A ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Critique

 

At last, I saw the most recent Star Wars movie. I will say that this was actually a good movie.  Where special effects are concerned, The Force Awakens would earn 4 stars. The droids, non-human and humanoid characters were convincing and brought much-needed life to the worlds.  Supreme Leader Snoke in particular was a masterful example of animation; from his wrinkles to his body language, he was awe-inspiring and believable. In terms of the story, this film rates as a solid 3 1/2 star.

The Force Awakens did not feel like a Star Wars movie.

It is devoid of the fundamental component for these films: the Force.
Yes, it was minorly used as a tool, but there was nothing on the power struggle or balance of the Force from any of the characters. There were no ethical choices for the most part, or ideological struggles. The imperative nature of the Force wasn’t even mentioned. Characters may as easily been discussing how the weather could effect their war.

Granted, most characters didn’t believe in the Force, but a budding Sith Lord in the film mentioned nothing on the topic other than, ‘Woe to me, the dark side is so hard to maintain,’ while other characters flatly acknowledged “It is real. I know, crazy, right?” Where is the platform on which the movies are based? What became of the main theme, which made previous movies an epic, and differentiated the saga from being another action scifi? Drafting old actors from the epic does not an epic make, despite the attempt to rally the audience into believing this was a true Star Wars film. There wasn’t enough substance for those looking for the Star Wars experience.

This was yet another movie of a talented and pretty girl going on an adventure in a shattered universe, but it was not Star Wars.

Hedgehog Revival in Britain

Hedgehogs seem to be everywhere on the internet, but have been dwindling in numbers within their natural habitats in the UK. http://hedgehogstreet.org of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, report as much as a third of the spiny population have dissapeared, due to a shrinking habitat. This is largely because British hedgehogs, who eat common garden bugs and pests, have less access to gardens they can call home. According to the Preservation Society, the ability to come and go through gardens freely is essential to hedgehogs, who need to roam for mates and forage. hedgehogstreet has placed heavy emphasis on building ‘links,’ or holes in fences, so hedgehogs may traverse from garden to garden, even including a map of hedgie territories.

hedgehogstreet is inspiring a strong movement for British citizens everywere to “garden for wildlife,”  in both rural or suburban settings.  As many as 30,000 participants are involved in providing a variety of gardens, hedgehog homes, and backyard entryways for Britain’s hedgies.  Many Brits are making an effort to naturalize (or even create from scratch) gardens to make a safe haven for hedgehogs, through organic gardening or planting native flora. By making these changes and joining hedgehogstreet the gardener may, in true British fashion, be dubbed a Hedgehog Champion.

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A Hedgehog Champion performs their duties by hosting a hedgehog friendly habitat via links through fences, and hedgehog homes such as a wood pile or compost heap. Most importantly,  Champions own an eco friendly garden for hedgehogs to occupy. As many as 3,866 Hedgehog Champions have made registered hedgehog homes in their own backyard and host 2,007 hedgehog holes, and that was in 2014!

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An Eco-friendly Movement

A beautiful aspect of this hedgehog revival are the dual benefits for aiding hedgies and the environment.  By setting gardens and practicing organic gardening, hedgehogs are not the only ones who will be recieving benefits. Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators will definitely enjoy an increase in food supply, which will assist their population health as well.

Cool, I Want to Help!

If you’re a British resident, you can directly support hedgehogstreet by becoming a member on their website, and recieve great tips, support, and guidelines to being a Hedgehog Champion.  Not a British citizen? Spread the word via internet! Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook make a wonderful start to spreading awareness about native British hedgehogs. Ask Britain’s People’s Trust for Endangered Species what you can do to help on their facebook. Or, you can donate directly to hedgehogstreet here.

Luckily for the hedgehogs, they are loved throughout the world, and their future looks bright, if not prickly for the present!

By Tiffany Magennis

How to Handle a Dissatisfied Customer

Customer service Most everyone who has worked in customer service can relate to this photo; a dissatisfied client or customer has contacted you with the problems x,y, or z and you are now responsible for rectifying the situation. While it is true that some clients may feel very heated, shall we say, there is an approach that will be more likely to not only neutralize tension, but benefit your relationship with the client.

Click here to view my infographic on successfully handling these clients

5 Reasons You Need a Food Dehydrator

5 Reasons You Need a Food Dehydrator

Tiffany Magennis

Image provided by Urban Homemaker
Image provided by Urban Homemaker

Most everyone wants to be healthy. However, it’s easy to be deterred by the high prices of healthful dehydrated foods can leave a bad taste in your mouth.  So then, what is the health conscious person to do when feeling a bit peckish, but not wanting to stray from their diet, or budget?

Enter the mysterious food dehydrator. Many people who think of dehydrated food have images of astronauts opening pouches of dinner, or jerky hanging in a store room fit for a horror movie.

How would you use this thing, anyway?

The real life story of the food dehydrator is far closer to home than is given credit for, and incredibly useful for more than homemade jerky, which raises the first point of why everyone should own one.

1) The Food Dehydrator is a Multitasking Tool

The food dehydrator is a machine which uses low temperatures to slowly dehydrate its contents, which makes it an excellent candidate for gentle cooking.  For example, if you need to gently heat a delicate sauce, it can be placed into the food dehydrator and have zero risk of scalding. Better yet, the cook doesn’t even need to watch the sauce while it is being warmed! If you practice the raw food diet, the food dehydrator will be a vessel for placing your raw cookies, bars, or chips while still being true to your lifestyle.

2) You Will Be Encouraged to Eat More Healthfully

It’s hard to deny that living a healthier lifestyle would be far easier with whole, ready-made snacks on hand.  A few of these snacks are fruit and vegetable chips (think potato chips without the oils or preservatives), fruit leathers, and fruit gummies. Kale chips in particular have become a recent food trend, and are easily made in a food dehydrator in any spices you choose. Better yet, have the kids help you make new combinations and flavors!

3) Increase Storage Life of Food 

Since the water is reduced in dehydrated fruits and vegetables, their shelf life is greatly expanded. Less water means less opportunity for rot, which in turn means less waste. Gardeners in particular benefit from food dehydrators, since they can preserve their food at its prime, and then re-hydrate them if desired. This can also be applied to herbs! To rehydrate dried food, all that needs to be done is add twice as much water than dehydrated fruits/vegetables and wait.   After the food is hydrated, it is ready for cooking.

4) Crafts 

This is a lesser known use for the food dehydrator that relates to the multitasking point above. Flowers can be dried to perfect specimens for scrapbooks or wall decoration by setting the food dehydrator on a low temperature. Potpourri can be made using the same method, and has the benefit of being customized to your preference of scents. Paper can also be made in the food dehydrator by combining paper pulp and/or flowers and spreading the mixture onto thin sheets.  This may take some time because of the low temperature, but the result is having handmade paper!

Dehydrated flowers can make tea
Dehydrated flowers can make tea

5) Jerky

Make your own, however you want it, for a fraction of the store bought price. Spicy, savory, umami, or sweet, in any type of meat, you are the master and commander of your jerky.

photo provided by Nesco.com
Oh yes

Review of Robin’s Nest Restaurant

The Robin’s Nest: a Hidden Jewel in Mt. Holly

Tiffany Magennis

            To the passerby, Robin’s Nest seems a quaint, but unassuming little building on the corner of downtown Mt. Holly.  Walking into the doorway, however, customers are greeted by a bounty of sweets in a large glass case and thoughtfully laid out shabby chic décor. During my visit, my husband and I were greeted by our smiling hostess, who seated us promptly on the spacious outdoor deck overseeing a rivulet from Rancocas creek. The deck had a relaxed cottage feel, with string lights, umbrellas, and sizeable outdoor bar with seating. I grabbed the opportunity to sample one of the specialty drinks, a Rice Pudding martini, and ordered an appetizer of truffle oil French fries.  The martini was potent and tasted exactly like rice pudding, while the fries were heavenly, albeit a tad greasy with additional oil.

            With appetites whetted from the truffle oil fries, we quickly ordered entrees, a Thai chicken salad and Mahi Mahi fish tacos. Service was moderately paced, which fit the comfortable atmosphere, and our glasses were never empty. When the entrees arrived, we were pleasantly surprised with the crispness of greens in our food and well-proportioned servings.  The tacos were full of fresh, meaty fish and perfectly seasoned; the salad was bursting with vibrant ingredients and had only enough dressing to retain the bounciness of the greens after use. In terms of seasoning, the Thai chicken salad did require some salt, but was otherwise full of flavor.  On the other hand, the tacos needed nothing except the occasional napkin to prevent dripping sauce.

Robin’s Nest is a hidden gem in the Mt. Holly area, and a perfect to spend time with your brood for a satisfying experience in a casual setting. On a five star rating, it would earn four stars, lacking the fifth for servers being a bit too paced and the food somewhat pricey.  However, the atmosphere, unique food, and quirkiness make Robin’s Nest well worth a frequent migration.