The writers will either complete a companion’s story arc under one Doctor (a la the best companion ever in Donna Noble), or they’ll extend the companion across a Doctor to give some connection with the previous incarnations. When they did this with Rose, her arc expanded into new stories that allowed her to become her own person. She matured and developed.

I felt that Clara’s story arc really should have finished with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Extending her story through this series felt forced. Her character didn’t really change and mature in any significant way. The way her love interest Mr. Pink died felt unnecessary to me, especially since we’d had an episode where she met their many-times great grandson. Who, unless we discover she’s pregnant in the typical TV melodramatic save-the-story way, will now no longer exist. After seeing the Christmas special, I’m thinking they are not going with that and are going to just accept that all of her descendants now don’t exist; that is rather depressing. Perhaps, they’ll come up with a way to bring Pink back. Who knows.

But, Capaldi still has not grown on me the way Tennant and Smith did by this point in time. He seems too stiff at times and too unpredictable. Tennant’s Doctor seemed like a man beginning to understand just how long and lonely his life had been and would be while still trying to connect with others. Smith’s Doctor developed a great feeling of weary age in a young man’s body; but Capaldi’s Doctor strikes more as a self-important grump that isn’t very trustworthy and not as wise as his younger self. Perhaps, I’m being too harsh. I do hope his version grows on me as much as Tennant’s and Smith’s. But when you have an episode with all the previous Doctors and your reaction is – “I wonder if they could just bring back either of those two?” It let’s you know that this version needs a bit more work before he becomes the real Doctor.

Sexism and Marvel

Note: Originally, I was planning on making this one post covering both Disney and Marvel and the issues they have with sexist attitudes. But I decided to split it up into two. Consider this part 1

 

I’m a fan of both Disney and Marvel. I love them. So this is coming from someone who wants to see something I really enjoy improve.

Sexism and Marvel

I do not believe that the folks at Marvel are all misogynistic pigs as some people truly do. But there are problems in Marvel movies and merchandising. I will address the merchandising issue in the second post since that is also a Disney issue.

Yes, Age of Ultron had some glaring problems. Many people probably missed the Prima Nocta joke. I missed it at first because I couldn’t hear what Stark said clearly. When I leaned over and asked Mike what he said, I was a bit surprised. Rape jokes are never funny. The only thing I can think is the folks at Marvel were thinking this is Tony Stark’s character. You expect him to make a stupid and ill-conceived joke like that. I would also like to think that if he tried something like that with Lady Sif, he’d discover how stupid it really was. I truly hope that is the take away that the folks writing and directing this movie had in mind.  But what it came off as was a crude and stupid joke about something that 20% of their female audience has probably experienced.  Yes. 1 in 5 women have been raped. Think about that.

The second big issue that I had with Age of Ultron was with Black Widow, the only strong female in the group. Yes, she makes a silly joke about having to always clean up after the boys, putting her in the mother role. That can be considered cute and funny. But, contrasted with her comparing her inability to have children to making her a monster like The Hulk, that joke takes on another meaning. Comparing herself to a monster because she can’t have children offended me. Here is a woman, who as part of a spy indoctrination is forcibly sterilized as a child. She is no longer able to produce a baby. That makes her a monster. Boil this down to the base thought: A woman who can’t become pregnant is no woman. I truly hope that was not what the folks at Marvel were thinking. But when the company has had so many issues with how they portray and treat women, one has to think there is a tone deafness that needs to be fixed at the company.

Final thoughts:

Here are two free suggestions for Marvel:

  1. Understand that women are your fans as well. Stop offending us.
  2. Take some of that giant profit you have and spend it to hire a consultant to read your scripts rather than the pre-pubescent boy you currently have. You might be surprised that they can still be great movies while not encouraging rape jokes or comments about what makes a woman a human being or a monster.