The Boy Who Read: 13 Years of My Harry Potter Memories

A few months ago I wrote a post about Me & Mr Ghostface in which I laid out the way the Scream franchise had affected my life in many surprising ways. As I am a fanboy to the very core, there are of course many other franchises that have changed me. But one that seems to universally change people is Harry Potter. With the film franchise winding to its inevitable close this weekend I thought I would take a minute to reflect on some of my fond memories the series has provided me with over the past 13 years.

The series was first introduced to me Christmas 1998 when on Christmas morning I unwrapped a copy of “Chamber of Secrets”. To say that I wasn’t much of a fan of reading at the time would be an understatement. My mother had heard that the books were quite popular. Given that I was 13 at the time I think I might have been a little bit of a shit about it, and snubbed the book as being for children (because at 13 I was most definitely an adult). When I returned to school after the holidays my English teacher proclaimed that we all needed to have a new book for silent reading by the next day. Too embarrassed to show my peers that I was reading a “childrens” book I covered the exterior cover with duct tape and… a Korn sticker (yes… I know… because that is less embarrassing). I poured over the pages of the book becoming more and more enthralled with Harry and his adventures attempting to locate the Chamber of Secrets. For the first time in my young adult life I was genuinely in love with what I was reading.  I can honestly say that I am not certain that I would have developed a love for books had that book not arrived at the time that it did. It wasn’t until after I had finished the book that I realized I had actually started at the second book in the series and I had to back track.

I recall reading the books one late night at a choir practice in our local church and a mother of one of the other children scolding me for reading witchcraft in “a house of the lord”. I remember pleading with her that the book was nothing more than a fairy tale. When her response was that “witchcraft is witchcraft”, I gave her the stink eye and said “You do know witches are pretend, right?”. I’m not certain how the conversation ended, but it was probably a watershed moment in my realization that there are adults in the world that are loony zealots and I had no interest in extremism, as it frequently pops into my head when I hear people taking anything too seriously.

The third book was released later that summer and to this day it is my favorite of the books (books, not movies). I have read The Prisoner of Azkaban probably more than any other book, I would say at least a dozen times, probably more. I think as a youngin’ I particularly liked the passages where the kids rebel for what is right rather than follow rules. To a 13 year old, that is pretty much the most accessible message you can send. As an adult I came to appreciate the grander themes of its plot: hope, loss, time, redemption.  Around this time my friends began discovering the series as well and any childrens book stigma was dissipating, more importantly I stopped caring.

By the time the fourth book was released the series was an internationally recognized phenomenon, Warner Brothers was full swing into production on a Harry Potter movie (Rosie O’ Donnell was in talks to play Molly, CAN YOU IMAGINE) and they had started selling merchandise in “WB Stores” emblazoned with book illustrations. The fourth book was, and still is, by far my least favorite in the series. There are a few to many plots and the action sequences struck me as being a bit overbearing. It felt like J.K. Rowling was writing a book to be made into a movie, I still love it, but it does rank at the bottom of my list. It was released in the time between my transition from Junior High to High School and I remember attending a friends summer barbecue where the only topic of discussion was the new book. It sounds silly but the image of that afternoon is so firmly ingrained in my memory as being synonymous with the summers of my youth. It would be 3 years before J.K. Rowling published another book.

During the hiatus between books the first two movies were released, I remember feeling a little let down by the first movie, I think that may have been unavoidable as the vision of Hogwarts in my head was totally different (I was particularly upset that they weren’t wearing purple robes, which it never says they do in the books). I griped over every left out detail and every left in pointless one. I thought Ron & Hermione were terribly cast and even in 2001 some of those CG effects were cheesy. Of course in hindsight I can see how wrong I was (but not about the effects, that troll and the Neville broom scene are appalling). I recently watched all 7 of the films (so far released) back to back and it is truly remarkable that the filmmakers were able to create this visual universe from the ground up. While yes there are of course differences between the characters in the book and the way they a portrayed in the films  it is amazing to me that it actually worked out so well given Ron and Hermione were cast so young and ultimately fully became their characters over 10 years. The second film seemed to resolve most of the issues of the first, taking the film in an appropriately darker direction and sharpening its visual imagery that would later be perfected by director Alfonso Cuarón in Azkaban and David Yates (the final 4 films).

I dont have many memories tied with the release of book 5. That being said, one thing does stick out quite prominently, I felt like Harry was such an obnoxious asshole in it. Harry hits his moody adolescence and takes it out on every character in the book. I have, in the past, used Harry’s behavior in book five as a litmus test. If I say to a new person “Yeah Order of the Phoenix was great, but Harry was such a dick” and they say anything but “I KNOW RIGHT” then I know they aren’t someone I want to hang around. It is a turning point in the series as well, while the previous 4 books all had a common thread but felt like installments, the final 3 are pretty much directly tied into each other. Side note: No words have ever made me more irritated in a book then when Umbridge says *hem hem*

The film version of Prisoner of Azkaban really changed the course of the franchise in mostly surprising ways. While I really don’t like the 3rd film, I give its director Cuarón credit for steering the franchise in the correct character driven and grounded in reality direction. However, I disliked the tone he took my favorite book in which was ultimately a more goofy, “wacky” and over the top approach to the magical world. While he handles scenes of emotional importance well, he doesnt seem to know what to do with the space in between. He also weaves in a subtext about adolescent sexuality (which he admitted in interviews) that felt a little premature (book 6 is where everybody becomes a bit slutty *looking at you Ginny Weasley*). Honestly what was with the Jamaican talking head…

When “Half-Blood Prince” was released I was working at a theater company in Walnut Creek, CA on a production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I remember that we were knee deep in dance rehearsals for the ballroom sequence and when I arrived at the dance studio the day it hit bookshelves literally every cast member was leaning against the mirror with their face buried in their brand new copies. The second any of us were told that we were not needed for a portion of the rehearsal we fell back into our reading (much to the annoyance of our director).

When I wasn’t in rehearsals I was spending the warm afternoons with one of my best friends Ashley at her house , we would sit and talk for hours, get Slurpees and Doritos taco flavored Rollitos (rolled Dorito chips, because regular Doritos were way too hard to eat) and play the Harry Potter video games on her PlayStation 2. In the earlier games the characters were only able to say the same phrases over and over, so when you hear them for hours at time they work their way into your subconscious. I remember that during an ice level Hermione would say “I’m soooooo cold” over and over. So it became a catchphrase of ours. Those afternoons still rank among some of my favorite memories.

Best "Midnight" (2am) Showing Ever

I have mostly fond feelings for the fourth movie, for awhile it was my favorite in the series I think mostly because I had so much fun when I saw it. I was living in New York at the time of its release, and one of my best friends and probably the biggest Potter-head I know Leslie and I got tickets to see it on IMAX, we couldn’t get into the sold out midnight showing so we had to see it at 2am. Leslie dressed up as a Gryffindor, complete with a lighting temporary tattoo on her forehead and robe. Given her bright read hair we decided that she was love child of Harry and Ginny (*SPOILER ALERT* little did we know that those characters would indeed go on to have children). I dressed up as my character crush Crabbe, complete with Slytherin jacket and robe (in real life I am much more of a Hufflepuff). We sat outside of the theater for 2 hours waiting for our showing and talking with other fans. Seeing the movie on IMAX was way cooler than seeing it on a regular screen. I remember thinking that the dragon sequence was quite terrifying, but when I saw it on a screen that wasn’t 50 feet tall it wasn’t as amazing. We got out of the movie at around 4am and I remember walking down the street in Manhattan in my costume totally exhausted and the city was just waking up, I couldn’t help but smile and feel amazing about life. Just one of those New York moments that is hard to put into words. Many of my friends mock this movie as its acting is a little intense and occasionally terrible (Victor Krum, Undesirable Actor Number 1, you’re cute though so I’ll let it slide), but I remain faithfully fond of it.

Left to Right, Taryn as a student, Jenny's amazing Bellatrix costume, Hubs as Arthur Weasley and Leanne as a fortune teller

The summer of 2007 proved to be the summer of Harry Potter. Not only was the final book “Deathly Hallows” being published but a few weeks later the 5th film “Order of The Phoenix” was released. When Half Blood Prince was published there were a small group of… assholes (there is just no other appropriate term) who drove past midnight release parties shouting that Dumbledore died on page 596, I was lucky enough not to be spoiled then, but it did put the fear in that the ending to my beloved series would be ruined. By this time I was already living with my now husband Joey (who still hasn’t read all of the books, shame him for that when you get a chance 😉 and he had at this point already begun working for Barnes & Noble. So of course he worked at the big midnight book bonanza, I was admittedly nervous about attending and didn’t want to be spoiled. They had a costume contest, and I remember that I helped him put together an ADORABLE Arthur Weasley costume. Around 10pm I couldn’t resist the urge to see all our friends in their costumes and miss the big final midnight release party, so I did end up attending. When the first books started being sold though and I saw kids sit down and turn to the end of the book to see the ending first I bolted cartoon style from the building with my ears plugged (there was a dust outline in my shape, that’s how fast I ran).

Its still the cutest shit ever...

I spent the next 24 hours in a technology lock down, I refused to leave the house, go online, or turn on the radio for fear of spoilers. I finished the book in about 24 hours and managed to remain unspoiled. Since the last film hasn’t been released I will not post anything spoilery here, but I am one of the people that feels Book 7 is the first modern masterpiece. One particular characters final story is so profoundly moving and while the book is set in a fantasy world, it is one of the truest depictions of humanity ever committed to the page.  Characters I loved died, relationships long in gestation came to fruition, multiple characters revealed their true natures and the most incredible intricate thread that tied together 9 year of books was revealed (this is one area that movies can not possibly do justice, they just left out entirely to much over the years, you have to read them). I cried buckets y’all.

I have been fortunate enough to share midnight movie experiences for the past 3 films (Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows Part 1) with my husband and my wonderful friends Lindsay and Kelley (Sadly when Part 2 arrives my husband will be out of town). In my opinion the David Yates films while not the truest to the books are the best films in the franchise. He took the work that Cuarón started grounding the series in reality and took it to the perfect level. He introduced many of my favorite depictions (what up Bellatrix and Luna, a lot of credit goes to those actors), and he managed to always set the stakes appropriately high. Every time we saw the movies we end up staying and discussing it for a long time, and its always a fun time. Usually at some point Kelley and Joey give up on Lindsay and I for gushing too long.

This weekend the story of Harry and I reaches a close… sort of.  While this is certainly the last major public Harry Potter event, I suspect the series will continue to affect my life. If anything has been proven over the years its that this series has helped me build relationships with many of the most important people I’ve known. I look forward to Joey and I reading our child the books someday and connecting with them over the stories beauty.  I look forward to huddling together on the couch and showing our child the movies that I have so many fond memories of and sharing some of these stories with them. Ultimately Harry Potter is a universal story that brings people together and creates memories, it can, if you let it speak to you at a very personal level. For all of this I think I will always be grateful to J.K. Rowling and, of course to the boy who lived.

Mischief Managed.

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Planting a garden and further Gwyneth Paltrow culinary adventures

For awhile now, Joey and I have sort of griped over our inability to have a proper yard and garden. When I was a kid for a few years we had a huge back yard. I do mean huge. My mom had a variety of plants and flowers growing and it was frequently one of my chores to water them. I recall one day in a very eco-friendly California hippie style move my elementary school had an earth day celebration where they opened a community garden. I would love to tell you my class was in charge of planting something really cool, but in reality we were responsible for the compost heap and worm garden (I can still smell it if I think about it too hard. BLECH). I did sneak off though and helped with planting some tulip bulbs (my favorite flower) with another class, and at the end of the day we were each given a package of assorted garden seeds to plant at home. I planted mine and was quite surprised when I grew huge stalks of corn and sunflowers. Sadly though ants for to the corn well before i ever could.

For most of my life my mom always had something growing on our apartment balcony (she still does) .  As Ive grown older I’ve come top appreciate the presence of flowers and plants, but growing them is difficult.  This is partially because we live in an apartment that is pretty much cement as far as the eye can see and partially because we live in the desert where the heat kills pretty much everything.  Still against better judgment, I invested in a few “test-the-waters” terracotta planters and planted some flowers, saliva, thyme, rosemary and the hopeless pipe-dream of a few pumpkin seeds. I’ll keep you update if anything grows or better yet survives…

Dreaming big.

 and now further adventures in cooking…

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Kale Fried Rice– I just made this last night so it is the freshest in my mind. I am intrigued by the idea of kale but in my opinion it has always been more of a garnish then an actual ingredient. On Modern Family the gay couple Cam and Mitchell expressed shock and disgust over Kale being the new spinach at the farmers market and prior to cooking this I would have probably agreed. The recipe calls takes a half pound of  thinly sliced ribbons of kale leaves and steams them. Once they are soft but vibrantly green, she adds some garlic to pand with a tablespoon of olive oil. When the the garlic has cooked but not browned, she added the kale and 3 large scallions chopped diagonally. After that cooks for a few minutes she adds 2 cups of brown rice, then cook that for a few more minutes before adding a tablespoon of soy sauce. It could have been the organic soy sauce I used, but I would cut way back on the soy sauce since it is very salty. I loved the overall flavor but I am thinking it would benefit from the addition of some sugar snap peas or maybe even some carrots. But I will definitely be making this again as it was quite quick and easy to make and with an adjustment to the soy sauce even more delicious.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Fresh Corn Polenta- Another pretty easy quick fix dinner. It is originally intended as a side dish but we went ahead and had it as a main course. Its perfect right now given that corn is in its peak summer sweetness. You basically cook polenta as the package directs then stir in 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream, some fresh cracked pepper and the kernals from one ear of fresh corn. Then sprinkle with chives. It was fantastic, starchy comforting goodness, almost like mashed potatoes.  To make it a little more “meal”-like I might punch it up  with some additional vegetables like sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, or broccoli and cheese.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Berries with Caramelized Cream – A third quick fix option from Gwyneth Paltrow. This was designed as a desert. Given the red white and blue color scheme I elected to make it as a finale to our fourth of July dinner (below). Basically you take a pint of raspberries and a pint of blueberries (I added a few strawberries too)  and pour them in a cake pan. For the cream mixture you combine: 2 Tbsp sour cream, 2 Tbsp heavy cream, 1 large egg, 1 egg white, 1 C mascarpone, 3 Tbsp powdered sugar, Pinch of sea salt, Seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Then pour over the berries and bake in the broiler till golden. I have to confess, it smelled alot like cheese pizza which really yicked me out. Once Joey forced me to take a bite it was quite heavenly. It tastes alot like toasted ice cream and berries, but leave the strawberries out.

Grass Fed Beef Burger and Gwyneth Paltrow French Fries-  Since watching Food Inc I haven’t actually made beef at home or purchased it at the grocery store. Mainly because of the lack of grass fed beef in my primary grocery store (and budget), but since it was July 4th. I thought I would splurge and buy a pound of the swanky stuff. I also splurged on Bricohe buns, butter lettuce and oven roasted tomatoes.  I was quite concerned as online many blogger stated that it was quick cooking and you could ruin it. So I followed the 3 minutes per side guideline and they came out more rare than I typically like but they tasted AMAZING. They had an incredible beef flavor. If I could afford it, I would rotate it into our routine. I also made Gwyneth Paltrow’s oven fries, which were basically just peeled potatoes chunked, coated in olive oil and course salt.  Really that’s it. Joey said they were the best fries he had ever had.

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The Fourth and I

Well today is Fourth, the day we Americans celebrate our nations birth. When I was growing up the fourth was always a big a deal but as time has gone on it has become less and less important. I grew up in a very small town in northern California called Benicia. It’s pretty much frozen in time, one friend once referred to it as a real life “River City” (a Music Man reference). I mean in my lifetime I have witnessed more than one public “Cake Walk” in this town.

The beauty of this is that the fourth always proved to be real life Americana at its

People line up for the Benicia Torchlight Fourth of July Parade

best. On July 3rd the town would gather on our main street for the parade.  It was always an opportunity for overly confident middle aged women to belly dance in public, kids in dance classes to do routines, the high school band to perform, and local business and churches to promote themselves with floats. I was in the parade a few times over the years for various performing groups I was involved in. Including one occasion where the theater group I was in had me sing “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson on a “float” (the flat bed of a truck), we also sang a song from Aladdin while the instructors pudgy husband walked around shirtless painted blue like the genie. That was… pretty embarrassing.

The following day about 85% of the town went down to the main city park for the Fourth of July festival and picnic. My mom always bought the fancy foods we couldn’t normally afford, my favorite being spinach dip. A variety of local vendors would sell their wares in tents and local bands would play genuinely terrible covers in front of the town Gazebo while drunk women “of a certain age” danced with themselves like they were at a real Rolling Stones concert. The whole family would relax and eat and read in the usually mild weather. As my brother and I got older we elected to run off with our friends and return to the picnic blanket throughout the day. Like all events in a small town this was a big social occasion where people would catch up with friends they hadn’t seen in a while.

In the evening the town put on a “Firework Spectacular” over the marina, which

Fireworks over the bay in Benicia

was the butt of jokes year round. It being a small town, we had a relatively small budget for these things.  Typically the fireworks would go off one at a time or in a maximum of two at a time over 45 minutes with a short finale. At some point you would see a small fire begin on the island and 4 or 5 would go off at once unplanned.  The most common joke would be after 1 fire work would go off there could be a delay of several minutes and someone (possibly the same person) would loudly say “OH WELL TIME TO GO HOME, GREAT SHOW BOYS!”. Every year the town would laugh but ultimately fall into a hushed quiet when the show started picking up pace. These were the best fourth of Julys I ever had.

I only spent one fourth of July in New York City and it was fairly depressing since I was stood up by my then boyfriend and ended up watching the fireworks alone while Mariah Carey wailed off key. Since then all of my fourths have been spent in Vegas, but so far adulthood has prevented me from ever having a real fourth with my husband Joey.  We both end up working, usually late, or if we don’t work late we are to tired to go do much. I usually cook something special but that is it. One year we watched the same fireworks show from our various workplaces over the phone.  But every year I find myself wishing for those old school holidays, who knows maybe someday when we have a kid that nuance and awesomeness will return, for now though at least I have the memories.

My last fourth of July in Benicia with friends

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Summer inspired cupcakes: Lemon Blueberry and Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Bean

Summer is in full swing, its offensively hot, the pools are crowded and there are teenagers everywhere. Okay, so I am not much of a summer fan. I never really have been. I like my weather freezing to moderately warm.  Heat and I do not agree. Still, its not all bad. In particular summer foods are pretty awesome. Barbecue, corn, strawberries, cherries, peaches, tomatoes. It’s a pretty good time of year to be vegetarian. With the fourth of July quickly approaching, barebue season is in full swing. A friend is having a celebration, and I decided to bring something sweet.

I went through a period of time where all I wanted to do with my life was bake. I actually got pretty good at it, and even did a little freelance cupcake work for awhile. But ultimately I wasn’t able to produce quality at a reasonable price and the juggling act of working full time and baking till the wee hours created an environment where it stopped being fun. I still get the spark every now and then though.

Given the fourth of July holiday i wanted to make red white and blue cupcakes using natural products and flavors. The obvious choice was vanilla cake, strawberries and blueberries. I used to make a cupcake at D*ROCK Cake & Confections called “The Heavens To Betsey Ross” which was vanilla cake, blueberry cream cheese frosting with fresh strawberry and blueberry garnish.  While the cake was good, I really wanted to try something different. I decided to do a Vanilla bean cake with a fresh strawberry frosting, and a lemonade infused cake with a blueberry frosting.

For the batters, you can follow your favorite cake recipe as normal (minus and additional flavorings). To the unflavored cake batter add:

Lemon Cake

  • The zest and juice of 2 organic lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • A splash of an all natural corn syrup free lemonade (I used Newmans)
  • Lemon pudding

Vanilla Bean Cake

  • Scraping from a vanilla bean pod (organic ones are more potent)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract (I know its a lot but its awesome)
  • A splash of organic whipping cream
  • Vanilla Pudding

For the frostings:

Blueberry Frosting

  • Cream together 2 sticks of unsalted butter and half a pound of confectioners sugar (half a box)
  • Puree a pint of blueberry with a splash of a natural corn syrup free lemonade
  • Whip blueberry mixture into buttercream
  • Add second half pound (half box) confectioners sugar, whip until fluffy.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

  • Cream together 2 sticks of unsalted butter and half a pound of confectioners sugar (half a box)
  • Puree a pint of strawberries with a splash of organic whipping cream, add regular sugar or honey to taste (depending on sweetness of strawberries)
  • Whip Strawberry cream mixture into buttercream
  • Add second half pound (half box) confectioners sugar, whip until fluffy.

Once the cakes have cooled, slather the lemon with a generous portion of blueberry and garnish with a fresh blueberry and/or lemon zest.  Some for the vanilla bean cake with the strawberry, I garnished with edible pearls and twist of strawberry.

BLAMO!

 

 

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Date Day: Zappos Fresh and Local Market, Slidin Thru, Bad Teacher

  Yesterday presented one of those rare and elusive opportunities. A mutual day off between me and the husband.  One of those awesome, once in a blue moon occurrences where we actually get to share an entire day together. We set out with a handful of adventures in mind only one of which was scrapped (we didn’t make it out to the record store).

I have previously mentioned that I have a really, really amazing job working at Zappos. What you may or may not know is that Zappos in planning to move its corporate offices into the former Las Vegas city hall building when it is vacated some time in 2013.  Part of the planned move downtown is that the company wants to expand into building a greater sense on community in the ever growing and evolving downtown scene. One of the employee driven initiatives to do this is to launch a farmers market for locals. While the company wont be moving for at least a year they are starting on some of those community initiatives already. So yesterday they held the very first “Fresh & Local Market” at our Henderson campus.

While the event was small it definitely had the potential to grow into something bigger. A small grouping of local vendors were on hand to sell produce, baked goods, herbs, flowers, and coffee. One of the things that makes me very sad about living in Vegas is that there isn’t a real farmers market. Growing up, I think I was spoiled by having it around all the time. Given my new enthusiasm for local, slow, and organic product the event couldn’t have come along a better time.

As dorky and old as it makes us feel, natural food shopping has become something we really enjoy doing together. Ugh, saying that sounds so obnoxious, but its true. So whatever. We picked up some amazing stuff, including freshly picked tomatoes and blueberries (which will be making appearances in our late Fourth of July dinner). We also bought some terrific granola from the family run Layers Bakery, and both butterscotch and lemon raspberry cupcakes from Retro Bakery. All in all it was a really fun and energy filled event and I look forward to many more in the future.

From there we dropped out items off at home and headed out to grab some lunch at Slidin Thru Headquarters. I was first introduced to the majesty of sliders when I moved to the east coast, my preference geared mainly toward the salty greasy gastro-disaster mini burgers from White Castle.  When I moved back from the east coast sliders were no readily available, over the past few years the mini burgers have grown trendy, as has the gourmet food truck craze.  While I was training at Zappos, I was introduced to the Slidin Thru truck which specialize in hand crafted gourmet sliders. It was love. Shortly after they built a 24 hour permanent location which can be visited without needing to track down the truck via twitter.

Slidin Thru HQ is a very hip joint gang. Its features modern furniture, graffiti murals, artwork, vintage arcade games, a DJ booth. Of course the real star attraction is the food. The menu features as assortment of burgers, glass bottle sodas, fries and sweet potato fries, it also has a daily changing “Mystery Slider” which focuses on highlighting whatever seasonal or local specialty ingredients are available.

Joey and I selected the following flavors:

The Barby – melted cheddar. caramelized jalapeño. crispy fried onion strips. bacon. bbq sauce.

The Captains Order – roma tomato. arugula. crisp bacon. feta cheese. sautéed onion. balsamic reduction.

The Plain Jane – cheese and ketchup.

The Caprese – vegetarian burger composed of grilled eggplant. roma tomato. basil. fresh mozzarella. balsamic reduction.

As always the food was amazing, and the burgers were fresh and tasty. The only thing that makes me a little sad is the lack of a diet soda option. But it did give Joey and I an excuse to stop by Sonic for one of my favorite summer time drinks “Ocean Water” (which uh… isn’t diet… at all). I just love its freaky unnatural blue color and coconuty taste. It crazy delicious but the sugar will make you more dehydrated.

We also stopped by Rave at Town Square to take in a showing of Bad Teacher, which ended up being a private screening since no one else was there.  The movie was so/so, it wouldn’t be fair to call it bad or good. There wasn’t much character development, I’m not certain why any of the characters behave the way they do. It had a couple funny parts but if you haven’t seen it, it can really wait for DVD.

I'm not usually one for desert beauty but the sky is lovely this time of year

I'm not usually one for desert beauty but the sky is lovely this time of year

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Blythe Danner’s Blueberry Muffins and Grandad Danner’s Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies

Second on deck from Gwyneth Paltrow’s amazing and awesome cookbook My Fathers Daughter is her mother Blythe Danner’s recipe for blueberry muffins.  It was actually one of the recipes that called out to me right away. I suspect this in large part was due to the crumbly goodness that the books food photographer captured and also the fact that is berry season. One particularly boring day, I was feeling a little glum about something and Joey baked these for me to cheer me up. Its your usual muffin ingredients  (Butter, eggs, non bleached flour, salt berries, ect ect) exchanged for organic and natural where applicable.  She uses the standard muffin method of mixing wet into dry bit by bit. Then you bake until they are golden.The texture is out of this world good. The muffin tops are crunchy like a scone, but the insides are a not to sweet buttery crumby muffin. I would definitely recommend making these for any special occasion. I am thinking about adapting the recipe to include a few raspberries too for a red, white, and blue fourth of July recipe.

Next up is “Grandad Danner’s Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies”, I am sucker for baked goods of course. Growing up my Dad’s favorite cookie was always the “Joy Of Cooking” peanut butter recipe, so there is always some nostalgia attached to cooking peanut butter cookies. The recipe featured in this book is your standard cookie recipe (butter, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt) but with equal parts baking soda and baking powder which makes for a (this is going to sound bad but its really quite good) sandy texture. She also uses creamy peanut butter (which I substituted for crunchy since that’s more my style) and peanut butter chips for a little something extra.  The cookie dough was quite dense, she states that you can elect not to press these cookie with a fork, but I’m not sure they would bake properly since they don’t expand much in the oven. This is actually a cookie that gets better with age.  Two days after I baked them they seemed to take on whole new qualities in flavor. Its a delicious recipe and would certainly be popular amongst peanut butter cookie fans.

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Date Day: Atomic #7 Personally Crafted Vegan Ice Creams and Automobile Spies

Yesterday Joey had the day off and I got off work at 1pm, so we decided to have a little date day. Since I switched teams at work my schedule has switched to a hardcore 4am-1pm shift which is unfortunately the exact opposite of Joey’s normal 2pm-10pm shift. So the time we do get together where the other isn’t totally exhausted is pretty valuable.

Olden Timey Dvds

We spent our day with a quick stop into our local library so that Joey could use the computer and I could peruse the selection of vegetarian cookbooks. I didn’t find much that seemed really appealing, most of the vegetarian cookbooks offered very traditional take on classic vegetable dishes.  After the library we go some chinese food for lunch and headed to Atomic#7 for dessert.

I’ve been hearing for months now from every one and their mama about this place and finally paid a visit. I have to confess I didnt really realize what they were doing, I just knew they served vegan and classic ice creams. In actuality they handcraft your very own ice cream with your choice of ingredients. Folks, i’m not just talking cold stone style mix-ins. You get to pick the dairy or non dairy base of you choice (Milk, soy, almond milk, coconut milk, and more), the sweetener of your choice (natural sugar, agave, and more), the flavor of your choice, and mixins/toppings of your choice.  Then they create your base and put in a standing mixer with something like dry ice (It could be something else) which makes a very cool looking mad scientist smoke show (photo above). Your ice cream is served to you literally as fresh as possible.

I personally elected for a coconut almond milk ice cream with waffle cone chips  and coconut whip.  It was amazing you guys. Joey got something with real vanilla and cookie dough that tasted like eating the best cookie dough ever right out of the bowl. While it certainly isn’t the cheapest ice cream around, it certainly is one of the best and well worth every single penny. Go!

Atomic #7

605 Mall Ring Circle #110 Henderson, NV 89014 (directions)
(outside Galleria Mall by Panera Bread)

After our amazing ice cream we headed to the pictures to catch a matinee of Cars 2. Which was less than amazing. I think it would be unfair to say it was horrible, it was merely an mediocre sequel created to generate Toy Sales from a studio that I have come to expect only the finest heartfelt animation in the industry.  I don’t understand why they made the choice to go bland and big and incorporate spy plot into a movie that was originally about slam town heart and respect for history.  They heavy handily fold in a moral about judging people involving Mater, but they dot really flesh any of it out.  If you have a little boy, take them, they will love it, judging by most of the little girls thrilled reactions it wont fare to bad with them either. The parents leaving the theater definitely seemed bored.

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