Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving War

First off, I don't mean the war on Thanksgiving. I think that's a thing. People get mad, frustrated that Christmas is eclipsing Thanksgiving. Christmas trees up before Thanksgiving? An elf drowns a baby reindeer. Or so the plentiful Save Thanksgiving e-cards claim on social media. But when those twinkly lights first make their appearance, I get excited. I love the Christmas season. I love being surrounded by happy songs, bright lights, and that heavenly Christmas tree smell. Plus, I get to bake as many cookies as I want, unjudged. Win!

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for celebrating Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Well, I love the traditional Thanksgiving. I enjoy gathering with friends and family, sharing what we're thankful, and taking time to be grateful for the wonderful relationships in our lives. But for me, a wife and mother, Thanksgiving is WAY more work than Christmas. Christmas prep is spread out over weeks; Thanksgiving happens all within a few days. It isn't like you can make stuffing three weeks in advance. Christmas is relaxing, because most of the work is already done. Christmas dinner has lower expectations than Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving is all about the food.

And the shopping. I'm not a fan of stores being open on Thanksgiving. I've worked retail, my husband currently works retail. Opening on Thanksgiving steals time and creates unnecessary stress. End rant on Black Thursday.

Back to the food, and good ol' Turkey day. The Thanksgiving War began a couple of Thanksgivings after my sister's then-boyfriend, now-hubby became comfortable with our family. Comfortable enough to call us out on the jello salad.

As far back as I can remember, we've had a jello salad at Thanksgiving. A lime jello salad, to be exact. The ingredients consist of lime jello, cream cheese, and crushed pineapple, all swirled together in one green, gooey pan of deliciousness. You see, I'm in the pro-jello salad camp. As it turns out, the lime jello salad ended up being a divisive issue during those last few years when my parents, sister and I all got together for Thanksgiving (before we scattered across the country. Blame jobs if you will, but I blame the lime jello salad).

It started out with gentle teasing over the green goo. That evolved, year by year, as the teasing relationship within our family dynamic grew to extremes. It virtually took body armor to attend a meal with us. Eventually, my dad and sister abandoned my mother and me for the anti-lime jello salad side. Defectors! Traitors! My dad had apparently made behind the scenes jokes for years, but because my mom's mom was the creator of the cursed side dish, it didn't come fully out until we no longer lived close enough for her to bring it. When it turned up on the Thanksgiving dinner table without Grandma placing it there, the stage was set. It was only a matter of time, and a newcomer, until our family would be torn apart.

Not really. Those who like it, eat it. Those who don't, don't. There's still teasing, I'm sure. But I'm naturally nostalgic, and it reminds me of a childhood when Thanksgiving was spent with extended family. Three Thanksgivings in Alaska meant it still made its annual appearance, despite my husband's dislike of it. As it turns out, one of his friends defected to my side (HA!). Generally, newcomers to our family don't like it. It is, after all, lime green. But that's okay-- it leaves more for me!
The offending dish, 2014 edition.

I did a little informal FaceBook poll to see how the rest of the populace felt about jello salad. Out of 14 respondents (myself included), only 4 people claim to dislike it. One described it as, "It is the most amazing thing to have been put on this earth…Eating a bowl is like being snuggled up with puppies and rainbows and unicorns and everything else wonderful…but seriously, good stuff." So, unscientifically, for every 14 people coming to your Thanksgiving, 10 of them will clearly want a jello salad. You may want to adjust your menu accordingly.
Has jello salad had a negative impact on your family? Share your story in the comments below. Only support here, people. Only support.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Perfect Fall Movies

I love fall. It's more than just pumpkin spice lattes and instagram shots of colorful leaves. It's an opportunity to layer on scarves and jackets, feel and hear the crunch of leaves underfoot and the crisp breezes, and immerse yourself in the changing of the seasons. The most noticeable change of seasons, to me, is fall. Spring to summer? Eh, gradual warming. Winter to spring? Mud, followed by a few weeks until blooms appear. Fall to winter? Naked trees until snow arrives. But summer turning into fall? What a sight. Sometimes overnight, leaves change color. Some drift down slowly on a brand new, crisp breeze that just smells different than a summer breeze. Bonfires replace cookouts, and fall movies fill in for those summer flicks.

I hope you're getting to experience fall in all its glory, but if you'd rather immerse yourself in the cinematic world of fall, pop in one of these movies and turn your air down low so you feel a little chilled. Cover up with a warm blanket, a cup of hot apple cider, and pretend you live somewhere as picturesque in the fall as these films depict.

1. You've Got Mail
Heavens above, I love this movie. I'll find just about any excuse to watch it. I love the meet-cute, and the fact that books surround them and seem to be their own character in the film. I love the unique characters, the witty conversations, and the beautiful scenery. The film opens up with talk of fall, and buying school supplies. Fall always makes me want to buy school supplies. The storyline drifts over into winter and spring, but fall seems to be a character all of its own, as well. What a lovely story.

2. When Harry Met Sally
Even the case this movie comes in is all about fall. Much like You've Got Mail, this one starts off in the fall. The seasons changing serve as a metaphor for people growing and changing, but also as a way to show the passing of time. The first few times I saw this movie, I thought they were so old when they finally got together. Spoiler alert! Ending reference! Look away if you haven't seen this one! Recently, I realized they were only in their 30s, and probably early 30s at that. Oh, man, I feel old now.

3. Homeward Bound
As an animal lover, I adore this movie. As someone who isn't a huge fan of crying, I have to try to avoid this movie. But the characters, and their situations, and their owners…I just love them all. The plot covers the end of summer and fall through Thanksgiving, and I always think of the ending first when I think of this movie. Ergo, it makes the list.

4. Good Will Hunting
There are so many things I love about this movie. Robin Williams. How do you like them apples?! The rise of the underdog. Faith. Brilliant fall colors and heart to hearts. Yes, please.

5. Remember the Titans (and every other football movie, ever, probably)
Ah, football. Tension. Friendships. All sorts of social change. Such a great film. After all, nothing says fall like football!

6. Dead Poets Society
Sadly, I've only seen clips of this classic. But it's on my list of must-watch films, so I had to include it. It's apparently pretty famous for its fall scenes, as well as the amazing-ness that is Robin Williams.

7. Step-Mom
I can only watch this once every few years, as it is so incredibly heartbreaking. But also beautiful, and set it the fall. So there's that.

8. Beauty and the Beast
Sure, there are some wintry scenes. But the film begins in the glory of fall, with Belle dreaming of more than just a provincial life.

9. Brave
The leaves, the music, the feminism! There's so much I love about this movie. It's the perfect complement to a steaming mug of hot apple cider on a blustery fall day.

10. 101 Dalmatians
I know, I have a lot of Disney movies on here. But the puppies are born on a wild and stormy night in October, and the beginning of the movie is clearly set in early fall. So it fits. Plus, do you really need an excuse to listen to the song Cruella DeVil?

What movies are quintessentially fall for you? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spooky not Scary: Halloween movie lineup

I don't do scary movies. I've tried, and I've slept with lights on for months as a result. Since discovering my intolerance for horror, I've come up with a fun Halloween-ish movie list so I'm still included in the Halloween fun.

1. Hocus Pocus
Funny and directly linked to Halloween. It's got a great cast, but you have to be willing to look past the early 90s style and cheesiness. Also, this town seems kind of awesome. I want to live there a little…except, you know, I'd rather not live the plot of the movie.

2. Casper
Oh, child version of Christina Ricci. A nice ghost = family friendly holiday fun. I've always loved this movie, and had a bit of a crush on boy-version of Casper. I haven't seen it in ages, because Netflix doesn't love me enough to put it on Instant, but Target has it for less than $5 this week. So we'll see if I can fix that!

3. The Princess and the Frog
It isn't directly related to Halloween, but voodoo is spooky and this is a spooky time of year, so it made the list. Dr. Facilier is in my top 5 scariest villains list (topped off by the evil devil guy from The Black Cauldron, followed closely by Chernabog from Fantasia, and then Maleficent, and then Dr. Facilier.) Personally, I *don't* want to meet his friends on the other side.

4. Coralline
This one is right on the edge of scary for me. Yes, I know it's a kid's movie. Giant spiders are scary, though, any way you look at it. But the protagonist is amazing, and the whole concept is interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks, Tim Burton, for another semi-frightening stop-motion classic.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
How could a film with a song titled "This is Halloween" not make the list? I'm not a huge fan, mostly of the overall style, but my husband loves it so I'm willing to watch it every now and again (especially since he's watched so, so, so much Disney with me. So much.)

6. Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Disney's take on the legend of Sleepy Hollow is a teensy bit scary, but bearable. And adorable. They make you both like and dislike Ichabod Crane, so you're not totally rooting for or against him. It makes for an interesting narrative. And a much less scary version of Sleepy Hollow than Christina Ricci's (occasionally I still have nightmares about that, and I saw it when I was 13. Sigh. This is why I can't do horror movies.)

7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
These are the most bearable vampires I've seen (no, I don't do that "Twilight" nonsense). Plus, gymnastics is involved. So that's a plus. Spunky cheerleader takes on the undead? In a not too scary way? Count me in!

8. Phantom of the Opera
Again, not directly Halloween related. BUT, beautiful music, dangerous dungeons, and a spooky graveyard means it makes the list. Also, who doesn't want to listen to Gerard Butler and his perfect phantom performance? He's a huge part of the reason why I bought that soundtrack. Such a good movie, even if there is a hanging (I don't do hanging people. It freaks me out. I even have to look away at the beginning of Hocus Pocus, and all you see is feet. I know; I'm basically six.)

9. Monsters, Inc
I know. There's no mention of Halloween. But, MONSTERS. Hilarity. Tears of joy and sadness. It's all there. Why wouldn't we watch it every chance we get?

10. Ghostbusters
Anything with a ghost is fair game! Plus, it's funny.

Now I leave you to your film indulgence. Pop some popcorn, toss in some candy corn (Try it. It's delicious. You'll thank me. You're welcome), and hit play. Check back next week for some Fall movie love! 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Savvy Saving: how to save big at Target

When you first start seeing the “you saved…” numbers at the bottom of your receipt creep up and up, you get a tingle of excitement and pride. The more they go up, the happier you are with your saving habits. You’re encouraged to clip more coupons, scour ads for sales, and hit the web in search of the ever-elusive double coupon. But you don’t want to compromise quality too much, or you may end up spending more to replace the items. For instance, if you buy the cheapest paper towels but have to use twice as many, you’ll end up spending more to buy twice as much.
Target is known for having quality products at an affordable price. Once you add in coupons, Red Card savings and sales, you can save, save, save. There are three main components to shopping at Target successfully: have the weekly ad, use coupons wisely, and put your smart phone to use. With these combined tactics, you’ll shave ten to twenty percent off of your total off each time.
Target releases their weekly ad on Sundays, like most major retailers. It can be found in your Sunday paper or for free on their website, Target.com, and in their mobile app. Each week, they have a variety of items on sale. Be wise about what time of year you shop for certain products. No one should wait until the first week in January to buy exercise equipment; the horde of New Year’s resolution makers will hit stores like a wave, spending hundreds of dollars to buy clothing and equipment. If you hold off for a few weeks, all the unsold fitness merchandise will go on clearance. The glory of clearance at Target is that the clearance tag itself can tell you so much: the upper right corner has the amount of the discount. Depending on the popularity of the item, you may be able to wait out the price drops as the clearance goes from 15%, to 30%, to 50%, to 70% and the rarely seen, elusive 90%.

The ad doesn’t just show you what will be on clearance soon; you can use seasonal cycles to buy what you need. Back to school means sheets, towels and housewares are on sale for all those college freshmen heading off to school-- and the savvy saver who waited to buy until the sale rolled around. But my favorite part of the ad is the grocery section.
Yes! Target has groceries! Some Target stores carry more than others. Mine has refrigerated produce, frozen meat, dry goods (like pastas, sandwich bread, cereal, juice, soda), ice cream, and even a small baking section. Each week, some items will be on sale. One week it may be bread, milk and eggs. The next week may discount cereal, pasta and pasta sauce. As you scan the ad each week, make a note of what’s on sale. Within six weeks, you’ll be able to identify your stores’ sales cycle and know when to stock up and when to wait.
A bonus to shopping at Target is that you can combine offers. If you clip coupons from your newspaper, which I highly recommend, you can combine them with Target.com coupons. Yes, Target offers coupons on their website, for a variety of products. My favorite Target coupons are for the generic Target brands like Market Pantry, Simply Balanced,  and Up & Up. The generic brands are always more affordable and I have yet to find a generic Target product inferior in quality. If you prefer name-brands, Target offers coupons for those products, too. If you really love a product, like Pillsbury crescent rolls, visit their company website. You can print coupons directly off their website.

Target jumped on the mobile coupons early. You can install the Target app to your smart phone for free, and every week they add new mobile coupons. Have a manufacturer coupon, a Target printed coupon, and a Target mobile coupon? You can use two of the three, as they now only allow one Target coupon, one cartwheel, and one manufacturer coupon per item. The only caveat is that Target mobile coupons can only be used once each. So if you buy juice every week and have a mobile coupon, you can only use the mobile coupon once, or until they update the barcode (typically every week to ten days). Target also recently unveiled its Cartwheel app and website, which links to Facebook. The more you save and share, the more coupon spots you earn. So if you already have the triple savings mentioned above (Target mobile, manufacturer coupon and Target.com coupon), you can add a fourth savings: Cartwheel. All four coupons overlapping is a joyous event that takes planning, but is oh so worth it. You can also link your debit account to a Target Redcard and save an additional 5% off each receipt, plus get free shipping from orders at Target.com.
Love shopping at Target? Want to earn a gift card just by walking in the door? Double up on your smart phone skills by using the Shopkick app. You open the app, walk into Target, and earn kicks. The more kicks you earn, the higher gift card you can redeem them for. 500 kicks will net you a $2 Target gift card. But Target isn’t the only place where you can earn kicks. Other retailers, such as American Eagle, Aerie, Sports Authority, Wal-Mart and more also participate. Often, you can scan items in the store to earn additional kicks.
So shopping at Target doesn’t have to be a splurge. If you use the ad, coupons and your smart phone, it can actually help you spend less, and save more. Happy Saving!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pixar's Best Moments

I'm currently reading Ed Catmull's Creativity, Inc., a nonfiction book on management and the founding of Pixar Animation Studios. I'm learning quite a bit about their history, and getting a behind the scenes look at each film. It's a little like taking a walk down memory lane, with the person who built memory lane.

As someone who moved around a lot, I often found comfort in books and movies. Disney and Pixar aren't just super successful film studios; they're the gatekeepers to this wonderful, magical way to make any place feel like home. Since I'm feeling nostalgic about my favorite Pixar films, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite Pixar moments.

Toy Story
    I've always loved this one, because I spent my childhood truly believing my toys came alive when I left the room. How else would I keep losing and then finding them? When Toy Story was released, I had validation for my theories. Other people thought it happened, too! I wasn't alone! Each time I re-watch this favorite, I notice something new. There are so many funny moments to choose from, but my current favorite funny line is Woody's witty reply to Buzz on their first meeting, "The word I'm searching for I can't use because there are preschool toys present."

Monsters, Inc
   I can't watch this without crying. The friendship, the little girl…It's just too much. I love it. Spoiler alert! The end is my favorite moment, with Mike's hands covered in splinters. Then we see Sully open the door, and we hear Boo's voice, and his face…it just lights up. It's the best. Cue tears. Tissue, anyone?

Again, with the tears. The first ten minutes of this film are beautiful, poignant, gripping, and sprinkled with funny moments. I just love the romantic story, the old fashioned news reels, and the geriatric humor. This is one of those films that just stays with you, forever. I still remember the night I first saw it. I was with my husband, and we walked out into the humid Florida night air afterwards, equally stunned by the amazing story we'd just watched unfold. Sporadically over the next few days, one of us would bring up another part that particularly touched us, or made us laugh. One of my goal's in life is to make a mailbox Carl and Ellie style. The simplicity of their relationship is part of what is so great-- they're so different, yet they always work together. Whether it's cleaning or just sitting side by side, reading and holding hands…it's just beautiful. Their love felt so real, so tangible. We, as viewers, had to fall in love with their relationship so that later, when Carl personifies the house as Ellie, we don't think he's lost his marbles.

 When Pixar first announced they were doing a Princess movie, I was ecstatic and a little nervous. I know, silly me. Of course, everything Pixar does is amazing. I wasn't disappointed by Merida. I love her spunk, and her courage. I think it's so important to teach young girls that individualism is a gift, and that women can confidently do anything, even something perceived as masculine. Merida is an excellent archer, climbs the fire falls, and out-shoots everyone to win her own hand and change her country's customs. She also has to work up the courage to admit when she's wrong, another important lesson. The score is amazing, and my favorite part is the initial sequence when it's her day to do with as she chooses. This is the first glimpse of her adventurous spirit, with the horseback riding and the archery and the climbing of the gorgeous fire falls.

Toy Story 2
  Any scene with Bullseye the horse ranks in my top scenes, but Jessie takes the cake with her song. When She Loved Me is exquisite, both the song and the storyline. The Jessie backstory sequence is heartbreaking, but it explains so much about her character. The plot twist--who turned the TV on and ruined Woody's escape plan-- was also a shocker the first time I saw it.

Toy Story 3
  I'll admit, I've only watched this one twice. I love it, but I cry my dang eyes out every time. From the desperate plans in the beginning to the incinerator to Andy's choice to Woody's decision, I'm just a big ball of sad panda. It's just too heart wrenching. I wanted Andy to save the toys for his kids, and us to see them get played with generation to generation. But that would mean years and years of loneliness in between… When there isn't a happy ending to be had, at least you get a good one.

     When it comes to a favorite part, I'd have to say the interchanges between Ken and Barbie. It's just too funny, and this crybaby needs the funny bits! Not to mention Spanish Buzz, who makes my sides hurt from laughter.

   WALL-E is the only film that's ever made me sympathetic to the fate of a cockroach. I love not only how WALL-E saves Eve, but how she saves him back. Awe, robot love.

Finding Nemo
  Confession: the first time I saw this movie, I didn't like it. Put down the torches and pitchforks! I was too crushed at Coral's death to enjoy the rest of the film. It was like a punch to the gut. I loved their interactions, I adored her mommy worries, and when she sacrificed herself to try to save just one of her babies…oh, the feels. It wasn't until a second viewing I truly appreciated the rest of the film. I still try to avoid watching the beginning it at all possible. I mean, I won't fast forward, but I will conveniently need to use the restroom and not want it paused.

The sharks and Dory really make the film for me. I love watching all of the characters grow, as well. Pixar organically matures their characters, and it's beautiful to watch.

   Rats. Ugh. Am I right? But much like WALL-E's cockroach, I really came to care of the rats in this film. The moment when Remy sees the rat murder shop will never leave me, but I doubt I'll remember it if I ever happen to see a non-animated rat. I would't kill it (I wouldn't get close enough!). But I would be terrified.

My favorite moment would have to be when Remy and Linguini are learning to work together, and when the rats get cleaned in the dishwasher in order to cook! Too funny.

   I've always remembered how detailed everything is in Cars. Even the bugs are VW Bugs! But my favorite scene is the nostalgic flashback to the glory days in Radiator Springs and the Wagon Wheel hotel. The whole drive, when Lightning McQueen and Sally are getting to know one another. It's unexpected, a romance in a car story, but enjoyable.

The Incredibles
  There are so many great moments in this film. The opening is informative and hilarious, but with meaning. I've always loved the line. "You didn't save my life; you ruined my death!" It's a reminder that not everyone wants to be saved. But my favorite part is when Elastigirl and the kids are in the cave on Syndrome's island, and she warns them that these bad guys won't take pity on them because they're children. What a wonderful way to say that yes, there is great evil in the world, and you just can't give it the opportunity to let it hurt you. You have to choose the good side, and be prepared to fight for it.

That wraps it up. What are some of your favorite Pixar moments? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The cable free life

When we moved to Alaska in 2011, we cancelled our cable plan. After finally finding an apartment after a month of living in a hotel, our budget didn't have room for cable. Since then, we've just never added it back in. My husband likes not having cable, but sometimes I miss it. Okay, I always miss Disney channel (especially since not all Disney Channel shows are on Netflix, and the DCOM "Alex vs Alex", the Wizards of Waverly Place follow up, is two years old and still not on Netflix). But, for the most part , the cable free life isn't so bad. After all, there aren't any commercials to deal with and we can pause and rewind as much as we need to when our toddler decided it's noise-making time in the middle of a crucial plot moment.

There are a few times of year when I genuinely miss cable, though. Here's a handy dandy list of things you, too, may miss if you've recently gone, or are thinking of going, cable free. Bonus: the list is in chronological order of TV events.

1. The Super Bowl. Sometimes they live-stream it, but it's slightly delayed and messes up frequently. 

2. The Oscars, and all other awards shows.

3. Summer reruns. Especially of old shows, like Boy Meets World.

4. Game shows. Just be glad this post isn't titled "An Ode to Jeopardy," because I miss Jeopardy, y'all. For real. Yes, I know I'm a dork.

5. TV specials. The Story behind Frozen: making a Disney animated classic aired last night and it was just put online a few hours ago, so I had to wait 12 hours and watch several YouTube clips to hold me over. Obsession at it's best.

6. Fall TV. New shows, new episodes of favorite shows. Sigh. Also? I STILL haven't seen the last season of How I Met Your Mother, and was subjected to several spoilers.

7. SPOILERS. Beware them. They're terrible, and people post all over Facebook about plot points.

8. ABC Family's 13 days of Halloween. Casper, The Addams Family, Toy Story of Terror (which came out on ABC last year and I still haven't seen!). The list goes on. Non-scary Halloween movies for those of us who love the lighter side of Halloween.

9. College football. Sigh. Kind of like the Super Bowl, college football is an event that unites our country into one community, albeit a community obsessed with winning and beating our rivals. But it still brings us together. Missing out on these nation-uniting moments sometimes leaves me feeling isolated and disconnected.

10. Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Just... Sadness.

11. ABC Family makes the list again with 25 days of Christmas. 25 days of birthing but Christmas movies and, for some inexplicable reason, Harry Potter movies? Count me in! Oh, wait. Never mind...

12. Disney channel, year round. Nothing makes the holidays more real than seasonally appropriate episodes.

13. Movie trailers. Most of the time, I just don't know what movies are in theaters. I often feel out of the loop, pop culture wise.

14. Jimmy Fallon is hilarious, and I wish I had cable so I could tape his Late show (because, honestly, I can't stay up that late anymore! Oh, yes, I'm old now. Blame the toddler).

15. Watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve.

So those are my major 15. What do you miss about having cable?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Disney lessons

Since it's a rainy summer day here, I decided to take the opportunity to Disney-educate my 19 month old. He loves Frozen, but I wanted to introduce him to some classic Disney favorites of mine. So far this week, we've watched Tangled, Pocahontas and Mulan. And by 'watched', I mean 'had on in the background while he wrought his usual terror.' Ahem, played. While he played.

My Disney love is obviously no secret, and each time I watch a favorite film I take something new away from it. So here are some overlooked and often unnoticed Disney lessons.

The family dynamic in Mulan is atypical of their culture and era. This is a great example that you don't have to conform; you can be true to yourself.

Mulan sees the love between her parents and their struggle, which inspires her decision to dress as a man and enter the army in her father's place. Children learn by example; demonstrating love for your spouse and disagreeing peaceably are important life skills to impart.

Women are just as capable and smart as men.

The Huns also demonstrate that some bad guys have no mercy, regardless of age or gender. When Shan Hu references the doll, he implies they'll be killing everyone in the village-- including children. They also kill one of the scouts off screen, showing how ruthless violence is.

The Incredibles
One of my favorite scenes in this film is when Elastigirl explains to her kids that this isn't a game, and their lives are truly in danger:
"Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They *will* kill you if they get the chance. Do *not* give them that chance. "

The Incredibles also teaches us that spousal communication is highly important, and to not stop having adventures just because you're married with kids and in hiding.

Also? Embrace who you are, because that person is awesome. And never underestimate the baby. And as Jack-Jack taught our villain, don't even try taking a baby away from his mama!

Our wise Native American princess teaches us to be true to ourselves... And that if you communicate with your parents instead of being all vague, maybe no one will get shot. 

But in all seriousness, Pocahontas teaches us to be open-minded. That's what Colors of the Wind is all about, right? Be open to seeing the world differently than you're accustomed to. Don't be afraid to take risks, or stand up for what you believe is right. Change has to start somewhere, after all (cue the ripples).

Up is one of my favorite Pixar films. Taking your house on vacay with you? Talking dogs? What's not to love?! But a very important lesson is that memories belong to you, not to your things. Of course I cry waterfalls when the house gets set on fire, but who doesn't?! (Please don't answer this. I know I'm part of the minority. But still…I basically spend this whole movie crying, so cut me some slack please!). Ellie lives on in Carl's memories, photos, and in his heart. And, of course, in his adventurous spirit. Sniffle. 

Bonus lesson? Life is full of everyday adventures. Sometimes those adventures involve fixing a flat tire, or the roof. But they're adventures none the less. So each time they bust open their Paradise Falls jar, they're still having an adventure.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book Review: Emily Giffin's 'The One and Only'

I've been tempted to read Emily Giffin before, because I'd heard she was a great author. But one thing always held me back: the plot lines. The two books I'm most familiar with, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, are centered around infidelity. I'm really bothered by infidelity, and have no interest in reading about characters who partake of it. Although the book explores the ethics of adultery, I could just never bring myself to pick it up. I was intrigued by this New York Times bestselling author, but the plot lines of those two novels were just too off-putting for me.

I was exploring the library in our new town (which, by the way, is absolutely adorable. There's a gazebo and everything!) when I came across a new release of Giffin's titled The One and Only. It was about small town life in Texas, and a protagonist obsessed with football. It sounded quirky and interesting and, best of all, free of adultery.

Our adorable library!

There are two main story lines in mainstream media that really bother me: adultery and, ahem, sluttiness (for both males and females). Adultery bothers me because now it is often the protagonist committing the offense, and because they're likable, you want to forgive them and justify their actions. After years of watching television, movie and book characters cheat and lie, it becomes less offensive simply because of overexposure. But it deeply bothers me, and its an irreversible path. Once I see a character cheat, I never look at them the same again. Spoiler alert for early seasons of How I Met Your Mother: once Ted cheats, I could never root for him the same way. With the sluttiness case, the loose morals of the whole HIMYM gang can get a little appalling. I know we're living in the 21st century, but I really don't know how none of them have an STD. Especially Barney. Just…ew. I love the characters, and they're so engaging, but Marshall and Lily are my favorite because they love each other so deeply and they're monogamous (or so I assume. I haven't seen the last season yet, so no spoilers please!). And that's my rant against the adulterous and slutty society that's portrayed on our television screens, and yet another reason why I watch so much Disney.

Back to Giffin's latest book. I love her writing style. She combines realistic dialogue, lovable and unique characters, descriptions and settings so flawlessly that you can't help but marvel at how well its written. Her characters are written with such empathy that when she describes that Texas heat, you can't help but feel the sweat drip down your back, too, even if you're reading in the nice, cool AC. I enjoy getting to know her characters as though they're new friends, and when the book ends, I was sad to not get to spend more time with them.

The only thing keeping me from totally loving this book was an important plot point that I can't discuss because it's a new book and I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't read it. There's one plot twist that just seemed weird, and a little far-fetched, and it just plum irritated me. I saw it coming, and I willed it away, but it came anyway. Sigh. If only the characters could hear us. As soon as I saw the first sign, I thought, please don't go there. Then, when she went there, I thought well, this is how that is going to play out. And it was. I'm either very intuitive, or the plot was slightly predictable. She definitely did her research, as her football-crazy protagonist, Shea, knew her stuff. Giffin also did a great job of handling grief, and its long-term affects. I loved everything about the book, except the one thing I can't say!

It was still a really enjoyable read, and I'm glad I got over my fear of all of her books seemingly condoning adultery (since I haven't read the two referenced previously, I can't say that they do condone adultery. I remember my sister telling me they didn't, but the impression I've gotten from the descriptions was too condoning for me to read it). I've already started reading another of her previous books, Baby Proof, and am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

Have you read Emily Giffin? What's your take on our cheating culture? Do you think media condones it, or does it not bother you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Girl Meets World pilot review

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for the shows Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World

As a true 90s kid, I grew up on a steady stream of choose-your-own-adventure books, hose water, days spent in the swimming pool, and Friday nights watching TGIF. Sabrina, Boy Meets World, Sister Sister. I loved them all, but especially Boy Meets World. Last year, when I heard the original creators were working with Disney Channel to make a new show about Cory and Topanga's daughter, Riley, I got ridiculously excited. Like, jump up and down, think about getting cable again excited.

Alas, we're still cable free. I just can't bring myself to pay such an exorbitant monthly fee when I would primarily watch Disney Channel. But if Disney starts offering just their channel, you know I'll be the first on board.

Because Disney is amazing and wonderful, they've created a WatchDisney app that allows even those of us without cable to watch their shows (after they air, of course). While I'd wanted to re-watch the entire Boy Meets World series before watching the new show, there just wasn't time. And it isn't on Netflix instant, which should probably be a crime in itself. Technology makes things that seem impossible possible, and YouTube played a hand in helping me watch the pilot for Girl Meets World before it even aired on the Disney Channel.

I'm always hesitant to write reviews for pilots because often the pilot isn't reflective of the show. There are many shows that I've loved that had lackluster pilots. The first time I watched the Parks and Recreation pilot with my husband, he thought it was dumb. He wouldn't give it another shot for at least a season or two. I wasn't super impressed, but I was willing to give it a second chance. Thankfully we did, as it is amazing and we love it. All of this review is written in the light of the knowledge that pilots are just a stepping stone. Sometimes they lead to great things, and sometimes they don't.

I really enjoy the characters. That's why I loved Boy Meets World,  for the characters. Cory, Topanga and Shawn were the reason I tuned in every Friday. I liked seeing the plots too, of course, which were relatable and I felt would somehow help prepare me for my future (ha! Like getting engaged at a high school graduation is normal! Someone tell The Secret Life of the American Teenager that that only works once on TV, and Boy Meets World already did it better). The characters were fully developed, likable, and flawed. Even the adults. That was such an important lesson to impart on kids, and families in general. There is no perfect person. There is no perfect parent. But if you follow your heart, you'll find the person perfect for you, and they'll help you be a phenomenal parent.

Girl didn't disappoint with the character development. Cory is trying to balance being a parent and a teacher at the same time, in the same place. Riley is trying to find who she is. Maya is trying to disguise her desire for a more normal family with rebellion (sound familiar? Hi, female Shawn!). Of course Riley's best friend is a Shawn. It's genetically probably that Cory, caring, sweet Cory, would have a daughter with the same personality traits. Of course she'd befriend the girl most like Shawn, just like Cory. It might make sense in TV world, but it makes sense in the real world too. We see Maya struggle, just as we see Riley struggle, to find her place. That's what the show, the original and this re-tool, are about. Finding your place. Making the world your own.

I loved the show, but I will concede that they reference 'making the world your own' a little too frequently. Certain scenes are a little over-acted. As a former teacher, I did cringe a little when Cory handed his classroom over to the student. But then I watched an old Boy Meets World episode, titled Teacher Bet, where Mr. Feeny did the same thing. Sometimes students learn best by teaching it to others.

I was also super disappointed to discover the show is set in New York City. It seems that every Disney show is now set in a city. Many kids still live in suburbs or the country, so I was hoping Girl would show a non-city-set childhood in just one of their shows. I loved the town that Boy was set in so much that I researched it to see if it was a real place and, if so, if I could live there. But Boy, and I hope Girl does as well, isn't really about setting. It's about community. Cory lived in a strong community, and that's what made that location so desirable. Well, that and four seasons, a cool house, and he could ride his bike to school.

A recent Disney Channel show trend is having primarily inept parents. Yes, all parents do goofy things. But the lengths that the Bob and Amy Duncan characters on Good Luck, Charlie went to were just too extreme. Their actions directly hurt their kids, like when Amy messed up Teddy's Yale interview. I like seeing parents that aren't idiots. I think it's important for kids to see that parents aren't idiots. When I was growing up, my TV shows showed parents as people you could go to to guide you in the right direction. Parents and teachers were trustworthy, and wanted you to seek them out for help. Now TV depicts parents and teachers as dumb, selfish, vain, self-centered mishaps who can do very little right. It's my main beef with Disney: I want to see parents as helpful, not hurtful. I'm not saying everything a parent says or does should be right; parents make mistakes, too. The Matthews parents on the original Boy Meets World made mistakes, and learned from them. That's the key: show kids how to learn from mistakes.

I think it's promising that the first episode tackles a major teen issue: peer pressure from a close friend. It's easy to forget that as a teen, your friends had just as much of an influence on you as your parents. Maya's rebellious influence gets Riley in trouble, but it also makes Riley learn to stand up for herself. Cory would never ask her to not be friends with Maya, but Riley, not realizing this, makes a stand.

It wasn't until I was reading other reviews that I realized Feeny's appearance was possibly meant to be ghost-like. I hadn't thought about the fact that the show exceeded what would have been a reasonable life expectancy for Mr. Feeny, though I'd heard the actor would be making an appearance. I got a little misty when I saw Feeny, sweet oh-I-missed-him tears. When I heard he may have been intended as a ghost, I was disappointed. I was still hoping to see him frequently, crazy as it would be. Eric, Cory's brother, spent an entire episode imagining he was seeing Feeny when Feeny was not, in fact, there. I interpreted Cory seeing Feeny at the end of the episode as like that; he wanted to see it, so he did.

I think Girl Meets World is going to be great. It's already enjoyable, and that was just the pilot. I know Shawn makes some appearances, and I hope he becomes a regular. I'm hoping other characters from Boy make regular appearances as well, so we can see where they are now. I'm so glad to see these characters again; it's like being reunited with old friends. I'm hoping Girl marks a comeback for Disney's positive-parent representations that I grew up with. I hope Girl has a nice long run and that the cast and crew achieve their goal of staying true to who these characters are.

Girl Meets World will air on the Disney channel on Fridays.

What did you think of the pilot? Were you a Boy Meets World fan?