I am alive!

So, September. Been a month of ups and downs for me. I started out with a fun stomach virus that wouldn’t go away, developing a fun infection from it that landed me in the ER a day before a hurricane was slated to arrive in Tallahassee and on the day I was supposed to drive down to Orlando to start a vacation. So, vacation started two days later after the storm had passed and I was on the mend. After a drive that normally takes me 4 hours took almost 7, I finally landed in my happy place.

I have written before, and I am sure I will again, about why I keep going back to the land of the Mouse. In many ways, it is going home. I grew up there. I am happy, safe, and content there. Even amongst the crowds and crying children. The heat was not fun this trip and the World was looking less than its best after a hurricane eye barreled through it a few days prior. But it was still home.

on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

My nephew meeting Eeyore for the first time. Photo: Scott Thomas

There is also the added joy of getting to share that all with my nephew. This was his first official “trip” to WDW; he’d been for a day here and there since he’s growing up so close to the World. This was the trip of his first breakfast at Crystal Palace (loved the characters!) and his first ride on Dumbo (he was unimpressed). I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. The wonder as he meets characters is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. He won’t remember it but I will and that’s the point. At this age, you’re not taking the kids for them. It’s for you. So you have that moment, that memory, to call upon on the days you’re stuck in meetings or the car is breaking down or, and this will happen, the day when he’s older and having a meltdown in the middle of Main Street USA.

Another reason to keep going is there is always something new to try or see or ride. I finally had time this trip to try out Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. It’s an interactive scavenger hunt/card game that you play throughout the park. It’s free with admission and comes with fun trading cards that you get a new set every trip! Fun souvenirs and free! You don’t find that often at Disney. Dad and I had fun wandering through the park, finding the different kiosks to play the game. And getting schooled by the kids playing it in front of us but hey, the eight-year-old had good advice for this novice!

We tried another new scavenger hunt at Epcot, the Remy Hunt and Squeak that is part of the Food & Wine Festival. This was harder than it looked! We never did find the one in the Outpost but successfully hunted up Remy in all the countries and booths to be rewarded with a Remy keychain in the end. Being on the mend from stomach flu, I could not partake in Food and Wine as hardily as I would have liked but I did pick up some creme brulee with raspberries in France. I am only so strong in resisting.

Bonus, my parents hadn’t done Flight of Passage yet in Pandora so I got to ride with them for their¬†first time. There is nothing cooler than taking people on a new ride when you know what’s coming and they don’t! As expected, they really enjoyed it and I did too for the second time around. One of the coolest attractions Disney has put out in years in my opinion. I also talked them into trying the Satu’li Canteen one night which remains delicious (I tried a bowl this time – that beef was so good, even at the end of the night!)

I am working through my post-trip slump now but I’ll come out of it. Trying to figure out if I can fit a quick two days in at the parks before a trip home in November ūüėČ One can never have too many trips to WDW in one year after all.

 

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A moment

[Note: I started this post right after Charlotteville but kept holding back on sharing it as I worried I was rambling too much and missing facts and in general not making sense but I still feel the need to share so here it is.]

I often struggle to put into words what I feel at times like this. I tend to keep politics off this blog but every once in awhile, I feel the need to comment. I have a hard time saying what I want to say though articulately and in a way that doesn’t just sound like an impassioned outburst of emotions rather than something thought through logically with facts. But I’m not sure I can do that for this one.

A woman died over the weekend. She was my exact age. She died because she was standing up and speaking out when she saw something was not right. I wish I was more like her. I find myself often tongue tied with the current state of affairs. So sunk in rage and depression and shame I retweet articles rather than write my own. Others seem to be much better equipped to say what I feel in my heart and know in my mind. But if she could do it, stand in the actual face of the problems of our country, the least I can do is write about it from my safe desk in my safe apartment.

This is not normal. John Oliver asked us to remember that after the election last year. I find I say it to myself daily as I watch the news, read the tweets and watch in disbelief as our country becomes the worst parody of itself. America and its democracy have always been a double edged sword; freedom of speech means freedom for everyone, even those you would spend your life screaming about how wrong they are. But you can scream and so can they. It is when one side begins to take action to limit the other from speaking that we have our problem. However, in the case of Charlotteville, unlike our president’s opinion apparently, I stand firmly in the camp that that sort of speech, the speech meant to incite hatred and violence, is wrong and should not be protected. There are very clear sides in this case and only one side that is right. We have fought wars, American men and women have died, over this sort of hate and now it’s apparently being tolerated by our administration on our own soil.

I find I must admit I just do not have it in me to understand. How can you have that much hatred for people you have never met simply because they look or believe something different from you? How can this group of people, arguably the most privileged¬†in the world, feel that disenfranchised? That under attack? That scared? I know I come from an extreme place of privilege, the one tick against me being my gender, so I always try to remember that as I process things like this. But no, I’m sorry, there can only be one response which is both logical and emotional…THIS. IS. WRONG.

Wrong on so many levels, I cannot begin to delineate¬†them. These are people who are living their lives, trying to raise their families and move ahead in the world, same as you and me. They have done nothing to you. The problem is not them, it is you and whatever twisted path you walked to come to this point. I am sure you have excuses. They are lame. This behavior is inexcusable and perhaps worst of all to you, un-American. We are supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. The land that takes in those who cannot find refuge elsewhere. Our country would not be what it is today without the many immigrants and outcasts that have found a place to call home on our shores. This used to be something we celebrated. When did it become something we were ashamed of, something we wanted to forgot or actively denounce? In making that reputation for ourselves, we made mistakes. We have never been as free as we liked the world to think. There have always been caveats. We’ve closed our doors to certain groups out of fear, bigotry, pride in the past and we’re doing so again. Perhaps what history should teach us better than most is there is no closing the door. No going back to an isolated existence. The world is at our doorstep and the doorbell is going to keep ringing.

Ironic in many ways that those who marched this weekend may be descendants of those who were once shunned as immigrants in those earlier waves. Those greeted with signs of “No Irish.” My ancestors were. What happened over the weekend was about more than immigrants or racism or gender or religion or sexual preference. It was about a bunch of people who are scared and therefore want to make sure everyone else is scared with them. That fear and ignorance and willful hatred helped last November happen. So, I will not be scared. I will be angry that we allowed this to happen and fight to make sure we do better, that we are better. But I will not let them scare me. They are wrong and they will not win.

Having a Sense of Humor about my Work

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LOL, if only and not one wearing a cardigan (Cassie maybe is – it’s hard to tell) [Originally from The Sci Fi TV Site]

I just finished the second season of The Librarians. I’ve been making my local library buy the seasons on DVD. Sadly, season 3 isn’t out yet on DVD and I am currently avoiding the temptation to just buy that season on iTunes and call it a day so I am caught up when Season 4 debuts later this year. We’ll see how long I last.

I have always adored these types of movies and shows. The original movies that inspired the series, the National Treasure movies, Warehouse 13. Even the Dresden Files (tv show, not the books. It was one of the few times where the books disappointed after the show) had a touch of the artifact/library/book to it. They are ridiculous and nowhere near close to the actual work of librarians, curators, and archivists. And I like to think most people understand that considering all of them include elements of magic. And to some extent, it is fun to think someone out there thinks I’m more Flynn Carson than Marian the Librarian.

However, at a recent conference for archivists, there was an entire panel about the Archive and how that word is being appropriated more and more and seems to mean less and less. They even pulled out the best Princess Bride quote that shows up in my library’s Slack feed every time someone uses the word “archive” – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, as much as I would love to tell you all I work in a super secret magical library and hunt down lost artifacts all day long while saving the world…I sadly do not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate why everyone thinks that idea of the “archive” is cool.

Out vault at work is not as impressive as the word “vault” would have you believe but I do get a tiny little thrill every time I get to go in it. And don’t tell me what’s in there isn’t magic. I don’t get to work with the classes or tours much but when I do, the look on people’s faces when you say to them “this is a signed first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species” or “this is a rare copy of Napoleon’s Death Mask” or “this is a book which still has its chain on it” never gets old. The fact I get to work in a place where anyone can come and interact with those types of things? Never gets old. Bonus? I get to be the one to put those out on the web where anyone with an internet¬†connection can see them. Let’s call that my super power. I guess those are my magical artifacts after all. Now…where’s my Excaliber?

For a Brownie Fix

I actually had people over for dinner this past weekend. This is big for me! But it’s nice to live in an apartment where I don’t mind having friends over again! I made my old standby, Beef Gyros (which I have apparently never shared on this blog?! Need to fix that but in the meantime, here’s the original recipe), but I tried something new for dessert. Healthy (ish) brownies! Hungry Girl never lets me down. These are so good. Nice and moist and using the muffin tin means they come out perfectly proportioned. I sent most of the batch home with my friends so I wouldn’t eat them all. Which turned out to be a good call because my cat is driving me to stress eating. Figment is having a rough patch again so please send lots of good thoughts to my little guy and make these brownies ASAP.

Brownies

[I meant to take a picture but they were gone before I did…so here’s the photo from Hungry Girl]

Ingredients

  • 1 box moist-style devil’s food cake mix (15.25 to 18.25 oz.) [NOTE: I couldn’t find a cake mix with this title so I used a Moist Triple Chocolate Cake mix and it came out fine.]
  • One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups, or spray it with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix cake mix with pumpkin until completely smooth and uniform. (Batter will be thick.)
  3. Evenly distribute batter into the cups of the muffin pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean, about 20 minutes

Something Different

IMG_0539I love chicken. But I get sick of it. There are only so many things you can do with it before you want something different. Something about summer also says “seafood” to me. Or maybe it was just all the Red Lobster commercials on the Hallmark Channel over the weekend. So, I went digging through my crab cake recipes. A lot of my “healthy” crab cake recipes called for frying. While tasty, it’s so messy (and not really healthy usually either). I always feel the need to scour my kitchen after I fry anything. And also spray Febreeze everywhere. So, I was happy that HG did not let me down.

This recipe was so easy and quick and tasty. I tried a sauce from a different recipe which is good but I think I’ll stick with some dijonnaise for dipping sauce in the future. I added a pile of lettuce and found it to be a very tasty and filling dinner; perfectly light for a summer’s night!

Crab Cakes (original recipe from Hungry Girl; tweaked a bit)
Serving: 1 cake (recipe makes 4)

Ingredients for cakes
1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dry)
Dash each salt and black pepper
8 oz. (about 1 cup) canned lump crabmeat, drained [NOTE: Publix only sold 6 oz. cans and that was plenty of crab for me!]
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped celery
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
3 tbsp. egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
1 tbsp. light mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. Dijonnaise (or another creamy mild Dijon mustard)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread

Ingredients for sauce
1 cup plain nonfat, Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh if possible – juice of one lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dry)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium-large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Add crabmeat, onion, celery, and garlic. Mix until uniform.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Add egg whites/substitute, mayo, Dijonnaise, lemon juice, and butter. Whisk until smooth and uniform.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, fold cream cheese mixture into crabmeat mixture.
  5. Evenly form mixture into 4 balls, and place on the baking sheet, evenly spaced. Flatten each one into a patty about 1-inch thick.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes. While baking, mix the sauce ingredients until smooth.
  7. Carefully flip patties. Bake until firm, lightly browned, and cooked through, about 8 more minutes.

 

A Tale as Old as Time

The first movie I can really remember seeing in the movie theater was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Belle was my hero. I wanted to be just like her. Adventurous, loyal, smart, kind, able to walk and read at the same time. Bonus? She got that library in the end too! This was before princess culture took over the toy aisles and before¬†Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was a thing. This was just a heroine who saved the day. I am who I am because I had Belle as a role model and never once has that been a bad thing. I didn’t even realize it could be until college.

I was a women’s studies minor in college and I adored it. However, it was the first time I really needed to defend my love of Disney and the movies. Look, they are problematic at times, don’t get me wrong but I know it’s also something we have a lot of control over in how it effects us thanks to how our world shares it with us. [See my rant a while back on Cinderella and princess culture] My parents never told me “look at the pretty princess who gets her prince, you should be just like that!” No, my dad only ever said, “look, Belle likes to read just like you!” I always felt I could go off and have adventures because Belle did. And honestly, while I enjoy the Beast, I never felt he was really all that necessary to Belle’s adventures. A catalyst? sure! But necessary…eh. I am the girl who went onto write one of her best papers on how men are superfluous in 19th century novels so clearly I had an idea from a young age that princes and their elk were around for plot purposes, not because the heroine actually needed them. And hey, look at Disney movies with that lens and suddenly, it’s a whole different ball game.

But, I digress. I’m here to talk about Beauty & The Beast of which I lately read and/or watched a couple of fabulous re-tellings that I wanted to share. I read a lot of Cinderella re-tellings but not so much B&TB so yay for different fairy tale re-visits!

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Seriously, so gorgeous. La belle et la bête (2014)

La Belle et La B√™te is an absolute gorgeous film out of France in 2014. It has been on my list for awhile so I requested it through the library recently and then they decided to purchase it. I do have great taste after all. And then, right after I got it from the library, Netflix started streaming it so you should all check it out! This version stays a bit more on the traditional tale side of things. Belle and her family (widowed father, two brothers and two sisters) move to the countryside after her father’s merchant business is ruined by bad storms and the family’s finances are immediately tanked. Belle loves her new life in the countryside though the family is less than pleased. However, miracle! One ship manages to get back to port so Belle’s father and oldest brother head back to the city to reclaim their good fortune but that doesn’t work out so well. The eldest brother is in hock to a very bad guy (why isn’t all that clear) and her father ends up hunted by wolves until he finds his way to an enchanted castle. It goes on from there. Things I really liked about this version were: the visuals – the movie is yummy to look at and the costume design is out of this world. Seriously, Belle’s dresses at the castle are works of art and I am so impressed she could move in them; The backstory to why the Beast is cursed; The little enchanted dogs; Giant walking statues at the climax of the film; the ending. Also, the relationships in this movie are SO stereo-typically French which doesn’t always come across well to an American audience (I hate you! I love you! Save me! Get away from me! all in the span of five minutes)¬†but I enjoyed them. My main issue with this version is the plot has a few holes in it and lot of plot points aren’t explained very well.

2974811Belle: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast (Once Upon a Time #14) is actually part of me getting back to finishing up series on my reading list. This installment is by Cameron Dokey, one of my all time favorite fairy tale re-tellers (if that’s a thing you can have a favorite in).¬†¬†This was quite a decent retelling of Beauty & The Beast. I liked the woodcarving Belle in this adventure and the idea that the name is more of a curse than a blessing when her face does not live up to the promise of the name. I liked the evolution of the family here as well; much closer to the original story where Bell has two sisters but this version redeems her sisters in ways the original tale did not.

I had read Robin McKinley’s Beauty a long while back but she wrote another B&TB re-telling and I only just now got around to it. Rose Daughter is a lovely rendition of the original story. I liked the emphasis on description over dialogue; much more in keeping with the original fairy tale tradition. The sisters especially were wonderfully rendered and their relationship very much the core of the story over Beauty’s relationship with her father and even to some extent, the Beast. The only thing missing from this version was a good library but I liked the idea of Beauty as a gardener as something new that made perfect sense. Indeed, this book would have fit perfectly into a widening of my thesis in college – the idea that a fairy tale heroine is much stronger when surrounded by a network of supportive and strong females.

Indeed, you get a glimpse into how we re-imagine our heroines in all these versions. Belle as a bookworm, as a woodcarver, as a gardener. As someone who is brave and strong for her family even when she is placed in impossible situations and asked to do impossible things. I think that is something I appreciate more and more about fairy tales each year; they are infinitely malleable to times and places and never seem to cease having tales to tell us in new versions. And surely, Beauty and the Beast will remain a favorite.

 

A Tasty Summer Dish

It isn’t often I make a dish to eat hot and decide I like it better cold. However, this pesto pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella chilled with some grilled chicken? I find it a delicious summer dinner! It’s also the first time I made pesto on my own (memo to me for future: your blender has a food processor attachment) which mostly went pretty well.

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I only skipped the Romano cheese from the original recipe as I prefer a touch more mozzarella. I also could not find yellow cherry tomatoes at Publix so I bought an organic grape tomato medley pint and tossed in some regular grape tomatoes I had leftover in the fridge from last week’s meal. Delightful!

Ingredients

8 oz. uncooked whole-grain farfalle
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup tomato medley, halved (I used the orange and yellow in the mix)
3 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 cup), divided

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place pasta in a large bowl.
  2. Combine basil and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth.
  3. Add basil mixture, tomatoes, and 5 oz. mozzarella to pasta; toss to combine.
  4. Top with remaining 5 ounces mozzarella to serve.
  5. You can serve hot the first night or chill the mixture once at room temperature to serve at a later time.