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Friday, July 13, 2018

Married at First Sight Dallas: Episode 1

The official season opener wastes little time getting down to business. After a brief overview of the “experiment” and its stakes (you know, this is a legally binding marriage, the only way out of it is divorce, yadda yadda…), viewers are introduced to the matched couples dropping the news on friends and family that they’re getting hitched in 2 weeks. 

Independent, established Amber is ready for this, we’re told. She likes her job but is tired of dating the “Dallas douche” and wants to find someone solid. When she video chats with her mom and sister to tell them she’s been matched, they seem happy for her. 

Dave, her intended, is a “perfect” fit for Amber. He’s got a great job, great friends, great home, and likes his routine. He says he eats the same breakfast most days, plays golf and basketball often, cooks healthy meals, watches an hour of television, and then goes to be--………

What? Oh sorry. I fell asleep there just listening to that routine. Anyway, Dave is looking for someone to come home to at the end of the day, maybe cook dinner for, pop open wine, and have a couple shows they watch together. I’m not sure it bodes well for the excitement of newlyweddedness that Dave has basically described Year 13 of a marriage, but whatever. Dave shares his happy news with his close-knit group of friends. The camera cuts to couple Dabney and Kelly, the male of whom indicates he hopes Amber will fit in with their group. I’m desperate for them to cut back to this dude alone so I have a sense of whether he’s Dabney or Kelly. 

Next up is Bobby. I already can’t stand Bobby. It’s visceral. He seems like he paints himself as this Southern gentleman who wants to be devoted to his wife like his dad is to Bobby’s mom, but I feel like there’s a sinister side to him. Some controlling mean streak or something. Maybe it’s the hunting (he hunts anything that flies—how’s that for symbolism?) or maybe it’s the emptiness behind his eyes, or maybe it’s how much he looks like Jared Kuschner, but this dude scares me. I hope to see another side of Bobby moving forward. 

Danielle was selected for Bobby. (Poor Danielle.) She talks about how she was born and raised by a “liberal” family in Seattle, but she moved to Dallas because she didn’t feel like she wasn’t supposed to stay in Seattle and loved the Southern value system. When she calls her parents to tell them she’s engaged, we have a sneaking suspicion they aren't quite so "liberal" as she described and that the value system may not have been the South's only draw. After both of her parents sigh deeply and say a couple unhelpful things, her mom hits her with this: “You moved down there to have your own life. So…” So...YIKES. But then the editors cut to Bobby telling his family and it’s the opposite reaction. His mom cries and says she hopes Bobby can bring in a wife who will also be a daughter to them. I hope for Danielle that’s the case. It looks like she needs it. 

Tristan (or, Jay-T, as I may call him because of his resemblance to Jay-Z) is done with casual dating. Now he wants something permanent. God’s been answering prayers for a while now, he says, so he wants to find the one. As long as she puts God first, and then everything else falls into line, then Amen.

Well, ask and ye shall receive, dude, because Mia is the answer to that prayer. She’s BIG into God. Church on Sundays-, Bible study on Tuesdays-, G-O-D wall hanging next to her Keurig- big into God. She wants “a man who will lead me closer to Christ.” 

Dr. Pepper thinks they’ll love being “Godly people together.”

Tristan’s pals are okay with this concept because his enthusiasm is contagious. Mia’s family, though, is not feeling it. They think this is a big mistake. 

Cut to commercial. Upon returning, the couples are shopping for bridal attire and there's no additional coverage of Mia's disapproving family. 

Nothing really earth-shattering here. Some highlights:
·     Dave’s friend (not Dabney/Kelly- a different dude) has some major pit wetness. 
·     Mia’s mom has come around. Also, Mia’s dress looks like a fancy doily. 
·     Bobby is a momma’s boy; Mom is struggling a bit over a new woman coming in. Uh oh.
·     The peanut-gallery question “what do you think your future husband will think of you in this dress?” is such a stupid throwaway question. It needs to not be asked.  
·     I’m disgusted by the number of times I’ve heard phrases involving women cast as a princess/queen/damsel in distress and men as the prince/king/knight in shining armor. Maybe these unrealistic expectations are part of the reason divorce rates are so high. Hmm?

Now it’s time to ring shop. The show is sticking with the new-last-season concept of meeting up with the other brides/grooms for camaraderie. I think this is a good choice. 

Bobby is waxing poetic about the symbolism of the eternal circle of a ring. He’s won over Jay-T with that drivel. Sorry, Bobby. It’s gonna take more than that to change *my* mind.

The singles go out for drinks together after ring shopping. The women discuss how they’re gonna handle the kiss-at-the-altar business. The men discuss the wedding night. (I feel like someone needs to talk to the editors of this show about the stereotypes and tropes they’re perpetuating.) 

Speaking of… time for bachelor and bachelorette parties. 

One of T’s pals wants to know what happens if his wife turns out to be sex-crazed. In contrast, Mia’s sister wants to know what if they don’t get along, what if he’s a cheater, what if he’s broke? 

Bobby is riding a mechanical bull, and wants his wife to know that he can get loose but is still committed. Danielle, when asked if she’s planning to consummate her marriage, notes that it’s not wrong to do it if you’re married. 

Dave has a low-key but fun night with his closest friends. He hopes Amber is having as good a time as he is. Amber is drunk on tequila, and she’s talking in that slow yet slurred way we talk when we’re trying to sound like we aren’t waste-o but are only fooling ourselves in the process. Then she pukes in a bucket in the limo.

After another commercial break it's WEDDING DAY!!!

Dave notes that he’ll be getting married to a stranger that he doesn’t know at all. Which is sorta the exact definition of a stranger, so he’s being redundo.

Amber, I’m noticing, is talking a lot about babies and starting a family. She just said she can’t wait to meet the man she’s going to have babies with. (She’s kind of oddly epitomizing the obnoxious thing Bobby said about older women in the Matchmaking Special.)

Danielle’s mom showed up. Now Danielle can enjoy herself.

Time for the men to come out and take their places at the altar.

Danielle’s friends remark that they’ll be such a cute couple.
Amber's friend Ashley seems like she might have a crush on Dave.
Tristan is a hugger. Mia’s sister is sweating bullets. 

The editors show all the women freaking out in the back as though a wedding isn’t about to happen. Like, dude, they do this same schtick every season. So save it. We know they’re coming. But still, let’s go to commercial so we can draw out the non-suspense. 

Back from commercial and Mia is still freaking out, but she prays and gets right with herself. Down the aisle she comes and Tristan is “relieved.” They call each other “beautiful.” Then the officiant reads off stuff the friends and family said about their person. Mia and Tristan are pumped to discover God ranks #1 for each of them, and that the Cowboys are their official team. (Booooooooooooooo!) When it’s time to kiss the bride, Mia gives T her cheek. Ouch. T’s uncle doesn’t like that. Mia’s mom and sister both look like they’re about to vom. 

Out of the church and alone together, Mia feels they’ll make cute babies. (You know, if she ever lets him near her.) Mia drops her champagne glass so Tristan gives her his. Then he charms her with a gem his friends asked him: “what if she’s a biscuit off 350?” (He has to explain to her that it's a reference to a 349 pound woman who’s one biscuit away from being 350 pounds.) Um. Yeah. That'll win her over.

Back to Amber and Dave. First impression: Dave thinks she’s beautiful with big eyes, and looks nervous. Amber says she’s not sure he’s someone she’d usually “see” (notice) but he’s attractive. Dave’s pals are all “there’s definitely an attraction! Wooooohooooo!”

I’m a bit concerned Amber might be like the flight attendant a couple seasons back, who was never fully committed to the process and it tanked hard and fast. On the other hand, in the time it took me to type that sentence, she may have come around. They kissed on the lips. Once alone, the couple discovers they live pretty close together and even go to the same gym! But, uh oh, Amber is concerned because she’s dated some “Dallas douches” from there and she would be embarrassed for Dave to know she had dated that type of guy.

Last up, Bobby and Danielle. Bobby’s mom dashes up to tell him to be sure to tell Danielle she looks beautiful when she arrives. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Aw man. That’s a red flag any way you slice it. If he *needs* her to tell him that, then yikes. But that she feels the need to direct his interactions with his bride-to-be is also, well, she could be a mother-in-law problem. 

Bobby thinks she’s gorgeous. He’s “on-board” with her figure. Mom is shooting dagger eyes at her. The ceremony ends with a real kiss. He just said he can’t wait to explore her. LOL. I know what he meant, but it doesn’t make the phrasing less funny.

After the ceremony it’s photo time. Which means kissing shots. Danielle/Bobby and Amber/Dave cooperate. Mia, though, is still not game for kissing. She’s all about the cheek and forehead. Tristan is being respectful about it. Mia tells the camera she doesn’t know what kind of Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Mono, or strep throat Tristan has. 

Look, I’m a germaphobe myself, so I can appreciate the concern here in theory. But come on! I feel sort of safe in saying that the show tests contestants for the first two and, doubtless, a gamut of other STDs. Isn’t that reality matchmaking show 101? The show referenced blood tests in the matchmaking special. So I feel like Mia is making excuses here. Which is her prerogative, but don’t act like it’s because you think he’s diseased. Just own that you aren’t comfortable with it and move along.

Speaking of which, Mia is so clearly uncomfortable at the reception that it’s making me feel uncomfortable watching her.

Oh guess what? Bobby’s dad just announced during toasts that Bobby isn’t a momma’s boy. He’s a daddy’s boy. Hmm…I think he’s both.

The couples are talking to the friends and families of their new spouses. Things are going well overall. Except for poor Tristan. 

Wowza. Mia’s sister is being a major bitch to him. He’s trying to be jovial and she’s having none of it. She’s being sarcastic and rolling her eyes, and she threatened to come find him if he hurt Mia. That’s nice and all, but maybe tone it back for the first meeting and give the dude a shot. 

Oof! Things go from bad to worse for T as Mia’s dad corners him and tells him he hopes nothing happens between T and Mia tonight because in his culture “we don’t go to bed with anyone unless we get to know them very well.” 

Now it’s the point of the show where the couples finally retire to their rooms and the big “will they or won’t they?” debate commences. Honestly, I wish we didn’t get to know what they do either way because it’s none of our damned business. But the show shines such a spotlight on it and it’s even the episode’s cliffhanger of sorts. 

After getting to their suite, Tristan talks a good game to camera saying God is real because He delivered Mia to Tristan. He’s attracted to her and he wants them to do what *they* want to do, and he is firmly in the Pro-Doin’It camp. (Someone needs to tell Tristan he’s not getting any tonight. Oh wait. Mia’s dad already did that.) Potential chance they’ll consummate tonight: 0%

Bobby is tickled pink at his wife, Danielle’s, appearance. When she comes out in yoga pants and a crop top, he looks pretty thrilled. The look on his face indicates there’s a good possibility Bobby has never seen a naked woman. Potential chance they’ll consummate tonight: 65-70% (because Bobby will need to make the first move and I’m not sure he will. Danielle has already indicated she’s up for it but will follow his lead.) 

Dave and Amber are making out a lot. They've both flat out said to camera they wanna bang. Potential chance they’ll consummate tonight: 100%

And so ends the first episode. 

As a rule, I don’t watch previews for the season ahead. It spoils too much and makes watching weekly feel redundant, so I can’t comment officially on what’s upcoming. I mean, obviously (because the show rarely strays from its formula) they’ll start with a family brunch, then they’ll head off to their honeymoons, then come home and decide where to live, then check in with friends/family about how it’s going, then encounter some strife, then have some double date nights, then have a second honeymoon, then stress about upcoming Decision Day, and then decide if they'll stay married or get a divorce. 

Then the show moves to Philadelphia and the whole thing will happen again with new couples. Sounds like heaps of fun. So stay tuned!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Married at First Sight Dallas: Matchmaking Special

Howdy partners! 

Married at First Sight is back! The Matchmaking Special kicked off the series’ latest season with its trio of experts moseying into town wearing their best plaid button-downs and cowboy boots (whilst a rando entourage rode horses behind them) which can only mean one thing: Season 7 is in Dallas, y’all!

Don’t sweat in your 10-gallon hat, though, if your own spurs aren’t handy. No matter where the “experiment” takes place, you can rest assured Reverend Cal will remind viewers every six seconds how these marriages are “legally binding;” Dr. Jessica will gaze intensely at everyone while ominously warning “the only way out is divorce;” and Dr. Pepper will giggle awkwardly, no doubt thinking back to the time when she was picking through participants’ underwear drawers and fondling frozen ducks in their freezers. (More on this soon.)

wasted spent time watching Tuesday night’s “Matchmaking Special” (which aired immediately preceding Episode 1) in hopes of gaining some additional insight into participants, and despite TLC ruining the big reveal of the matched couples with their repeated commercial promos of Episode 1 footage showing the damned chosen ones togetherat the altar! (Thanks, TLC!)

Basically, it boiled down to this: thousands of people looking for love/happily-ever-after/that special someone to share a life with applied to be matched to a stranger. One of the questions on the thorough questionnaire asked applicants what type and style hair they preferred in a possible mate. This is the stuff of lasting love. (FYI: Tristan likes curly hair at least 6” long.) 

The thousands were whittled down to 200 (I’m assuming 100 of each gender, though they didn’t specify) who participated in some “workshops.” (They didn’t show the workshops, so I’m left to imagine they consisted of the worst bits of mandatory company team-building caca combined with the terrors of a camp Trust Circle.) 

The 50 individuals who survived were passed to the Personal Interview stage, wherein they agreed to be taped answering hard-hitting questions like “how important is sex in a relationship?” and “what are your relationship deal-breakers?” 

Then Dr. Pepper conducted her home visitations, touring 15 unlucky candidates’ living spaces and overstepping proper bounds of decorum. She claimed that as a sociologist she likes to know as much as there is to know about the people she’s matching. Which, as I indicated earlier in the post, includes rifling through underwear drawers (and holding up women’s thongs for all the world to see since, as viewers, we *also* apparently get to know as much as possible about the people being matched) and giving people the third degree over the contents of their refrigerators (though, frankly, if I’m being honest, I’d like to know what the actual fuck was up with the ducks—plural-- in Bobby’s freezer. Dr. Pepper interrogated Mia more vigorously about her underwear accessories than she did the whole, unbagged, still-feathered frozen fowl. Just…why? Did he hunt those? Why weren’t they wrapped? What would Gordon Ramsay have to say about the cross-contamination of ducks next to Eggos? I’m just kidding. We know what he’d say: “YOU’RE GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY!”) 

After that, the so-called experts sat down to discuss their findings. Who made the best matches and why? Of those matches, did they see any red flags?

They discussed 5 sets of potential matches. (I’m posting photos of my tv screen so you can see the head shots as I discuss people.) 

The experts liked Bobby and Danielle together. After all, she wants a southern gentleman and he is one of those (just ask that duck!), they both love dogs, they both come from families with long-married parents, they’re both even-keeled. (One thing they fail to discuss is how the couple pretty much look like a store-brand Ivanka and Jared. YIKES.) Oh, but uh oh. Bobby, 27, was pretty firm in his deal-breaker stance of wanting a younger woman and Danielle is a haggard old bag of 30. (Don’t scoff, cowpokes. As Dr. Jessica points out, a 3 year age difference in your twenties can be pretty big and the experts need to respect his deal-breaker.) So, naturally, they called him to find out if it’s ok. (WTF?????) He sounded put-off at first and explained how he doesn’t want someone’s biological clock ticking pressuring him into having a family right off since he’s only 27 and not there yet. They assured him Danielle wants several couple-only years before kids, so he generously gives the green-light. Whew. Marriage saved. 

Next up are Christina and Chase. They’re both nice, bright, artistic, and want families. On the other hand, Christina prefers stockier non-smokers and Chase is a waifish smoker. They didn’t bother calling her to double-check on that deal-breaker, though. They get the ax.


 Tristan and Mia are gregarious Bible-lovers. Rev. Cal finds Tristan shallow, though, because he prefers someone who isn’t darker-skinned than he is, someone to “melt [his] butter.” (Say wha?) But Dr. Pepper talks about how warm, funny, open, and humble he was at the home visit. (She doesn’t mention how he looks like JayZ, but it’s all I can think of.) Then the experts discuss how Mia may be a needy people-pleaser. Apparently this is a good thing, and just like that, they’re engaged.

Devon and Richard are the nice couple who would like the way each other looks. But the experts decide Richard, satisfied with his current lifestyle, may not be enough of a “go-getter” for Devon. (Plus, you know, they already have a non-white couple selected, so there’s that.) 

Amber and Dave are the career-driven, mature, “older” couple (36 and 37 respectively) who each need a sexually-alive partner. Dr. Jessica talks about how “fiercely independent” Amber is and worries she may be hiding some insecurities. But Dr. Pepper thinks Amber might be able to believe and trust in Dave as a type of protector. They’re gettin’ hitched, people. 

I wonder if anyone tells the couples who aren’t selected that they might be a good fit. Maybe they could meet up off-air and go on a date and try things in a less intense fashion than, you know, meeting at the altar. Just a thought. Hopefully, at the least, they watch the casting special and maybe get their google-ever-after. 

Anyway, the episode ends with the chosen ones finding out they’re getting married in two weeks. Some of them are thrilled; a few seem like they might be having second thoughts. Understandable, though, because you know what they say: it’s all fun and games until you find out you’re marrying a stranger in a fortnight. 

Giddy up, folks. It’s gonna be a helluva ride!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer Cake


Raise your left hand if you love brownies. Raise your right hand if you love chocolate chip cookie dough.

If you've got two hands in the air right now, this dessert is for you. (Also? Put your hands down. People are staring. lol.)

Today I'm sharing the second dessert of my renowned (haha!) two-dessert birthday-Easter extravaganza offerings.

Since there are a lot of chocolate lovers in my family, I knew I would make something chocolatey for them. 

I was thrilled to find this recipe for brownie chocolate chip cookie dough cake on Home Made Interest. I like recipes that let me make some parts of them homemade while still taking some help from a box mix. It saves time but still gives that impressive homemade flair.

So for this recipe, I used two boxes of brownie mix and made this amazing chocolate chip cookie dough icing from scratch. Then the entire situation gets drizzled with a chocolate ganache and topped with more brownies. It is decadence to the extreme.

As with my last recipe, I hadn't originally intended on sharing it so I didn't take a lot of pictures. But the whole thing turned out so well that I still want to explain how I did it and share the recipe with you so you can try it for yourself.

Luckily, it comes together a lot more quickly than those amazing strawberry cupcakes I shared recently.

HOW TO MAKE 
BROWNIE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH 
LAYER CAKE

Step 1: Cook the flour for your no-bake chocolate chip cookie dough

Most people know the dangers of consuming raw eggs. However, it turns out that consuming raw flour can also be dangerous. E. coli bacteria can lurk in there, as well. Therefore, removing the egg from edible cookie dough recipes isn't enough to keep us safe; it is also important to cook your flour before consuming it raw. 

Not to worry–it is a simple process. Simply spread flour on a baking pan, and bake in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then use according to recipe direction.

Step 2: Make the Brownies 

Prepare 2 family-sized (13x9) boxes of brownies according to package directions. 

I did not combine the two boxes in a single bowl, but instead repeated the process twice. I did this so I would have more control over my batter. Plus, brownies are simple to make so it didn't increase my prep time that much.

Pour equal portions–I weigh my batter with a food scale to be sure I'm dividing it equally–into 3 greased and parchment-lined 9 inch round pans and one 8 x 8 square pan. Note: The original recipe calls for 4 9-inch rounds, but I only had three rounds of that size and I decided that three layers was more than enough. That’s why I poured the last quarter of my batter into an 8 x 8" square pan. That layer gets cut up for the topping anyway. You can do either.

Bake according to the package directions for 8x8" brownie pans.

After the brownies bake, remove them from the oven and allow to cool. I let mine cool 10 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove them from the pans to cooling racks where I left them cool the rest of the way.

Note: Certainly if you have a favorite homemade brownie recipe, you could use that instead of the boxed brownie mix. That's up to you.

Step 3: Prepare the no-bake cookie dough icing

1. In a medium bowl, mix salt with cooked and cooled flour. Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, Cream together butter, Brown sugar, and white sugar. Add vanilla to combine. With the mixer running on low, add the flour about half half cup at a time until a Soft dough forms.

3. Once fully combined, add milk a tablespoon at a time until your cookie dough reaches a desired consistency for easy spreading. I added close to 1/3 cup of milk (5 Tablespoons) and I really believe I could've added even more sense my cookie dough was still kind of on the thicker side. That will be a judgment call for your personal preference as to how smooth you want it. 

4. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside. (NOTE: You could leave out the chips if you like. A few of my family members pointed out that the cake was chocolatey enough without the chips and added that they would have preferred the taste of the cookie dough without the extra textural bite of the chip. That makes sense to me, but is purely a personal preference thing, so feel free to add them in or leave them out. You might also enjoy swapping out a regular-sized chocolate chip for mini-chips.) 

Step 4: Assemble the cake - Part 1
1. Start with one of your three 9 inch round layers on a serving dish. Spread one third of your cookie dough icing on top. Add your second round brownie layer. Spread another third of your cookie dough icing on top of that second layer of brownie. Place your third and final round brownie on top of the cookie dough. Spread the final third of your cookie dough icing on top.

2. Cut your Square pan of brownies into small chunks. Set aside.


Step 5: Make the ganache
Heat cream in the microwave until it begins to boil–about a minute. Pour chopped chocolate into hot cream. Allowed to sit one minute and then stir until smooth and melted.

Step 6: Finish assembling the cake

Pour ganache over the top layer on the cookie dough iced layer cake. It will cascade down the sides and look gooey and delicious. Arrange chunks of brownie on the top middle of the cake for the final decoration.



***
Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer Cake 
(adapted from HomeMadeInterest blog as linked above)

Ingredients:

(for brownies)
Two boxes family sized brownie mix and eggs, oil, water as per the box directions

(for chocolate chip cookie dough icing)

2 1/4 cup flour (cooked to kill bacteria)
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cups (150g) sugar
3/4 cups (170g) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-6 Tablespoons milk
2 cup chocolate chips

(for ganache - note: I halved the original recipe as I suspected rightly that I wouldn't need as much. Feel free to double these amounts.)

1 cup dark or semi-sweet baking chocolate (not chocolate chips), chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream



This is a rich, decadent, chocolate-lover's dream cake. My favorite part is the chocolate chip cookie dough. I could eat that by itself. I urge you to give this a try. MMM!