Saturday, December 29, 2007

My 101

Ok, I've come up with my 101 things to do in 1001 days. It was actually quite a bit harder than I thought. My criteria for the list: it had to be something I wanted to do, something that I thought was actually achievable, and something that wasn't redundant with another item already on the list. At first, I tried to group items according to category, but I soon realized that I was all over the place, so I just started trying to write down the things I wanted to do.

Nicole's 101

Record family history in some way (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about taking Clay in case of an accident
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds
Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make real paella
Make real sangria, to go with the paella
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock

I have to say, if I get all these things done in the next 3 years or so, I will not only accomplish alot, but I'll enjoy myself quite a bit as well! I'll begin working on the list starting January 1, 2008. My last day of the challenge will be September 28, 2010.

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 28, 2007

There was a barber and his wife . . .

I went to see the new Sweeney Todd movie yesterday. WOW. I have been a Sondheim fan from way back, and I was surprised that someone had the guts to do a film version of Sweeney. (And at CHRISTMAS! That takes cojones.) However, if anyone seems a good fit for this production, it's Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Depp plays the title character. Todd is actually Benjamin Barker, a young London barber shipped off to prison on a trumped-up charge because the local judge (Turpin, played excellently by Alan Rickman) covets his lovely wife. Upon returning from a 15-year sentence, Barker discovers that in his absence, Turpin defiled his wife and now serves as guardian to his teenage daughter, Johanna (played by Jayne Wisener). To exact his revenge, Barker takes on the name of Sweeney Todd and sets up a new barber shop above Mrs. Lovett's (Helena Bonham Carter) meat pie shop. While waiting on his chance to make Judge Turpin pay, Todd sharpens his skills on customers who come in for a shave. Never one to waste anything, Mrs. Lovett decides to kill two birds with one stone, disposing of Todd's victims by grinding them up into meat for pies.

My thoughts - Production values were amazing. The whole tone of the film is gray, which serves as a great palette for the blood. And the blood in this film is practically its own character, with a starring role in both the opening credits and the final scenes. Depp shows again that he is a fabulous actor, and I was pleased to hear that his singing voice is actually pretty good. Rickman, also, had a voice that served his role well, and he did a great job as creepy, pervy Judge Turpin. Jayne Wisener gave perhaps one of the best renditions I've ever heard of "Green Finch and Linnet Bird." (The song is high and difficult to sing with good control, especially in live theatre, where projection is a concern. It can come off as very shrill. In the film version, Wisener was able to pull back the volume, and the song took on a very young, dreamy quality that was absolutely endearing.) Ed Sanders as Toby was also wonderful. ("Not While I'm Around" is one of my absolute favorite songs from the score.) Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope (the sailor) turned in a good performance, but I didn't think it was as notable as some of the others. To be fair, however, his role is rather flat.

I was prepared to hate Sacha Baron Cohen in this film. Though I never saw Borat, I'd heard about it, and I avoided it because I think that type of comedy is very low. Making fun of others takes little talent. As a result, I'd already written Cohen off as a performer that I would probably not enjoy. But in this film, he is wonderful as Signor Adolfo Pirelli. Costume and makeup have certainly done their job here, but his performance (though brief) is spot on. And he's not a bad singer, either.

Which brings me to Mrs. Lovett. I think that Mrs. Lovett is a GREAT role, and it is definitely one that has been played by some great actors (Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, we're talking big shoes here). While I feel that Helena Bonham Carter can act, her singing voice is pretty thin. Which I could have dealt with, I suppose, but for one thing. If there is a comic foil in Sweeney, it is Mrs. Lovett. She's the only character with comic lines. She's the only lightness the audience has to balance the incredible weight of the story line. Mrs. Lovett still has hope. Her songs are peppered with funny bits. Carter didn't play those bits. In fact, unless you knew they were there and were listening for them, you totally lost alot of the clever and funny things Mrs. Lovett sang about. I felt that the movie was a bit uneven because it didn't really have that light element, which it sooooo needed. In my opinion, this was the only major failing of the movie.

The only other gripe I have is that the "Beggar Woman" role, which has some wonderful lyrical moments in the stage version, seemed to have been reduced a bit too much. I totally understand (After all, alot of her singing parts were used in the stage production as cover when sets were being changed, etc. No such cover is needed in a film version.), but some of those little snippets of her singing maniacally are very arresting in the stage production. It was a shame that they couldn't be featured more prominently on screen.

But all this aside, it is a great movie and worth seeing. Not for the young OR the faint of heart, it deserves its R rating.


Oooh, I saw The Prestige a couple of nights ago. It's pretty dang haunting. The movie stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johanssen, and Michael Caine. Here's the skinny:

Two aspiring magicians, Robert Angler (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) work with handler Cutter (Caine) as audience plants for a magic act. Angler is married to one of the act's primary performers, a young woman who escapes from a locked water tank every night. However, one night, the act goes terribly wrong. As a result, the two young men, once friends and confidantes, are separated by grief, suspicion, and doubt.

As Angler and Borden begin building their careers as magicians, they maintain an intense rivalry (spurred on by a desire for revenge) with one another. When Borden debuts an impossible trick, which he calls "The Transported Man," Angler is determined to learn its secret and steal it for himself. As Angler's obsession to posses Borden's secret consumes him, he realizes he will do anything to exact revenge upon Borden and triumph over him for good.

Performances are all good. Bale is downright spooky at times. Warning: you will have to have a rather flexible suspension of disbelief for this movie. But, in my opinion, it's worth it. There are two secrets at the end of the film. I guessed one, and the other one was a surprise. I won't spoil either of them here, as the movie is worth seeing for yourself. Creepy stuff, but it will definitely give you something to analyze for an evening or two.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kissing on people you shouldn't be kissing on

Hubby and I watched The Last Kiss (starring Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, and Blythe Danner) a few nights ago. Not totally sure what to think. Here's the skinny:

Michael (Braff) has a beautiful girlfriend, Jenna (Barrett), that he loves and who loves him. Complication #1 - Jenna is pregnant. Michael and Jenna have decided this is a good thing, and they are going to keep the baby and raise her (it's a girl) together. Complication #2 - the couple goes to a wedding, where Michael meets Kim (Bilson), who for no apparent reason, throws herself shamelessly at him. Kim is about 20 and still in college. Michael is almost 30 and has a baby on the way (a fact he conveniently forgets to tell Kim). Of course, MAJOR complications ensue.

Here's what I think - performances were great. Soundtrack is even better (which I am coming to expect from Braff's films). On the film's Web site, the cast/crew talk about how Garden State (which I loved) was about being confused in your 20s, and how this movie is the next step - being confused in your 30s. My problem with this? I tend to run out of patience with folks who are still confused in their 30s. I mean, GROW UP already. I think your 20s are about exploration, confusion, et al. But by the time you're turning 30, you ought to be mature enough not to go around wounding the people you love. Geez, take a big boy pill. Michael makes a HUGE, STUPID mistake, particularly for someone with a bun in the oven. And he does it knowing totally what he's doing. He DECIDES to hurt someone. And if I were his pregnant girlfriend, I'm not totally sure what I would have done. But it might have involved a sharp knife.

Sooo, check this movie out if you're in your 30s and still confused. But if you've already grown up, check out The Last Kiss soundtrack and rent a different movie.


Over the holidays, I've had the time to watch a few movies that have been on my list. More to come, but the first review is below.

Munich - I have been semi-avoiding this movie for a while because I knew it would not be pleasant to watch. (Terrorism is not the most uplifting topic on which to base a movie. Plus, I'm not a big fan of movie violence. In the theatre, I'm the one cringing with my hands over my eyes, asking, "Is it over yet?") BUT I thought it would probably be a worthwhile movie to watch, and I am personally quite interested in movies about the Israeli-Arab conflict. To recap - the movie deals with the aftermath of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Germany (hence the film's name). Once the Israeli state learns the full magnitude of the killings, political and defense leaders assemble a team of men to track down and assassinate those responsible for the killings. The movie is about that team of men, what they do, and how it affects them.

While all the performeers were excellent, Eric Bana (the protagonist) was particularly fantastic. Bana plays Avner, the leader of the Israeli team. He is a force to be reckoned with in this film, spinning on a dime from nonchalant to wracked with guilt, coarsely brutal to meltingly tender. I have not seen Bana in many films (although he was the best part of the too-epic Troy), but he was amazing in Munich. Bana captured the two sides of conflict: a man who feels a duty to avenge his countrymen as well as a man who sees the humanity in his enemy. Just great, great work.

The message you come away with in this film - everyone loses. The terrorists killed innocent athletes. The Israeli team is sent to take out the terrorists. But as they track down the men, they realize that even terrorists have their own dreams of a homeland. They have wives, children. And when they kill the men responsible for the Munich murders, new men take their places within the terrorist organization. And the men of the Israeli team are left broken and haunted by what they have done. There is no end, just a violent rabbit hole that keeps on wending its way through the Middle East. I think that anyone who has followed world events would agree that this seems to be an accurate assessment.

This film is definitely worth watching, but it's not popcorn cinema. This film is a great example of how film can be riveting (if not exactly entertaining) and teach you something, make you think, and perhaps even change you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Come sail away

One of my husband's former co-workers is retiring to sail around the world. No, I am not kidding. They are headed for the Carribbean and Mexico this fall, and they plan to be in Belize later this year. Check out their Web page, which details their plans and the destinations they will visit. I have promised them that if they let Clay and I tag along, we will not take up too much room. And we'll be on our best behavior. Girl Scout's honor.

I am green with envy. BUT I am not an open-water type of girl. I'd stick strictly to sailing up and down coasts, never too far from the sight of land. Something about being adrift with nothing but ocean for miles and miles around gives me the heebie jeebies. I even felt that way on my honeymoon cruise, and we were on a HUGE ship. I like getting away, but not that far away, KWIM?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

101 Things to Do in 1001 Days

Ok, I've always been a list-maker. And I've always been very goal-oriented. Which is why this challenge is practically tailor-made for me.

I'm making my list now, and I'll post it here once it's more complete. Shooting for Jan. 1.

Who's with me? I figure that, even if I don't complete my list, I'll go a ways towards it. And that's better than nothing, right?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sophia's - DIVINE!

Had the chance last night to dine at Sophia's, the restaurant located in the Fairview Inn in downtown Jackson. In a word, FABULOUS!

The restaurant offers a pre-fixed menu of three courses for about $40 (not including wine). Though I ordered off the full menu, that would be a great option. The choices looked very good. I started with a Caesar salad (yum), followed by the smoked chicken penne (tossed with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheese). I ended with quite possibly one of the best key lime pie slices I have ever had the privilege to consume. Washed down with two glasses of wine and a cup of decaf coffee, I was in heaven. Add to that our wide-ranging conversation covering everything from presidential candidates to the merits of household appliances, and you've got a near-perfect evening.

Service was snappy, and the Fairview is BEAUTIFUL when decorated for Christmas. Prices are a little spendy, but totally worth it. Stop by if you haven't already!

You make me happy when skies are gray

Finally got around to watching Little Miss Sunshine, and it was just as good as everyone said it was. The film tells the story of the Hoover family - success-obsessed dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), harried mother Sheryl (Toni Collette), wide-eyed (and completely precious) daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin), suicidal Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell, in a BRILLIANT turn), a heroin-snorting grandpa (Alan Arkin), and (finally) iron-pumping older brother Dwayne, who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy. Due to a fluke, little Olive is invited to participate in the hotly contested "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant in California. The family loads into their dated VW van to make the several hundred mile trek to get Olive to the competition on time.

While there is certainly enough plot to go around, this is primarily a character piece. We see Richard realize that his preoccupation with being a "winner" is awfully detrimental and none too forgiving. We watch as Frank copes with being dumped by his lover and surpassed by his professional colleagues. We see Dwayne's dream to be a pilot threatened. And through all of the family's losses, we watch them prop each other up and realize that losing isn't really all that bad, as long as you have some good company.

EVERYONE in the cast brought their A-game, but the two standouts for me were Breslin and Carrell. Breslin was absolutely adorable as little Olive, who has no reason to believe she can't win the pageant. And she is so trusting and vulnerable that I was totally hooked. Carrell as the jilted gay academic proves once again that he is a veritable Proteus. The guy has range. His melancholy recovery from depression is something to see - smart, likable, witty, in other words, someone we really want to keep around. As odd as it sounds, Frank is, in many ways, the straight man of the piece. (Ha!)

At any rate, you will love this movie. I did, and I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Making merry

Went out with Mel (oldest and dearest friend) to Pan Asia, one of my faves, this week. Cashew chicken, martinis, and lots of trash talk. God, I needed that!

When I go there, I usually have the Pan Asia Up, a fruity, girly martini made with pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and vanilla vodka. However, on this occasion, I had the chance to try the Pomegranate Punch (which was GREAT and very Christmasy; plus, pomegranate juice is supposed to be the new super food) and the Tiger Lily (better than I had remembered it). Service, as usual, was great.

Now, while Pan Asia is wonderful, many of you may remember that restaurant that used to occupy the same location - Brick Oven. I have a very nostalgic place in my heart for this restaurant, as the food was fabulous (Italian - YUM) and the atmosphere was warm.

Mel and I waxed nostalgic about their southwestern lasagna and their pasta with prosciutto and peas (a creamy, delicate dish that was worth driving many miles for) before digging into crab and avocado spring rolls.

In an effort to recapture, hubby and I went by Amerigo's for lunch today. But their Straw and Hay lunch dish (the closest thing approximating Brick Oven's heavenly prosciutto pasta) didn't quite match what I recall from Brick Oven. Oh, well. The search goes on . . . .

There could be worse things in life, I suppose!

Bits and pieces

Brian and I saw Lady in the Water, starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Paul Giamatti, last week, and it was pretty dang cool. Kind-of a modern fairy tale, the movie is about Story (the "lady in the water" of the film's title) and her interactions with all of the film's other characters. Story (Howard), a "water-being," is found in the pool of an apartment complex by Cleveland Heep (Giamatti), the complex's repairman. Heep, who has his own secrets/backstory, becomes involved in trying to aid Story in accomplishing her mission (to inspire a human who will go on to do something great) and then returning to her own world.

The film is much about connectedness. Heep discovers that many of the apartment complex residents have a special role to play in Story's mission (with M. Night Shamalayan himself playing one of the largest roles I've seen him take on in one of his own films), and all the residents must work together to help the strange water creature that has stumbled into their midst.

The film also has alot to say about the purpose of the individual - i.e. how we are all searching for our purpose, how we make mistakes, how we sometimes don't realize who we are until the fit hits the shan, how each person has a special importance.

So, in a way, the film is about the critical nature of both knowing who we are as an individual and realizing that we are all interdependent - an indivisible group. The film's characters cannot achieve success unless they all work together.

Giamatti, as usual, gives a great performance. There were a couple of strained moments (which is uncharacteristic of him, I think. He usually makes it look sooooo easy.), but overall, he was fabulous. Howard was wonderful, too, and the quiet, restrained quality she has served her very well in this role (as did her very chiseled face - positively haunting).

While, like most of Shamalayan's films, this one has strong elements of fantasy, I thought it was worth watching. I would not call this my favorite Shamalayan film, though. That would probably be either The Sixth Sense or Signs.

Trivia: the "M" in M. Night Shamalayan stands for Manoj, a Hindu/Indian/Sanskrit name meaning love and springing from the intellect.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Freaky talking heads online

Ok, check this out. At this site, you can create a character, customize a background, and have the virtual representative say anything you wish. You can even tape yourself talking and have YOUR voice come out of the character's mouth. Freaky.

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