Review of the Good Witch 2018 Series on the Hallmark Channel


Review of the Good Witch Series on the Hallmark Channel, spring 2018 season

Has anyone been watching the Good Witch series on the Hallmark channel?  If so, you may be aware that they just started their new spring season last weekend.  It airs on Sunday nights, and I have been watching the series since the first episode.  I enjoy the series as a relaxing break on Sunday nights before the work week begins.

However, the series is not for everyone.  If I’m being truly honest, it can be a bit slow.  I am more of a fan of mystery series but do love my cozy Hallmark movies!  However, unlike Hallmark movies that tend to have a conflict in the latter half of the movie (that always tends to get resolved to have the happy ending!), the plot conflicts that were present in the Good Witch movies are rarely present in the one hour episodes.  There are a few tense moments involving romantic relationships, but I am disappointed that the magic and mystery behind the plots of the movies are not in the series.

For the series to be named “Good Witch” , I thought that there would be more of a magical element to the stories. Instead, the “Good Witch” , Cassie, is a very kind, thoughtful human being who tends to think in the best interest of others.  She pulls the town together and tends to help solve problems, but she rarely uses “magic” to solve issues.  Her cousin, Abigail, started off as a more “evil witch” but again, that persona has petered out, and Abigail seems more mischevious than evil.

I enjoy the side characters, especially those of the teenagers (Cassie’s daughter and her romantic interest, Sam’s son) and the mixed friendship/competition between Abigail and Stephanie, the bakery owner.  I think these side stories are what makes me come back to the series.  That, and the premise of a happy-ending story in a small town atmosphere.

The first episode of the series did center around the search for a perfect engagement ring for Cassie but that was not the interesting part for me.  Instead, I liked the development of the side story of Stephanie dealing with a recent break up and the dissolution of the friendship between the two teenage characters.

I am hoping that the writers will add more of a magic element to the series so that it stands out among the many Hallmark movies and series that also have happy-endings in a small town.  Otherwise, the “Good Witch” may just end up as another “face in the crowd”, so to speak.

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Review of Iron Chef Gauntlet on the Food Network

Have you all every watched Iron Chef Gauntlet?  I started watching it last year during the first season, and I fell in love with the thrill of its competition. It is a bit different than the other popular Food Network show, Chopped, in that this is more of a battle between the best of the best.  Each of the chefs are highly qualified and excellent in their culinary skills, and they strive to attain one of the most prestigious titles in the cooking world (per popularity).   The premise is also different than Chopped.

The show consists of two parts; the first part is when the chefs compete in a Chairman’s Challenge that is judged by the host, Alton Brown.  The winner of this round then has the daunting task of picking one of the other chefs to compete in the second half of the show.  The second half is the “Secret Ingredient Showdown” where the loser of the Chairman’s Challenge and the nominated chef compete against each other by preparing three dishes , each featuring a secret ingredient. a

Since the show is a series where you see the same faces week by week, the chefs become familiar to you, and you start rooting for your favorite.  Mine was Chef Lefavre from the beginning, mainly because he genuinely seemed like a “nice guy”.  Most of the chefs shown on TV seem to be either stern, temperamental or just plain boring.  Chef Lefavre seems like the type of guy who you wouldn’t be surprised helping his neighbor out with a home project or being a fun dad to his kids.  He seemed down-to-earth.  Maybe that’s why I was surprised to find out that he actually was the last one standing at the end of the competition.  I always thought that the “nice guy” finished last on these type of shows, but I was glad that I was wrong.  Needless to say, all of the competitors were extremely hard working and skilled.  I had thought that Chef Gomez was going to reign supreme, but she was out-cooked at the end.

Based on the dishes he created on the show, he definitely proved his mettle and showed that he deserved to win.  He still has to get through the “gauntlet” part of the competition next week, when he has to battle three established Iron Chefs.  However, I have a feeling that he will be a shining star of “kindness” in addition to talent among his fellow colleagues deserving the title of “Iron Chef”.

Finale of Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship

Anyone out there truly love to bake?   There is something about getting my hands dirty in flour, eggs and sugar that makes me smile.  Baking offers me a time of peace and contentment that is hard for me to get especially when I am in the midst of whatever life throws at me—chauffering kids around from school or basketball practice, working at the office, making a frenzied dinner, and leaving the grocery store as I remember I forgot the milk.  There is something about watching butter and sugar come together into a fluffy mass of velvet that makes everything slow down around me.

Outside of the time that I actually bake, I try to spend some time in the evenings before bedtime either catching up on reading or scrolling through my DVR to catch up on my favorite shows.  One of my favorite shows this season was on the Food Network, and it was the Spring Baking Championship.

It has already run several seasons, and my tween son and I tend to watch it together.  We always end up rooting for the same person to win it all at the end, but what we really love are the intricate recipes and designs that each baker uses to produce their creations.  They all seem to truly enjoy what they do, and I use their passion as an example for my son to try and do what you love so that it doesn’t seem like work.

SPOILER ALERT:

For this season’s finale, my tween and I were rooting for Nacho to win it all, but, deep down in our hearts, we didn’t expect him to win.  He was definitely the underdog, but a lovable underdog at that!  He seemed so innocent and genuine, and his love for his wife was heartfelt.  To our surprise, he started off slow but , week after week, his baking ingenuity seemed to get better and better.  Needless to say, we were really happy when Nacho won it all!

Splitting Up Together—review of sitcom

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Ok , everyone….is it just me, or is this sitcom just plain weird? It is about a couple who have decided to get divorced but to still live on the same property , raising their three kids on alternate weeks.  I get the alternate weeks—that is realistic.  But, on the same property?  The one who’s responsible for the kid week stays in the main home (which is absolutely beautiful, by the way) and other one lives in their stand-alone garage apartment which looks like a mildew-infested, no central air dump.  Due to a mortgage issue (which was never completely explained–why not sell the home and rent two apartments?), Lena and Martin (the divorced couple) choose this type of living arrangement.

I have seen the main two actors in previous sitcoms (“The Office”!!!!), but I feel that Jenna Fischer should have chosen a better sitcom to exhibit her comedic talents.  It is hard to believe that a divorced couple can get along so well and that the children remain so unaffected by the situation.  The sitcom almost appears as if two roomies have adopted three kids.  The relationship between Jenna and Martin seems flirty and happily-married like rather than that between a recently divorced couple.  I get that their divorce was a mutual and amicable one, but why did Martin want to get back together with Lena so badly in the first few episodes?  I don’t know many freshly divorced men who want to get back together with their wife so soon , especially when it is not explained well (ahem, writers?).  Lena’s new boyfriend and Martin’s new girlfriend (Lisa Apple, who is a recurring side character on the show with minimal personality) seem to be only “written in” to cause conflict and interest in the storylines, but these attempts fall flat.

I’m not sure why the story line is so unrealistic, and why the sitcom seems to be more made for a two hour movie (like Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s “The Break Up”) rather than a long-running sitcom.  Maybe the writers didn’t think the series would get renewed? I don’t blame them since I was surprised that it was picked up for a second season, especially since the more well-thought-out and interesting sitcom, Alex, Inc, didn’t get a second chance!  Oh well–this sitcom is not for the viewers who want to come home after a hard day and watch a show that makes them laugh and relax.  It’s more of a show for us bloggers to criticize since there are so many errors!

 

 

Breakfast Goodies: Pain Au Chocolat

My tween had invited a few friends over for a sleepover, and I had wanted to give the group a special breakfast treat in addition to the usual pancakes and sausage breakfast that we typically have on Sunday mornings.  I needed something fast and easy but still enjoyable for tween boys.  I had a package of frozen puff pastry in the freezer that I decided to quickly flash-thaw in the microwave.  While the pastry was defrosting, I hunted around in the “baking” section of my pantry.  The baking section really consists of a few baskets of sprinkles, cake mixes, piping tips, yeast packets, icing sugar, and various flavors of chips such as white chocolate, peanut butter, semi sweet chocolate. I pulled out a bag of dark chocolate chips and icing sugar.  I decided to make pain au chocolat or , what my tween called it, chocolate puff pastry croissants!

I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees, rolled out the two sheets of puff pastry that came in the standard box from my grocery store.  I cut each sheet into eighths and then put a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips on each eighth from one sheet.  I then covered each eighth with an eighth from the other sheet of pastry. I then carefully placed each pastry onto a baking sheet covered with my over-used and loved silpat mat.  I had used a fork to crimp the edges of each “croissant” so that the chocolate wouldn’t ooze out all over the baking sheet while in the oven.

I decided to give the pain au chocolat a golden sheen with an egg wash. I cracked an egg into a small bowl and whisked it with about a tablespoon of water. Using a brush, I dabbed the egg wash onto each “crossiant” and then popped the baking tray into the oven, setting the timer for 20 minutes. My oven tends to run “hot” so I had to check on the pastry every few minutes after it had been 15 minutes.

When the pastries came out of the oven, I let them cool for about 20 minutes before sprinkling the pastries with the icing sugar.

As the tweens came down the stairs, rubbing their eyes sleepily and with bedhead replacing their usual hairstyles, my son mentioned the yummy smell of chocolate.

I had put the pastries on our kitchen table along with a platter of pancakes and sausages that I managed to scrounge up during the oven cooking time.

Needless to say, the pain au chocolat was a huge hit!  The only negative was that I should have made more of them, especially considering the appetites of growing boys!

I highly recommend this recipe, since it is a sure fire hit for anyone who loves bread and chocolate!  I made a cup of espresso to go with the pastries, and I feel that espresso or coffee would be the perfect accompaniment.  The boys had hot chocolate, and were on chocolate overload!  After gobbling down the food, they headed outside to work off their sugar high with a game of basketball.

Review of “Avengers Infinity War”

c812c-avengersSo, it’s Friday, April 27, 2018, and my teenager had been super excited to go to the opening day showing of Avengers Infinity War with his buddies.  Our whole family are avid Marvel fans, but I had to chauffeur my younger son to his Friday afternoon activities instead of watching the movie as well.  We both had decided to watch it later on in the weekend (if tickets were available) or the following weekend.  To our surprise, one of my younger son’s activities was cancelled and it left us with our Friday evening free.  Having our Friday evening free without tennis or football is rare for us, and I wanted to take advantage of it.  I immediately logged onto Fandango and found out that tickets to the Avengers wasn’t as hard to get as people were saying. I bought us two tickets and we made our way through Friday night traffic to our local theater.

This is one movie that I strongly advise you to use the bathroom and buy snacks before the movie begins.  I usually have to use the bathroom during a movie, especially one as long as this one (2 hours, 40 minutes running time), but I’m glad I went beforehand.

The movie definitely starts off with a bang, and we stayed riveted in our seats the entire time.  This is one of the best Marvel movies, and I definitely recommend that you watch the prior Marvel movies before seeing this one so that you will understand all of the intricacies in the plot.

I loved the fact that it effortlessly blended the casts of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy without a hitch.  This movie is typical of other Marvel movies in that it had humor to lighten up the dark side of the storyline.  I think the humor definitely makes the Marvel movies have an edge over the DC movies, for sure.

The villain, Thanos, was a very well developed character, and the acting by Josh Brolin was superb; you could see his emotional struggles as he validated his goal of genocide and universal dominance.  The family conflict between father-daughter was melanoncholy, and, if you go with younger children, be sure to be aware that you may have to have family discussions regarding certain scenes.

The plot was thrilling, to say the least! The action packed battles were numerous and enjoyable, and the one-liners were hilarious.  I loved all of the familiar characters, but I really enjoyed watching the banter between Robert Downey, Jr (Iron Man) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange).  I am a huge fan of Benedict from Sherlock and hope to see him in future movies. The chemistry between Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Christ Pratt (Quill) was entertaining and definitely laugh out loud funny.  Each of the characters was given plenty of screen time, and no matter who you are a fan of, you will not be disappointed.

The end is definitely dark but not surprising considering all of the spoilers out there on the web.  However, be sure to wait for the scene after the credits.  It offers hope in the face of despair, and it makes you look forward to the next Marvel movies.  Fortunately, the next Avengers is only a year away, so I am most truly looking forward to it!

What I thought of the finale of the Middle

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Anyone out there a fan of the television show, The Middle? It is a long-run sitcom that aired on ABC but syndications are now running on the Hallmark channel.  I really enjoy Patricia Heaton’s character on the show, named Frankie.  She is truly down-to-earth and “real” as a mom and wife.  I think I like her Frankie character much better than her older character on “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Her chemistry with her husband, Mike, a stoic yet lovable character is right on point, and her interactions with her three very different kids are comedic and true to form for a mom of teenagers.  Frankie and Mike have three kids, and the series have been about how the five of them have adventures and comedic episodes on life’s journey. If you have not seen this show, I highly recommend it, and you will not be bored. It is not something to have to “binge watch” to catch up on.  The only premise is that Brick is a child of heightened intelligence and quirks, but the viewer can easily figure it out even if if he/she hasn’t watched any previous shows.

SPOILER ALERT

The finale handled the one loose end of the show very well with Sean (the Heck family’s neighbor’s son) and Sue ,Frankie’s college daughter, ending up getting together (finally!).  I thought it was cute that the last few minutes of the show featured what the family was like several years into the future.  It was sad that Axl, the oldest son (now a college graduate and businessman), decided to leave the hometown of Orson, Indiana and move all the way to Denver.  Much of the episode was devoted to Frankie handling the typical mom emotions of her oldest child finally leaving the nest.  What was a bit disappointing is that the show’s focus on the mom’s emotions were similar to a prior episode of Frankie coping with Axl’s high school graduation in a similar manner (albeit this episode, her emotional outbursts were, thankfully, more refined and less like those of a lunatic).  Even though the latter part of the finale showed the family driving Axl to Denver, the last few minutes of the show brought everything together.  Axl was now married to Lexie who was shown pregnant, Sue and Sean got married, and Frankie and Mike were still a happily (although realistic) married couple.

This show is a very “happy”, time-pass show of life with teenagers without focusing on “heavy” topics like divorce, drugs, teen pregnancy, etc.  It is a true family show and will make most mothers laugh at Frankie’s situations.  Highly recommend!