Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Movie Review


I remember when the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out, I saw it in theaters twice. I've never seen a movie more often then that on a big screen, and have only done so with a handful of others. I loved that movie, as did everyone else. It was surprisingly fresh and original, with a fun storyline and good action. Unfortunately, as with many franchises, it did very well in the box office and was never able to evolve. Each sequel has been more formulaic than the last, and my disappointment grows. On Stranger Tides is no different.

Think about the first movie. What were some of the most enjoyable scenes? The fencing scene between Will and Jack in the rafters of the blacksmith's? Jack's daring escapes? Battles at sea? Attractive young women with barely concealed breasts? Well, if those were your favorite parts of The Black Pearl, save yourself some money and just watch that one again. On Stranger Tides does every single one of those things, only not as well. It is like the executive producers sat down to watch The Black Pearl and made a list of their favorite things, and then made sure all of them made it into this movie.

In addition to repeating a lot of old favorites until they are cliche and annoying, so many new elements were added in this movie that there was not enough time to explain them all. Barbossa is back, of course. He, Gibbs and Keith Richards are the only characters who have appeared in the previous movies, apart from Jack. Added into the mix are Angelica (Penelope Cruz), the only woman Jack has ever had "stirrings" for. "Stirrings", incidentally, are slightly less powerful than "feelings". Also Blackbeard (Ian McShane), the only real pirate in this series. Filling the Will and Elizabeth rolls are Philip and Syrena, a Christian and a mermaid, respectively.

Since two of the three main characters of the previous movies were missing, OST seemed to try to reboot the series completely, as well as having a complicated story line. The result is a long, garbled mess. Too many characters and ideas are introduced, and not enough time spent on any of them. There are mermaids and zombies and Blackbeard and so many other things you almost forget that the main object is the freaking Fountain of Youth! I just did, honestly, right now, and I saw the movie about ten hours ago.

I did like Blackbeard, but that's because I love reading about real pirates. I was pretty excited to hear that he was in this one, and I was pretty pleased. A number of his legendary traits were included - lighting his beard on fire to scare his enemies, his decapitated body swimming around his ship - but I'm not sure that the added supernatural powers were needed. Maybe the writers thought that a telekinetic Blackbeard would be less frightening than the real one. The one in the movie didn't shoot people in the kneecaps for fun, so I guess that was their reasoning.

It was an entertaining two hours, but I'm not really sure what it was about. Not really worth paying for, and certainly not worth watching in 3D, which I didn't. It can't have been that spectacular. I've rather lost faith in this franchise, and I think I will skip any other sequels. I'll stick with the original and be happy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday feast!

Tuesday was my 24th birthday, and rather than getting food from Dinosaur BBQ like my mother suggested (which I did for my graduation party last year, I am by no means knocking the deliciousness that is Dinosaur), I wanted to do a more personal dinner.

I asked a few friends over and together we made and ate dinner. My mom, ever the helpful one, lent her kitchen and her cooking skills. She made (above) shrimp sauteed in olive oil with loads of garlic.

I had the master of Syracuse alcohol, Fernando, take care of the drinks.

Sangira a la Fernando

One bottle white wine
1/2 C raspberry rum
1 C orange juice
2/3 C sugar
1/2 C raspberries, smashed
1 mango, diced
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
peach, diced

Put sugar, rum and orange juice into pitcher, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add all of the fruit, let sit until you are ready to serve. The sugar allows the fruit to soak in a lot of the alcohol, so the longer it sits, the more potent the fruit will be.

Add wine immediately before serving.

Fernando made a red wine sangria for last Christmas dinner, and it was amazing. I like white wine better, so I asked him to try one for my birthday, and it turned out even better than the last. Very fruity, very sweet and very strong. Fantastic.

My mom also made an amazing salad/appetizer from her favorite Tapas restaurant in DC, Jaleo.

Apple and Manchego Salad

1 Granny Smith apple
Manchego cheese
Vinegar or Lemon juice

Slice the apple into long, thin spears. Slice about as much of the cheese into similar pieces. Toss together in a bowl, sprinkle with vinegar or lemon juice to give it a kick and so the apple doesn't brown.

I made the crepes, the recipe for which can be found elsewhere.

Also on the table are bowls of Spanish olives, baked brie, roasted peppers, cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, a salad that no one touched, and a Spanish dessert bread.

For dessert we had a vegan chocolate cake that Sally won at a silent auction
and the traditional lemon cake, my favorite. We also had a second pitcher of sangria that Fernando was good enough to make - this is a family of wine drinkers, in case you hadn't guessed that already. We were all quite full and tipsy by the end of the evening, and ended the affair with a story from one of the guests, a former children's librarian.

All in all, a pretty good birthday.

Final photo credit: Hannah Nast

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Snickerdoodles used to be my favorite cookies in the world, and I haven't made any for a long time. I lost an old recipe I had, which I remember being phenomenal, but this one is pretty good too. Good enough that Dave consumed half a tray in about two minutes, then made a new house rule: I am only allowed to bake once a month, lest he get fat. I guess moderation is a concept beyond him.


1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C shortening
1 1/2 C white sugar
2 eggs (1/2 C eggbeaters)
2 t vanilla extract
2 3/4 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3 T white sugar
3 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 C sugar, the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. You may find it easiest to mix in the last three first, then the flour one cup at a time. This mixing should be done by hand; the consistency of the cookies is drastically different otherwise.

Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon for the topping. You will have to coat each cookie in this, so you will find in much easier to put the cinnamon sugar in a sandwich bag.

You will probably need two cookie sheets going at once, because this makes about 48 cookies. Cover each sheet in parchment paper, it will make you life considerably easier.

Shape the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll them lightly between your palms for a few seconds to form them. The dough is very sticky, so make sure to wet your hands with cold water first, and do not roll for too hard or too long, or you will just make a mess. x_x

Drop the dough balls one by one in the sandwich bag, shake it a little to coat in the topping, then place on a cookie sheet. Wasn't that easier than rolling each one?

Bake sheets one at a time for 8 minutes. Only 8. When you take them out the tops of the cookies will have cracked, and in the cracks you may see wet dough. DO NOT cook them longer. They will just harden. You want these to be chewy cookies.

If you are able to put one tray of 12 cookies in every 8 minutes, this shouldn't take you much longer than an hour to do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Even Maine is Beautiful in the Spring

I have been seeing one client since August, and almost every day we drive to a cemetery in Saco and take a walk. I have now seen this cemetery in all four seasons, and I have to say, spring is by far the most beautiful. There is one hillside that was just snow and mud from October to March, and in the last month had burst into bloom, now a carpet of tens of thousands of daffodils.

Sadly, it is apparently necessary to post "Do Not Pick Flowers" signs every ten feet.

I've had my eye on that angel statue since I first saw it, since it reminded me of that terrifying Dr. Who episode. Now, flanked by a bright pink tree, it is really rather pretty.

Koi - Restaurant Review

Koi Sushi Bar and Asian Cuisine
11 Elm Street
Biddeford, ME 04005

Our favorite Chinese restaurant in the area closed a few months ago, at first citing "interior decorating" as the reason. This was only slightly less hilarious as the Thai restaurant around the corner being closed due to "travel destinations in Thailand".

Last week it reopened, and is now a Chinese/Japanese fusion restaurant. This means sushi, and this means happy Allison.

We went for lunch on Saturday, and had triple awesomeness - happy hour specials, lunch specials, and Grand Opening specials. Appetizers were half off for happy hour, and the Grand Opening lunch special prices were $2 per roll. Dave and I got 9 rolls between us, and three appetizers, and our lunch totaled at about $25.

I got (clockwise from top left) a California roll - cucumber, avocado and crab - a cucumber and avocado roll, a Philadelphia roll - salmon, cream cheese and green onion - and a spicy tuna roll.

I usually go with my favorites when trying a sushi place for the first time, just so I have a good frame of reference, and it was great. The fish was fresh and flavorful, and nothing was dry. The avocado was soft and ripe - hard avocado is awful.

Tyler was really hungry, as you can see from his plate. He ended up getting full and taking a lot of leftovers home, so I couldn't get a picture of him with his empty plate.

The staff are really nice and friendly, and the manager came to talk to us a few times, since we were there at the awkward 2:30 time slot between lunch and dinner, and therefor the only people there.

I would definitely recommend Koi if you want good sushi outside of Portland - nothing else compares. I would also in particular recommend going for lunch, since they have some great specials - Maki Combos with miso soup and salad: 2 rolls for $7, 3 rolls for $9.50. I'm betting the crazy cheap grand opening prices won't be around for long, but it is still less expensive than many other places I've seen. Definitely a place I will visit again.