Category: Entertainment

Why Agent Carter Was the Best

Agent CarterAs the saying goes, all good things must end.  While I had hoped that “Agent Carter” would get six seasons and a movie, I am happy that we got two seasons (and parts ranging from major character to cameo to photograph in five movies). Still, I will sorely miss Peggy Carter, played so well by Hayley Atwell. Here’s why:

  1. The woman could hold her ownand everyone else’s. She was a strong, uncompromising female character who I have been proud to share with my young daughter. She doesn’t get rescued by Prince Charming; she gets things DONE.
  2. She had zero fucks to give. When a male counterpart asks why she lets someone take the credit for her achievement, she tells him she doesn’t need the credit, and delivers that defining line: “I know my value.” #LIFEGOALS.
  3. Femininity without fetishism. Her feminine wiles were but one tool in her toolbelt, and were used sparinglyusually on only the least formidable opponents. She did not, however, abhor femininity; in fact, her outfits, hair and makeup were the perfect mix of beauty and function. Not to mention a possible camouflagewhat better way to get away with more in a man’s world than by flying under the radar and playing by the rules, at least on the surface?
  4. That 40s style. I know it’s cliche, but what a fun time to revisit in fashion and style. TV has largely abandoned the era for hipper turns of nostalgia, such as the 80s mania that never seems to go away. It’s refreshing to see something set in this time period, which also shows the all-too-real struggles that women faced when they decided they liked working but the men came home from war and were given their jobs.
  5. This is a show that didn’t take itself too seriously. As such, it was able to blend into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and to do so seamlessly, since it didn’t have to keep up with the ever-evolving story.
  6. Not for nothing, but this was a charming cast. The baddies got a bit cartoony at times, but in that “Dick Tracy”-kinda way that made sense for a show set in the 40s. In addition to Hayley Atwell’s stellar performance, James D’Arcy as Jarvis was often comic relief, at times a calming influence, and when it came down to it, a serious moral center for the show. Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark was comic relief’s comic relief, coming into the picture not often enough to be overbearing but just enough to leave you wanting more. Another highlight was Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa, a real character to root for. Maybe some day I’ll write that fan fiction I’ve been meaning to get to wherein Howard Stark designs a bionic leg for him.
  7. That red hat! (A replica of which may or may not be living in my closet for use every Halloween or so.) DON’T JUDGE ME.

We were lucky to have the show as long as we did, due to sinking viewership from season 1 to season 2, though I don’t think it ever got the promotion it deserved. (I know, tiny violins …) A girl can dream, though I’m not expecting “Agent Carter” to get rescued by Netflix like some have suggested. I hope, however, that this show and this character are the beginning of stronger female-driven positive storylines on television. Thanks, Agent Carter. We know your value too.

UPDATE: Don’t tease us, Hayley!

Staying on Your Diet at Disneyland

Summer can provide a number of pitfalls disney dietfor the committed dieter, not the least of which is that classic Southern California destination, Disneyland. As someone who’s had an annual pass for years, here are my Top 10 tips and tricks I’ve picked up while exploring the land of that famous mouse.

  1. Relax just a bit—you’re chalking up activity points! You may not realize it, but you will by the end of the day. Commenters on a popular Disney blog seem to center on 10 miles a day walked at Disneyland, give or take. Other estimates range as high as 12-14 miles a day; it depends on your pace. I think this applies whether you’re visiting one or both parks (Disneyland, or its slightly more grown-up sibling, Disney’s California Adventure, heretofore referred to as DCA. More on that later.) Take a pedometer with you if you’re curious.
  2. Drink lots of water. The heat and the walking will definitely dehydrate you, and this will help you hit your daily water intake target. In addition, Vitamin Water Zero and even my dear, sweet love Coke Zero are available all over the park.
  3. One of my favorite zero-point snacks: the GIANT PICKLE. It’s all vegetable and brine;  perhaps not the best option if you’re watching your sodium, but it’s yummy, cool and takes a while to get through.
  4. We all benefit from the trend of healthier food options for kids. Stands selling fresh apples, bananas, pineapple wedges, sliced mangos and more are all over the park. They even have trail mix, which for some reason is inexplicably labeled “Student Food.”
  5. Generally, an adult-sized meal at Disneyland is very big. I recommend splitting that burrito with a side of rice with one of your park buddies. Also, consider getting the kids meal. They are cheaper, smaller, and usually have a healthy side option.
  6. If you feel the need for some extra exercise, DCA features the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Great for kids and adults, it’s a maze of trails, slides and rope bridges on which you can explore and burn a few extra calories.
  7. Though Disneyland is alcohol-free (unless you can get into Club 33, which is no easy task), DCA offers a few choice adult beverages. Beer is available at a few locations, as well as blended margaritas. But if your want the best bang for your your alcohol and calorie buck, check out the wine options at the Golden Vine Winery. They actually have very good wines and knowledgeable staff who will let you taste before you buy and help you pick things you like. Just remember not to overdo it—keep drinking that water too!
  8. The Fortune Cookery at DCA serves edamame! Great price for a healthy, yummy snack. This little gem also has rice bowls with your choice of sauce and chicken, beef or tofu—a great vegetarian option and spot to work in a few vegetables.
  9. Continuing the “more healthy options” trend, many spots offer salads, and multiple kinds at that. For example, Tomorrow Land Terrace (AKA the Pizza Port) near Space Mountain has a number of different salads and other vegetarian options as well.
  10.  I haven’t tried them, but I wonder if the chocolate-covered bananas available all over the parks are at least a slightly better option than, say, the ice cream sandwich.

There you have it—tips for eating well at Disneyland, from a closet Disney dork. Another note—if you are going to splurge on something, I highly recommend the jalepeño cheese-filled soft pretzels. Just sayin’.

One word to the wise: Disneyland doesn’t seem to give out their nutritional information very easily. There are no calorie counts posted in the park, and I neglected to ask someone for this information while I was there. I’ve sent an email, and haven’t heard back yet. I’ll report back if I do get more information! Feel free to leave any additional Disneyland food tips in the comments section.

Originally published on the now-defunct 3 Shrinking Ladies blog.

Reading: You’re Doing it Wrong

Back in my book club days, I became notorious for my need for a likable character. I know that not every book should have one, or need one, but time is precious, and I don’t spend my time with real unlikable people. Why would I want to spend my inner, literary time and energy on fictitious unlikable people? I guess that means I’m not really an intellectual. at this point, my time and will and energy to read has all but come to a standstill, so it’s really a moot point. (It’s also pertinent to point out that I read a lot more ABOUT books than I do actual books these days.)

But reading this piece in Slate got me all riled up about it again.

” … If you want self-help that’s going to make you feel good, or you want the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, fantastic, that’s a great thing to read, I have no complaints about that. But it’s not compatible with serious endeavor.”

-Claire Messud, author of the recent novel “The Woman Upstairs”

Now, I used to try SO hard at “serious endeavor” as she calls it. Our book club read “The Satanic Verses,” for Christ’s sake. We read Dostoyevsky! We read lots of other serious stuff, and not ONE Candace Bushnell book! And I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed the discussion. We started the club because we missed the extra something we had gotten out of books while in school, that came from the academic discussion of books. But there’s always someone out there telling you you’re doing it wrong.

Messud tries to paint it as a feminist issue; like “No one says that male protagonists have to be likable.” I call bulls**t. I don’t want to hang around with a fictitious male idiot, jerk or ne’er-do-well for 300 pages any more than I do a female one.

So I guess the question is, WHY SHOULD I READ YOUR BOOK? Why do we read? For most of us, (i.e., the people you want to buy your book), we aren’t reading for an assignment. We aren’t reading as research for a role or because we want to see what’s happening in literature for when we write OUR next serious novel, and we aren’t literary critics. We’re reading because we want an escape; we want to learn; we want to be entertained; we need a break from our own lives. We read because we want to relax. If you don’t care why we read, and want to write what you want to write the way you want to write it, that’s all well and good, just don’t yell at the interviewer who is helping you get publicity to sell your book.

And for the record, I can think of a few female protagonists who perhaps wouldn’t be great slumber party guests but who were not loathsome companions for the 3-600 pages we spent with them. (Katniss Everdeen. Lisbeth Salander. Even Hermione Granger. OK, give me a break, I said I haven’t gotten much reading done lately.)


Hollywood Bowl Time! (AKA the fancy picnic)

In Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl season is Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 9.36.07 PMupon us–when hoards of Angelenos dust off their wine backpacks and head out for nights of music under the stars, to hear everything from classical music to jazz to rock to “The Sound of Music” sing-alongs. And aside from a beautiful natural setting right in the middle of Hollywood, enjoying the lovely LA evening weather and hearing some of the best performers in the world, the BEST thing about the Bowl is that you can bring in whatever food you want. You can even bring in your own alcohol for most events.

This means the Hollywood Bowl is a GREAT way to enjoy really good food, but also control your calories. You aren’t limited to a stadium-style hot dog and garlic fries like at most concerts (though they have that stuff too if you’re in the mood for a splurge.) Here’s my FAVORITE Hollywood Bowl picnic recipe. Either pair this with some light chips and the beverage of your choice, or let someone else handle the side dish, because you’re bringing some awesome sandwiches!

Muffaletta Sandwiches

(Cooking Light, March 2003)

Sarah’s Note: This is perfect picnic food, whether you’re headed to the Bowl, the beach, the lake, or any non-grill-adjacent picnic spot. These sandwiches need to be made ahead, wrapped up, and “aged” a bit to get the full effect– it helps meld the flavors together.

They are about 7 Points Plus each– but you can do variations to make them even lower; leave off the cheese or use a low-fat version; make some without the roast beef; make vegetarian-friendly versions. The olive salad topping is so tasty you’ll barely miss what you leave off!

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

12 (1 1/2-ounce) French bread rolls
6 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
6 cups gourmet salad greens
12 (1-ounce) slices deli roast beef
12 (1-ounce) slices roasted breast of chicken

To prepare olive salad, combine first eight ingredients in food processor. Process 30 seconds or until finely chopped; chill.
To prepare muffuletta, cut rolls in half horizontally. Cut each cheese slice in half crosswise. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive mixture onto top half of each roll. Layer 1/2 cup greens, 1/2 cheese slice, 1 roast beef slice, and 1 chicken slice on each roll bottom; cover with top of roll.
Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap; chill up to 8 hours. Yield: 12 servings. (and I always have enough to make more than 12, so you might want to buy a bit of extra meat and bread!)

Now I’m hungry…

Originally published on the now-defunct 3 Shrinking Ladies blog.

California Travelin’

Five places in California I want to visit

1.  Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. Lovely AND local!

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

2.  Avenue of the Giants, in Redway, Calif.  Because how awesome would it be to drive through a tree?

3.  Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada. Tried once and failed due to weather conditions (still snowy in June!)

4.  Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Sounds like a Haunted edition of “Holmes on Homes.” Like HGTV but Spooky!

5.  The Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. Someday if I ever become a hiker, this is on my list. Another local treasure!



Five places in California I’m really glad I’ve visited

"Goodbye, God, I'm goin' to Bodie."  (photo courtesy Lito and Jennifer Velasco)

“Goodbye, God, I’m goin’ to Bodie.” (photo courtesy Lito and Jennifer Velasco)

1.  Bodie State Historical Park in Bridgeport (near Mammoth Lakes): A real ghost town, not a cheesy tourist attraction, held in a state of arrested decay. Very seldom do Americans get to feel so … desolate. What started as a back-up when Yosemite was closed turned into a very memorable excursion!

2.  Drive up Highway 1: This and Route 66 may just be the nation’s most iconic road trips; and I’d venture to say this is the more majestic of the two. Ocean views and bridges most of the way make this a bucket list-worthy trip.

3.  San Diego Zoo Safari Park: If you are used to regular zoos, this place is a whole new world. More space, a more natural setting, and an awesome safari area where the animals that won’t eat each other are all mixed in together.

4.  Mammoth Lakes: this was another destination that started as a “consolation prize” when Yosemite was closed; but it was truly beautiful country. Lakes, mountains, waterfalls, trees and a change of scenery. It was literally a breath of fresh air.

5.  Santa Barbara: We’ve gone here time and time again, with out-of-towners and on our own. The beach, mountains, shopping, a cute little zoo, Stearns Wharf, the Mission, our favorite mexican restaurant and Julia Childs’ favorite taqueria … the destination that keeps on giving.