Media

Monthly Media: September/October

I dropped the ball last month but for a few good reasons! 1.) I went to go see my family in Arizona during the days I would normally spend summing up my experiences and posting them and 2.) I honestly didn’t do a whole lot in September except binge-watch a few things and read a few bits of several books but ultimately finished nothing. Without further ado, lets take a look at the Monthly Media for September AND October 2018! Spoilers ahead so be warned!

September

TELEVISION

The Good Place: Seasons 1-2~ I started watching the first season on Hulu when it was first released but only got a couple episodes in before something else took my attention away. I had a free weekend towards the end of September so I decided to sit down once and for all and give it a shot and WOW I was super impressed. There’s a lot to love about this show and the character development is one of the best things about it. We see that it’s possible for people to change after they’ve died and not just become better people but more in depth characters as well. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of how the world worked in general, especially the afterlife where intent seems more important than actual deeds, especially when we think about Mindy St. Claire and her own piece of the afterlife.

Parks & Rec: Seasons 1-4 ~ I was so late to watching this show but I finally pushed myself through season 1 and after that I couldn’t stop. When Adam Scott and Rob Lowe showed up it felt like the how had a lot more character than before, it also helped that we started to get some actual development within not only all the different relationships but also within characters themselves. I honestly couldn’t stand most of the characters until season 3 (but their stories were still really great in the overall arc of the show). In all my favorite character is Ben Wyatt because I really identified with the way he would deadpan stare at the camera at certain points in the show, like, not to be too dramatic, but those moments gave me life.

Brooklyn 99: Seasons 4 -5 (spoilers ahead) ~ I love this show, I watch it almost exclusively with my dad so when I was visiting in Arizona we blitzed our way through the season we left off at about a year ago. I continue to enjoy the relationship between the members of the department and also Jake’s relationships with both Holt and Amy Santiago. He’s so supportive of her in her entirety that it makes their relationship feel more real and desirable. There were some serious plot twists that I didn’t see coming for a sitcom, Jake and Rosa being framed for multiple robberies was especially distressing for me since the writers do an excellent job of bolstering your confidence that the truth will win out. Holt bending his morals in order to assist them was also really enlightening to his character and while he was able to rectify the situation later on it was really eye-opening in terms of exactly how far Holt might go or be able to go in the future when a member of his squad is in danger.

MOVIES

Mary & The Witches Flower ~ I watched this movie towards the beginning of September so I had to rewatch it. It’s cute and the animation style is what one expects to come out of Japan at this point as far as animated movies are concerned. The plot was solid too, though I still have a lot of questions regarding Mary’s family, since the magic she used wasn’t inherited. I’d like to see a sequel but it seems unlikely given the events of the first movie. When I think about the potential of the story-telling I do find myself disappointed because while the plot moved in a direction that was reasonable, there were a lot of extra things that they introduced but didn’t explain or disregarded. There could have been a number of plot variations and I feel like for awhile you’re almost misdirected and while it’s commendable it also feels hollow, like you lost out on a more interesting or just as interesting story.

October

TELEVISION

Parks & Rec: Seasons 5-7 (spoilers ahead) ~ I will admit to being upset when I finished the series but I was so happy that it wrapped up so completely. One of the things I struggled with a lot with the last few seasons was that for as ambitious and driven as Leslie is portrayed she also disregards a lot of that for Pawnee. Yes, there’s a message in the show about loving a town that doesn’t love you back but for awhile I honestly thought she was going sabotage a ridiculously good career move to stay in Pawnee. Of course she found a a way around that which I was totally grateful for because I don’t know if I would have continued with the last season right away if she had decided to give up the job. Gary getting the great ending he deserved would have been worth it though…Gary is always worth it.

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, Season 1; Episodes 1-6~ This show was at once, exactly what I thought it was going to be and also completely unexpected. I thought it was going to merely be a step-by-step DIY type show with commentary from her “housemates”, like a Gothic Martha Stewart scenario (but with a peanut gallery!) but there’s a lot of story going on as well. Personally I don’t think this show is appropriate for young children but 13 year-old-me would have been in LOVE with this show, heck 30-something-year-old me loves this show. I do wish there was more information available or at least, when she’s making a large creation that more time is spent on it, they time skip a lot of stuff for her larger projects, but when you consider that her show is also…a show it makes a little more sense as to why they would skip a lot of the prep work to reveal the final product. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a bit rushed and quasi-overwhelmed when watching it. In the future I’d love to see more home DIY as opposed to her cooking and maybe a few more simple projects.

Death In Paradise, Seasons 1-5; (spoilers ahead)~ Originally I began watching this show on the provided satellite channels on my TV in Japan. I thought it was cute and campy even if Richard Poole was socially inept to a painful degree. By the end of season two however his character seemed to finally be showing development and acceptance of his situation, especially when he chooses to return to the island rather than go back to London. HOWEVER, when I originally saw the beginning of season three I was FURIOUS that he was killed off. I literally turned the show off after his death was revealed and I’ve been harboring this grudge ever since. Recently Netflix has been recommending it to me because of my other viewing choices and given that it now has 7 seasons I thought I might give it another go.

In all I felt the same way about seasons 1-2 as I did originally, the real test came in Season 3 when our new Detective Inspector was introduced. Character wise it really seems like they took what they knew worked with Richard Poole (brilliant investigator even if he seemed strange, and his method of revealing the crime) and discarding what made him a difficult character to mesh with the others. All in all it’s not the height of television, it’s super campy in a lot of respects, and rarely takes itself too seriously which in my opinion makes it so enjoyable. It’s a great casual show to chill out with after a long day because despite it’s genre and content you don’t feel overwhelmed when you watch it. I do wish they’d remember past cases though, there have been a few times when they’ve solved the crime and I feel like they’d have solved it a lot faster or it would have felt more natural or organic if someone had said “Oh hey remember this case, what if we consider that?”

MOVIES

Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle ~ What the hell was this movie even? It lacked a lot of the heart and feeling of the first and really just seemed to rely on Kevin Hart and The Rock to carry it with their shenanigans. I am totally unconvinced that the four teenagers would remain friends afterwards and overall I wouldn’t watch it again. I’m really disappointed in it actually because it just feels sloppy, like no one took the time to sit down and develop any ideas for it. I feel like their creative meeting went like “Hey let’s make a Jumanji sequal because we can’t think of anything new but this time it’s a video game and let’s get Kevin Hart to scream a lot in it.” and someone got paid a lot of money for that idea and I think about that bitterly every day. They mentioned Alan Parish but literally it’s a blurb that no one took the time to flesh out. If you’re banking on nostalgia to carry your movie through you should take the time to develop a bit more backstory, because otherwise it’s just needless pandering.

BOOKS

“Equal Rites” by Terry Prachett ~ This story was really interesting and like most of his works, incomplete in some ways to lead you into the next story. It was really gratifying to see Granny Weatherwax change her mind throughout the story and then essentially push that agenda through. I was surprised because I was assuming from the beginning that she would be excited that Esk would be a wizard and I think the disappointment that she wasn’t kept me reading? I will admit to being super confused as the the ending of the story and I’m hoping that future novellas will clarify some points for me, because at the end of the day I’m not entirely sure that Esk is even performing magic anymore, or at least that’s how the story seems to read to me.

“Good Omens” by Terry Prachett & Neil Gaiman ~ So I thought I was just in a mood where I didn’t want to read anything (it happens from time to time) but then I saw the trailer for the new Amazon Prime show based on this novel and I recalled a co-worker talking about this book specifically several months ago and how much he enjoyed it. Since I was now interested in the TV show I decided to download the book and give it a shot. As it would turn out I wasn’t NOT in the mood to read at all, I just wanted to read Terry Prachett with Neil Gaiman as a bonus. I really enjoyed this novel, the writing style reminded me a bit of Christopher Moore, one of my favorite authors and it gave me a lot to think about. I wouldn’t call it “laugh out loud funny” at all but I chuckled a lot. I read it in about two days which is pretty fast for me these days and I think I’d really like to read it again with some book club type questions and discussions.

COMING UP IN NOVEMBER

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee will be releasing and I am super looking forward to this game and it’s content. I’ve been avoiding most of the press releases regarding the game in order to keep a lot of it a surprise. Also, Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch has also released and as I’ve always been a fan of this particular party game for consoles I can’t wait to get it and try it out.

“Mort” & “Sourcery” by Terry Prachett are next on my reading list with “Mort” well under way. I don’t find myself as engaged with this novel as the last one but I do find it interesting in a lot of ways and we finally get to learn a bit more about DEATH. I’m looking forward to seeing Rincewind about in Sourcery because I think he is my favorite character so far.

“The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins ~ THIS BOOK OMG. It just keeps going, I had to put it down because the rambling has begun to take it’s toll. I’m having such a hard time picking it up these days because the pacing is just horrific. Pray for me.

 

 

 

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Charlie

Charlie Loves Halloween!

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Channeling his inner Alien

OF COURSE HE DOES!

He gets to dress up and be silly and no one will yell at him for it! He’s had a few costumes over the years but usually he just hides in one of mine! He’s very sad because last year there were no trick-or-treaters to hand candy out to! This year he heard a rumor that our neighborhood gets a lot of kids and so he’s SUPER excited to give them candy. He’s a great little helper but I think his motivation is less than pure. Assisting in a Halloween sugar high that sees kids bouncing off the walls? THIS APPEALS TO HIM.

Ever since hitting adulthood I’d found myself less interested overall in Halloween in general. I like the cute little decorations and I’m glad children are able to freely go out and have fun but I think until I have children myself my focus is more on Thanksgiving and Christmas than Halloween. That being said Charlie and I have of course been to our fair share of Halloween parties! We’ve had lots of fun when we lived in Japan and I think he misses all the parties a lot.

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#impending doom

This year he decided to make his own costume! Naturally it required destroying something and a pair of sharp scissors. Charlie of course is no stranger to scissors he used to help me wrap Christmas presents in Japan! Snip, snip, snip! There goes a few more pieces of toilet paper than I was expecting to lose.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to see when he was finished though I suppose you can only make one kind of costume out of strips of toilet paper. Naturally however, due to his smaller than required arms I had to dress him up and the result was in his own words: “AMAZE-BALLS”. I don’t know who taught him that word…but once I find out who did you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

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He does look pretty amazing though! Happy Halloween everyone from Charlie and I!

The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine · Writing

The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine (17)

Late October was a tricky time to be a Supernatural entity. The veils between worlds were weakest this time of year and ever since October 31st had cemented itself into the consciousness at large as “THE SUPERNATURAL DAY” collective expectation and energy had significantly weakened spiritual barriers. This meant that glamour was functionally useless from October 31st to after the third or fourth day of November.

“Oh hey nice fangs, how’d you get those to stay on?” the bank teller asked Harlow after greeting her at the counter.

“Denture glue!” Harlow lied before conducting her business. She didn’t mind the questions anymore, though originally she’d been caught off guard by this phenomenon until August and Rosemary had explained everything to her. Now, almost seventy years in she could lie with ease and shrug off the curious stares or barely disguised fear from those who were more sensitive to “the other side”.

After completing her business at the bank Harlow looked at her to-do list and realized that she’d been tasked with buying the Halloween Candy this year. Even though Harper was grown and lived outside the mansion, Olivier had developed a deep love of the holiday that let him be ridiculous on a forgivable level. In fact, as Harlow was leaving for her errands she’d caught Olivier stringing fake spiderwebs all over the front hedges, much to their gardeners horror and dismay.

The vampire headed to the grocery store, refusing to take off her sunglasses as the bright florescent lights hurt her eyes almost as much as the now setting sun. She frowned as she surveyed what was left of the candy in this particular store, still…it was discounted as half the shelves were scrunched over to make room for candy-canes and hot chocolate. She grabbed a nearby hand basket and piled as many bags of candy inside it as it would carry.

“Mommy, mommy look it’s a vampire!” a little girl squealed next to her. Since Harlow hadn’t been smiling and thus, revealing her fangs this surprised her, but when she turned she saw that the little girl was not pointing at her but at a tall, well-built man she didn’t recognize. The mother laughed off the little girls assumption that a vampire (two in fact) was standing nearby and ushered her daughter away after a quick, lighthearted apology (kids ya know?). Harlow looked at him puzzled, he was definitely not a vampire but he wasn’t human either.

“Human children are perceptive…but incorrect,” he sighed cryptically as he left the aisle looking at Harlow. Deciding that she didn’t need to spend more time thinking about this than necessary, Harlow purchased the candy and headed back to the parking garage so she could get home. She’d just finished putting her purchases into the car when she became aware of being watched. Harlow turned and spotted the same man from the grocery store only a few feet away. He was distorted somehow, as if he were trying to use his glamour on her.

This worried her, as a supernatural creature she herself was immune to glamour unless it was being projected by something very dangerous or very powerful. “You’re very perceptive…I wonder why?” he wondered out loud.

“Because I’m something your mother should have warned you about.” came the chilly response.

“I very much doubt that…your phone…it’s quite nice, I was wondering how attached you might be to it?”

“This phone is not for sale, though I think I might demand to know your interest in it.”

“Oh, nothing nefarious…I’m…just a collector…” he purred. Harlow’s mouth opened and closed several times. The man smiled in a lazy sort of way, quite like the infamous Cheshire Cat. “I see I have your attention.”

Of all the monsters to meet on a Halloween night, the last thing a puny vampire was expecting was a formally thought to be no-longer-of-this-world dragon. She thought about handing her phone over, dragon legends were old but infamous and they hated being crossed or when someone was in the way of what they wanted. She could go to the police, claim she was mugged and use the police report to get a new phone through the coven’s insurance. “I can see all the thoughts on your pretty little face, you’re smarter than you look,” he commented, holding out his hand for her phone.

A single heartbeat separated his words from hers.

“What did you say to me?” He recoiled as if he’d been struck by ice. She took a step towards him and grinned as he took a step back. “I’ve never tasted dragon before, I wonder if you’ll be spicy…”

He drew himself up in outrage. “I could kill you in a blink vermin -,”

“And expose yourself to the world? I know enough about dragons to know your magic only works in your true form and you’d jeopardize your race’s entire existence on me? Should I be flattered? Because right now I think you’re stupid,” she interrupted.

He lunged for her anyway, perhaps assuming that his size advantage in his human form would be beneficial. He had no way of knowing that she had entire move sets dedicated to foiling that advantage. She wasn’t quite sure how a dragon fit themselves into a small mortal frame but she did know that she broke something if his less than human scream of pain and anger was anything to go by. She threw the stupid dragon-in-human-form to the ground several feet away from her and got into her car, speeding through the garage and into the night.

When she got back to the mansion it was just in time to rip open a bag of candy for the first group of little costumed children that were coming up the driveway behind her.

“Harlow, you’re late! What kept you?” Olivier demanded as she sailed through the door and dumped several bags of candy by the front table and the open bag into the waiting bowl.

“Sorry sir, had a bit of a run in with some trouble!” she answered a bit too happily.

“Anything I should know about?” he asked with a healthy dose of suspicion. “Wandering Abominations? Monsters? Knighthood?”

“No sir, the only monster out tonight was me,” she grinned. Olivier knew enough about  her by now not to question her further. Perhaps it was for the best she had no interest in exposing dragons to anyone…but it did suddenly make her life a little more interesting.

Prompt generated from this list of 120 One Word Writing Prompts and the use of Google’s Random Number Generator. Number & Coordinated Theme Generated: 118 – Monster. Yes I saved this one specifically for Halloween so perhaps not so random after all. 

Food · Life In Japan · Magical Me

Nabe Season!

One of my favorite traditional Japanese dishes is Nabe or “hot pot”, specifically kimchi flavor. During my first fall in 2012 a friend took me to a great little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and ordered us kimchi nabe which she then asked to be topped with cheese because this was the first time I’d ever had it. I really fell in love with the dish because it was so flavorful but also familiar in a lot of ways. The great news is that after this meal I began to recognize this dish on the television and after doing some research discovered that it probably wasn’t going to be too hard to make.

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The first attempt in early 2013

I began my nabe journey in early 2013. I used a large stock pot and since the idea was that “anything” could go into the nabe, that first batch had a lot of strange things that never made a second showing…like the shrimp. I also misunderstood how the broth worked. Initially I had bought it in a pouch instead of a jar and since this was before I could read Japanese or had a resource available to help me read it I started worrying that the broth needed to be diluted because it was so dark. I obviously very quickly learned when the product was finished that I didn’t need to worry about that at all. I was very graciously praised by my friend for even attempting this and I think that was the day I decided that if I was going to learn to cook a Japanese dish it was going to be kimchi nabe and it was going to be the best thing I could make.

So what exactly is “Nabe Season”? When living in Japan it began in mid-October typically when the temperatures finally dropped significantly and stayed there and didn’t end until the very tail end of spring. Of course I could eat nabe at any time but since I began associating it with cold weather it really seemed unappealing in the summer given how hot and humid it could be. I also typically made kimchi nabe when I knew I was going to be feeding other people. It was one of the only dishes I knew for a fact that I could make enough of to feed more than 2 or even 3 people. In this way my nabe and my journey to make it so well became very personal. This was a dish that symbolized the comfort of a warm meal and friendship.

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Debut of my proper nabe pot

After that first attempt I realized that I had to do more research. I had grown really close with a Japanese teacher I worked with and I asked her all sorts of questions. I was also rapt with attention whenever a nabe commercial aired on television. I decided to stick with my favorite brand of kimchi-flavored broth from the first attempt and not water it down. I also decided to ditch the shrimp for beef and later pork. A huge problem however was that most people made nabe on a portable gas burner in the middle of a table or kotatsu. I was neither in possession of a portable gas burner nor comfortable using one. I ended up cheating a little bit with my cooking method as a result. Luckily my new nabe pot made that process a little easier than I was expecting.

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Always enjoy nabe with beer

Over the four years I lived in Japan I spent 3 of them perfecting my kimchi nabe recipe. It’s not a complicated recipe or dish by any means but it does take a little bit of finesse sometimes and it’s all about personalization. If I was making nabe for my friend Crys I was sure to add tofu because she liked tofu but if I was making it just for myself I tended to avoid it because I didn’t think it added anything to the overall flavor for me. I tried different cuts of meat, different amounts of vegetables and different dilutions of the broth. I typically cooked my nabe on high heat for about thirty minutes in ten minute increments. The lid is domed and when the center was hot to the touch I knew it was done. Because the meat cooked in the boiling water and steam this was an important step to ensuring that everything had been cooked properly.

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One of the first attempts to use noddles

In 2014-2015 I started experimenting with different ways to use the leftovers. I’m not sure how I missed this in my research or on TV for 2 years because I certainly SAW it in a commercial but apparently it is a common-ish practice to put noodles or rice in the broth in order to use the entire dish. This was novel to me as I’d never even considered that before. Typically I would cook ground beef and add that to the remaining broth as a soup to freeze for later. Personally I prefer rice but everyone else seems to like noodles and I honestly can’t tell you why and I’m not sure they can either. I also started cracking eggs over the top during the last 5 minutes of the cooking process because I had seen that on TV too and friend Crys and I both decided that it was worth trying because it seemed popular. I didn’t always remember to add eggs to the nabe afterwards but we certainly liked the slightly runny egg more than cheese.

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Personal kimchi nabe with beer and fangirling

In 2015 I also found myself buying a little personal-sized nabe pot for about ¥300 and began making chicken broth flavored nabe. This was a new experience for me in a few ways. It was a different flavor so I felt like I could enjoy it separately from the kimchi nabe that I made for everyone else and as such it became a comfort food on cold winter nights. I could easily pick up a bag of mixed vegetables from the grocery store and some ground chicken meatballs. I had bullion cubes from my mother and the smaller pot held enough water to dissolve them. I of course did try to make kimchi nabe for myself at least once to enjoy the flavor and to mess around a little bit with measurements for things but while it was delicious it wasn’t as fulfilling a meal because, not surprisingly, it made me miss my friends. After that I stuck to chicken broth nabe for myself.

So, what is in my kimchi nabe? How do I create something unique to me out of something unique to an entire culture? It took 3 solid years to get it just right. Typically I begin with a pouch of my favorite kimchi flavored broth and add about 1/4th of a cup more of undiluted broth to make up for vegetables watering down.

  • Half a cabbage
  • Half or more of a daikon raddish (depending on it’s size)
  • Enokitake mushrooms (in Japan) or shitake mushrooms (in the US)
  • One largish carrot
  • 1-2 large leeks cut into large chunks
  • Lotus root cut into medallions typically; quartered rarely
  • Thinly cut strips of pork, beef or ground chicken meatballs
  • Firm Tofu (for Crys!) cut into cubes
  • A GENEROUS amount of kimchi over top – this is pretty vital as the kimchi will help strengthen the flavor overall of the broth and the veggies.
  • An egg over top during the last 3-5 minutes of cooking
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PERFECTION

 *These pictures were taken from my Japanese Instagram account Madamjester*

The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine · Writing

The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine (16)

Present Day; Seattle, Washington 

“Sh, sh, it’s on!” Rosemary was saying excitedly as she heard the official sounding instrumental theme song come across their speakers in the parlor. She turned up the volume just as a woman announced herself.

“Good evening, as always I’m your hostess Professor Midnight, thank you for subscribing to my podcast ‘Beyond the Veil’.”

Harlow, Olivier, and August sat down to listen to the bi-weekly podcast, specifically to learn if any new developments had evolved out of an issue they were monitoring closely after the Abomination incident a couple of months ago. The program was about forty-five minutes long and featured guest speakers, eye-witnesses and clearly dedicated journalism for someone perceived to be doing this as a joke or a hobby.

Most mundane mortals didn’t know the truth about the world around them, but Professor Midnight was different. Her personal story, listed on her website, was considered a piece of fiction. According to her, she’d been employed at a government agency out of college and had filed piles and piles of magically altered paperwork. One day, she claimed that finally “the veil parted” and she could see “everything”.

Normally, a mundane human would be moved out of their department when they began to show signs of seeing through the glamour. However the official rumor was that Midnight was so dedicated and good at her job that no one knew she was being affected until it actually happened.

In a panic she’d quit her job and moved out to San Francisco to be near family and dedicated the majority of her time to “exposing the supernatural community at large and to spread awareness of their misdeeds to other mortals.” The overarching problem was that Professor Midnight was a natural investigator and her podcast uncovered a lot of information that the supernatural community found useful, in short…they used her as an unofficial news source, a fact that would most likely send her into a fit if she knew.

“And finally in our unsolved mysteries file tonight, an interesting story out of Cambridge Massachusetts. ‘Dear Professor Midnight, I’m planning to attend Bentley University next spring and my grandfather told me the strangest story from his school days. He claims that on Halloween night in 1969 there was an incident involving several Jack o’ Lanterns, a wizard, a werewolf, and a vampire. Have you come across anything that might verify his story? Your’s Truly, Pondering Pumpkin.’ Well Pumpkin I have some good news for you. Since you were able to provide some excellent details for me I was able to get a copy of the school’s newspaper that was published after the date in question…..”

But Harlow was no longer paying attention to Professor Midnight and neither were her housemates. They already knew the story…

October 31st 1969; Bentley University, Waltham Massachusetts 

It would become known as the “Pumpkin Incident” for years to come and it was all the fault of a young Cambridge warlock who had more power than he had sense to control it, especially when he was drunk. Harlow had made quite a few interesting friends during her first year of college, one of which was a werewolf named Thomas Barrows. She and Thomas were in the same classes together and often helped each other study. She even met a few members of his pack on the occasion of one of his birthday’s. It wasn’t unusual necessarily for a vampire and a werewolf to be friends but it was rare given the habits of both supernatural parties.

Another classmate was a warlock named Phillip Ainsworth who insisted that he would be called something far more ostentatious and grandiose once he graduated to sorcerer and figured out his “name”. He was often an insufferable jackass towards everyone else but for some reason he was relatively popular at parties. Harlow often pondered out loud why a warlock would be learning accounting anyway unless he needed some sort of backup career. At the time most magic users had a set career path waiting for them once they passed all their final competency tests. As Thomas and Harlow both found out the hard way, Phillip Ainsworth wasn’t exactly competent.

They had attended a party together that Halloween night, enjoying the different version of vampires, mummies and werewolves they had seen. Thomas insisted on walking her back to her apartment but asked if they could cut through the college campus, to see all the Jack O’lanterns that had been carved for the campus contest that night. When they arrived on the main lawn they encountered chaos. Phillip was clearly drunk and waving around what could only be his wand, something a warlock would have kept well hidden around the more mundane and he was shouting something neither Harlow or Thomas understood, however his spell was most certainly working.

All the Halloween Pumpkins turned into a giant jumping jamboree. Harlow felt her mouth literally drop with genuine surprise and disbelief. “We have to do something about this…” she began to say as she noticed that Thomas was already running towards Phillip, shedding clothing as he went. Harlow stood there watching him like a curious fool. She knew from Thomas that werewolves could assume a true animal shape at any time and only assumed a half-human shape during the full moon, but that didn’t mean werewolves…or werepeople in general just showed off in public.

As Thomas began smashing pumpkins with his powerful jaws and legs Harlow decided to take care of Phillip. She sprinted to him and grabbed the wrist that held his wand, holding it just tight enough so he couldn’t wave it about anymore. The magic inside him though made it an almost painful experience, he was totally out of control and so was the magic humming under his skin, she felt her palms beginning to tingle and burn uncomfortably. He was also drunkenly swearing at her and taunting her vampiric condition. She decided to bite him to teach him a lesson.

Supernatural blood is the only thing that can intoxicate a vampire, magical blood was especially potent. It was rare to get however because again, the magic in a magical beings body made it almost unbearable to touch them for longer than a few seconds. She yanked him into position and bit into him, enjoying his yelp of pain and surprise as she drank from him until he grew limp in her arms. Finally, she dropped Phillip and swayed. There were still a few pumpkins jumping about which she punched with a rather gleeful and drunken scream of laughter.

“Harlow?” Thomas reappeared in his human form, yanking on his shirt. “We have to go, people are watching…” he said as he quickly grabbed her and started leading her away. The two friends made it back to her apartment where she made herself sleep off the affects of the magical blood and Thomas slept on her couch. The next morning they woke up the to all sorts of rumors. Thankfully it had been too dark for anyone to identify who the “monsters” were and Phillip Ainsworth didn’t seem to have a clue that he was responsible for all of it. However, he stopped being an asshole to both Thomas and herself so he must have remembered something…from the way he reached for his neck every time he saw her it was evident what he recalled.

The school newspaper ran a sensational story of the incident and concluded that it must have been a mass hallucination due to some unsavory on-campus drug use. People still talked about it in hushed tones all around campus though, even a few of Harlow’s other classmates began chatting with her about it and wanted to know her thoughts on monsters and magic.

Naturally, she played dumb.

 

*Authors Note: In an earlier story Harlow was said to have obtained her master’s degree’s from Bentley University before the start of the 1970’s. This is incorrect as Bentley University did not start offering master’s degrees until 1973. In order for Harlow to have her aforementioned degrees her college experience will be moved from an early 60’s starting point to a late 60’s starting point. While she wouldn’t be aware of the master program coming in the early 70’s she would still be working on multiple degrees and thus would take advantage of this program type when it became available. Source: Bentley University through the years 1973

Writing Prompt taken from: 27 Halloween Writing Prompts for Kids

Food

Chicken & Zucchini Casserole

Monday has graced us with its presence once more and that means it’s time for another recipe! I haven’t been trying a lot of new things recently because of work and trying to fall into a routine but this is one of the newer recipes I’ve been trying with great results! It’s a huge hit with everyone and leftovers never last long, barely until tomorrow actually! It’s a pretty decently sized meal by itself but if you needed a side dish I’d suggest corn or possibly a salad with a ranch dressing given the flavors of the casserole.

Our recipe today comes from Six Sister’s Stuff and has a lot of built in versatility which I’ll talk a little about below. It’s a nice quick meal if you do a little bit of prep-work before hand and honestly it’s worth it. It reminds me of a dinner my mom used to make when I was still in school, though she pulled her recipe off the back of a soup can if I recall. There’s a lot of similarities in this dish so the same recipe could have been the basis for this meal. For nostalgic reasons that makes this pretty high on the list of dishes I’ll be putting into my rotation.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you cook the chicken day of, your prep time increases so I would highly suggest pre-cooking your meat either the night before or a few days in advance if you’re cooking chicken for another meal. On average, cooked chicken will last for about 3-4 days in the fridge so take advantage of prepping ahead of time! Alternatively, you could grab one of those precooked rotisserie chickens from the grocery store which would also reduce your cooking time! Also, you are going to need a LARGE mixing bowl, possibly the largest one you own because mixing this thing up is a monster. I almost always spill some over the side and it’s a real struggle to get everything properly jumbled together.

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Dinner is served!

I replaced the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, not only that but a “serving” container is about 6 oz. so I got a little over the half cup listed in the recipe.  I feel like the yogurt and the extra ounces added a little extra zing overall to the flavor and since plain Greek yogurt is often used as a substitute for sour cream for a healthier option you can feel better about using it as a replacement if you so choose. Additionally, the recipe says to use chicken stuffing but I prefer cornbread so don’t be afraid to change that up as well if you like. One of the things I’ve been wanted to do for this recipe that I haven’t yet is add celery. I think the flavor would add a lot to the dish but I worry about cooking it to mush or that the amount of water it puts off will mess up the consistency of the casserole. If anyone has suggestions on how to do this I’ll gladly accept them!

THE RECIPE

  • 1 – 6oz. box of chicken stuffing (BUT other types are probably fine.)
  • 1/2 cup of melted butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cups diced zucchini
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 – 10.75 oz can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (plain Greek yogurt also okay)
  • 1/2 onion; chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350℉
  2. Combine 1/2 cup melted butter with stuffing mix. Mix well and set half aside for topping later.
  3. Mix the other half of stuffing/butter mixture in with zucchini, chicken, onion, soup and sour cream in the LARGEST BOWL YOU CAN FIND. If necessary mix this up in two batches because it’s a HUGE combined mess.
  4. Put mixture in a greased 9×13 baking dish and spread out until it’s even. Top with remaining half of stuffing
  5. Bake for 45 minutes
  6. Enjoy!
Japan · Magical Me

Falling in Love with Autumn

“Sensei, did you know that Japan as four seasons?”

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Nikko, Tochigi-ken

Several times a year, for four straight years I heard this from my students, and like any good teacher I smiled and pretended to be deeply interested in this fact. The truth was, of course I knew Japan had four seasons, because by 2013 I had experienced them all. Inevitably the question always became: “Does Arizona have four seasons?” and the running jokes was that Arizona had two seasons: summer and not summer because honestly, that’s what it felt like.

“Rachel Sensei what season do you like?”

A tough question when you’ve previously only had two choices…and before my first honest to goodness fall I might have answered winter.

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Light through orange leaves

Like most people I’ve always loved the idea of autumn. The romanticized images of golden yellow trees, red and orange bursts of color nestled with the deep greens of the pine spoke to me in that longing “if only” way. Wistfully thinking of warm sweaters, hot cocoa and pumpkin picking never failed to put me in the “autumn” mood but with temps still well into the 90’s on most days I found myself bitterly disappointed in the reality. To be able to move to a country that nestled itself so completely into these images I’ve had since childhood was honestly like watching a fairy tale come to life. It was one of those situations where my expectations were not only met but gloriously exceeded.

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Lycoris

I began making yearly trips to the local park in early October to photograph the Lycoris flowers; learning quickly that they only lasted for a few days at their peak before they began to die off. Around my birthday in November was the perfect time to make a trip to Nikko and Lake Chuzenji, my favorite spot in Japan to look at all the beautiful colors on the trees. It was cool enough to wear thermal undergarments by that time and usually a thicker sweater with a scarf so we were always able to dress warmly and with style.

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Hello Kitty donut from Mr. Donut

Autumn also meant that Oktoberfest was coming and, every other year the Tochigi City Festival. I always loved summer festivals but autumn ones brought me the most joy I think because the season had already put me into a great mood and the weather was significantly nicer. Autumn was also the start of some super cute Halloween campaigns like Hello Kitty pumpkin shaped donuts, pumpkin flavored ice cream and fall-oriented coffee flavors at Starbucks that weren’t pumpkin spice.

Living in Vermont in 2017 was nice though I wish I could have experienced more things. However, because I was working a lot and didn’t have much free time I think I missed out on most of the Northeastern Autumn traditions. One of my favorite things to do as it gets colder is go through corn mazes but I’m pretty sure they didn’t grow corn that far north. I did however live near a tree farm and was able to see the leaves change and drink fresh, local apple cider. This year in Texas the weather might not be as wonderful but at least Austin seems to have seasons and as the temperature drops so will leaves and honestly, isn’t the best part of fall being cozy on the couch wrapped in a blanket while the windows are open? I think so anyway.

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Autumn

*Many of these pictures were taking from my Japanese Instragram account: Madamjester