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 🙂

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And the Oscar Goes to….! Year 2

Last year, I decided to watch every movie nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.

It was grueling.

Watching 10 movies in a month turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I finished, but just barely.

But… it was quite rewarding and I LOVED actually having an opinion when I was watching the Oscars.  You can check out my round-up post here.

This year, I am doing it again.  Heck, there are only 9 movies this year.  I’ve already even seen one already (can you guess which one?).  This is almost small time!

Not to mention, of course, that Billy Crystal is hosting the Academy Awards this year.  I love Billy Crystal.  This is destiny.

The movies nominated for Best Picture this year are as follows:

The Artist– Thomas Langmann
The Descendants – Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close– Scott Rudin
The Help– Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan
Hugo– Graham King and Martin Scorsese
The Descendants– Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum
Moneyball– Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt
The Tree Of Life– Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill
War Horse– Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy

And, of course, I will make a food inspired by each movie so that you will know exactly what to make for your Oscar Party 🙂

February 26th, here we come!

V For Vendetta (and V’s Eggy in a Basket)

A shadowy freedom fighter known only as “V” uses terrorist tactics to fight against his totalitarian society. Upon rescuing a girl from the secret police, he also finds his best chance at having an ally.

Amazon

It is difficult for me to even begin a post on V for Vendetta because every time I watch it, I get something different out of it. The only part of the film experience that does not change is how much I really enjoy it.

I first viewed this film during my sophomore year of college as a requirement for a Science Ficion class. Before this course, I thought that Science Fiction and I did not get along. When I heard the term, my mind would immediately go to cheesy aliens and some sort of weird, echoey music.

I was totally wrong and that class, with the help of this movie, made me see that.

I now am quite an avid SF fan. I even let that TV show, Battlestar Galactica, take over my life for about a month and a half (and I don’t regret that…mostly). If the me of 4 years ago could have seen the reading list of the me today, she would feel confused and appalled. Whatever.

V for Vendetta is on my top 5 movies of all time list. In fact, it is so sturdily on that list that I don’t anticipate seeing it bumped off any time soon.  I think it has that place of honor because it satisfies both parts of the film-viewer in me:  it is smart enough and has such beautiful cinematography that is makes me truly examine the film and think about it while being action-packed, emotional, and at points absurdly funny enough that I am entertained.

Things I Love:

  • V’s character and his lair
  • “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof. ” -V
  • Natalie Portman.  She got some serious acting skills, as I already covered in my post on Black Swan.
  • The domino montage about 3/4 through the movie
  • The colors of the film- it is very dark, but certain colors repeat and stand out

Things I’d Change:

  • Sometimes the film is unnecessarily confusing.  I didn’t notice this myself, but when I taught this to high-school students, I found that there are an abundance of names and places that could have been consolidated without losing any of the film’s meaning.
  • The fact that there is no sequel.  I want one.

You need to be in the right mood to sit down and watch a movie like this.  When you find yourself in a mood for a film that is dark and serious and beautiful, have this on hand.

Have these on hand too.

Isn't that so pretty? I am proud of myself.

Read  on for the recipe…

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The Song of Fire and Ice…and Cupcakes

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

-Back Cover

Hello out there! I am, in fact, alive. You may wonder what I have been doing for the past 4 months. Here is a sampling: full time job, night classes, cooking, cleaning, mourning the loss of Milly (my pet fish), spending time with family, friends, frantically shopping when I woke up and realized that Christmas was only two weeks away, playing in the pitiful amount of snow that we have accumulated, playing with my Christmas toys that Santa brought me, etc.

Oh, and A Song of Fire and Ice Series.  That.  After some calculating (which was difficult because I don’t always work with numbers this big), I have concluded that that monstrosity of a series is a full 4,864 pgs.  Compared to Harry Potter, that may not be so bad, but this series is no Harry Potter.  This series is dense with detail and imaginative ideas that make you stop and think.  I read sloooooowly.  I have been working on this series since Thanksgiving and just finished yesterday.  For me, that is an epic amount of time to spend on one story.

The patience that it required for me to work through this masterpiece is evidence enough to show you that it was fantastic.  If it were a food, it would be my request for my last supper.  If it were a person, we would be best friends.

Because I could not handle having this level of emotional connection with a book, I began to associate the book with George R.R. Martin instead.  Of course, by now, I am familiar enough with him that we are on a first name basis.  As I worked my way through his story, I routinely talked to George, asking him why he had the characters do certain things or when I would get to see another character again.  Now that I have not touched the series for a full day, I am starting to miss George and our (albeit incredibly one-sided) conversations.

I could ramble for hours about this series, but I am going to leave you with this instead.

What I Liked:

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

What Drove Me Crazy

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

Conflicted much?  Yes.  Read this series.  Now.  Go use those gift cards you got over the holidays. Let me know your burning questions and thoughts in the comments.  Oh, and make these cupcakes too.

Read on for the recipe…

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Thursday Next’s Battenberg Cake

They are a series of books based upon the notion that what we read in books is just a small part of a larger BookWorld that exists behind the page.

A fantastical place populated by off-duty and sometimes mischievous bookpeople from the Classics to Fanfiction, and ruled over by the wheezing bureaucracy known as The council of Genres. It is their task to maintain the pageant and integrity of the books within their charge, and these efforts are sometimes thwarted by the very evildoers and bizarre plot devices that give the Bookworld its appeal.

Aided in this endeavour but sometimes disagreeing with them are Jurisfiction, the policing agency within Fiction. The adventures follow one of their operatives: A woman from the Realworld named Thursday Next, whose reality-based credentials bring a dimension of independent thought to the proceedings, something that is often absent in the mostly predetermined Bookworld.

Confused? Excellent – turn to page one and start reading!

-Jasper Fforde’s description of the Thursday Next Series

I first encountered Jasper Fforde when I, intrigued by the title, read Shades of Grey.  As you can tell from my post on it, I LOVED it.  Later on, when I was basking in the joy known as the library, I noticed that Fforde had published other books. Of course, I took the bait.

Of the several series that Fforde has dreamed up, I chose the Thursday Next series.  Any character whose name is Thursday Next must be pretty darn interesting, not to mention that the first book is entitled The Eyre Affair.  Jane Eyre fan fiction?  Yes, please.

What kept me reading this series is Fforde’s hilarious, fantastical, and original take on BookWorld.  He puts us (readers) in our place.  The characters in books are alive and have their own dramas behind the scenes.  They jump between books, have other jobs, and characters who are linked romantically in books may actually hate each other.  Even more exciting, they have a certain level of free will, meaning that if they are unhappy enough with how the author wrote their story, they can change it!

Hint:  The “original” Jane Eyre has a very different ending from the one we know and love.

Basically, if you enjoy the concept of characters truly coming to life, I suggest you check these out.  They made me giggle some of the time and happy all of the time.  Except when I was sad.  But, that was because sometimes, sad things happen.  But, yeah.  You get my point.  Read them.

Battenberg Cake

Thursday Next is a fantastic and spunky character.  She is surrounded by a wonderfully loony family and her mother is the only one who really cooks.  While most of her cooking is quite awful, she is known for her Battenberg cake.

According to the great brain of Wikipedia, Battenberg cake “was created in honour of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg, with the four squares representing the four Battenberg princes: Louis, Alexander, Henry, and Francis Joseph.”

Typically made with marzipan, this cake does not agree with Thursday, who detests almonds.  I decided to make a Thursday-approved Battenburg cake.  Try making one yourself!  It is not nearly as complicated as it looks.

  1. Mix up the batter for your favorite white cake.
  2. Split the batter in half.  Color one half red (or any color you want, really).
  3. If possible bake each half in a loaf pan.  I didn’t have two load pans so I improvised…

  1. Bake as the cake recipe directs until the cakes are firm.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Cut each cake in half so that you have two long strips of each color.
  4. Heat up the jam of your choice.  I used marmalade.
  5. Assemble the cake.  Stick the pieces together by “frosting” each side and then pushing the cake strips together, to make that lovely checker.

  1. Make or acquire your favorite frosting OR get marzipan (If you want marzipan).  I made a pistachio frosting, basically by mixing pistachio butter in with white frosting.
  2. Frost your assembled cake.  Do not be afraid to use a lot of frosting.  Because you are trying to mush together four strands of cake, frosting is the great concealer.  And it’s yummy.
  3. Eat, preferably with tea, as Thursday would.

StoryThyme: On Top of Spaghetti (The Meatballs are the Best Part)

StoryThyme is a celebration of Mother Goose poems, fairy tales, and children’s stories.  In true Hungry Bookworm tradition, I create a foods inspired by these magical texts.

Today’s poem is “On Top of Spaghetti,” made famous by Tom Glazer, who recorded this song on an album in 1963.

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!

It rolled in a garden
And under a bush
Now my poor meatball
Was nothing but mush

The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be
Early next summer
It grew into a tree

The tree was all covered
With beautiful moss
It grew lovely meatballs
In a tomato sauce

So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs
And DON’T EVER SNEEZE!

A-A-A-CHOO !!

Origin:  After doing some searching around on the internet, the main story that keeps coming up is that children at a camp in 1963 invented the lyrics, basing them off of the song, “On Top of Old Smokey.”

Thoughts:  I always thought that the concept of losing a meatball by sneezing was dangerous.  You see, I like my meatballs and I take them very seriously.  If sneezing would make a meatball roll away, well, gosh darn it, I was not going to sneeze at the dinner table.

At the same time, I was fascinated with the adventures of the meatball once it left it’s plate.  If Disney or Pixar wanted to come out with a movie about the adventures of a meatball, I would totally watch it.  In fact, I would wait in line with all of the 5-year-olds to see it in theaters.

Meatballs You Won’t Want to Lose

Now, these are not your traditional meatball, nor to I stick with this recipe every time I make meatballs.  At the same time, they are delicious.  Even the most beef-centric members of your household will like them. 

Ingredients:

  • A big pot of tomato sauce
  • 1.5 lbs of ground turkey meat (I used 99% lean)
  • .5 lbs of italian style turkey sausage
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh cut basil
  • 1 tbsp fresh cut thyme
  • 1/2 cup of chopped grilled vegetables (I had these on hand as leftovers and thought they would add more flavor and nutrition to the meatballs.  You do not have to add these in, but if you have leftovers, chop some up)

Procedure:

  • Get your sauce bubbling away on the stove.
  • Dump every other ingredient into a bowl.
  • Mix together (preferably with your hands).
  • Form in meatballs, however large you want them.
  • Place into sauce to cook.  Because the mixture is so lean, it does not release much fat into the sauce and the meat will practically melt in your mouth once cooked.
  • Place a cover on the pot and cook at medium-low heat for at least 1 hour.
  • Eat, on top of spaghetti, on a sandwich, or with your hands

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Short Reviews of Long Books

So the summer definitely took me away from the computer.  I did not post nearly as often as I had intended (though, to be fair, I had grand aspirations about daily posts), but I read far more than I thought possible.  This bookworm was apparently verrrrry hungry.

Here’s the thing.  I would love to do a beautiful, happy post for every book read or movie viewed over the summer, but I’m not going to.  It’s too overwhelming.  In fact, it has kept me quiet for the past week as I struggle to even begin talking about my summer.  Instead, I will give you a description of the book or movie in under 11 words or less and my thoughts in 20 words or less.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Lee.

Summary: Sad woman and sadder man have affair in Hong Kong.

Thoughts: This historical backdrop (Hong Kong during WWII) was intriguing, but I didn’t like any of the characters.  Meh.

The Twilight Saga Collection by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: Bella must choose between creepy vampire and not-as-creepy-but-still-superhuman werewolf Jacob.

Thoughts: It teaches teenagers that the best kind of love is obsessive, controlling, and dangerous.  No thank you.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Summary: 3 witches, one a fairy godmother, must stop a happy ending.

Thoughts: Hilarious.  This is my first Pratchett novel and I now want to read the entire Discworld series.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Summary: 3 photographers and their relationships as they photograph the Vietnam war.

Thoughts: Well-written and intricate storylines.  The background and the characters are fascinating.  I want to study photography, or go to Vietnam.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

Summary: Sweet valley twins, 10 years later.  Sex, betrayal, and swearing.

Thoughts: So bad.  I read it because I loved the series.  It makes no sense and I hated both twins.

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Summary: Love triangle in Greece during WWII.

Thoughts: Loved it with 15 pages to go.  Then almost threw it across the room.  Still love it.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Follows two friends through school, love, and duplicity.

Thoughts: I may have used up an entire tissue box on this.  Read it if you want a good cry.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano

Summary: The title pretty much says it all.

Thoughts: Commonsense advice aside from drinking leek broth for three days and purchase enough champagne to have at every dinner.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (for the fifth time, at least)

Summary: Big brother knows all.

Thoughts: Love it.  Love it.  Love love love love it.  It gets better with every read.  Read it.

 

Phew!  Now that I have those out of the way, I can get back to posting on what I am reading right now!  Trust me, I have an awesome one coming up 🙂