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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Documentary Review: He Named Me Malala

He Named Me Malala (2015) is an American documentary about Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who spoke out in defiance of the Taliban in favor of education for girls.  The Taliban threatened, targeted and shot Malala in the head.  But she survived.

This is her story.  How she grew up.  What influences moved her. And how she rose up to defend a girl's right to education under an oppressive system of terrorism and extremism.

The film is interspersed with some animation including the weaving in of a story Malala grew up with about a girl, named Malala, who stood up to lead an army and was killed.

I highly recommend this documentary.  If you let it, it will make you angry.  But if you settle in, and look through the eyes of Malala, you will see this is about so much more.  This young girl can be linked with visionary leaders and pacifist social change icons like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa.  She is strong in spirit and determination while remaining soft, loving and optimistic.  Malala won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

See it.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Movie Review: Dallas Buyer's Club

Dallas Buyer's Club (2013) is a biographical drama about a portion of Ron Woodroof's life post AIDS diagnosis in the mid 1980's.

Ron (played by Matthew McConaughey) is quite ill when the movie opens and is engaging in risky sexual behavior.  When he finally collapses, he is given 30 days to live.

Motivated by fear and a strong will to live, Ron researches AIDS treatment protocols and finds that little is known, little is offered, little that is approved is useful, and useful treatments are not FDA approved in the United States.  He begins to treat himself with illegally obtained treatments and then begins offering those options to others.

Jennifer Garner plays a doctor at the local hospital who is frustrated with the clinical trials and the limited results.  Jared Leto plays a transgender individual dying of AIDS who becomes Woodroof's business partner and friend.

Leto lost 30 lbs for his role and McConaughey lost 50.  They look truly ill and emaciated.  I can't imagine that's a healthy thing to do for a role.  Both won Academy Awards for their roles.

This film is well done and the acting it fantastic.  It is rated R for the subject matter, for language, some nudity and some sexual content.  Throw in some abuse of drugs and alcohol to boot.  If you can handle the topic and the is worth a watch.  Be prepared to be super frustrated by government red tape.

Watch the trailer below, or via this link.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Recipe: Martha Stewart's New York Crumb Cake (Coffee Cake)

Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart
I was watching Martha Steward Bakes on OPB/PBS and she made this recipe for a coffee cake that looked delish.  So eventually, I tried to make it.  And, so very unlike Martha, I cut corners...and drat...but I guess it mattered.

Martha Stewart's New York Crumb Cake (Coffee Cake)


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for pan
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, room temperature
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush a rimmed quarter sheet pan or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with canola oil and line with parchment paper. Secure parchment to pan with binder clips. Brush parchment with oil and dust with flour, tapping to remove excess. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.
  3. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. Sprinkle crumbs over batter.
  4. Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 

    I'm not sure exactly which of my omissions created the issue, but let's start.  In step one, I  sprayed a glass 13x9 inch pan with canola oil.  No parchment, no brushing, no clipping, no flour dusting.  I can't be bothered with that fal-de-ral. 

    In step two, I didn't sift.  I don't sift.  I put all the dry ingredients together and used a wire whisk to mix them together.

    In step 4, I did as instructed and turned the pan after 10 minutes.  After a total of 20 it still wasn't even remotely done and had barely risen at all.  Instead of 20 minutes, it took 30 before it passed the toothpick test.  But barely rose, and yes, I put baking powder in it.

    After cooling it on a rack, I left it in the pan and that's where it will stay until we finish eating it.  No serrated knife, no bench scraper, no 3 inch squares (who in the heck eats a 3 inch square of cake??), and no airtight container.  Just some plastic wrap over the top of the pan.  I didn't sprinkle it with powdered sugar either because I just didn't feel like it.

    As stated, it didn't really rise so the bottom cake part was a little play-doughy.  Taste was fine, but it was not very sweet.  Oh...did I mention I always use salted butter and Martha only uses unsalted butter?  So sue me.

    Instead of dessert, I think it will be nice with my morning coffee.  Not too sweet, with tons of butter in it.  Hubby said he thought it needed apples or something in it.  Honestly, the coffee cake on the box of Bisquick is better and easier than this.  I'll probably make that if I make another coffee cake.  Sorry Martha...I can't be bothered with fluffy process.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes (2015) by Laura Dave is a novel with a bit of romance, but mostly family drama.

Due to getting a shock in her trust, Georgia Ford flees to her family home (a successful working vineyard) a week before her wedding.  She has a lot of thinking to do.  What she finds is that her seemingly rock-steady family are all be going through their own crossroads decisions.

Each story and each crossroads is revealed and intersects as she works towards her decision of what she wants her life to look like moving forward.

Sure, there is some romance, but really it is more about learning to live authentically, getting in touch with what really matters, and pursuing the live you really want, instead of the one you thought you wanted.

I liked the characters and the writing and was engrossed in the dramas they were working through.  I give it a "good beach read" rating.  Probably utterly forgettable, but fun while it lasts.  Nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Television Series Review: The Red Road

The Red Road (2014) is a drama series that aired on Sundance TV.  There were two seasons before it was cancelled.  We've been able to watch one season on Netflix.  We're looking forward to viewing the second and final season when it becomes available.

Wikipedia's summary of the series was well-stated so I will quote them here:

"The main protagonist is Police Officer Harold Jensen, who is trying to keep his family together after a cover-up involving his mentally unstable wife, who is a recovering alcoholic. She had self-medicated her undiagnosed schizophrenia with alcohol. Jensen comes into conflict with Phillip Kopus, a member of the Ramapough Mountain people. His state-recognized tribe lives in the Ramapo Mountains in a border area of New York and New Jersey in the fictitious small town of Walpole, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City".

This series is dark, twisty and engrossing right out of the gate.  The acting is top-drawer and I don't think you could get a better bad-guy than Jason Mimoa if you tried.  Apparently he is in Game of Thrones but this is the first and only time I have seen him in anything.  Impressive.  Can't wait for season 2.  I hope they knew it was going to be cancelled and they had an opportunity for some closure at the end of season 2.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Pakistani Boys. Astral Travel or Just a Dream?

Some nights ago, I experienced astral travel...or was it just a dream?  *I* say it was astral travel since it was very linear, and wasn't in a place I recognize or with people I have ever seen, and it seems or felt like it took place for a purpose.

I was in a small cafe, which was more like a room in a house.  Not very many people there and not very big.

At a table not far from me were two Pakistani boys of about the age of 5 or 6.  Sitting there alone either eating or drinking tea.  How do I know they were Pakistani? They told me.

I was drawn to them.  I said hello.  They were very protective and didn't make eye contact or speak to me.  When I asked them if they were from India, that must have done it because very proudly they corrected me.  One of them said "Pakistan".  As it went I kept asking questions and eventually, they softened their defenses.

It went from that to pretty soon they were cuddled in my lap.  I remember one of them saying "We can't go anywhere without our rifles.  It isn't safe."

And really, that was about it.

Upon awakening, I wondered about it and my conclusion was, I met them, for real, in real time in either a dream place or some "Cosmic Cafe".  I think my purpose in meeting them was to gently soften or give comfort to them in that moment.  To be a bridge between cultures.  The maternal instinct in me was so strong from this dream, that as weird or gross or graphic as it might sound, my uterus literally contracted.  The interesting thing about that is...I haven't had one in about 21 years.

There was some strong bridging across time, space and culture where the Universal Mother channeled through me to comfort and love these boys...if only for a moment.  Perhaps they awoke wondering about an odd dream they had.  Perhaps they woke up feeling a little less afraid if only for a short time.

And, as always, I know I may be wrong about this.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Movie Review: Enough Said

Enough Said (2013) is a romantic comedy starring Julia Louise-Dreyfus and James Galdofini in what would be Galdofini's second to the last film appearance before his death from a heart attack.  You get to see a much different side to him than what you may have grown to know from his role in The Sopranos.

In this lighthearted, yet heart-filled chick-flick, Eva (Dreyfus) and Albert (Galdofini) are divorced parents who meet at a party and begin a relationship.  Simultaneously, Eva gains Albert's x wife as a massage client and they develop a friendship.  Eva begins to doubt her judgment about Albert based on all of the stories his x wife tells about him.  Eventually, this leads to problems between Albert and Eva.

For me, I wouldn't categorize this film as an actually "funny" comedy.  I don't think it made me laugh.  It was light in places and poignant in others.  The leads were ultimately very likable and vulnerable and you couldn't help cheering them on and hoping they worked out their issues.  Both hubby and I enjoyed it.  It's worth a view.  It is rated PG-13 for some sexuality.  Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of Julia Louise-Dreyfus and I've never really seen much with Galdofini (because I didn't watch, nor was I interested in watching The Sopranos).  They had good chemistry and the movie ultimately worked.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.