Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rise Of The Guardians and Lincoln

This is my week to write reviews it seems! Had a few thoughts I wanted to share about some movies I got to see early, then didn't get to tell you guys about because my computer crashed and I was without a laptop for about a week. I can make do with my iPad for a lot of things, but writing blog posts isn't one of them.


Ok, Lincoln first. I am not much of a history buff (getting better about that the older I get) so I will be honest and say that I agreed to go see Lincoln because I knew my husband wanted to. I figured I'd take one for the team and there are a lot worse ways to spend your time than in a nice cozy movie theater being entertained, even if it's not something you're particularly interested in.

But I was wrong. I really really liked the movie. And by the time Lincoln said at the end, "I wish I could stay," I was in tears. I had grown to really like this former president and felt I knew him in a way my history books had failed to express. I recently told my kids that I'd like all of them to see it. It gives such a vivid picture of our country during that time period. And Daniel Day Lewis truly makes Lincoln accessible and relatable. You forget you're watching an actor.

Next up, The Rise Of The Guardians. I got to see William Joyce (the creator of this amazing movie) speak back in September and was captivated by his passion for this story. I made a mental note to take my kids as soon as the movie came out. I liked what Joyce had to say about the guardians of childhood: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy. As a mom who has had kids pass from young to young adult, I see the way that those fairy tale notions slip away just like childhood itself. And how believing in those characters is symbolic of so much of what childhood is about-- innocence, safety, goodness. And how we can protect those things in our children's lives for as long as possible.

And if you've got fifteen minutes, go look up William Joyce's academy award winning short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore. If you're a book lover like me, you might find yourself brought to tears over this film just like I was.
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Bieber Fever and Nowhere But Up

Last night I watched the Oprah interview with Justin Bieber with my giddy 12yo daughter. I've never had a child go crazy over a pop star before, so this is new territory for me as a mom. But I figured she wanted to watch it, and it would be best if I watched too. Partly because I was curious to know more about this singing sensation and partly because an informed parent is a better parent. At least I read that somewhere.

I was actually quite surprised by how grounded the kid sounds. How well spoken he is and how level-headed he seems in spite of all the hoopla surrounding him. My favorite moment in the interview was when he gave credit to Jesus. A lot of stars will throw around the name of God because God has become kind of a catch-all phrase that people interpret as they see fit. But Jesus? No question what you believe if you bring Him up. My 12 yo, though she might not want you to know this, cried when he did that. And that made me like her all the more.

One of the things I really liked is how much credit Justin also gives his mom, Pattie Mallette. He really seems to honor and respect her. And that's what I'm here to talk about today: Pattie's new memoir, Nowhere But Up. When I got the offer from her publisher to review the book, I said yes immediately because my daughter is such a Bieber fan. I wanted to know more about where he came from, and figured his mother was the best place to start. Pattie's book is an exploration of her own past and Justin's meteoric rise to fame and how it is all woven together. It is a story of triumph and trust. Pattie is so honest in the book that Justin said in the interview that there were things she disclosed that he never knew before reading it.

Here's the summary:

Most people only know her as Justin Bieber's mom, but Pattie Mallette has had an incredible journey of her own. Many people have heard of her son's rags to riches triumph. A few know she was a teen mom who had to overcome a drug and alcohol addiction. Even fewer know the rest of her story.

Now, for the first time in detail, Pattie shares with the world the story of a girl who felt abandoned and unloved. Of a teenager who made poor choices. Of a young woman who attempted suicide and could hardly bear to believe that God would ever care for her. One who messed up, got pregnant, and got a second chance.

Every reader will find themselves somewhere in Pattie's painful journey of redemption. They will be encouraged by her example that what was once broken can become whole. Pattie's story will inspire readers to believe that even in the darkest of places, there's always hope. For those who feel unlovable, there's always love. And for those who believe they're a lost cause, there's always room for another chance.

So if you are like me and have a little Belieber on your hands, you might want to pick this book up and make yourself feel better that there are a lot worse people they could be squealing over.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some People Do Love Fruit Snacks

It was Halloween night and I had emptied the contents of three bags of candy into the large mixing bowl to place by the front door, ready for trick-or-treaters. Reese's cups and Kit Kat Bars and Almond Joys all jumbled together in a swirl of blue and orange. But when the third person glanced at my offering and commented that it "didn't look like much," I started to get worried. What if I hadn't bought enough candy?

I remembered the large box of Welch's fruit snacks I had in the pantry for the kids' lunches. The box was so large that there was still a great many fruit snacks left and my kids were sick of them. They were individually packaged. They were sweet. Surely they'd be fine as a trick or treat item. I tossed them into the bowl and quickly filled it up, happy that I had had such an ingenious idea.

My kids walked by, glanced at the bowl and moaned. "Fruit snacks? You're giving fruit snacks for Halloween?" They were mortified. (Just another way I have/will embarrass them.) But I was resolute and put the bowl in its spot by the door, ignoring the nay-sayers.

And yes, some kids were visibly dismayed by the fruit snacks. I'm sure there will be some who squint at our house next year and ask "Wasn't that the house where that lady gave out fruit snacks?" Then they will roll their eyes at each other and maybe even bypass our house altogether. (Though I doubt it-- I also gave out chocolate.)

But some kids came to the door, saw the fruit snacks in the bowl and squealed, "Fruit snacks! Can I have fruit snacks?" extending their little hands toward the bowl with glee. My only regret was that the nay-sayers in my life were nowhere around to witness this. Some people actually wanted fruit snacks. They liked fruit snacks. Fruit snacks-- for whatever reason-- made them happy.

This made me think about selling your junk at a yard sale and having people pay for it, delighted to get what you can't get rid of fast enough. Or that guy you dated finding someone to marry even though you thought that wouldn't be possible in a million years. And that book you hated that your friend just loved, or vice versa.

Here's my point, because I do have one: Some people do love fruit snacks. Does everyone think it's a perfect item for the trick or treat bowl? No! (Just ask my kids.) But some do. And that's what counts. I'm keeping that in mind as I write. My writing might be the Kit Kats that everyone raves over or it might be the fruit snacks that just appeals to a few. Either way, it will make someone happy. And that's why I do what I do.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing Personal Stuff (A Quote I'm Sharing)

The more I write, the more I think this attitude/outlook is key:

Q: Your book is intensely personal. How did you decide to tell such intimate stories to the world?

A: I tried not to think about that aspect for the first draft. I wrote as if no one in the world would ever read a word of it, and told myself, if the issue of personal revelation becomes relevant, I will be more grateful to have this problem than I will be worried. But this approach is critical to writing anything. There are too many voices telling you that everything is a bad idea from the start. I'd never get anywhere if I considered these things in the beginning stages of development. It's a good thing writing is 90% rewriting, because with every new draft, I was growing as a person and a craftsman. I was getting stronger and more confident in my decisions--what to tell, what not to tell.

(Quoted from an interview with Domenica Ruta, talking about her debut memoir With Or Without You.)
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Friday, November 09, 2012

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes In The Crockpot

Last week I made a roasted chicken with red potatoes and it was quite good and super easy. I had so much extra time, I made cooked apples as a side dish. I rounded out the meal with some hot buttered corn. All in all, it was one of my favorite meals I'd made in quite awhile, so I decided to share it here.
All you need is Italian seasoning, garlic salt, some fresh gound pepper and a bag of small red potatoes, as pictured.
And one of these guys. If you can't read the label, it's a five pounder. And it cost a little over $7.
Mix the Italian seasoning (2 tsp.), garlic salt (1 tsp.) and fresh ground pepper (1/2 tsp.) together.
Put the red potatoes (washed and dried) in the bottom of the crockpot.
Then wash and dry the chicken and lay it on top of the potatoes. Rub the seasoning mixture all over the chicken. Put the lid on the crockpot and cook all day long. And that's it! When you're ready to eat you'll have delicious chicken and potatoes. And you'll have extra time to make cooked apples, which go perfectly with this meal.
Here's how I make cooked apples: Peel, halve and core a bunch of apples. Add a stick of butter, a cup of water, a half cup of white sugar and a half cup of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Turn to a boil and let boil until the liquid becomes syrupy. Then turn down and let simmer til apples are soft. Keep stirring.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Catching The Sunrise

Last week I had to drive my kids to school, a duty that is typically my husband's job in the mornings. I'm not a fan of getting up early and usually prefer to stay at home in my jammies sipping coffee while he drives. But he was out of town so it became my job in his absence. I got up and went through the motions of breakfast and reminding kids to do the same things they have to do every morning, while packing lunches and trying to keep everyone on schedule. I wasn't paying much attention to the lightening sky outside our wndows.
But when we got into the car and turned out of our neighborhood we were greeted by the most gorgeous sunrise. We all marveled over it together, each taking turns trying to put that kind of beauty into words. We all fell short. My daughter, quick thinking girl that she is, snatched my phone from my purse and snapped these photos. Of course, they still don't do it justice. It's hard to capture the colors and expanse and lighting while zipping down the highway at a high rate of speed.
Later I came home and looked over the photos she'd taken. And I decided to share them here. Because I was glad that I caught the sunrise with my kids that morning. I was glad that driving duty fell on that day for me, that I had to get out of my comfort zone and venture into the cold darkness in order to find what waited only a few hundred feet away. I need to remember that sometimes-- that there are those moments that are waiting in the things we don't want to do. Moments that can only be found when we step out of our routine. I had to venture into the darkness in order to catch the sunrise.
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Monday, November 05, 2012

I Am...

... thinking about Thanksgiving. This, it turns out, is easier than writing a novel in a month. I spent Saturday making my menu list and shopping for tableware and centerpiece items. I did not, incidentally, write. This means I'm already behind in NaNoWriMo, and I'm actually ok with that.

... mulling over every story idea I've ever had and coming up with wonderful ideas for those stories. Every story idea, that is, except for the one I'm supposed to be writing during the month of November. I am excellent at psyching myself out.

... confessing that I may have watched a few Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel this past weekend. What can I say? I'm getting in the Christmas mood.

... looking forward to going to the Southern Christmas Show with my mom and oldest daughter on Friday. This is the official kick-off of the holiday season for me. (The above might make more sense now.)
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Friday, November 02, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Review

I admit I didn't want to go see this movie. I'm not a big fan of kid music or kid movies. And last night as I hurried my girls through the needed activities to get to the movie on time, I was even grumpy about it. I complained to my husband "Why do I commit to these things?"

"Because you know it means a lot to them," he assured me, then sent us on our way, not-so-secretly delighted to be left in a mostly empty house. I wanted to change places with him, I really did. But I was in full-blown martyr mom mode and soldiered on.

So we got our seats and I passed out the water bottles and Halloween candy I'd shoved in my purse so we didn't have to pay for snacks. And, grudgingly, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to sit through this kid movie.

But of course it wasn't just for kids. I was pleasantly drawn into the story and enjoyed the humor. What Toy Story did for the secret life of toys, this movie does for the secret life of video game characters. Did you know they can travel between games via the power cords in the arcade? And adults will definitely identify with the references to the history of arcades and the development of video games from our generation to now.

I'm not going to tell you a lot about the story because it's better if you don't know much about the back stories of these characters. (And yes, video game characters do have back stories.) But I will tell you what my seven year old piped up on the way home: "Mommy, that story was about how it's good to be exactly who you are."

She did a very good job of boiling down the whole movie into one line. It is a story about being exactly who you are, and believing in who you were programmed to be in spite of glitches that might throw you off track. (This will make even more sense after you see the movie.) I don't know about you, but that's a story I want my kids to see. Heck, it's a story I need to see.

To print off a variety of Wreck It Ralph activities for your kids, just click on this link:

And here's the trailer:

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