Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

On Saturday my husband and I spent the day mostly sitting around.  Well, actually we did stuff early in the morning, and in the evening, but we spent most of the early afternoon hours doing nothing but sitting around.  I got a sudden craving for macaroni and cheese so I searched for a recipe that wouldn't require me to go shopping and I went ahead and made it.  I started with this recipe and made a few little changes as I went. 

It came out pretty decently, though it was a little grainy for my taste.  I think it could have used a bit less flour in it.  Next time, I'll cut back on the flour, use a more flavorful cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar, but I think it needs something else), and add something else like yogurt or cream cheese to help add to the creaminess. 

Here's my slightly updated version of the recipe:

8 ounces of pasta (I just eyeballed half a box)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon mustard

8 oz shredded cheese 

Cook the pasta, drain.  In a separate saucepan, melt butter and add the flour.  Slowly stir in the milk.  Mix until the lumps are gone.  Add mustard.  Stir in the cheese.  Add pasta.  Serve. 

You can add whatever you like to the top.  I added salt to taste, some cayenne pepper, and bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs made it feel a little bit more like the baked stuff and added a nice flavor to it. 

I also recommend shredding the cheese yourself.  Pre-shredded stuff comes with anti-caking agents so that the shredded cheese doesn't clump together in the bag.  It changes how it melts.  It will, however, look like an obscene amount of cheese.  It took up an entire dinner-size plate. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I just finished reading Origins by Randolph Lalonde.  I found it for free for the Kindle App that I have on my ipod and it sounded interesting.  It's a science fiction story, told from the point of view of Captain Jonas Valent, of a crew that is essentially forced into service after they are found participating in military simulations and doing surprisingly well.  He must take his largely untrained crew and defend their home from the corporations that are trying to take over. 

It's self-published, so I was a little wary at first.  It turns out it's the first in a series, thought I didn't realize that when I bought it.  The beginning is a little confusing.  It seems to jump around a lot, but the characters were intriguing so I kept going.  I'm glad I did.  There are a few minor spelling issues, but that's to be expected with self-published works.  I've found errors in books from big publishers.  It's not enough to detract from the story.  After my initial confusion at the beginning, the story got interesting.  It's well-written and the dialog is very realistic.  It has some pretty funny moments in it as well.  The characters seem fairly well-developed as well, especially considering that there's a message from the author at the end that explains that the story basically started out as practice for him with no intention of publishing.

I was a little disappointed with the ending, but it makes sense now that I know there are more stories that involve this crew.  I might have to pick one up just to see what happens to them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top Ten Star Trek: Voyager Episodes

I hear a lot of people talk about Star Trek: Voyager very negatively.  It's the poor, unwanted step-child of the Star Trek world and everyone seems to love to hate it.  Personally, I loved the series.  This is the series that turned me into a real Trekkie.  I'd watched almost all of TNG before we started watching Voyager, and I loved TNG, but Voyager had much more interesting characters, in my opinion.  I loved that Star Fleet and the Maquis had to work together in order to survive.  I agree with a lot of critics that they should have used that conflict a bit more throughout the story, and it would have been nice to see them really struggle for a few episodes at a time rather than having everything fixed at the end of every episode, but it was still a great show.  It had very real characters and some fantastic acting. 

So, for those who are a little wary of watching Voyager, or those who just need to see that there were some really good episodes, here's my version of the top ten Voyager episodes. 

1.  "Thirty Days"

The episode starts with Tom Paris' demotion back to ensign and Janeway punishing him with thirty days in the brig.  He spends the episode writing a letter to his father about why he's there and what he thinks of the situation.  It's told through flashbacks, but is a very well-done episode.  Robert Duncan McNeill's performance is great.  He does a good job conveying Tom's regret that he disappointed his captain, but that he knows that what got him in trouble needed to be done.

2.  "Blood Fever"

There are a lot of people who don't like this episode because they think it's just an episode about sex.  While that is the basic issue that's going on, there's a lot more to it.  It's a continuation of B'Elanna's struggle with herself.  A Vulcan on board is experiencing pon farr (Vulcan mating) and he wants B'Elanna.  He touches her and she ends up going through the same thing, but doesn't know about it until she's freaking out inside some caves on a planet.  While the episode is really hot (Roxann Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill are adorable together), both actors do a great job to convince you that it's not just about sex. 

3.  "The Killing Game"

In this two-part episode, the Hirogen have taken over Voyager and they're using the holodecks to put almost all of the crew into simulations so that they can be hunted.  Most of the crew is in a World War II simulation where they believe they are part of the French resistance.  The crew has some sort of device implanted in them so they believe that they are the characters they're playing.  I enjoy just about anything that has to do with the resistance movement during World War II, so this combined two things I love, but it's also a very interesting episode.  They use Roxann Dawson's real-life pregnancy and Jeri Ryan gets to show off her amazing voice.  The fights with the Hirogen are also very enjoyable.

4.  "Real Life"

The Doctor decides that he wants to see what it would be like to have a family so he creates one on the holodeck.  They're perfect in every way, until B'Elanna points out that their perfection is unnatural and his experience is unrealistic.  She offers to make some changes to the program to make it a little less perfect.  The EMH has to learn to deal with a sullen teenager and an injured daughter.  This episode has made me cry like a baby every time I see it.  Robert Picardo's performance as a father watching his sick little girl in bed is very moving.  For a character who is usually comedic to be so emotional (and do it so well) really shows the acting strength of Picardo. 

5.  "Riddles"

This episode is Roxann Dawson's directing debut (which is why B'Elanna isn't in this episode) and she does a great job.  Tuvok, played by Tim Russ, has been his by some sort of weapon right as he discovers that someone is concealing themselves aboard the shuttle that he's on.  The weapon causes him to lose his memory and his Vulcan control.  Neelix helps him find a new function on the ship while they search for a cure.  Russ' performance is excellent.  It was nice to see him get a chance to show off what he can really do because he's normally so controlled and fairly boring. 

6.  "Infinite Regress"

After Voyager gets too close to a Borg debris field, Seven begins to embody a variety of people who were assimilated by the Borg.  Not only does this episode have some really funny parts (like when Seven believes she is a Ferengi), it shows a large range for Jeri Ryan.  She goes from playing a Klingon who wants to mate with B'Elanna to a little girl playing with Naomi and just about everything in between. 

7.  "Latent Image"

The EMH discovers that he is missing memories from a few months prior.  When he goes in search of what happened, he discovers that someone on board is keeping him from finding out the truth.  He discovers that Captain Janeway deleted those memories and she is forced to tell him that he lost a patient and it sent him into such a state that they nearly lost his program.  He fights for his right to not have his program altered without his consent and she agrees.  This leads him into a tailspin that sends him from completely fine at the beginning of the episode to a mental breakdown by the end.  Again, Robert Picardo does a fantastic job.  My favorite Doctor episodes are the ones where he isn't as funny as usual because Picardo really gets to shine.

8.  "Sacred Ground"

After Kes gets hit by an energy burst in a shrine while visiting a planet, Captain Janeway must go through a grueling ritual to try to save her.  This episode is Robert Duncan McNeill's directing debut (both he and Dawson have gone on to become great directors).  I love this episode.  Kate Mulgrew's performance and the wonderful directing make this a very powerful episode that furthers the relationship between Janeway and Kes.

9.  "Body and Soul"

When their shuttle is boarded by a race who hates holograms the Doctor downloads his program into Seven's borg implants in order to hide.  Seven is forced to share her body with someone who is experiencing all that life has to offer.  This episode has a great performance by Jeri Ryan and also manages to be hysterical.  The fact that the doctor is controlling Seven leads to some very interesting situations.

10.  "Remember"

While transporting a group of telepaths, B'Elanna starts to have very vivid dreams that turn out to be someone else's memories and she must figure out what happened to this woman.  This is the episode that made B'Elanna on of my favorite Trek characters and really showed what a great actress Roxann Dawson is.  Dawson herself has even said that this is one of the episodes that she's proudest of and you can see why when you watch it.  Amazing performance.

As you can see, I tend to be drawn toward character-driven episodes with great acting, which is something that Voyager was very good at at times.  There are a lot of other great episodes too.  What do you think?  Did I miss any of the great ones?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers Review

My husband and I went to see The Avengers this afternoon.  It turns out just about everyone else in town had the same idea because it was packed. 

I will start this by saying that I've never read the comics.  I just happened to enjoy all of the other Marvel movies that came out.  So, if it's not entirely accurate to the original story, I wouldn't know.

The basic plot is that Loki (Thor's brother) is back and he wants to take over Earth and turn humans into his slaves.  He has some new friends, the Chitauri, who are going to help him do that.  In order to fight him and save Earth, the Avengers must learn to work together, despite their differences.  

The movie was awesome.  The beginning did spend a little too long reintroducing the characters again in my opinion (except for Hawkeye, which is the one character I couldn't place), but once the actual story got going it was really good.  The movie is just under 3.5 hours and it flew by.  Definitely not a movie where you're checking your watch.  I've seen a lot of action movies that just seem to be focused on explosions rather than plot, but this one has a good story behind it.  All of the actors did a fine job, not that that's a big surprise considering the list of big names that they have. 

I also liked that it let all of the characters shine.  Each of them has a story going on in this movie and no one was more important than the others so it truly felt like they were coming together.  It didn't feel like it was just another movie about any one character with some appearances by the others. 

The ending leaves an opening for more Avengers movies, which I will eagerly await. 

I highly recommend this movie, especially if you've enjoyed any of the other Marvel movies. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Reunion

Have you seen this?  It's a short article on the ST:TNG reunion that took place in Calgary last weekend.  For the first time in 25 years, the entire cast got together on stage at a convention and talked about their experiences on the show.

Photo borrowed from the site above

For someone who is a huge fan, like me, this was great to see.  I love seeing the relationships they have to one another and their view of some of the things that happened on the show.  The bottom of the article also has a link to a video.  It has five parts so it's a bit long, but it covers most of their panel. 

Also, I have to say that Gates McFadden (who played Dr. Crusher) looks phenomenal.  It's been 25 years since TNG started and she manages to look the same. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Star Wars Day!

May 4th is Star Wars Day!  So to celebrate I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite Star Wars related things.

There are a lot of Star Wars cupcakes floating around the internet, but I think these are my favorites.  I wish I had the time and patience for something like these.  I'm pretty sure my husband would die of happiness if I made these for him.  I'm not entirely sure how they were made, but they're awesome.  Yoda and R2D2 are my favorites.

Speaking of R2, these shorts by Areyna Schmidt are amazing.  She painted them herself.  That's a lot of talent.

Lastly, the R2D2 ballerina.  There are no words for how awesome I think this is.  That outfit is gorgeous, perfect for a ballerina.  The fact that it's inspired by R2D2 just makes it that much better.

What sort of Star Wars inspired things have you seen lately?

May the fourth be with you (get it?).