Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movies You May Have Missed

I love movies. I have loved movies since I was old enough to change the television channel by myself.

Each year I see fewer movies at the theater. This is true for a variety of reasons, including what-I-consider high ticket prices and how quickly movies come and go from my local theaters. I still like to see movies in the theater for a couple hours of escape or when it's a movie I can't wait to see on DVD.

According to my calendar I made it to the movie theater nine times this year. There are three movies that I've seen in the last six weeks that I highly recommend, and you may still be able to find them at a theater near you:

Pirate Radio is the story of what happened when Great Britain outlawed rock and roll on the radio in the 1960's. Ten minutes into this movie Ken leaned over and told me he wanted to own the movie, the highest praise my husband can give a movie. The music is great.

The Blind Side is the true story of a well-to-do Texas family who invites Michael, a new student from their children's school, to move in with them. Michael plays football and is as different from the family as any person could be. Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron are terrific.

Everybody's Fine stars Robert DeNiro as a man who takes a trip to visit each of his four children after they cancel plans to visit him for the week-end. When one of his daughters asks him what he always wanted to do, DeNiro's character answers that all he ever wanted was to be a good father and provider for his family. I will definitely someday own this movie.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In August 2007 Ken and I joined Netflix. We had moved to "the woods" and were 20 miles from the closest video store. We didn't have cable. I was having movie withdrawal and something had to be done. Netflix has improved my quality of life, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

In 2008 I watched 161 movies from Netflix. In 2009 the number climbed to 201.

I went back through the last two and a half years of movie rentals and selected the ten movies that I thought were worth watching more than once that may have slipped under your radar. We found most of these movies through previews on other Netflix rentals.

This is my gift to you this New Year's Eve, a list of ten of the best movies you may have never seen ~

King of California stars Michael Douglas as a father who does the best he can for his teen-aged daughter while he unlocks the secrets of a treasure map to search for gold under the local Costco.

The Amateurs is the funniest movie you will ever see about a town that makes a pornographic film without showing any pornography. Jeff Bridges makes it seem all seem possible.

Death at a Funeral is a British film about secrets that come out at the funeral of the family patriarch, as only the Brits can tell the story.

Dear Frankie is a story placed in Scotland about what happens when a mother puts her own fears aside to fulfill her child's most fervent desire to meet his father. Emily Mortimer is wonderful.

Lars and the Real Girl is a movie we passed up until I heard too many times what a good movie it is. The premise seems outlandish until you watch the movie.

The Girl in the Cafe is the unlikely story of a British diplomat who invites a girl he meets in a cafe to a G8 summit. Bill Nighy is one of my favorite British actors.

In How About You two sisters run a small boarding home for an incorrigible group of elders. I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did and look forward to watching it again.

Away We Go is one of those movies I will buy when I find it on sale. I watched this one twice in two days, once with Ken and once with my daughter. A couple travels to different cities to decide where they want to raise their child. The soundtrack is amazing.

The Maiden Heist is a hilarious movie with William H. Macy, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Walken as guards in an art museum who decide to take action when their favorite works of art are going to be shipped elsewhere.

In The Answer Man Jeff Daniels plays the author of the book "Me and God." He hasn't made a public appearance in twenty years and doesn't like people, which is awkward because people think of him as a guru with all the answers. When he injures his back and sees a chiropractor the real answers begin to appear.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Happy New Year! And here's looking forward to a new year of movies to watch ~

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enough Said

I am working on a post for tomorrow about my favorite movies from this year, at the theater and on DVD. There are some real gems.

Yesterday Ken and I had a full day. We left home at 5:00 a.m. to beat the early morning rush hour traffic around Boston, which worked as planned until the last 30 miles. We caught up with P and C at the house of P's best friend from college, who made us a wonderful breakfast.

C and her parents flew from California to Boston this week to work out some of the wedding details. We all met at the wedding venue for a tasting and a tour.

Then we walked over to where we would like to hold the rehearsal dinner ~ a real Boston Irish Pub complete with padded leather booths and historic photographs of famous patrons over the years. The place met with everyone's approval, so I will call to reserve it. I think people will feel comfortable and the food will be good.

That really takes care of our biggest responsibility for the wedding, other than dressing nicely and behaving appropriately. I already know what I want for a dress, although the color hasn't been decided yet. Ken will rent a tux, which tickles me because he looks super-handsome all dressed up.

Other than that...things are out of our hands.

Our middle child has chosen the life he wants with the people he wants to be near. At the end of the day, all that matters to his dad and me is that he's happy, which he appears to be.

Enough said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post Christmas Post

The chocolate peanut butter birthday cake was a huge success, enjoyed by all. I racked up lots of points that night because I made lasagna for dinner ~ the consensus was that I should make it more often. My daughter likes her Christmas Eve birthday because she gets all the birthday perks and it's a special family time, too.

We had such a good time this year, eating good food and sharing stories all week-end. I forget what great gift-givers my kids are and how much we enjoy everything about the holiday when we get together. I loved every minute of it.

Our sons are back in Boston, meeting up with friends and working out details of P's wedding. Tomorrow Ken and I are going down to Boston to tag along on some wedding planning, with the added benefit of spending more time with P before he leaves for California at the end of the week.

Routine returns. Today I caught up on laundry and wrestled with dust bunnies. The refrigerator is full of leftovers so there's no need to cook. The cookie jars are full, and there are even a couple slices of cake left. There are late cards to send and clothes to exchange.

And at some point I will take down the empty stockings....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking Her Chances

My daughter's birthday is tomorrow. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, hoping she would pick something easy. I am not known for baking cakes. Pies, yes. Cookies, yes. Bread, yes. Cakes, no. She knew she was taking her chances when she sent me a link for a chocolate peanut butter cake. I decided to make it today just in case things didn't go as planned.

I corralled the ingredients ~

I was pleasantly surprised when the cakes came out of the pans as promised ~

and I was able to apply the peanut butter/cream cheese frosting without incident ~

The chocolate glaze pooled onto the plate more than it was supposed to ~
but I consider this project a success. The cake is setting up in the fridge to be enjoyed when we all get together tomorrow night. I will have no problem scooping extra chocolate onto each plate and calling it "presentation." Oh, there was a bit of chocolate left over that I will need to use up later on Breyer's vanilla ice cream....
Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009


There were angels looking over us this week-end. As a major snowstorm hit the east coast, our son P was flying out of San Francisco to Houston and then onto Boston. He left California without knowing for sure how far he would get on his journey home. He made it all the way, and his brother surprised him with a welcome at the airport in Boston Saturday night. Amidst snow flurries on Sunday, P drove home to Maine. Our daughter joined us for dinner last night, and our younger son will be here for Christmas Eve. That's all I want for Christmas.

Ken and I trimmed the tree on Saturday. I noticed the number of angels we have, starting at the top with the first ornament we bought more than thirty years ago ~

and flying among the branches to bring shimmer ~

and light ~

and whimsy ~

and sparkle ~

to our tree. Jan at Awakened Living posted a beautiful poem about angels, and in her words "May the blessings of the Angels be yours." I know I have received many blessings this year, and I'm grateful for every one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

I hosted this year's cookie swap. Ten women times three dozen cookies equals a lot of cookies! The ingredients were as varied as the stories behind what people decided to bake this year. We each went home with a wonderful assortment of holiday treats.

I was so pleased to be able to have the swap at my house that I made the most of being hostess ~ I baked pecan tarts and a cranberry-upside-down cake, which I know everyone liked because they want the recipe. Many people had not been out to this end of my road before. I made it clear that I'd love to have them come again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feed Me, Please!

These photos are for my daughter, who is in the middle of a loooong week that will end with a night on call. They are a bit dark because the sun was streaming into the kitchen, but you'll get the idea.

Is that breakfast? May I have some please?!

Here, let me help.

Is it ready yet? May I have some pretty please?!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Out Of Sorts

Things have felt out of sync all day, since I got up this morning. I had a lot to do and started laundry before I made coffee or fed the cat.

I needed to clean up the pine needles around the tree that Ken and I brought in last night. I went to sweep up the bulk of them before I got out the vacuum, when I discovered water still on the floor from when Ken watered the tree...and there's damage to the floor's finish in a couple places. I moved the tree and wiped up the water. I kicked myself for not double checking that the spill was cleaned up after Ken used the rag, or for not taking the pitcher from him and watering the tree myself, or for not waiting to bring the tree in tonight.

I realized right away that that was folly on my part. I can't go back and fix what's happened.

But that's often my first reaction, before I am even conscious of having a reaction. "If only" or "what if" or "why didn't I?" pop into my head as I think of what I could have done differently even if I had no part in creating the situation.

All week-end Ken asked when I wanted to bring in the tree. I was dragging my feet. This is early for us to put up the tree, but he says it would be nice to "decorate" for the cookie swap I am hosting on Thursday.

I say it doesn't feel like Christmas until the kids are home.

My older son will be home this coming week-end and split his time between here and Boston until Christmas Eve, when he will bring his younger brother home from Boston.

My daughter now celebrates Hanukkah and, while she will be sharing Christmas Eve and Day with us because that's our family time, will not be helping with the tree. We don't have all the details worked out for the melding of holidays. We will have to learn as we go.

It's a different kind of Christmas this year. We've never had to think about squeezing a visit into a few days or working around different beliefs. We are ready and willing to do both but have some things to figure out.

This is our new normal for the holidays, and that raises as many questions as how to fix the finish on the floor.

Well, we got the lights on the tree last night. That's good enough for now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting In The Wrong Line

I was waiting for a neon sign, a lightening bolt, or some other flash of genius to strike.

I thought I had to have the brightest idea, the best plans, and all the answers before I took action.

I wanted to know all the details before I decided if I wanted to get on board, take the risk, and make the commitment.

Then a couple weeks ago I read Dawn's post titled Commitment Precedes Vision at her blog "Today and Everyday." She posted the following quote:

“In life, many thoughts are born in the course of a moment, an hour, a day. Some are dreams, some visions. Often, we are unable to distinguish between them. To some, they are the same; however, not all dreams are visions. Much energy is lost in fanciful dreams that never bear fruit. But visions are messages from the Great Spirit, each for a different purpose in life. Consequently, one person’s vision may not be that of another. To have a vision, one must be prepared to receive it, and when it comes, to accept it. Thus when these inner urges become reality, only then can visions be fulfilled. The spiritual side of life knows everyone’s heart and who to trust. How could a vision ever be given to someone to harbor if that person could not be trusted to carry it out. The message is simple: commitment precedes vision.”
~ High Eagle

I read it several times and I returned to read it over the course of several days. At odd times during the day I thought about High Eagle's words, often reversing the words to "vision precedes commitment" because the ideas he presented appeared to be out of order.

I had been waiting in the wrong line. I was in line for a vision.

I needed to be in the commitment line. I had to make the commitment to do the work and follow through. I had to be ready to receive the vision ahead of its arrival.

This week I got in the commitment line.

After Tuesday's class, when I watched my classmates present their ideas and share their plans, I realized I had not made the commitment to the work I need to do. I was holding back. I was keeping my passion at bay, just in case things don't work out.

And that's when my thinking changed. That's when I had the thought "commitment precedes vision."

Then the ideas started to flow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Show Time

Yesterday was class #11 in the entrepreneurship skills course I am taking. The course runs twelve weeks, and the last two classes are dedicated to student presentations of our business plans.

I have been working with my classmates for ten weeks. We have had class discussions and shared our ideas in small groups. At one time or another I have talked with each person about aspects of their business plan. We know each other fairly well at this point.

And, still, yesterday I was blown away by the work that people have done.

The ideas are as unique as the people who own them: black and white film photography, all natural pet toys, graphic design, indoor golf, daycare, original art on homemade paper, outdoor activities, landscape design, pottery, and concierge service.

Each half-hour presentation includes time to read through the person's business plan, a PowerPoint presentation, and questions & answers.

I was impressed with the amount of thought people put into their plans and presentations. It was a thrill to see all the pieces come together and to hear what people plan to do next.

There are five of us left to present next week. Then we will share a potluck lunch and make plans for three follow-up sessions after the first of next year.

I am still working on my presentation. I have everything I need and an idea of how I want it to look.

I don't like to finish things. It's easier to keep a little bit undone so I can imagine that it turns out just the way I want.

It's also easier to keep working on the plan than it is to take action. The action step is where mistakes happen and risks are taken and everything doesn't go as planned.

Then I remember that I want to be more proactive. It's show time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This morning we awakened to the first hibiscus flower and snow accumulation of the season ~

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome December

This is the first day of December.

That means I have 31 days to:

Watch 20 Netflix movies so I will reach my goal of 200 this year. [The actual total will number more than that but I count the season of a series as "1" so it doesn't look like I spend more than an average amount of time watching rented movies and tv shows.]

Decide which digital photos I want to have printed so I can update the photo album. It used to be easy to take pictures, send off the film, get the photos in the mail, label said photos, and mount them in the photo album and scrapbooks. Now I take digital pictures and download them to the computer, where they are stored away in folders filed alphabetically instead of in an album where family gatherings and life events are in chronological order and tangible for my viewing and sharing pleasure.

Finish compiling this year's emails from my sons. When my daughter was in college she saved the emails she and I sent each other, compiled them on a disc, and had them printed out and bound at Staples. I used that idea when my sons went to college, compiling and printing along the way. The pages are few for my youngest but I'm saving what I do have. Since P moved away I have saved the few emails he's sent with the details of his new job and apartment. I'm sure there will be other milestones that it will be nice to have a record of in the future.

Find a job. Sigh. This might take longer than 31 days. I have high hopes for the interview I had last Wednesday; I will hear this week if I am selected for a second interview. All year I have been pinning my hopes on the next job application or the next interview or the next round of interviews. Time for a new strategy if I don't have a job by the new year, which means I will decide if I am going forth with a small business or not. The entrepreneurship skills class has been very good, laying out all the steps and details of starting a small business. I am a gatherer of information, so I already knew a lot of what we've covered. I was looking for a secret formula or a sign that this was meant to be. That only happens in fairy tales. What I have is a notebook full of steps to take and forms to file, with the knowledge that I would be taking on a huge responsibility that requires a lot of work and may return little or no profit for an indeterminate period of time. It would be a gamble, and I am not a risk taker.

Figure out how to make up for the last five months when I see P at Christmas. I knew the distance would make staying connected difficult, but I did not think the disconnect would happen so quickly. For instance, when P called last week he asked his dad if he was completely recovered from the pneumonia, which is something he still asks during phone conversations despite our assurances that Ken is fine. The problem is he hasn't seen his dad since the day Ken was discharged from the hospital, when he was still very weak from the pneumonia and the 45 pound weight loss. P doesn't have an image to replace the one when his dad was sick. We can't start where we left off because we aren't the same, but we have to figure out a way to get up to speed quickly so we can reconnect and enjoy the limited amount of time we will have with each other. Compacted time together does not make up for visits over time when the real stuff of day-to-day life happens, in the moment and with firsthand emotions.

And my biggest task will be to make an effort to be proactive instead of reactive. I realized this fall that for as long as I can remember I have made decisions about my life based on my reactions to what has already happened, whether that's circumstances or what other people have decided for themselves. I observe, collect information, read the reactions of others, and find a place to fit myself in the space that is left. This year I have had all the space a person could use, and I didn't know what to do with it. When given the time to do anything, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. There are 31 days left this year to figure that out.

I may not accomplish all of these tasks in the next month. I do know it's time for a change.