Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another Birthday

Our four-legged, furry family member is 4 today.
We love our dog!
Happy birthday, Scout!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This. This is my life right now.

Edited: Just to be clear, this video does NOT represent our financial life, just the myriad of things that are monopolizing our time.

Also known as . . . 27 balls in the air. SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ABC Book Challenge

The Magic Violinist had a great post about Book ABCs, and even though she didn't tag anyone or challenge anyone to do this, I decided to give it a try. I figured I've read a lot of books so I could probably finish it up fairly easily. I don't think I did too bad a job either!

The original prompt comes by way of The Book Chewers.

Prompt: Have you read a book starting with every. single. letter from the alphabet?! Make a list of books you've read, from A to Z! (Bonus points to those who've read those tricky letters, like X and Z). Also, you can bypass "the" or "a" in titles, if you need to.

A - Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt
B - The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
C - A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin (I should get bonus points for how long his books are!)
D - Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy
E - Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (Just finished it. A fantastic read.)
F - A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway (One of my all-time favorites.)
G - Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
H - Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
I - Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
J - Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
K - The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
L - Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo (Yes, I read the whole thing.)
M - Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
N - 1984, by George Orwell
O - On Writing, by Stephen King (My absolute favorite book about writing, and I don't read much by King.)
P - The Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Q - (Looks like I need to read Quidditch Through the Ages to make it 26/26)
R - Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier (Stacy loves this book. It's a great read.)
S - A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (Knowles's second book, Peace Breaks Out is exceptional as well.)
T - The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield (That's 3 points in Scattergories.)
U - The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman
V - Vagabond, by Bernard Cornwell (One-third of my favorite book series by Cornwell, although I understand he recently added a fourth, follow-up book.)
W - Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
X - The Autobiography of Malcolm X (OK, it doesn't really start with X, but c'mon. Let me have this one.)
Y - Yeats is Dead!: A Mystery by 15 Irish Authors, by Joseph O'Connor (A wild romp, but not for the faint of heart. If you like Irish humor, and can get past some coarse language at times, it's a lot of fun.)
Z - Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel

So, I have 25 (or 24 if you don't like my creative answer for X).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Kind of Movie - A List of Great, Off-Beat Films

So, Mark and I just got back from a rendezvous date at our little independent theater in town. It is one of our very favorite spots to visit.

We caught their matinée of a simple, funny, poignant coming-of-age movie entitled, "The Way Way Back." This movie boasts an impressive cast - Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Liam James, and more.

Photo from
If you haven't seen this movie, hurry up and go see it. But don't look in your big chain cinemas that only show Hollywood blockbusters and other boring, predictable, formulaic movies. Go find a local indie theater and settle in for a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and move you. The entire cast of this show will have you spellbound in every, single scene. And, being that the name of this post is "My Kind of Movie," don't expect any grand adventure or huge plot. I like simple and quirky. And when two directors can take "simple" and deliver big through cast, music, and writing, you have something I would rate 10/10 stars.

It's a spare, unassuming story set in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts (think clambakes, lobster bakes, bike rides, watermelon, and beaches), where a young, shy teenage boy named Duncan (James) goes on vacation with his mother (Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Carell). Struggling to fit in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in funny and easy-going Owen (Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park.

When the credits started rolling, I swallowed my tears, leaned over to Mark, and said, "I loved it." This is most definitely my kind of movie.

What other movies would make my list of quirky, fun, offbeat, simple, mesmerizing, poignant, entrancing films? You know, uncomplicated story, great cast, excellent writing, good music, and heartwarming, captivating simplicity? (Bonus if it has an ambiguous ending)! Well, here's a sampling (all pictures are from, where most, if not all, of these movies rate more than 7 stars):

(500) Days of Summer
A quirky, offbeat film starring Zooey Deschanel (Summer) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
She doesn't believe true love exists; he falls for her.
What's not to love?

I'm a big fan of foreign films, too. Many of them fit the description I've written above.
This is one of them. A simple, sweet story about a young girl in Paris. Enough said.

Barney's Version
I love Paul Giamatti. He is excellent in everything I've seen him in.
This movie is no exception. It's all about Barney.
 I'll say no more, because I don't want to give away the experience.
 And that is what these kinds of movies are about - you shouldn't just "see a movie."
 You should have an experience.

How? How? How has this movie not garnered far more press than it did?
 Directed by Rob Reiner (hello!), this film tells the story of Juli Baker, who loves trees and wants to kiss Bryce Loski. She's been smitten with him since the second grade. Then in eighth grade, everything changes. Bryce begins to look at Juli differently, but does she feel the same? Beautifully told from two different perspectives, this movie will have your heart. GO. SEE. IT. This is one not to be missed. I can't oversell it. Watch, no . . . experience it.

 It's Kind of a Funny Story
 A story of a depressed teen's new start that comes after he checks himself into an adult psychiatric hospital.
Lauren Graham is in it, too. Sweet story, great flick.

 Like Crazy
In "Like Crazy," Anna, a British college student, falls in love with an American student, Jacob. When graduation approaches, Anna decides to stay, in direct violation to the terms of her student visa. After a visit home, she is unable to return to the United States. Fighting customs and immigration battles, they must decide if their relationship is worth the distance and the hardship. Another great foreign film.

 Little Miss Sunshine
A great ensemble cast tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family on a road trip to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant. Outrageously funny. Seriously, you may fall off your chair. Terrific payoff in this movie.

 Moonrise Kingdom
 Seriously, aren't these posters the best?!? With these kinds of movies, even the posters are creative and different and telling. They fit. They're quirky. Like the films they profess. Like this one. Moonrise Kingdom - it doesn't get quirkier than this. Set in the 1960s, a local search party looks for a pair of young lovers who have fled their small New England town. Starring Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and more. It's vintage; it's quirky; it's off-beat.

 This foreign film is like a wonderful, extended music video of a love song. It tells the story of a busker and an immigrant and their week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs together - the songs that tell their story. It's beautiful and features the hauntingly lyrical "Falling Slowly."

Win Win
Another great Paul Giamatti film. In this one, he plays Mike Flaherty, a disillusioned attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. He meets a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while desperately trying to support his family. Just as he is about to get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh out of rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.

I could go on and on. Here are a few more movies I would add to this list:

High Fidelity - John Cusack, my favorite Hollywood heartthrob, stars in this one, so that should be reason enough to watch it. It is based on a Nick Hornby book, so there's another reason to watch it. This hilarious movie follows the 'mid-life' crisis of Rob, a thirty-something record-store owner and compulsive list maker, who, together with his off-beat clerks, tries to navigate and explain the grown-up world of love and relationships. Rob recounts his five top break-ups, wondering if pop music is the reason for them all. 

Please Give - I'm a big fan of all of Nicole Holofcener's films. This one is no exception. In fact, it may be my favorite. It stars Catherine Keener (she is in almost all of Holofcener's films) and is the story of a husband and wife in New York City, their cranky elderly neighbor woman, and her two granddaughters. Another movie that is most certainly an experience.

Friends with Money - Another Holofcener film. This one stars Jennifer Aniston playing Olivia, a woman who quits her lucrative job and then finds herself unsure about her future and her relationships with her successful, wealthy friends. (I'm excited that Nicole Holofcener has another film coming out this fall - "Enough Said" - starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini  - that also looks excellent). Her movies have a great feel to them.

Garden State - Written and directed by Zach Braff, this movie tells the story of a man named Andrew who returns home for his mother's funeral after ten years of being estranged from his controlling, psychiatrist father. His father has always made Andrew feel that his mother's wheelchair-bound life was his fault. Now Andrew tries to get off of the meds his father pushed on him and see life through his own eyes, all while starting a relationship with a girl who has problems of her own. Another quirky, haunting, cinematic experience.

Sideways - Yep, it's another Paul Giamatti movie. This one tells the story of two middle-aged men with not much to show but disappointment. They set off on a week-long road trip through California's wine country, just as one of them is about to get married. This film highlights the art of winery.

Sunshine Cleaning - Crazy storyline in this one starring Amy Adams (who I think looks A TON like Jenna Fischer from The Office), Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin. A young mom must raise money for tuition to send her young son to private school, so she starts unusual business -- a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service. Need I say more?!

Jeff, Who Lives At Home - This quirky film stars Jason Segel (who we love) and Ed Helms. Jeff is 30 years old, unemployed, and lives in his mom's basement. He is looking for signs telling him what to do with his life. He answers a wrong-number call for "Kevin." Convinced that this is a sign, he sets off following all "Kevin" signs he sees. Jeff's brother, Pat, upsets his wife by buying a Porsche they cannot afford. Pat and Jeff together see Pat's wife with another man. And at her job, Jeff and Pat's mom (Susan Sarandon) receives e-mails from a secret admirer and tries to figure out who it is. This movie is full of misunderstandings, mistakes, and confrontations.

An Education - Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay for this film that tells the coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, who begins to meet up with a much older playboy. I really enjoyed this movie.

3 Idiots - So this was our first experience with a Bollywood film and I have to say that we absolutely loved it. I hate stupid movies and the cover for this one looked so stupid. The only reason we checked out this film was because, while looking for movies to watch, this one was in the Redbox years ago, and as we looked up the different movies available to us (on, this one had an incredible 8+ rating! Impressed with the rating (though somewhat skeptical), we decided to take a chance and we're glad we did. GREAT film. In it, two friends are searching for their long-lost companion. Together, they revisit their college days and recall memories of their friend and how he inspired them to think differently, even as everyone else called them "idiots." Don't let the title or cover scare you off like it almost did us. This is a moving, inspirational movie. Almost 3 hours long, it will keep you interested the whole time. Try this Bollywood film!

The Girl in the Café - In this film, Bill Nighy plays Lawrence, an aging, lonely civil servant, who falls for Gina (Kelly Macdonald - voice of Merida in "Brave"), a mysterious young woman he meets in a café, when he is in town for the G8 Summit in Reykjavik. Simple and captivating, this movie will win you over.

$5/Day - This is a fun film we're glad to have discovered. Christopher Walken plays the conman father to a very conservative son, who begrudgingly agrees to go on a road trip with his father. The caveat? His father tells him they can do it on $5 a day. I won't give it away - just watch it.  

Other great (in my opinion) recommendations include: About a Boy, The King's Speech, Waking Ned Devine, Definitely Maybe, The Invention of Lying, Silver Linings Playbook, Lars and the Real Girl, Jesus H. Christ, Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen), and Doubt.

The next movie coming to our local theater isn't quirky or offbeat. It is "The Butler" and it looks like an absolutely excellent Hollywood film. Have you seen this cast?!? Forest Whitaker, Alan Rickman, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave, Liev Schreiber, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, and more. It is based on a true story and tells of race relations in the U.S. as seen through the eyes of a black butler who lived at the White House through 7 presidencies and 30 years.

What else can you recommend based on this list? I'd love to hear more suggestions . . .

Friday, August 9, 2013

Decisions, decisions

My Blogger homepage informs me that I have written 900 posts. 900!

So the question now is, do I

A. challenge myself to a 100-posts-in-100-days marathon


B. close the blog?

A sounds fun, but B is tempting. There are so many things I want to blog about and write about, but it's so challenging to find the time. I know everyone else is busy, too - readership has dropped off.

Plus, we started this blog years 7 ago to keep in touch with far-away grandparents, but even they rarely if ever stop in (I think Facebook has swayed most everyone away since it's quicker and easier).

And since I sort of loathe Facebook, I'm left with blogging (which sometimes feels like spitting in the wind) or trying something entirely new, like not blogging and working on writing projects instead.

I've even thought of starting a brand new blog under a pseudonym and enjoying a new project where no one really knows who I am, just enjoys what I write for what it is.

So, I'm mulling things over. I am SUCKING at keeping up on things. As the kids get older, I'm busier than I've ever been, including during graduate school.

Take today - it's the first day in WEEKS that we haven't had something going on (technically, we did have plans, but we had so much to do, we couldn't get to it). So we're desperately trying to catch up on stuff, work on a lot of things for our business, do some yard work, housework, return some emails, update some technology . . . you get the idea.

And that's when the mailman rings the bell and has me sign for a certified letter from the IRS that said they were about to seize our property and fine us almost $15,000. Mark and I about fell to the floor - we were lightheaded and shaking all over. NOT a fun thing to get in the mail. We pay our taxes and we know we're on top of our quarterlies, but that is a terrifying thing to get in the mail just the same.

We've spent the afternoon making phone calls to find out that it's a "clerical error." Some other guy with the same name as Mark has gotten 2 notices already and hasn't paid his taxes, so they sent this notice to us - computer error, wrong Mark, wrong address.

See? It's this kind of non-stop stuff, along with all the other day-to-day stuff, that makes keeping up on things VERY challenging. My family is my top priority. I can be doing things with them or get on here and blog about them. Ideally, I'd like to do both, but given a choice, I'd rather be with my husband and kids.

So, what do I do? Try to do both? Blog more? Stop blogging? Move to a country that has no mean, nasty, stupid IRS? You know, they have a lot of nerve sending out scary letters to the wrong people after how they were exposed earlier this year. We have our own small business and work our tail ends off to be responsible, tax-paying citizens. Finding out it's a clerical error is a relief, but I could've done without the horrible, initial shock.

Anyway. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

100 Things About My Best Friend

I've been thinking lately about how great Stacy is and I thought I'd share some things about her, from my perspective. In the past we each wrote a list about ourselves, but here is mine about my Littlemiss.

Resist the urge to skip to #95.

1. She is cute.
2. She loves to do things for other people, and if you've ever been on the receiving end of such a treat, you know how great it is.
3. She works REALLY hard to make things nice for her family and friends.
4. She is very good with song lyrics.
5. She LOVES food, and exercises restraint.
6. She dedicates herself to whatever she sets out to do.
7. She is passionate about a lot of things.
8. Her enthusiasm and energy are infectious.
9. She cooks well.
10. She will drop whatever she is doing to listen to a friend.
11. She will never forget your birthday.
12. Even though she enjoys so many types of music, she unapologetically loves pop music.
13. She likes celebrity gossip, but doesn't worship them.
14. She's a Royal Family watcher.
15. She is a fantastic writer. Just check out any of her favorite blog posts and you'll see what I mean. They're on the right side of this blog, just a little bit below this. Go ahead. Find them.
16. She's a detail-oriented person.
17. She is spontaneous. Applebee's at 10 pm for late night appetizers? Sure. Hey, do you know what sounds good? Won-ton soup. It's 9:55 and they close at 10. Let's call!
18. She is frugal.
19. But she will spend money on someone important to her, just because.
20. She is someone who appreciates the little things in life, so it doesn't take much to make her feel loved. Honestly, little things go a long way.
21. She is loyal and will fight for someone close to her.
22. She often puts her own goals second to make sure our family has what it needs or wants.
23. She dresses well.
24. She cares about being healthy.
25. She was as excited as ANYONE when she saw Hogwarts rising up above the scenery at Universal Studios.
26. As firmly as she believes in something, she will change her mind if there is a good reason or evidence to switch. She avoids being ruled by dogma.
27. She plans really fun things for us.
28. She is super smart.
29. She likes to play games.
30. She does not like to play mind games.
31. She is an open book--what you see is what you get.
32. She is very thoughtful.
33. She is a fantastic mother.
34. She is a fantastic wife.
35. She sings well.
36. She has a cute smile.
37. She has a young heart but also knows how to act her age. It's like the perfect balance between being really fun and trying too hard to relate to teenagers.
38. She loves teens and treats them very well.
39. She gives people the benefit of the doubt.
40. She is slow to judge someone.
41. She will defend her friends.
42. She gives good advice.
43. She is tactful.
44. She rethinks conversations she's had with people just to make sure she hasn't said anything offensive.
45. She is a really interesting storyteller. Her tangents only add to the enjoyment.
46. And even on a second pass, those stories are really fun.
47. She has awesome hair.
48. She puts up with my shortcomings, and has for a long time.
49. She is articulate.
50. She is always looking for new ways to learn or "better" herself. I actually hate that term since it implies we are flawed by nature. I'd like to think we are all our best in any given moment.
51. She gets giddy at the thought of completing a blog meme.
52. She gets equally giddy at the thought of doing word games.
53. She will blow off everything to watch a show with her daughter, or to play a game with her son.
54. She constantly helps us expand our circle of friends.
55. She is a good group organizer.
56. She is a great counselor and often passes her skills and knowledge onto me and the kids.
57. She talks to our children like they are adults in training, not babies who are growing up.
58. She is always looking for new and innovative ways to educate our children.
59. She can get really excited, like a kid on Christmas, when she gets into a good book.
60. She knows exactly when I could use a little boost and then does something about it.
61. She often makes me lose my head and forget what I was doing.
62. She has incredible integrity.
63. She can call a spade a spade. Misrepresenting reality is NOT on her agenda.
64. We laugh a lot together, and that makes me smile.
65. Her laugh is infectious.
66. She is not afraid to let loose and belly laugh when something cracks her up.
67. She will always make you feel like you are the only other person in the room.
68. She will do exactly what she says she will do.
69. She was raised in a different culture. It adds so much richness to our life.
70. She spent her childhood thinking about the life she wanted, and then she went out and got it.
71. She doesn't take herself too seriously or get too bent out of shape about things that don't matter.
72. She loves sitcoms.
73. Ambiguity in movies and books don't worry her. In fact, she prefers it.
74. She puts up with my excitement when the Giants are in the playoffs. She's put up with a lot over the past three years.
75. She likes my friends.
76. She loves to play hostess.
77. She gives a great response to a surprise.
78. Screaming tweens at JFK when the Beatles arrived on U.S. soil? Nothing compared to her love and reaction to sushi. It's almost "When Harry Met Sally." TMI? Maybe. I may pay for this later.
79. Food is central to any gathering or event. Vacations included.
80. We are so in sync sometimes that it's a little like Twilight Zone.
81. Her mind is always going, which is frustrating to her sometimes, but a lot of great ideas come from all those gears turning.
82. She sends me texts while I'm working just to see how I'm doing.
83. She cries at the same things I do, and we both know it, so we try not to make eye contact sometimes. It makes it worse.
84. She's huggy.
85. She can fit very comfortably on my lap.
86. She has this little dimple near her eye that really shows when she smiles a lot.
87. She has late-night cravings that are off-the-wall sometimes.
88. My life is never dull with her around.
89. She has an impish side to her.
90. She started our homeschool group.
91. She does not like shopping.
92. But, she always gets fun surprises when she goes grocery shopping.
93. Her hand fits perfectly in mine.
94. She has simple tastes when it comes to jewelry and fashion.
95. She really does want a peaceful world where everyone is treated equally.
96. She is beautiful, inside and out.
97. She makes me smile.
98. She said yes to the most important question I could ask her.
99. She is my best friend. You knew that already, though, didn't you?
100. She loves me.