Weekend Favorites List

Happy weekend. I was inspired by bloggers’ Friday Favorite posts and put together my own list. They range from some of my all-time favorites to the more recent. As usual, it’s random. I hope you enjoy.

Favorite Halloween/Scary Movie: The Shining
I grew up seeking scary everything. In reality, I’m a huge scaredy-cat. I get so frightened by scary movies and television shows that I can hardly watch them and have nightmares, yet I watch them anyway. Last October a study came out that found viewers burned up to 180 calories while watching scary movies and I can believe it. Scary books also gave me a thrill. I couldn’t get enough of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, Lois Duncan’s thrillers, and even read Stephen King and Michael Crichton’s novels at a young age.

Just last night, I was shocked to learn my husband has never read a Goosebump book. Can we take his 90’s kid card away?

Also, what’s with the recent wave of torture flicks? I prefer the old school flicks I grew up on like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Poltergeist, and Silence and the Lambs, but my favorite one of all is still The Shining.

Favorite Movie I Didn’t Think I Liked But Still Can’t Get Out Of My Head: Melancholia
When we were in Fargo, we saw Melancholia at the Fargo Theater, the only theater that showed independent films. My first impressions were that the move seemed too long, too slow in parts, and that its ending hit me like a train wreck. I really didn’t think I liked it, but found that I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Melancholia is beautiful and devastating. It’s an interesting juxtaposition and even a prelude to the other post-apocalyptic films and television series that are so popular right now. Many post-apocolyptic/disaster films portray the whole world in chaos. This film is unique because it only focuses on a a single family’s experience, isolated from the rest of the world’s reaction to uncertain and impending destruction.

Favorite Travel Memoir: Chasing Dreamtime, by Neva Sullaway
This is the only book I’ve ever read immediately after I finished it. Sullaway shares her story about hitchhiking on ships across the South Pacific and pedaling across northeastern Austalia on a bike as a young adult. Dreamtime is an aspect of Aboriginal spirituality that Sullaway experiences along her journey.

Favorite Time Waster: Reddit
I heard a lot about Reddit, but didn’t actually get into it until recently. So far, I’m just a lurker who explores the boards that discuss every possible subject. I usually filter the responses by “top” and choose an increment of time that range from this hour to all time. I am giddy with excitement about all of the random things that I learn.

These are a few Subreddits I check each day:
/r//r/Aww: Where I get my fix of cute animal pictures.
/r/Pics: Interesting photos of all types.
/r/IAmA: Question and answer sessions. This week I followed interviews with Keanu ReevesR.L. Stine, and Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of Blackwater, a new documentary about the killer whale Tilikum and the inhumane conditions into which companies like Seaworld force the whales. Should it be any surprise that the animals act out in frustration?
/r/AskReddit: Someone asks a question and the community chimes in with answers. I’ve read a lot of interesting AskReddits, but my all time favorite asks Parents of Reddit, what is the creepiest thing your young child has ever said to you?
/r/ExplainLikeImFive: Understandable answers to questions people have always wondered minus the jargon that nobody understands. The title says it all.
/r/AskHistorians: Historians answer questions.
/r/DepthHub: Best of Reddit discussions in one location.

There are so many more. Jordan Bates lists and describes some of Reddit’s best Subreddits on his blog Refine the Mind.

Television Shows: Top Chef: New Orleans
Is anyone else following this season? I still haven’t gotten Top Chef fatigue. I just love it, even if the challenges are ridiculous at times. I’d rather see the chefs cook, than chip ingredients from giant ice blocks, but that might just be me.

I spent the summer of 2006 in New Orleans interning with a church that led high school groups from around the country in gutting houses. It was an unforgettable experience that I might share more about someday.

My favorite contestant so far is Carrie Mashaney who hails from Carpenter, IA. The most recent episode solidified that my least favorite chef is Travis Masar whose fixation on all things Asian grows creepier with each episode. I read a lot of recaps, but Hugh Acheson’s blog is really the best. It’s concise and snarky.

Guilty Pleasure Food: Grocery store raised donuts with white frosting with multicolored sprinkles (boutique donut shops haven’t exactly reached Mason City, Iowa yet). If these are not available, maple glaze will do.

Music: Boyce Avenue’s Acoustic Cover of Miley Cyrus’s We Can’t Stop. 
Oh Miley. You either love her or you hate her. Whether or not you like her music, this cover is pretty nifty. Who knew “We Can’t Stop” could be. . . beautiful?

Favorite Recent Local Dining Experiences: 1910 Grille & Pastime Gardens

Chicken Marsala

The 1910 Grille is the main restaurant in the Historic Park Inn Hotel, the only Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in operation. We received a generous gift certificate to this restaurant as a housewarming gift. The menu is concise and offers straightforward dishes. The prices are high for the area, but not out of line for being one of only a few fine dining restaurants in the city. We polished off our entrees of chicken marsala with caramelized mushrooms and sweet and savory squash puree, and angel hair pasta tossed with an actually spicy tomato sauce and snappy grilled shrimp.

My favorite part of the meal was the crispy, cornmeal coated fried calamari that we ordered as an appetizer. The seafood was tender and tasted fresh. I crave calamari, but have learned the hard way that I have to share, lest I feel ill from too much fried food. It was neatly plated, separated by rings and tentacles.

On the flip side you have Pastime Gardens, which is a trip. No, seriously, it’s trippy. While the 1910 Grille is polished, dining at Pastime Gardens feels like you’ve fallen into an alternative universe. Allow me set the scene:

Random fish hanging on brightly colored walls, one of which is a large marlin. There are large Buddy Holly glasses and shiny purple bobble spirals hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is like a tiny tiki shack, except that it’s in North Iowa.

The service is as laid back as the atmosphere so don’t come here if you’re in a hurry or on a business lunch timetable. If your server asks if you want to start out with chips and cheese, say yes. The small portion of warm, orange cheese sauce and fried flour tortilla wedges sprinkled with chili powder was more than adequate for two. The accompanying salsa tasted so fresh and has a kick.

The rest of the menu includes Mexican-style favorites like tacos, burritos and enchiladas. I chose a ground beef chimichanga that came with refried beans and rice. It was especially good when doused with the salsa.

My half of the bill only cost about $10. I can’t wait to bring my husband so he can also have the Pastime Garden experience. A downside is that the hours are rather limited and don’t include many dinner services. You’ll have to catch them if you can.

P.S. There also appears to be a full bar.


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    Your restaurant reviews are spot on in my humble opinion!!!! We always get the calamari at 1910 Grille and share it—although either one of us could gobble up the entire plate. I am a huge fan of their risotto and we have never had a bad dish there. Pastime Gardens–you nailed it. You definitely need to take the hubby there so he can experience it for himself. 🙂

  2. Val

    I have yet to go to the 1910 Grille! Maybe after harvest my husband and I will have to experience it. Also, my youngest sister was a huge Goosebumps reader – definitely a sign of a 90’s kid!

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