Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where are my Wheaties?

Over the past couple of days, the evil little carrier of illness (my son) has infected both hubs and I with sinus crud. It doesn't bother me too badly during the day, but at night . . . at night I cough and hack and sniff and remain grimly awake.

I was up most of the night last night, which shouldn't be a big deal, right? I mean, I'm a stay-at-home mom! EXCEPT I've still got tons of stuff to do to get ready to go back to work on the 5th AND all our Christmasing isn't finished yet. (We're celebrating with hubs' family tonight, I'm supposed to have lunch plans today - which I may cancel -, THEN New Year's stuff will start, the list goes on.)

I drug my tired behind up to LabCorp yesterday for my employer-mandated drug test. This company is the only place I ever worked for that requires a drug test. It's laughable to me, though, because I've never so much as seen most drugs, much less actually tried them. I understand the need for such precautions, but since I know it's a big waste of money, it does make me cringe a bit.

This morning, I poured myself a bowl of raisin bran, and there was ONE RAISIN in it. I didn't realize that "raisin" bran meant one raisin in a whole box full of bran. #$%&*@!!

Needless to say, the inability to breathe out of BOTH nostrils is making me a bit crotchety. Here's hoping a hot shower and a long nap will improve matters . . .

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beat.

I'm too old for this. The past 3 (4?) days are a blur of social events, lunches out, cooking, laughing, and conversation. I have had friends in from out of town, family all over the place, and (if this is possible) entirely too much chocolate and liquor.

Today will be my detox day before starting all over again on Monday and Tuesday. After Tuesday (I think?), the merriment will begin to taper off, mainly because I *wisely* decided to forego hosting a New Year's open house party. (Which, at the time, I opted out of because I was lazy. In hindsight, I was amazingly astute to be such a slug.)

You know you're old when too much food and too much fun makes you feel hung over. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas!!

Oh, my friends. This has been a fabulous Christmas! One of the best Christmases I can remember, in fact. And the celebrating isn't even over yet!

I HAD to quickly post a Christmas-Eve-dinner recap, though, because if I don't write it now, I might forget how freaking AWESOME it was.

First, the food:

Appetizers included a baked brie with apricots, served with crackers and other dippers and a gorgeous fruit plate. These were served with champagne, courtesy of my awesome older sis. (Who is also pretty dang beautiful. See pic.).

Dinner was the rib roast, garlic mashed potatoes, Dad's consistently amazing salad, green bean bundles (wrapped with bacon. Hello, flavor!), rolls, and the requisite water/sweet tea/red wine.

Dessert was a reallyreally rich trifle that I made with devil's food cake, raspberries, strawberries, and whipped cream flavored with vanilla, coffee, and amaretto. In addition, we sampled from what was perhaps the most attractive chocolate tray I have ever seen. (See pic at right. Was I kidding? No.)

As for my promised post-roast report, here it is: I am now apparently a rib roast diety of some sort, even though what I did was really basic. Following a Martha Stewart recipe, I rubbed the outside of the roast with a mixture of olive oil, flour, salt, pepper, and a hint of sugar. I put it, uncovered, in a preheated oven (450 degrees) for 15 minutes. Then, I kicked the heat down to about 350 degrees and continued roasting, basting frequently with beef broth and pan juices, for another 2 1/2 hours or so. I took the roast out when the meat thermometer registered 145 degrees.

And the roast was perfect. PERFECT. It was nice and pink on the inside, super-juicy, and really tender. (We were able to cut it with butter knives.) Hubs carved it with his customary dexterity (look how sweet he is, standing there with dad!), and we Ate. It. Up. We have some leftovers, and we've already made a killer beef stew to nosh on. We have plans for a shepherd's pie as well. Any other ideas?

After dinner, we lazed around and watched the kids play. We opened presents and just talked and laughed and had the best time. My older sis read the Christmas story out of the Bible, then we threw the kids in the bath. Remember that time before when I lamented that I forgot my camera? I brought it this time! Aren't they the sweetest things EVER? I could post about 15 pictures here, but I'm going to exercise restraint and just give you one.

Then, we bundled up booger and headed for home, where he went straight to bed while we set up his Christmas presents. This morning, hubs and I had our traditional breakfast (little sandwiches made from spiral-sliced ham and Sister Schubert rolls, accompanied by mimosas) while booger played with his new toys.

We spent the rest of the day completely relaxing, talking, making alot of really bad jokes, playing with the baby, and watching movies (reviews to follow).

Still on tap - Some one-on-one time with little sis tomorrow (before she heads back to the snowy north), Dinner with family at the Mediterranean Cafe on Friday night, going out on the town with friends visiting the area for the holidays on Saturday night, and Christmas with hubs' family. Whew! We will be some busy little people!

I hope that you all had the very merriest of Christmases!! May your holiday season be warm, wonderful, and filled with those you love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Terror in Toyland

I about busted a gut this morning looking at 15 selected photos from Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland, a new book featuring photos of tykes freaked out in their annual holiday photos.



Of the images shown, I think this one is my favorite.

The two kids look like they are being poked with hot needles, and Santa seems as if all he wants for Christmas is a couple of Lexapro and a tall vodka rocks. Writes the mom who sent this in, "We have not been to see Santa since."

To see all 15 of the images, click here. (Based on this excerpt alone, it might be worth buying the book, people.)

Oh, and P.S. Facebook is the devil. I started messing around on there a couple of days ago, and I already wonder what I could have accomplished if I had channeled all that energy elsewhere.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cleaning it up

Over the past year and a half or so, I've gotten a bad habit. I've started cussing. Now, though I have always uttered the occasional profanity, it has never been as bad as it is now.

It's no coincidence that I started cussing more once the baby was born. Let's face it people, there's more to cuss about when you've got a little one.

But now that Clay is starting to talk, I have GOT to reign it in. Seriously. So, this weekend, I started wearing a rubber band around my wrist. Whenever I caught myself saying a bad word, I popped myself with it.

On Saturday, my wrist was pretty red. Yesterday, less so. I've had a few lapses already today, but I feel like things are looking up.

I'm *hoping* to be mostly profanity-free in a week or so. Thoughts, prayers, and any Christmas miracles you want to send my way would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reign Over Me

Hubs and I watched Reign Over Me, starring Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler, last night. I was worried that it was going to be a real downer, but it was an amazing and ultimately uplifting film.

The movie tells the story of Alan Johnson (Cheadle), a Manhattan dentist who's feeling a bit stifled by his life. Everything looks good from the outside - a successful dental practice, a beautiful wife that loves him, sweet kids - but he finds himself oddly closed off and non-communicative.

Alan is driving one day, and he catches sight of Charlie Fineman (Sandler), his college roommate from dental school. Alan knows that Charlie lost his wife and three daughters in the Sept. 11 attacks (five years ago in the world of the movie). Though Alan has tried numerous times since then to make contact with Charlie, he's been unsuccessful. Eventually, Alan and Charlie reconnect, and Alan discovers that Charlie has steadily slipped away from reality since his horrible loss.

As the two men re-establish their friendship, they find they both benefit in different ways from being with one another. Alan feels less pressured by career and family obligations, and Charlie begins to confront the death of his family and what it has meant for him.

Though the storyline sounds grim, I laughed alot during this movie. Cheadle and Sandler both give solid performances (especially Cheadle - he is freaking amazing in this), and their joy at rediscovering one another makes for some wonderful moments on screen. Liv Tyler plays a sweet supporting role as a grief and loss counselor, and Donald Sutherland gives a dead-on fabulous cameo as an irritable judge. Despite the tragic timbre of the story, I never found it maudlin or emotionally manipulative. It seemed effortless. "This is what loss is like. This is what grief can do to you. This is how you can start to come out of it." The movie felt very true, somehow.

And it leads the viewer to ask some questions of him/herself. I mean, if I lost my family all at once like that, I like to think I'd be able to cope with it, but could I? How does one get past such a thing? How does one avoid becoming emotionally crippled by such devastation? It is both interesting and awful to ponder.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The power flush

Our guest bathroom toilet. Oh, our guest bathroom toilet.

It has given us nothing but trouble since we moved here. I think it even clogged on move-in weekend. We have plunged it repeatedly, called plumbers numerous times to unclog it, switched to the cheap toilet paper in that bathroom (a move that nearly elicited mutiny from hubs), everything. Finally, when it clogged the last time, hubs was exasperated enough to demand that we call the plumber to install a new toilet all together.

It was then that I began to suspect. He seemed really happy to be picking out a new toilet. He did all this research online about "power flush" and "low-flow," what brands were good, etc. He went to Lowe's alone one night to buy the new toilet, while I stayed home with booger. I called the plumbers to install it the next day while he was at work.

When the plumbers came, I explained the perennial problems we'd had with the toilet. They snaked a camera down the line and found a small crack in it. Roots had grown into the crack, blocking a good bit of the pipe. The plumber offered to just remove the roots, which would fix the problem, and not worry about installing the new toilet. (After all, it wasn't the toilet that was the problem, it was the roots.) I called hubs to get his opinion before making the decision.

"Well, we've already got the toilet there, anyway. We might as well install it," he said.
"But it's like a $250 toilet or something, isn't it? We could return it and get our money back. The toilet we have is fine," I said.
"I mean, I've already bought it and brought it home. It's a low-flow. It will save us money on our water bill," he replied.
"Will it save us $250?" I asked.

And so on and so forth until I could tell that he really had his sweet little heart set on the new toilet. It oddly reminded me of the time that he said he wanted a new big-screen TV. I told him that the TV we had was working fine, and that, should it break, we could replace it with a bigger one. I swear to God that a mere month or two later, the TV was mysteriously "broken." (At the time, I even wondered aloud if he'd been up in the night, hitting it with a baseball bat.) Hubs called a friend, hauled the old TV to the dump, and bought the flat-screen 42-inch plasma of his dreams.

Realizing that I am no match for such cunning, I had the plumbers clean out the roots and install the new toilet. Then I called hubs and promised that I'd let him have the inaugural flush when he got home.

Guys.

Santa who?

Well, little sis got bumped from her flight today, meaning that we had a free evening. (YAY! Well, not yay that it will be another day before I see little sis, but yay that we had a moment to breathe before Christmas came.)

Our little family went out to dinner tonight (hubs' choice - Mexican) and then headed over to Winner's Circle Park for their Christmas celebration. The whole place is lit up beautifully, and you can ride on a "train" around the park paths to see all the lights. The kids can also sit on Santa's knee and tell him what they want for Christmas.

Of course, booger spent most of his time running around like crazy, looking at all the other kids, pointing out every light on every tree, and getting all his ya-yas out in general. (Because the weather was so mild today, we spent oodles of time outside. He was loving it, especially after being cooped up so much in recent weeks.)

We tried our best to get him to show an interest in sitting with Santa to be photographed, but he was having none of it. Not because he was scared of Santa, though; he was just more interested in checking out the park and all the other kids. I guess he did a quick pro and con and decided that hanging out, immobile, for a bit with an old man instead of roaming free in the night air was a no-go. I couldn't even get him to stand still long enough to get any decent pics of his holiday light jubilation. He was just a blur.

Brian and I had the best time walking behind him. We just let him lead the way and tried to keep him out of any muddy places. Aside from that, it was all enjoying each other's company and admiring the great lights. After that, we even drove through a few neighborhoods to look at their displays. (I happened to have one of my Christmas CDs in the car; it was very festive!)

I guess we like looking at lights so much because we never put any lights up on our house. Nev. Er. I've bought them before, and they just sit in the utility room or the attic, gathering dust. I decorate the inside of the house to the hilt, but as for the outside, I slap a wreath on the door and call it done.

And the really sad part is, our other neighbors put us to SHAME. They have tons of lights, outdoor decor, etc. As I mentioned in an earlier post, our next door neighbors put their lights up on Thanksgiving weekend. So we have a good six weeks or so of holiday slacker-ness before everyone's lights come down, and we can hold our heads up again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sleepy predator

My brother-in-law is an avid hunter. For years, my sister would have to rush off right after Thanksgiving to go spend time at the deer camp with him. They have the cutest little boy, Caleb, who's 5 years old now. Old enough, I suppose, to go hunting.

So, I imagine Josh waking Caleb up really early, getting him all dressed in his hunting and safety gear, and trudging out to the deer stand. I imagine the two of them hunkering down and setting their sights for any deer unlucky enough to wander across their path.


And then, about 20 minutes later, this happens.

Priceless. I love that kid.

On the go

It has been a busy week at the House of Bradshaw, but an extremely productive one. In addition to the family luncheon, the cookie baking, the cookie giving, the Christmas menu planning (and subsequent hyperventilating), the gift buying, the gift wrapping, and the *attempted* blood donating, I have been doing a fair amount of freelance work in preparation for returning to the office.

Plus, I FINALLY made it to a professional luncheon on Thursday. There's a local group of folks in my field who meet once a month to listen to presentations by industry speakers and network with one another. (You know the drill.) Though I did have the foresight to continue my membership in said organization for the year I was out of the office, the planets never seemed to properly align so that I could actually attend meetings. Well, at last, I made it to a meeting, and it was such fun! There were so many people there that I hadn't seen in ages, and I motormouthed my way through the whole hour or so that I was there. (No surprise there.) It really made me realize how much I've missed being at work.

Then, last night, I met up with Sandi and Stace for dinner at Broad Street. I had the yummy broccoli and cheese soup plus a green salad, and we stayed there, gabbing about an extremely wide variety of topics (politics, household finance, the media, organized religion, hair flipping), until they kicked us out at 8 p.m. or so. (You know it's closing time when they start upending the chairs on top of the tables, kwim? Subtle. But, hey, they gave us free bread! Score!) Then, we headed over to Cups for a holiday latte (OMG. Delicious. I meant to buy some of the beans, but forgot it by the time we left. I'll have to make a trip back.) and some biscotti, continuing our conversation on Internet searches fraught with peril. ("I'll see your 'sex while pregnant' query and raise you a 'bellybutton fetish' search return!") I don't know why, but when the three of us get together, we talk about everything under the sun. I find our discussions extremely satisfying, and I laugh so hard that my stomach muscles sometimes hurt the next day.

Today, I braved the mall (the MALL, I tell you!) to finish up the last of my gift buying and grab a few things to complete my professional wardrobe (which has been sitting in the closet, untouched and slowly lurching towards being out of fashion, for 14 months). And may I tell you that I make this business-woman-in-a-suit thing look good? I forgot how darned competent I can appear when I have on a navy blazer, matching skirt, and pumps.

Lastly, though he was bearing bad news today, I did have a wonderful catch-up conversation with Boyd, one of my dearest college friends. We have known each other many, many years. What can I say? He's smart, but he doesn't use that as an excuse not to keep thinking. Plus, he's just a nice guy. Next time, Boyd, maybe our conversation will be a bit cheerier, eh? Here's to 2009 . . .

After letting booger try out his new booster chair at dinner tonight and wrangling him into the bath and the bed, I'm beat. But with little sis coming in from Oregon tomorrow (if her flights aren't delayed), there will likely be no rest for the wicked.

Here's to a restful Sunday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe just sweat and tears?

I hate giving blood. HATE it. The finger prick I don't mind, but I hate to feel the needle going in, and I hate watching my bag fill. I usually feel really hot and lightheaded when I give blood, so I'm the one scarfing down cookies and juice in the waiting room before I get back behind the wheel. I really hate it if I get a chance to touch the blood bag after it's full. It's all warm, and I realize that's a bag full of me they are toting off to a cooler somewhere.

But every holiday season, I try and give blood. I do it because there are always lots of wrecks during the holidays, what with people driving like maniacs in the crappy weather. So there always seems to be a spike in need for blood. Plus, I feel like it's a way to really give back at the holidays, not by buying someone a box full of canned goods (which is still awesome), but by actually giving part of yourself, something finite and precious, something that can't just be scanned at the Wal-Mart register.

So anyway, this afternoon found me driving down to Mississippi Blood Services. I even had an appointment. I got there, did my prelim check-in, and had my finger pricked.

They wouldn't take my blood. My iron's too low. Sheesh. I was right on the borderline, and the nurse said that she could prick a finger on the other hand, just to see if the second reading would be a tad higher. It was lower.

So now, among all the other places I have been thrown out of, I have been rejected from the blood bank. I had to leave, my little head hanging down, without making my donation. It was pretty pitiful.

But remember what I said earlier about perseverance? My plan is to spend the week after Christmas eating leftover rib roast and try again before New Year's. Tee. And may I also say, hee!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday puttering

I have made a dangerous amount of cookies this morning. Most of them will be packed up and given to neighbors, but a shocking number will remain in the Bradshaw house. Please send help.

Yesterday, I put up the Christmas decorations at my mom's house. Usually, my little sister (who used to still live at home) does it each year. However, since she's now making her life in the snowy north, mom needed someone to help out. Mom's pre-lit artificial tree, though absolutely beautiful, is freaking HUGE and very heavy. After I nearly cracked my skull trying to drag it out of the attic, I lugged it downstairs. I've never put up a pre-lit tree before, and I didn't realize the maze of cords and outlets that would have to be sorted through. I finally got it done, though, and put the ornaments on it (in SPITE of Mom's constant "helpful" comments! Some things never change!). It looks pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

I've wrapped all of our gifts and sent all my Christmas cards. Pretty much all of our Christmas shopping is done (YAY!), so maybe now I can coast a bit.

Oh, and my extended family has decided to do something a little bit different for Christmas Eve dinner this year. For years and years, we had turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas. It became something of a tradition. Well, last year, we decided to make steaks topped with crabmeat for Christmas Eve. YUM. That turned out really well, so we've decided to continue our experiments with beef in 2008. This year, we're having a standing rib roast. (Very English, no?) Now, I have never made one of these things before, but since I'm kinda the default entree-maker, I'll be giving it a try.

If you don't know what a rib roast is, it's basically the big honkin' piece of cow from which ribeyes are cut. (It's NOT the pretty round crown roast you're probably thinking of. That's a pork cut.) Anyhoo, I went and bought a huge one this morning. To feed all the people we've got coming for Christmas, I ended up with a 9-pound roast. (No, we aren't giants. But there are alot of us, and some of the fat will cook away in the oven. Plus the meat's bone-in, so you need more ounces per person than you might think.)

I have a meat thermometer, and there are tons of good-looking rib roast recipes on the internet (They all actually look pretty basic.), but here's what's freaking me out a little: once I bought a big enough rib roast to feed all of us, I ended up with a $90 piece of meat. So if I screw it up, I am going to be one sad little lady come Christmas Eve.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Poetry Project

I am a big fan of perseverance (It's how I got through grad school. Ha!), and I've loved this poem since childhood. Even though literary critics don't consider Frank Stanton one of the "great" poets (He made his career as a newspaper man - gasp!-, though he was named poet laureate of Georgia in 1925.), I personally think this is a great poem.


Keep a-Goin'
by Frank L. Stanton

If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin'!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a-goin'!
'Taint no use to sit an' whine
When the fish ain't on your line;
Bait your hook an' keep a-tryin' -
Keep a-goin'!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin'!
Though 'tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin'!
S'pose you're out o' ev'ry dime,
Gittin' broke ain't any crime,
Tell the world you're feelin' prime -
Keep a-goin'!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin'!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin'!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like sighin', sing -
Keep a-goin'!

Carb coma

This afternoon, the little Bradshaw family drove out to scenic Puckett, Mississippi ("300 good friendly folks!" chirps the official town sign), for the annual Bradshaw holiday luncheon. These are relatives on Brian's father's side of the family, and we rarely see them (save for Sweet Aunt Janet and Uncle Luke) except for around the holidays.

Every year since Brian and I have been married, I've been asked one question when I attend this luncheon. "When are you guys going to have a baby?" This went on for six years. Last year, when I had finally produced a baby, Brian was OUT OF TOWN ON BUSINESS for this event. So I finally had a baby to show off, and we didn't go to the luncheon. So this year, I was AT LAST able to take booger out to Puckett so everyone could see that I can, in fact, reproduce.

Hubs and I dressed him in a little camo outfit (Hubs thought camo would go over well, considering the Puckett demographics.), and we headed out. I triumphantly entered the house, holding a gorgeous little blonde-haired, blue-eyed child who smiled and babbled and allowed himself to be held by relatives. Everyone fawned over him.

For about five seconds. Then they asked, "So, when are you having another one?" They followed this query with observations such as, "He'll be awfully lonely without any brothers or sisters," and "Taking care of two or three is nearly as easy as taking care of one!" (Riiiight. I'll be sure to call YOU at 3 a.m. when kid #2 is awake and wanting to be rocked. So, is that a 601 number?)

Arrrrgh.

Anyhoo, we DID have fun. The food is always reallyreally good (Though we always have tons of mashed potatotes, macaroni and cheese, hashbrown casserole, and dressing. Would it KILL us to bring a green vegetable once in a while? I'm going to remember that for next year.), and the company's nice, too. After eating WAY too much, we trundled home, where we all passed out in carb-induced comas and laid around like beached whales for the rest of the day. Oooof.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nun with child

I just finished reading Joanne Harris' Holy Fools, and I loved it. I think it's one of my favorite novels she's written, even better, perhaps, than Five Quarters of the Orange.

This novel deviates a bit from the Harris formula (though the absent father is still absent, and strong women figure heavily in the storyline). Holy Fools tells the story of Juliette, a young, French traveling performer in the 1600s. Juliette performs a high-wire act in Guy LaMerle's troupe, and she is LaMerle's sometimes-lover. A trickster, seducer, and gambler at heart, LaMerle is always looking for a way to make a buck, exact revenge on his enemies, and live the good life. After an awful betrayal, Juliette breaks with LaMerle. Years later, we find her living in a convent under an assumed name, with a young daughter (Fleur) at her heels.

Into her now-sedate life plows a new abess for the convent - Isabelle. And Isabelle's trusted confessor and aide is none other than LaMerle, now disguised as a man of the cloth. As Juliette tries to piece together LaMerle's endgame, she discovers her own true nature and the price she's willing to pay for the things she really values.

The more I read of Harris, the more I like her. I think Holy Fools is one of the best novels I've read in a while, and she's written several more books that I haven't gotten to yet.

This story moves along quickly, even more quickly as the ending approaches and the reader is rapt with anticipation. The point-of-view shifts continually from Juliette to LaMerle, which is a wonderful touch, as it shows you how, in many ways, the two characters are very much alike and almost destined to be together. As in most Harris novels, the story hinges on a very strong single mother, and Juliette is both cunning and sympathetic.

This book is less about foodie culture than the previous Harris novels I've read, but I didn't mind a bit. The story is engaging, and I polished this little gem off in about two days.

There's gold in them thar . . . rocks and water and stuff.

I got the chance to watch National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets this week. What fun! I really enjoyed the first National Treasure movie, but I wasn't too excited when the second one came out because I thought, "How can they top the awesome treasure they found in the first movie?" And they didn't really, but the formula for the movie - treasure hunting, history, and action - still works.

In this movie, Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage), now a respected scholar, is making a presentation about his great-great-grandfather's role in trying to stop the assassination of President Lincoln. Out of the audience comes Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), who counters that perhaps Thomas Gates was the mastermind of the entire assassination. Wilkinson produces a page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth as evidence of his theory.

In an effort to clear his ancestor's name, Ben starts investigating. What he learns is that the Confederate movement was searching for a legendary treasure - The City of Gold - to bolster and fund their resistance efforts, and that Thomas Gates refused to help them. We soon discover Wilkinson's ulterior motive for maligning Thomas Gates - to get Ben in on the hunt for the treasure. Pretty soon, all of the old gang - Riley Poole (Justin Bartha - so cute!), Abigail Chase (Diane Krueger), and Patrick Gates (Jon Voight), with the addition of Ben's mom (a wonderful performance by Helen Mirren) - are following the clues and putting the puzzle pieces together.

Along the way, Ben kidnaps the President of the United States (for about 20 minutes), sneaks a look at the President's Book of Secrets, and re-connects with Abigail.

I thought this movie was fun and entertaining. I like Nicholas Cage as Ben Gates more than any role he's played in recent memory, and Mirren added a classy touch to the cast. And though I usually hate blatant set-ups for future sequels in the franchise, this movie's reference to "page 47" in the Book of Secrets was actually intiguing. Let's hope that the next movie focuses less on finding an EVEN MORE SUPER-FABULOUS treasure and more on some other aspect of the adventure.

Friday, December 12, 2008

So, where are you from?

Oh my dear Lord. I had to, HAD TO post a link to this.

Warning - it is crude. But it is frickety-frakking hilarious. I laughed out loud. Read the WHOLE thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pool trivia

Ok, cool stuff in the world of pool is forthcoming.

Did you know that George Washington (as in, the Father of Our Country) was a billiards gambler? According to Steve Mizerak, Washington kept a diary that documented his affinity for billiards and the amount of money he won while playing. The most he ever lost in one day's play was one pound, ten shillings, and his largest winning was about $1.75.

John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, was also a pool fanatic. On the taxpayer's dime (remember what I wrote earlier about pool players being hustlers?), Adams slipped a billiard table, cues, and billiard balls into his $14,000 Congressional furnishing appropriation for the White House. His political opponents were enraged, jumping on the new prez for loving things (ie. pool) "which lead to destruction." Ouch.

Stage readings

New Stage Theatre is kicking off the review process for their Eudora Welty New Play Series again! I served on the reading committee for last year's series, and I am sooo glad that they asked me to return for this year! I don't think I will have time to read quite as many plays as I did last year, what with returning to the office and all, but I'm super-excited to see what kinds of scripts we've been sent for 2009.

Last year's selection committee chose three plays that were presented as staged readings at the theatre. The ultimate objective of the series is to find work that can successfully be produced on the mainstage. Hopefully, we'll unearth some good talent during this process.

If you have an interest in/love of theatre, give me a holler! We are looking for more members for the committee!

P.S. I am sooooo thankful that I don't have to go to work today. Warm socks, hot cocoa, and mindless lounging, here I come!

Meet me at Bonefish

You know how sometimes, you just have a really good night? I had one last night. Despite the crappy weather, I met a friend for a long, leisurely dinner at Bonefish Grill, and I SO enjoyed it. We got there at 6:30 p.m., and I don't think we left until nearly 9 p.m., we were enjoying our conversation so much.

I don't get to see her as much anymore, and so when we do get together, we enjoy catching up on our work, our families, and things that are going on in our lives. She is always so sweet, fun, and poised (nothing like brash, loud-mouthed me), and we talk with our heads together, like teenagers.

We took our time ordering, chatted, drank wine, ate grilled fish, and just enjoyed ourselves.

~Sigh.~ Life is good.

The skin I'm in

You remember how, a while back, I went to an Arbonne party? Well, something happened there that gave me pause. When I asked the sales rep to talk to me a little bit about their facial care line, she asked me how old I was. I told her I was 31.

Then she said, "Well, then you should really be looking at our anti-aging skin care line."

Say what? Anti-aging? Seriously? I don't FEEL any older, although I guess it's a slow, cumulative thing. I was just surprised to hear someone steering me to the anti-aging cream, I guess. I've always just washed my face and put on a daily moisturizer, and that's about it.

Needless to say, I didn't buy their $200 anti-aging skin care system right then and there, but her comment DID make me think about how I'm getting older and need to be taking better care of myself if at all possible. So, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist. I wanted to talk to somone who's actually degreed in helping folks care for their skin, not just a salesperson looking to make a commission. Plus, I'd never been to a dermatologist before. I wanted someone to check me over and make sure everything looked all right.

I went to my appointment yesterday, and the first thing the doctor did was check my skin. As she was doing that, she noticed three small moles under my left arm. I'd never thought too much about them, other than always having to be careful not to slice them when I was shaving. The doctor asked if I wanted them removed, and I was like, "I guess so. They are kind of a nuisance because they are in a weird place."

Before I knew it, she was snipping those things off with a pair of SCISSORS!! I thought moles were supposed to be burned off, or frozen off or something civilized like that. I felt like John Wayne in one of those old Westerns, sitting in that exam chair with my arm hoisted above my head. I needed a bottle of whiskey and a saddle strap to clench between my teeth. Or, at the very least, a hunky cowboy to hold my hand and promise he'd tell my mama I loved her.

Anyway, after that, we had a consult, and I left with lots of good information and TONS of samples to try. I feel like I'm at the mercy of the beauty industry to a much lesser degree, and hopefully, what I learned will help me protect my skin.

And if I should ever find myself at a beauty products party again (not bloody likely), I will be better armed. ;)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Chick flick

I had the chance to watch P.S. I Love You, starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler, this week. It's a sweet, teary chick flick that I kinda liked in spite of myself.

I read the book that this movie was based on a few years ago. It was one of the vacation reads I took with me to Arizona. Though the movie differed significantly from the book in some key areas, I found myself enjoying it.

Here's the skinny: Young Holly is married to Gerry, an Irish musician. The two live in a cramped walk-up apartment in New York, and they are trying to save some money and "make a plan" to start their family.

Reality intervenes. Gerry is diagnosed with a brain tumor and passes away. Holly is adrift in grief. Then, on her 30th birthday, a cake and a small tape recorder arrive at her doorstep. It's a message from Gerry. Apparently, Gerry planned these occasional messages to her for the first year after his death.

Each message gives Holly an assignment - buy a bedside lamp, go out with her girlfriends, take a vacation, find a better job. The assignments are Gerry's way of making sure that Holly's life goes on without him. (Sweet, no?)

I thought that Swank did a good job in this film, making a sometimes inscrutable character likable and warm. Butler was wonderful as Gerry, and there was a fabulous performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan that practically had me weak in the knees. Harry Connick Jr. played Daniel, Holly's long-suffering friend, pretty well, too. (Oh, and Holly's clothes were really fun! I may steal some ideas there . . . )

To recap - this is not a tour de force. This movie will not change your life or even make you think about it that much. But it will entertain you, and you may have to grab a Kleenex for some of the scenes. Great for a night in with the girls.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fancy lady

After watching that tape of myself 10 years ago, I did a silly thing. I reached WAY back in my closet and pulled out a dress. A red satin dress that I wore my senior year of college. I love this dress. I bought it for Mardi Gras in 1999, and I also wore it to a formal school function that year. Because, damn, I looked GOOD in it.

It's sleeveless, with a Chinese collar and a wicked slit up the left leg. It covers everything and is completely demure, but I always felt like a bombshell in it.

Even when it got too small (or, rather, when I got too big!), I could never bring myself to get rid of it. You know how, sometimes, it's hard to let go of something that holds alot of good memories for you? It was like that with this dress. I was all, "I'll never fit into that thing again," but I just didn't have it in me to donate it to Goodwill or put it in the garbage pile.

Dude, I put that thing on this morning. The zipper went smoothly up my back. No sucking in. No tugging. No praying to Jesus to give me a magic, instant tummy tuck.

IT FITS. IT FITS!! It is a *little* tight across the bust (the blessing/curse of childbirth, I guess), but that is not noticeable at all. It looks good on me again. I don't know how, I don't know why, but it looks GOOD, people!!

Somebody, quick. Invite me to something formal. Before I gain 5 pounds.

Christmas performance

Just got an email about a neat-sounding Christmas performance coming up next weekend.

A group of actors is getting together to perform an original Christmas radio drama, “Charles Dickens’ Forgotten Holiday Fables.” Few may be aware that in addition to "A Christmas Carol," Dickens wrote several other holiday stories. These stories are the basis of the new show, presented in the style of “Prairie Home Companion.”

From the announcement: "a live radio show is a delightful sensory experience: seeing sound Aeffects performed live, hearing Christmas carols interspersed between stories, along with old-fashioned radio commercials, all contribute to a unique, enchanting holiday event." Sounds cool, eh?

The show features several folks that I know are good - Opie Cooper, Danny Dauphin, J.C. Patterson, John Howell - as well as some names that are new to me - Wade Acuff, Cory Drake, Brighton Goode, Brent Hearn, Beth Kander, Bret Kenyon, and Richard Lawrence.

There will be three performances, all benefitting the nonprofit organization Imagination Education, Inc. All contributions will go towards literacy, creative writing, and creative-academic program initiatives here in Mississippi. (Can't beat that, right?) The first performance, Thursday, December 11, at 7:00pm is a VIP benefit event; the performances on Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13 (both at 7 p.m.) are open to the public, with a suggested donation of $12/ticket. Seating is limited, so call 853-7270 to RSVP.

To learn more about the work of Imagination Education, visit http://www.imaginationeducation.org/.

Maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Blast from the past.

Hubs and I have both come face to face with blasts from our pasts this week.

His mom sent us an old box of his high school memorabilia from the attic. It is hilarious stuff - all the proofs from his senior portraits (He looks like such a baby! Those freckles! That feathery blonde hair!), his old band trophies and hat (The CHS band's slogan back then was "Every day in every way." You can imagine how high school boys snickered over that, can't you?), even some old car tags (He's far too paranoid to just toss them like everyone else.). Oh, and a snake in a can. Seriously, it's really one of those trick cans that, when you open it, a big fake snake pops out.

As for me, mom was cleaning out her video collection and found a tape of some of the television interviews I did as publicity for theatre productions when I was in college. Wow. My hair was so much longer then, and I think I was nearly 10 pounds skinnier. (Aside from that, I appear to have held up rather well during the last ten years or so. Must be all the clean living! Hee hee!)

I'm happy to say that I don't appear to make an utter fool of myself in any of the clips, even in hindsight. (Thank God I can at least keep it together and remember what I'm supposed to be saying when a camera is rolling.) However, it is interesting to look back into your own eyes from 10 years ago, staring out at you from the screen, and think about all the things that little gal will do to get you where you are today.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Puppets!

Almost forgot to blog about this - I took Clay to the MS Puppetry Guild performance of "Peter and the Wolf/Nutcracker Sweets" yesterday morning. We'd taken him to see the circus, and we also toted him to Elmo Live! when it was in town. He really enjoyed both of those performances, so I figured we'd head on out to the puppet show.

He LOVED it!

The story of Peter and the Wolf is set to Prokofiev's classical composition, and the puppets were designed by local artist P. Sanders McNeal. (McNeal also happened to be the 2006 USA IBC poster artist. She is fabulously talented, in addition to being a very sweet lady.) Action moves along at a quick pace to keep children engaged, the puppets are colorful and well-lit, and the music is lively.

The second half of the program, set to Tchaikovsky's classic Christmas music, features dancing penguins, teddy bears, candy, and more. Clay really loved this part of the program as well. There's lots to see, and plenty of variety keeps even wee ones from getting bored.

There were tons of kids there, so no worries about a slightly vocal little person. (Though Clay was an absolute angel. Once the lights went down, he zoned in on the stage. No squirming, no crying, just rapt attention. He even pointed out things on stage and jabbered to me a bit about them. So cute!)

Also, since I was once a puppeteer with this troupe (the Nutcracker Sweets was one of the shows I performed in), it was doubly special. I'd never seen the show from the audience side! Fun!

Performances are being held at the Millsaps College Christian Center Auditorium. Admission is $6 per person, and there are still four shows left - Dec. 10 and 12 at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. You can call 601-977-9840 to reserve your tickets.

Don't miss it!

My precious

My darling baby has been restored!!

No, not this one. (Nothing happened to him, other than the usual bumps and spills.)




















I'm talking about THIS one. They finished repairing my car at the shop yesterday. Come to mama, sweetheart!


GIT

A while back, one of my friends returned to the work force after having a baby. Shortly before her start date, she began the GIT program - Get It Together. I really liked this idea, and I'm currently working on my own GIT program to prepare to return to the office.

So far:
Made daycare arrangements (We lucked out on this one.)
Had professional wardrobe cleaned
Bumped maids back up to weekly service (Hallelujah!)
Completed all job-related paperwork and submitted it
Scheduled salon appointment (Me and my poor hair. We have been limping along, we two.)

Still to do:
Arrange for parking (Parking downtown can be a hassle. Wish me luck.)
Stock freezer (Super Suppers, anyone?)
Shine shoes (I love me some shiny shoes.)
Order new business calendar/planner pages
Have car serviced and washed

What else should I be doing? I've done a pretty decent job of keeping up with industry news while I've been away, though I have been woefully derelict in attending my professional association meetings. (Hopefully, I will get back into circulation some in December. We shall see . . . )

Update on My 101

101 things to do in 1001 days

November was slow. Though I made progress on several goals, I can only check off two. As usual, items in bold are completed. One foot in front of the other . . .


Record family history (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 Clay
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 a real paella
Make a 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 - Clay and I packed up and drove down the Natchez Trace one day to accomplish this one. We got some great shots!
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 - I brought Clay to dad's office for their annual Thanksgiving lunch. It was fun!
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


First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

We have the sweetest next door neighbors ever. They always stop to talk if we pass them walking or see them working in the yard. When I locked myself out of the house one evening, they let me come in and use their phone so the fresh fish I had piled in the trunk wouldn't go bad. (Hence Brian's insistence that I get a cell phone.) When Katrina struck and we were without power, sweet neighbors offered hot coffee from their battery-powered coffee maker.

And our neighbors LOVE Christmas. They put up their outdoor lights the day before Thanksgiving, impeccably lined up with their roofline. Their house also sports wreaths on each column of the front porch. In addition, every Christmas since we've moved to the neighborhood, sweet neighbors have given us a custom CD of Christmas music. (They have thousands of songs that they've amassed over the years.) We have so enjoyed the CDs. I'm a cheapskate when it comes to things like that, so I have virtually NO Christmas music CDs. Thanks to our neighbors, though, I now have several Christmas CDs with tons of cool, retro carols as well as more modern interpretations of the songs we all know and love.

But there is one little snafu. You see, sweet neighbors are gay men. So, in addition to Sinatra's '47 version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the CD will probably also sport a Village People Christmas medley. (N-O-E-L instead of Y-M-C-A; Santa, Santa Claus instead of Macho, Macho Man; you follow me, right?) Please do not misunderstand me. I love these neighbors, and I LOVE the CDs. I just think it's precious how everyone's personality comes through when they make a mix tape.

So far, Clay's favorite song has been the dance club version of "It's Christmas Baby, Please Come Home," a duet by Cher and Rosie O'Donnell. (He just loves that sassy techno beat!) I'm thinking I might have to get him a toy gun or something this year, just to even everything out. Thoughts?

Eating and drinking

I have been eating and drinking wonderful things lately.

On Monday night, I met my Drunco group at P.F. Chang's for dinner. We scarfed down crispy green beans, dumplings, and calamari with our drinks from the bar (I got the Plum Collins, which was good, but I SO should have gotten the Asian Pear Mojito. It's on my list for next time.), THEN had entrees as well. (Ooof.)

I ordered the wonton soup, and our sexy-voiced server (Susan even asked him if he was in radio. He definitely had the Barry White thing going on.) brought it out in a HUGE bowl. It was YUM - tasty broth with shrimp, tender wontons, mushrooms, and other little goodies floating happily around. It was seriously enough for at least three people. I was strong, though! I had a fairly modest serving and called it a night. (No dessert. I am so virtuous.)

Today, I picked up hubs from the office and took him to lunch at Schimmel's. I heart Schimmel's. I had the daily special - fish encrusted with a crabmeat and breadcrumb coating, then pan-fried in butter. OMG. Served with the tastiest broccoli EVER and some unbelievable mashed potatoes. I ate it all. Even the cornbread roll. But, again, to make up for my indulgence, I skipped dessert. And I had unsweet tea. Do you think that tips the calorie scales?

I guess I'll be going running tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Working girl

Remember my post a while back about being able/ready to go back to work if the right job came along?

Well, I think that I'm a bit charmed. Just as hubs is getting settled in his local job, the right job for me came along. My old job, in fact. The job that I was sad about leaving, even though I knew the right decision at the time was to stay home for a while with the baby.

And here's how I know that the universe is speaking to me on this one - I found an awesome, AWESOME daycare for booger. It's within 10 minutes of the house, and they have a slot for him in January. And my new/old employers are willing to wait until January for me to start. And they are giving me a raise over what I made before. And they are letting me shift my hours to best suit my family. And they are hiring me to do freelance work during December. (Hello, awesome Christmas!)

I don't think that the will of the universe gets much clearer than that, do you?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Studying up

I'm a nerd.

I am the kind of person who buys a book about everything. When I got pregnant with booger, I immediately went out and bought three or four books about being pregnant, nutrition during pregnancy, etc. I even saw a nutritionist so I could be sure I was eating/drinking what I should be and avoiding what I was supposed to avoid.

At any rate, it struck me this week (after driving poor Brogan to drink last Tuesday because I couldn't wrap my head around simple geometry) that I have not been reading any books about pool. How did THAT happen? So, this morning found me at the library, where I checked out the only two books about pool that they had (as well as a book or two by Sylvia Browne - we'll see how that goes).

I've started with Byrne's Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards, which is a cross between an instruction manual, a history of the game, and anecdotes about billiards greats. So far, I've read mainly the stories about pool players of yore and some funny essays that Mr. Byrne included. (One, by J.B. Priestley - "At Thurston's," was really really good. And I remember where I've heard of Priestley before; in college, I performed in one of the plays he wrote - Dangerous Corner. Small world, no?)

Here's what I've learned so far:
1.) Pool players are bullshitters. Half of the game, it seems, is trash-talking your opponent and trying to throw off his/her game. The other half is telling your glory tale to folks once the game is over. Pool players seem to conceive and perpetuate the myths about themselves. (An early PR trick, I suppose.)

2.) Pool players are gamblers. Most of these guys raised a significant amount of money hustling folks. Don Willis hustled on the road and hated to have his picture taken (not good for business). Until he quit hustling in the late 60s, Byrne claims, "only insiders knew what he (Willis) looked like."

3.) Pool players have awesome nicknames. Willis was also known as The Cincinnati Kid. Here are a few other colorful names I've run across: George "The Ripper" Rippe, "No Neck" Nolan, "The Seldom Seen" Kid, "Fast Larry" Grindinger, "Machine Gun" Lou Butera, Ernie Morgan (A.K.A. "The One-Armed Bandit"), Leon "Behind the Back" Yonders, "Wimpy" Lassiter, Norm "Farmer" Webber, New York Fatty, the list goes on and on and on. There were also great players who didn't really seem to have nicknames, but how much cooler is it to have an awesome nickname than to just be known as Willie Hoppe?

(We have a guy on our team named Tiny. I have no idea what his real name is. When I told Brian about Tiny, Brian asked me how big he was. I had to admit to him that Tiny is rather large. Brian replied, "No one ever nicknames a little guy Tiny. It's always some huge dude.")

4.) Anybody can play pool, if they work hard enough at it. (Good news for me, right?) There was a guy named George Sutton, playing in the early 1900s, who could run hundreds and hundreds of points in straight billiards. And George had no forearms or hands. Seriously. His arms were cut off just below the elbows. His nickname? "Armless" George Sutton. And the dude still played WAY better than me. Talk about a handicap . . . Jay Bozeman (another great player) swore that ol' George could not only delicately lift a bowl of soup to his lips with his stubs, but could also write his name in beautiful penmanship when autographing materials for fans.

I can't MAKE this stuff up.

Anyway, I'm finally getting to the instructional part of the book, and I have one suggestion for Mr. Byrne. Next time, include a @#&%$! glossary in your book. I'm having to look all kinds of terms up on the Internet.

The second book, Steve Mizerack's Complete Book of Pool, seems like it's geared more towards the beginning player. There are lots of photos and diagrams, as well as some handy drills to help players improve speed control, shot selection, and thinking ahead. I have a feeling I'll be using this book to actually improve my game (such as it is) more than Byrne's, though I have found Byrne's stories to be entertaining.

Too bad I'll look like a complete idiot if I go toting any of these books into a pool hall. I guess I'll just have to use my famous memory to retain all this stuff. Luckily, I've had lots of practice at studying.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Drink it in.

I just finished reading Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris. Harris, the author of Chocolat (on which the movie was based) and Five Quarters of the Orange, seems to enjoy writing stories that focus on well-developed characters, rural life, and food. And I am only too happy to read them!

Blackberry Wine tells the story of Jay Winesap, a washed-up author who, in a moment of inspiration, buys a farm in the French countryside. The place speaks to him about his past, about something he feels he has lost, about something that he hopes he can recapture.

We learn that as a youth, Jay developed a relationship with an eccentric gardener named Joe Cox. Jay spent his summers hanging around Joe's garden, weeding, tending to plants, and listening to Joe's wild stories about life. With his famous parents divorced and too busy to involve themselves in Jay's affairs, Joe becomes a sort of surrogate parent for the boy. Jay is crushed when Joe leaves with no explanation.

The story alternates between revealing current events in Jay's life (fixing up the farmhouse, embarking on a new novel, meeting the townspeople, etc.) and detailing his relationship with Joe and his formative experiences as a teenager.

I really enjoyed this novel. Harris has a descriptive writing style that I like, and, though many of her novels are reminiscent of one another (all set in small European villages, all preoccupied with amusing character sketches and village life, all incorporating food), the formula works. At 350 pages or so, this was a quick and entertaining read.

My only complaint - the first third or so of the book was a bit choppy, alternating too abruptly from the past to the present and back again. This defect improved as the book progressed; Harris allowed more time in each flashback/forward so that the reader could become more engaged in the narrative.

Beautifully sad

Remember my discovery of James McAvoy a while back? I liked him so much in Becoming Jane that I decided to finally get off my tukkus and watch Atonement. Wow.

Beautifully shot, the movie begins by introducing us to the wealthy Tallis family, ensconced in an impressive estate in England during the late 1930s. Briony (played as a young girl by Saoirse Ronan), the youngest member of the family at 13, is a budding writer, concocting plays and other works to be presented at family gatherings. We also meet Cecilia Tallis (played with heartbreak by Kiera Knightley), Briony's gorgeous older sister. During the early course of the film, Cecilia learns that Robbie (McAvoy), educated son of the family housekeeper, is in love with her. In a moment of almost-shock, Cecilia realizes that she returns this love.

Young Briony, who happens to have a crush on Robbie herself, accidentally walks in on the two lovers one pivotal evening. Events later that night lead to Briony accusing Robbie of a crime he didn't commit. His quick arrest, and subsequent enrollment in the British army (WWI), deny Robbie and Cecilia the time together that they so long for.

Years later, Briony sorts through what happened, understanding her terrible error and what it meant, leading to the title of the film.

This film is beautiful to look at. Shots are carefully composed. Period costuming, hair, makeup, and props are impeccable. Keira Knightley wears an emerald gown that is a revelation. It is cut so delicately that it even makes her stick-thin body look curvy. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.

Performances are amazing. Knightley portrays Cecilia as achingly bewildered by her feelings, then stricken with yearning at being separated from her lover. McAvoy's Robbie is a triumph, particularly in the scenes during his military service. There is a slow, uninterrupted shot of his face, during which he discovers the evidence of a mass execution, that will stay with me a long time. An older Briony is played in a genius turn by Vanessa Redgrave at the end of the film, summing up the heart of the tale.

I sobbed like a baby at the end. Sooo worth seeing.

Poetry Project

A friend of mine has had this poem posted on her MySpace profile for a long time now. I never heard it before I read it on her page, and I've loved it ever since she led me to discover it. It is also, I think, a fitting verse for this holiday weekend. Enjoy!

The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trytophan high

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! For the first time, I hosted, and I've decided that I'm going to host every year. I hadn't noticed what a pain in the butt it is, packing everything up into the car, driving somewhere, unpacking, having dinner, re-packing, driving home, and then unpacking yet AGAIN. It's much easier just to fix everything and get ready for folks to arrive.

Here's what we served:
Appetizers - my super smoked salmon dip (one of Brian's favorite appetizers; I was never a big smoked salmon fan, until I tried this stuff. It is an amazing holiday munchie.), smoked almonds, and dates stuffed with softened cream cheese and a single whole pecan (these are so easy - both to make and to eat; plus they are delish and beautiful.).

Main course - Turkey (I just stuffed mine with sage and onion, rubbed it with butter and spices, and roasted it in the oven. Brian is an excellent carver. The platter always looks like something out of a magazine when he's finished with it.)
Cream gravy (I make this from the turkey drippings, lots of butter, half and half, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken it. I don't make giblet gravy; mine is smooth.)
Garlic mashed potatoes (YUM.)
Grean bean casserole (A MUST-have.)
Cornbread dressing (My sister makes this every year from my grandmother's recipe; it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.)
Green salad (Dad has to make this every year. His salad dressing is legendary.)
Parker house rolls (Brian would revolt if we didn't serve these, and lots of them.)
Homemade cranberry sauce (Another one of Brian's faves; I've been making it for several years now.)

Dessert - Pumpkin pie (Pretty standard recipe. No twists here.)
Amaretto whipped cream (Oh, yes. I sooooo went there. I never make whipped cream without doctoring it up with something. I *almost* put cinnamon in it, too, but hubs wouldn't have liked it. So I restrained myself.)

We washed this down with red wine, sweet tea, and French vanilla coffee. (I bought the whole beans and ground them last night. Mmmmmmm. I *might* have even put a dollop of yummy whipped cream in my cup . . . )

Lunch was amazing. Miraculously, all the food was ready at the same time, and there was plenty to be thankful for. We had the nicest meal, talked with one another, and enjoyed being together. Then, we laid around like beached whales for a while and watched a football game. Caleb and Clay scooted all around the den, getting into trouble and generally enjoying one another. Then, everyone slowly began making their way to the door. Brian and I put all the food in the fridge, stacked the dishes next to the sink, and put the baby down for a nap.

All my feelgood enzymes are kicking in, so I may lie down for a while myself! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wish you were here!

This post is for my little sister, Grace, who can't be with us for Thanksgiving today. We love you, honey! I will miss you veryvery much today, and I will be thinking of you.

Here's your promised baby update:
Clay is talking more and more now. I never realized how often I point things out for him to look at, but it must be alot, because now he will point to things and say, "See? See?" to me all the time. Also, when he hands you something now, he'll say, "Tankoooo," because Brian and I always say thank you when he gives us something. He's saying a few more words - cracker, ball, juice, no, bye - all of this is happening very quickly. He's repeating the things that he hears us say, too, though I don't think he knows what he's saying. (You know what that means. Time to clean up the language, mama. This will be a pretty sustained effort in the coming weeks.)

He can point to various body parts now, his ear, arm, hands, feet, eyes, nose, mouth, chest, etc. He's waving hello and goodbye now, and he is really starting to enjoy interacting with other adults and other kids. He's fascinated by older children, and he's turning into a bit of a social butterfly. I took him to eat Thanksgiving lunch at Dad's office this week, and he flirted and charmed the whole place (though he didn't want anybody to pick him up but me). The kid smiled and cut his eyes at everybody, giving out free hugs to the folks he especially liked. He even fussed when we left, because he wanted to stay and party some more.

I thought I'd include a video of him doing his stuff. I took this one early in the morning, so he's still wearing his jammers and sporting his albino Alfafa hairdo.

Love you, Grace!! Have a great Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old friends.

On Monday night, our little family went to Clinton for an annual holiday dinner hosted by some longtime neighbors of ours. When we were growing up, the Goodmans lived in the house behind us. Our yards abutted, and the Goodmans had two little girls - Rebecca and Courtney - that we played with all the time. (We were the only females in a neighborhood full of boys, so we became fast friends, sticking together pretty much until we all graduated high school.)

Now that all the girls are grown and scattered around (Laura's in Byram, Rebecca is out at the reservoir, Courtney lives in Louisiana, and the Goodmans themselves have moved to a different neighborhood in Clinton), we don't get together much anymore. But every year, we meet to eat and talk, catch up with one another, and break important news.

Our little group has grown. Now, Laura has a 5-year-old, Courtney's daughter Matilda is 2, and Rebecca is pregnant. The kids puttered around, playing with everything and diving into the tupperware cabinet. We all drank Christmas punch and ate copious amounts of Mrs. Goodman's famous cheesy potatoes.

And we laughed. And gossiped about what had happened to everyone from high school and the old neighborhood. And I remembered, again, how nice it is to converse with people who know you well, who share a history with you, and who still like you well enough to invite you over and feed you every once in a while.

Little mess-maker

So, on Sunday night, I'm getting booger ready for his bath. The water's all drawn, and he's been stripped down to his diaper. He's futzing around in the bedroom while I get the last of the things in order in the bathroom.

When I'm ready, I turn to him and ask him to come let me take his diaper off and put him in the tub. He smiles, reaches down, and takes his own diaper off with a few dramatic twists of the wrist. It's then that I notice that he's got a DIRTY diaper.

"Oh, wait, Clay! Wait for me!" I say, making my way quickly over to him. But not quickly enough. With one fluid motion, he steps into the contents of the dirty diaper, then turns and begins to run all through the master bedroom and into the den, laughing like a madman and leaving little brown footprints in his wake.

By this point, I'm screaming, "Brian!! Aaack! We need wipes, STAT!!" Sweet hubs shows up with wipes, and we corrall the giggling little monster, clean his feet, and throw him in the tub.

I made a desperate call to the carpet cleaners on Monday morning, begging them to get out to the house before Thanksgiving (which I am hosting this year). Thank goodness they could pencil me in for yesterday afternoon, and my carpet is clean again.

For now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tormented

This post is going to be long, and it's going to be a downer. So if you're short of time or already in a bad mood, I suggest you stop reading now.

I have an odd mind. I'm kind of a type-A personality, and I'm a worrier. Sometimes, I find myself obsessing about certain things, and it's very hard for me to forget/disregard them. So I'm hoping that today, by writing all this down, I'll purge this demon a bit and reclaim some of the real estate in my brain.

For the past week or so, I have been unable to stop thinking about this. I'm sure you saw this story in the paper. This poor little four-year-old boy was basically starved to death by his grandmother and his aunt. This kid weighed 19 pounds when he died. (To put it into perspective, Clay is 16 months, and he weighs 24 pounds.) These types of stories have always affected me, but they seem to bother me more now that I have a little one of my own.

I've thought about what things must have been like for this little guy. How hungry he must have been. How he must have asked for food, and they told him no. How surely other people in the house were eating sometimes, and he smelled food or begged for some, and they told him no. How he must have found things - paper, odd bits of string - and ate them because he was so hungry.

And the cruelty of what these people did is not the only thing that's gnawing at me. It's all the things that the existence of such cruelty mean. I am a Christian, and I believe in God. But when I hear about things like this, I doubt Him. I struggle to understand how the painful death of this little boy can fit into some larger plan.

For example, IF perhaps this death is meant to teach someone somewhere a larger lesson, or prevent other deaths, etc., why couldn't the same objective have been accomplished without having a innocent suffer for it? And if God is benevolent, and He loves His children, how can He let a four-year-old starve to death? Is He asleep at the switch up there, or what?

I am a proponent of the idea that Christians are supposed to be God on earth. What I mean is, instead of moaning and groaning about how God should feed the hungry, we, as God's children, should get off our butts and help feed the hungry. We should do God's work in the world; it's part of our job as Christians. So maybe there were people near to the situation who could have/should have acted, and because they did nothing, this boy died. (Boyd's Life had a really interesting post a while back, talking about how man could be both God and Satan on Earth, how it could all reside within us. It's an interesting idea to chew on, especially since we do so many awful things to one another that the case can be made that we are our own enemies on Earth.)

BUT, if we're the only safety net, if God isn't stepping in when things go horribly wrong, then who the heck are we praying to? If it's all up to us, then what are we bothering God for?

I understand that part of faith is just that - faith in the face of puzzle pieces that don't fit. Faith that there is a larger design, even though we can't see/comprehend it. But it is difficult, difficult for me to see a story like this and not doubt, especially when I know so many people who would be GREAT parents, would be ecstatic parents, but are unable to conceive or carry a baby to term. Good people who have not been blessed with a child. Why withold a child from those people, and then give one to these monsters?

I think it would help me work through issues like this if I could find a church where you weren't expected to check your brain at the door, too. I have visited many places. But I am not looking for a congregation that accepts whatever should come down from the pulpit without question, without dialogue. And when bad things (like this) happen, platitudes about the Lord's mysterious ways are not sufficient for me.

What I would really appreciate is a church (or maybe a really good Christian Bible study group?) where it is acknowledged that horrible things happen. Evil happens. And we don't know why God allows it, why He doesn't stop it. And we probably never will know, because we don't have the answers. And that it's almost inevitable that, at some point, most people are going to resent God and wonder what the crud he's doing with his time, while we're all down here trying to keep this thing running with string and chewing gum. So far, I haven't had any luck finding a group like that, but I'll keep looking.

And in the meantime, I guess I'll pray a little bit harder, hug Clay a little bit tighter, and hope for the best.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Exotic tale

I finished reading Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, this week. I loved this book! I will be looking into more works by Gruen in the future.

The meat of the story is told in flashback form. Jacob, a 93-year-old man living in a nursing home, recalls his stint as a vet on a traveling circus during the 1930s. As a young vet student at Cornell, Jacob is just about to sit for his final exams when both of his parents are killed in a car wreck. Sorting through their affairs, Jacob discovers that his family was penniless, having mortgaged their home to pay for his Ivy-league education.

Sick with grief, Jacob hops a train. A train, he discovers, that is carrying the Benzini Brothers traveling circus. Before he knows it, he's on staff as the circus vet, tending to the needs of the circus lions, chimpanzees, and other fauna. It doesn't take Jacob long to meet Marlena, the beautiful performer in charge of the trick horses, and he's instantly smitten. However, Marlena's not free; she's already married to August, a bipolar, abusive manager in the traveling outfit. (Hence the requisite love triangle.)

The rest of the tale follows Jacob as he discovers Rosie, a talented performing elephant; finds his own voice; siezes true love; and makes his way in the world.

This is a great book. It's entertaining and easy to read, but not so rote and predictable that you don't get a kick out of it. Details of circus life in the 1930s are colorful and rich. Plus, the characters are great.

A solid four stars for this one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being thankful

We spent the weekend down on the MS Gulf Coast with Brian's family. Because his sister couldn't make it up for Thanksgiving this year, we all met down there and celebrated Thanksgiving last night. We drove down Saturday, and booger was good the whole way. We made it in with no wrong turns. I was thankful. Then, we checked into a suite at the Residence Inn (which totally rocked. You wouldn't think that a Residence Inn in Gulfport would be posh, but it totally was. Our suite had two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and THREE flat screen TVs. Heaven.). I was thankful.

We then met up with the family for ham, green bean casserole, dressing, and all of the other fixings. YUM. The kids played together, we all chatted and relaxed. Very thankful.

Then, we headed back to our hotel, where I put booger in the bed and took perhaps the longest, hottest shower that I've taken since the baby was born. Then, Brian and I lolled around on the cushy king bed while we flipped through various shows on the huge flat screen TV. At last, we settled into a deep, dreamless sleep. So freaking thankful I could hardly believe it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Flight of fancy

Booger and I had the chance to swing by the Mississippi Museum of Art this week to catch their Audubon exhibit. It's substantial, beautiful, and interesting. They had several depictions of Audubon himself on display - a bust, some portraits, etc. - as well as many of his creations and a few of his personal effects. I found it really fascinating to see things like his calling card and case, his ledger for expenses (you can see how much he was spending on things like paper and paint when creating Birds of America!), and his personal seal. He was also a taxidermist, and they even have one of the birds he mounted on display - a beautiful snowy owl.

Plus, his renderings of America's birds and wildlife are beautiful, and there are lots of them there to see. They have a couple of interactive areas, too, where you can listen to CDs, post your own ideas to conserve America's natural heritage, and put the events of Audubon's life in chronological order.

The exhibit is very well done, and I encourage you to go see it!

If you make it over there during the Christmas season, you can see the Christmas creche on display. (It's in the main lobby area; you don't even have to pay to see it.) It is gorgeous. They had the ceremonial lighting of it a while back, but I was unable to attend that event. Suffice it to say, though, that the creche consists of an impressive collection of Italian figurines surrounding the holy family. There are many many angels positioned in the evergreen branches which make up the pinnacle of the display, and a veritable town of people filling up the outlying corners. It is meticulously arranged, and Clay loved looking at all the townsfolk and thier "stuff."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dance machine!

I'm not a dancer, even though I love to dance. I'm good at the kind of dancing where you're just out having fun and making up your own steps to the music. And since hubs doesn't dance much, I take every opportunity I can to dance on my own. (Remember my impromptu street dancing in Memphis? I should have put out a hat or a cup or SOMETHING. We could have gotten our drinks for free that night.)

But if I have to remember steps or routines, everything quickly devolves into a HORRIBLE mess of arms, legs, and feet. (Remember all my teeth gnashing when I had to learn steps for that show at New Stage? This failing is one of the reasons I had such trepidation about bellydancing class. Memorized steps? Check. Undulating midsection? Check. Dancing on stage in front of a live audience - and later, for cameras? Check. Very well, then! I see we have all the ingredients for disaster!)

A director has never, NEVER seen me dance and said, "I MUST have her for my next production!" Usually, what happens is the director sees me act, hears me sing, and is interested in casting me. Then, when I show up at the dance callback, he/she thinks, "Hmmmmm. Maybe we can put her in the middle, have her sway a bit, and then have the really good dancers pirouette all around her or something. 'Cause this chick is a train wreck."


Anyhoo, a while back, New Stage called me in to do a dance callback for Smokey Joe's Cafe, which they are producing this summer. (I'm not sure why they called me for a "dance callback," as I haven't auditioned all season. I guess it was in response to my whiny complaint that they kept calling me up on short notice to audition for other productions, and they figured that a fall audition for a summer production ought to be enough notice for even the most overscheduled mother.)


They told me that they were holding two sessions, one at 3 p.m. and one at 3:30 p.m. I chose the later audition, and showed up promptly. I could hear session one still auditioning. I signed the sheet, stretched my legs a little, and waited my turn. All of a sudden, the door to the audition room bursts open and eight VERY SWEATY people came out. They were all breathing hard, like they'd just run a marathon. I knew one of the girls in the group, and she mentioned that they'd been "auditioning" for NEARLY AN HOUR. Then she told me that the routine was really "quick-paced." People, these folks were in WAY better shape than me. And TWO of them looked like actual dancers, with leggings and leotards and stuff. At this point, I started to realize that I was soooo in over my head.

As I've said before, I'm no dancer. I'm an actor/singer who can walk. And, looking at the dripping, exhausted group, I began to wonder what (in the name of God and all that's holy) I was doing at this audition.

Finally, their audition ended, and the damp collection of skinny people practically limped out the door. I was nearly hyperventilating by this time. Then, I looked around. The waiting area was oddly quiet. And oddly bare. With a start, I noticed that there was NO ONE else in the waiting room. You guessed it. Session two was ALL ME. What? You mean, no one to hide behind? No one to strategically position squarely between the camera and myself? Sweet Lord in heaven. At this point, I seriously thought about making a break for it.

"Next!" chirped the choreographer. I took a deep breath and prayed I could make it down the steps without taking a head dive.

The choreographer was really nice. We talked about my ability level (nil), and then she taught me a quick routine. It was alot of step-pop, some turns, and the requisite "ta-da" pose at the end. I have no idea if the previous group's routine was more difficult, but I'm betting it was. We practiced for about 10 minutes, then I did it a couple of times for the camera. I managed to get *most* of the steps right, but I was no Baryshnikov (no surprise there).

At any rate, I got through another harrowing experience. And I must say, I am SHOCKED that the director didn't call immediately to offer me a role.

Shocked, I tell you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music to my ears

You may or may not know it, but I am a die-hard Mary Chapin-Carpenter fan. I have been listening to her music since high school, and over the years, I've bought most of her albums. Passionate Kisses is one of my all-time favorite songs, but there are too many great ones to really start choosing.

I mean, This Shirt? Tender When I Want to Be? I Take My Chances? I Feel Lucky? (Only a Dream; Goodbye Again; Come On, Come On; we could be here for days . . . ) There are very few songs of hers that I don't love. And, to boot, she writes on most of her albums, which means she can sing her songs with the same conviction they were created with. This is no teeny-bopper singing about how she will learn to love again. (Of course you will, you twit! You're fourteen!) This is someone who has some life experience under her belt telling it like it is.

And she's coming to Jackson! YAY! My dearest friend and I bought our tickets to her April 17 concert today! (You didn't think I would tell you about the concert before I bought MY tickets, did you?) She'll be performing downtown at the Belhaven Center for the Performing Arts. It's a fairly small venue, so I think the concert will have a very intimate feeling.

I am soooooo stoked!!

Caffeine

You know how I kinda wilted at pool night last week? Well, this week, I was determined to keep my energy up. How did I go about this, you ask? I downed two cans of Coke in quick succession.

Now, for most people, this would be no big deal. But I don't really drink many caffeinated drinks, and certainly not at night. I was bouncing off the walls. I think you could have hooked a generator up to me and powered a small town. Or maybe even the western grid of a large city.

Looking back on it in the sobering light of morning, I'm thinking two cans might have been overkill. My stomach was kinda hurting on the way home. AND I had a little trouble sleeping. (Yes, I am at the advanced age now that caffeine in the evenings interferes with my precious sleep.) I think I'll try one and a half cans next week to see if I get more pleasing results.

And I'm steering clear of the Red Bull. Sheesh.

Down memory lane . . .

Yesterday, I filled my car up with regular unleaded for a little more than $20! I paid $1.70 a gallon!!! I did a happy dance and nearly called hubs to crow about it a little.

I can't remember that it's been this low since I graduated college. I guess that's the one bright spot to the American economy circling the drain . . .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bumper cars.

When I was growing up, little car mishaps were part of life in a household with three kids. There was the time when my older sister nearly totaled our battered Chevrolet Caprice after hydroplaning on a wet road one night. The time that the front end of another unfortunate vehicle clipped her as she was pulling out on a busy road. The numerous times that my younger sister, Grace, inflicted little dents, dings, and scrapes on the family's fleet of transportation.

Luckily, I never really had any fender benders. (Well, there was that ONE time when a guy bumped my car from behind. I can only guess that he didn't notice that the light was still RED. But, hey, at least that wasn't my fault, right?) Well, this weekend, the rent came due.

Mom had come over to babysit while Brian and I went out. Hubs and I decided to take the convertible, as it is the car that makes us feel least like exhausted, sleep-deprived parents. Brian was driving. Allow me to repeat that. Brian was driving. As he was backing out of our garage, he scraped mom's car. I don't know if he didn't see it, got too close, didn't expect it to be where it was, or what. But he gave it a good scrape, trading a bit of paint and even causing a couple of small dents.

Brian was cussing like a sailor and gritting his teeth. I felt really bad about it, both for mom and dad and for us, as we will now be repairing paint and minor dents on TWO cars. (Because if you think I'm allowing scrapes and dents to remain in my precious convertible, you are dead wrong.)

The only upside? I now have a nice little barb to tease hubs with, and I haven't had a good one in a WHILE. It's only been a day or two, and it's already served me verrry well! Hee hee!

Enchanted evening!

An old friend of mine celebrated a landmark birthday last week. (You know, one of those birthdays with a zero in it.) In honor of the occasion, her family planned perhaps the biggest surprise party I've ever been to. It was such fun!

She was picked up at 4 p.m. and taken to a salon, where she had her hair and nails done and was presented with a few different formal dresses from which to choose. Then, she was whisked off to a downtown hotel, where 100 people or so (yours truly included) were waiting in their cocktail attire to wish her well. Her son played live music, there was a photographer, and everything was beautifully catered. It was really a lovely evening.

I've always thought having a surprise party thrown in one's honor would be immensely satisfying. But when she walked in, and we were all there waiting for her, I thought that maybe it was too much pressure! If it had been me, I think I would have started bawling! She was so gracious and pulled together, though, much more ladylike than I would have been.

After we greeted her, we all had dinner, and then her family members told some really funny stories about their memories of her. They are clearly all very close, and she is lucky to have such a supportive, loving network of people around her.

It was just a beautiful, sweet occasion. I'm the better for having gone.

Love bites.

I just finished reading Twilight for my MomsLikeMe book club. It's the first book in Stephanie Meyer's series about devastatingly beautiful vampire Edward and his human love interest, Bella. This book is basically a Gothic romance, written for teenage girls. That said, however, I do think it is a well-written example of the romance genre.

Our story is told from Bella's perspective, and she is a fully-drawn character. Bella moves to Forks, Oregon, from sunny Phoenix to live with her father. On her first day at school, she notices the gorgeous Edward, a pale-skinned student who turns out to be her lab partner. Over the next few days, she keeps "noticing" him, and Edward notices her, too. Pretty soon, Edward is saving Bella's life, and Bella is falling hopelessly in love in the way only a 17-year-old girl can.

I thought the novel was good enough. Many of the lines were trite and over-the-top, but that's to be expected from a romance. If anything bothered me, it was Meyer's penchant for hyperbole. Everything was extreme. Edward is too gorgeous, too appealing, too "perfect" (a descriptor, and one that I don't like, that Meyer uses often). No wonder Catherine Hardwicke (director of the film adaptation, coming out this week) had such a hard time casting the role of Edward. It's like looking for a Cleopatra or Helen of Troy. And if such physical perfection DOES exist, you better hope like hell that this guy can a.) speak English and b.) ACT.

I thought Twilight (and probably the rest of the novels in the series, too) would have made for a great beach read. I probably won't pick up the next book in the series until I'm lying in the sand, in search of some easy, undemanding entertainment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Disturbing drama

I TiVoed Little Children, starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, and Jennifer Connelly a long time ago, and I finally got around to watching it this weekend. Yikes. Though well-done, this is a very difficult movie to watch.

Sarah (Winslet) is a stay-at-home mom in a small, suburban community. Her only child, daughter Lucy, is three, and Sarah apparently has no plans to return to the work force. Though her family could well afford it, Sarah does not put Lucy in any part-time childcare, and she shuns opportunities to spend time with other SAHMs. (I can only guess that she feels "above" them?) However, she seems to resent her duties as a full-time mom. In fact, it doesn't appear that she enjoys spending time with her daughter at all, even though that's primarily what she does. As a result, Sarah feels unfulfilled.

Brad (Wilson) is a stay-at-home dad with a young son and a knockout wife (Connelly) who works in the documentary film industry. He's graduated from law school but, thus far, has failed to pass the bar exam. Money is tight at Brad's household, and his wife routinely questions his expenditures - magazine subscriptions, his desire for a cell phone, etc. Because his wife allows his son to sleep in their bed, sex is at an all-time low for Brad. As a result of all the above, Brad feels unfulfilled.

When Sarah and Brad meet at the park one day, an unexplainable kiss sets them on track to potentially life-altering events. In addition, tightly-wound subplots - a sex offender moving into the neighborhood, a local cop who's now "retired" due to his use of deadly force on the job, etc. - add to the ominous feeling that everything could very well fall apart by the end of the film.

Performances were very strong throughout. There was not a character in this film that I did not believe. Everyone turned in A work here; cannot write enough good things about that. In my opinion, the performances are what make this film so compelling.

However, I had difficulty watching Little Children, which I suppose was partly the point. First of all, I didn't understand WHY the characters made some of the choices they did. Sarah and Brad's first encounter was completely baffling to me. They hardly know one another, and they kiss. Wha . . . ? And since this is the initial event that sets all of the others in motion, I kinda wanted more motivation for the characters here.

Other "whys" - why doesn't Sarah talk with her own husband regarding the distance they are experiencing and her need for fulfillment; why doesn't Brad assert himself more in his own marriage, rather than surrendering his whole self to being a SAHD? They are both kind-of weak personalities.

The subplots were not easy, either. The sex offender is being harassed by the "retired" cop. The offender's mother (who he's moved back in with) is trying her best to protect her son and help him reform. The "retired" cop is struggling with his own guilt at using force on the job (which resulted in the death of an innocent 13-year-old) and pacifying his inner demons by persectuing the sex offender. Aaargh. There's nothing simple about this film. Everything is so . . . twisted up.

Anyway, this movie is based on a book by Tom Perrotta, and lord, my mom's book club would probably have a field day with it. This movie is worth watching, but not for the faint of heart. All kinds of fit hits the shan before it's over.