Sunday, June 26, 2011

3 fantastic independent films!

I often worry about watching any independent films, you know, with the lack of MPAA ratings and such. Also, some of them tend to apparently believe that you need to be avant-garde or raunchy and "cutting-edge" to be good. So, I stick to those that are recommended, or you can tell by the trailers will be okay. Speaking of trailers, I've included the trailers as well.
Anyhow, I've recently watched three very different, but all superb indies.
1. "An Education"
Firstly, this has a stellar cast - Carey Mulligan (one of the Bennet sisters in P&P), Olivia Williams (who I loved in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse"), Alfred Molina, and Rosamund Pike (also from P&P, she's so luminescent!), and the superb Emma Thompson. Those were just the names I recognized.
Carey plays Jenny, a 16-soon-to-be-17-year-old student working toward being accepted into Oxford. You're not quite sure how much of this is because she wants to, or her father (Molina) wants her to.
Then she meets David Goldman, an adventurous man over twice her age. David is played beautifully by Peter Sarsgaard (and by beautifully, I mean it's a nuanced and complex performance). Jenny gets caught up in David's world with his friends Helen (Pike) and Danny (played by Dominic Cooper, who seems to just ooze sex appeal with no apparent effort).
I have to admit, I got concerned that this was glorifying what I saw as a potentially dangerous and very inappropriate relationship, but, without spoiling anything, it's not.
I really enjoyed this and found it very touching.
7 out of 10.

2."Sweet Land"
This movie was so fantastically realized! "Twilight" fans will know Elizabeth Reasor, but only by name. She is wonderfully unrecognizable as German immigrant, Inge, who has come as a postal bride for Olaf, a Norwegian farmer in rural Minnesota. The problem is she has arrived post World War I and Germans are viewed with, at the very least, suspicion, if not outright hostility. Alan Cuming is uncharacteristically subdued as Frandsen, Olaf's more outspoken friend. He's married to level-headed Brownie, played by Alex Kingston (who, I guess, was on ER).
Listen, all the performances in this movie are exceptional, from the accents that almost everyone has (American, German, Norwegian, and in between), to the quiet yet compelling realization of their divers characters. But, above and beyond all these is Tim Guinee, who plays quiet Olaf. To have very few lines and have to act almost everything out through looks and reactions, but still get across what you need to is so underappreciated it's almost laughable. His performance is sweet, but strong, a bit naive, but smart. I just can't see enough good things about him - just watch this sweet sweet love story.
Be warned the first 9 minutes are a bit jumbled and a little confusing. Let me save you some headache. An older Lars, at the death of older Inge, remembers when Olaf died a few decades before that Inge told him about how they met. Then you get into the actual story. Get past the first 9 minutes (watch it, it comes around in the end), but just hang in there.
8 out of 10 stars

3. "Arranged"
I cannot say enough good things about this film. Rochel, an orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a Muslim, both work at an elementary school in Brooklyn. We first see them at a meeting where they are all learning how they'll have to deal with many cultural differences in the student body. They strike up a friendship that only strengthens when they both go through their culture's different paths to a somewhat arranged marriage.
It's a quiet movie about two women who want to be strong and also honor their culture, religion, and heritage. If you've ever been on the receiving end of "helpful intolerance" (you know, those people who try to help you escape what they see as an oppresive and unsatisfactory life), you'll empathize when the principal tries to chat with these two teachers and "help" them out. Having said that, there aren't any bad guys (not even the principal) - just people with different lifestyles and viewpoints trying to interact and get along. It does all this without being maudlin, it even pokes fun at it a little when Rochelle and Nasira are at a park and their younger family members are playing and Nasira says, "someone should be shooting a world peace commercial right now."
A beautiful movie! 9 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spicy (or not) Chicken sandwiches with cilantro-lime mayo

I love summer meals, don't you? Especially anything with cilantro! yummy!!! This recipe is soooooo easy! You just have to remember to get the chicken marinating earlier in the day, but once it's time to cook it, you'll have dinner ready in ten minutes!
I omitted the hot sauce altogether (neither my husband nor my kids are fans of spicy stuff) and it turned out great! The crunch on these is great (it's tortilla chips!). For my girls, I just cut up the chicken into strips and gave them the Kaiser rolls on the side.
As you can see above, we had ours with a simple salad that had a Spring/Baby Spinach mix with sliced strawberries, crumbled bacon, and mozzarella cubes. You honestly don't even need a sauce over it, but Lighthouse's Raspberry Walnut salad dressing would be a fantastic choice.
The link is at the bottom for the recipe.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another book review...

My Fair Godmother (My Fair Godmother, #1)My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started this book out of obligation. My cute neighbor dropped it off to me and I figured I had to at least try it, despite the fact that it is very much not the kind of book I normally read. I'll tell you what - I was surprised by how often I wanted to pick it back up and find out what happened to the characters! I was actually surprised by some of the plot twists and felt that the whole thing was fun and adventurous.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Craft organization for the kids

I've been wanting to have something to organize all my daughter's craft stuff. I had it all in a bin before, but that ended up being a big mess, of course. Then, it just was a huge mess all over the floor at the bottom of the basement stairs :) So, I was keeping my eye out for something on KSL classifieds and found this nightstand for FREE! Yay for KSL :) I forgot to take a before picture, of course. I'm still trying to remember to take pictures of any of the process at all. Anyhow, instead of trying to type between the pics and having to move everything around, I'll just type all the shtuff up front and then you can scroll through the pics. Or, just skip over what I type and look at the pics.
I didn't worry too much about sanding because it was just cheap plastic vinyl and the paint I used (Martha Stewart's "Popcorn") was a primer and paint in one deal. I just used a $2.50 sample and painted the front, one side, and drawer fronts. Then on the left side, I used chalkboard spray paint that I got at Home Depot for under $5. Actually, I sprayed the chalkboard paint first, then painted it white (it took several coats, but I didn't have to buy any more).
The top was a little trickier, as the veneer was coming off in several spots, so I knew even if I did sand it great, you'd be able to see the change in texture. So, I got a yard of fabric from Walmart for $4.50 and mod podged it on the top and inside the drawers. On the top, I sealed it with a few coats of varnish, but left the inside of the drawers as is.
The handles I spray painted copper, then brushed black acrylic paint over and used a soft cloth to rub some off. If I rubbed too much off, I just dry painted over that area with the black.
Anyhow, there's some shoddy workmanship (no painter's tape to be found in the house), and I do want to eventually wax over it, but I think it turned out pretty great. And now, all her crayons, markers, papers, coloring books, scissors, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda are out of my sight :)

Linking up to these parties:

Organize and Decorate Everything

Beyond The Picket Fence

Hilarious "STOMP" performance!

I just watch the dvd of a STOMP performance - well, some of it. As I got it from the library there are some major scratches that prevent me from viewing a lot of it. Thankfully, there's some posted on YouTube. Which is great, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see the last half of this gem:

I don't know what the tall black guy is on... though I'm pretty sure it's some form of awesomeness! I love, well everything he does in this, but most especially when he's trying to eat one of his dreadlocks, when his newspaper "bird" "poops" on the white guy in the middle, and when he's a superhero. You can tell that the white guy is trying so very hard not to laugh, not altogether succefully either! If you've never seen them before (what rock are you living under?), you should really check out the DVD - it's just called "STOMP". And if you have seen them before, which I was lucky enough to, it's still a treat!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Super simple Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe

Now, try saying that fast 3 times :) This recipe is a major hit with adults and kids alike - as well as the cook! It's super simple, as the title explains.

2-4 chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise
1 egg, lightly beaten
cooking oil
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C vinegar
1/4 C ketchup
1 T soy sauce
1/2 t garlic powder (or garlic salt)

Heat cooking oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Place beaten egg in a shalow dish.
Pour cornstarch into large ziplock bag.
Dip chicken in egg and place in bag with cornstarch.
Shake bag to coat chicken, then place chicken in frying pan.

Cook until golden, then place in 8X8 baking dish.
Mix together remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken.

Your sauce will be a bit darker as I was a bit daft and forgot to add soy sauce to mine. I also apparently forgot to take a picture at the end... oops :)
Anyhow, just stick this in 350-degree oven for an hour and serve over rice. For super yummy rice, just substitute half the water with coconut milk.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A new favorite movie composer

I saw a fantastic movie today, but I can't think straight enough to review it. But I will soon.
But, just real quickly, I have discovered a new film composer whose stuff I'm loving through the movie "House of Flying Daggers." The movie itself was pretty good (great fight choreography, tragic love, gorgeous/beautiful/captivating cinematography), but I loved the music. So, I started looking up other songs by the composer, Shigeru Umebayashi. Beautiful, beautiful stuff!

Here's some of my faves of his that I've found so far...

and this last one is the one that made me fall in love with his compositions in "House of Flying Daggers"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two cute etsy artists

Riverton has an arts festival every year and I usually just have the kids do crafts and jump in the bouncy castles. It's free admission and then you just pay per craft (ranging from $0.25-$8.00) and they usually have dance groups and bands performing. Fun stuff!
Anyhow, this year I actually broke down and bought some stuff from a couple of cute ladies who both have etsy sites. There was some other fantastic and beautiful stuff, but I really shouldn't have even spent what I did, so I think it says something about these ladies that I was even tempted, let alone gave into temptation :)

First, I actually bought a necklace! If you know me, I hardly ever wear jewelry, other than my wedding ring and watch. But, I just couldn't pass up this fantastically chunky necklace. Normally I have a hard time finding something that strikes the right balance of being chunky, but not overwhelming and I feel this was perfect:

And I also got a cute little crown necklace for Ava for only $5. Not only that, but after the first chain broke, and the second one fell off, what did she do? She got another crown charm and put it on a different kind of chain for us! That's customer service! Go to her etsy site at:
Then there was another lady there selling those little kits that have the crayons, colored pencils, and paper. But these had another bonus - the middle was a little chalkboard! So cute!!!
Her etsy site is
Check them out! They have some super cute other stuff as well!!!

In honor of a new season of So You Think You Can Dance?

How can I possibly post all my favorite dances from the past 7 seasons? There isn't enough room, but I'd like to post some of my very faves since this new season is going to kick "A" :)

First, here's the only ballroom dancer to get in this year. Dancing with Pasha (*drool*)

Jeannine and Jason dance a Travis Wall contemporary in season 5

Katee and Joshua from season 4(?) dancing a Samba. This was so the power couple that season (next in line would probably be Mark and Chelsea).

Ellenore and Jakob from season 6 dancing my favorite Sonya routine (Mark and Courtney dancing "The Garden" would be my second fave Sonya routine)

Oh no! I forgot my other favorite Sonya routine! :) Alex and Allison dancing to "Hallelujah" - so beautiful!

Speaking of Alex, how about one of the most surprising hip hop performances ever?! Sorry for the quality, most of the vids had embeding disabled

Kayla and Kupono dancing "Addiction" by the dancing genius that is Mia Michals

Sexiest Argentine Tango and there's only ONE video posted on YouTube and it won't let me embed it. *grrrr* Go check out Lauren and Pasha (oh big surprise) from season 7

The dance that made me fall in love with Mia Michaels. Lacey and Kameron from season 3:

And, how do I choose a Wade Robson routine to share? I don't... I choose a few :)

"Ramalama" from season 2

How do I not include the Hummingbird dance? I think this is season 3

Brandon and Janette dancing to "Ruby Blue". Janette got gipped! She should have made it to semi-finals, at least!

How do you not include one of the very first NappyTap routines? Mark and Chelsea "Bleeding Love"

And I can't resist one more glorious Mark routine - "The Garden" :)

Oh, okay, I could go on and on, but I won't. Must stop watching dance vids... must.... stop :)

New links

Check out the links over there in the sidebar! I added some of my favorite sights - subcategorized, of course! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

BBC's Sherlock Holmes

I have to confess, I haven't seen many Sherlock Holmes films - the pipe-smoking pompous know-it-all detective aided by the bumbling fool just never interested me, I guess. I did see the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law movie and thought it was fun and enjoyable. I just recently rented "The Hound of the Baskervilles," which I found out, through the featurettes, was one of Arthur Conan Doyle's most popular Holmes novels.
The only actor I was familiar with was Richard E Grant (A&E's fantastic Scarlet Pimpernell, also the dad on "Penelope"), whom I'm a big of. And he's fantastic in this as well. As Holmes, they cast Australian Richard Roxburgh, who has such an interesting screen presence. He seems a really great mix of being able to pass as an English gentleman, but there's something off about him, which works great.
And Ian Hart as Dr. Watson is personable and SMART! I love that there was geniune frustration between Watson and Holmes.
The supporting cast is beyond fantastic as well. John Nettles, who plays Dr. Mortimer is able to carry off the telling of the legend of the curse of the hound of the Baskervilles - a feat not to be taken lightly. What could have been the most cheesy part of the movie ends up being actually creepy and feels almost Shakespearean.
This movie was superbly done from the acting, to directing, the CGI is a little cheesy, but for a small budget, it was passable. It's eery and genuinely creepy. Love it! I would definitely recommend this one!

Here is the clip of Mortimer explaining the legend. You need to forward it to 7:15, where it begins. It only goes till about 8:30, so super short and will give you a flavor. The whole clip is actually the beginning of the movie if you want to watch the whole 9:40 to get a better idea.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Were you "one of those" who missed "Arrested Development?"

I had caught a few episodes here and there when Arrested Development was on the air and remembered it being funny... boy, was I wrong. It's HILARIOUS! It's right up there with "Scrubs" and "The Big Bang Theory!"
If you aren't familiar with the story line, it's pretty simple:

Level-headed son Michael Bluth takes over family affairs after his father is imprisoned. But the rest of his spoiled, dysfunctional family are making his job unbearable.

You have GOB (pronounced like Job from the bible), Michal's older, womanizing, money-spending, aspiring magician brother, whose tricks don't always work out the way they're supposed to. I couldn't find the clip I wanted of him doing a coffin trick at his Dad's funeral, but here's the opening of his act on stage (he ALWAYS plays this music):

Then you have his twin sister Lindsay, who isn't the brightest crayon in the box. And she is married to former Dr. Tobias Funke, who has the most horrible habit of saying double entendres and not realizing it. Some fabulous person put together this compilation:

You have the baby of the family, Buster, who is still treated like a baby.

You have the patriarch in jail, who at first is finding it a bit pleasant.
Then the matriarch, who is a sharp-tongued ego-centric booze-hound in such a delightful way.
Then you have Michael's son, George Michael, and Lindsay's daughter Maibe who also have their own awkwardness going on.

There are a few fantastic things about this show:
It's all so politically incorrect, but the joke's on the main characters, not the group they're mocking.
Some of the most quotable lines (i.e. After Gob finds out he has a son,
Gob: What is this.... feeling?
Michael: What you're feeling is what most people think of as a feeling.
Gob: It isn't envy. I'm not hungry.
Michael: It's love Gob.
Gob: I know what an erection feels like, Michael. This is the opposite, it's like my heart is getting hard.)

The most crass and vulgar stuff gets bleeped out. Which is NOT a shame. What's funny is knowing that a character is saying something so completely disguisting and how the other characters react to it. The bleeps that I have no idea what they might be bleeping out are just as funny as the bleeps where I do know what they're bleeping out.
It's witty and clever and why wasn't this more popular? Get the DVD's (there are 3 seasons) and be prepared to laugh your guts out!
I leave you with the several variations of a theme on "the chicken dance"

Photo Block tutorial

These are my belated Mother's day gifts to my mom and mother-in-law. You could do them for birthdays, Christmas, or just because though. What's great is there's a pic on each side of the picture blocks, so they can switch up which picture is showing, and there are four different quotes on the larger block about grandparents.
Namely: "Some of my greatest blessings call me Grandma"
"Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your kids"
"Grandchildren: the only people who can get more out of you than the IRS"
"No cowboy was ever quicker on the draw than a grandparent pulling a picture out of a wallet"
I just got one 4x4 from Home Depot, though it's really closer to 3.25x3.25 and used a circular saw (from my awesome neighbor again!) to cut it into the sizes I wanted.
Then I obviously sanded them.
I then spray painted them copper

Then I painted them antique white with acryllic paint. Then I just distressed them with some sandpaper.
Next, I modpodged the pictures on. I wanted to make sure they were cropped the exact way I wanted them, so I cropped them and then dragged the images to a Word document and just printed them on normal paper (I printed them down at the local UPS store).
Then I slapped on some varnish, so the pics would be protected.
For the main block - I didn't think I could use the CitraSolv technique since it says it cleans paint off surfaces and I didn't want that! I also don't have a Silhouette machine. So, I searched blogland and found a post about using ModPodge. For some reason I can't find the one I used, but heres the link to another one:
This is what mine looked like partway through. Just make sure you don't rub too hard, or the ink will come off with the paper. Where that happened, I just took a permanent marker and filled it in.

My mother-in-law's only grandchildren are ours, but I know she'll have more; plus only 2 blocks would have looked odd, so on the other blocks I used the paper modpodge technique for this:

The other great thing is that you not only can change what picture is showing, but also how they're stacked. I only took one other picture of an alternative:

Friday, June 3, 2011

A link to "Snide Remarks: Mysterious Kin"

I can't remember how I heard about this blog, but Eric Snider is hilarious! He also happens to be an acceptably accurate movie reviewer (meaning his opinions of movies match mine maybe 60% of the time).
Some favorite quotes from the article:

If it's a girl, you have to paint everything pink and buy clothes with flowers and lace, and start saving up a dowry so that she will attract high-quality suitors.

This isn't a hermaphrodite/Middlesex/Jamie Lee Curtis situation.

The parents are tired of society putting all these DEMANDS on them, always INSISTING that a person's gender is determined by something as random and arbitrary as whether he or she has a ding-dong or a hoo-ha.

Then we'll discuss the infant's social circle and political views, maybe talk about what movies it's seen lately, who it follows on Twitter, and so forth. Then, eventually, maybe I'll get around to asking whether it's a boy or a girl. But that's pretty far down the list.

Grrrr....the powers that be in blogland apparently don't want me to put any links in - at least that's what I assume since it isn't working. Okay, a pain, but just copy and past this into your web browser: