The "Click" Unclucked

It's Book Club Blogger Review Day!

This month the club's selection, Tove Jansson's The Summer Book, was chosen by Cydney the voice behind Material Lives.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.

As mentioned earlier, when I started it I just didn't "get" it.  I couldn't find a plot line, the characters weren't drawing me in and it was structured in such a way that I couldn't figure out what the heck I was reading.  Miraculously somewhere in the book's middle I fell in love with a chapter and had high hopes of a drastic turn. {It was the chapter in which Grandma & Sophia break into the "new neighbor's" house.} Alas, the turn was not to be.

Here's the thing, this book made me feel stupid.

I completely missed the point that I'm certain exists.  I just could not connect with the author's writing style.  It felt incoherent and its lack of continuity was confusing and seemed disorganized. The whole time I was reading it I felt as though I was at a dinner party where the rest of the guests spoke a different language.  I was continuously frustrated that I could hear the conversation going on but it made no sense to me. Throughout the book I caught glimpses of imagery that pointed toward some hidden jewel.  But try as I might, I was unable to connect the dots and uncover the treasure.  Though one chapter led me to believe that perhaps the story had finally "clicked," I disappointedly discovered in the next chapter that the click had unclucked.  (Pretty sure I just made up a word there.  You heard "unclucked" here first, folks.)

I'm quite certain an enormous part of the problem was how and when I read The Summer Book.  Reading it during a hectic time of year, in a very disjointed way did me no favors.  I read 3/4 of it at the beginning of the month and the last few chapters earlier this week in an effort to force myself to finish in time to publish this review. I also read it right after Little Bee and read (the pretty hysterical) Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress during the same period.  Both of those books are written in a much more "in your face" style.  As a reader, I never felt like I was searching for meaning, it was crystal clear on every page.  Reading The Summer Book in their midst lead to unfair comparisons on my part.  Perhaps sitting down with The Summer Book and reading it in one fell swoop or giving it my undivided (read: non-Holiday) attention would change my opinion.

But frankly, I'm intimidated.  I don't particularly like to feel like I'm the only English speaker at the party.  It's unsatisfying (and a bit demoralizing) to so thoroughly miss the point.  In the end though, I recognize that perhaps the problem is that I didn't take time to learn the language before going to the party; not that everyone else is enjoying the conversation. 

I can't wait to read the other club member's reviews and reactions.  {Did you guys speak the language?}  You can read what everyone else thought too by visiting Charlotte's blog The Daily Snapshot.


Rocky Indeed

In an effort to educate myself about American film and its history I set a goal (on my Ultimate To DO list) to watch all of the films listed on AFI's 100 years, 100 movies list.  My hope is that by watching these films with a critical eye and then researching their cast, crew and cultural impact I can "home school" myself through film school.  Not a bad way to spend some time and save bunches money, huh?

Several weeks ago I watched Sylvester Stallone stumble through his much acclaimed film Rocky.  I was so disappointed by the experience; I opted not to write about it.  My hope was that someday I would watch it again and be won over by its seemingly non-existent charm.  And then on Christmas Eve we saw The Fighter and I decided it was time to review Rocky after all.

Let's get a few things straight before I begin my review: 
  • I don't like boxing.
  • I have what verges on a mild hatred for Sylvester Stallone.  (Basically the only thing that keeps me from saying I think he is worthless in the acting department is the crowning jewel of his career Demolition Man.)
  • I've always been a little tweaked that a boxing movie starring Sylvester Stallone won the Best Picture Oscar the year I was born.  (Irrational?  Possibly. But it beat All the President's Men, Network & Taxi Driver?!?!?!)
  • I dated a guy named Rocky.  It was not what one might consider a healthy relationship.
All that being said, Rocky did not have a ton going for it as far as I was concerned.  Watching the film didn't change my mind.  I'm just going to say it.  It was awful.  A.W.F.U.L.  Awful.  It's only redeeming quality was the theme song, which incidentally I think should be added to every running playlist on Earth.  It is THAT inspiring.  Bravo, Bill Conti (with lyrics by Carol Connors & Ayn Robbins).  You supplied the only worthwhile contribution this movie made to cinema in general.  The story is cliché.  The acting is pitiful.  And (spoiler alert) he doesn't even beat Apollo Creed!!! WTH?

I get that Rocky was kind of the Good Will Hunting of its time.  Stallone wrote and starred in it and it catapulted him to super stardom. (God only knows why).  But, wow! This film was not. good.
I realized how horrendous it was after watching The Fighter.  The Fighter is everything Rocky is not.  It is inspiring, full of amazing performances and gritty.  Admittedly, I'm not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan.

Wait, let me rephrase that.  I'm not the biggest fan of Mark Wahlberg's acting.  However, he is wildly successful in The Fighter.  There is vulnerability and depth to his acting.  And people, he manages to hold his own against Christian Bale.  Bale, quite frankly, is so disturbingly good in this film he made me physically uncomfortable nearly every time he was on screen.  If he doesn't win the Oscar there is something wrong with the Academy.  The cast is rounded out by several strong ladies as well.  Melissa Leo is a force to be reckoned with as the hard drinking, pushy and co-dependant mother of nine. Amy Adams plays against type as Wahlberg's bar maid girlfriend-to-the-rescue. And I don't quite know what to say about the band of bitches sisters.  They were an absolute riot to watch as they attempted to make Adams' character's life miserable.

But what I found most appealing is that The Fighter is a boxing movie that is more about the fights going on outside the ring than those inside.  It is chock full of fights between family members, fights with chemical and emotional demons, and fights to find one's voice.  It is a work of art.

In countless ways, The Fighter proved to be the movie that I've always heard Rocky was.  It undoubtedly packed the artistic punch that Rocky failed to land. 



Nog of Egg

So are you holidayed out?

Because I have a little more Christmassy stuff to talk about if you can stomach it.  I wouldn't keep writing about it, except that this little adventure killed 3 birds with one stone.  This means that documenting it is an absolute MUST.

You guys, I made HOMEMADE egg nog.  That's right.  Egg Nog.  From Scratch.  And it was delicious.  Don't believe me?  Well, I have witnesses.  My very, very brave friend Tiffany and her husband came over on Christmas Eve (before we each went separate ways to see different movies) to share a glass (or 3) of egg nog and a few little treats.

Here's the thing.  Neither my husband nor Tiffany are fans of store bought egg nog.  But, my homemade version was a total hit.  They were guzzling the extra rich and creamy concoction down!

It turns out, egg nog isn't all that difficult to make.  And since I had farm fresh eggs to use (I've been getting them from Tiffany's Dad for months now - and I'm telling you they are head and shoulders better than those things you buy in the grocery store) I felt totally comfortable about trying what some might consider a semi-risky recipe. 

I should warn you; this egg nog is even more rich than the kind you find at the grocery store.  But, it is absolutely delectable. In fact, as I write this post, I just got a text from Tiff who said she's been dreaming about the egg nog.  If that's not a testimonial, I'm really not sure what is.

Now, for the three birds with one stone part.  One of the items on my Ultimate TO DO list is to try 25 things that might make others gag.  Check. One of the tasks on my Day Zero list (is anyone else having trouble with that website all of a sudden?) is to make 5 things on the Instructables.com website.  Check.  And the hubby and I have been trying to get together with Tiffany and her husband for awhile now.  Check.  Pretty exciting that I got to do all those things AND enjoy some Holiday Nog.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you to Lydia Marie from Shopping and Spreadsheets for pointing me toward this amazing recipe.  It promises to be a brand new holiday tradition in our household.  Lydia, YOU'RE part of our Christmas from here on out whether you like it or not!! {Wait, is that too weird? Have I just pushed the boundaries of a bloggy friendship??}

Are you a fan of Egg Nog? 
And have you ever tried to make it from scratch?


Happy Thoughts (7)

Putting the Fireplace to Good Use

SNOW on Christmas
The weather men are all promising!!!!  I'm hoping they're right.

Christmas Cookies
I can't take credit for this yummy plate full of cookies. I was lucky enough to attend a fantabulous cookie swap again this year.  Not only did I get to bring home dozens of yummy cookies, I got to spend a great evening with lots of wonderful women.  Girlfriends are such a blessing.

The view from our back porch
Even though I'd NEVER have picked Chattanooga as a place I'd like to live, sometimes it has its moments

Christmas is truly the celebration of the beginning of
God's "end game."

Merry Christmas!!!


Friendship Bracelet Project

I've resurrected a hobby from my past.  I've been making friendship bracelets.

It all started because Nicole over at My Teacups in Peony has been gathering a team to make about a gazillion friendship bracelets to send over to a group of orphans in Uganda that have touched her heart.  You can read more about that here.

When I heard about the project, it sounded like the perfect excuse to dust off my friendship bracelet making skills and put them to good use.  So, I headed to a hobby store to pick out my embroidery floss.  Standing in front of the selection I was catapulted back in time to grade school when I'd save up my pennies and pick out new colors.  Just like then, I was overwhelmed and unsure which ones to choose.  Eventually after staring slack jawed at the vast array of floss, I picked up six colors and brought them home to start tying knots.

Amazed at how quickly the process returned to me, I've been churning out bracelets for the past couple of days.  I dare say, I'm getting pretty good and am feeling like a little experimentation might be in my future.  Could I manipulate the knots to make designs or patterns?  AHHH the possibilities!  And at forty cents a color I could really make a splash without spending too much dough.

What do you say? Would you be interested in joining in the project?  If so, check out Nicole's blog and let her know that you need some details.  Participating is just as easy as making a few bracelets and getting them in the mail to her.  She'll send them over to Uganda where they'll be distributed.  Easy. Peasy.

Want to help?


Notes From a Toy Store

- You never know what you'll see around the corner...

- Dirty diapers in a public bathroom might be the most pungent, horrific, lingering smell known to man.

- Hands down, "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is the ickiest Christmas carol.

- There are a lot of super sweet, polite, well-behaved and adorable kids out there.

- There are a lot of brats too. (most of those are parent sized humans though)

- It is totally inappropriate for Mom & Dad to have a 10 minute long, argument in the middle of a toy store without taking into account how uncomfortable their behavior makes EVERYone else around them

- It is NOT okay to say, "These gifts don't need to be wrapped they are going to be from Santa," out loud in the middle of a child filled toy store. It will result in dirty looks from several parents. Whoopsy.

Any toys on your Christmas list this year?


A Dark and Creepy Quest for Perfection

Finally, finally, finally we saw Black Swan yesterday.

I'm excited to report that it was fantastic!

Darren Aronofsky's latest film proved to be just what I had hoped.  It is dark and a bit creepy (exactly how I like my movies).  There is enough dancing to keep a ballet enthusiast happy but not so much that its story plays second fiddle.  While I wouldn't declare it to be Natalie Portman's best performance ever (she's just got a body of work that's too astounding to make a statement like that), she is utterly believable in the role of a young ballerina and was brilliantly cast.

The story centers on Portman's character, Nina, who lands the coveted Swan Queen role in her company's staging of Swan Lake.  The film follows Nina's decent into madness as she chases that ever illusive artistic "perfection."  Expectations piled on her by those around her are only intensified by her own lofty goals (and perhaps her caloric deficiency).  All this makes for the perfect fodder for Aronofsky's twisted sensibility. One dark turn after another leads the film to an ending that I hoped might be less literal, but proved to be satisfying none the less.

What I liked so much about Black Swan is that it is clearly an art house film, but the viewer doesn't walk away saying, "I'm not exactly sure what the director was trying to communicate."  You don't have dig too deeply for symbolism or read miles between the lines to understand the film's message.  The story, while perfectly placed in the competitive world of the performing arts, is one that isn't too far out of the viewer's everyday experience.  To push oneself to achieve "perfection" in any arena is a struggle faced by many.  Where Nina differs from "everyman" is what makes Black Swan so entertaining.  What Aronofsky does so brilliantly here is to take that ordinary struggle and push it to its most fantastic and extraordinary limits and present his visual interpretation of a bizarre descent into madness.

I would consider Black Swan to be a must see.

Have you already or do you intend to see the film?



Remember earlier when I mentioned that I got to do a product review for CSN?  WHAT? You've forgotten already??  Fine, here's a link to the post to remind you...

These are the boots that I chose to add to my wardrobe review.

{See how I styled them the first time HERE}

I wore them the first day of our trip to Chicago.  That day included: two flights with a quick change at the ATL airport (running), many miles up and down Michigan Ave (walking) and super chilly temperatures (freezing).  I'm pretty excited to report that they withstood all three.  Plus, I think they looked darn cute in the process.

These boots were comfortable their FIRST time out of the box.  I mean, I set the poor things up for failure but they didn't crumble in the wake of my attempted sabotage.  They turned out to be superstars.  Cozy and stylish they were even WARM.  And at just $43, I consider them really reasonably priced.  I have yet to see how they fair in wet weather, but I intend to spray them to make sure they are waterproof.  I'm telling you, I may have just put my new favorite pair of boots in my closet.

I should also report that the whole process of finding the boots on the CSN website, ordering them and receiving them in the mail was painless and quick.  I would absolutely recommend both the boots and doing business with CSN.  Both are top notch in my book.

Have you shopped CSN yet?


My Kind of Town - Chicago Is

I know I've written that St. Louis is my favorite city. I've asserted that New York is the best city on Earth.  And most recently I've suggested that perhaps D.C. would be an amazing place to live.  But, after this weekend, there's a new contender for world's bestest city.  I'm in love with Chicago. 

(yes, I'm fickle...)

This weekend, the hubby and I headed up there to meet some of my family to celebrate Christmas a little bit early.

Here we all are taking a family portrait in the bean.

We did some sightseeing and a bit of shopping on Michigan Ave.

Most of it was of the window variety.

And how could I help but fall truly, madly, deeply in love with the city?  Even with subzero wind chills!
I mean, The Joffrey ballet and oodles of live theatre and music. World Class museums.  Great food.  Excellent public transportation.  Shopping, shopping, shopping.  Not to mention the four seasons and Midwestern location.

Dear Santa...

But back to this weekend. Saturday night while we were eating dinner, the sky started to drop buckets of big, white, fluffy snowflakes.  My sisters and I were like giddy school kids running around anticipating a snow day.  It was magical.

Little did we know those big fluffy snowflakes would develop into five to six inches of snow, 40+ mile an hour winds and moments of sheer white out.  When we woke up the next morning the weather was a bit challenging.  It definitely made for an interesting trip home.  In the end, the hubby and I were super fortunate.  Although 80-90% of flights out of O'Hare were cancelled on Sunday, we were able to get out of town and made it through Atlanta (where there was also snow and chilly, chilly weather) and all the way home to sleep in our own warm bed.  The 13 hour travel adventure was one for the books.  Definitely an intense end to a memorable trip!

Anyone else have a crazy travel day on Sunday???


It Took A Minute...

I started reading Tove Jansson's The Summer Book right after finishing last month's book club blogger post. 

What? I didn't want to be late again...
(deep down inside I'm still a closeted straight A student)

So, now I'm almost finished with the book and I'm going to be totally honest with you.  At first I did NOT get it.  But, about 2/3 of the way through, it clicked.

Want to spend some of your free time over the next couple of weeks (BAhhahahahaha) by reading this book and participating in our book club?  No, but seriously, you should check out Charlotte's blog, The Daily Snapshot, for more info on the club and some questions to ponder as you read the book.  I promise it will be worth your time.  Pro. Mise.

Don't let my cluelessness and difficulty understanding the beginning of the book scare you away... join in the fun, join in the fun.


Happy Thoughts (6)


Groomers Appointments to De-Stinkify our Dog

{image of Volumes which stands in front of our public library by Lexi}
Free Books at the Public Library

Seeing a Challenge Through to the End
This week I finished a 30 for 30 challenge.  This is super exciting for a person like me who loves to start projects but doesn't always follow through and finish them.  I'm a bit excited.

New Nail Polish
Vodka & Caviar :: Gift of Gold :: You Don't Know Jacques!

Your turn, Happy Thoughts Please...



Let's Face It, I've Got a Big Mouth

Q: When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

A: Ummm, if you've met me at all, even once, you should be able to answer this question.  Obviously, I'll have said more than I could have ever done. 

Two reasons: First, I'm REALLY opinionated and I am not afraid to share my opinions with anyone willing to stand in one place long enough to hear whichever one I'm sharing at the moment.  Second, I really like to hear myself talk.  I talk a lot.  I talk loudly.  I talk to anyone and everyone.  {Well, I don't talk to strangers in grocery stores, because that's just weird, but you get the point.}

I understand that this prompt is designed to encourage civic and community involvement.  It's probably included on the list to get people to realize that all our moaning and complaining and whining and bitching is pointless unless we get out in our world and "Be the Difference."  And I get it.  I need that reminder.  It's easy to stay focused on my own little world and forget that there's a big world out there in which I'm called to serve and be involved.  Duly noted.

But from a practical standpoint, there is just no way I could I ever "do" more than I "say."  I'm 34 years behind and showing no indication of shutting up soon to make evening the scales possible.  So, I'm just being honest when I say that when all is said and done, I will have SAID waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than I'll have done.  And honestly, I'm not all that broken up about it.

As part of my Day Zero Challenge, I've pledged to answer 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. Today's post is the fourth in the series of my mind opening journey. For more information or to answer the questions yourself visit Marc & Angel Hack Life.


A Family Tradition (that might make you gag)

One of the items on my Ultimate To DO list is to try 25 foods that might make others gag.
Here’s another adventure…

Why, Why, WHY do they choose such awful stills for these videos???
I swear the rest of this video is NOT this scary...

 What kind of weird food does your family eat when you get together?



Happy Thoughts (5)

Memorable Thanksgiving Feasts
Check out Lexi's play-by-play of our Turkey Day Celebration to learn more about this gorgeous table...
{I made her shoot photos in exchange for food}

Musicals on the Big Screen

Working Retail During the Holiday Season
I'm actually really enjoying it now...

Moments of Contentment
even when they are brief

An Alarm System that I Trust
The hubby was out of town last night and the dog started barking at like 4 in the morning for seemingly no reason (except that sometimes he's a pain in the butt).  I had one of those sleepy, scary, "I wonder if someone is breaking into the house," moments.  Thankfully, I was able to get back to sleep right away because I thought about how quickly I could just open a window or door and summon the police to my aid. Thanks for rescuing my night's sleep, ADT.

Just because Thanksgiving is over we don't have to stop being thankful! 
What's on your happy list this week?