A story within a story set of films

Every once in a while, I remember I own DVDs. Between Sling and Netflix, I rarely actually watch the movies I own anymore. I am trying to work on that. So, Saturday nights if I have nothing else going on (most of the time) or a book I want to dive into (more likely to be my conflict), I try to re-watch some of my own movies and always ask myself, “do you still want to keep this?”

This weekend I re-visited one old movie that inspired the new movie. Paris When It Sizzles is not the best Audrey Hepburn movie but it’s so ridiculous, I pretty much forgive it for being not the best. It also has a randomly appearing Tony Curtis which makes it that much better in my mind. It’s the story of a playboy screenwriter who needs to deliver his next script in the next three days. His patron sends him a typist to type up the final draft of the script. However, she arrives to discover said screenwriter has not actually written the script yet at all. So, the two of them work together over three days to write a script. The movie is both the screenwriter and typist working on the script as well as the script itself being played out with them in the lead roles. It’s rather overacted, suffering from its time period, and doesn’t actually make much sense in the end but it’s so ridiculous and funny to me that I don’t mind. It’s also like a perfect time capsule of Paris in the 1950s on film; the cinematography is lovely. I can get over the dodginess of the main character and how he treats his typist enough to enjoy the film though it’s definitely tough at times.

So, we’ll move along to the modern version of the same story, Alex & Emma. A down on his luck writer Alex, who gambled away his advance and is suffering from a major case of writer’s block, must deliver his new manuscript to his publisher in three days to get the rest of his money and pay off the loan sharks on his case. However, his computer gets destroyed so his answer is to hire a stenographer, Emma, to dictate his novel too. During dictating the novel, the writer and stenographer also act out the parts of the 1920s love story in predictably ridiculous fashion. In comparison with its inspiration, Alex & Emma fix a lot of the plot holes and actually come up with an interesting story for the novel. It also depicts healthier, more normal romantic relationships so I appreciated that a lot after watching the shudder-inducing swarminess of Paris When It Sizzles. Also, Kate Hudson is really delightful as Emma and all the other characters she gets to play in the book scenes (Ylva, Ilsa, Eldora to Anna) as Alex falls in love with her, both on and off the page. Luke Wilson as Alex is sort of lukewarm in general but that’s sort of his schtick so I didn’t mind it too much. This is a fun romantic comedy that is a little different than the usual formula.

Both are still keepers for the collection though Paris When It Sizzles is one that really shouldn’t be re-watched very often. I’ll stick with Hepburn’s better Paris comedy, Charade. Oh, there’s the next paired re-watch with Charade and the lackluster remake, The Truth About Charlie (though Mark Walberg is adorable per usual)! I own both of those too which surpised me too LOL

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Oceans…the final frontier

 

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A side by side image of a reef taken just months apart from Chasing Coral [Image Source]

I am not a good swimmer. I am still thankful I somehow managed to pass the swimming unit in gym class. I have never much progressed beyond the doggie paddle to be quite frank. But water has always been a love of mine. I adored being near it, watching it. I brave my hatred of sand and sun for it. I loved, even more, being out on it. I don’t come from much of a boating family but we often took boats during our travels and I was lucky enough to have a friend’s family adopt me a few summers for their family boat trips on Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence. It is perhaps another thing that bothers me about where I live in Florida. On a peninsula,  covered in lakes, I managed to find a town that doesn’t have much water to it. Water is close by in most directions. But I don’t see it on a daily basis unless I go looking for it.

In 5th grade, all my friends and I went through the “I’m going to be a marine biologist” phase. Seriously, I was looking through the pages of my 5th grade “yearbook” the other day and at least a quarter of the girls in my class wrote that down for their answer to that question. I know all of us, at least the ones I’m still in contact with, are not in any kind of science field. That’s a different discussion. I’m not sure why we were all in that stage. We had a very science-friendly classroom that year; we raised baby snapping turtles and visited the swamp for our class field trip. It was awesome. I just know a part of me never really grew out of it even as I started to realize that science involved a lot of math and I wasn’t very good at that.

So, fast forward to 8th grade and our first research paper. We were given a list of prompts to pick and I chose the one that leaped out at me, “Discuss why ocean pollution needs to be addressed on a national and international level.” I proceeded to fill 10 pages, single-spaced, of facts and figures and reasons why we needed to worry about that. Keep in mind this was supposed to be about a 6-page double-spaced paper. I still have this paper – one of many research papers I’ve written over the years and I think it’s one of my favorites because I was still so full of hope when I wrote it. I truly believed all those facts and figures meant we could do something to help. That, of course, we would because well, the facts said we should. Science didn’t lie.

I watched Chasing Coral recently. It’s much along the same lines as Chasing Ice, just coral reefs instead of glaciers. It made me cry. I remember tearing up with Chasing Ice but there were some major tears during Chasing Coral because the 8th grader in me is so disappointed. She is even more disappointed and frustrated and just plain angry than I think the 32-year-old me is. Even as I read yet another article on how climate change is being ignored, willfully denied and/or actively encouraged by those who should be doing something about it. Our oceans are the balance of our planet. As they go, so do all of us. How we cannot act when they are sending up major distress signals be it by coral bleaching or unheard of hurricane seasons? I guess in the end we’ll get what we deserve. Is it petty to hope the climate change deniers get it first?

But, I will not end on a petty note. I’ll end on a passionate note. On the note of an 8th grader who believed her words and research could make someone sit up and take notice and do something about it.

The damages and impacts on the environment, the marine life, and humans that marine pollution is causing still isn’t enough for governments to realize that by polluting the ocean, they’re polluting us. The ocean’s delicate balance and relationship with us is being pusher further past its limit each day…The science fiction movies of the 1950s and 1960s often depicted space as the growing frontier. Why not stay closer to home? The ocean’s depths hold just as much possibility as space, but not for much longer…Do you really want your grandchildren asking you what a blue ocean looks like? I doubt it, but to pass a clean and blue ocean onto our children and their children, we must take steps to protect the ocean and save it from ourselves. And we must take them now. For as Arthur C. Clarke said, “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.”

In which I pretend it’s Fall outside

This is the time of year I really, really hate living in Florida. Not just hate, I am angry that I live in this state by this time of year. I want to be frolicking in leaves, wearing cute scarves and pea coats while cuddling up with a book and hot mug of tea as a deliciously crisp breeze rattles the window. Instead, I’m still sweating like a pig when I set foot outside and groaning as I turn the A/C down another degree because it’s still that gross outside. As someone who lived for fall and winter (I’ve actually always kind of loathed summer weather and find it suspicious when it’s that sunny all. the. time), Florida and I don’t actually get on well most of the time. Except for January and February when, at least in northern Florida, we get nice, cold nights with a delightful frost over everything. I live for those days.

So, instead, I just start pretending it’s fall outside my doors. I buy all the apply, harvest spicy candles I can find, wear my scarves indoors at all times, switch my kitchen towels over to leaves and Halloween and generally just take one to the chin with the A/C because I start cooking up a storm again with crock pot and stove. So, I share one of my new-found delightfully autumn recipes with you today. I was so keen to dive in, I have no photos but the original site link (included below), has great ones! I did make the recipe smaller for me – mine came out with 4 servings instead of the 6 servings of the original but I recommend this whole-heartedly! And it was fairly easy to put together once I got past the peeling of apples. I really am not good at peeling anything. It’s a kitchen skill I need to improve! This also has the sheet pan aspect going for it – throw everything on a cookie sheet and let bake!

Pork Chops and Apples Sheet Pan dinner [original recipe for 6]

I served this with frozen green beans and it’s been a great combo. The apples serve as your “potatoes” and as someone who has a sweet tooth, I love the change up from the usual sides. I bet you could switch them out for sweet potatoes though with just a few adjustments if you prefer.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb. boneless pork chops, thin cut
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 apples, peeled and sliced (I used Honeycrisp apples – the slight tartness mellowed well in cooking. I am betting Empire apples would be delicious but those are hard to find in the South in my experience)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Brush sheet pan with olive oil. [Note: I put parchment paper down first to help with clean-up)
  2. Place pork chops on the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir apples together with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Pour apples onto the sheet pan with pork chops.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until pork chops are cooked through and apples are tender.

 

 

Jackaby

It is always sad to say goodbye to a good book series. Not that it’s ever really goodbye. The books are always waiting there for you on the shelf or on the Kindle for you to re-visit. Books are comforting that way; they are always just patiently waiting for the next reading.

Things got a little crazy for me to write about this series when I finished the last book (the same day I started reading it; it’s one of those up until 2am because you have to know how it finishes kind of books). This is also the first series since Harry Potter that I pre-ordered the book. Of course, a little differently these days. I ordered the Kindle version so I wake up on release day and there it was, just waiting for me! A bit easier on your day that the agonizing wait for the mailman to show up. So, that should give you some idea of how excited, and devastated, I was for this last book. Last books are nerve-wracking. Will the author answer all the questions? Will they kill off a beloved character? Will they kill off more than one? What new characters will they throw into the mix at the eleventh hour? And as those questions race through your mind, there is one ever-present chant: please don’t screw it up. As a reader, it’s stressful. I can’t imagine being a writer and having to deal with it.

So, to the series at hand. Jackaby. From the start, I adored the idea of this book long before I read it. R.F. Jackaby, a supernatural detective in an alternative Boston-like town takes on an intrepid young woman who’s escaped conformity in Britain for the New World as his assistant.  Jackaby was, as I believe I described in him a previous blog post, a cross between the brothers from Supernatural and the Doctor with a dash of Sherlock. He was delightful. But, and I think this is the coolest part of this series, he was misleading. In fact, the series being called Jackaby is misleading because this is very much a series of books more about his assistant, Abigail Rook, the aforementioned intrepid young woman. Rook is who writes down the stories so they are told from her perspective, Jackaby’s Watson if you like. Unlike Watson though, Rook is very much a leading lady of her own story. She’s the one who likes the detecting work; Jackaby just happens to be the Seer, the person who can see and knows about the supernatural world. Over four books, their partnership is lovely to watch grow but from the start, it is an equal partnership and that is rare even in fiction.

To the last installment of the series, The Dire King. For three books we’ve been leading up to the idea that a single intelligence has been causing all the mayhem in the first three books and now the final goal and villain are revealed. The author did not disappoint. He answered pretty much everything, including some last minute questions he threw in there. He certainly killed off a lot of characters; there were tears. However, as there is a supernatural bent to the story, a few came back, in the end, to make sure there was at least a happier ending that might be expected. As I noted in my review right after finishing reading: In many ways, I could often see the twists coming in this book – subtlety isn’t the point of the plot. These books have always shone because of their characters. These are people I want to be friends with, fight alongside with, have daring, unbelievable adventures with. I am only too sorry to find, as usual, some of the best people I know are fictional. I shall miss Jackaby, Abigail, Jenny, and Charlie.

So, I bid adieu (for now) to this series as I move on to others on my list but I recommend you make the acquaintance of Jackaby and Co. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Collecting at WDW

I am behind, so behind, on listening to the three podcasts I haven’t abandoned because…time. So, this is a response to a month old WDWRadio podcast about things to collect at Walt Disney World. I am a collector, less so now than when I was a kid. As a kid, I may have been more a borderline hoarder. I am more selective these days but the collections I still have almost all have a Disney tie. Exhibits A-D:

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A recent snapshot of my WDW pin collection; still have room to grow!

1) Pins. Let’s start with the obvious one when it comes to me. Mom and Dad had no idea what they were starting when they brought me that first lanyard with four tiny little pins from each park back in 2000. I outgrew the lanyards a long time ago and display my collection on a pegboard now. I know, I know. You’re supposed to wear and trade them but I put a lot of thought into my pins. I pick characters or movies to hunt out each trip or buy pins to commemorate certain events I attend in the parks or even certain trips. These are touchstones for me, not something to trade away. I bought a Cinderella pin the year I did WDW with my best friend from high school and that’s her favorite character. I hunted an entire trip to find a Hunchback of Notre Dame pin one year (I finally hunted it up in the Animation store at DHS – I really miss that store). I have pins from all the festivals I’ve gotten to (Flower & Garden, Food & Wine). Each party I’ve gotten to attend has a pin; I have pins for things that don’t exist anymore (Osborne Spectacular of Lights is one of my favorite pins). I expanded my collection to include Disneyland pins for my first trip back to the original parks in 2012 and then for my trip last year in 2016. I love looking on my board and remembering where all the pins came from and which trip they belong to.

2) Maps. In re-organizing my giant memory chest a year or so ago, I found I’d stopped collecting these (I hadn’t really realized I was collecting them). I meant to start back up this year but I rely so much on the app now, I never think to grab a map as a souvenir. I’ll go again at least once this year so I need to get maps! As a kid though, I was religious in keeping a map from each park for each trip and they are a blast to look through now. To watch the parks grow and change over time is a true Disney Nerd moment.

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I am especially proud of that bottom middle one! RIP Discovery Island

3) Postcards. These are something else I often buy but don’t think that I’m collecting them per say. However, I have postcards everywhere – whether it’s a postcard of the parks or a postcard version of a piece of art I couldn’t afford – I have tons of these, some out for display but most stored away. I always had in the back of my mind I would frame and display all these eventually. Maybe someday I will. I really should just go for a “Disney Wall” some place in my apartment and see what I end up with.

 

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Apparently, I really liked that one that I bought it twice LOL

 

4) Books. Disney, hear me out. Give me a bookstore in Disney Springs already. Just take my money! I will give it to you. I have to hunt for books in the parks these days. There used to be some guarantee go-to spots to find them but even most of those are gone now (The Writer’s Stop, The Animation Shop (we lost so much when this went away clearly), the book wall in World of Disney). As a bookworm, I love to pick up books when I travel. As a kid, I collected the Disney history books in the parks including the coveted Since the World Began by Jeff Kurtti which I lugged all over the Magic Kingdom one trip (I just had to buy it early in the day). These days I pick up books wherever I can find them on property. The gift shop tucked back in Fantasyland often has some of the Beauty and the Beast books being published (though not all of them, Belle is disappointed in you Disney). You can also usually hunt out the Figment comics in the gift shop after the ride and, oddly enough, I have good luck finding them at the Contemporary Resort. I may have swooned on my last Disneyland trip when I found an ENTIRE WALL of books in the shop attached to their Animation area. Seriously Disney, take all the books (your publishing arm pushes out enough of them) and put them in a small shop in Disney Springs. I could probably single-handedly keep it open for you.

I am alive!

So, September. Been a month of ups and downs for me. I started out with a fun stomach virus that wouldn’t go away, developing a fun infection from it that landed me in the ER a day before a hurricane was slated to arrive in Tallahassee and on the day I was supposed to drive down to Orlando to start a vacation. So, vacation started two days later after the storm had passed and I was on the mend. After a drive that normally takes me 4 hours took almost 7, I finally landed in my happy place.

I have written before, and I am sure I will again, about why I keep going back to the land of the Mouse. In many ways, it is going home. I grew up there. I am happy, safe, and content there. Even amongst the crowds and crying children. The heat was not fun this trip and the World was looking less than its best after a hurricane eye barreled through it a few days prior. But it was still home.

on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

My nephew meeting Eeyore for the first time. Photo: Scott Thomas

There is also the added joy of getting to share that all with my nephew. This was his first official “trip” to WDW; he’d been for a day here and there since he’s growing up so close to the World. This was the trip of his first breakfast at Crystal Palace (loved the characters!) and his first ride on Dumbo (he was unimpressed). I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. The wonder as he meets characters is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. He won’t remember it but I will and that’s the point. At this age, you’re not taking the kids for them. It’s for you. So you have that moment, that memory, to call upon on the days you’re stuck in meetings or the car is breaking down or, and this will happen, the day when he’s older and having a meltdown in the middle of Main Street USA.

Another reason to keep going is there is always something new to try or see or ride. I finally had time this trip to try out Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. It’s an interactive scavenger hunt/card game that you play throughout the park. It’s free with admission and comes with fun trading cards that you get a new set every trip! Fun souvenirs and free! You don’t find that often at Disney. Dad and I had fun wandering through the park, finding the different kiosks to play the game. And getting schooled by the kids playing it in front of us but hey, the eight-year-old had good advice for this novice!

We tried another new scavenger hunt at Epcot, the Remy Hunt and Squeak that is part of the Food & Wine Festival. This was harder than it looked! We never did find the one in the Outpost but successfully hunted up Remy in all the countries and booths to be rewarded with a Remy keychain in the end. Being on the mend from stomach flu, I could not partake in Food and Wine as hardily as I would have liked but I did pick up some creme brulee with raspberries in France. I am only so strong in resisting.

Bonus, my parents hadn’t done Flight of Passage yet in Pandora so I got to ride with them for their first time. There is nothing cooler than taking people on a new ride when you know what’s coming and they don’t! As expected, they really enjoyed it and I did too for the second time around. One of the coolest attractions Disney has put out in years in my opinion. I also talked them into trying the Satu’li Canteen one night which remains delicious (I tried a bowl this time – that beef was so good, even at the end of the night!)

I am working through my post-trip slump now but I’ll come out of it. Trying to figure out if I can fit a quick two days in at the parks before a trip home in November 😉 One can never have too many trips to WDW in one year after all.

 

A moment

[Note: I started this post right after Charlotteville but kept holding back on sharing it as I worried I was rambling too much and missing facts and in general not making sense but I still feel the need to share so here it is.]

I often struggle to put into words what I feel at times like this. I tend to keep politics off this blog but every once in awhile, I feel the need to comment. I have a hard time saying what I want to say though articulately and in a way that doesn’t just sound like an impassioned outburst of emotions rather than something thought through logically with facts. But I’m not sure I can do that for this one.

A woman died over the weekend. She was my exact age. She died because she was standing up and speaking out when she saw something was not right. I wish I was more like her. I find myself often tongue tied with the current state of affairs. So sunk in rage and depression and shame I retweet articles rather than write my own. Others seem to be much better equipped to say what I feel in my heart and know in my mind. But if she could do it, stand in the actual face of the problems of our country, the least I can do is write about it from my safe desk in my safe apartment.

This is not normal. John Oliver asked us to remember that after the election last year. I find I say it to myself daily as I watch the news, read the tweets and watch in disbelief as our country becomes the worst parody of itself. America and its democracy have always been a double edged sword; freedom of speech means freedom for everyone, even those you would spend your life screaming about how wrong they are. But you can scream and so can they. It is when one side begins to take action to limit the other from speaking that we have our problem. However, in the case of Charlotteville, unlike our president’s opinion apparently, I stand firmly in the camp that that sort of speech, the speech meant to incite hatred and violence, is wrong and should not be protected. There are very clear sides in this case and only one side that is right. We have fought wars, American men and women have died, over this sort of hate and now it’s apparently being tolerated by our administration on our own soil.

I find I must admit I just do not have it in me to understand. How can you have that much hatred for people you have never met simply because they look or believe something different from you? How can this group of people, arguably the most privileged in the world, feel that disenfranchised? That under attack? That scared? I know I come from an extreme place of privilege, the one tick against me being my gender, so I always try to remember that as I process things like this. But no, I’m sorry, there can only be one response which is both logical and emotional…THIS. IS. WRONG.

Wrong on so many levels, I cannot begin to delineate them. These are people who are living their lives, trying to raise their families and move ahead in the world, same as you and me. They have done nothing to you. The problem is not them, it is you and whatever twisted path you walked to come to this point. I am sure you have excuses. They are lame. This behavior is inexcusable and perhaps worst of all to you, un-American. We are supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. The land that takes in those who cannot find refuge elsewhere. Our country would not be what it is today without the many immigrants and outcasts that have found a place to call home on our shores. This used to be something we celebrated. When did it become something we were ashamed of, something we wanted to forgot or actively denounce? In making that reputation for ourselves, we made mistakes. We have never been as free as we liked the world to think. There have always been caveats. We’ve closed our doors to certain groups out of fear, bigotry, pride in the past and we’re doing so again. Perhaps what history should teach us better than most is there is no closing the door. No going back to an isolated existence. The world is at our doorstep and the doorbell is going to keep ringing.

Ironic in many ways that those who marched this weekend may be descendants of those who were once shunned as immigrants in those earlier waves. Those greeted with signs of “No Irish.” My ancestors were. What happened over the weekend was about more than immigrants or racism or gender or religion or sexual preference. It was about a bunch of people who are scared and therefore want to make sure everyone else is scared with them. That fear and ignorance and willful hatred helped last November happen. So, I will not be scared. I will be angry that we allowed this to happen and fight to make sure we do better, that we are better. But I will not let them scare me. They are wrong and they will not win.