Monday, October 31, 2022

Pumpkins at the Farm

I remember back in the day when it was Young's Farm in Dewey on the way to Prescott. We would stop at their store for pumpkin bread and candy sticks and take a few minutes to feed the goats. Though Mortimer Farms has been there for several years now, I haven't spent as much time there. What a better way to do so than their Pumpkin Fest?

I'll repeat some of my reflections on the Desert Botanical Garden's Halloween event. Sometimes events are more for children--which is great, but less great when you don't have children. Mortimer's lets you walk the line between child and adult, if you so please. I didn't really watch shows, but there are shows. And there are rides, rides that the children were enjoying but rides that didn't say they were for children only, or even any sort of height of weight. 

So what do the non-children do? Attack the spinning ride. A central pole with a sort of X at the bottom, with places to sit at the end of each arm of the X. Ropes go from just in front of each side to the top of the pole. So four people sit as someone winds the X around the pole, then lets go. As the ropes unravel from around the pole, the X spins faster and faster, then starts over in the opposite direction from the force of the unraveling. You can go slowly and just wrap it around a little. Or you can have two adults using all their might to quickly bring the X as high as it can go. And it spins much faster than you might expect. It feels like you should have a seatbelt or like your neck might break from the pull. Lovely. Even faster than the teacups at Disneyland. 

Or the little zipline. The non-children took over two of the four lines for a few minutes. Nobody hit the ground or broke the break. Impressive. Then of course there is the corn maze. I had never been in a corn maze before. I don't know that we actually made it to the actual end, maybe just an opening, before turning around and going back out the same way. But it was a nice windy way of exploration, a pleasant walk on a sunny fall day. 

There are chickens and goats and cows and ducks. (Pony rides, too, though of course those really are only for the children.) Silhouettes. Face painting. Food from the farm. Even at the end of October, still plenty of pumpkins left in the patch for picking. Much more fun than picking one up at the store. And these come in more colors and shapes, too. Not just orange but also green and white. 

So whether you are going with children or simply children at heart, there is diversion at the farm. Also lots of sun and open space, and that alone makes it worth the visit. I still miss my memories of Young's Farm, but now I'm feeling warmer towards Mortimer's having actually spent some time there. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A Strange Garden of Pumpkins

A few years ago, I shared some daytime pictures of the Desert Botanical Garden's Halloween event, Strange Garden. They used to put up these wonderful pumpkin people displays. I would bypass the event and see the pumpkins during the day instead. This year, then, was the first year in which I went to Strange Garden itself.

This year there were no pumpkin people. But there were various stations, child-focused, to show desert animals and funky cactus and magic and other Halloween-y curiosities. This is why a year or two ago they tried out doing an adult night: like with most Halloween events, there isn't much for adults. At least, not much besides the nighttime garden itself. And I do simply enjoy an excuse to get a little dressed up and wander around an event.

The familiar garden with fog? What a perfect time to play with taking spooky pictures. And the pumpkin patch, how pretty. Strange Garden's pumpkin patch is nice and clean and neat, with the pumpkins arranged all over the amphitheater area in rows and piles. I tried not to be envious of the children who could pick out a pumpkin to take home; instead, I consoled myself with taking lots of pictures of and with the pumpkins.

There is a novelty to taking pictures of pumpkins and cactus together. Maybe especially because I can go to the garden whenever I want--so any little embellishment to its usual state is entertaining. For people with kids, it's a less chaotic, more laid-back Halloween activity option--there's no candy, but at least they get a pumpkin. Maybe, too, it works that way for adults: you can dip your toe into a Halloween event, dress up a bit if you like, but not have to immerse yourself fully in crazy crowds. 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Theo: Snickerdoodle Cookie Bites

This summer I took a look at two of the newish Cookie Bites from Theo. As I mentioned there, of the three flavors, the Snickerdoodle bites were the ones I had been most interested in trying back at their product launch. So even though I'd decided that this product wasn't really designed for me and my particular interests, I had to take one more look at the Snickerdoodles when they showed up on my store's shelves.

I do mean a brief look. The basic concept is the same here. The same style of packing continues, just with a warm, orange-brown color scheme instead of the cranberry and green. It's an easy choice to go along with the cinnamon sticks. The look is timely for me: it fits right in with the fall season of orange pumpkins and cinnamon-spiced everything. 

The cookie bites look the same as before, too, except that they're milk chocolate instead of dark. This is also what I was curious to try: Theo makes some of my favorite basic milk chocolate. The aroma is of super sweet milk chocolate, though the description says that this is their usual 45% milk chocolate. And it's also of strong, sweet cinnamon--much stronger than I would have expected. 

There is a crisp crunch to the texture, perhaps a tad more than last time. I'm not tasting any of the cookie dough flavor that I mentioned with the others. What I do taste is some milk chocolate and full, sweet cinnamon flavor. Lots of it. Forget Snickerdoodles; these are cinnamon cookies. Add some ginger and cloves and they could be gingerbread. I don't exactly eat Snickerdoodle cookies regularly, so maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I don't remember them being this strongly cinnamon. They're mainly sugar cookies with a touch of cinnamon, right? I'm going to venture out and say that these cookie bites will be too strong for some people.

However. I don't mind the strong cinnamon. I add cinnamon (and ginger) to oatmeal every morning. When I make hot chocolate, I add cinnamon (often ginger, too). I like gingerbread cookies. I like chai. So I don't mind strong spices, and I know I'm not alone in that. Even though I've said that the strong cinnamon (which, again, is sweet and not spicy) will probably be off-putting for some palates, for me I find it endears me more to these cookie bites. Whereas before I felt like I just wasn't the right audience for this product, these I'm enjoying, in a casual sort of way. A little hint of milk chocolate, a crisp crunch, and warm cinnamon make for a pleasant fall sweet. They're halfway between a cookie and a piece of chocolate, and turns out that's not a bad place to be.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Problem with Pinocchio

Someone asked me recently about my opinion on the Disney live-action remakes, saying that it seems like major Disney fans usually don't like them. But when I go and think about it, my opinions do vary for each film. Some are good, some are boring, some are terrible, some are a combination. And the ones that are bad aren't all bad for the same reasons. Given that, I really didn't know what to expect from the latest rendition of Pinocchio. I suppose I wasn't in a hurry to watch it, although a month is less time than I waited for some of the others (and some I still haven't watched). 

Some of these remakes set about to be very different from the original, animated versions; some basically mimic the original. Pinocchio seemed to be going with the latter approach. So I could on about how it's strange to be watching the "live-action" version with so much CGI in it--hardly anything is actually live, anyway. (What about completely computer animation remakes? Do you think they might ever do that?) Or I could talk about how strange the audio was for the CG characters (I thought there was something wrong with my headphones).

But my issue is with the cap at the end of the film. (I'd warn about spoilers but I don't think there's anyone to warn. Anyone who cares that much would have already watched the movie.) When Geppetto and Pinocchio are joyfully reunited after escaping from Monstro, Geppetto declares his love for Pinocchio just the way he is. Our narrator explains that some versions of the story say that Pinocchio did then become a real boy--but that it doesn't really matter either way because he was already real. It's possible to blink and not realize just how problematic this seemingly sweet message is. 

Pinocchio's story is a moral tale. (Click here to read a post in which I go into more detail on this.) He is created by Geppetto and must learn the moral traits of honesty, bravery, and unselfishness before he can become "real." Along the way, he falls into temptation and sin. He grieves his father/creator's heart. But Geppetto never gives up on Pinocchio, and in the end Pinocchio is willing to do all he can to seek his father in return. He learns his lesson from his actions and becomes a real boy. 

To say that Pinocchio was just fine the way he was is to say that transformation and learning were not necessary. Transformation is necessary. We as people are inherently flawed. We do make bad choices. We do need transformation. So to say that we can be left in our original state and that that's okay is deeply problematic. It is necessary to remember that just because we need transformation does not mean that we cannot or are not loved the whole time through. Remember, Geppetto, though his heart was grieved by Pinocchio's choices, never stopped loving his boy and never stopped pursuing him. He never stopped calling to Pinocchio even when he was out living it up on Pleasure Island. So when I say that it was necessary for Pinocchio to transform, I am not saying that he was unloved before his transformation. I am not saying you can only love someone who is transformed. I'm just saying that, morally, we should all be striving for a constant state of transformation. We should all be looking to say no to temptations and strive to become better and become new day by day. Pinocchio's transformation from wood to flesh is a metaphor. It isn't discrimination against people made of actual wood (I haven't met any--have you?).

Notice, too, the changes in Pleasure Island. They made it more into a fun fest, a very specific, child-focused exploration of rule-breaking. The animated film made it clear that these were temptations to do all the "bad" things that adults like to do. Sure, there were some carnival games on the outside. But the main things the boys were excited about were smoking, drinking, gambling, and generally being rough. If, for whatever reason, Disney felt like they wanted to have something more visually cleaned up and "family friendly" (although they make plenty of non-family-friendly content, so I don't really buy that excuse), then they could have chosen other vices that would still hold that same message of "badness" rather than simply reckless rebellion. It needs to be clear that Pleasure Island represents a departure from moral standards. 

Ah, but therein lies the issue. Our society these days takes issue with moral standards. And Disney, being a public company, is experimenting with going along with society instead of sticking to its core of moral tales. Pinocchio, he just needed to learn that he was fine as he was all along, he just had to believe in himself. No, no, no. Pinocchio had to learn, like we all have to learn, that temptation and its consequences are very real; therefore, we must listen instead to the still, small voice and stay on the good path and turn back to our Creator who is lovingly pursuing us and then we can trade in our wooden limbs for flesh. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Emily, Is That You?

What? There's a movie coming out this month about Emily Bronte? (In the UK--there's no US release date yet.) Why didn't I know about this sooner? Let's watch the trailer (here's the link). 

Hmmm. Must've been the wrong link, the wrong trailer. That didn't look like Emily. Oh, wait, no, there's the title. Emily. Hmmm. Well then.

I admit first and foremost that I'm reacting to the trailer only. Trailers are generally sensationalized. Maybe the movie is completely different. But for the sake of conversation, here is why the trailer leaves me questioning whether I will even watch the film at all when it becomes available for me to watch. 

My Victorian novels professor liked to reference "the Bronte myth," this idea of the Bronte sisters as these wild figures wandering out on the moors. It's an idea that stirs up people's imaginations and has been in large part responsible for people's fascination with the sisters--but it's not an entirely factual look at the three small town, parson's daughters. A couple of years ago, we had that quiet film To Walk Invisible that aimed at showing the reality of the sisters' lives without sensationalizing them. This film is obviously taking a completely different direction and just sticking with the Bronte myth, adding to the embellishment. 

We get it. Emily was the more disturbed of the three sisters, if that's the word you want to use. Even though Charlotte is labeled the genius, the argument can be made that Wuthering Heights is a more perfect novel than any of the ones Charlotte wrote. And when you read the sisters' poetry, Emily generally has the best. There is obviously that "artistic disturbance" to her writing, that deep way of thinking about all aspects of life. And all of those thoughts were contained in one shy young woman who didn't like to venture out and was hesitant to share her writing even with her sisters. Of course our imaginations latch onto that and want to make it so melodramatic and modern.

I realize in watching the trailer that I know less about the specifics of Emily's life than I do about Charlotte's. I don't know whether her tutor friend in the trailer is based on a real person or not. I would imagine he is--unless the movie really is just throwing reality out the window. (By the way, is Branwell in this movie? What's a sensationalized Bronte film without the drunk brother?) But even if Emily had a close friendship with him in reality, what's this passionate kiss in the kitchen? Come on. Did we forget what era this is? This is why I sometimes have only so much patience for period films: they're too modern. And oh, yes, then we have to follow with her father's voice warning her about bringing shame on the family. Yes, father Bronte was harsh on his family--but let's call that what it was without having to add more to it. I sense the stirrings of modern, feminist perspective--and I don't think the Bronte sisters would have been modern feminists even if they had been born in the current era. But that's a whole conversation.

Yes, the fact that the sisters were women who were writing and then even publishing what they wrote went against the norm of society. It was quite bold of them. But those stirrings in the heart that lead many of us to write are common to humanity. I really love reading their writings and studying their lives; I can relate to a lot of things with them. But the Bronte sisters were just people. Emily Bronte was just a quiet woman living in a small town and thinking deep thoughts because she observed so much life in every little thing she saw. That's why her novel is set similarly in a small town dealing with a very isolated set of people. It's all about getting to the humanity of it. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Marshmallow MBA: Mexican Hot Chocolate

Normally I'm not a big marshmallow fan. But I have learned that handmade or gourmet marshmallows are an entirely different species from the store-bought bags of questionable white sponges. And when I saw these Mexican Hot Chocolate marshmallows from Marshmallow MBA, how could I resist? An investigation was necessary. 

Marshmallow MBA is all the way out of Red Lion, Pennsylvania. Their founder makes marshmallows in continuance of the tradition she had with her grandmother. And their specialty is going for any flavor but vanilla. Hence the unusual Mexican Hot Chocolate--well, unusual for a marshmallow, that is. Even though there is a small company aspect to the simple packaging (the long clear box with sticker labels), the simplicity of the style also adds to the gourmet angle. These don't come across as cutesy, craft fair sweets. They look refined--which is why I was willing to pay a premium price to try them out. 

And even though there are only six marshmallows in the box, you're getting quite a bit of total product: these are big. They measure in at about 1.75'' by 1.5." There's a nice, warm, light cinnamon aroma once you open the sealed bag inside. The marshmallows are soft with that distinctive bounce. If I called grocery store marshmallows sponges, these are memory foam. As you can see, they have a brown color on the outside but are lighter on the inside when you cut them open. The original outer edges of the marshmallows are also darker than the other sides. That is, the sides of the original, giant piece of marshmallow before they were cut into individual marshmallows have more color. But they're also not shedding cinnamon powder. 

The marshmallows have a good flavor and texture on their own; the sugar tastes nice. Mexican-Hot-Chocolate-wise, they have that same warm cinnamon taste as in the aroma, just with a touch more of spice. And yes, it you have a nibble from the aforementioned outer edge versus a nibble from an originally inner edge, it will have more spice. It's enough on the outside to be mildly spicy, but still not so much as to be overwhelming. I was a little concerned about that. I don't care for chile chocolates that are straight-out spicy like a hot salsa, or so much so that you can't taste the chocolate. So these marshmallows, fortunately, are not like that. The spice feels more like an amping up of the cinnamon: it goes along with the sweetness rather than covering it up. It's like when a salted chocolate is salted to just that perfect level, just enough to give edge to the flavor. So unless you're very intolerant of any level of spiciness, I'm labeling this as a mild spice level.

There is a touch of light chocolate flavor. Just a little. It's the brown color, the sweetness, and the cinnamon that probably lend as much idea of chocolate as does the inclusion of cocoa powder. It seemed quite natural to me to try one of these cinnamon chocolate marshmallows over hot chocolate. I just so happened to have some Mexican hot chocolate on hand, so I melted a chunk of that and topped it all off with pieces of a giant Mexican Hot Chocolate Marshmallow, along with another chunk of the hot chocolate on the saucer. I did receive good and well delight simply from looking upon the beauty. (Granted, it's also terrifying beauty to me--that's a lot of sugar all together on one little saucer.) The marshmallows stayed nice and firm on top instead of just melting right away. So they don't necessarily add a lot of flavor to the hot chocolate, given that they were mostly left at the bottom of the cup after the hot chocolate was gone. But they were still a fun addition.

Really, the possibilities are endless with something like this. They're nice to eat on their own. They're pretty in hot chocolate. S'mores would be fun to try. They're the type of thing you want to play with and try out in different ways and make into the center of attention. Not bad for a little, edible gift, either; we love the edible gifts, don't we? I probably won't be revisiting more of Marshmallow MBA's products on here given that they're marshmallows and my focus is chocolate. But I did enjoy this little investigation. I admit, if we're talking gourmet/handmade, I do begin to see the appeal in marshmallows. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Disney, Rock, and Strange Moods

When I occasionally go on YouTube crawls, clicking from video to video, it isn't to watch dogs and cats befriending turtles and canaries. Usually it's when I get sucked into music. I'll start maybe listening to that one concert where Lacey Sturm performed with Skillet. Click here and click there and before I know it, I'm listening to rock covers of Disney songs. 

That is, people can have a very loose idea of what makes something a "rock" cover. Or "metal." I have found some of these quite disappointing. But Peyton Parrish, though. Apparently like the rest of the Internet given the high number of views his videos have, I think he does an excellent job with the Disney covers. I stumbled first across "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan. Then later he came out with "Go the Distance" from Hercules. The former was a wonderful display of the concept of masculine strength. And the latter took that a step further into transcendent space. 

When Hercules sings that song, he's just a young man setting out on an adventure looking for excitement and belonging. He's imagining the glory of it all. Yet this cover takes that and gives it a subtle nudge. Instead of "going the distance" for glory, here the speaker wants to go the distance to hold on, stay the course, run the race, do what's right. The line "to look beyond the glory is the hardest part" stands out more as an explanation of his motives. This song now is not about seeking fame. It's about enduring with strength for an ultimate reward. Instead of the "hero's waiting arms" being Zeus, the father Hercules has been separated from and whom he hopes to please, the line suddenly sounds quite bolder than a Disney lyric. It suddenly sounds like we're talking about God's love--and I see your Lion of Judah tattoo, Peyton, so I doubt I'm making this angle up simply as the viewer. Ah, gotta love when we find deep meaning in Disney songs (I've gone on such tangents about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and the symbolism I find there). 

And then once I ended up on Blackbriar and Ulli Perhonen's "Snow White and Rose Red." I couldn't quite tell if this was my missed Goth calling music, or if this was just too far off the deep end for me. After attempting to delve in more, I'm going to go with the latter. Sometimes clicking and clicking in strange moods can lead to interesting discoveries; sometimes, though, it leads to discoveries that you only find intriguing when in such aforementioned strange moods. Ah, the endless possibilities of music and song.