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.

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 Unique Bumper Sticker

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 February report.

2 Movies

The Magic of Belle Isle – Bland + trite.  With Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen in it, I thought that this movie would be a sweet, but nuanced, look at life in a small town on a lake.  It was not.  In fact, it was boring, mildly insulting to women over 40, and just a plain waste of beautifully decorated lakeside homes.  Not recommended.

Helvetica –  Fascinating + inspiring.  Helvetica is a font that was born in 1957 and permeates our lives.  It has been revered and it has been marginalized, but it is still here.  The interviews with graphic artists are compelling, even if you disagree with what they’re saying.  Recommended if you have an interest in typography and the world around you.  [H/T to alejna at collecting tokens for telling me about this documentary.]

2 Books

The Spice Necklace –  Charming + fun.  I enjoyed this book.  In a nutshell, Ann Vanderhoof and her husband decide to live on a boat, travel around the Caribbean and research the local cuisine.  Along the way they make friends with some nutty characters the locals, learn about alcoholic beverages regional history and decide to conjure up recreate Caribbean specialities in their tiny  galley kitchen.  Recommended if you like recipes, travel and cheerful adventurers.

Marrakesh By Design –  Beautiful + informative.  In this colorful book on Moroccan decorating, Maryam Montague explains the history of the region as well as the reasoning behind this style of decorating.  The photos of patterns, colors and homes are perfect.  I read the book all in one sitting, then came back a few days later to get lost in the photos.  Recommended if you have an interest in African history, art and/or home decor.

1 Unique Bumper Sticker

The bumper sticker on the back of the van said: Play More Viola.  I saw it first and was silently thinking about it when Zen-Den noticed it, too.  Naturally we needed to know more about it, so I googled it.  I half expected it to be a line from a Saturday Night Live skit a la “more cowbell.”  But its origins were much simpler than that.  It’s a bumper sticker encouraging everyone to be more joyful… by playing more viola.  Cute, huh?

2 Movies, 2 Books & 1 New Mantra

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.  This is more difficult for me to do than you might imagine, but I’m giving it my best shot.  Here is my January report.

2 Movies

Hachi, A Dog’s Tale – Delightful.  The story of a college professor, the stray dog he found on a train platform and loyalty that goes on forever.  Highly recommended if you like Richard Gere, fables and house porn.  {have tissues nearby}

The Queen of Versailles – Compelling & whacked.  This is a documentary about a ditzy woman and her billionaire husband who set out to build the largest residence in USA.  Can you say conspicuous consumption?  Can you say bad judgement?  Can you say slobs?  Highly recommended because, well– Whiskey Tango Foxtrot— you’ve never seen anything like this.

2 Books

13, rue Thérèse – Fascinating.  On the surface, this is a novel about a college professor who finds a box filled with letter, photos and personal objects.  He decides to document each item and to research the timeframe from which the objects came.  What makes this novel so unique is that the author, Elena Maui Shapiro, who lived in an apartment building in Paris when she was a girl, inherited the objects when an older woman in the building died.  Using these objects as a starting point, the author wrote this novel.  Recommended if you like history and the idea that nothing is quite as it seems.

The Buddha Walks Into A Bar – Informative.  It’s been a long time since I read a book about religion.  This one, written by Lodro Rinzler, is quietly funny, well-researched and difficult to put down.  I hesitate to call it personal development, but I suppose that’s the genre it fits in.  I read it more as a refresher course on Buddhism than a how-to guide.  Recommended if you’re feeling the need to think about life from a different point of view and be mindful.

1 New Mantra

A friend’s second grade daughter came home from school with a long, involved story about playground intrigue.  My friend, who was making dinner as she listened to the story, said that she wasn’t absorbing the details.  Instead, she was listening to the tone-of-voice.  Eventually her daughter stopped talking and my friend realized that she needed to say something Mom-like.  So she asked her daughter what she thought about all that had happened and her daughter, with a sigh, summed it up with: “People are silly.”

No truer words, my little one.  And a perfect mantra about relationships, if you ask me.

In Which I Decide On A Word Of The Year. Finally.

I’ve been a laggard about choosing my one word of the year.  This is because I’ve found myself caught up in the hype of picking the perfect word.  A word that has a large overarching theme.  A word that is unique, yet applicable to all facets of my life.  A word that will make me kick ass in 2013.

I don’t know why it is that this year I got thinking like this, but I did.  Even talking about it here I have to laugh at myself.  I guess all I can tell you is that the gods of external validation invaded my brain and brought various forms of doubt with them.  Hence, my inability to pick a word.

However, that is all behind me now.  You see, I had a serious chat with myself and managed to decide on a word that I think will satisfy both my pragmatic thinking side and my holistic feeling side.  The conversation, which may or may not have been out loud, went something like this:

Pragmatic Ally:  It’s just a word, Ms. Bean.  Get over yourself and pick one.

Holistic Ally:  But I don’t know, for sure, if I’ll pick the best one.  I need a sign of some sort so I’ll know that it is the. right. word.

Pragmatic Ally:  Just do it.  There’s your sign.  Nike said so.

Holistic Ally:  Okay, fine.  Balance.  I pick BALANCE.  Like in New Balance.  Which I like much better than Nike with their stupid swoosh.

Pragmatic Ally:  Great choice.  Well done.  Now get out there and kick some ass!

Holistic Ally:  But I don’t know how.  How do ‘ya do that?

Pragmatic Ally:  *sigh* Do I have to do everything for you?  You start where you are right now, do your best and see where it goes.  That’s how you do it.

Holistic Ally:  Oh yeah.  That’d work.  Good idea.  Thanks.

Pragmatic Ally:  No problem.

… And so it came to be that my one word for 2013 will be BALANCE.