Friday, November 30, 2007

Favorite Things

I didn't think I should let Oprah have all the fun. This is my list of favorite picks for Christmas gifts this year. I couldn't actually list everything that I am buying for family and friends (mostly because it's just family and friends who probably read this), but I decided to choose some gifts that you won't find on a shelf at the Mall.

So...happy shopping. I certainly don't have the money for it, so hopefully you can do your part to help the economy and I'll just be here.

1. Random Shirts from - a great little Internet company out of Texas who have helped me to clothe my teenage brother for the past few years. Right now there is free shipping for all orders over $30...and the shirts fit well and the color stays great even after several washes.

2. Uncommon gifts at - this site has so many odds and ends at every price. I wish I had tons of money to spend on these cool keepsakes. My favorite are Slang flash cards.

3. A gift for the person who makes everything into a keepsake at - You use the book to hold ticket stubs of all sizes.

4. The gift of hope to Uganda via your purchase of some gifts and the paper to wrap with at - My personal favorite are the bracelets. You can purchase one for $20 or four for $65. Every bracelet is handmade in Uganda from reed and recycled wire. Once made, each bracelet is packaged in the States and sold with a short film that tells the story of a child who has been affected by the war.

5. Find the only kitchen knife you need at - I love my Chef's knife with sharpening case. I do actually own this product. It is amazing.

6. For looking good in the kitchen I found this great apron at - it's a fun little place to look around, but a little too rich for my blood...or my wallet...either way. I would pick up this apron in a heartbeat.

7. And lastly, I don't know why there are only 7, except that I've been doing this for over 45 minutes...I really recommend the Irwin Laser Level to aid in hanging things in your walls at (or any home store).

I'm sure I can add as I think of more, but for now...happy shopping.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

He Asked For a Line, Like in a Play

I know a lot of people like to use writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing. If you've been looking for some ideas, have no fear- I have a few listed below, along with my take on these delicious prompts.

Connect these images in a story or poem: “pleading knife,” “basket reciting angrily,” and “icy saucer.
I think this story begins with the part about the pleading knife and ends with somebody getting checked into rehab….

What happens when a computer malfunctions and traps about 400 people in a small department store? There is only one food store in there.
What happens when the person coming up with the writing prompts is actually a good writer?

Write from the view of a freshly scrubbed floor.
Now that sounds like a winning book idea, doesn’t it? I wonder why JK Rowling hasn’t already staked her claim on this one!

Use these words in your story: dog trainer, bills, beach, pie.
Does this not sound like the beginning to a really cheesy joke?

Why would a speaker be afraid of cats?
Do you think they are referring to a person, or a piece of sound equipment? Personally I think the latter would be more interesting….

What if you're going to write a story about deception with a male alcoholic as the main character and yellow bag as the key object? Set your story in an ice rink.
With ideas like this in the world, to borrow a line from Lorelai Gilmore, "Well, at least now I know how Snow Dogs got made."

*Special thanks to Creative Writing Prompts. Well done, you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkey a la King

I was talking to my mom today about our plans for Turkey Day this Thursday, or should I say, lack of plans for Turkey day. We are having one set of grandparents over for the main meal at 1:00pm, and then the other set is stopping by on their way back home to East Texas. That grandma was very concerned that she would be disrupting our afternoon plans.

The only common denominator about Thanksgiving in our house regarding "plans" tended to be getting dressed up to eat. I'm pretty sure the time changes, the relatives change, and what we do during the day changes as well. Some years we've gone to see a movie, one year we were on a cruise, football is generally on, and we sit at the table long enough for Grandma Ann to force feed a fifth course of food into my dad.

I always watch those crescent roll commercials with the New England family in their sweaters as they joyously pass the rolls and watch as Father Dear carves the turkey. I've never once seen a whole turkey at our table. We're buffet people. The dishes of food do not end up on the table until Grandma Ann is lamenting once again that no one has eaten anything - crescent rolls aside. I asked last year if we could have the turkey on the table. The response, "Why?" The turkey did not make it to the table except in slices on our plates.

What was I saying? Ah yes, tradition is going out the window this year. That in itself is not that odd since our traditional food does not seem to make it on anyone else's table. The influences of my dad's family were seen on his mothers table with German Home-made noodles (not sure what makes them German except that my German great-grandmother made them), rolls, turkey and wet dressing, cranberry mold from the can chocolate pie, key lime pie, and pecan pie. The other grandparent's, table (mom's family) held turkey with dry and wet dressing, white rice, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, asparagus, sometimes that interesting mixture of fruit and whipped cream or something like that (something my siblings and I would never eat), and some other things I can't remember, (did I say rolls? we like bread) and then coffee, and maybe pecan and pumpkin pie and ice cream. No table was complete without that great American condiment, ketchup. My brother, sister, and I have have all put ketchup on our turkey at some point and come to the conclusion that (drum roll)...we're not big turkey fans.

So this year? Fillet Mignon, mashed potatoes (who would have thought?), some form of bread, some form of vegetables, and we are currently debating the desert. Whatever the case, I'm thankful for my family and our own varied form of random traditions...that for at least just this one time, do not include turkey.

"The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE!" - A Christmas Story.

Thank you God for this food.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Top 5 Childhood Nightmare Movies

We all have our creepy movies. Ghost stories, slasher flicks, twisted films-- there's something that gets everyone. But some of the scariest can be the ones you saw as a child, that scarred you with nightmares and bad memories for life. For my brother it was Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. And don't worry, Mom and Dad, it's not your fault-- it happens to all of us! The following is my list of the top 5 movies that messed me up/gave me bad dreams/I'm still afraid of.

5. The Last Unicorn: A very interesting story, and very pretty animation. It really is a very likeable movie; in fact, I own it on dvd. But there are elements of the movie, such as some eerie ghosts walking through a fire, a collection of grotesque beasts (including one of them killing and eating the woman who imprisoned them), and, of course, the red bull. And I'm not talking about some pansy Lindsay Lohan fuel either. I am talking about a scary, firey red bull that rounds up all the unicorns in the world and keeps them as waves in the ocean. Definitely a scary concept, especially to a 6 year-old girl! Take a gander at the trailer:

4. The Neverending Story: You know, I don't even remember much about this movie, other than I know it scared the bejeesus out of me. And I know I'm not alone. My sister was creeped by this movie, my roommate was creeped by this movie (particularly the sinking horse scene), and it probably is just not as kid friendly as the marketers wanted us all to believe. Just watch the trailer and you'll see how it could have terrified me:

3. Alice in Wonderland: To be more precise, the 1985 TV version of Alice in Wonderland. This movie was scary to me in so many ways. Looking at clips now, I just get a bad feeling looking at the costumes, the sets, the little girl, and Carol Channing in that creepy white dress. I think something that made this particularly unsettling was the fact that Alice was lost for so long, and it felt like she'd never get home. And then, when she finally does-- she's on the wrong side of the mirror! She can see her parents, but they can't see her, and she's left there screaming and banging on the glass to no avail. But the ultimate terrifer in this movie most definitely would be the Jabberwocky. It's not just that he was big and mean and Godzilla-ish, it was also the way the lightning flashed, everything got dark, and Alice was just left screaming and running for her life. Also. I didn't like the rabbit or this creepy bird guy:

2. Return to Oz: This frightening story is about exactly what you think it's about, except everything is old and broken down (including the yellow brick road), and everything that was magical about The Wizard of Oz has now become dark and scary. The most distinct memory I have is of the evil witch, who instead of changing her hair or makeup, could change her entire head. I remember having nightmares about those heads for years. Just check out the following scene, which really belongs in a horror movie, and not as a sequel to a beloved children's story:

1. The Dollhouse Murders (Secrets in the Attic): Poorly made, poorly acted. Unless you are counting the dolls, because they acted great, carrying out their rolls as the ultimate terrorizers to perfection. This early nineties movie is about a young girl who comes to live with her aunt, and slowly learns the story of how her grandparents were murdered in the house. She finds a dollhouse in the attic (pause to say that I am freaking myself out just writing this) and comes to realize that the dolls are acting out the murders so the mystery can finally be solved. There are several terrifying scenes of not only flashbacks to the actual murder, but of the dolls moving on their own: turning their heads to the camera, moving around the dollhouse, and causing books to fly off the shelves. If I remember correctly, the dolls also cry and shriek. And I wasn't kidding before, I really am starting to scare myself just thinking about this movie. Yes, I realize it might not sound scary at all, but to a young kid who never watched horror/ghost movies, it's downright terrifying. Believe it or not, there are no clips or trailers of this little gem on youtube (shocker!), so instead I'll just direct you over to IMDB, so you can verify that this movie does exist.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trading Spaces

Sometimes I feel like I'm destined to have white walls for the rest of my life. I know that seems an odd point to complain about, but I'm sitting in my very white living room and staring into my white dining area and kitchen. I don't mind apartment living, the fact that I cough up a chunk of cash every month to feel safe in my community is well worth it to me. But what I cannot stand is this glaring white image that reminds me how much this isn't really "my" home.

I was able to choose the blue color of "my" room at my parents house. Aside from that, I don't believe I've been privileged to paint to my preference. I was visiting friends this morning who have made their small home into a wealth of color and warmth. Their paint is daring, creative, and I love it. One room has vertical strips, another looks like the inside of a Starbucks. They're still working on the kitchen, but are planning to do something with bricks.

I've done what I can to my little space. Added bits of color through drapes, chairs, and colorful photos. Luckily I have giant windows that draw your attention outwards rather than up the high walls. I really have no idea what I would actually paint this room, now that I think about it. I may actually be too much of a coward to ever paint with real authority and courage. My visions of deep reds and bright yellows will probably fade away to practical khaki and beige hues...but that's assuming I might one day be allowed to paint a wall.

Oh well, here's to hoping.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

5 Movies You May Have Missed

Just in case your Netflix queue is running dry, here are a few suggestions of some decent movies you might not have seen.

You Can't Take It With You- This is a delightful treasure of a Frank Capra movie. The story concerns the engagement of a young man, (James Stewart) who comes from a rich banking family, to his secretary, who has a rather... eccentric family. Her relatives are the engine of the film: her father makes fireworks, her sister makes candy amidst her ballet dancing, and grandpa spends his time playing his harmonica and making the neighbors happy. The family has also taken in various other occupants, and their home has become a screwy funhouse filled with music, laughter, explosions, and the occasional person sliding down the banister. Though released in 1938, the film doesn't feel dated at all, and I'd expect even those who don't care for old movies to get a big kick out of it. You'll probably find the family to be decidedly odd at the start of the movie, but I'll be surprised if by the end of it you aren't ready to move in with them too.

Murder By Death: An offbeat but truly hilarious spoof of detective movies, Murder By Death will have you doubled over with laughter if you can allow it to be weird and see it for its comic genius. Featuring an all-star cast including Alec Guinness (playing a blind butler named Jamesir Bensonmum), Maggie Smith, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, and Truman Capote (yes, you read that right), this comedy/mystery spoofs some of the most famous literary detectives, including Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and even Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man movies (appearing in the movie as Dick and Dora Charleston). Some may find it a little too slapsticky and self-referential, not to mention overwhelmingly silly (the house address is 2-2 Twain), but it's also a lot of fun. Plus, it has some terribly clever dialogue, such as the following conversation between Tess and Sam, whose character is a sendup of Humphrey Bogart- type characters....

Sam: I'll be around if you need me. All you gotta do is whistle, and you know how to whistle, don't ya, baby?
Tess: Certainly. What do you mean? I don't understand you...
Sam: All right, never mind. Forget it. You ruined it.

Equilibrium- If you are a fan of smart action movies, Equilibrium would be worth your time. It takes place in a post- World War III future, where no music or art is allowed- similar to Fahrenheit 451- type stories. Christian Bale gives an amazing performance as a security officer who slowly discovers what he has been missing. Look for a truly remarkable scene where his character hears an opera for the first time. It's definitely a treasure that demonstrates the power of music in movies. Sean Bean and Taye Diggs also star.
Tip: When John Preston heads in to raid the building in the first scene of the film, be sure to turn off all the lights in the room. It will definitely complete the experience, and you'll thank me later.

Galaxy Quest- Not the most sophisticated brand of comedy, but a likeable film none-the-less. I'm sure we all saw the previews (even if you didn't see the movie): Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman are Star Trek-like TV stars who actually end up in space saving some aliens. Not the deepest plot, but still a funny and entertaining movie. Sam Rockwell is hysterical as a castmember who really was more of an extra, and Tony Shaloub has a hilarious turn as the actor who falls in love with an alien. It's terribly silly, but if you get a big group together that's ready to laugh, I promise you'll have a good time.

Treasure Planet- Largely dismissed by critics, this little gem of a movie is beautifully animated, with enchanting music and delightful characters. It follows the Treasure Island storyline remarkably closely, but giving everything an imaginative sci-fi spin. Treasure Planet features the voice talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, and Martin Short, who all seem to have a lot of fun with their parts, for good reason. It's a fun movie, and if you love classic Disney movies but somehow missed this one, I'm pretty sure you'll find this to be just as entertaining.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I am such a mixed up person. I have this desire to take life slowly and enjoy it as it comes. But I also have a desire to make decisions, to run around, and to accomplish as many things as possible before my eyes close at night. (I couldn’t even type “before my head hits the pillow” because a lot of the time I’m still making lists or doing things once I get into bed.)

I spent a large part of my afternoon in a Gelato shop that was playing some great music. After the 93 degree heat outside (yes, it IS November) the cool interior was a real treat. I sat down with “East of Eden” for the better part of an hour. Every so often the guilt would creep in and I would feel the need to flee the scene and become responsible and accomplished with my afternoon…but the music was so nice, and the smell from the neighboring Coffee Shop so comforting…that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t t myself away from the enjoyment.

Usually, the responsible side of me wins. I never stay in one place for very long, perhaps something I picked up from an overly productive father. I walk into a coffee shop to read or study and end up leaving after 30 minutes, the moment I have finished my purchase. I don’t know what the deal is. I’m trying hard to balance this out. But even now, I am gazing at the clock on the wall of the library knowing that I should hop on the elevator to take me to class…but it’s not really time for class…I just like to be responsible and early.

Perhaps that is why I’m generally the first one at the party…the first one for jury summons this morning, and by far one of the first ones to leave a gathering. I’m pretty sure I’m not socially awkward, but I do find myself increasingly inept at rest and recuperation.

Hmm…maybe I’m onto something. Didn’t God say something about having a Sabbath? I think that sounds ri ----- better go. Don’t want to be late to being early to class.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Those Awful High School Years

"High school is hard. I don’t care who you are: Band geek, mathlete, burnout, jocktard, or prom queen. Psychologically, there is no three-to-four year period in most people’s lives as harrowing and emotionally traumatizing as those the hours between 8 and 3, Monday through Friday, three seasons a goddamn year. That the most of us can muster the mental courage it takes to wake up every morning and subject ourselves to the daily firing squad, the humiliation pratfalls, and the torment of super-heightened self-awareness is a testament to the great unrecognized fortitude of teenagedom."

You hear a lot about how hard high school was. The backstabbing, the lying, the embarassment. But that wasn't me at all. If high school was hard, it's because my classes were hard.

I couldn't tell you who the most popular people in my school were, because I wasn't tapped into that world at all. The band and colorguard were my domain, not anything outside those walls. If you were in an organization like band, you know how much it can just be its own appendage of the school. My senior year the band ran its own candidate for homecoming queen, and she won. She also won prom queen.

I've read a lot of criticism of "High School Musical" saying that it's just not representative of what high schools are actually like because they left out the drugs, parties, sex, etc. But for me, Taylor High School was a lot more "High School Musical" than "Dangerous Minds."

In movies like "Mean Girls," there is a set "queen bee" of the school, and everyone not only knows who they are, but also want to be like her. That's just not the way things were at my school at all. I'm not sure if this is due to my not being interested in the social scene or if our school is just too big for something like that, but it just wasn't there.

Similarly, I don't recall a lot of girls in my circle being extra mean to each other, spreading lies and rumors and generally just making life hard for other people. I do recall there being some idiot guys and girls who bragged about drinking and getting into trouble, but they were more of the weird outcasts than anyone else.

So maybe I missed out on the "high school experience." But from what I have observed of other high schools, it looks like I just missed out on the "Hollywood high school experience."