Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 6: The Zoo That Chocolate Built

Chocolate Deer!

Sorry, chocoholics, this yummy-looking deer is merely a display item.

In my son’s youth we tried to accommodate him on our road trips with at least one kid-friendly stop, usually either an amusement park or zoo. This year, thanks to the generosity of groundbreaking chocolatier Milton Hershey, we got two for the price of one.

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99 Ways to Get Chopped from “Chopped”: A Handy Tips-‘n’-Tricks Checklist


Who among us has never looked at a bag of Cheetos and thought, “I bet I could turn this into haute cuisine”?

For years my wife Anne and I have been addicted to the Food Network’s cooking-competition series Chopped, in which four chefs must outcook each other under strictly timed conditions using four specific ingredients. Inside every Chopped basket of goods lurks a surprising combination of the rare, the delicate, the expensive, the complicated, the whimsical, the outlandish, and/or the thoroughly disgusting. Every substance can be used, though not every substance is very good.

Food Network continues gifting us with new episodes every week hosted by the amazing colossal Ted Allen, who presides over this fast-paced showcase for chefs of every conceivable demographic from various American restaurants, caterers, bakeries, or other private businesses, each of whom keeps their eyes on the $10,000 prize to be had if they’re the last entrant remaining after three grueling courses of speed-heating, kitchen-racing, and power-serving.

After watching several dozen episodes, Anne and I began to notice recurring patterns and tried to capture those observations and our fandom back in 2014 with a previous MCC entry called “How Not to Get Chopped from ‘Chopped’: A Starter Guide“. I’ve been meaning to overhaul that entry for a while now that we’re four years and literally 200+ episodes later, which includes every episode of the kids-only spinoff Chopped Junior and a handful of episodes of Chopped Canada, which was an interesting effort with its own angle and demeanor but wasn’t quite the same thing. I’m ashamed to confess it was tough to watch for more than a few minutes before I started poking fun in a goofy faux-Fargo accent.

The following compilation is our revised armchair-chef advice for future would-be competitors on how not to do Chopped from where we sit. This list is doubtlessly far from complete, and we welcome any additions in the comments below, especially from those among you who can truly cook. Though neither of us is a trained gourmet by any stretch, we hope this helps someone out there anyway. If you raise a skeptical eyebrow at any of these, well…it’s positively flabbergasting how many of these downfalls we’ve seen happen in actual episodes at the hands of trained professionals who run fantastic eateries back home but who lose their poise in front of the cameras. Even the best can make mistakes or watch their plans spin out of control.

Enjoy! Learn! Win!

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 5: The Chocolate Factory

Hershey's Chocolate World!

Don’t call them the Three Musketeers. That’s a different company.

The bulk of Hersheypark in the heart of Hershey, PA, is basic top-notch amusement park rides. As you’d expect, one building in particular housed an animated tribute to the cornerstone of the city’s economy and the source of sugary happiness throughout all the land: the mass production of chocolate and chocolate-based goodies.

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Elegy for the Final Generation of Toys R Us Kids

Toys R Us v. Green Lantern!

It’s official: everything that stupid movie touched dies. Some just took years longer than others.

Parents and other former children lamented, waxed nostalgic, and raged at the news this week that Toys R Us, the last American large-scale brick-‘n’-mortar toy store chain, may be shuttering its remaining 800 stores over the next several weeks due to the long-term shenanigans of the evil corporate overlords who bought it in 2005 and basically ransacked it for cash for years. Soon that kaleidoscopically immersive childhood shopping experience, one of the few places a family could go and spend a day surrounded only by wall-to-wall playthings, will be downgraded from endangered to extinct.

I’m saddened by the loss, but not devastated. My life has been one long series of toy store collapses.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 4: The Land of Chocolate


“They call me MISTER Cups!”

For the years when my son tagged along on our road trips, we tried to include a few kid-friendly stops for his sake — often an amusement park, or a zoo, or someplace loaded with sinfully sugary treats. We never expected to find a place that combined all three in some sort of animal snack funtime heaven.

Such was the magic we found in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

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We’d Rather Be Conventioning


My wife Anne enjoying a ride in a DeLorean (under 88 mph) at Wizard World Chicago 2011. If only Doc Brown could chauffeur us away today.

You know that feeling when the end of a long winter is coming, but it feels like the doldrums are the only state of mind you know because they’ve pervaded your everyday world so deeply that you forget what life was like without them? Or is it just us? Did everyone else have a positively thrilling winter and we’re the only ones yearning to ditch it all for just a few days out of town? Or at least a few minutes away from early post-winter potholes?

Longtime MCC readers know Anne and I love to travel together. We look forward to our annual road trips to different parts of the United States every year. In recent years we’ve added a slate of in-state birthday outings for more quality time together. Then there’s our favorite penchant for frequenting the Midwest comic/entertainment convention scene. Even before February had ticked off its twenty-eight days with Oscar season and not much else in its favor, the two of us were already putting our heads together and planning our 2018 getaways from our present homebody status. We have a loose framework for our 2018 road trip, early into its mapping stages and too soon to share spoilers. We have no idea how to spend this year’s birthdays because it’s far too soon for such talk. Conventions, on the other hand, are already nigh.

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