Sunday, January 30, 2011

Despicable Me – Movie Review

There is a $3 movie theater in my town that shows movies that have been out for long enough that they are no longer in the regular movie theaters. It's a great way to see movies on the big screen! Yeah, you need to wait for awhile, but it's still better than DVD, and if you bring some snacks in your purse (popcorn is expensive!) you have a cheap date.

Ok, so my cheap date is usually my brother. My hubby and I have a very different taste in movies! Love him anyway. Fortunately my brother and I have similar likes, and we occasionally have "brother-sister" dates.

When I first saw the advertisement for "Despicable Me," I thought it looked pretty funny. I love anything that takes your normal stereotypes and twists them, and the thought of a bad guy who has a soft heart? Priceless!

The movie was just as good, and better, than I had expected.

The basic concept is you have this bad guy, Gru, who wants to make a name for himself. He always has the nagging voice of his mother in the back of his head, telling him he's not good enough, and he's tried for a long time to prove her wrong. Things keep going wrong, but this time he's convinced he's got a fool proof plan, and he's going to steal the moon!

To steal the moon he needs a shrink-ray, which he steals, and is then stolen from him. His nemesis has the shrink ray and he can't find a way into his fortress/home, until he sees the orphan's that is. There are three adorable orphans selling cookies and those are apparently his nemesis' weakness.

Gru comes up with a truly evil plan that involves adopting the three little orphans. That's where everything goes wrong.

I can't really blame him for losing his heart to these orphans. They are truly adorable! Agnes, the littlest, is my favorite. She's so cute! I would adopt her and take her home any day.

I'll let you watch the movie to find out exactly what Gru's plan is, and how it all goes down. I really recommend watching it! I laughed hysterically the whole way through! In fact – insert embarrassed grin here – I laughed harder and louder than the little kids. Then again…so did my brother!

One thing that amazed me was that Gru is played by Steve Carrell. I don't usually like his acting, too crass, but he did an incredible job playing Gru! I didn't recognize his voice at all and his accent was great!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I'll have to admit that I was a little nervous when I went to see "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," last weekend with one of my best friends and family, and for more than one reason! The first was just that I've been reading the Narnia books for years, and I was worried about how they'd do on the portrayal. The second? Well…have you ever tried to go to the movies with an almost 3yr old and two 9 month-olds? It's challenging! Fortunately we had 5 adults for the three kids, and we managed to juggle them, and the popcorn, and still enjoy the movie. They went from a handful to peaceful when the little girl went to sleep and the twins discovered a new found love of straws!

The movie itself was a lot of fun. They did get some details wrong, but fortunately I don't have a great memory for details, and it has been a few years since I read the books! They did get quite a few things right though, and that more than made up for the things that bugged me!

May I also say that Prince Caspian is delicious? Good, because he is.

I think one of the things they did a great job with was portraying Eustace. He was an annoying little twerp just like he was supposed to be, but they managed to make you laugh as well as wanting to punch him in the nose! It was a great balance. I'm convinced they did something to his eyebrows to make him more absurd, but I'm not sure how they did it.

All in all it was a great movie. Wonderful visuals, plenty to laugh at, and safe for the whole family, although I really don't recommend taking 9 month olds to the movies, we got lucky! Now I need to go back and watch Prince Caspian. For some reason I never saw it and now that I know how scrumptious he looks…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Leaping Beauty: and Other Animal Fairy Tales by Gregory Maguire

"Leaping Beauty" is the perfect book for anybody who loves fairy tales, and loves to read re-workings of some of the classic tales. In "Leaping Beauty" Maguire has given us 8 tales that will be both hauntingly familiar, and hysterically different. Perfect for adults, or children, or for reading with your children.

In "Leaping Beauty," we meet a royal family whose beautiful baby girl frog has been cursed by an angry hornet. Desperate to save their baby girl from her terrible fate, the royal parents go from person to person trying to get the curse changed. Each one is able to change it just a little, and in the end girl becomes a Leaping Beauty - and a famous ballerina!

"Goldiefox and the Three Chickens" retells the classic story of "Goldielocks and the Three Bears" with more than one twist. Not only are the characters just a little different, the ending will surprise and delight you!

"Hamster and Gerbil" was one of my favorites in this book. I've always loved the story of "Hansel and Gretle" and used to play act it with my cousins or brothers. In this version we have a mixed race (different animals) family with, of course, a wicked stepmother! Who just happens to be a skunk, what a perfect animal for a villan don't you think? How they get away from the evil Granny Porky (a porcupine) and get revenge on their Step Mother will keep you on the edge of your seat!

If you want to laugh, you might want to go directly to "So What and the Seven Giraffes." All the stories in this book are funny, but I think this one is the most absurd and the one that kept me laughing the hardest! First of all, who would name their child "So What?" That alone generates plenty of opportunities for fun! You'll have to read the story to find out the rest of it.

"Little Red Robin Hood" tells the old story from the perspective of a robin instead of a little girl. In many ways I think this one sticks closer to the traditional story than some of the other stories in this book, but it's still quite exciting, and well written.

Who doesn't love the story of the "Three Little Pigs?" I know I personally have heard the story dozens of times, with a dozen variations, and I've told the story quite a few times myself. In "The Three Little Penguins and the Big Bad Walrus" we have the classic tale, told with different animals, and slightly different materials. I loved it!

Poor Cinderella had it bad enough with her wicked step-sisters, but "Cinder-Elephant" has it even worse with her step-sisters (Mildew and Mayhem) since she is an elephant and they are normal humans. This gives them even more ammunition than the original step-sisters had! Just wait though until you find out what twist on the glass slippers Maguire puts in, and see how it all works out!

"Rumplesnakeskin" is the story of a vain sheep who gets caught up in the world of movies and all the dangerous traps that you find there. She finds help from a snake, but of course he has his own motives just like the Rumplestiltskin of old. This story also demonstrates how easily modesty can be given up when someone is dazzled by the glamour of fame and becomes desperate not to lose it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abhorsen by Garth Nix

"Abhorsen" is the final book in the trilogy about the Old Kingdom by Garth Nix. There is one more book about the Old Kingdom, but it's a collection of shorter stories, and so it stands slightly separate from the first three books. I haven't read it yet (whereas this was my second time through the trilogy) and I really look forward to getting it from the library!

In Abhorsen we rejoin Lireal and Sam basically in the middle of the conflict. Ok, so they are actually at moment of reprieve when we rejoin them, but the previous book (Lirael) and this one could be read together pretty seamlessly.

Lirael is the newly discovered Abhorsen-in-waiting. That means that it's her duty to learn all she can and assist in making sure the dead stay where they belong, in the realm of the dead. She is also a Remembrencer, the first in a long, long time. As such she can go into death and view the past. That's how she discovered the truth about her parentage, and how she will learn the only way to stop the coming terror.

Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget are traveling with Lirael and doing everything they can to help. King Touchstone and the Abhorsen are over the wall in Ancielsterre, but they too will help when they can. The final confrontation is drawing near. We learn more about what it is Nick has been helping to uncover, and the truth is more horrible than any of them had imagined.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poem: Not About Sunshine and Flowers

Not About Sunshine and Flowers

“Write a poem” my hubby said,
“Why are all your poem’s sad?”
He asked, and then said,
“Write a poem that’s happy.”

“I’ll write a poem that’s happy,
A poem about sunshine and flowers,”
I told him, thinking that those,
Those are happy images.

“Don’t write about those,” 
He told me, “Not about sunshine,
Not about flowers, not these,
That is not happiness.”

So I’ll write a poem that is happy,
But not about sunshine,
And not about flowers,
Definitely not these.

Sunshine makes me think,
Think of good times,
And warm feelings, but…
This is not about sunshine.

Flowers are symbols,
Symbols of love and joy,
And close relationships,
But this is not about flowers.

Happiness, this is about that,
Not about sunshine and flowers.

Happiness is about much more,
Happiness is waking up,
Curled up in warm blankets,
And knowing that the sun has risen.

Happiness is about many things,
The birds of the air and the bees,
The bees that buzz and fly,
And where they find their nectar.

Happiness is about the simple things,
So yes, happiness is about sunshine,
And happiness is about flowers too,
But this is not a poem about those.

Fairies and the Quest for Never Land by Gail Carson Levine

In "Fairies and the Quest for Never Land" we get to revisit Never Land and our fairy friends that Levine has introduced to us in "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" and "Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand." This is also her most recent book.

In "Fairies" we meet Gwendolyn. She is the great-granddaughter of the original Wendy, and she longs to meet both Peter, and the fairies of Never Land. Her family has kept the original house in the family, and every so often Peter has come back to collect one of the girls in the family to come back and clean for and mother the Lost Boys. While the girls recognize that times are more progressive now, and the boys really could clean for themselves, they love the few visits they each get to the island, so they never complain.

Gwendolyn is different in that she is the only one who's ever shown such a fascination in the fairies of Never Land. She makes her mother tell the tales that have been handed down over and over, and focuses on the fairies. The illustrations in the book show she's also drawn pictures of them to put on her walls.

Her fascination is fueled when the "kiss" that Peter gave Wendy is handed down to her, and she begins to have dreams/visions of Neverland. The dreams/visions jump all over the place and often show different things, but she's able to piece together a lot about life on Neverland, and for the fairies in particular, from them. Because of this her ache for Peter to come and collect her grows stronger and stronger.

Then, one day, Peter finally comes, and all her dreams come true! She even gets to meet the fairies. Then she meets Mother Dove, receives a stern warning to "Beware," and has a dream/vision that show's her that the great dragon Kyto is being freed. She does everything she can to help the fairies first prepare and then fight, but sometimes in her great worry she forgets to "Beware" and causes more trouble than help. It's a sweet and heartwarming story, and I'll let you read it to find out how the final battle turns out!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse by James Luceno

"Jedi Eclipse" continues not only the saga of "The New Jedi Order," it also is the sequel to "Hero's Trial." In "Hero's Trial" a large portion of the drama was centered on Han Solo who is grieving his best friend Chewbacca. He finally started to move forward from his drunken stupor, but his gallivanting around the galaxy doesn't exactly put Leia's heart at rest.

In "Jedi Eclipse" Han is still in the middle of galactic drama as he helps his new friend Droma search for his clansmen. This puts the two of them right in the middle of the battles with the Yuuzhan Vong, something Leia doesn't discover until later, but of course Han's legendary luck kicks in time and again. They will be lead on a merry chase before they find Droma's clansmen though.

Leia meanwhile is visiting Hapes in an attempt to gain their support in the war with the Yuuzhan Vong. It's a difficult time for her emotionally as she's missing Han and worried about him, and visiting her former suitor does NOT help her emotions calm any. Especially when she starts having visions of disaster.

The Yuuzhan Vong are manipulating a new alliance with the Hutts, using them to provide the New Republic with carefully planned intelligence. The Hutts don't realize they are being manipulated though, and they genuinely (for once) are trying to help. Of course this leaves the New Republic trying to decipher the Hutts motives versus the Yuuzhan Vong's motives, and it's a sticky political morass!

And we can't forget about the young Solo's in all of this! Jaina doesn't really make an appearance in this book, but Jacen and Anikan are sent to Centerpoint Station where their basic differences in beliefs on how the force should be used are brought to the fore. This bit of the book also really interested me because it alludes to a story arch that I haven't read, and that sounds really interesting! Ah well, one story arch at a time!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Poem: Left Alone

Author's Note: This poem is not about me, or my relationship with anyone. I honestly don't know where this poem came from except I wrote the first two lines when I had a headache and I was hungry. The third line seemed to tack itself on, which confused me, and I stayed that way as the rest of the poem was written :P However, I do like the results! 

Left Alone

My head pounds like drunken dwarves are mining inside,
My stomach has a hole a mile wide, and growing.
Why did you leave?

I am lost, trapped in a labyrinth of your own special design,
Confused as a squirrel on crack looking for its nuts,
Why did you leave?

We were lovers of life, chocolate, and each other,
We were irreparably connected in soul,
How did you leave?

We never dreamed of adventure except we’d face it together,
All demons vanquished by a team of two intertwined,
Where did you go?

We swam in the lake in the snow, warming each other later,
We swapped stories, recipes, and our gum,
Who am I alone?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Years! What are YOUR Plans?

That picture is my dear hubby from last night at our New Years Party! No - don't get excited - we don't have a kid :P That's one of my "nephews" (ie, heart-adopted).

So its the New Year and everyone's making resolutions. Ironically, I'm usually not too big on New Year's resolutions because I'm sooo good at breaking them! This year though, it just happens to coincide with my health greatly improving so I'm making myself goals anyway.

One note about goals: I firmly believe that goals should be a year long process, and something that you frequently sit back and review. Why? Well life changes. I have no way of knowing today what things may happen to rock my world six months from now, or even tomorrow, and neither do you. If you don't give yourself the freedom to revise your goals periodically then you'll find yourself with goals that are now unattainable. Instead, you should set goals now, and plan on reviewing them as often as necessary. Maybe you'll be able to get through the entire year and keep every single one (or even just one!) but more often people tend to find that goals need to be adjusted, or restarted, or scrapped all together for a variety of reasons.

One good way to set goals is to follow the S.M.A.R.T method. I learned this years ago while in management and it's made a big difference in my life. So I'll share it with you!

S = Specific. Don't write down general goals like "lose weight," put down specifics such as "lose 5lbs a month."
M = Measurable. This is one way to make your goals specific. I.e. "Read 20 books this year." "Exercise 3 times a week. This can also include how you are going to keep yourself accountable. "Keep a list of the books I read." "Make an exercise calender."
A = Attainable. It might not be realistic to expect to climb Mt Everest this year (unless your already in condition for it!) but you might be able to take walks around your neighborhood, or plan on going on hikes in your area. And hey, if you plan it out, you might just be able to tackle a big peak before the end of the year! Just make sure you plan to work up to your big goals, don't just jump at them and expect to succeed. Have a plan.
R = Realistic. What's really realistic? I know myself and swearing off chocolate would NOT be realistic. However, promising to eat small portions of desert, and one piece of chocolate at a time (instead of a bag) is something that I can mentally handle.
T = Timely. This portion is one of the reasons I say that is important to revisit your goals. Timely is the concept of putting a time frame on your goals. "I want to lose 15lbs." Well when do you want to lose them by? Eventually? 3 months from now? Setting goals that are time bound also allows you to tackle a bigger goal in smaller chunks. Let's say your goal is to read 24 books this year. You can break that down and say, "Read 2 books a month." Now you know what you need to accomplish now, and not just within the next year.

So what does this look like put together? One of my goals this year is to take a photo a day. I'm calling it my photo 365 challenge. In fact, I started it at Christmas and the photo above is actually Day 8's photo! How does this fit in with SMART?

Specific - What am I doing? Taking a photo a day (minimum).
Measurable - 1 photo, per day. Posted on facebook, and every 30 pictures in a slide show on this blog, so I'm reporting on what I'm doing.
Attainable - if I carry my camera with me and focus on what activities in my life could have photo opportunities, then this is attainable. Hey, I even took a shot of my alarm clock one day when I remembered to take a photo at the last minute! The point is the picture :)

Realistic - I like taking pictures :)
Timely - This is a daily event for me, so it's certainly timely!

I have other goals and I'll post them later to share, but for now, what are some of your goals? Are there ways you can use SMART to improve them?