“You climb for the hell of it.”
~ Sir Edmund Hillary
Last year, when Nick and I went to Las Vegas, we had the absolute thrill of going outdoor rock climbing with our friend, and one of the most awesome tour guides (over at Grand Adventures in Las Vegas) ever, Erik. It was AWESOME. I had never done any kind of climbing before that (well, except for climbing trees). I had such a great time, in fact, that I went and bought my own pair of climbing shoes after our adventure. I never even got a chance to use them afterward though!
Well we have several friends that enjoy outdoor and indoor climbing, and like I said before, Ryan and Nick have gone bouldering at Planet Granite a few times (I even did a little photo shoot of Ryan the first time they went). Well today I decided it was time for me finally break in my climbing shoes, and to jump on the wall, as well!
With bouldering, you don’t use a top rope while climbing, so there are large “crash pads” on the floor to help soften the blow if and when you fall (or jump) from the wall. While I really enjoyed outdoor rock climbing with a top rope, the thought of jumping off a real rock onto a crash pad below sounds so scary! I was glad to start my bouldering experience indoors. There are routes marked with different colors of tape, and ratings for the difficulty of each route. I hopped up on my first wall – it was okay, but it still gets kinda scary as you get to the top!
That wall was a “top out” wall, where you could climb up and onto the top of it. The concept was kinda scary for my first climb, so I decided to try a few other walls and routes (with wider areas of crash pad!). Here was my second wall – up, up up:
Yay! I made it! Whew!
There were some pretty funny grips in the walls, like this telephone receiver. Hello? Is that for me?
And here’s some video and some time-lapse photography of a few climbs:
I had fun bouldering for the first time. It’s like a big playground or jungle gym for grown-ups (kids can use some of the walls, too, but there are some areas that are supposed to be “14+ only”). It’s neat seeing people staring at the wall, trying to figure out what route to take to get up. There are a lot more challenging routes, and like I said in the previous post about bouldering, there’s even a ramp to the second floor, with a bouldering wall hanging above it (for the daring and experienced only!)! I’ll be back. Next time, I’ll “top out,” too!
The Avengers is coming to American theaters next week, and we wanted to be fully up to speed on all the Marvel characters that would be tearing up the screen together. I had seen the Iron Man movies, but hadn’t seen the three others (Hulk, Captain America, and Thor), so we decided what better way to catch up than to screen a Marvel Movie Marathon?
We started with Iron Man:
Iron Man was released in 2008 and stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the genius heir to Stark Industries, a company that builds, among other things, military weapons. In the beginning of the movie, Stark is captured by a terrorist group and told that he must build a bomb for them. He instead builds the first generation of the Iron Man suit as a means of escape. When he realizes that it is Stark weaponry that the terrorists are using, he decides he wants to get out of the weapons manufacturing business. Gwyneth Paltrow plays his personal assistant and voice of reason, Pepper Pots; Terrence Howard plays Tony’s friend and the military liaison to Stark Industries, James Rhodes; and Jeff Bridges plays Tony’s father, Howard Stark‘s partner and old friend, Obadiah Stane.
We continued the Marvelthon with Iron Man 2:
Iron Man 2 was released in 2010, with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow returning in their roles as Tony Stark and Pepper Pots, and the movie is supposed to take place six months after the end of Iron Man 2. The military is fighting with Stark over the Iron Man suit, saying it’s a weapon and it should be turned over to them, but Tony has so far been able to keep control of his invention. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, an angry Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), whose father collaborated with Stark Industries before he was fired and deported back to the Soviet Union, has developed a similar suit based on Stark’s technology, and plans to take down Stark for ruining the lives of his father and his family. Don Cheadle plays the role of James Rhodes in the Iron Man sequel, and Natalie Rushman/ Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johansson) is introduced: an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent posing as an assistant to Stark.
Next was The Incredible Hulk:
The Incredible Hulk was released in 2008, after Iron Man, and starred Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. We really should have watched this between Iron Man 1 and 2, as it was supposed to happen between the two on the Marvel timeline, similarly to how the movies came out in theaters. The story basically has Dr. Banner as a part of a military experiment, trying to resurrect the “super soldier project” using gamma radiation. When the experiment goes awry, he’s forced to flee and try to stay hidden, and try to learn ways to keep the monster (the Hulk) from emerging. He wants to get rid of the gamma poisoning that creates this double identity, but the military, and General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) just want to capture him so they can study him and try to make more super soldiers, if they can get the experiment right. Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross, Bruce’s girlfriend before the accident, and General Ross’ daughter.
After The Hulk, it was on to Thor:
Thor premiered in the US in May of 2011, and stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, strong-headed son of Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), and heir to the throne of Asgard. When, against his father’s command, he confronts a leader of the Frost Giants for breaking a truce agreement, a battle breaks out and Odin has to exert his power and the worlds are plummeted into further unrest. Because of his arrogance, Odin banishes him to Earth, stripped of his powers, accompanied only by his hammer Mjolnir (the source of his power) which Odin has cast a spell on to allow only the worthy to be able to lift it. Tom Hiddleston plays Thor’s brother Loki, and Thor’s love interest (Jane Foster) is played by Natalie Portman.
Last but not least, we watched Captain America – The First Avenger:
Captain America was released in 2011, and stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a scrawny man who gets denied placement in the military time and time again. When he’s finally let in, it’s because he’s being scoped out to be the perfect test subject for the military’s “super soldier” program. He becomes Captain America, and has to defeat Red Skull and the organization that has plans for world domination using the “Tesseract“. Tommy Lee Jones plays Col. Chester Phillips, a part of the super soldier project, Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt / Red Skull, and Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, a Strategic Scientific Reserve officer and Captain America’s love interest. Other notable Marvel characters in this story include Howard Stark (played by Dominic Cooper), Tony Stark/Iron Man’s father, the creator of Stark Industries, Dr. Abraham Erskine, creator of the “Super Soldier Serum” (played by Stanley Tucci), and Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes, Steve Rogers’ best friend, played by Sebastian Stan.
These movies are all so much fun. While I know many people have watched them, I didn’t want to give away too much information for the people who haven’t. I’m glad we got to have this refresher on the movies we’d already seen, and that I was able to see the ones I hadn’t before. I always like to be up to speed on a film that has plot lines or characters from other films in it, whether it’s a sequel, or something new and different like The Avengers. The movie looks like it’s going to be a smash-hit, so if you haven’t seen all of these films, you really should! Assemble your friends, make some popcorn, and get into the Marvel Universe!
Iron Man [Blu-ray]
Iron Man [DVD] (Single-Disc Edition)
Iron Man 2 (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
Iron Man 2 [DVD] (Single-Disc Edition)
The Incredible Hulk [Blu-ray]
The Incredible Hulk [DVD]
Captain America: The First Avenger (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
Captain America: The First Avenger [DVD]
Thor (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”
~ Johnson, Moll, & King, the “Ice Cream” song, 1927
We’re having a birthday BBQ for our cousin Sarena, and while I was asking her what kind of cake and ice cream she liked, I thought it might be cool to combine them and make her an ice cream cake! She likes chocolate cake, and she said mocha almond fudge was a favorite ice cream of hers. I just happened to have a box of chocolate fudge cake mix, too (next year I’ll make you the cake part from scratch, Sarena!). Perfect! I whipped up the cake batter.
The “recipe” I found online (it was really just instructions, but they were helpful!) for ice cream cake had just one layer of cake and one layer of ice cream (like how they apparently do at Baskin-Robbins – I can’t remember), but I thought it would be cool to have the ice cream in the middle of two cake layers, like a regular cake would have, so I divided the batter into two tins, one having just a little more than the other (the thicker one would be the base layer).
After the cakes were cool, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. The recipe I was using called for ice cream in “a rectangular carton”, but I couldn’t find mocha almond fudge in those. The closest I could find was coffee ice cream from Breyer’s, which was in a somewhat rectangular container. I like Breyer’s anyway (they don’t have a bunch of crap in their ice cream like some others), so I figured it was the closest we’d be able to get. When the cakes had been in the freezer for a while, I decided it was time to put the “ice cream” in our “ice cream cake” – ha ha ha! I inverted the container and cut away at the carton. The ice cream was softer than I thought it would be, so it was a little messy. I used a piece of floss to cut the block in half, then put the slices side by side on the silicone mat.
I put the thicker layer of cake on top of the ice cream (like my Giant manicure?). The cake and ice cream went back into the freezer for a bit to firm up again – the ice cream was really melty!
After some time in the freezer, I got another cookie sheet ready, and flipped the cake and ice cream over onto it. I smoothed out the ice cream – it wasn’t too bad that the ice cream was a bit soft – I got to spread it out onto the cake pretty easily. I just had to work fast.
On went the second layer of cake, and the whole thing went back into the freezer again.
One of the commenters on the recipe I was using said a great frosting to use was actually MORE ice cream, and I thought, “Why not?” After the whole cake got to chill a bit more, I started frosting the cake with vanilla ice cream.
Here’s the “frosted” cake!
Now, I was actually supposed to cover this with crushed Butterfinger candy bars, since they’re Sarena’s favorite, but with everything going on with the BBQ, I completely forgot (I bought four of them, too!). When it was originally served, it was plain like this, but later I added the candy bars (sorry, Sarena! I’ll make it up to you!). Here’s a shot of the original (and a nice shot of the layers), and then a shot of how it was intended to be (they were both delicious):
This was really yummy, and not that complicated to make. I would just suggest allowing PLENTY of time to make this cake though, so you can let it sit in the freezer for a few hours between steps (that will definitely make the process less messy). Also, don’t forget time to let the cake(s) cool before freezing (to firm), and remember to have everything you’ll need for the current step on hand so you’re not running around like crazy while the ice cream melts all over the place!
If you have a special event coming up, and you (or the guest of honor) likes ice cream and cake (who doesn’t?), I’d totally recommend making your own ice cream cake for the occasion. You’re limited only by your imagination as far as the fun combinations you can come up with!