Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kitchen Adventures! - Lemon Zinger

If you go back to some of my earlier blogs, you will see there was a moment in time where I was inspired by the documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." A man changed his life with one juicer and goal. I decided I would try and do the same. I wasn't as successful. I tapped out before reaching Day 3. However, that didn't mean that I packed my juicer up and called it quits. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Instead, I started researching. There is a vast number of juice recipes out there and I decided that I would try a couple. I mean, I bought the juicer already. I should get some use out of it. I found a few ebooks that went on sale for free. And I did some digging around the internet for recipes that looked interesting. That was how I came across the Lemon Zinger.

 2 apples
1/2 lemon
2 medium carrots
1 thumb of ginger

This recipe quickly became one of my favorites. It has a very bright and citrusy flavor. It tastes somewhere between drinking freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade lemonade. I personally used red apples in this juice, because they were sweet enough to balance out the tartness of the lemon. What I like about this simple recipe (aside from how good it tastes) is that it is made from ingredients I normally have in my refrigerator anyway. So no tacking on any extra costs to my grocery bill. If you own a juicer, I definitely suggest giving this a try.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Everyone Loves Shortbread!

I am sure that you all haveheard of shortbread before. Shortbread is one of my favorite cookie types. Nothing is better than several shortbread cookies with a warm cup of hot chocolate or tea. And the basic recipe is pretty easy to make. However, I found a company that is doing interesting things with shortbread.

Most of the time when I think of shortbread, I think of a very simple cookie. Nothing interesting or different. No frills, just a plain cookie. And I'm sure that I'm not the only person who has that same thought. But the people who make Willa's Shortbread had a very different feeling about shortbread. They have set out to make it something beyond interesting.

I was at a festival with a friend when I saw their booth. There were quite a few choices: Chocolate Chip and Tennessee Whiskey, just to name two. After trying a few samples, I bought of box of Wildflower Honey and the Spicy Cheese. Because the last thing I would put with shortbread is spicy cheese.

Both of these flavors were very good. Wildflower Honey has a subtle flavor that is not overly sweet, which I liked. And the cookies are very aromatic. I liked smelling cookies almost as much as I liked eating them. Spicy Cheese plays with the idea of being a cookie. While it is shortbread. It is a cheese straw recipe that is salty and savory, similar to a cracker. They were good as well.

I am glad that I found out about these shortbread cookies. I will definitely be buying more. Since I like my cookies sweet,  I will probably try Chocolate Chip or Praline next. But who knows, I might find something else that catches my eye. I definitely recommend these cookies.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Game Review: Tokaido

I come from a family of game lovers. Especially games where we all are able to come together and have fun with one another. Just about every year, we purchased some kind of board game which we would open up and play during the holidays. That is, after we have stuffed ourselves full of food, of course. The bright and shiny flashing of video games does tend to swallow all of my attention at times. But, other times, there is nothing better than sitting around a table and playing a board game.

At PAX East, my sister and I came across a board game that I had never heard of before, Tokaido. Upon first glance, the game looked very pretty and very Japanese. While I was interested in purchasing the game, I had no idea how to play it (even after reading the box). And I had even less of an idea on how to win. The man at the booth nice enough to explain the game to Frankie and I. But even after that, I still wasn't sure what the game was all about. So, of course, we had to buy it and play it.

My first impression of the game, before we even got started, was: "Wow, this is the most beautiful board game that I have ever played with." My second impression was: "This game has a lot of pieces. I hope it isn't too difficult to get the hang of."

Tokaido is one of those games that is simplistic in gameplay, but challenging when it comes to mastering it. The game is set in feudal Japan and you traveling on Tokaido, the road between Kyoto and Edo. There are many experiences to be had as the player travels. And the player who has the most experiences (visting temples, buying souvenirs, etc) by the end of the trip, wins the game.

What makes this game unique is choice. There is no dice to dictate how many spaces you move. There are no cards telling you what experience you need to do next. You, the player, make those choices yourself. And there are many things you have to keep in mind when you make these choices: the amount of money you have, the special ability of the character you chose to play, the choices of the other players, etc. The point is not to get to the end first, but to enjoy the journey as much as possible.

All in all, Tokaido is a very fun game. It is easy to pick up and has a very enjoyable levity to it. You characters are enjoying hotsprings, eating food from different inns, seeing what nature has to offer all along Tokaido. Who would not enjoy a game like this?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

30 Day Workout: The Finale

March 2nd marked the end of this short journey of mine. I suppose I should write a wrap up post about it. First off, I am glad that I decided to do this and decided to do this "publicly". It was great having a sounding board to yell at when things got hard. Secondly, I need to figure out exercise routines that don't involve DVDs. There are times when I just want to workout and watch TV at the same time.

So, how did I do? I want to tell you that I was amazingly triumphant through the entire 30 days. I was a workout machine and they are going to write biography about my success. I was that impressive. That is what I want to tell you. What I'm going to tell you is the truth. I wasn't perfect. There were times when I only worked out once during the week, instead of 4. I ate fast food this month.  I drank soda. There were plenty of stumbles along this 30 day journey.

However, I worked out more this past month than I have in quite a while. I actually followed a morning routine. There were a number of things that went right this month and they out number what went wrong. So many times I have wanted to beat myself up because I didn't fall in line perfectly, but that only leads to quitting. So this time, I'm not going to.

I did something this month, which was more than last month. And for that I am giving myself a gold star. While the challenge is over, this journey is not. I have seen what I am capable of doing and I am taking that with me into the month of March. I would love for you to come along with me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

The story of Moses is a familiar one. I remember the old TV movie The Ten Commandments playing every year as the back drop to my family celebrating Easter at my grandfather's house. Later, there was an animated adaptation, which I enjoyed watching. It had a very good soundtrack. So, I was quite surprised when, recently, my mother wanted us all to go out and see Exodus: Gods and Kings. If anyone knew the story of Moses inside and out, it was us. So why would we spend money to go and watch it again? I am going to tell you why.

This movie spends a lot of time focusing on Moses and Ramses II. Focusing on them as people, reacting to the situation that they have found themselves in. Two brothers in staunch opposition to one another. Personally, I like the take on Moses that this film presents. Here you have a man, raised Egyptian, a prince and general, farming goats. The entire movie, you see a push and pull relationship Moses has with God, which is very different from prior adaptations. Moses is normally shown as being very accepting from the moment he encounters God on the mountain.

This film makes the character of Moses feel more human to me. He struggles with putting away what he once had to transition into the leader of a people he barely knows. I also like the fact that the film creators chose to give a face to the voice of God, rather than making Him an invisible presence. A face gives the conversations an extra something that a disembodied voice cannot.

The only negative thing I have to say about this film is that there were sections that felt rushed. One scene in particular is where Ramses is talking to Miriam about Moses. There was little setup for that scene and I felt we were simply to accept what was happening because we knew it had to happen. We know there is a huge climatic ending and only 2 hours to get there. So, certain scenes have to happen in order to progress, no matter if they flow seamlessly into the story line or not.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a good movie. It takes a familiar story and re-imagines it into something new and different than its predecessors. I enjoyed watching it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Product Review: Shea Moisture African Black Soap

My sister is always finding new  things for us to try. This time she found the body wash and lotion product line by Shea Moisture. The first one we tried was African Black Soap.

I have to say, it was quite different from my every day body wash (wish is usually Suave or something scented that I pick up from Walmart.) so I was really eager to give this a shot. After a few uses, there were several pros and one major con.

First pro, after bathing with the body wash, my skin felt super soft. And this was after one use. Anything that can do that is amazing, in my eyes. The body lotion was thicker than I had expected. It was more like a body butter than a lotion. After my struggle with trying to squeeze it out of the bottle, I just removed the top. The lotion did everything that it claimed it would. My skin was soft and moisturized all through the night and into the next day.

The major con? I was not a fan of the scent. The African Black Soap product has more a cologne like fragrance that I wasn't too fond of. It wasn't offensive enough to make me stop using, mind you. I still bathed in the body wash every day and used the lotion every night. So the scent wasn't assaulting. It just wasn't my favorite.

I really like the Shea Moisture line of products. However, I do not think I would buy this particular product again. However, my sister did send me some Coconut Hibiscus. That sounds like it is more up my alley.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

30 Day Workout Challenge: Day 11 - Injured. Now what?

Some days I feel like I have the most injury prone set of ankles and knees on this planet. This issue is not anything new. I have been banging my knees up since high school and turning my ankles since college. So, when I start going full tilt during workout sessions, I am always concerned about injuries.

My first mode of action is trying to prevent injury at all costs. I wear supportive shoes as much as possible. And not just during exercise, but in my every day comings and goings as well. I have invested in decent braces and wraps over the years. So if anything does feel a bit out of sorts, I just brace it or wrap it up for a few hours and take it easy. Most importantly, I rest what is hurting. Sometimes pain is a sign that you need to slow down a bit and recuperate. But what do you do if you have already injured yourself? 

This used to be the death card for my exercise regimen. I would get into a good exercise routine and then suddenly everything would come to screeching halt because I hurt my ankle or my knee. I would tell myself: "Hey, no problem. I just sit out a week and then get right back up on that horse once I feel better." But that would never happen. For some reason, that much time out of my exercise routine would end everything. I kept saying, "I'll go back to the gym tomorrow" and tomorrow never came.

So instead, the better idea is to change up exercises. Instead of doing normal cardio workouts, I should have switched to something that would let me workout without putting any weight on my injured joint. There have been no injuries for me as of yet (Thank God), but I have noticed my ankle ache once already. Instead of sitting out, I came up with something else to do. I traded in my Zumba for an ab intensive workout. This way I didn't fall out of routine.

Minor injuries doesn't mean that you are forced to quit altogether. It just means that you need to be creative with how to workout in the safest way possible.