Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Challenges of being a Christmas Baby

Today's my birthday.  Being born two days after Christmas has always had it's ups and downs.  It is such a busy time of year that often my birthday gets lost in the sauce.  It's not such a big deal now, but as a child it really bugged me.  The worst of course was, "here's something for Christmas and your birthday".   Seriously, one gift. 

And there was there year my Great Aunt made my sister a "doll cake" for her birthday and made my brother a sailboat cake for his birthday and I got..."I just didn't have time to make you a cake this year".  I so wanted a doll cake.

But there have also been some distinct ups to being born in December.  First of all, it is my favorite time of year.  How can I not like celebrating my birthday so near Christmas.  Plus all my siblings are born in April.  So just the fact that I'm not an April baby made me feel special.  Something different. 

My favorite part of being born in December was the story my mother told me.  Back in early 1955, my mother lost her father.  She was very upset at the death of her father who she loved so much.  Soon after though she found out she was pregnant with me.  She always felt that God gave her me to help replace the loss of her father.  And that...has always made me feel special.  (It also didn't hurt that I can a couple weeks early and Dad got to take me as a tax deduction that year!)

And don't worry about the doll cake.  For my 40th Birthday, my dear friend Marlene made sure I had my very own doll cake....all in pink.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It is a Merry Christmas!

Although Christmas is a little odd this year, it is still very joyful. Mikey is home and recuperating pretty well.  Everyday he is just a smidgen better.  I know he still has a lot of healing time in front of him, but it is a miracle that he is here and wonderful that the doctor was able to repair his neck. 

So, it really doesn't matter if there are a few less presents under the tree or that I didn't get a chance to make cookies, homemade caramel corn or that I bought our dessert for dinner tonight.  All that matters is having my family healthy and together (except Krissy, Jay and the kids are with Jay's family this year, which is only fair). 

On the menu today is BW's Famous Apple Pancakes, Cheesy Scrambled Eggs and Bacon for breakfast.  Dinner is a beef tenderloin, twice baked potatoes, asparagus and Liz's mac & cheese.  (With cheese cake for dessert...one of Mikey's favorite desserts.)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and take the time to look around and remember all your blessings.  I know I will.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Christmas Gift

I've been out of touch for a few days, as I've just been through every mother's nightmare.  Last Wednesday, Mikey had a very bad rollover accident.  I found out from a call from the police.  This is truly my biggest fear. 

He was taken to the closet hospital with a trauma center.  It ended up that he compressed two vertebrae in his neck and broke one vertebrae in his neck.  He had 7.5 hours of surgery on Saturday to insert some bone, plates, rods and screws.  He is still recovering in the hospital and will have a long recovery at home.  He's in a neck brace and will have to wear it for 6-8 week.  He is making good progress and he is young and as all the nurses keep telling me...he is very strong.

Having totaled his car I am very aware that we are lucky to still have him and now...all I want for Christmas is to having Mikey home. 

I would truly appreciate a little prayer for his continued recovery.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Invictus Movie Review


Invictus

Grade: A

The story of sport bringing a group or country together at a moment in time is not a new one.  So on that level, I don't think this movie broke any new ground, but it did bring forth an important story that truly explains the greatness that is Nelson Mandela. 

This story begins with Mandela taking office as the new president of South Africa and against all advice from his staff, he wants to leverage the countries' struggling Rugby team in an effort to unify the country.  This is all the more profound as the existing Rugby team is a symbol of apartheid and everything it represents.  Mandela's great ability to forgive and forge new relationships is what makes this event so profound.

Morgan Freeman does a better Mandela then Mandela and Matt Damon only continues to expand his acting chops.  Damon plays team captain Francois Pienaar, who meets with and takes to heart Mandela's vison for the team to seriously compete for the 1995 World Cup.  Damon is so believable as a rugby player (he certainly beefed up for the role) that I forgot he's from Boston.

The rugby matches are certainly exciting and incredibly rough.  (They don't wear any helmits or pads, but they tackle just like in football.)  I don't know if it really matters if you understand rugby or not.  The film certainly achieves it's cinematic conclusion with or without that understanding. 

This film is directed by Clint Eastwood and I am a big fan of his directing.  Granted, most of his movies I can only watch once as the subject matter is usually too disturbing or intense to allow for a 2nd viewing, but I think he is one of the best directors around.  He is so concise and clear with his vision.  He is an economical director.  By that I mean...he doesn't waste shots or get sidetracked on other story lines.  Every shot is in there for the clear purpose of moving the story along and I think that is his true gift.  Considering the numerous other issues going on in Mandela's early administration and in South Africa in general, it would have been easy to be pulled off track, but not Eastwood.  I think he was meant to direct this film.

The film's title is from a poem that Mandela read and found inspiring while he was in prison.  I found the poem and I wanted to share it with you. It was written by William Ernest Henley.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.





Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Movies

I find myself searching through the guide on my TV, looking for any and all holiday movies and cartoons.  It's actually kind of been such an obsession that I've even watched a couple of those sappy, poorly acted movies on the Lifetime Channel.  Kristin Chenoweth's recent contribution called The Twelve Men of Christmas was a real prime example, but I watched most of it anyway.  Fortunately, I fell asleep at some point.

I think this calls for a list, don't you  Here are my favorite Holiday movies and why I like them so much.  (While I'm typing this...I have White Christmas on for the 2nd time this month.)


1. White Christmas - This is probably my favorite Christmas movie.  It's become part of our family lore.  We quote lines from it  all year long.  "OK they didn't go to college, they didn't go to Smith."  "Go to Smith, she couldn't even spell Smith."  Then there is my sister and my rendition of "Sisters, Sister".  Always a show stopper around the house.  And I'm always Vera Ellen.  Not that I don't love Rosemary Clooney, but Vera's costumes are just incredible.  I want to wear them all.



2.  Love Actually - As this movie has made it to so many of my lists, you already know this is an all around favorite, but it's extra special at Christmas.  I can never decide which story line is my favorite.  It changes every time I watch it.  This year it was all the more poignant watching Liam Neeson's character play the grieving widower knowing he had to go through this is real life as well.  If you've not watched it this Christmas season, please do so soon as it will do your heart good.




3.  The Bishop's Wife - This is a classic film from 1947 starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven.  Niven plays a bishop so preoccupied  by the building of a great cathedral that he neglects his wife, daughter and parishioners. In a moment of  despair he prays for help and the help comes in the form of and angel named Dudley (Grant). The bishop quickly finds all the people in his life charmed  by Dudley (Grant) including his wife Julia.  It's a lovely story and there are some wonderful moments including my favorite ice skating scene.  Interesting little fact, Grant was originally supposed to play the bishop, but he pushed to be able to play the angel instead.


4.  It's a Wonderful Life - This movie generates a bit of controversy in the family.  BW loves this movie, but the girls don't like it at all.  I'm on the side of loving this movie, but I can completely understand where the girls are coming from.  I get very agitated when Uncle Billy loses the money and I remain that way until the movie finally has it's happy conclusion.  There are moments of desperation that make both the girls so uncomfortable they can't enjoy the movie.  They can't get past it whereas I know the ending is well worth the trip. I imagine others feel the same way.


5.  A Christmas Story - Back in 1983 I actually took the girls to this movie at the theater.  Based upon the horrendous ad campaign, I honestly did not expect this movie to be any good, but I was a stay home mother of two and was always looking for things to get us out of the house.  This has now become such a holiday classic that it seems to be from my childhood just as it is from the girls.  This is a wonderful story filled with so many memorable moments...Ralphie in the pink bunny suit, Randy eating mashed potatoes like a piggy, the Bumpkisses' dogs stealing the turkey and Lifeboy soap to name just a few.


6. Home Alone - I love this movie and enjoy it every year, but I honestly think what  I love the most is the soundtrack.  This movie did a brilliant job using so many holiday classics at just the right moments, that hearing them brings back clear images from the film. I also like this one, cause Stinky...a long time ago, before he became a grumpy 17 year old, looked a lot like Macaulay Culkin and it just reminds me of sweeter times with my boy.




7.  A Christmas Carol - I like the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge.  It just seems to be the version I watched the most as a child, so it's still the one I prefer. It's in black and white, which I think adds to the eerie feel that helps move this story along.  I haven't seen the newly released animated version so, I'll have to rely on feedback from others.


8. Rudolph, Frosty and the Misfit Toys - We love any and all of the stop animation holiday programs.  Rudolph is probably my fav, but I do love them all.  A couple years ago I bought a 4 volume DVD set for BW  for Christmas.  He was working so much back then that he kept missing them.  Now we can watch them whenever we like, but we still seem to search them out on TV.




9. Elf - This one has kind of snuck onto my Christmas list recently.  Will Farrell movies can sometime be so over the top that they make me a little crazy, but he managed to do this one with a lot of heart.  I love the scene where he stays up all night decorating the department store in preparation for Santa's visit. 
 


10.  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - OK...Doc Hollywood, this is for you.  I don't particularly like this movie, but just the other day,  Doc mentioned how much he LOVES this movie and that he watches every time it comes on.  With that kind of endorsement, how could I not put it on this list.

 What is your favorite holiday movie?  Is it already on my list or did I miss it?  Let me know.  I'd love to know.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Miscellaneous Thursday

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Had a heck of a time getting out to the main road this morning.  Took me 3 times before I could get off the slick side road and then a freakin' Focus zipped around me.  How is that even possible?  He must have had a running start.

We didn't have the snow fall that some areas had, but we did have some high winds that left us without power last night.  Headed over to Caity's for the evening.  Big night on the old TV last night.


Any Top Chef fans out there.  The season finale was on last night.  I do really love this show and this year the top 4 chefs were all brilliant.  I would have been happy with any of them winning and I would love to eat at their restaurants. Congrats to Michael for the win, but I really thought it would be your brother Bryan. (And to be honest, Jennifer was my real fave but she only made it to the #4 spot.)


We have to wait until April to see the next episode of Glee?  Really?  I so miss the way they used to schedule television.  I know this is going to make me sound like an old lady, but do any of you remember how much fun it was to get the fall TV guide?  It laid out the whole new TV program schedule in a weekly format.  I clearly remember sitting and reading it with my little brother as we planned out our TV picks for the week.  All the new show started in the fall and they aired all year and only went into reruns in the summer. Does anyone remember that?  This stopping and starting at random times drives me crazy. 

On the same note, Cait just told me that "Chuck" is coming back.  It's been off so long, I thought it was cancelled.  Again...to all you network programmers...this is so CONFUSING.

I finished in 1st place for the season in our Fantasy Football League.  This is a first as I have never won before.  Yeah me...too bad it was Krissy that I had to knock out of first place in order to win.

You know you are getting older when your friends start retiring.  Granted, here in Michigan, there are lots of people who have been forced to "retire", but it does give me pause.

And thanks to Caity for making chocolate chip cookies while we watched TV at her house last night.  Yum.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And It All Comes With a T-Shirt

I was doing some picking up in the dining room last night and found the envelope that Lori sent from Minnesota with the cookbooks and photos.  I reached down and it still felt puffing.  I opened it and this is what I found in it...

It's actually much cooler in real life.  It's one of those thinner type tees.  Much more flattering then the usual t-shirt.  I am so wearing this to work next week with my brown cords.   (Kathy's going to be so envious.)

Lori...did you get a t-shirt too?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Photos from PW at the Mall of America

Here are some of Lori's photo's from her 6 hour saga to get Pioneer Woman's signature for me.  This all took place on November 21 at the Mall of America.  Enjoy!

The Crowds:








Marlboro Man & The Boys:







The Boys:
(doing what boys do best) Honestly, these are my favorite pictures.








Getting Closer:







And Finally...Pioneer Woman:









Seems like they had plenty to talk about.

And finally, the formal photo with almost everyone is looking at the right camera.  Not too shabby.



Any suggestions on how to appropriately thank someone for standing in line for 6 hours to talk to someone they've never heard of?  I'd appreciate your thoughts.



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Blind Side Movie Review


The Blind Side

Grade: A

We got to see The Blind Side on it's opening week-end and every seat in the theater was filled.  Which is a pretty good sign considering this opened the same day as A New Moon, the latest in the Twilight series.

The Blind Side is one of those movies that make you want to applaud at the end.  It was  uplifting and quietly powerful.  This is the story Michael Oher, a real life offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, and the family that took him in during his high school years and helped save him from a very different life.  Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Touhy, a strong willed affluent wife and mother who from outward appearances could give any of the "Wives of Atlanta" a run for their money.  Fortunately for Michael...she is so much more.  

But, this isn't just the story of how the Touhy's changed Michael's life, it's also about how Michael changed their lives as well.  The scene where he first calls Leigh Anne - "Mama"...just touched my heart.  My eyes well up just thinking about it.

Bullock does a truly brilliant job becoming Leigh Anne and I have to give credit to the casting director.   The end of the movie shows video and pictures of the real Michael Oher and the Touhy family and they did a an brilliant  job casting this film.  In addition to Bullock, you will see Tim McGraw as Sean Touhy and the young boy that plays SJ Touhy (Jae Head) is just adorable.  He will just steal your heart as he befriends Michael.  SJ's negotiations with the many college coaches is completely charming.

I just loved this movie.  Please take your family to see this movie.  It will help put everyone in the proper holiday spirit, I promise.