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Childhood Movies

Childhood Movies That Never Get Old

Recently, my niece and nephew spent the night with us and we decided to watch a movie.  Because we did not want to be the bad aunt and uncle, we tried to find an age appropriate movie which proved difficult.  They are young teenagers so a children’s movie was not going to hold our interest, and an “R” rated movie was out of the question.  So I delved back into my childhood and suggested Adventures in Babysitting.  Elizabeth Shue plays a teenage babysitter that ends up having to go into the city from the suburbs to rescue her friend.  She has to take her charges with her and a series of mishaps occur.  I think my niece thought it was a bit corny (let’s face it a lot of those 1980’s movies had a bit of the “cheese” factor) but I found watching a childhood movie to be comforting and nostalgic.

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When I think back, there were several childhood movies that I could watch now without them getting old.  I was in the generation that was the first to have movie titles almost at demand.  I remember getting our first VCR, which resulted in being able to watch the same movies over and over and over again.  We had a little library of VCR tapes that were recordings of some favorite movies from when cable had a free weekend of a premium station.  Those tapes were sometimes mismarked and the recording sometimes started a couple of minutes into the movie because someone was not fast enough with the record button, but the novelty of being able to watch them whenever we wanted made it not matter.  We did not care that the quality was a little poor since we had no idea that someday we would have high definition and digital and could just get any movie by scrolling through our TV menu or an app and ordering it.  Instead we relied on that little library of black VCR tapes with the white labels, or we hoped that the library would receive a favorite movie that we could check out.  Later, we spent many an evening browsing the shelves at Blockbuster trying to get there before the weekend rush so that a new release would be in stock.

I’ve already written about how Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was in frequent rotation.  Other movies that were watched way too many times included Annie.  The original Annie movie with Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan.  My brothers and I would watch this movie whenever we could.  We still know many of the lines and some have become part of the family lexicon  such as saying “She had to go bathroom” in Miss Hannigan’s silly voice.  A favorite memory with this movie is that we visited my grandma for Thanksgiving one year.  My grandma was probably in her 80s and was pretty hard of hearing so often if we had the TV on she would not pay any attention to what we were watching unless it was the news and then we had to turn up the volume so loud that the neighbors across the street probably heard it.  Because it was Thanksgiving night one of the network stations had family movies on and Annie was the movie that night. My grandma noticed the movie and become so interested that we had to turn the volume up for her.  We enjoyed that movie, all together watching it at high volume as if Annie herself was singing live in living room.  Of course my brothers and I were then able to recite some of our favorite lines with no one being none the wiser.

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As a young teenager, the movie The Outsiders was seen plenty of times.  All those cute boys were in it.  It’s funny now to watch it and see how young Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, and Matt Dillon were.  Tom Cruise had such a small part in that movie, definitely before he was a star.

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There were other favorites such as Dirty Dancing, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and Top Gun.  These tended to be a little more adult and do not quite bring back that feeling of childhood.  Thinking back on the list of those favorite movies, it is fun to go back and rewatch them now and remember what it was like to watch them as a child.  They held a kind of magic to the world that you could not imagine.  And the memories of having so little responsibility, that an afternoon of watching favorite movies was not a special event.  So, on one of these hot summer afternoons where the only place you want to be is the pool or the air conditioning, pull up your Netflix or on demand app and indulge in a bit of nostalgia with a favorite childhood movie.  It will take you back and make you feel young again. –June

“There’s no place like home.” -Dorothy

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Don’t Miss Outlander

May and June are loving a new, well not so new since season 2 just wrapped up, but new to us Starz series called Outlander.

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The show is based on the series of historical fiction novels written by Diana Gabaldon, and in her words these books are filled with:

history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…

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And the television series is much the same. The story begins with a 20th century nurse, Claire Randall, (Caitriona Balfe) who accidentally time travels to 18th century Scotland. As there is tension between the English and the Scots, Claire is immediately thought to be an English spy, and is taken prisoner by the Scots, but soon earns their respect as a healer after tending to the injured arm of a dashing Scotsman, Jamie Fraser. (Sam Heughan)

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Naturally a love affair begins, and it’s a hot steamy one at that!!  We don’t want to give too much of this story away, because there is so much to it. A cautionary note though- make sure you watch it after your children have gone to bed.  Back in the “old” days we all knew what it meant for a show to be on CABLE!  And it certainly is true here.  This show gets very steamy at times and also a little violent.

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May has known about the Outlander books and was interested, but with so many other novels to dive into, she didn’t want to commit to a long series, which this is (a ninth book is going to be published in the near future). She recently heard about the Starz production on the radio, found it on demand, and was hooked after the first show. She watched all of season one in a weekend, and has now caught up to the end of the season 2 finale, which aired last week. Of course now she has to read the books, and just ordered all of them on Amazon. In fact, they should be arriving today.

June had read the first and maybe second Outlander novels years ago and enjoyed them.  However, there was probably a lull between publications, or she got busy, or could not take on another epic book at the time (these suckers are lengthy) and has not picked up the novel series again.  She had heard about the television series last season from a woman in her yoga class, but had paid no mind until May started raving about it. June has finished the first season but had to take a breather before starting the second. The end of the first season is intense man!  Once she has a little downtime she intends to start the second season.  And those novels are going to get read too.  Since she has heard May has ordered all of them, she may find a way to borrow them.

We have both debated whether Claire should find a way to return back to her modern times of the mid-1940s.  Something within is keeping her back in time. As depicted, that time period was not an easy time to live in with the lack of modern conveniences and political turmoil.  We have concluded that if either of us were Claire, the lack of indoor plumbing would probably send us back to modern day, despite the sexy Jamie Fraser :-).  The show is an excellent escape from the summer heat and mediocre shows that are currently on while our regular programs are on hiatus. So as the summer heats up and you are looking for something to do while enjoying some air conditioning, check out Outlander. You won’t be disappointed, plus the show has been picked up for a third and fourth season.

Have a good weekend! –May and June

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Celebrating America with Great Food

The 4th of July holiday is here!!  We are celebrating America this weekend and will be filling our days with parades, carnivals, BBQ’s and of course, fireworks. Today we have a quick and easy pasta salad to serve as a main course or a great side, and a fun festive dessert.

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Pasta Salad: May often makes pasta salad at backyard gatherings because it travels well, is easy to make, can be prepared vegetarian and gluten free, and you can do so many variations. This salad was made using Trader Joe’s gluten free brown rice pasta and fresh seasonal vegetables.

1 lb. pasta (you can use any pasta)

1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups fresh broccoli

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups grape tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

**optional: fresh basil

Serves 6 to 8

Boil pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place in a large bowl.

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Steam broccoli until tender, drain and rinse under cold water and add to bowl. Add shredded carrots, tomatoes, and beans.

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In a measuring cup mix oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over mixture, add salt, pepper, and fresh basil if using. You can adjust the dressing to your taste, or use your favorite vinaigrette. May kept this recipe as a simple vegetarian side, however you can add just about anything you want to it. Sometimes she adds sliced pepperoni, olives, fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, sugar snap peas….etc. Go ahead and experiment with it!

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If you’re looking for a dessert that’s easy, healthy, and very festive, June has the perfect one for you. You’ll want to make it look like the American flag.  If you are travelling to a barbecue, you may want to take the parts and assemble once you arrive so it maintains the shape of the flag.

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American Flag Fruit Tray:

1 package of strawberries

2 pints of raspberries

1 lb of bing cherries

1 pint of blueberries

1 bag of yogurt covered pretzels

Wash the fruit.  Slice the strawberries into halves or thirds depending on the size.  Take the stems off the cherries (if you are feeling like doing some work you could also pit the cherries).  On a small cookie sheet make a row of the raspberries, then a row of the yogurt pretzels, then a row of the strawberries, then a row of the yogurt pretzels, then a row of the cherries.  In the left hand upper corner of the cookie tray place a small bowl of the blueberries (I put them in a bowl so they would stay in place but you could skip the bowl).  As an alternative to the yogurt pretzels, you could also do white chocolate chips, yogurt covered peanuts or raisins.

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We wish you all a fun and safe 4th of July holiday!!

~May and June

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.  ~Elmer Davis

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Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller is 30

On June 11, the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  I am now going to age myself because I remember when I first fell in love with Ferris and saw him at the movie theater in the summer of 1986. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I watched the movie 8 bajillion times after on either my VCR or DVD player.  As someone who came of age in the 1980s, I was certainly part of the John Hughes generation and loved all of those movies including Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Ferris Bueller was definitely at the top of the list.  In honor of the 30th anniversary, I sat down this weekend to watch it again after a long hiatus to see if it still held the same magic that captured my attention through my teenage years.  I am happy to report that the magic of Ferris still exists so many years later.  There are many reasons to love Ferris Bueller, but here are just a few.

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  1. Ferris is cool.  In the movie, Ferris is a senior in high school and when I first saw the movie, I was a few years younger which alone made Ferris cool.  However, Ferris is still cool even 30 years later.  It is true he is a little scheming and conniving, but he has a certain presence and most of his transgressions are pretty harmless.  I think he is quite the debonair dresser as well.
  2. Ferris has amazing confidence.  Ferris believes he can do anything and he convinces other people of the same.  Ferris gets his best friend, Cameron to participate in his ditch day and take his dad’s prize Maserati for a joyride.  He convinces the snooty maitre de at the restaurant that he is Abe Froman, “Sausage King of Chicago.” Ferris jumps on a float in the middle of a parade in downtown Chicago and entertains the crowd with his rendition of Danke Schoen and Twist and Shout.  At one point in the movie, Cameron, and Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane are discussing what they are going to do after high school.  While they do not know what they are going to do, they figure Ferris is going to “be a fry cook on Venus.”  That type of confidence is amazing and while I will not be caught dead performing on any stage, having that type of confidence to convince someone that I am the Queen of the Best of Something, is definitely on my list of things to do.
  3. The city of Chicago is a wonderful part of the movie.  As someone growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I loved that the movie was filmed in Chicago and the suburbs.  It is always exciting when your hometown makes it to Hollywood, and Ferris made the city look so fun.  At the time the movie came out, I was not allowed to go to the city on my own, but it was something my friends and I dreamt of doing.  We thought it would be so fun to have a day just like Ferris and his friends.  Of course, knowing what I know now, there is no way you could fit that much into one day.  It is logistically impossible.  They drove 30 miles to what was then the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) and enjoyed the Skydeck.  Afterward, they viewed many masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Then, onto lunch probably on the Gold Coast, off to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and finally back to the Loop for a parade.  After all that,  they had to drive back home 30 miles to the North suburbs all before 3:30.  Despite that, the City of Chicago looked beautiful and the landmarks recognizable to this native suburban Chicagoan.
  4. The dialogue is memorable and funny.  My friends and I had a tendency to quote lines from the movie.  How many times did someone say “Bueller..? Bueller..? Bueller…?” in Ben Stein’s monotone voice.  Or the secretary describing Ferris to the vice principal who has it out for Ferris, “Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.”  When I watched the movie this past weekend I was still able to remember so much of the dialogue.
  5. Ferris Bueller is a believer in the present moment.  The movie opens and closes with this quote “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.”  When I first saw this movie (and the 8 bajillion times after), I don’t think I appreciated the significance of this sentiment.  However, now I certainly do.  Today is the beginning of June which means it is the beginning of summer.  So as we start summer let’s remember to live like Ferris.  Let’s soak up the long days of sunlight.  Eat ice cream.  Catch fireflies.  Skip our chores for an hour of sitting on the porch.  Play hooky from work.  Laugh with our friends.  Have barbecues.  Read a book.  Run through the sprinkler.  Walk barefoot.  Smell the freshly mown grass.  Cut a bouquet from the garden.  Sip a glass of chilled wine.  Take a nap.  Do nothing.  Stop and really enjoy summer because if we don’t, before we know it, the summer will be gone.  It starts now.  –June

 

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Derby Hats

My husband and I live minutes away from a thoroughbred horse racing track, Arlington Park Racetrack.  This year my youngest brother’s birthday fell on the Kentucky Derby, so we celebrated with him by spending the day at the racetrack.  Interestingly, I found out the night before that if you attend the horse races on Derby Day, you simply must wear a Derby hat. Apparently, it is quite the fashion faux pax not to wear a hat, but even if that wasn’t the case, it is still a fun thing to do.

I read up a bit on the tradition of wearing hats to the horse races, especially  since we do not see men or women wearing them in this day and age, unless of course they are the ball cap variety, or the winter hat type.  The tradition of wearing hats to the Kentucky Derby started in 1875, when the founder of the race, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., modeled the race after high class European racing events.  At the time, these events were seen as places of vice and ill repute.  So, he and his wife went on a campaign throughout Louisville, Kentucky to convince his target clientele, that the new race track was a place for the upper class. They promoted that a race such as the Kentucky Derby, was going to be a see-and-be-seen affair so that more women would attend.  The tradition of the huge hats did not really begin until the 1960s, when television made women want to stand out more.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the devotion to hats dropped a bit, but picked back up in the 1990s and has really experienced a resurgence in the last decade, thanks to the royal wedding in 2011.

I saw some very interesting hats while at the race track.  The pictures are not super great because I was being a stealthy picture taker.

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Some chose the English fascinator look ala Princess Beatrice.

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Some went with the understated country garden look.  And yes, that is a camel in the background. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

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Others just went big and red, matching their clothes to their hat.

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This was a sea of straw hats with many bows, feathers, and flowers as far as the eye could see.

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This personally was one of my favorites.  It is a little hard to see,  however there is a whole row of My Little Ponies attached to the brim of her hat.

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This was my hat.  I borrowed the hat from my mom and had this huge flower from Target that I use for something else.  I attached the flower to the ribbon that was already around the hat, and voila.

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Here are me, my mom and my brother’s girlfriend in our lovely Derby  Hats.

We had fun wearing our Derby Hats for the day.  We did not go all out on our dress since it was cold that day and we had to dress for warmth, but our hats gave us a little Derby spirit.  –June

 

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The Americans

In the evening, my husband and I like to unwind by watching a little TV together, but it is so hard to find shows that we both really enjoy watching.   He probably gets tired of watching HGTV with me and I can only take so much political news commentary.  And while we could go watch TV in separate rooms, we like hanging out together.  So it is always a treat when we discover a new (to us anyway) show that we both look forward to watching.  We recently discovered, The Americans, which is currently on FX.  Since we are several seasons behind, we are catching up on Amazon Prime.

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The Americans stars Keri Russell (who plays Elizabeth) and  Matthew Rhys (who plays Philip) are two KGB agents posing as a married couple living in suburban Washington D.C.  It is set during the Cold War beginning in 1981.  Shortly after the start of the show, the couple gets a new neighbor who happens to be a FBI agent newly assigned to the counterintelligence unit.  The show was created by a former CIA agent turned author.  So, despite my skeptical husband trying to tell me that he does not believe there were really all those spy networks, maybe some part of the series is based on truth.

Not only is the show about spies which is exciting and full of twists and turns including double agents and some interesting plots, it is also a story about marriage and family. Elizabeth and Philip from all outward appearances seem like a happily married couple with two children.  As the season develops, you learn more about their personal relationship. They act like any married couple with affection, intimacy, and emotional connectedness.  They also have their share of hurt feelings. Although they were just put together as part of their job, by the end of the season you do wonder whether their marriage is just a front, or if there is something more to it despite any protestations.

Similarly, the FBI agent has to deal with his own relationship issues after working deep undercover for his job, then getting a little too invested with a source.  So while he and Elizabeth and Philip have vastly differently interests politically, at home they are dealing with the same issues.

It is is also an interesting look at patriotism and identity.  Elizabeth and Philip are Soviets.  They were born in the Soviet Union and were trained to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, if it comes to that.  However, their children have been born in the United States and are being raised as Americans and at this point have no idea of their parents identity as Soviets.  There are other characters as well who are confronted with the question of patriotism and how far they should go to protect their country, or do they betray their country for their own self interest?

The show also brings us back to the early 1980s, a time that I remember well. I recognize a few of the fashion choices including argyle sweaters, perms and over sized eyeglasses. One episode centers around the response of the KGB agents after the attempted assassination of President Reagan, an event I remember when it happened (I also remember that Pope John Paul II was shot a few months after that date, and both made an impression on me).  I also remember when the Soviet Union was a superpower and an enemy of the United States. The show has many car chases, people getting put in trunks, kidnappings, sex and murders.  There are subtitles for the Soviets when they speak Russian, and there are a few characters that flip from spying for one side to the other, so pay attention.  Plus, who doesn’t love Keri Russell? Remember watching her on Felicity?

We just finished Season 1 and are looking forward to watching the next two seasons on Amazon Prime, and then the current season.  Hopefully it will keep us entertained for a couple of months.  If you are looking for a complex action filled drama, and especially if you and your significant other like to find shows to watch together, check out The Americans. –June

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Call the Midwife

Happy Monday! I hope you all enjoyed the glorious weather here in the midwest this past weekend. Bob and I woke up our bikes from their winter slumber, and enjoyed getting out on the trails again.

I want to share with you one of my favorite shows. It’s on PBS, and the series is Call the Midwife.

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The fifth season of Call the Midwife started three weeks ago, and I’m still in love with it. The show is based on the memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth, a nurse and midwife in England. The series begins in East London in the middle 1950’s and focuses on the lives of midwives who live in a community of nuns, who are also nurses. They provide the poorest women, who are pregnant, with the best possible health care.

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I have been watching this series since it’s premiere five seasons ago, and haven’t lost interest which can often happen after a series has been on a few years. The main characters are very human in that they are all flawed in some way, making it easy to identify with them.

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In addition to bringing the audience into the homes of the many expectant mothers in this poor community, we also get a peek into the social issues of the time period. These include abortion, infidelity, and homosexuality, and we see how these issues affect the people living there. A few years back the show went through a bit of a transition, when a few of the characters including the main character Jenny, played by Jessica Raine, decided to leave the show to move on to other adventures. I was a little worried that the series would lose some of its luster, but I wasn’t disappointed. The new characters have been every bit as interesting, and the show has kept its momentum.

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This wonderful series is sensitive, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been choked up by the end of an episode. Each story is filled with heart and beautifully written.

If you aren’t already a fan of the show, no worries. You can catch up with the past seasons on Netflix, or check out pbs.org.

Have a wonderful week. ~May

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The Oscars

The Oscars or Academy Awards show is this weekend and I have a shameful secret to admit.  I don’t really like the Oscars.  Shocking!  I know.  I actually find the whole show rather boring and quite often,  I have not seen most of the movies.  And if I have seen the movies they are not usually the winners.  Maybe that says something about my taste in movies, or maybe that says something about the nominees.Oscar Award - Decor

I do love to watch the red carpet and see the fashion.  The dresses are usually beautiful.  And the jewels worn are breathtaking.  If Tiffany would like me to wear some jewelry to an event and tell everyone that it is theirs, I will gladly say yes (hint, hint). It is also fun to critique the fashion choices as if I would ever have an opportunity to walk a red carpet and choose what to wear.  But the awards show itself is often pretty boring.  The jokes fall flat, the original song nominees are performed by artists other than those that performed it in the movies, there are a lot of categories of awards for things that the average person is not privy to (although that can be a little interesting to know what goes into making a movie), and the show goes on for way too many hours.  I understand the purpose of acceptance speeches, but for those of us watching it on television, we do not have any idea who the people are that are being thanked.  Even the show’s producers want to make sure those do not go on too long and cut off the winners with some not so subtle orchestra exit music.

So even though I have trouble getting interested in the Academy Awards show, I feel like I should be interested.  I do sometimes watch the beginning of the show and sometimes tune into at the end for the Best Picture winner, so I can be in the “know” the next day.

I did look online today to see who the Best Picture nominees are for Sunday.  I wanted to know if I was really out of the loop.  It turns out this year I did see more than my usual number of nominees and here are my thoughts on the nominees:

  • The Big Short – I did see this one in the theater and was surprised by how very much I liked it.  My husband loves shows and movies about finances and the financial crises so I really went to see it with him for that reason.  Despite the somewhat somber premise of the movie, it was surprisingly entertaining and at times humorous.
  • Bridge of Spies – Another one I did see in the theater.  A based on true events spy movie set during the start of the Cold War starring Tom Hanks, how could you pass it up?  We may actually watch this one again now that it is on demand.
  • Brooklyn – Never heard of it.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Did not see it.  Not my cup of tea about a woman who rebels against a tyrannical leader in futuristic post apocalyptic world with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper and a drifter named Max.
  • The Martian – I saw part of this movie and fell asleep.  Everyone raved about this movie.  It could be that I watched it at home on my cozy couch in my pjs, but I fell asleep when Matt Damon started making fertilized soil to grow potatoes to sustain himself until he could hopefully be rescued.  Since I have seen the jokes on the internet about how much money has been spent to save Matt Damon, I assume he was saved from Mars as well.
  • The Revenant – I saw the preview for this movie every time we went to the movies before Christmas so that should count for something.  Revenge stories are not usually a favorite of mine.  Animal stories are not a favorite of mine.  Bloody violent stories are not a favorite of mine.  So revenge stories against an animal that is bloody and violent is definitely going to be on my do not see list.
  • Room – I started to read the book and got scared and couldn’t finish it.  If the book gave me nightmares just from picturing the story in my imagination, I do not think seeing the story played out will help my ability to sleep well at night.
  • Spotlight – I have not seen this one but I think I might.  I just saw that it was released this week on demand.  It is based on the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic Church’s molestation scandal.

I will probably not be watching the Oscars on Sunday night.  Instead, I will catch up on Downton Abbey (I am seasons behind) or settle into my favorite book.  However, if you are an Oscar lover, I hope all of your favorite movies are winners.  –June

 

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A Viewing of Sensitive Skin

I recently had the opportunity to watch the first season of a new HBO Canada series, Sensitive Skin. I had read good reviews about the show and decided to check it out for myself, on Netflix. (I watched the whole season during a cold and dreary weekend.) Sensitive Skin is an adaptation of a BBC series of the same name. It’s a dark comedy that stars Kim Cattrall, who’s character Davina Jackson is very unlike her notable role as Samantha Jones, that made her famous in the HBO hit series, Sex and the City. (Also a favorite of mine.) Davina is a woman well into her fifties who is is struggling with insecurities regarding the physical and emotional journey of getting older.

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This is a show about a couple of a certain age, who is trying to transition into the next phase of life.  Their neurotic and slightly depressed son has moved out, and they have left their comfortable home in the suburbs of Toronto to move into a stark loft in the heart of the city. They realize it’s a mistake, however they try their best to make it work.

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Even though this is a mid-life crisis comedy, I love that it doesn’t follow the predictable hollywood path of hot flashes, plastic surgery, and the bored husband leaving his wife for a younger woman. It does follow the journey of a woman in her 50’s, trying to reinvent herself, and struggles to become more comfortable in her slightly older skin. Along with that, she has been with her husband Al, played by Canadian actor Don McKellar, for three decades and both are aware that they have somehow grown apart over the years and done nothing about it.

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I don’t want to give too much away, but I really enjoyed season one of this series and am looking forward to season two. It’s intelligent, fresh, funny, and unpredictable. I also feel that many women of a certain age will be able to identify with Davina’s character. The show is filmed entirely in Toronto and I actually felt like I was in the room with the characters. There are six episodes in season one and it’s definitely worth the watch.

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I hope you get a chance to check it out.

~May

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Enjoying The Drake Hotel

TGIF!!! This week, May and June decided it was time to visit another great hotel in our beautiful city. Although cold, it was bright and sunny so we decided to walk 1.5 miles to The Drake Hotel, for a mid-week “business meeting”.  And because May is the fastest power walker on the planet, we did not get too cold (although we may have had a little warm-up stop to check out the spring fashions and sales at Anthropologie).

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The Drake is a landmark hotel that was founded in 1920 by Tracy and John Drake, who acquired it from Potter Palmer in 1916. The hotel was built in the Italian Renaissance style overlooking Lake Michigan, and was a longtime rival of the Palmer House, another landmark establishment ( both of which are now operated by Hilton Hotels). Notable visitors to the Drake Hotel have included several Presidents, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, and Queen Elizabeth II.  The Drake Hotel is located on the north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

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(A beautiful bouquet greets visitors in the lobby)

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(One of the many grand and gorgeous crystal chandeliers)

After doing a little tour of the lobby, we decided to check out the historical Coq d’Or (French for golden cockerel), the hotel’s piano bar/restaurant which is known for being the second establishment to serve alcohol after prohibition, opening December 6, 1933. We felt like we were going back in time as we enjoyed our drinks and appetizers, relaxing in red leather chairs. The menu items are a little retro.  We only really perused the appetizers but it was old-school food like shrimp cocktail, crab cakes and a cheese board.  It is fun to visit some of these old school restaurants and bars where everything on the menu lends itself to being comfortable and unpretentious.  On weekends, patrons can come for a drink or dinner, while listening to the sounds of jazz piano. You can also go for afternoon tea in the Palm Court, between 1-5pm.

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(The golden cockerel must have worn a pirate hat?)

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(The bar complete with a red leather bumper, big red leather bar chairs and dark wood)

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(A vintage scene)

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(A business meeting with champagne refreshment and a cheese plate)

We hope you get a chance to stop in at the Drake Hotel, the next time you’re in the city. Have a wonderful weekend.

~May and June

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Making Murderer

Making a Murderer

My husband and I jumped on the bandwagon and watched the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer over the weekend.  If you have not heard about it (and I would be surprised if you had not) it is a documentary broken into 10 episodes, that follows the trial of Steven Avery and his nephew for the murder of Teresa Halbach.  We got completely sucked into the story to the point that on a subzero day our thermostat thought we had left the house and put itself into auto-away mode, which meant it got cold in the house.

Making Murderer

I am going to try not to give away any spoilers in case you have not watched it yet, but I do have a few observations.  First, it may just be my personality but I am a skeptical viewer.  The filmmakers have a bias because there is a story they want to tell.  Therefore, the things they choose to present in the film are edited to keep the storyline moving and to tell they story they wanted to tell.  I think there was a lot left out of the series (and Google confirms my theory) which may have swayed the sympathies of the viewer differently.

Second, it is apparent in the series and I think true in real life that if a defendant has money they get a different defense then a defendant that does not.  I believe that attorneys that take on cases with their fees being paid by the State are doing noble work.  I certainly could not do it.  However, I also am intimately familiar with law firm economics.  The only thing commodity that lawyers have to sell is their time and expertise.  And that time and expertise does not come free.  Law firms have to pay the salaries of support staff, technology, utilities and in a case such as this expert witness.  And if a lawyer is being compensated by the State, the billing rate the State is willing to pay is usually much less than that lawyer’s usual rate. In the series, this is shown by the difference in representation Steven Avery was able to obtain and the representation that his nephew, especially his first lawyer, was able to obtain.

Third, if someone is accused of a crime, even though there is supposed to be a presumption of innocence, most people assume that they are guilty.  Before the murder of Teresa Halbach, Steven Avery spent 18 years in prison for a crime that was later proven by DNA evidence that he did not commit.  I think that incident marred his name and reputation going into the investigation and trial.  If you watch the whole thing through pay close attention to what the judge says after the trial is over.  Even the judge, who is supposed to be above this bias, carries this bias.  I think it is human nature because I know often I assume that if the police are investigating, you must have done something to bring attention to yourself.

Fourth, people who are poor tend to have more experience with the judicial system.  I have seen it when I go over to court (which fortunately is rarely) that people who have less means tend to have more experience with the intricacies of the judicial system.  I am not sure exactly why that is and it may just be because someone like me would not try to navigate the system by myself and would hire a lawyer.

Finally, on a lighter note, I never realized that people who lived in Manitowoc, Wisconsin had that thick Wisconsin/Minnesota accent.  I looked up Manitowoc on a map and it is north of Sheboygan, Wisconsin but south of Green Bay, Wisconsin, along Lake Michigan.  For some reason, their accents really struck me.

Let me know if you have watched Making a Murderer and what you thought. –June

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The Holiday

Christmas Movies

It’s that time of year again, the time to start watching Christmas movies.  My dream is to spend a whole day laying on the couch watching Christmas movies.  Unfortunately, December is so busy that this almost never happens.  However, I do try to make sure I watch a few of my favorites before the season is over.  And have you noticed that if a favorite Christmas movie “magically” shows up on TV, rather than watching one on a DVD or a streaming service, it seems so much better.

There are so many Christmas movies that it is hard to pick an absolute favorite, but some of my favorites include:

 

Elf

I love Buddy the Elf.  Despite being at least 6 feet tall, Buddy recently discovers that he is not in fact an elf.  So he goes on an adventure to New York City to find his real father.  There are so many classic lines that are easily remembered such as “Son of a Nutcracker.”  And there are four food groups, “Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn and Maple Syrup.”  The movie is full of fun but also has a sweet message about keeping the Christmas spirit.

Grinch

The Grinch is another one that I love.  Not the movie the Grinch (I actually find that one creepy) but the original cartoon Grinch.  The Grinch is so mean in the beginning (and I feel sorry for his dog), but the transformation he goes through is remarkable.  And I have to admit I always get a little choked up when the Who’s down in Whoville go sing in the town square despite the fact that the Grinch stole all of their presents including the Roast Beast.

Love Actually

This is maybe not really a Christmas movie (or at least I tell myself that since I watch it year-round) but it does take place at Christmas and it is about all the different kinds of love.  There are several somewhat interconnected stories that take place in the movie.  Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister is not to be missed.  And Colin Firth’s love story shows that connections can be real even if you do not speak the same language.

Christmas Vacation

 

The Griswolds are at it again.  They are going to have the best Griswold Christmas ever.  This means driving hours to pick out the perfect Christmas tree (a light shines on it so they know that it is the “one”).  Putting up way too many Christmas lights and kidnapping Clark’s boss.  With all of the antics and mishaps they still manage to have a wonderful Christmas.

 

Charlie Brown

I just saw the Charlie Brown Christmas turned 50 years old.  Charlie Brown of course can never do anything right.  He picks out a terrible Christmas tree and gets no Christmas cards.  Linus reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas with his beautiful recitation of the Christmas story.  In the end, Charlie Brown’s friends fix up the poor little tree so that it is a pretty tree.

Fred Claus

Vince Vaughn is Nick (Santa) Claus’ brother, Fred Claus.  Because he has lived in the shadows of his famous older brother, Fred thinks he is not good enough and never does anything right with his life.  Fred ends up helping his brother save Christmas from being shut down by an efficiency expert.  There is a lot of cute humor, from Fred going to talk therapy with the not-so-famous siblings of other famous people (Sylvester Stallone’s brother, Frank Stallone, Bill Clinton’s brother, Roger Clinton and the least famous Baldwin brother, Steven Baldwin) to Fred getting tired of the same Christmas music being played in the workshop and tries to shake things up a bit.

Miracle on 34th Street

A classic, although I do like the version from the 1990s as well.  The movie proves that a man, Kris Kringle, who is working at Macy’s as Santa, is the real Santa Claus.  I think I have always liked this movie because my mom told me that the real Santa Claus was at the Marshall Fields on State Street in Chicago.  So I think this movie just played into that belief I had.  Plus at the end, Susan has the best Christmas ever.

I know there are so many other Christmas movies and everyone has a favorite.  What Christmas movies are your favorite? –June

 

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The Time I Met The Pioneer Woman

Two weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman.  The Pioneer Woman was probably one of the blogs that introduced me to the world of blogging.  It has been interesting to see her blog evolve from a website where she simply posted about her family, the ranch and favorite recipes to the professional website and community it is today.

I admire how she has grown her business into several children’s books about Charlie the Ranch Dogs, four cookbooks, a show on Food Network and now a line of cookware, dishes and kitchen items at Walmart.  Whenever I dream about what this blog could become, I think about what she has been able to accomplish from the same platform.  I love many of the recipes in her cookbooks so when I heard that she was going to be in Naperville for a book signing of her new cookbook, I knew I had to go and take my mom with me.

The event was hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and it was packed.  I think they said there was more than 625 people there.  However, because I was so on the ball, my mom and I had tickets numbered 6 and 7, meaning that was our place in line to have our books signed.

Ree Drummond gave a quick introduction, including a giveaway of a Charlie cookie jar, which regrettably we did not win, and then it was right to the book signing.

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Ree Drummond was very friendly and approachable at the book signing, although I have to say I got a bit star struck and could not think of anything clever to say.  I could have told her that I made her  chicken enchilada recipe for 19 members of my book group and it was huge hit, or that olive cheese bread has become a family Christmas Eve tradition (and it is so beloved that my nephew requested my sister-in-law make it for his birthday dinner in July) or that I would like to grow a business like she has done.  Instead, I did get to have my picture taken with her:

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And went home with my signed cookbook

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And an extra goody

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I was very happy to meet Ree Drummond.  I’m looking forward to trying some new yummy recipes in her new cookbook and continue to dream about growing this little blog into a small fraction of the community and business she has created.  –June

 

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Friday Night Lights

Comfort TV

I have been a little under the weather the last week, nothing serious, just an ear infection, but because of that I have spent some time lying on the couch.  I don’t know about you but when I am sick or tired, I often choose to watch movies or television shows that I have seen before and sometimes many, many times before.  I think there is something comforting with watching a program where you already know the characters and you know there is going to be a happy ending.

Some of my favorite comfort movies or television shows include:

While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping

Amazon:

You’ll fall in love with WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, the hit romantic comedy that woke everyone up to adorable Sandra Bullock (SPEED, A TIME TO KILL). As Lucy, a lonely subway worker, she becomes smitten with a handsome stranger (Peter Gallagher — MALICE). But when she saves his life after he’s been mugged and fallen into a coma, his hilariously offbeat family mistakes her for his fiancee! Soon, the mix-ups escalate as Lucy fabricates a life between herself and a man she’s never met! And when Lucy falls for his charming brother (Bill Pullman — INDEPENDENCE DAY) the situation really gets uproarious as she’s forced to make a choice between the two!

This movie is fun for me to watch partially since it’s set in Chicago which makes it fun to see the city.  The Gallagher family has some quirky characters which makes it seem like all families.  And while the story line is a bit far fetched it works and is sweet.

The Holiday

The Holiday

Amazon:

In Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday, a romantic comedy from the director of Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want, two women trade homes only to find that a change of address can change their lives. Iris (Winslet) is in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. Across the globe, Amanda (Diaz), realizes the man she lives with has been unfaithful. Two women who have never met and live 6000 miles apart, find themselves in the exact same place. They meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Iris moves into Amanda’s L.A. house in sunny California as Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both women find the last thing either wants or expects: a new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris’ handsome brother Graham (Law) and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur (Wallach), mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles (Black).

This movie was on a movie channel several times this past weekend, so I kept catching bits and pieces of it.  Both characters are unhappy in their lives and change locations and everything is fixed and they are happy.  A little unrealistic, maybe, but a fun story to watch.

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama

Amazon:

This delightfully entertaining romantic comedy stars Reese Witherspoon (LEGALLY BLONDE) as sophisticated Melanie Carmichael, a rising New York clothing designer who suddenly finds herself engaged to the city’s most eligible bachelor. But this is no fairy tale romance for Melanie. She has skeletons in her fashion-filled closet that include Jake — the backwoods husband she married in high school who refuses to divorce her. Determined to end their marriage and sever all ties with her past once and for all, Melanie returns to Alabama. But home starts to tug at her heartstrings, and what she thought she wanted may not be what she wants at all.

Melanie Carmichael is engaged to a John F. Kennedy, Jr. twin, but she has secrets that he does not know.  I love stories set in the South (maybe because my grandparents lived in the South) and this movie is full of Southern charm.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill

Amazon:
Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the world’s most famous movie star. William Thacker (Hugh grant) owns a travel bookstore in the quaint neighborhood of Notting Hill. When their paths cross, the couple comes to face the ultimate question: can two people fall in love with the whole world watching?

I feel like Julia Roberts almost plays herself in this movie.  A chance encounter leads to love between two people whose paths should never have crossed.  The ending is sweet and I really like the soundtrack.

Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls

Amazon:

A very atypical mother-daughter relationship is at the center of Gilmore Girls, a comedy-drama that immediately set itself apart from the herd with smarter-than-smart dialogue and an endearing mix of whimsical comedy and family drama. Set in the Capra-esque burg of Stars Hollow, where everybody knows everyone and eccentrics abound, Gilmore Girls was less a mother-daughter show and more of a screwball buddy comedy in which the two buddies happened to be parent and child. Pregnant at 16, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) left her rich parents to bring up her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) on her own terms; when Rory herself turns 16, Lorelai wants to send her academically gifted daughter to the prestigious Chilton school. The catch is, Lorelai can’t afford it on her own, and rather than let Rory go without, the elder Gilmore girl brokers an uneasy truce with her parents (Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop), who finally get a chance to bond with their granddaughter while financing her education.

It sounds like a premise potentially fraught with angst and trauma, but in reality Gilmore Girls was one of the freshest, airiest, most enjoyable shows to air on the perpetually melodramatic WB network, critically praised once viewers got hooked on its unique brand of humor. Rory’s growing-up adventures, including her acclimation to snooty Chilton and romance with townie dreamboat Dean (Jared Padalecki), gave the show a teen-friendly feel, but Gilmore Girls was anchored in the adult by the luminous Graham, a brilliant comedic leading lady who could turn dramatic on a dime and never break stride. The show’s hallmark was its rat-a-tat, whipsmart dialogue, delivered perfectly by Graham and Bledgel, as well as a host of wacky supporting characters who would go on to become invaluable cast members. The first season allowed the show–and its lead actresses–to bloom gracefully and establish a deep, humorous rapport that lent itself perfectly to weekly travails both comedic and dramatic. –Mark Englehart

Lorelei and Rory Gilmore are memorable characters.  The dialogue is nuanced with pop culture, music and literary references and is snappy and witty.  Stars Hollow is a town full of quirky people and traditions which puts the characters in sometimes ridiculous situations.  After a few seasons, the writers changed and I did not find the show as enjoyable.  However, Netflix just announced that there is going to be four new episodes written by the original writers, so if you have not seen Gilmore Girls now is your time to catch up on it.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

Amazon:

TV’s hottest new drama, Friday Night Lights, touches down on DVD with all 22 Season One episodes in a 5-disc collection! In the small town of Dillon, everyone comes together on Friday nights when the Dillon High Panthers play. But life is not a game; and the charismatic players, new coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), and the passionate fans find that their biggest challenges and obstacles come off the field in the compelling day-to-day dramas of their tight-knit community. From producers Brian Grazer (The Da Vinci Code) and Peter Berg (The Kingdom) comes the critically acclaimed TV series based on the best-selling novel and hit theatrical movie. Discover why The Associated Press calls it “breathtaking in how it captures ordinary life set against extraordinary passions.”

This is my FAVORITE TV show ever.  I loved, loved this show and I still miss Coach and Tami Taylor.  I love Connie Britton so that alone makes the show worth your time to watch, but all of the characters are well developed and you become invested in their lives.  This show is about so much more than football, but is about family and growing up.  If you have not watched it I highly recommend it.

Do you have any movie or television shows that you watch when you are feeling a little down?  Any others I should add to my list of ones to watch?  –June

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