Saturday, June 27, 2009

Out and about with booger

There was a time when hubs and I toted booger to the zoo, to museums, etc. He'd sit in his stroller, glancing dismissively at everything around him. After a while, totally unimpressed, he' d start fussing, and hubs and I would load him into the car and take him home, poorer and more exhausted for the journey.

But now, he's finally at the age where he ENJOYS going and doing things. He thinks it's FUN! Last week, we took him to his first MS Braves game. It was kind-of a last-minute whim. We packed up, went to Trustmark Park, bought hotdogs and settled in. Pretty soon, he was running all over the park, slurping down huge quantities of fluids (it was overcast, but still hot), and having the absolute time of his life in the spacejump. (I finally had to lure him out of there with some french fries.) Even though we only stayed about an hour and a half, it was worth it. We had such fun, and we're going to try and go back at least one more time before the season's over.

Today, we all went to the "Monsters of the Deep" exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and he loved it. He explored the entire museum - the ocean exhibit, the fish tanks (always a favorite) and the preschool room (where he built up some serious speed on the slide). He just tore through that place, chattering and "oooh"-ing and "aaah"-ing and "wow"-ing about everything. He climbed up on the fake frog (screaming out "Ribbit! Ribbit!!") and allowed his photo to be snapped, and he giggled like crazy with all the other kids he managed to make friends with while we were there.

I know that some people think that the "twos" are terrible. And Clay definitely has his challenging moments. But, boy, is he getting to be fun or WHAT?

Friday, June 26, 2009

People-watching

I went to pool league last Monday, and we had some new players on our team! Our team captain somehow talked his dad (the guy that taught him how to play) into joining up for this session. And this guy is really good. Plus, he was really nice (and his wife was super-sweet). I played really badly, but since I wsn't playing any matches, I avoided complete humiliation. (At least until next week.)

One of the coolest things about playing pool is the people watching. I am not exaggerating one iota when I tell you that it's fascinating to observe everything going on around you in a pool hall on a Monday night.

First of all, you get to watch some really good players. I think I like seeing a good player shoot pool almost more than I like playing pool myself. It's almost like chess. You see them thinking, lining up their shots two plays ahead of where they are now. And even though most of the people playing don't strike me as upper-crust, the motion of the game is really elegant. It's beautiful to look at.

And then there's the general parade of humanity. There are alot of scrawny guys who look like they probably drink alot and gamble alot. There are a few guys in slacks and button-ups, probably playing after a day at the office. There are some older folks who look like they've been playing with the same group for a long time and seem to just be in it for the fun.

And then there are the women. Let me tell you a little bit about some of the women that you will see in a pool hall on a Monday night. Some of them seem like perfectly lovely people. I've met some of them, and some of them are definitely perfectly lovely people. And, in my limited experience, it seems that the perfectly lovely people are there for one of two reasons: to play pool or to cheer on their husband/boyfriend/significant other.

But then there are some others. I'm not sure why they are really there, but it's pretty clear that, even though they are playing pool, they are not really in it for the love of the game, kwim?

Last week, there was one poor soul there who was wearing a really short, really tight black skirt. And, well, let's just say that some people need a bit more fabric than others. And pool is a game in which you BEND OVER, which is probably more suited to a pair of jeans (or at least PANTS, for the love of America) than mini-skirts. And all kinds of jiggly stuff was on display. It truly saddened my little heart. If I hadn't thought she would have impaled me with her cue (she looked like she could be pretty mean if provoked), I might have offered to stand behind her and block the view while she was lining up her shots.

On a related note: Please, in the name of all that's holy, just cap me in the head if you ever catch me wearing a white V-necked sundress and a pair of really high heels to a grungy, smoky pool hall. This is not the garden club.

At any rate, I've seriously considered toting my camera in there, just to SHOW you the crazy cross-section of people that show up, but it would be WAY noticeable. And I get the feeling that alot of these folks probably wouldn't want thier pictures taken, at least not by me and not in the pool hall.

So, until I get my courage up, you'll either have to trust me or show up on Monday. I'll be looking for you!

Two for $40? YES, PLEASE.

I took a friend to P.F. Chang's for an impromptu celebration last weekend, and I HAD to write and tell you about their new promotion. They are offering a FOUR COURSE prix-fixe menu for two that only costs $40. For your two twenties, you each get a cup of soup, you split an appetizer, you each get an entree, and you each get a mini-dessert. (There are at least a few up-sides to the crappy economy, no?)

Oh. My. Goodness. Throw in a couple of Asian Pear Mojitos, and you're on your way to Nirvana. We dined like kings for $40 and rolled out of there VERY happy and satisfied. You can check out the special menu by clicking here. I don't know how long they will offer this, so it's worth trotting out there soon.

We both chose the egg drop soup, then we split the spring rolls. For my entree, I got the ginger chicken, and she had the almond and cashew chicken (I think). We finished up with the chocolate/raspberry and lemon desserts.

Worth every penny. And more.

Hair of the dog

Hubs and I sneaked off to see The Hangover last weekend and really enjoyed it. If you haven't seen the trailers, the movie basically tells the story of a group of four friends: soon-to-be-married Doug, wild man Phil, sedate dentist Stu, and Alan, the brother of Doug's intended.

For Doug's bachelor party, the four guys head to Vegas for a night on the town. The next thing we know, the four friends wake up in their trashed hotel room with absolutely no memory of the evening prior. Doug's missing, there's a live tiger in the bathroom, and judging from the evidence in their pockets, members in their party both got married and went to the hospital during the evening's shenanigans.

The rest of the movie finds Phil, Stu, and Alan trying to retrace their steps and find the missing bridegroom. The convoluted plot has them gambling to earn Doug's ransom money and doing everything they can not to wreck a loaned Mercedes.

Hubs and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Be forewarned - this movie is NOT for the easily offended. There is tons of absolutely horrible language, VERY adult situations, nudity, and everything else you would expect to see when four guys are up to no good in Vegas.

But if you can get past that, the script is hilarious (You will be quoting the one-liners for WEEKS.), there are some really fun cameos, and the whole thing feels like a bawdy and thoroughly enjoyable adult romp.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No frontal nudity, please.

I FINALLY had the chance to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall this week. I've been wanting to see it for quite some time, but the planets never seemed to align for me.

If you don't know the story, the movie tells the tale of Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), a composer for a CSI-like television show. Peter has been dating the show's star, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), for five years when she tells him it's over. Poor Peter is crushed. To help him recover, he takes a vacation to Hawaii, where he runs into none other than . . . Sarah. With her hot new boyfriend/pop star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, who I don't really like on principle, but who was abso-freakin'-lutely HILARIOUS in this). Peter finds consolation, and the strength to move on, in the arms of sweet hotel employee Rachel Jansen (a radiant and real Mila Kunis).

First of all, the movie is funny. The primary characters are all likable, even when they are doing unlikable things, and there is truly an ensemble feeling to the cast. All the characters, even the ones with small roles, feel important to the story. Performances are wonderful. Segel shines as heartbroken Peter, Bell is appropriately gorgeous and self-centered as Sarah, and Paul Rudd makes a wonderful small appearance as a laid-back surf instructor.

I thought that the real star of the film, though, was Kunis. In this picture, she proves that she's much more than Jackie from "That 70's Show." This chick can act. Her Rachel is a fully realized, rounded character, and I thought she was the glue that held the entire movie together.

My only gripe? Nix the male frontal nudity, people. I know that Segel claimed to have been broken up with while naked in real life. And I know the awkward comedic moment is becoming a trusty standby. But GEEZ. Do I have to see such things? Can't we leave some of this to the imagination? It just seemed so contrived and . . . unecessary. Didn't think it added to the film. Sooooo, keep it zipped, mmmkay?

Other than that, though, this was a great movie. Hubs and I laughed alot.

New restaurant discovery!

About two weeks ago, I discovered a new resturant in downtown Jackson - Tony's Tamales. It's located right near the Regions building on Capitol Street.

In addition to DELICIOUS tamales, they have a daily lunch special (think meatloaf or fried shrimp with two veggies and homemade cornbread), reallyreally good gumbo, chicken and dumplings, even homemade cakes. (I've tried the butter pound cake and the carrot cake, and the carrot is my fave so far.)

Prices are cheap, the atmosphere is nice, and they play killer music. The only downside is that you eat on disposable plate. But with food this good and prices this reasonable, who cares?

Get thee to Tony's!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My little sweetie

Soooo much going on in Clay's world these days. He's counting to ten now, and it's totally adorable. He used to have this prejudice against seven and would always skip it. Now, though, he's decided that seven isn't all that bad, and he deigns to include it in the number round up.

His vocabulary is continuing to increase. He's definitely able to communicate his wants/needs now, and he's repeating EVERYTHING. He's also singing along with me when I sing to him, and I think it's the most precious thing in the universe. Particular favorites right now are Twinkle, Twinkle, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the ABC song.

We got him a baby pool a few weeks ago, and he thought splashing the heck out of hubs was the funnest thing ever. We also took him over to Brian's parents' house to swim in their big in-ground pool, and he got a kick out of that, too. (Though I think he enjoyed spending time with Grammy more than actually swimming.)

I gave his hair its first at-home trim. He had some little blonde curls kicking out at the back and to the sides, and hubs couldn't very well have him looking like a little girl, now could he? I'm a big softie, and I couldn't resist saving a lock of hair!

Last weekend, we went to the Farmer's Market out on High Street together. They were having one of their "big market days," when they have LOTS of vendors, live music, chef demos, etc. He loved the tiny little tomatoes and the yellow zucchini. And of course, everyone though he was a cutie and gave him tastes of whatever they were selling. Such a charmer, that one.

We also went to Friendship Park recently, and he absolutely loved it. I had to pry him off the playset there so we could go home for lunch. We only stayed an hour, and next time, I'll plan on at least two. The playground equipment they have is well-suited for the very small. They even have one whole playset for kids 2-5. Plus, they have baby swings, water fountains, a restroom - everything you need. I may take a picnic next time and settle in.

I've done pretty much all of the planning for his second birthday bash. We decided to go with a cowboy theme, and we had the CUTEST invitations designed and printed. We are going to invite just family again this year, but we think that next year, we'll open it up a bit more. I've bought little cowboy hats and sheriff stars for the guests, and we've already got most of the decorations, too. I even found someone to bake us a cowboy-themed cake and found some special music for the day. Now, all we really need to do is settle on the menu.

He is definitely getting into television. He still loves Jack's Big Music Show, but he'll also ask for Veggie Tales and, now, WALL-E. Those are basically the only little person movies we have, and I'm getting sick of them. I'm thinking we might add a bit to the collection as part of this year's birthday celebration.

He's also more interested in reading books to me now than having me read them to him. He's got some of the simpler ones pretty much memorized. He'll sit down next to me with one of them and page through it, talking about all of the pictures, etc.

Quite simply, my child is amazingly awesome and wonderful. As usual. You didn't think I was going to report anything different, did you?!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Movies!

Hubs and I have seen two fun movies lately - WALL-E and Run Fatboy Run. We loved them both.

First, WALL-E. This movie was absolutely precious. We broke it into two nights (which we decided to do because we thought Clay might watch it with us, and I don't like him to watch too much TV), and the baby was riveted to it. He was quiet as a mouse while it was on.

Here's the basic concept: Sometime in the future, humans' greedy consumerist ways and blatant disregard for the environment catches up to them. The human race is forced to abandon Earth to live on giant floating spacecraft. However, they leave an army of "cleaning" robots, called WALL-Es, behind to clean up the planet. The idea is that, once the robots finish their work, the humans can return to a nice, shiny planet.

We quickly see, however, that even hundreds of years later, the planet isn't really clean. Towers of neatly compacted garbage are everywhere, and most of the WALL-Es have broken down, save one, the hero of our tale. Little WALL-E still gets up every morning and compacts garbage all day long, but he also sifts through the refuse for items of interest, which he takes back to the little home he's made for himself. WALL-E loves show tunes. But most of all, WALL-E is lonely.

Everything changes for our little metallic friend when EVE, a drone robot from one of the floating spacecraft, returns to Earth to see if the planet can once again support life. (Allowing humans to return and repopulate the Earth.) It's pretty much love at first sight for WALL-E, and things get even more complicated when Eva does, indeed, find evidence that it's time for a wayward race to return home.

Even though the concept of the movie is a little preachy, the story is brilliantly executed. For a film in which there's hardly any dialogue until more than halfway through, you feel amazingly connected to and vested in the robotic characters, primarily because they seem to exhibit more humanity than some of the flesh and blood folks. Kids would love it, but parents will really enjoy it, too. Truly a film appropriate for the whole family.

We also watched Run Fatboy Run, starring Simon Pegg. The movie tells the story of Dennis (Pegg), a man who left his gorgeous pregnant girlfriend, Libby (Thandie Newton), at the ALTAR. Years later, Dennis is going nowhere as a mall security guard who has never seemed to finish anything he ever started. He has a great relationship with his son, Jake (adorable Matthew Fenton), but Libby clearly sees him as someone she can't/doesn't want to trust.

Anyhoo, things are moving along with aching inertia until Dennis finds out Libby is dating Whit (a gleefully Type-A Hank Azaria). Whit is a bigshot in the financial industry and runs marathons for charity in his spare time. ("Danger, Will Robinson!") To somehow prove to Libby (and himself) that he's no loser, Dennis decides to run the same marathon that Whit's running in. The marathon is less than a month away. Did I mention that Dennis is not very athletic?

Everything would have probably fallen to pieces if Dennis' friend, Gordon (a hilarious Dylan Moran), didn't bet everything he owned that Dennis would finish the race. Suddenly, Dennis finds himself with a very motivated personal trainer. And the journey he takes, which happens to be quite a bit longer than the standard 26.2 miles, ends up changing his life.

What can I say? I love me some Simon Pegg. There is something so everyman and yet so absolutely endearing about him. And that would be enough, I suppose, except that he has wonderful comic timing and a knack for physical gags. Newton is lumniscent, as always, and Moran nearly steals the show in most of his scenes. A surprise? This little gem was directed by none other than David Schwimmer.

Watch asap!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Insurance. Ugh.

I don't know if I posted about this before, but we had some roof damage Mother's Day weekend, and it was pretty obvious that we were going to have to replace our entire roof.

Here's the basic timeline:

Wednesday, May 13 - I call our insurance company and sweetly make a claim.

Thursday, May 14 - My insurance agent calls me and tells me that the insurance adjuster will be calling soon.

Friday, May 15 - Another insurance agent with the same company calls me and tells me the insurance adjuster will be calling soon.

Tuesday, May 19 - The insurance adjuster calls. We set up an appointment for him to come by first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, May 20 - The insurance adjuster shows up, looks at the roof, tells us we'll hear back within a week.

Thursday, May 28 - Haven't heard anything, and it's more than a week later, so I call the insurance company. They refer me back to my adjuster.

Friday, May 29 - I call my insurance adjuster. His voice mail says he is on vacation and won't be back until June.

Friday, May 29 - I call the adjuster's Jackson office. They tell me he filed his report with both them and the insurance company on May 21. They tell me my insurance company has all the information they need to process my claim.

Friday, May 29 - I call the insurance company back. They can't find the report, and their computers are down. They promise to get right back to me.

It has now been three weeks since my roof was damaged, and I can get NO ONE to tell me the status of my claim or the status of the insurance adjuster's report.

By Monday, June 1, no one had called me back, and I was getting pretty hacked off. I called the insurance company again, told them that no one had followed up with me, told them I was frustrated, fed up, and had been handed off to anyone and everyone so that no one had to take responsiblity for my claim. I recounted my entire tale of woe with great dramatic effect. I then demanded that someone resolve this issue TODAY. ("TODAY!!" I screeched into the phone.) I then hung up on them and went to the restroom.

By the time I got back to my desk, I had two little desperate voicemails. The first was from my insurance agent, who told me in a rushed little speech that the Memphis office was working on my account. The second message was from the Memphis office, telling me my check for full replacement value was in the mail.

Now I ask you, WHY did I have to get so mean and nasty just to get these people to DO THEIR JOBS? I do not enjoy being mean and nasty. It has taken me a long time to learn how to control my natural meanness and nastiness, and I don't appreciate having to trot it out. (I do seem to have a certain aptitude for it, which I suppose can come in handy on occasion.) I have not been a claim-happy client for my insurance company. This is the FIRST CLAIM I have ever made, and I have been faithfully and promptly paying these folks since 1999.

Sheesh. At any rate, now that I've unearthed "Mean Nicole" for the insurance people, I might as well have her stick around to deal with the roofers. Then, it's back into long-term storage with her, if she'll consent to go.

Aaack!

I've been sooo busy lately, it seems! It's been difficult to find time to blog. But now, I'm attempting to chase down my wild runaway wagon and hurl myself, mid-careen, back onto it.

We spent the weekend swimming over at hubs' parents' house. It was booger's first time in the "big boy" pool, and I think he enjoyed it. He didn't want to stay in it all day, and he got a little freaked out if Brian or I went under water, but other than that, he was pretty cool with it. He thought his floatie vest was a hoot and really enjoyed being only "semi-held" by mama. And he LOVED pushing the big yellow float all around the pool. (I think I got a pretty decent workout, chasing that thing.)

We also got our first real taste of summer berries! Dad has a friend with a large piece of property. On the land, he's planted tons of blueberry and blackberry bushes. We ended up with a gallon of amazing blackberries and tons of fresh, sweet blueberries. In celebration, we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Sunday morning, and blackberry shortcakes for dessert that night. (Oh yes, I totally went there. I even served them with EXTRA CREAMY whipped cream. It's just how I roll.)

Work this week has been very productive, and I'll be out in Tunica tomorrow on business. I think it will be fun (it's nice getting out of the office), and I'm hoping for nice weather so we can enjoy the drive!

Oh, and I found a killer swimsuit. As most reading this already know, swimsuit shopping is not for the faint of heart. ANY figure flaw you have will be magnified times ten. It can be very difficult to find a suit you like that's affordable, flattering, and fits comfortably (so you aren't tugging and pulling at it all the time). The universe smiled on me, and I found a cute suit at Belk's that I really like. It's got a halter top with a design on it, and the bottom of the suit is black. Nothing too fancy, but it fits nicely and I look good in it. See how much Jesus loves me?

Hubs and I watched some fun movies last week; will have to post on them soon.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My work here is done.

This week, hubs told me about a new post on Cake Wrecks that I just HAD to see.

Mwah ha ha ha ha! My evil influence is finally taking effect . . .

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser

Hubs and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last week. I thought it was a good movie, and I waited a while to review it here because my brain needed a little time to chew on it.

Though this movie is long (we watched half of it one night, the other half on another night), I thought it was rich with fantasy, amazing production qualities (the film is gorgeous to look at, from start to finish), and some really good performances.

Here's the skinny: Benjamin Button (played by Brad Pitt) is born at the end of World War I to a wealthy New Orleans family. His mother dies in childbirth. When Benjamin's father sees his new son, he is horrified. The baby appears unnaturally aged/sick, with wrinkled skin. The shocked, unprepared new father leaves the infant on a doorstep.

Luckily, that doorstep belongs to an old folks' home managed by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson, in an inspired performance). Heartsick Queenie is unable to have children of her own, and she takes the unfortunate little one in. As a child, Benjamin has the appearance and physical ability of a 70-year-old man and the mental capabilities of a child. The older Benjamin gets, however, the more apparent it becomes - he's aging backwards.

It's at the home that Benjamin meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett). The two feel an instant connection.

As Benjamin hits his teenaged years, he takes a job on a tugboat, travels the world, and begins to live his life. The rest of the movie follows he and Daisy (who grows up to be a prima ballerina) as the two find love, find one another, and experience the inevitable loss that is characteristic of the human experience.

Cast-wise, I think the star is clearly Blanchett, followed at a close second by Henson. Though Pitt does an admirable job, his Benjamin is a man of few words, which doesn't do much for the acting fireworks.

Effects/makeup were wonderful, though I did feel that dim lighting in many scenes affected my full appreciation of the technology used to both age characters and "turn back the clock." (It was almost as if they were trying to hide Pitt in some scenes, maybe for a bigger reveal later? At any rate, I didn't like it. Just tell the story.)

There was alot of symbolism in this movie, and it really made me want to read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story on which the movie is based. For instance, there is (of course) a lot of imagery related to time/mortality throughout the film. There's a clock that runs backwards installed in a New Orleans train station. (The clockmaker had lost a son in WWI, and he presented the clock saying that he hoped, as it ticked, all the boys who were lost in the war would come home again. Very poignant.) There are the auspicious events that mark Benjamin's birth and death, as well as other milestones in the characters' lives. (Telling us overtly how time is passing. The timeline of the movie marks the passage of American history.) There's the idea that we all start the same and end the same, and that our state at both the beginning and the end of life is very similar. And the mantle of death hangs a bit about the whole movie - we know the deaths of all the major characters are on their way.

Another theme in this film is the concept of the "other." Benjamin is different from everyone. He is an outsider, and it seems to take other outsiders to help him truly come into his own. A Pygmy takes him out for his first real "outing." A tattooed tugboat captain shows him the wonders of the world (and of a seedy brothel). The isolated wife of a British diplomat gives him his first taste of real love. And along the way, we begin to see that, despite our various differences, we are all . . . scared or frustrated or in love or whatever. We are all outsiders in some ways. Though we may seem very different, we are all on a similar journey.

The characters repeatedly say things such as, "Nothing lasts," and we watch Benjamin and Daisy as they enjoy a life they both know is fleeting, temporary. True, our life on earth and all its joys are transient, but I think the thrust of the movie is that we should be grateful for whatever piece of joy or heartbreak we've been lucky enough to experience.

And, maybe in a deconstructionist criticism, the film gives the message that maybe some things do last. Maybe some things remain constant as the world and its circumstances whirl about them. Some things - children, accomplishments, great love, great pain - somehow live on as a legacy of the life we've lived. That's what I took away from it, anyway.

Really enjoyed it, but would recommend breaking it up (as we did), rather than watching the whole thing in one sitting. It will give you more time to think about it, too.