cooking

How I Make Mashed Potatoes

Image from Pixabay

Many of us love mashed potatoes, whether it’s with gravy or plain. No two versions are alike—nor are two formulas.

Because I have a short attention span and a tendency to be very impatient with food (but obviously polite), I try to get my potatoes to cook more quickly. That is because I cut them into small diced cubes and boil them.

Now why do I boil them instead of microwave them, you might ask? That’s because microwaving them tends to dry them out. Boiling them adds or retains moisture. I don’t know how, though, but it’s what I notice.

Another part of the process, which is mostly due to laziness, is leaving the peel on. That’s not a big deal. In fact, some say that potato peels are good for you. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Anyway, after the potato cubes are fully cooked and softened, I put them in the blender with salt, pepper, milk, and melted butter. Then I combine them. They come out creamy this way. Just be sure not to overmix, or else you’ll have dough-like potatoes. Unless you’re making gnocchi from scratch, I would recommend avoiding the doughy texture.

The amount of other ingredients will depend on your serving size and taste preferences. That is the beauty of savory cooking—there isn’t always a fixed formula.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Why Don’t We Hear About Wizards with Disabilities?

While J.K. Rowling has addressed and revealed different elements of the “Harry Potter” franchise, including sexual orientations (Dumbledore was gay), there are topics she discussed little to nothing on. Those include vampires, because she claims they’re cliched, religion, even though she mentioned that there were Jewish wizards, such as Anthony Goldstein, and what this post is about: disabilities. Disabilities are never mentioned in “Harry Potter”, except for a blind wizard that didn’t make it to the books and the possibility of Professor McGonagall being in a wheelchair temporarily. But we never hear about wizards and witches who are deaf, mute, or have other physical or neurological disabilities. There have been no clues to special ed at Hogwarts or handicapped pathways or restrooms in the wizarding world.

Although there have not been big discussions about this from major sources, I’m not the first to notice the lack of possible neurodiversity in the “Harry Potter” series. For instance, I saw a comment on YouTube where someone said that they wanted to ask J.K. Rowling if there were autistic wizards, but they couldn’t find a way to contact her. I was thinking, I don’t know. Maybe. We do know there are Jewish, gay, and Transgender wizards. Another person asked on Quora if Hermione had Asperger’s (which I highly doubt), and another YouTuber came up with a theory that Newt Scamander from the spinoff “Fantastic Beasts” franchise had Autism (which I also think is highly unlikely as he didn’t seem that way to me).

Speaking of theories, I have come up with a guess on why neurodiversity is never discussed in “Harry Potter”. Maybe when J.K. Rowling was planning the series in the 90’s, she might not have thought about disabilities at the time. Think about it—the only option for magical education in her books’ world is going to the designated boarding schools. If a child doesn’t learn to control his or her wizardry and suppresses it, he or she becomes an obscurial, where he or she turns into smoke. In fact, many obscurial children don’t live past age 10.

I don’t know the real reason why Rowling never address disabilities in the wizarding world, but the only guesses I have are best to be avoided here. Have you noticed this detail as well?

movie

Review of “Harriet” (2019)

A young woman named Araminta Ross (Harriet Tubman, later) is lying on the ground, having flashbacks about her past. She is a slave with a mean master. Despite loving her family, she makes a plan to escape and eventually free all slaves. At some point, she calls herself “Harriet Tubman”.

The movie was pretty interesting. The cruel master looked and sounded a lot like the mini cowboy figurine in the “Night at the Museum” films. Maybe it was the same actor.

Anyway, while “Harriet” was a decent film with some possible changes to what really happened, unfortunately, certain parts were too historically accurate. Those include things like the use of the N-word, something you would think wouldn’t be allowed today, and a purely evil master. Also, there are weapons used by the figures to get what they want. That also isn’t a good example for today.

Regardless of that, the way Harriet handles her confidence was done well. She also really supported her family and would even sacrifice her desires to save them.

Overall, I would rate this film 3.5 out of 5 stars. While I was kind of familiar with the events revolving around Harriet Tubman (I did learn about her in school), the movie also didn’t engage me fully.

Would I recommend this? Maybe. I got very uncomfortable with the racism and how the slaves were treated, even if it’s historically accurate. But there were some good morals and examples set, as well.

cooking

My Experience with Cooking Seafood

Image from Pixabay

I love seafood, both fish and shellfish. Now these days, though, I prefer shellfish more, not just because of the taste and textures, but also that they’re quicker to make.

Sometimes, you can have lobsters steamed in the grocery store. However, that varies. Sometimes, you can buy just the tail. Other times, you have to pick something else.

That’s the thing with seafood. Its availability is not always consistent, especially if it’s fresh. I suggest buying the wild-caught kinds as farm-raised seafood can have some issues about them. I’ll stop there with that.

Anyway, there are a lot of ways you can cook seafood. The sky is pretty much the limit. With certain shellfish, though, it’s best to steam them. Those include lobster and shrimp. You can boil them, but then they lose their flavor. Maybe that also removes their nutritional value.

I learned to steam them after boiling them for a while. Guess what? They tasted better—way better. I like to have butter with my lobster and garlic seasoning on my shrimp.

Regardless of all this, some people can’t eat seafood, whether they’re allergic or for other reasons. But it’s rare that I’m in situations like that.

I will admit that driving has spoiled me a bit and made me too lazy too cook at times. Instead, I’m getting takeout. However, I want to change that—at least slightly.

My family has been kind of strict with protein at every meal, certainly when I was a kid. Now they’re more laid back. Yet, because of that guideline from the past, I’ve kind of developed that rule as a routine. If I don’t want meat or poultry, I get seafood.

art

Mayhem with Multi-Page Website-Making

As a writer, I am passionate about my books’ world, characters, magic laws (they’re fantasy), and more. I don’t know if I got inspired to expand more because J.K. Rowling does it with her “Harry Potter” franchise. But a while back, I did plan on having a print guide about my books’ universe. However, I was told that things like that are usually reserved for big, popular franchises. So, I decided to come up with a website.

I have a main author site, too. And now I have a website dedicated to my books’ world and content called magicalmissionsworld.com. While I admire the homepage, I am not fond of the articles about my characters. It’s not easy to make several pages with Wix. Therefore, the only solution I could find was making my word docs PDFs. I am not happy about that now.

I want to change the web builder and make a more professional multi-page website using Adobe Dreamweaver, as there wasn’t a lot that I could find online. I looked at other multi-page sites and theirs look way better and easier to use than mine.

So, now I plan to experiment with Dreamweaver and rebuild my franchise’s site using that. I believe you can still add text, images, and more. You can also code, which I’m just okay at.

Anyway, as soon as I figure out Dreamweaver, I am going to take down my current book series’ site and launch a new one.  

fiction

Being Bananas at School: A Flash Fiction Piece

My name is Bernard Applebaum, although people often call me Bernie. Recently, my school had spirit week, and one of the days was “change your image day”. As a fan of the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” song, I decided to dress as a banana.

Little did I know that I couldn’t fit on my bus and I kept bumping into people. And those stares everyone gave me are never going to leave my memory.

I tried impressing people and even recited the lyrics of “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”. However right before the warning bell rang, I fell down the stairs to the basement level, and everybody laughed at me. I got hurt as well. And if that wasn’t so bad, the principal, Mr. Finkle, glared at me. He took me to his office and reminded me of the dress code, which prohibited hazardous clothing, even during spirit week.

My mom had to pick me up as Mr. Finkle demanded that I get send home to change. And he forbade me to wear a costume. I had to take my banana costume off and ride home topless on a chilly October day.

When I came back to school, kids taunted and teased me for the banana costume I’d worn before. I’ll never forget when that boy, Dylan, called me Bernie the Crazy Banana and even said “Don’t throw your peelings at me.”

I had a few friends who I sat with at lunch. But even they didn’t talk to me. In fact, they left me to go to the library—without even inviting me.

I came home not wanting to speak to anyone. I guess I’ve learned my lesson about wearing big costumes to school. The next day was spirit day, where students dressed in the school colors. I just wore street clothes of those colors.

art

Picture Cards for (Hopefully) Perfect Test Results

Ugh…studying for exams. Who doesn’t get stressed out over that? After all, we need to get good grades.

You might be wondering why I am talking about tests when academics and studying aren’t in my specialized topics. It’s because for my last final exam in college, right before graduating, I came up with a technique to make studying not only more enjoyable, but also easier. I was an art major, so I created picture cards and added humor.

The class I took was for meeting a certain learning goal, and it was quite difficult. I didn’t fail anything, but I barely passed the midterm. So, I met with my professor for extra help several times.

When finals week was approaching, I had to find an effective way to study. That was when I decided on picture cards.

They didn’t have to be artistic, and they weren’t meant to be. Regardless of my art skills, I used simplistic stick figure and shape drawings. They were for a different purpose, anyway.

I no longer have these cards as I tossed them a while ago. However, I do recall some funny ones, such as a crying alien when I needed to define and discuss alienation. Another was a factory and I even drew a stick figure Willy Wonka.

If you struggle with drawing, no worries. Pretty much no artistic abilities are needed. However, this is more likely to help if you are a visual learner.

No matter whether you’re in K-12 school, college, or grad school, this technique may work out for you. It certainly helped me, even though I ended up with a C on the final as well as the overall grade.

cooking

Fudge with Just Two Ingredients

Fudge is delicious. It comes in many flavors and those are good, as well, even if they’re kind of expensive at times. While trying to find a healthy dessert recipe, I came across a fudge recipe with only two ingredients: chocolate and almond butter.

You read that right. Here’s how you do it. You melt the chocolate and combine it with the almond butter. I believe it’s an even level of the ingredients (i.e. both being a cup), but I’m not a hundred percent sure. Anyway, let’s presume it is. After combining the ingredients, you spread them in a pan and freeze them. You don’t bake it. Leave it in the freezer for approximately an hour. Then let it thaw for a few minutes, or maybe ten. Then enjoy.

While I usually like fudge, even though I rarely eat it, this one was honestly only okay. I ended up tossing half of it in the trash because I didn’t eat enough of it. And I added a little bit of coconut sugar, which was not part of the original recipe. I wanted to make it just a little sweeter, but not use white sugar.

I don’t recall if there were ratings and reviews. But my mom recommends I use only recipes with great feedback and reactions. I think it’s good advice.

movie

It’s My “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” Review (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Newt is suspended from traveling but gets to go with his brother, Theseus, to find Credence Barebone, who is in France. His American companions, Tina, Queenie, and even no-maj, Jacob, reunite with him. Newt also meets Albus Dumbledore and works together with him. Things get dark and intense quickly.

Unlike many films, I was in the majority of how I viewed this movie. I am often in the minority with a lot of films, where most didn’t like them, but I enjoyed them. With a few exceptions, however, I drift apart from those movies and lose strong feelings about them over time.

Anyway, back to this one. The overall tone was a little too dark and intense for me, especially when Leta had swapped her baby brother, Corvus, with another one (who happened to be Credence), and Corvus died. I found it odd that she didn’t get arrested, even though she was only supposed to be, like, 4 years old.

Speaking of which, the actress who played 4-year-old Leta was the same one who played her as a Hogwarts student. I know some say realism isn’t supposed to be dwelled upon, but that’s about a ten-year difference as in the flashback scene where Newt and Leta were at Hogwarts (and I believe Eddie Redmayne also played the same character as a student, which made me assume Newt was a little older than Leta), and I think they were third-years. That’s a bit too bizarre.

Like many fans, I noticed some inconsistencies with this movie, such as disapparating onto Hogwarts grounds, which isn’t supposed to be possible. Some people guessed that maybe it used to be allowed and then changed before Harry Potter arrived at Hogwarts. But J.K. Rowling said that it was always there. What?

Others include the Obliviate spell only erasing bad memories, probably so that audiences could be satisfied to see Jacob reunite with Newt, Tina, and Queenie. Nice try, creators, but the memory-wiping spell erases pretty much all memories, including the good ones, as shown in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.

And let’s not forget that Professor McGonagall made a brief appearance in both the current moments of the film (1927) and the past ones (1910’s) as a woman in her late twenties or early thirties. I hear she was there because J.K. Rowling says she isn’t that good at math. Hey—a lot of people aren’t, including myself. Still, Professor McGonagall shouldn’t have been born for several years, not until 1935. Unless she was lying about her age this whole time (which is not un-common for women to do as well as hide their real ages), this was just sloppy, even for someone who isn’t very strong in math. I’m sorry. It’s no wonder some people presumed that maybe that was a different Professor McGonagall, who happened to be similar, but unrelated to the one we know. However, it’s the same one.

The ending was also unsatisfying, as well. Grindelwald is basically Voldemort of the 1920’s. And Queenie took his side so that she could “hopefully” be with Jacob, because wizards and witches weren’t allowed to communicate or marry no-majes.

While I enjoyed the main “Harry Potter” franchise as well as the first “Fantastic Beasts” film, I’m afraid this didn’t really do much for me. It was so dark and intense that I felt the need to watch something more lighthearted, and I did. I watched a “Mickey Mouse” cartoon.

Anyhow, I’d rate this movie 3 out of 5 stars. The cast and crew promise to fix the plot holes and inconsistencies in the third “Fantastic Beasts” movie, which won’t be released until 2021. Hopefully, that one is better.

Writing

Back Cover Blurb Issues

Image from Pixabay

If you publish the commercial route, a copywriter in the publishing house writes the blurb for your book—that is, if your manuscript gets accepted. But if you self-publish, you retain control over your book, including the blurb for the back cover. That’s right.

Writing the blurb that’ll sell your book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, is no easy task. In fact, it can be super-difficult. At least for me, it was. I recrafted my blurb for my series’ first book several times, especially after I re-published it as a new edition and eventually changed the title. Not only did I fail to create a strong description, but I also had trouble judging it. It would feel strong to me, but weak to others, and I was unable to pick up on the weaknesses.

Frustrated, I searched for services that edited blurbs. I didn’t find anything relevant—except a service that writes your blurb for you. So, I hired that person, and I think it made a difference. I used this same service for my second book, as well. From that point on, I told myself, you don’t illustrate your own cover image, quit writing your own blurb. That’s how it is in traditional publishing, anyway.

That being said, I am re-considering that for the future. I want to improve my copywriting skills for a certain career change, regardless of earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. I haven’t been producing much art, anyway, these days.

But back to the point, I shouldn’t just give up on something I could eventually improve on. The struggles with blurb-writing were the same with prose writing in my late teens years ago. I’m now in my mid-twenties. It took me around seven years to go from poor storyteller to being able to produce great novels. When I say great, I mean that. The reviews are a lot better than they were even just a few years ago.

Hopefully, I’ll become a better copywriter later. But for now, to stay on the safe side, I will hire others to write my back-cover book descriptions. If I master copywriting, then I’ll return to crafting the blurbs myself.