Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pottermore: A Few Links to Help You Enjoy the Experience

Diagon Alley on Pottermore

     If you loved the Harry Potter books as much as I did, you are likely to enjoy Pottermore nearly as much!  It's been a long time since I closed the covers on the last book, but the magic of them has stayed with me.  

     Back when I was in the thick of them, my best friend and I tried joining a text-based Potter site.  Although it included the fun of a sorting hat and such, it really didn't do much to help you feel as if you were in Harry's world, so we abandoned it with regret.  I was thrilled, therefore, to hear from J that a new site, backed by J.K. Rowling herself, was in the offing.  If you haven't been, and you have even the slightest interest in Harry Potter (or kids who do), you really should check it out: go to www.pottermore.com to join in the fun!
     In addition to making you feel as if you're in Harry's world, Pottermore also gives you the chance to better understand Rowling's writing process. When you find and click on items in the scenes from the book, they "unlock" notes from her on how she developed the characters and the wizarding world.  It's fascinating and often rather funny.  You can also find galleons, potion ingredients, books (which give you spells and potions), chocolate frog cards, and tons of items.  There's something around every corner!

     The site matches the pace of the books, so you won't get sorted and be able to use all of the fun parts of Pottermore until about chapter 4, so keep going!  Once you have your wand and are sorted, you can make potions, practice spells, participate in wizard dueling, and more! These things are really challenging, so I thought I'd share some of the resources I've found here to help.  I've found that successfully brewing a potion gives a serious sense of accomplishment and is, much to my chagrin, a bit addicting!

If you're having trouble with your potions, check out these resources:
Potions 101 at Blog of a Pottermore Beta was really helpful to me in explaining the process and giving great tips for helping you make the quickest, most point-worthy potions
Pottermore Potions Study Guide by HexThestral57 is incredibly comprehensive, with lists of what happens in every potion, including images of the ingredients.

If you're having trouble with spell-casting and/or dueling, check out these resources:
One of the things I didn't realize when casting spells is that you have to follow the process described for every letter shown. Find out more at the links below:
Dueling 101  at Blog of a Pottermore Beta was really helpful to me in explaining the process of spell casting and how to improve.  It also helped me learn which spells have higher point values.
Another description of spell-casting is at Pottermore Now!

If you check out Pottermore, look me up!  I'm MoonMoonstone6085.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Top 10 Comfort Foods

     In March, Cooking Light had an article that featured the comfort foods of some of the world's most respected chefs, such as Jacques P├ępin. They then crafted recipes for these comfort foods, lightening them just enough to make them healthier without sacrificing flavor.  I love Cooking Light's take on food, but I have to say that this article--and the accompanying discussion about your top 10 comfort foods--made me think more than most.

     I just couldn't help wondering about comfort foods.  Obviously, we all have them, but from the foods named by these chefs--soup, gnocchi, kimchi, Lebanese stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes--it's clear that what's soothing to one might not be to another. For instance, I find meatloaf anything but comforting: when I eat meat, I like to know exactly what I'm eating, and the thought of mixing it with eggs makes me feel, shall we say, less than comfortable. 

     There's research on comfort foods: scientists say that men and women prefer to eat different things when it comes to comfort: men like meal-oriented foods like steak and potatoes or soup, while women prefer snack foods that are carbohydrates or sweets, like potato chips or chocolate. Choices based on experience and memory seem obvious; the foods you ate as a child, or those that gave you comfort during hard times or illness, can bring back memories and make them extra-special to you.  But I think there's a lot more to this, and it's pretty fascinating. Does our choice of comfort foods say something about us?  

Inspired by Cooking Light's "top 10" lists, here's mine (in no particular order):
Mmmm . . . mac n' cheese
  1. Kasha Varniskes
  2. Macaroni and Cheese, preferably cooked in an oven until the edges are crispy.
  3. My mom's Thanksgiving dinner
  4. Borsht (I use the recipe from Frugal Gourmet) and challah with butter
  5. Tuna melt, made in the toaster oven, open-faced, on whole-wheat bread with my mom's tuna salad
  6. Sourdough bread, fresh from the oven, with butter (like they serve here)
  7. Refried beans with garlic powder and Lawry's seasoning salt, warm, with melted cheese
  8. My mom's berry or plum cobbler, warm with ice cream
  9. Red beans and rice (I love the kind at Popeye's)
  10. Homemade oatmeal, with brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts, and cranberries
Red beans and rice: yum!

Now it's your turn!  
What are your favorite comfort foods?

Looking for inspiration and healthy versions of comfort foods? Try these links: