Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Best Pumpkin Products at Trader Joe's

Thanksgiving is almost here, time to amp up your pumpkin intake. Trader Joe's is known for all of the delicious pumpkin products they carry during autumn. And these products use real pumpkin, you don't have to worry about controversial flavorings/ingredients like in the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte which has recently been making the rounds. Which are the best to stock up on from Trader Joe's?

1. Frozen Pumpkin Pie - Pumpkin Pie is a fall & Thanksgiving staple, even going through early winter as a Christmas dessert as well. Trader Joe's has the absolute best pumpkin pie you'll be able to find, and it isn't all that expensive. They also make an equally tasty fresh pie, but if you aren't sure when you'll be using it, know that the frozen version doesn't sacrifice any flavor. Add your own whipped topping and maybe you can even pass it off as your own on Thanksgiving.

2. Pumpkin Butter - It's not actually butter, it just makes for a good name. This contraption is a nice spread that you can put on anything to make it taste like pumpkin. I like to put it on morning toast, and all of a sudden you have pumpkin for breakfast. It also tastes like heaven when you mix it into some plain or vanilla yogurt. They sell pumpkin yogurt too, but with the pumpkin butter you can get loads of pumpkin yogurt just by mixing some in.

3. Pumpkin Bread Mix - This box of pumpkin bread mix is just $2.99 and is absolutely the best packaged mix you can find. Its simple to make and has a strong enough taste so it doesn't feel cheap or like you need to add your own pumpkin to it. Its all right there, and packs a ton of flavor. Many people will buy multiple boxes in January/February (they tend to sell this popular item longer) to stock up for spring and summer.

4. Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries - Basically these are pop-tarts without all the crazy ingredients. Probably the easiest way to get a morning pumpkin fix. Put them in the toaster on the lowest setting, and soon you have a warm and gooey pumpkin treat with some added nutrition as well.

5. Pumpkin Ice Cream - This one is marketed under the "Pilgrim Joe's" label. Get it? It tastes just like pumpkin pie in ice cream form, and is absolutely delicious and creamy. One gripe is that they use caramel color in it, which is a questionable coloring.

6. Pumpkin Joe Joe's - Oh thank you for inventing these. I believe they are new. Anyone whose had Joe Joe's will agree they are better than Oreos, as the filling uses real Vanilla Bean. Well now you can get them with a pumpkin cream filling as well as pumpkin cookie around it. Try not to eat the entire box in one day.

7. Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins - Starbucks has a similar product, but the Trader Joe's version is tastier. Plus, you get four in a package for what about two cost at Starbucks. Its a nice pumpkin muffin with some pumpkin cream cheese in the middle of it all. They also sell a pumpkin cream cheese, but I haven't tried that one yet.

8. Pumpkin Joe O's - Joe O's are incredibly awesome. They're basically cheerios, but I find them better as the O's are a bit bigger. Well they also sell Pumpkin O's, which is a great way to add some pumpkin to breakfast. And as a bonus, you can drink up the milk with the flavor after.

Monday, November 3, 2014

'The Walking Dead' and 'Homeland' Hit Their Stride

Sunday delivered two of the most satisfying episodes of two of the most talked about shows on TV. Both The Walking Dead and Homeland have really hit their stride. Some complained that while enjoyable, both shows had uneven seasons last year during the 2013-2014 season. They've come back refreshed and with a bang.

First The Walking Dead, which finally answered the question of "Where's Beth"? Beth (Emily Kinney) got the spotlight, stuck in a hospital after being found fighting off a walker on the road. Multiple new characters were introduced in the episode (titled "Slabtown"), further proving that The Walking Dead has a knack for making you invested in new characters in a one hour span. 

Beth herself has instantly become one of the most interesting characters on the show, along with Carol (Melisa McBride). Both characters have been developed from flawed and vulnerable to strong survivors. Carol went from being an abused wife, to now rescuing Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the survivors by blowing up Terminus. Beth went from contemplating suicide a few seasons ago, to helping newbie Noah (Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris) escape the hospital. She got caught, but with a smile on her face. Just as she was about to launch an attack against other newbie Dawn, Carol is wheeled in and she stops, realizing a new plan can form. It'll be great to watch these two together, The Walking Dead's version of Thelma and Louise (minus the driving off a cliff part).

Homeland has also returned to form. Carrie (Claire Danes) is back in a vulnerable state following two big revelations at the end of the episode. The biggest addition of the season was Ayan (Suraj Sharma). They built him up all season as a sympathetic character caught in the middle of a battle, and we thought he would be a major factor possibly beyond this season. Then his situation deteriorated quickly, and he was shot dead by his terrorist Uncle Haqquani. Haqquani showed he only cares about using his family and is not afraid to sacrifice them, becoming the fiercest bad guy Homeland has seen. Oh, he also has Saul (Mandy Patinkin) in his grasp, keeping him alive knowing the CIA won't use a drone attack on him.

Brody (Damian Lewis) may be gone, but that was necessary to keep the series moving. It would have been too implausible for him to continue to survive. This season has returned to feeling like Season One, with lots of mystery and not knowing which way it will turn. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Avengers: Age Of Ultron First Trailer

The first trailer for Marvel's highly anticipated upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Age Of Ultron has been released. It doesn't give too much away, but offers the first glimpses of Ultron (James Spader), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). All of the returning heroes from the first Avengers are back as well.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron is out May 1, 2015.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hear the Foo Fighters New Single: "Something From Nothing"

The Foo Fighters have released the first single from their upcoming album Sonic Highways (titled "Something from Nothing"), which is out November 10. And before that, the HBO series with the same name begins airing Friday October 17th in the lead up to the release of the album, showcasing the music of different American cities, which is where the influence from each song on the album came from.

"Something From Nothing" is the first single, and it represents Chicago. The nearly 5 minute track builds up from a slow burn into a loud release, with Dave Grohl eventually screaming fuck it all, I came from nothing. It should easily please every fan of the band, with a gripping sound from the start, and it even gets a little bit funky.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Landon Donovan Retires

Landon Donovan has retired from the United States Men's National Soccer Team at just 32, still in his prime. He became the most recognizable male soccer player to ever come from the USA, doing for them what Mia Hamm did for the Women's Team, providing a spark in being able to both score goals and set others up with assists, a quality that isn't found often. His late goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup to save the US will always be remembered as one of the best goals of all time.

He didn't have the best relationship with current coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who left him off the 2014 World Cup roster. However, considering he's taken breaks from soccer before, it was clear he has other interests outside of the game. People saying he retired just because of Klinsmann are off base. He'll also be retiring from the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer (MLS).

As for the future of the Men's National Team, the excitement continues to build off of 2014. It's now at a place where just getting out of the Group Stage will no longer be considered a success. Looking at the team since the 1994 World Cup they've done quite well:

1994: Lost in Round of 16.
1998: Last place, Lost in Group Stage.
2002: Lost in Quarterfinals (with an awful non-called handball against Germany).
2006: Lost in Group Stage.
2010: Finished top of the group, lost in Round of 16.
2014: Lost in Round of 16.

They've gotten out of the Group Stage enough to where the stakes are now raised. Its time to finally equal or better that 8th place finish at the 2002 World Cup.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Walking Dead & U2

AMC released two new trailers for The Walking Dead with "The Troubles" by U2 featuring Lykke Li off their new album Songs of Innocence as the soundtrack to both.

It helps build up the tension nicely, with the haunting song a perfect fit for the vibe of togetherness we get from our survivors as they face their toughest task yet. The trailers don't offer up too much in the way of plot, but some great footage is spliced together giving it a theatrical feel for a show that thrives on details. The Walking Dead season 5 premieres Sunday October 12 while the deluxe non-free version of Songs of Innocence hits stores October 14. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ultimate First World Problem: Complaining About a Free U2 Album From iTunes

When news broke that the new U2 album Songs of Innocence would be released free on iTunes automatically in every users library, many people were happy. And many people were not happy, from regular users on twitter to Sharon Osbourne, that it downloaded into their library.

But the uproar about an "invasion of privacy" (even though there is a thing called a user agreement that you accept when you get an iPhone/iTunes...) and complaining about an album taking up space on your phone is ridiculous.

I mean picture this: a person (probably a hipster) is sitting in a nice air conditioned Starbucks with their complicated coffee order in hand. They turn on their 500 dollar iPhone and all of a sudden the new U2 album is in their music library for free. They immediately go onto social media and start complaining about it furiously. I about a first world problem. If the worst moment of your week was a free album by a talented rock band being downloaded into your music library, well then you've probably had a pretty good week.

Maybe all these people should walk into a local homeless shelter or hospital and then complain about how awful it was to be gifted a free album by Apple. Let's see how that works out for you.