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Disney Pixar’s BRAVE Celtic Princess


Disney PIXAR’s Brave is nothing like any other Disney Princess film. It’s better. Following along with Tangled and Princess and the Frog, Brave exhibits a princess with a head on her shoulders and her own dreams outside of getting married to a prince and living happily ever after. This is without a doubt the most relatable of the Disney Princess films – any mother/daughter pair that ever lived through high school years, college years, or those hormonal Tuesdays that come up every once in a while will definitely cry. The Queen, Elinor, wants her daughter, Merida, to learn to be the perfect princess so she can grow up to be the perfect queen, which of course includes marriage to one of the eldest sons of the Clans. Merida much prefers taking a slower, more natural approach to marriage and certainly has no interest in being a stereotypical princess. Obviously that doesn’t go well, Disney magic ensues, and Merida unintentionally places a beastly curse on the Queen in an attempt to change her mind, thus changing Merida’s fate. Merida and her mother must work together to mend the bond they broke out of stubbornness, pride, and anger. The damsel in distress this time is actually the Queen, and it is her daughter’s no-so-princess-like talents that keep them going.  On a more personal note, I really loved that Disney took a go at a Celtic princess for this movie. I think it plays extremely well into the attitudes of the characters and the dynamic of the family (which all reminded me very much of my own). I enjoyed every minute, spent a lot of them laughing, but I also definitely cried a good amount. The story of this princess really affected me in a way others just fell a little short, which is a huge part of what makes this such a new and exciting Disney Princess experience.

PS – look for a Hidden Mickey near the mischievous princes early on!

B L Skamarakas
Rutgers School of Business-Camden
A politician is someone who will tell you anything you want to hear to get your vote. A leader will tell you what is best for the country, even if it hurts your feelings.

Attending TRON Legacy preview tonight

Special Disney excitement tonight for the family – we will be attending the TRON Legacy premier tonight. Our passes just got dropped off at the house. The girls, who don’t know about this will be very excited. Unfortunately for Jim, its the 3D version. But he is a good sport about it, as long as we let him hold the tub of popcorn. Full review later!

I was expecting to do a review of Narnia this week, which Eilis was not excited about. Early dinner to make sure we get good seats and plenty of room for popcorn.

Don’t let Gordan Ramsay into your kitchen

Okay, to clear the air and be upfront, he can come into MY kitchen anytime.  Not only is he a hottie, but I am not the best cook, and I’d be glad for some assistance in that area.  From a hottie.

I’ve been watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares for a quite a while – both the UK version and the US version.  I’m a huge fan of The F Word.  I even tune in now and again to Hell’s Kitchen (although honestly, they seem to be a worse bunch of chefs than I am!).  And he seems like he knows what he’s doing.  Ramsay seems like he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s got successful restaurants of his own under his belt.


Well, not entirely.  His empire has been crumbling as of late, and rumors have circulated that the Ramsay enterprise is in dire financial straits.  There have been reports of him having to sell personal belongings – a la Pawn Stars – to pay off debts owed and taxes that are due.

So I started looking into some of the restaurants featured on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Gone.  More than half.

Not that they wouldn’t have closed anyway – although there are some restaurant owners who have blamed the famed chef for their ultimate demise.  But whatever business plan Ramsay has to get these mostly Mom and Pop restaurants back on solid ground doesn’t work for them – and evidently, it doesn’t always work for Ramsay, either.  Three of his restaurants closed within a six month span in 2008, and in recent days, he fired his father-in-law (who was chief executive of the chef’s company) and two other family members.

He has just written an open letter to his mother-in-law, essentially begging her to resume communication with his wife and children following his in-laws’ decision to halt all communications with Ramsay or his family.

Until he puts his business and family lives in order, I’m not sure I’d want him handling the sharp knives in my kitchen.

Would you?

CiCi’s Pizza the good bad and the ugly

We have been to CiCi’s Pizza Buffet in Florida and in the Carolinas over the past few years. Our kids love it, and I think Eilis would rather eat there than just about anywhere.  We pretty much know what to expect when we go, and the only absolutely horrible time we’ve ever had was with my stepmom, who realized on our way to get CiCi’s that she did not have her passport or travel documents to board a cruise ship the next morning.  I don’t think we ate a thing that night.

Eilis was invited to a birthday party, and to soften the blow for Granuaile, who was not invited to a birthday party, we let her choose what she wanted for dinner.  Pizza.  Swell.

As we were driving home, Jim saw a sign at the recently opened CiCi’s Pizza in Cherry Hill that said “3 for $9.99”.  Ever the bargain shopper, he told me to pull in.

And this is where the scales of good and bad started swinging violently in both directions.

First, on the plus side, this is a really convenient location.  It’s located right near the mall we go to most often, and just around the corner from the movie theater we go to most often with the girls.

Unfortunately, on the minus side, the convenient location made for a crowded Saturday evening.

It’s okay, though, because on the plus side, Granuaile has fallen asleep, and the 3 for $9.99 is a carry out deal.  You can’t beat that in this economy!

Oh, but wait, on the minus side, when you try to order the carry out deal, they tell you it’s no longer available.

On the plus side, the staff here is damn friendly, and you almost don’t mind being told you’re not getting your pizza deal.

On the minus side, when Jim asked how much the Mexican Ole specialty pizza was, the friendly girl didn’t know. She told him to look on their sign.  Their sign is missing prices.

That’s okay, though, because on the plus side, two large pizzas rang up for less than $13, so it’s still a good price.  And the friendly girl at the cash register offered him a complimentary soft drink while he waited for the pizza to cook.

Blech.  On the minus side, the sweet tea he got from the beverage bar was weak, unsweetened, and tasted like dirty water.  You can’t really complain when you get something for free 🙁

Fortunately, on the plus side, another customer walked up and let them know that their sweet tea was a puddle of nastiness, thereby saving other unsuspecting sweet tea drinkers the fate of pond scum sweet tea.

The handsome manager in the yellow shirt, on the plus side, said he would have someone take care of it right away.  He is another friendly staff member!

If you’re considering eating in, the pizzas were replenished quickly with hot stock, and the restaurant was quite clean, especially considering how busy they were.

Unfortunately, Mr. Yellow Shirt has to inform Jim that somehow, in their rush to get our pizza ready, they accidentally flipped it upside down in the oven.  It’s ruined.  They have to start over.

But, if you’re still keeping score, on the plus side, he offers us a dessert on the house, which turns out to be a pizza box FULL of CiCi’s cinnamon rolls, which really are the only reason some people even go to CiCi’s.

Now, if you’ve hung in through the good and the bad, let me reveal the ugly.

I know – it doesn’t look ugly from here.  It’s not a pizza I would have normally ordered anyway, but Jim likes to try new things – it adds spice to his life.  But the picture doesn’t look half bad.

Ummm, ewwww.  There’s my review of the Mexican Style Ole Pizza.  It was a wet bottomed, soggy mess of a pizza with nasty old bagged salad thrown on top (you know, the kind you buy with the carrots and red cabbage?  That’s what was on top of the pizza – since when is red cabbage Mexican??).  Blech would be a compliment to this pizza.  It was inedible, so we let Jim eat it.

Gastric bypass folks – you know the drill with pizza.  Sometimes the crust is too doughy, but CiCi’s is a thin crust, and it never gives  me any trouble.  Go for pizza selections at the buffet that have more lean proteins – they do have some topped with chicken as opposed to pepperoni and sausage, and that will save you some fat and calories.  This isn’t the worst pizza, and it’s one of the few pizzas I can consistently eat without agonizing later.

In Summary, CiCi’s is fun, a good value and okay food. Don’t expect to be in Italy eatting Pizza Margherita next to the Vatican. I’ve done that, and its unrealistic to expect the same experience at a value buffet chain in America. You go for the value to CiCi’s.

CiCi’s Pizza
818 Haddonfield Road
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002

(856) 910-2424

McRib Gastric Bypass Review

I know what you’re thinking.  Didn’t you NEED gastric bypass surgery compliments of a few too many McRib sandwiches?

This isn’t going to be a “Forget it!  It’s bad for you” review.  Actually, according to McDonald’s nutritional facts, the McRib has less calories than a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese.  It has nearly 300 less calories than the Angus Bacon cheeseburger.  It even has less calories than some of their breakfast sandwiches.

McRib is back and here is gastric bypass review
There are 22 grams of protein in the sandwich, and it is quite easy to eat off of the bun.

So when compared to say a McDonald’s Southwest Ranch chicken salad, the McRib has about the same number of calories, more protein, and is way easier to eat.

I’m not telling you to have one for every meal.  But if you’re out with your family and want to grab a quick dinner somewhere, this isn’t your worst choice.  Just skip the fries.  And the soda.  You shouldn’t be drinking it anyway.

Thanks, Jim, for spiffing up this underwear ad. I know it took a lot out of you.

Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses – Ummm, okay

I love pumpkin, and everything pumpkin flavored.  Pumpkin pie is my favorite.  Pumpkin bread is my favorite.  Pumpkin body spray is my favorite.  I love fall and look forward to fall, mostly because it’s okay to be passionate about pumpkins once the leaves turn colors.  But passionate may not be the right word here.

These oddly colored orange kisses look cute in my fall candy container, and add a nice bit of autumn to the buffet the container sits on.  But the taste is a bit odd.  I get the pumpkin spice, but it’s surrounded by a faux white chocolate sort of taste.  You know those white chocolate bunnies that you get for .50 at the drug store after Easter?  Yeah, it’s like that sort of a chocolate taste.

If you LOVE pumpkin, these might be worth a try, just to get a flavor reminiscent of a pumpkin pie when it’s inappropriate to inhale a whole pie on your own.  But don’t expect to be in love.  They are merely an emergency substitute for the real thing.

Victory cookies – a treat for the tastebuds

If there was ever a way to make Monday a happy day, finding a delectable treat from Victory Cookies in the mailbox definitely makes it happen.

I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to taste these amazing little bites of old fashioned, homemade goodness, and I’m so glad that I did! The sample box they sent featured four different flavors of cookie, each more wonderful than the one before.

The first cookie we sampled was the Original Victory Cookie, the company’s chocolate chip cookie. The cookie was the right combination of crunch and chewy, with crisp cookie edges and melt in your mouth chocolately goodness. This was a great version of everyone’s cookie BFF.

The second cookie we tried was my personal favorite cookie, the oatmeal raisin. The Victory variety is called Mr. Wonderful, and it certainly lived up to it’s name. And can I say, I’ve never seen so many sweet, plump raisins in any store bought oatmeal raisin cookie, adding to the homemade quality of this delight!

Our third bite was of the Victory cookie they call Shugah Browns – a brown sugar sugar cookie. This was a big hit with the girls, who thought this was the best cookie ever, as they munched through every bit of sweet Southern goodness.

By far, though, the most popular of the batch was the Beach Bum cookie. Pardon me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard so I can continue typing. This cookie is a trip to the tropics in every fabulous morsel, as it is loaded with pineapple and macadamia nuts, with a hint of coconut. Forget the pina colada, just pass the cookies!

You can find Victory Cookies online at www.victorycookies.com. Or you can place your oder by calling them at 877-995-0008.

You thought the best cookies ever came out of your Grandmom’s kitchen. Turns out, they come from Atlanta. Mother’s Day is coming – and these phenomenal cookies make the perfect gift for the women in your life who have shared their homemade goodies with you all these years.

McCormick & Schmick’s Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

McCormick & Schmick’s

941 Haddonfield Road

Cherry Hill, NJ 

Ya gotta love the new Garden State Park shopping area in Cherry Hill.  It has brought to the area a group of restaurants that you always hear about in other markets, such as the Cheesecake Factory, Brio, and McCormick & Schmick’s.  We were determined to try them all, so when we found McCormick & Schmick’s open recently on our way to Brio (one of our new favorites), we decided to head in and try the place out.

If you are cruising online, hoping to check out a menu from McCormick & Schmick’s to get an idea if you’ll find anything there you want to eat, don’t sell yourself on any particular dish.  This restaurant boasts the freshest seafood from various parts of the world, and the daily menu tells you which fish are fresh from what country or state.  For example, on our visit on April 10th, They had Massachusetts Bay Scallops; Kona, Hawaii Yellowfin Tuna; and New Zealand Cockles.  They use the fresh catches in the meals for the day’s menu, which is heavy on the seafood.

They offer a selection of light entrees and sandwiches, which are really well priced for a late evening snack or late lunch.  Starting at just $7.95 for a Classic Reuben sandwich, the lighter fare goes up to $13.95 for a crabcake sandwich.  Each sandwich comes with fries, and there are a few salads on the light menu as well.

The appetizer section of the menu is really the first place you’ll come to that features the freshly caught seafood.  We ordered the Fried Point Judith Calamari, which was lightly battered and served with three dipping sauces.  The sauces were fair – nothing special about them, and this particular dish just lends itself well to a good, fresh marinara sauce, so the other sauces were really unnecessary.  The appetizer was $10.95, and there were plenty of crispy calamari rings to justify the price.  Just beneath the appetizers on the menu was the “on the half shell” collection of shell fish, and for $12.95, Jim got a sampling of 6 different oysters, but the waiter went over the variety so quickly, it was hard to know which one Jim actually liked the best.  Included in the sampler were Imperial Eagle Oysters, Wianno Oysters, Sarah’s Creek Oysters, Cape May Salt Oysters, Duck Island Oysters, and Ship Point Oysters.  All were deemed tasty, but by the time he finished the dish, he couldn’t remember the names of any of them, nor had he put aside the shells he favored most highly.  They also have a larger sampler of oysters, featuring 2 each of their top 6 oyster varieties.

The soups tonight are not ones I generally order since my gastric bypass surgery, and the salads are nothing we haven’t seen before elsewhere, so I’m not tempted to let one ruin my dinner.  The first selection of entrees on the menu is the meat and shellfish section, featuring filet mignon, sirloin steak, and a New York strip, along with upscale shellfish dishes like live Maine lobsters ($21.95 per pound) and King Crab Legs ($29.95 per pound).  Also on the menu are traditional seafood offerings like cedar plank salmon, crab cakes, and fish and chips.  I opted for grilled sea scallops, advertised with sauteed spinach and a risotto cake.  Jim went with one of McCormick & Schmick’s specialties, which was a Mahi Mahi grilled over sweet potato crab hash and BBQ butter sauce. 

My scallops arrived piping hot and perfectly cooked, but a little light on seasoning.  The risotto cake is an odd creation.  Part of the thing about cooking risotto is to make it creamy and not sticky, but the risotto cake is just sticky rice that tastes like risotto.  I don’t dislike it, but I find the whole risotto cake to be a bit of an oxymoron.  The sauteed spinach is tasty, and helps boost the flavor of the scallops. 

Jim’s fish is really good, but the rest of the dish is a bit of an odd combination of flavors.  I didn’t care at all for the sweet potato crab hash, although he didn’t think it was as bad as I did.  This was dices of sweet potato with some lump crabmeat and a BBQ butter sauce.  The combination of the potato and BBQ sauce made the dish way too sweet, and when you threw in the butter, it became way too rich.  There were good sized lumps of crabmeat in the hash, but the delicate flavor of the crab was way overpowered by the sickeningly sweet combination of the potatoes and BBQ sauce.  Jim finished most of the fish, and we brought the potato side dish home to eat with the left over scallops, but the flavors didn’t fare any better given time to settle in with each other. 

As far as gastric bypass patients are concerned, there is an abundance of healthy proteins on the menu here.  The seafood is fresh and cooked to order, and there is very little fried fish on the menu, so you will get your fish broiled, grilled, or, in the case of the tuna, seared.  Most of the fish comes with some sort of butter sauce – rum butter; lemon butter; bacon and sherry butter…  You can ask for them not to include the butter on the dish if you are sensitive to the extra fat.  There is a chicken dish – but on the night we were there, there was only one chicken dish besides the buffalo chicken salad.  Ask the waiter if you are not familiar with the fish.  On the night we were there, there was a fish called a Bronzini on the menu.  We would have ordered it, but after discussing with our waiter, we learned that the fish comes out whole, and I am more cautious about fish bones since my surgery.

The prices on the menu are not outrageous, but you will easily spend upwards of $20 – $24 dollars for your entree.  When you compare the meal you get here to the meal you might get at Red Lobster for less money, you can certainly see where the difference in price is, but it’s hard to justify the difference.

We wanted to be blown away by the meal here, and the bottom line is we were not.  For the amount of money we spent, blown away would have been better.  This is a nice only once in a while for an occasion type restaurant.  My kids will probably keep eating at Red Lobster.

Disney Magic review

Name: Anna Skamarakas
Email: jims@msn.com
Age: 33
Occupation: Stay at Home Mom
NumberOfCruises: 1
TravelAgent: No
Ship: Disney-Magic
SailingDate: July 30th, 1998
Itinerary: 5 day Maiden Boyage to Nassau and Castaway Cay
FoodDiningRoom: 90
CruiseDirector: 0
CabinComfort: 90
FoodRoomService: 50
CruiseStaff: 95
CabinAmenities: 90
FoodLidoDeck: 50
DiningRoomService: 95
CabinQuietness: 80
CabinSteward: 80
ShoreExcVariety: 50
FoodVariety: 75
DeckService: 0
ShoreExcValue: 50
GoodForHoneymoon: 75
PrivateIsland: 95
GoodForFamilies: 80
LoungeService: 25
GoodForSeniors: 65
EntertainmentLounges: 80
WheelchairAccess: 25
EntertShowLounge: 85
OverallPortsofCall: 80
CruiseActivities: 70
MedicalFacilities: 90
ShipCleanliness: 90
EmbarkDisembark: 20
DiscoNightclubs: 85
DeckSpace: 90
Stabilization: 95
ShopsOnBoard: 80
SpaceRatio: 90
OverallCruiseValue: 50
Submit: Submit Review
Date: 04 Aug 1998
Time: 22:11:39
Remote Name:
Remote User:


We had high expectations, as this was our first cruise and the maiden voyage for a company that is reknowned for customer service. The ship was
beautiful, very nostalgic and very clean. Our stateroom would have comfortably accomodated a family of four or five. It had a beautiful verandah, which
we thought was quite unique. There was no midnight buffet, something we had been told not to miss by friends who had been on cruises before. Instead,
at around 11:45 PM, snacks were passed through the lounges on trays by waiters – one pass per room. That was very disappointing.

There are four
dining rooms, one of which is for adults only and requires reservations and a $5 service charge. Within the first hour of boarding, this restaurant was
completely booked, leaving ourselves and many other guests disappointed again. The other dining rooms were all lovely, and the food was delicious
(although the waiters themselves apologized a few times for the small portions). The ice cream parlor was open only for about 2 hours in the afternoon,
as was the hot dog/hamburger stand. You could get pizza until 1 AM, but the room service menu was extremely limited. Children are well taken care of
with the Oceaneer’s Club. They have planned activities for children over the age of 3. Our 6 year old daughter loved it.

Adults, however, had little to do
during the day other than read, hang out at the pool, or watch television. The ship board movie theatre showed two movies daily, both of which were
animated Disney features or one Disney cartoon and one second run movie. There was a nightclub area called Beat Street, which offered a jazz club,
country and western music, and a comedy club. There were only two shops on board, aside from the counter where you could buy liquor and cigars.

Both shops were lovely, but the wait time to check out with purchases exceeded an hour and a half. Our handicapped mother was also on board. She
had great difficulty getting on and off the ship, and without the aid of a wheel chair, she tired easily going to and from areas of the ship. With a wheel
chair, it was extremely tight fitting into the elevators and hallways. Disney has a number of bugs to work out, not the least of which are checking the
plumbing and air conditioning systems. There were a number of stateroom bathrooms not working, and several of the rest rooms in the common areas
were closed from the first day on. Also, we had to pour butter into our rolls one night because there was no air conditioning in the dining room, and it
took 3 of the 5 days for our stateroom air conditioner to work properly.