Brothers Make Gingerbread Houses of Horror Not Suitable for the Holidays

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

I was never meant to be a gingerbread cookie contractor. It only takes two or three walls falling over before I resort to the power of the almighty hot glue gun.

But some people, like brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling, have a gift. Not only does the duo team up to construct an intricate gingerbread house every year, but they love fashioning them after iconic horror buildings… and they are frighteningly accurate.

Back in 2015, the Keelings used gingerbread, icing, fondant, candy, and Rice Krispie Treats to faithfully recreate the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining. They even included famous scenes and characters like the Grady twins, the bathroom scene, the hedge maze, and more!

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)
(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

As a whole, the insane model hotel is nearly 4 feet long. The walls were decorated with fondant and icing, the roof is covered with quinoa and powdered sugar, and the windows are made out of melted Jolly Ranchers.

In fact, everything besides the lights and the base of the model is 100% edible, including the interior scenes from the film.

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)
(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

“My family have been making gingerbread houses for as long as I can remember,” Aaron told Bored Panda. “But until about 10 years ago they were always very modest, tame, and traditional. Then one year we made a ski chalet with a working ski lift and ever since then we’ve been trying to outdo ourselves each year.”

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)
(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

Not to be outdone by their previous selves, the Keelings spent the following Christmas constructing yet another historic horror locale.

“[In 2016,] my family decided to tackle the iconic motel and house from Hitchcock’s Psycho,” the brothers announced. “Everything except for the base and lights is edible!”

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)
(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

Digging out useful ingredients like marshmallows, candy straws, and marzipan, the brothers once again recreated both the exteriors and the interiors, portraying several key scenes inside the house such as the murder of Marion Crane and the sinking of her car.

(WARNING: Graphic icing spatter ahead)

(Aaron and Austin Keeling)
(Aaron and Austin Keeling)

The Keelings aren’t just casual horror fans, either – they’re professional filmmakers themselves. In 2015, they released the independent psychological drama-horror film, The House on Pine Streetwhich was partially funded through Kickstarter and received an onslaught of accolades and awards to boot.

Unfortunately, the cast of the film (to my knowledge) was not solely comprised of gingerbread people.

To check out all of the various angles and scenes depicted in these models, check out the Keeling’s Imgur galleries here and here.

After Dog Suffers Life-Threatening Burns, He Becomes a Burn Unit Therapy Dog

Dog inured in fire becomes therapy dog for burn victims
(Facebook/Taka's Journey)

Taka, a 9-Year-old Shiba Inu, is helping burn victims cope with their own injuries in a way that no other therapy dog could. Because unlike other therapy dogs, Taka understands the fear and pain that many burn victims experience. On a fall day in 2018, Taka’s entire life changed when his Georgia home caught fire.

The fire was so massive it quickly destroyed the family’s porch, and tragically, Taka fell through the quickly-deteriorating floor. The terrified dog managed to escape, fleeing to a neighbor’s house – all the while, Taka was still smoking from the fire. The alarmed neighbors jumped into action, contacting a local vet named Crystal Lesley who rushed to meet Taka without hesitation.

At first, it seemed unlikely that the traumatized dog would make it. They sedated him to prevent him from feeling the unbearable pain of his injuries – even with her years of experience, Lesley had never seen burns this severe. Lesley saw Taka’s determination to survive and posted a fundraiser on her clinic’s Facebook page to help get Taka to a specialist.

The community generously stepped up, and before long, Lesley and Taka left to meet the South Carolina specialist.

“He and I lied on the floor in the waiting area crying together,” Lesley told AKC. By this point in time, Taka’s owners had surrendered him to the vet – they were unable to take on the financial burden or the immense amount of care Taka needed.

Taka spent a month and a half at the specialist, with Lesley driving up to visit every weekend. After being released into Lesley’s care, the determined vet spent weeks tending to his wounds around the clock. News of Taka’s story spread, and soon Lesley was contacted by the Joseph M. Still Burn Center who volunteered their services free of charge.

“We were incredibly humbled and awestruck at the magnitude of service they provided for this amazing dog,” Lesley says.

Against all odds, Taka made a full recovery. Lesley had selflessly poured her heart into caring for the injured dog, and unsurprisingly, fell in love with him. When Lesley realized she couldn’t part with the 9-year-old pup, she made the adoption official.

 

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News of Taka’s recovery spread around the community, and a local nurse realized that Taka could fill a very special role. “I was approached by a nurse at the burn center about Taka coming in to visit burned children, in hopes of giving them something to relate to,” Lesley recalled.

The pair began training together, and soon, Taka passed his certification tests with flying colors. It truly did take a village to get Taka where he is today. From those who supported Taka financially to those who offered monumentally important services free of charge, no role was too small when he came to helping Taka in his time of need. And now, tail-wagging, Taka is happily back to others when they need him most.

Tributes Pour in for Broadcasting Giant Larry King

Tributes to Larry King
(Getty/Donald Kravitz)

The legendary broadcaster, dad, and Ghostbusters actor Larry King passed away this weekend at the age of 87 after an iconic TV career. His TV career spanned six-plus decades and he’s remembered as one of the best interviewers of all time. He’s known for interviewing everyone (literally, presidents, actors, newsmakers, and randos of all types) on his show, “Larry King Live”, which he hosted on CNN for more than 25 years.

He retired from the show in 2010, after recording 6,000 episodes. That’s the type of career that makes you as familiar to viewers as the channel itself almost, you’re just a fixture at that point, known around the world.

King was so familiar as an interviewer that he made frequent movie cameos in that role, typically interviewing a major character or commentating on some major event in the movie. He was never better in this role than he was in Ghostbusters.

Not only was King at the top of his game for many years, but he also stayed relevant far longer than most his age. It was just months ago that he was trending for his interview of Danny Pudi and it’s “Larry I’m on Duck Tales” moment.

He was a TV giant, having interviewed more than 30,000 people on his show, ranging from President Ford to Obama (and all between) to random viewers calling into his show. Many of his colleagues and former guests took to social media Saturday to remember the broadcasting legend.

Pedro Pascal’s Helmet Makes Meeting Mandalorian Fans Awkward AF

Mando No Helmet Bill Burr
(Disney+)

The Mandalorian is a sensation. The Disney+ Star Wars show has captivated audiences with its tale of a badass bounty hunter and the baby Yoda he’s trying to protect.

Its exploration of the hidden corners of that galaxy far far away, complete with introductions to new characters, live-action versions of fan favorites from the cartoons and expanded universe, and appearances from some of the most legendary characters from the original trilogy has made the show a huge water-cooler hit.

On a normal show, this would make the lead character a major star, and while Pedro Pascal, the man who plays Mando, aka Din Djarin, has his share of fame, the fact that he’s almost always wearing a helmet keeps him a bit anonymous.

This can make for some tricky fan encounters, as Pascal explained in an interview with Stir Crazy.

The actor explained that it’s not always easy to impress his young fans when he’s without his Beskar armor or the adorable “child” by his side, and he’s often left with little more than his voice. Which brings its own complications…

“I always feel bad. A parent that I meet, they have their kid, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to impress my child so much. I’m introducing them to the Mandalorian. But then it’s like my face, and I don’t have The Child with me; I’m not wearing a helmet,” the actor explained while doing press for Wonder Woman 1984, in which he plays “messed up loser guy” Maxwell Lord. “And they look and they’re like, ‘Who’s this guy?’And then, if I’m going to speak to them in a Mando voice, it’s kind of strangely like a bedroom voice. Totally inappropriate. So it’s kind of just like, [awkward sounds].”

Check out the full interview:

Chocolate Factory Prequel To Trace Willy Wonka’s Origin Story

Wonka Origin Story
(Paramount Pictures)

After spending nearly a year in limbo thanks to the covid-19 pandemic halting most productions for at least a few months if not longer, Hollywood is hoping to roar back this year. As usual, many of the productions being mounted, for release in 2022 and beyond, rely on existing material. Even material that has already had a few goes.

The latest IP to get a movie piggybacking off previous success? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! You may recall the ill-fated Tim Burton production from a few years back, featuring a pre-scandal Johnny Depp as a bizarre version of the famous chocolate and candy bar magnate, but don’t worry, he won’t be back. Instead, Wonka, set for release on March 17, 2023, will be a prequel!

To be directed by Paddington’s Paul King, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Wonka will focus on “a young Willy Wonka and his adventures prior to opening the world’s most famous chocolate factory.” One rumor has Dune’s Timothee Chalamet being discussed as the star.

Apparently, this is not a new project, as it’s been floating around Hollywood for a few years, despite the fact that seeing Willy Wonka before he runs a fantastical candy factory populated by Oompa Loompas doesn’t seem to have all that much appeal. In fact, the 2005 Johnny Depp movie featured some Wonka backstory and I don’t know that anyone wants to revisit that.

Not much is known about the script, which was written by Simon Rich and is being tweaked by the director and Simon Farnaby, but the news is sure to start trickling out. If anyone cares!

Hero Kindergarten Teacher Continues To Teach Virtually While Getting Chemotherapy

Remote Teacher Chemo
(Facebook/M Health Fairview)

Teachers are incredible. If you didn’t think that before, you DEFINITELY think that now after seeing what they’ve had to endure to teach kids during a global pandemic. From inventive remote learning techniques to handling the flux education patterns and plans, teachers are redefining going above and beyond for our kids. And one, in particular, has set the bar at an even higher level. Kelly Klein, a kindergarten teacher from Minnesota, has continued to teach remote kindergarten DURING her chemo treatments for a second bout with ovarian cancer.

After she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for a second time, Klein made the decision to teach for as long she could. She told Good Morning America teaching is her passion, as her three-plus decades in the game can attest.

“I’m going to make the most of my time,” she said. “I don’t take anything for granted.” So she made her treatment facility, a room at a local health care center, her virtual classroom and teaches 5-and-6-year-olds while getting chemo treatments. She literally brings her laptop and all of her supplies and gets to work.

“When you’re at chemo and you’re around a lot of sick people, it’s kind of a depressing place to be. For me, to be around 5-year-olds during that time, it’s like a slice of normalcy in an abnormal environment.”

Her principal said the teacher is beloved by students and colleagues alike, and that she did not want to take a leave after her latest diagnosis. Klein said she gets energy from the kids, and that they help her through the five-hour treatments since she’s not allowed to have any visitors with her during that time.

She’s been described as the type of teacher that students remember long after they’ve moved on, and it is not hard to see why. Just legendary, to battle cancer a second time WHILE having the energy to be there for students, which is not easy even when you’re healthy.

Truly next level stuff, and a testament to the profession.

Scientists Say Rewatching Your Favorite Shows Can Improve Your Mental Health

Science shows that rewatching old favorites can improve mental health
(Getty/Ryan McVay)

TV FOMO no joke, the “Fear of Missing Out” on shows that fill social media feeds and dominate conversations. It’s almost guilt-inducing, watching an old favorite after a stressful day instead of digging into one of the many shows on your forever-growing “to-watch” list. But in reality, is that such a bad thing? Scientists say no – in fact, they say returning to an old favorite can actually be good for your mental health.

In a study conducted by Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney J. Levy from the University of Chicago Press, they call the phenomenon “reconsumption.” According to the study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, rewatching an old show, rereading your favorite book, even visiting a restaurant you love can trigger a feeling of comfort.

The study compares our brains’ responses to forced repetition to their responses to repetition by choice. When we choose to revisit something that makes us feel good, we essentially anchor ourselves to a moment in time where we felt at peace.

“We find that ‘connections between successive presents’ are localizable in reconsumed objects: reconsumption can serve as a ‘system of replay, resonance and echoes . . . which transcend spatial locations and temporal successions,’” the study explains. “The reconsumed objects fuel an active synthesis of individualized experiences rather than the passive synthesis of habitual reconsumption.”

In simplified terms, no matter where we are in life – no matter what stressors, challenges, and uncertainty we’re facing, we can more or less re-center ourselves. The connection to who and where we were 5 years ago can be connected to our present selves and eventually our future selves by revisiting something that holds meaning to us. The experience of reconsuming things like movies and TV shows actively invites our brains to combine and organize those experiences, finding comfort in them repeatedly over time.

“Unlike the survival motives that drive evolutionary psychology, we find that consumers who chose to repeat hedonic experiences even just once are expressing and affirming their individual experience and its special meanings to them,” the study concludes.

While some repetitive behavior is driven by our desire to survive, behaviors we choose to repeat simply because they make us feel good can reinforce who we are. If you’ve ever been in the car when a song that’s meaningful to you comes on the radio, you’ll understand this idea in real-time. Often, you’re transported back to the time the song gained significance for you.

You may feel things that aren’t relevant in the moment, but were impactful at one point in time – and those thoughts and emotions are forever tied to that song (or TV show, or movie). Those feelings are real though, even as you drive along the highway far removed from whenever that song first gained a special meaning to you. And as the study explains, you’re welcome to revisit those moments as often as you need them.

So yes, Netflix may have hundreds of new movies every month. Social media may be buzzing with talk about a new show every few months. But as we all know, those trends are fleeting. It’s ok to pass on “the best show ever” (how, even, can there possibly be 5,000 best shows ever?) – sometimes the best thing for your mental health is holding onto your security blanket of a show, immersing yourself in the moment, and embracing the comfort it brings.

Brady Throws TD Pass to Brees Son in Dad Moment After Legendary Playoff Matchup

Brady Brees' Son TD Throw
(Twitter/Jpalmertv)

It was one of the most hyped NFL playoff matchups in recent memory, as Tom Brady took on Drew Brees for the first time in the playoffs. Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the position, with more than 150,000 passing yards and scores of touchdowns between them during their decades of play. But after the dust settled, they were just dads, and one of the coolest moments of the season was seeing the two of them hang out on the field long after everyone else left.

Two legends, just kicking it, with their kids playing around them. Brady embraced Brees, and the two spoke for a while kids bandied about, and then Brady threw a touchdown to one of his Brees’ sons.

Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs won the game, which may have likely been the last of Brees’ outstanding career. For Brady, game recognizes game, which is why the two of them sharing a special moment after the game resonated with so many fans.

Despite a game and season full of highlights, it’s two dads talking and throwing a football to kids that got millions and millions of views. The throw, for what it’s worth, was actually right on the money and pretty incredible to do it so nonchalantly (although the young defender could’ve pursued more aggressively, perhaps…still a sick pass either way).

The touchdowns you throw to your kids may not mean the most to everyone else, but it’s bigger than any other to them, and it’s cool that even the two legends get it.

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Longtime Home Run King, Passes Away at 86

RIP Hank Aaron
(Getty/Tom Lynn)

There aren’t a lot of heroes these days, not in a world in which everyone’s lives are on full display, flaws and all. And now that baseball legend Hank Aaron has passed away, we’ve got one less.

The legendary slugger from Mobile, Alabama got his start in the negro leagues, and went on to become a mythmaker from baseball’s golden age, capturing the all-time home run record long before steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs started inflating numbers and sullying the record books. Aaron, 86, played for 23 seasons, 21 with the Braves (first in Milwaukee, then Atlanta), and hit 755 home runs, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record and hanging onto his own place in the books for 30 years (before finally being broken by Barry Bonds in 2007).

Aaron did it while black, in an era when black baseball players, especially one on his way to dethroning one of the game’s earliest icons, provoked anger and violence in the form of hate mail and death threats.

“On the field, Blacks have been able to be super giants,” he once said. “But once our playing days are over, this is the end of it and we go back to the back of the bus again.”

Aaron’s perseverance in the face of racism and work as a civil rights leader are as much a part of his legacy as his athletic prowess, as were his efforts to support his community and his commitment to philanthropy, facts acknowledged by the Braves organization in their statement.

“We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank,” Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said in a statement. “He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature. Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world. His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts.

“We are heartbroken and thinking of his wife Billye and their children Gaile, Hank, Jr., Lary, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren.”

When he eventually broke the record, the footage became almost as legendary as the moment, with a pair of fans running onto the field to congratulate Aaron as he rounded the bases, before he arrived at home plate to a mob of teammates and family.

Aaron was the National League MVP in 1957 — the same year the Braves won the World Series — a two-time NL batting champion (1956, ’59), a three-time Gold Glove winner in right field (1958-60) and a record 25-time All-Star.

Another Game of Thrones Prequel Series May Be Coming To HBO

Tales of Dunk and Egg
(Jet City Comics/Bantam)

Game of Thrones fans are still waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish the last two books in the Song of Ice and Fire saga, and without the mega-popular HBO series to hold them over (even the bad seasons), they must be going crazy. But we have some good news.

Not only is HBO moving full speed ahead with the House of Dragons prequel series, which focuses on the Targaryen dynasty centuries before Daenerys arrived on the scene (the show has been adding to the cast and plans to start filming soon), now there is news of another prequel series in development.

According to Variety this series, still in the very early stages, will be based on George R.R. Martin‘s series of novellas, Tales of Dunk and Egg, which takes place a mere 90 years before the first HBO show that lit the world, and the ice zombies, on fire.

There have been three novellas in the “Tales of Dunk and Egg” series so far: “The Hedge Knight” in 1998, “The Sworn Sword” in 2003, and “The Mystery Knight” in 2010. They were collected and published together as “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” in 2015.

The series follows the misadventures of Ser Duncan the Tall (aka Dunk), and a young Aegon V Targaryen (Egg), two figures who end up becoming very important to Westeros. Dunk is the eventual Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and Aegon eventually ascends to the throne as the future king of Westeros.

Whether this series actually makes it all the way to our TV screen is yet to be seen, but it’s clear the HBO wants to stay in the Game of Thrones business.