Moneyball (and the best crackerjacks you will find at a baseball game)

Rating: Orange

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane – with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) – develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.
~Amazon

When I was very little, my grandpa took me on his knee and said, “Lauren, I will love you forever. You could make any mistake in the world and I would still love you. The only thing that I will not forgive you for is if you root for any other baseball team, but the Yankees.”

Therefore, you find me today a Yankees fan.

The problem is that I am not a big fan of actually watching the games. They take a long time. I am a fidgeter. I can hardly sit still long enough to watch a TV show, let alone a 3-hour long game. I can only manage if I have my computer, a book, or my knitting with me, so that I have something to do as well.

While I have some issues sitting still for an entire game, I am completely glued to my seat when that game takes movie form. Some of my favorite movies are sports-related. Who doesn’t love Rookie of the Year, Rocky IV, Rudy (Special Edition), or Miracle?  What is your favorite sports movie?

Moneyball is another member of this class of movies.  I became attached to characters, rooted for the Oakland As (sorry Grandpa), and held my breath in the final game.  Not only is it based on a true story, it is also concerned with the idea of changing the game of baseball.  Beane (Brad Pitt’s character) decides to play a different game than the Yankees play and use his lack of funding to his advantage.  He does not focus on buying all-stars.  Instead, he patches together a team of misfits and uses strategy to make each of them perform in their roles.  This was cool.

One part of the movie that I would change would be the last 20 minutes.  It drives me crazy when the movie is actionactionaction and then the last part of it is people talking, basically explaining what happened.  We are smart people.  We don’t need them to tell us what the point is, especially if they do a good job at SHOWING US!  Grrrrrrrr.

Good movie?  Yes.  Oscar-winning movie?  I don’t think so.

The Grade

Visuals: 3.5/5

Plot: 4/5

Acting:4/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.

Read on to hear about my crackerjacks 🙂

Continue reading

Advertisements

Five Things You Should Bring to See Harry Potter in Theaters

Well, folks, I never thought that this weekend would come.  The Harry Potter franchise is releasing its last movie, hoping that it is all grown up and will be able to fly.

Wow.

Since this worldwide phenomenon has been going on for 14 years now, I thought I would offer a few words of wisdom on how to prepare for this final installment.

Here are five things that you should bring with you to that theater tonight…or tomorrow…or next week…or whenever you get around to seeing it.

1.  Knowledge of Harry Potter

Nothing is more annoying to me than someone in a movie theater who just won’t. stop. talking.   Worse is when that person is incessantly jabbering because they have no idea what is going on.  I understand that other people may not have read all seven books and seen the first seven movies multiple times, but for the love of all that is Harry, please know who the main characters are, who is dead already, and why Harry and Voldemort don’t get along.

If you go to the movies with the idea that you are going to be cute and ask a friend for clarification on every facet of the movie, be aware that you may not be so cute by the end…unless you somehow manage to pull off wearing popcorn.

Don't be that guy.

2.  A Good Attitude

Now, I have never been one to dress up for a movie, nor have I ever seen the midnight showing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t let myself get sucked into the energy that these books/movies elicit.  I have on occasion (or for every movie) worn lightning bolt socks.  Subtle, but fun 🙂  You do not have to wear anything special, but don’t be one of those people who gets to the theater and cynically looks around for people to laugh it.  Maybe you are a grumpy-poo, but a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this moment.  If you are not into the magic and fun of the franchise, why did you just spend $15 on your IMAX 3D ticket.  Loosen up and have some fun.

PS.  And laugh when something funny happens.  My favorite line of the series is coming up in this movie.  It has to do with Mrs. Weasley and cursing (both with her wand and her language).  Watch for it.

3.  A friend

For many of us, this love of all things Harry Potter has been going for 14 years.  I started reading the books in late 1997 when I was ten, almost eleven, just like Harry was.  If you let me do the math, the Harry Potter series has been a part of my life for almost 2/3 of it.  Wow.

Anyway, what made this series great was that it inspired people to interact with each other about it.  My friends and I decided what house we would be in (Ravenclaw), who our favorite characters were (Hedwig and Hagrid), and who we would be if we went to Hogwarts (hopefully a less obnoxious Hermione).  Around the book release dates, the books and their plots were topics of conversation as we ran laps for soccer practice and studied for tests.  When the last books came out (I was in college at the point), my friends and I (all with our own copies) sat around reading and reacting to the book at the same time.

If at all possible, don’t go to this movie alone.  Find someone who has shared your experience with this book and go with him.  If these people are too far away or unable to come for whatever reason, at least bring them with you in spirit.  That is the best way to honor this series.

4.  Snacks

Personally, movie theater popcorn and soda are not going to be good enough for this last movie.  Considering that J.K. Rowling spend a lot of space in her books describing food, it only seems right to create and sneak in (I am a bad person) some Harry Potter food.  Earlier this year, I perfected my own version of butterbeer.  Good luck trying to bring that in.

For this most auspicious of occasions, I decided to create something that Harry tends to get on the train to Hogwarts and that has always intrigued me: Pumpkin Pasties.

Basically, they are little handheld pumpkin pies.  I made some for fun.  My taste-testers unanimously approved.

Pie dough:  I used Simply Recipe’s Pate Brisee.

Inside:  Mix together 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Preheat your oven to 400F
  • Roll out the  pie dough to 1/8″ thick and using a saucer, cut it into 6″ circles.
  • On each circle, place 2-3 tbsp of the pumpkin mixture.
  • Wet the ends of the dough (where you are going to seal it) and fold the dough over on itself to enclose the pumpkin.
  • Crimp with a fork to seal it.
  • Put a few slits in the top so that it doesn’t explode.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden.

These travel really well, so once they cool, you can absolutely stash them in your purse/pocket and they will arrive safely at the movie.

5.  Tissues

Last, but certainly not least, I would recommend a box of tissues or, if you are trying to be environmentally-friendly, a hankie.  I know that I am going to bawl like a little baby simply because this last movie feels like it is marking an end to my childhood.  More than going away to college, living on my own, or getting my first “real” job, this last movie feels like a closure.

For those of you who do not have this personal connection, you may want to bawl because of what is going to happen in this movie.  I won’t sugarcoat it (as I thought of doing with the pumpkin pastie), people are going to die.  People you like are going to die.  You may not be happy with how this ends.

That is why you should be safe and bring something to wipe the tears away, just in case.

StoryThyme: Curly Locks (and Strawberries with Cream)

Welcome to a new feature here called StoryThyme, a celebration of Mother Goose poems, fairy tales, and children’s stories.  In true Hungry Bookworm tradition, I am going to create a food inspired by these magical texts.

Today’s poem “Curly Locks” is almost always included in compilations of Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

Curly Locks, Curly Locks,
Will you be mine?
You shall not wash dishes,
Nor feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion

And sew a fine seam,

And sup upon strawberries,

Sugar, and cream.

Origin:  This rhyme has no set origin, but it seems to be linked to the Victorian era.  During that period, curly hair was so in demand that having it could determine your life’s social status.  If you didn’t naturally have curly locks, you sought to acquire them, either through curling or wigs, as soon as possible.

Thoughts: You know, as a straight-haired person, I’m not sure whether I should feel offended or not!  Does this mean that I am going to have to feed the swine?  And **gasp** wash dishes?!!!  That seems like hair discrimination to me.

What, am I forbidden strawberries too?

Maybe I just need to go out and get my hair curled…

Except for the fact that the last time that happened, I was in third grade and it made me look like a poodle.

Do poodles, then, get strawberries and cream? Is that good for them?

Dulce de Leche Strawberries

In defiance of Mother Goose, I decided to sup upon strawberries, sugar and cream anyway.  In a gesture of solidarity, I suggest that all of you straight, wavy, spiked, and bald-headed people (oh and heck, come along curly-haired people) make this recipe as soon as possible.  With a tiny bit of preparation, we can all enjoy Dulce de Leche Strawberries, thank you very much.

You may be wondering, what is Dulce de Leche.  Basically, it is milk and sugar that is cooked until it thickens and caramelizes.  It is a very popular around the world and it seems to have originated in Argentina and Mexico (correct me if I’m wrong).  There are many ways to make this delicacy (that you will just start eating by the spoonful), and I decided to follow the advice of David Lebovitz since I trust him in all food matters.  This will take 1.5 hours of almost-completely passive time and will give you a whole lot of joy, especially when you dip strawberries in it, or put it on your tea, or spread it on your toast, or…you get the picture.

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz of sweetened, condensed milk (I used skim)
  • As many strawberries as you can eat

Procedure:

  • Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  • Pour condensed milk  into a shallow baking dish.
  • Set the dish within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.
  • Cover the pie plate  with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
  • Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
  • Dip strawberries in this heavenly concoction and eat.  Then grab a spoon and just dig in.  Swoon.
  • Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

Your *Worst* Worst Case Scenario Guide and a Banana Cream Pi Lassi to Make it All Better

Rating: Orange

“Meet Pi Patel, a young man on the cusp of adulthood when fate steps in and hastens his lessons in maturity. En route with his family from their home in India to Canada, their cargo ship sinks, and Pi finds himself adrift in a lifeboat — alone, save for a few surviving animals, some of the very same animals Pi’s zookeeper father warned him would tear him to pieces if they got a chance. But Pi’s seafaring journey is about much more than a struggle for survival. It becomes a test of everything he’s learned — about both man and beast, their creator, and the nature of truth itself.” -Goodreads.com

************************************************************************************

Last week was a rough week.  The week after a vacation always seems particularly long and, to top it off, I wasn’t feeling well at all. 

After I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi this weekend, I suddenly realize how little I have to complain about.  I live on solid land, eat three regular meals a day, don’t generally worry about becoming lunch for carnivorous animals, have a full and wonderful family, and interact with a number of people daily.

When I look at Pi, stuck out on a lifeboat with a tiger for 226 days, I wonder how long I would last.  As he finds a way to survive aboard this nightmarish raft, he ponders on his will to survive, coming to the conclusion that he has an exceptionally strong life force.

I wonder how long the average person would survive in the same situation.  Many of us would be quick to claim, “I would be tiger meat in 2 hours or less!”  Is that really true?  Would we, like Pi, find a way to deal?  I suppose we will never know the strength of our spirit until put to a similar test.

Without further ado, I brainstormed and came up with the four worst case scenarios for me.  They are present in the poll below.  Which one would be the test that tells you what you are made of?  OR can you think of something worse?  If so, put it in the comments!

Continue reading

127 Hours (AKA Why You Should Always Hike with a Machete)

Update:  Thank you to WordPress for featuring me on FreshlyPressed and thanks to all of you lovely visitors!

Rating: Chocolate Cake

While most of the country was munching on nachos and cheering for their football team of choice, I sat in a movie theatre, ranging among gripping the armrest, covering my eyes, and bawling my eyes out.

127 Hours was way better than I expected it to be.

Now, I should be fair.  I honestly didn’t expect much.  All I knew about it was that it was about a hiker who had an accident and spent 127 hours reflecting on his life before he notably “frees” himself.

I’m all for reflection.  In teacher school, we did reflections all the time.  What I didn’t see was how this was going to create a movie that I would actually want to see.

Well, I was wrong.  There, I admit it.  It was awesome.  It’s not my favorite of the nominees I have seen so far, but it is definitely worth the price of admission at your local movie theatre.

Continue reading