Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Recipe: Melted M&M's

I know it sounds counter intuitive, considering that M&M's motto is "melts in your mouth, not your hand," but melted M&M's are a delicious and versatile treat! They are yummy alone or as a topping for ice cream and other sweets. But perhaps the best part about this warm snack is how simple and quick it is to make.

How To

  1. The first step is buying the M&M's! In order for the candies to melt correctly, you must use regular M&M's. This type allows the chocolate to melt evenly.
  2. Next, empty out some M&M's onto a microwave safe plate.  You can use as much or as little as you want, so long as there is only one layer of M&M's.
  3. You're ready for the microwave! Place the plate in the middle and heat it on high for 1 minute.  Make sure to keep checking on it at 10-15 second intervals. Shake the plate around each time you check it to prevent any candies from burning.
  4. Once the M&M's feel hot and look a little oily, they are ready! Let them cool a little, and then try one.  If it's hard on the outside, and gooey on the inside, then you are done! If it still feels a little lumpy or uneven, then put it back in the microwave for 10 second bursts as you check it.

Suggested Servings


Melted M&M's are delicious and fun-to-eat on their own, but there are many other ways to eat them.  The best is probably on top of ice cream.  The combination of the cold ice cream and the hot, melty M&M's is a natural pair.

A similar base is pudding, which is good for those with temperature sensitive teeth.  Jello and rice pudding are also good alternatives.

The options are endless for this sweet treat.  Try experimenting with new flavors by topping new dishes with your melted M&M's! Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Eat Healthy While on the Road/Touring in Florida


Traveling in Florida has its perks: beautiful weather, exciting cities, but, like on any road trip, your food choices can seriously affect your overall health.  Whether you’re picky or a ravenous eater, there are numerous healthy food options available all across Florida, and inside your vehicle.  Here, you will find different ways to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger by eating in and eating out while traveling and touring in Florida.

Eating In


When it comes to choosing healthy food options from local grocery stores, there are a couple tips that will maximize both your food supply and your wallet.

First, stock up on water.  It doesn't hurt to have too much water with you, especially in such a hot, humid state.  The most cost-effective method is to purchase water bottles in bulk from a warehouse store.  However, if you would rather be more environmentally conscious about your water consumption, carry a reusable bottle with you and fill it up whenever possible.  Due to this limited and unplanned system, it is important to bring some plastic water bottles or a water jug just in case.  Don’t forget to consistently and regularly drink your water.  This may lead to more pit stops along the way, but it will benefit you in the long run.  Generally, people who drink enough water during the day (the 8x8 rule of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is the most commonly accepted amount) tend to eat less since thirst is often mistaken for hunger.

For the times when you really are hungry, the second tip is to pack nutritional snacks.  This means avoiding foods that have little health value, like processed foods.  The most simple healthy snack foods are granola/energy bars.  These can be purchased in bulk (which saves on the price) and are a healthy alternative to overly salty snacks.  A more DIY snack option is homemade trail mix.  All of the mixings can be purchased at a local grocery store and, because you control what you put in it, there can be less salt which makes it much healthier.  Some possible ingredients include nuts, raisins, seeds, dark chocolate, and dried fruit.  You can also pack regular fruit, like bananas, that will keep during the trip.

Whole grain cereal cups are a good alternative to unhealthy, crunchy snack foods, like potato chips, according to cookinglight.com.  Vitamins are important day to day and while on the road.  When spending nights driving from town to town, vitamin B provides energy and decreases the need for coffee and energy drinks.  Not to mention, taking a general multivitamin will help to make up for any missed nutrients.  Drinking plenty of water and not skipping meals are both crucial to eating healthy on the road. 

If you would rather eat out from restaurants or other places instead of eating in from local grocery stores, there are still healthy options.  Choosing nutritional food items at fast food places is one way to eat out on the road.  Options like eggs and salads are healthier for you, and according to muscleandfitness.com, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice are tasty alternatives to unhealthy salad dressings.  Eating in is cost effective and allows for more a more regular consumption of nutrients and healthy food throughout the day, but for the days when you feel like trying new places to eat, choosing healthy options is still possible when eating out.


Eating Out


Florida can be divided into three general regions: North, Central, and South.  Within each region, is a popular city, each home to a local restaurant full of healthy and tasty menu items.

In North Florida, Gainesville has many different restaurants all with different styles, but there is one that stands out among the rest: SweetBerries. A cost effective soup, salad, sandwich, and frozen custard shop, SweetBerries offers vegetarian options, like their tempeh sandwich.  I went to SweetBerries for lunch not too long ago and tasted their tempeh and frozen custard.  Not only were they both delicious, but also light, healthy, and easy on the wallet.  They are located at 505 NW 13th Street, and they have earned 4.5/5 stars on their Facebook page

Farther down in Central Florida is Tampa, home to multiple EVOS locations.  This animal friendly restaurant offers burgers, wraps, and vegan options.  EVOS is a supporter of Meatless Mondays, as shown on their Facebook page.  I tried EVOS’ signature “Airfries” when I ate there last, and I would highly recommend their “Airbaked” fries to anyone looking for a healthy alternative.

South Florida is home to Miami as well as a local restaurant called Plate. Located at 2105 Coral Way, Plate offers numerous “healthy & delicious alternative[s] to fast food”, according to their website plateinmiami.com.  Between the good prices and “wholesome and nutritious” food, this restaurant is a must visit for any health minded foodie.

Whether you choose to eat in from grocery stores or eat out at local restaurants while on the road, touring and traveling in Florida can still include healthy eating.

Monday, April 27, 2015

TV Show Review - DANGER 5

Timeless comedy from down under.

Created by Dario Russo and David Ashby, DANGER 5 tells the story of a team of spies during World War II through the lens of the '60s.  The group undergoes various missions all with the same goal: "kill Hitler", as Colonel Chestbridge (an eagle headed man) always says.  DANGER 5 stars David Ashby, Aldo Mignone, Amanda Simons, Natasa Ristic, and Sean James Murphy (seen from left to right in the picture below).  This Australian TV show first aired in 2012 and now has two seasons, which are both available on Netflix.


Season 1 of DANGER 5

Season 2 of the series switches gears.  Although the team still tries to kill Hitler, the setting changes.  Now in the '80s, they fight Hitler in a world full of disco, neon, and pizza.  Newcomer Tilman Vogler joins the group for this season (seen on the far left in the picture below) as a replacement for beloved character Pierre.  Fans of the 2007 straight-to-YouTube film Italian Spiderman would enjoy DANGER 5.  The two parodies share similar qualities, like creators Dario Russo and David Ashby, excessive retro elements, and comically substandard acting and plots.


Season 2 of DANGER 5

There are two elements of DANGER 5 that are characteristic of the show: its aesthetic and genre combinations.  The first is probably the most visible.  Season 1 of DANGER 5 combines the clothing, hairstyles, technology, and typical color palettes of the '60s and '40s, creating a unique style the distinguishes the first season from other shows online.  Personally, this combined aesthetic alone hooked me.  Season 2 maintained this element, although it focused more on the '80s.  The new wardrobe and technology felt like it was 20 years later, but, according to the plot line, it was only 5 years.


One thing that is consistent in both seasons is the second of the two elements: the combination of genres.  Both seasons are a mix of action, comedy, romance, drama, and suspense.  This medley provides endless entertainment for almost everyone.  Whether you like things funny, serious, sad, or (mildly) thrilling, you can enjoy DANGER 5.  There is a constant flow in each episode that ranges from comedic intros featuring Colonel Chestbridge (the aforementioned strangely normal eagle-man hybrid) to romantic encounters between the spies to thrilling and dramatic cliffhangers that end most episodes.  It may be an overall cheesy show, but the genres that Russo and Ashby incorporate all fit together, and lend themselves to a truly one-of-a-kind show.


As with any TV show, DANGER 5 features exciting music to accompany the spies on their missions.  Co-creator Dario Russo made the soundtrack for seasons one and two, which is available here and here on CD Baby.  Perhaps the most well known tracks on Russo's two albums are the theme songs for the two seasons, titled "Danger 5 Theme" and "Danger 5 Theme (Series 2)".  Not only are these tunes memorable because of their classic feel that prepares the viewer for the mood and style of the show, but also because they are played at the beginning of each episode, which reinforces them for the audience, naturally.




On a more educational note,  DANGER 5 incorporates many different languages and historical figures into the show.  Some of the languages spoken include Russian, German, French, Italian, Japanese, English, and more.  The really fascinating thing about this aspect of the show is how seamlessly the characters transition from language to language.  Rather than forcing the characters to all speak English with varying accents, they speak their respective languages and still maintain the ability to interact with each other.  Throughout the series, the spies encounter 19 different historical figures from Josef Mengele to Benito Mussolini to Nikita Khruschev to (of course) Adolf Hitler.  These cameos, although comical, shed light on the historical events by supplementing these grade school history lessons with (occasionally) accurate portrayals of these people.


If you enjoy classic action, thrilling spy adventures, or even comical running gags, like learning how to make a different, perfect cocktail drink each episode, DANGER 5 has what you need, and more.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

8 Florida Bands That You Need In Your Life

Whether you live here or just have an affinity for the Sunshine State, you can show your state pride by listening to and supporting these 8 rockin' Florida bands!  This handpicked list includes some lesser known artists as well as more popular ones.


1. Gutless


Found in Gainesville, Florida, Gutless is an indie/alternative/punk rock 'n' roll band formed by Vitor, Tim, Andrew, and Cory.  They have stripped songs available for free on Bandcamp titled "Sloppy 4 Song Demo", which display the impressive vocal and instrumental talents they all have.  The emotion felt in their songs is almost unmatched among other artists.  This personal touch, along with the catchy toe-tapping music, is what makes Gutless distinct.  You can see this band at local Gainesville venues and pick up a patch made from cloud fabric so you can match their song "Patches of Blue Sky".  Similar artists to Gutless include Neutral Milk Hotel and Andrew Jackson Jihad.


2. Teenage Chopshop


This Gainesville based indie/punk band with pop music influences is called Teenage Chopshop.  Their album "Wax Fruit" has an upbeat, dreamy quality that gives it a unique sound, and the bells heard in the song "Heart in Stereo" make any listener want to dance.  The lead singer and guitarist of Teenage Chopshop, Charlie Fehrenbacher, an Illinois native, wrote and recorded the songs heard in their self-titled EP in 2011.  This band's music can be compared to Two Door Cinema Club's upbeat music style.


3. Insignificant Other


Originally from Cooper City, Florida, Simona Morales of Insignificant Other now plays shows primarily in Gainesville, although they travel throughout the state.  Self described as "lo fi bedroom ukulele pop/emo", Insignificant Other's album "Songs About Teeth" truly encompasses this explanation.  Between the angry tone in "Hate" and cheerful sound of "This song is about cars but I don't even know how to drive", Insignificant Other has a range of music that is reminiscent of Beirut and Owl City's more recent music.


4. Jacuzzi Boys


This Miami based alternative/indie/garage punk band was formed in 2007, and since then has been on numerous tours and appeared on MTV for Music Monday.  Jacuzzi Boys comprises of Gabriel Alcala, Diego Monasteri, and Danny Gonzales.  Similar dreamy vocals are found in the notable band The Beets, which is a part of the same independent record label, Hardly Art.  From their LP "Glazin'", the Jacuzzi Boys' song of the same title has become a fan favorite, and for good reason.  This fast paced melodic tune is easy to jump around and dance to at one of their local shows.


5. Wolf-Face


Completely based off Rod Daniel's 1985 film Teen Wolf, Wolf-Face realizes every punk's dream by forming an all-American-all-werewolf four piece Tampa based band that is composed of Micheal J. Wolf, Rain-Wolf, Wolf-Fart, and The Good Wolf.  Their music can be described as garage punk, similar to that of well known fellow costume wearer Nobunny.  Wolf-Face's self-titled EP is available for free download and features six songs that tell the original teen wolf's true life story.


6. Zulu Wave


What can only be described as "Afro Jazz Punk", Zulu Wave's latest album, "JAGORILLA", incorporates experimental rock with African, indie, and progressive sounds.  Their song "Zebra" captures their overall style with its intricate nature and combination of different musical methods they use.  Their current members include Ariel Cortes, Michael Barrow, Brian Schanck, and Josh Perrotto, and they are based in Tampa and St Petersburg, Florida where they can be seen at local venues.


7. TEEPEE


TEEPEE is an experimental, lo fi rock band that comes from Miami, Florida.  The central member, Erix S. Laurent, wrote all of the songs on their latest album, "Distant Love or: Time Never Meant Anything, and Never Will".  On their Bandcamp page, David Lynch of The Black Keys describes this album as "a vivid, kaleidoscopic world...with personal memories".  Comparable artists include The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and Radiohead.  A journey into this album is like a walk around Laurent's juvenile yet mysterious mind.


8. A Day To Remember


Perhaps the most well known band on this list, A Day To Remember comes from Ocala, Florida, which is made apparent in their song City of Ocala on their 2013 album "Common Courtesy".  Considered to be a part of multiple genres, this band ranges from pop punk to metalcore to post-hardcore, all while keeping their ruggedly honest lyrics relatable to their listeners since 2003.  Fans of We Came As Romans would appreciate their genre mashing songs.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Writings from Ancient Scrolls Visible with X-rays

Archaic Greek writings are now accessible thanks to newly used X-ray technology.


Almost 2000 years after the epic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius at Pompeii, the scrolls preserved by the lava are still read today.  They act as windows into the past that enable us to grasp what that ancient culture was like, but it has not been easy to read these scrolls.  Many of these hardened writings break and crumble when scientists try to open them.  Even if they successfully open the scrolls, there is no guarantee that the letters were not altered during the process.  But all of that will change.  Researchers have recently developed a new method of reading these preserved scrolls that does not destroy them.  X-ray Phase Contrast Imaging, or XPCT, enables scientists to read the ink markings inside the scrolls by scanning them and projecting the images on a computer.  The original scientific article can be found here on Nature Communications' website.  Aside from protecting history by maintaining the original state of the scrolls, this new use of X-ray technology has global implications.  Our current understanding of ancient history is based on the writings we have unveiled so far, but, with these new scrolls, we may discover not only new stories, but also corrected stories that could completely alter our perspective.

A preserved Herculaneum scroll and its ink markings.

Scientists have tried scanning these preserved scrolls for many years by testing different techniques.  Originally, they used XCT, which is similar to a CAT scan that scans sections of objects using X-rays.  This method failed because it was unable to distinguish the similar chemical natures of the papyrus paper and ink.  However, this led to testing with XPCT.  This was much more effective because, unlike XCT, this method scans by detecting for refractions.  In other words, the ink markings on the scrolls are raised up and this distinction allows for the XPCT scan to take images of these markings.  This new successful method of scanning has produced images that let the researchers view the letters and begin to read the scrolls.  Unfortunately, they cannot read full sentences yet because, due to the rolled up nature of the scrolls, the images depict letters that are all stacked upon one another.  One of the scientists, Brent Seales, is creating a computer program that will allow his colleagues to read the scrolls layer by layer so that they can read full lines of writing.  Soon, this new use of X-rays will prove extremely useful in learning about human history.

"This attempt opens up new opportunities to read many [scrolls], which are still rolled up, this enhancing our knowledge of Ancient Greek literature and philosophy." - Mocella, Brun, Ferrero, & Delattre

Can you remember the historical texts you read when you were in school?  Homer's epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey?  Sophocles' Antigone?  What if one day you were to turn on the news and hear that these stories are incorrect or were translated poorly?  By using XPCT technology to read the unopened, preserved scrolls from antiquity, it is possible that these classic stories will be changed, and that new ones will be added to the collection.  Not only will these scrolls provide new texts, but also the original texts of stories we have already read.  Plus, cultures that were believed to have been lost due to disasters, like that of Pompeii, could be saved by reading documents that cannot be opened safely.  The future implications of this use of technology are limitless, and it will impact the science world as well as our lives because learning about our history as human beings is essential in truly knowing ourselves.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops Sneakers

One Size Fits...Most?

Rating : 7/10

Price : $59.99



Specifications

  • Composition - rubber sole, canvas
  • Color - black (other options available)
  • Shoelaces - lace up, white
  • Design - high top, Chuck Taylor All Star side logo


 Description


Considered to be an adaptable fashion item, Converse's High Tops are worn by all types of individuals.  From hipster to grunge, these shoes can complete almost any outfit for today's youth and young adult population.  Selling at almost 60 dollars, Converse's Chuck Taylor All Star shoes drive a hard bargain, but they do not fail to sell their famous sneakers.  These classic High Tops have a long lifespan, and can endure various environments, which make them the ideal sneakers to own.  Even though these shoes run on the expensive side, their durability and longevity make them a worthwhile purchase.

Converse's High Tops are strong and can withstand years of wear.  This along with their ability to be worn often form a solid reputation for them, and make them essential to any closet.  You can add them to almost any outfit, and for almost any event.  Unlike their more expensive high fashion counterparts, High Tops can be worn in rough environments, like all day concert festivals.  The shoes provide basic support in a casual style.  These High Tops can survive in water, mud, dirt, and just about anything.  Their durability significantly impacts their price; it explains why they cost so much.  Like any pair of shoes, these will deteriorate over time, but, because they are of high quality, they visibly appear to last a long time.  Not to mention, the traditional black color helps to hide normal wear and tear.  These pay for themselves over time since they last for years, and do not age poorly.

I have owned my own pair of Converse High Tops for a few years now, and they have not failed me yet.  Concerts, classes, church, you name it and I have probably worn these shoes there.  Not only are these comfortable, but they are a timeless style that matches almost any outfit.  I have also not had any problems with excessive wear and tear.  In fact, mine still look very good.  Although these are not the shoes in which you would hike or run a race, they more than get the job done for daily activities and special events.

Another common problem associated with these shoes is their size.  Many customers will choose their shoe size, and, upon delivery, discover that the projected sizes are not always precise.  It is unclear where this problems stems from, whether it be Converse, the stores, or the customers themselves, but it is evident that this issue prevents both efficient and effective use.  My recommendation for avoiding this problem is to purchase these shoes in person by going to your local shoe store and trying the sizes on in person to ensure accurate sizing, rather than buying them through an online store.

Apart from the elevated price and sizing issues, Converse's Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops are the ideal pair of shoes.  If you are looking for sneakers that are comfortable, durable, and appealing, these are right for you.  There are other shoes on the market, like the ankle shoe version of these High Tops, as well as other brands all together, but what makes Converse's High Tops special is their high quality material and unique style.  These shoes will not fall apart, and will match almost any outfit you wear.  From plaid and jeans to high-waisted shorts and flowy tops, High Tops complete an outfit while remaining comfortable and casual for the user.


Summary


Pros:

  • Versatility
  • Longevity
  • Durability


Cons:

  • Price
  • Size