2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 Clever Backside Of A Truck

As part of my attempt to live a more balanced life in 2013, I have given myself the assignment to watch 2 movies and to read 2 books each month.  Here is my July report minus 1 movie.  Keep in mind that I get fidgety watching movies, so I consider it an accomplishment that I watched one movie during this hot month.  Let’s just say that I owe you 1 movie and leave it at that.    

2 Movies 1 Movie

Emma – Pretty + predictable.  I chose this movie because in college I never read Emma by Jane Austen and because I knew that Clueless was based on it.  Set in rural England in the early 1800s, Emma, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is a single woman who lives with her widowed father.  She believes herself to be a good matchmaker, but in reality she is not.  Confusion ensues.  For a costume drama this movie was well done– not too tedious, not too pompous.  Recommended if you need a Jane Austen fix and there isn’t enough time in your life to read one of her books.

2 Books

The Witch of Little Italy –  Charming + unique.  This novel, written by Suzanne Palmieri, is a perfect summer read.  A college-aged girl, Eleanor, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and decides to go live with her grandmother & great aunts in the family home in the Bronx.  While living there, Eleanor uncovers and solves decades-old family mysteries as well as going through her own personal transformation.  The writing is smooth, the characters are well-rounded and the plot is more-or-less believable.  Recommended if you want a bit of mystery + a tad of magic.

The Book of Tea – In this book, first published in 1906, Kakuzo Okakura explains the history of tea in Japan and the proper way to make it.  He also expounds upon tea as a metaphor for life.  I enjoyed this short book [treatise?] enough to read it twice.  Recommended if you like Asian history, tea and philosophy.  [Free on Kindle]

1 Clever Backside Of A Truck

Am I the last person to understand what is going on with these REFLECTING QUALITY stickers that are on the backside of many 18-wheel trucks?  [Example photo here.]  It came to me as we were driving down the interstate in my small coupe directly behind one of these trucks.

I realized that I could see myself & Zen-Den reflected in the mirror-like finish on the back of the truck.  And it occurred to me that we were the quality that was being reflected.  That the sticker had nothing to do with the items within the truck, instead it was telling me something nice about us.  I find this all very clever now that I understand it.

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 New Name

As part of my attempt to live a more balanced life in 2013, I have given myself the assignment to watch 2 movies and to read 2 books each month.  Here is my June report.

2 Movies

Life Happens – Smart + funny.  In this comedy, Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth & Rachel Bilson star as three very different 20-something women who share a house in a hipster part of L.A.  One of the roommates becomes pregnant and after the baby is born all three women try to continue to live their lives as before.  Witty dialogue.  Fascinating sets.  Charming ending.  Recommended if you enjoy laughing at the ups & downs of relationships, careers and motherhood.

Brother Rat – Wordy + dated.  Set at the Virginia Military Institute, this uneven 1938 movie is a black-and-white classic.  Three cadets try to keep one cadet’s marriage secret from just about everybody.  Hijinks/whining/confusion ensues.  The movie is best known for 2 facts: 1) it is Eddie Albert’s first role in a movie;  & 2) Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman met while filming this.  Half-heartedly recommended if you are curious about early films and stuck at home on a rainy day.

2 Books

Beautiful Ruins – Wonderful + memorable.  This novel by Jess Walter is one of the best that I’ve read in years.  Set primarily in Italy and Hollywood, it is a decades long love story between an Italian innkeeper and an American actress.  It is alternately amusing, insightful, satirical and heartbreaking.  The writing is smooth, the plot is flawless and the ending is just as it needs to be.  Highly recommended to anyone who likes to read fiction.

The Year the Music Changed – Clever + sweet.  This story is about a brilliant & lonely 14-year-old girl who sends a fan letter to a then unknown country singer named Elvis Presley.  He writes back and they become pen pals telling each other their secrets and triumphs.  Diane Thomas, the author of this book, does a marvelous job of weaving facts about Elvis into a warm, captivating story of self-awareness and the power of friendship.  Recommended if you like coming-of-age stories and music history.

1 New Name

I cannot resist silly, pointless, time-wasting name generators.  They call to me.  I’m curious.  I NEED to know.  So when I found the Old West Name Generator, I knew that I had to find out what my name would have been if I had been born between 1860 to 1890.

And here is what I discovered.  Back then you would have known me as:

Lily Jessamine Roush.

Pretty name, huh?

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 Complete Blank

As part of my attempt to live a more balanced life in 2013, I have given myself the assignment to watch 2 movies and to read 2 books each month.  Here is my May report.

2 Movies

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts – Clever + truthful.  A pregnant, techie-oriented woman, who lives in NYC, goes to LA so that her sister may give her a proper baby shower.  Once on the west coast, the mother-to-be decides to visit her divorced parents.  Her father’s reaction to seeing her is delight, but her off-the-grid mother’s reaction is alternately hilarious or sad.  Recommended if you like honest characters + quiet triumphs.

Jesus Henry Christ – Tedious + confused.  I wanted to like this movie produced by Julia Roberts, but I didn’t.  The premise is that a brilliant 10-year-old boy, whose mother had in vitro fertilization, decides to find out who his biological father really is– and he does.  But the plot dragged on and the characters were of the over-the-top-but-supposed-to-be-endearing variety so that nothing in the story seemed interesting or plausible or worth caring about.  Not recommended.

2 Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Extraordinary + compelling.  Rebecca Skloot tells the true story of how one woman’s cells, taken from her without her permission, came to be first “immortal” human cells grown in a medical lab at Johns Hopkins University.  Plus, Skloot tells the story of Henrietta’s life, her children’s lives and all the subsequent injustices done to all of them.  Recommended if you like medical history + family stories that span generations.

Too Much Happiness – Well-written, but forgettable.  I know that Alice Munro is a writer with an enthusiastic following so I decided to read one of her books.  This book of 10 short stories was, perhaps, not her best effort– or maybe I don’t get her.  I found the stories to be depressing &/or mundane;  so much so that even her smooth writing couldn’t overcome it.  Recommended if you like glimpses into the darker side of human nature + need something to read that’s easy to put down and pick up as need be.

1 Complete Blank

In this spot I like to share something clever or funny that I saw/read/heard during the month, but I’m coming up with a blank here.  Oh well, whatever.  If anyone has something inspiring or cheerful that could be in this spot, just let me know & in it goes.  If not, I suggest that we all be like Quakers at a Sunday meeting and sit here silently reflecting upon the Divine.  The choice is yours, gentle readers.

# # #

[As promised above, I’ve added your ideas to inspire or cheer thus filling in my Complete Blank.]

1) From Polly at caughtwriting, an Emily Dickinson quote:

“Forever– is composed of nows.”

2) From Zazzy at zazamataz.com, an e.e. cummings quote:

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

3) From Phil at Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, a Judy Garland rendition of a popular song:

# # #

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 Delightful Truth

As part of my attempt to live a more balanced life in 2013, I have given myself the assignment to watch 2 movies and to read 2 books each month.  Here is my April report.

2 Movies

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  – Predictable + colorful.  A group of British retirees decide to move to India, embrace a new lifestyle and live in what claims to be a newly restored Indian hotel.  When they arrive, the hotel restoration is not finished, but the optimistic young man who manages the hotel tries his best to please them.  Some of the retirees adapt to India, some don’t.  The ensemble cast is delightful, the cinematography + costumes are wonderful, but there is a certain old geezer-ness to this movie that is a little monotonous.  Recommended if you like veteran actors and the idea that life is what you make of it.

The Grass Is Greener – Intriguing, albeit dated.  Because of financial problems, a British Earl and his wife [played by Cary Grant & Deborah Kerr, respectively] allow public tours of their mansion.  An American tourist [played by Robert Mitchum] falls for the wife & they have an affair.  Meanwhile, her friend [played by Jean Simmons] playfully tries to seduce the Earl.  On the surface this movie sounds trite, but the ensemble cast + witty writing make this movie entertaining.  Recommended if you enjoy 1960s style, some absurdity and learning about social mores.

2 Books

The Serpent’s Daughter [a Jade Del Cameron mystery] – Charming + clever.  Set in Tangier, Morocco, in 1920, Jade and her mother plan to go on vacation together.  However, Jade’s mother is kidnapped and Jade must find her… in time.  This mystery, by Suzanne Arruda, is campy, travelogue-y and totally fun.  Recommended if you like spunky heroines, fascinating settings and lighthearted mysteries.

A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison – Amazing, but macabre.  In the 1750s during the French and Indian War in what is now western New York state, the Shawnee Indians capture a white girl and her family.  The Shawnee murder her family, but the girl goes on to live with the Seneca Indians.  She marries, has children and adopts the ways of the Indians.  When she is in her 80s she tells her story to a local white man who writes it down– in the flowery vernacular of the time.  Originally published in 1824.  Recommended if you have an interest in Colonial American History and biographies. [Free on Kindle]

1 Delightful Truth

I was surfing the web looking at design blogs, when I came upon this delightful truth by Amanda Hill.  She said: Beautiful things don’t just happen.  If you want something marvelous, you’ve got to make something marvelous.  [Punctuation added.]  

And I thought to myself: that is so true.  What good advice.  I need to take that advice to heart, henceforth.

So I have.

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 Inspirational Quote

As part of my attempt to live a more balanced life in 2013, I have given myself the assignment to watch 2 movies and to read 2 books each month.  Here is my March report.

2 Movies

Butter – Satirical + jumbled.  With Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone and Hugh Jackman in it, this uneven movie has its moments– and those moments are hilarious.  All the action revolves around the Iowa State Fair butter carving competition– and the politics associated with it.  Recommended if you can overlook the mocking anti-conservative slant and want something light [and rather pointless] to watch.

How Beer Saved The World – Informative + upbeat.  This is a short, fast-paced documentary about beer.  The narration is wonderful, the cartoon reenactments of history are delightful and the interviews with academics are great.  Recommended if you like history and smart, happy people.

2 Books

Mad About Undead You: A Zombie Apocalypse Love Story – Clever + unique.  A  mad scientist miscalculates and suddenly San Francisco is overrun with former water drinkers turned zombies.  This is the backdrop for Carl S. Plumer’s fast-paced novel about love.  Yes, love.  With characters that could easily be your friends, this slightly campy novel is a different sort of love story that made me laugh out loud.  Recommended if you like San Francisco and enjoy a modicum of gore.  [H/T to Kristen at Kristen Loves Design for recommending this book– that just happens to be written by her husband!]

Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me – Not what I expected.  I picked up this book thinking that I was buying a book of essays written by British mums a la Listen To Your Mother.  I was wrong.  Instead, Lucia van der Post’s book is a charming, well-written guide to living an upper class, stylish life in London or NYC.  I enjoyed it, but will admit that I skimmed through parts of it that seemed too high brow for me.  Recommended if you want detailed information about where to shop and how to create a glamorous lifestyle.

1 Inspirational Quote

Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”  I’m focusing on this quote because March was not the productive month that I had hoped it would be.  In fact, there were a few days when I wanted to crawl into bed and never come out again.  Nothing seemed to go right.  With the weather.  With how I felt.  With what I said.  With what I planned on doing.

In other words, March, one of my favorite months, was a bust.  But then I remembered this Churchill quote and figured that for me the lesson of March 2013 was to just keep going.  Which I did.