cooking

Cake-Decorating Techniques I’m Glad I Learned

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been baking and cooking since I was 12. I’ve also learned to decorate cakes and other baked goods around that age. Of course, I struggled several times, especially in the early days.

However, I’ve been making a lot of my own occasion cakes in recent years, because one of my friends is allergic to peanuts. Unfortunately, many bakeries aren’t nut-free, including near where I live. In fact, although I reside outside New York City, allergy-friendly bakeries are rare.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy my homemade cakes and cupcakes. The interest worked out very, very well. So, without further ado, here are the techniques I am thankful for learning.

1: Crumb-coating

This is when you put a plain layer of buttercream all over the cake and put it in the refrigerator to cool. That way, you don’t end up with crumbs in your icing. That is when you put the next layer over it and you can be free to do what you want. This might not work for whipped cream frosting, though.

2: Whipped buttercream technique

You do the usual for making buttercream icing, but add extra milk (a little at a time), and whip with an electric mixer for as many as seven minutes or so. That way, your buttercream can turn out similarly to whipped cream icing. There are a few reasons it might work. One, colors tend to come out bolder in butter cream than whipped cream. Two, writing on a cake is easier with better with buttercream than whipped cream. Three, there is a special trick to whipped cream icing that keeps it from sinking into the cake. That is adding unflavored gelatin to hot water, letting it cool, and then incorporating it into the whipped cream. It’s fine, but a little more work, depending on your needs or desires.

3: Less can be more

Good cake designs don’t always have to have lots of decorations. In fact, a minimal amount can be just as beautiful, if not, more. That’s what happened when I prepared for my 26th birthday party in November 2019. I had a lot of cooking to do, so I just made simple flower-like borders around the cake’s exterior (not attached), wrote “Happy Birthday, Sunayna” with buttercream on a piece of white chocolate, and that was it. It still looked great.

So, there you have it. I hope this helps.

movie

Oh, I Just Can’t Wait to Compare and Contrast “The Lion King” Adaptations (1994 and 2019)

Pretty much everyone I’ve met has enjoyed 1994’s “The Lion King”. Many consider it their favorite movie. Only one person I’ve met has said that she wasn’t really into “The Lion King.”

Obviously, I’ve seen the cartoon of it and enjoyed it. In fact, as a high school senior, I enjoyed the film so much that I performed the end credit version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” at a school spotlight night (like a talent show).

Anyway, the cartoon depicted and released a lot of emotional experiences to the audience. The songs are great, the characters are well-developed, and the mood is powerful.

That being said, someone pointed out that there might be some damsel-in-distress moments. The person said that rather than resolving Scar’s abuse of power on their own, the female lions wait for Simba to return. He was assumed dead, though. Yet, when Nala found him and he refused to come back since he thought he was responsible for his father, Mufasa’s death, Nala didn’t seem to take a lot of action on her own.

Another moment that stands out to me is the line Mufasa says to Simba after he goes to the elephant graveyard, “You deliberately disobeyed me.” Yes, they were different tones, but I consider that kind of lazy, unless there’s a purpose (i.e. “My boy, my little Hercules,” from 1997’s “Hercules”). It was as if the writers copied and pasted that same line, whether or not Microsoft Word existed.

Nevertheless, the animated version of “The Lion King” pleased me very much. Sadly, when the live-action remake came out, it didn’t cause any emotional reactions or anything nearly as much the way the cartoon did. In fact, it was pretty much a carbon copy of the 1994 adaptation. Most scenes were the same shots, but in a “live-action” way. It was mostly realistic CGI, except for one scene, and obviously, because getting those types of animals to act is too dangerous. Despite that, animators need to draw from live models of those creatures, and who knows how those animals stay calm and not maul or hurt anyone?

While the remake did reduce the “You deliberately disobeyed me” line to one use, the facial expressions were quite limited, and I couldn’t get into it nearly as much as the animated movie.

I would rate the cartoon 5 out of 5 stars, but the reboot 2.5 out of 5 stars. Even my friends didn’t enjoy it too much, either.

Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Characters’ Physical Appearances as Written

As a writer, I have to follow creative writing rules and standards in order to please readers. As much as I’m okay with most of the craft guidelines, there are a few aspects about readers that I wish were different. That is how I wish readers would be more okay with characters’ physical descriptions. Please note that I am not criticizing anyone who believes the opposite of what I do. I respect others’ opinions. But this is how I actually feel.

Just because there are no pictures in novels (excluding graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the writers shouldn’t physically describe their characters. However, most experts say to keep the descriptions to a minimum or only describe what is important and let the readers picture them their ways. In fact, some people have even said that they will rebel against the characters’ description and picture them their own ways. For example, one might picture a blonde character dark-haired, which I think is silly. What if that blonde character is from a bestselling book that becomes a movie and that same character is also blonde in the film? It’s not like you could file a complaint to Hollywood for that.

But I really disagree with the guideline of not describing your characters a lot. I would say that authors should get to describe their characters however they’d like and have as many physical attributes as they want. That being said, they shouldn’t describe everything. That’s because it would be too much to remember and would bog down the narrative. The only time I’d understand readers getting upset over physical descriptions is if the traits were offensive (i.e. never say something like, “Mr. Yang looked at me through his squinted eyes.” That’s a big no-no!).

I have a feeling that readers forget that characters’ physical appearances get presented to them all the time outside novels. They see how characters look in movies, TV shows, live performances, comics, picture books (if they are, have, or work with small children), and graphic novels. If they’re okay with Wonder Woman having dark hair or Timmy Turner having blue eyes, I wish they would feel the same with a novel character being described with red hair, or green eyes, and so on. But even one person said that they still didn’t like being told what the characters look like and said, “We have movies for that.”

Which brings me to my next point: the readers don’t own the content—the writers do. Therefore, I think they deserve the right to describe the characters to their readers. If only the readers would acknowledge that the characters are somebody else’s creations, property, and copyright. Therefore, if only they would accept that another person created the content and gets to have a say in their appearances. If readers really like a certain physical attribute of a person, they should create their own characters with those. You know the old saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”? I wish I could apply that to readers when they find out about a character’s physical appearance.

TV show

Beware! It’s My Top Memorable Moments from “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy”

A skeleton is friends with two children. There is Mandy, who has a dark attitude and hardly ever smiles, despite her blonde hair and pink top. Then there is Billy, who is enthusiastic and silly.

This show aired on Cartoon Network for a while in the 2000’s. It was a great show.

Now here are the top memorable moments from the show.

7: When Grim wore a bra

Okay, okay, I can guess what you’re probably thinking. But it’s true. There was one episode where his cloak was removed and he had a bra on. Really.

6: When Billy’s friend, Irwin, turned into a dog

Billy found a dog with glasses, not realizing that it was his friend, Irwin. He asked his parents if he could keep him. His mom said no, but his dad said yes. Then, at some point, Irwin turns back into a human in a stadium, naked in front of everybody.

5: When Grim and Billy switch personalities

Grim acts silly like Billy and Billy behaves like Grim. Eventually, their physical appearances switch, too.

4: When Billy loses his sight from a video game

Billy presses his eyes against the TV monitor while playing a video game, which could have ruined his eyes, according to Mandy. And it did. At some point later, Billy even thought Mandy held up 74 fingers.

3: When Billy and Mandy told stories

Mandy’s story was so inconsiderate and lazy. It went, “Once upon a time, the end.” Then she told a story about Humpty Dumpty where it ended where everybody had eggs for all three of their meals. However, Billy’s involved a villain who couldn’t defeat anyone because they were so happy. Even he became joyous, himself.

2: When Billy and Grim celebrated Mandy’s “birthday”

Billy has Grim help him plan a birthday bash for Mandy. When Mandy arrives, Grim and Billy go, “Happy birthday, happy birthday, it’s your happy day.” But Mandy reveals that her birthday isn’t for another 5 months.

1: The song, “Under the Ocean”

Ah, a parody of “Under the Sea” from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. This was a great moment.

So, there you have it.

TV show

Now Calling, Kids Next Door Mysteries

Since lockdown began in March in my area (although things reopened with restrictions), I have been visiting old childhood TV shows. Not only did I read synopses of my favorite episodes, but I also watched some. One of them included “Codename: Kids Next Door”.

I saw a few episodes recently. A couple of them breezed by, but the other two were a bit slow and less engaging.

Anyway, while I researched the program, I came up with a few unanswered questions that I wonder.

1: Why do the kids next door have to steal the delightful children’s birthday cake every time they have birthday bashes?

I’ve only seen the first episode, known as C.A.K.E.D, which I believe is the pilot that set the show up. There, the KND try to take the delightful children’s cake, and then the delightful children trap them in their home and have them play party games. But what is wrong with the delightful children’s cakes?

2: Why aren’t the KND’s parents’ faces shown in the early episodes?

This practice has been going on since the beginning of animation. Sometimes there are reasons for hiding certain characters’ faces, and other times there aren’t. That used to really bug me, and maybe others, too.

However, for some reason, the creators seemed to have changed their minds later and decided to show the KND’s parents faces. But I read that they kept Numbuh 5’s mom and dads’ faces unseen.

3: Why do the creators like Numbuh 5’s braid exposed, but not Numbuh 3’s hair?

In the L.I.C.E episode, all the KND’s hair has been eaten (although lice don’t feast on hair in real life), but Numbuh 5’s braid remained. Also, Numbuh 3 wears swim caps when going in the water. And the KND’s logo originally had Numbuh 3’s ear hidden, but then made it exposed. This pattern has happened many other times. Not just in the show, but also in some computer games.

If that’s so frequent, then couldn’t the creators have just chopped off Numbuh 3’s hair from the start? Who says she needs to have long hair?

And those are the three mysteries I wonder about “Codename: Kids Next Door.”

TV show

What TV Show Are These Top Episodes From? “SpongeBob SquarePants”

I am a fan of “SpongeBob SquarePants”, although not a longtime one. For many years, I’ve lost interest in it, but then I got back into it. Now I play songs from the show a lot, like when I wash dishes or lift weights.

Anyway, here are my top 3 favorite episodes.

3: “Employee of the Month”

SpongeBob has been awarded as employee of the month several times. But Squidward might be nominated this time. Both he and SpongeBob aggressively compete.

The way Squidward and SpongeBob handle the situation was crazy and extreme at times, but still funny. This is one of the episodes that made me laugh my brains out.

2: “Band Geeks”

This is an all-time favorite from many fans. And I am one of them.

Squidward wants to conduct a band to play at the bubble bowl since another octopus desires the same thing. However, none of the others can play instruments. Rather, they fight with each other.

Dang, this episode cracked me up several times. And one of my favorite moments is when Patrick asks, “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” Lol, who doesn’t love that line?

And finally…

1: “Goo-goo Gas”

Okay, you may be looking at this like I have two heads. It came out when the episodes were no longer considered good. While those I didn’t see could be bad, this one made me laugh the most and hardest.

After Mr. Krabs catches Plankton trying to steal the secret formula to the crabby patties, Plankton decides to turn him into a baby with a special gas he calls goo-goo gas. However, his gas doesn’t work the way he wants, so he brainstorms other ideas.

I laughed so hard at this episode, that my mom made me take deep breaths. I love this episode very much. In fact, when I first saw it, I had not known that the “SpongeBob” episodes that came out after the 2004 film were unpopular. But now, except for this one and a couple of other exceptions, I probably won’t see the episodes that were released after the “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

There you have it.  

TV show

Questions I Have About the “Peanuts” Cartoon

Although I didn’t watch a lot of the “Peanuts” cartoon as a child, since my family didn’t own any on video or DVD, I still have a few questions about the series. I did view enough of it to wonder certain things.

1: Do the children hear the same physical voice for both men and women?

For anyone who has seen the “Peanuts” cartoons, only the kids speak actual words. The adults go, “wah-wah-wah” since that’s how the children hear it. The grown-ups are also out of sight, I believe. But one thing that stands out to me is that they all have the same physical voice. I think they are voiced by a brass instrument. Yet, the men and women seem to all have deep nasal voices.

2: Why doesn’t Snoopy look like a beagle?

I searched this on Google and it turns out that many others have wondered the same. I’ve called Snoopy the inaccurate-looking beagle in recent years. Real beagles have a mix of black and brown colors and a little bit of white. However, Snoopy looks nothing like a real beagle. He could have, though, or could have been declared a different breed, or a mutt.

3: Has Snoopy ever barked once?

Another element about Snoopy that differentiates him from real beagles is that he doesn’t bark much while real dogs his breed do. But has he barked once? That is something I couldn’t get an answer to in my Google search.

Those are all the questions I have.

movie

Boom, Baby! And Check Out My Review of “The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000)

I enjoyed this film as a child and re-watched it after many years. The story is about a young emperor, named Kuzco, who wants to build a summer resort for his 18th birthday. But he gets turned into a llama and ends up away from his palace. Meanwhile, his advisor, Yzma, wants to become the next ruler. There is even a funeral scene, similar to that part in “The Lion King” after Mufasa dies.

There are many great moments from this film. I loved the idea of a theme-song guy for the movie’s opening as well as the clever and humorous dialogue. Other enjoyable scenes include the made-up Happy Birthday song (“Happy, happy birthday, make all your dreams come true…”) the waiters sang to Yzma (but for some reason, she didn’t tell her assistant, Kronk, about it), the “Wizard of Oz” reference in one scene, and the squirrel with the balloon animal. Who knows how the creature got it?

That being said, there is one aspect that didn’t please me, and that was Kuzco. Okay, okay, I know he’s the main character. But I thought he was very unlikable with how he treated others. Although he didn’t yell (he even reminded me of the trash planet ruler in “Thor: Ragnarok”), he was a jerk to everybody and kind of abused his power at times. He didn’t care about ruining the peasant, Pacha’s, home, when he wanted to build his summer place…on the same area as Pacha’s small house. I felt frustrated when Kuzco refused to change his mind over and over again, even when he turned into a llama and wanted to return to his palace. He asked Pacha to help, but Pacha refused.

Pacha was more likable, and he reminded me of Sully from “Monster’s Inc”. Not just because the same man who voiced him also voiced Sully, but his behavior was quite similar to Sully’s.

Does Kuzco become a better character? You’ll have to see the movie to find out. But regardless of his not-so-great attitudes, I would still rate “The Emperor’s New Groove” 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

Details I Noticed in “The South Park Movie” (1999)

I’ve been a fan of “South Park” for years. I also watched the movie in recent times and I enjoyed it. Obviously, I didn’t see it in theatres since I was only 5 when it came out.

But when I re-watch movies, I pick up on more and more details, including those in “The South Park Movie”. So, here are the things I noticed.

1: The main characters’ dads don’t really play big roles

The moms are more involved with their goals. But the fathers are minor characters who don’t express much. In fact, they don’t get any spoken lines.

2: The dads apparently didn’t have to cut their hair when they joined the army

In real life, soldiers have to wear their hair above their ears. And it’s for safety. Although the intended audience is adults, I found it odd that the main characters’ fathers got to keep their hair as was when in the military.

3: The extras aren’t consistent

This was especially noticeable in the musical numbers, “It’s Easy, M’kay” and “La Resistance”. Different children come and go.

4: Mr. Mackey’s Chalkboards act like they’re Magical

When Mr. Mackey gives cleaner alternatives for the words the kids have been saying, he points to one chalkboard after the other. But the words just appear there without anyone writing or erasing them. Unless magic exists in “South Park”, this is a bit sloppy.

5: The children get into the “Terrence and Philip Movie” without supervision

When the four main characters try to buy tickets for the film, they’re denied them since it’s rated R. So, they pay a homeless man to purchase their tickets for them. However, after the song, “It’s Easy, M’kay”, they all somehow got into the room where the “Terrence and Philip Movie” played, without any adult supervision. That’s what I call a plot hole or inconsistency.

So, there you have it.

Writing

You Can Turn Clichés into More Original Ideas

While pretty much everything has been done before, some ideas are too overdone, according to the general public. Some of those include phrases, metaphors, descriptions, and types of creatures or humanoids.

When I researched for my fantasy stories, I came across how so many typical elements, such as dragons, are considered overdone. So, I made up my own magical entities in my writing.

One cliché I used, however, was having wizards in my novels. But there are no old ones with long white beards in long robes. The magicians are also modern and even post-modern at times. They have their own technology far more advanced than the regular kinds in my books.

Another overdone element I’ve included in my series is a skeleton character. In fact, in early drafts, he was more of a stereotypical skeleton where he was pure evil and carried a scythe. But as I learned more about the writing craft and discovered that pure-evil villains don’t often work (they probably can sometimes), I softened the skeleton’s personality. I’ve developed him to be depressed and insecure about his appearance as well as make him desperate to be human. I’ve also made him afraid of dogs. And no, not because he is built with bones.

Those are just some of the changes I’ve incorporated into the clichés. You could do it, too.