Monday, December 29, 2008

My reflections on the end of the year and beginning a new one-

I have mixed feelings at the end of the Holiday Season. I love the whole Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years holiday time. Although I have never gotten into the New Years celebration, I do love the feeling of the new beginning and a fresh start. I love to create the atmosphere in my home to help celebrate each holiday. So it is always sad to put away the decorations.
Picture of me at West Wycombe Estate in Oxfordshire, England (July '07). Not that it applies to anything in this blog, I just wanted you to see how beautiful the country is over there! Also to remind me that our cold weather won't last forever.

There is a lot of discussion on when one should put away the decorations. I personally like to wait until the day after New Years day. It seems that when I put them up on December 1st, I am so busy getting everything ready and done the rest of the month, leading up to my Jane Austen tea party (Dec. 16th), then to Christmas Eve, that I really enjoy the decorations more after Christmas Day. What do you think? Am I alone in this idea?

I realize that when I did have young children at home I took them down the day after Christmas but not anymore. I want to linger and enjoy the Spirit of the holiday a little longer. In fact it was very sad to get into my car at 5:30 am to take Kim and Tammy to the airport, and not hear Christmas music on the 2 radio stations that I have listened to, for the first time in over a month.
Now it is back to talk radio and politics (which I enjoy but needed a break from). Coming home to the decorations helped with not having that feeling of "it's all over for another 11 months".

Of course, I can't go cold turkey on the decorations. You know how much I hate the cold, (which I might add, it has been horrendous the past few days!), so to wean myself off decorations gradually, I like to put up "Snowmen" decorations for the month of January. That is the ONLY way I like "snow", besides in pictures. Then after January, there is Valentines day decorations.... and so on and so on....

Don't you just love holidays!!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm sick of the cold, I miss the summer!

It's been too cold the last two days, I miss the heat of summer. If you do too, take a minute and enjoy this video of our water arobics class. We made this for a church talent show, you will be amazed at our synchronization!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to Jane Austen!

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England. She was the sixth child. Her life is marked by the ordinariness of it--which may explain why she was able to write so brilliantly about the every-day life of the country gentry in Regency England. At age 26 she moved to Bath with her family where she lived for 5 years.
At the death of her father, she then moved back to Hampshire to the village of Chawton where most of her well known novels were written. Jane Austen was first published in 1811. The book, "Sense and Sensibility", was written in 1797/8. She then embarked on the writing of "First Impressions" which later became, "Pride and Prejudice" and was published two years later. "Northanger Abbey" was completed in 1799 but not published until after her death, along with "Persuasion". However, "Mansfield Park" (1814), and "Emma", (1816) were published before her death even though they were written after "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion". At the time of her death, she was working on her next novel, "Sanditon". A lesser known work "Lady Susan" is a small work written in a series of 36 letters, but it tells a great story!

She died at Winchester while on a visit, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
If you love watching movies of her works, here is a list of some of the movies made of her books or abour her, some are pure interpretations and others are variations on the books or themes, but give credit to her for the source:
Becoming Jane
Bride and Prejudice (Bollywood)
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Cold Comfort Farm
Emma(Gwenyth Paltrow)
Emma A&E
I Have Found It (Bollywood's version of S&S)
Jane Austen’s Biography
Jane Austen Book Club
Mansfield Park -(PBS and theatrical)
Miss Austen Regrets
Northanger Abbey-PBS
Persuasion (both PBS and theatrical)
Pride and Prejudice (A&E) THE BEST!
Pride and Prejudice 2005
Pride and Prejudice- A latter-day story
Pride and Prejudice(Masterpiece Theater 1985)
Pride and Prejudice 1940
Sense and Sensibility A&E version
Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson version)
Let me know if I have missed any! We can never get enough Jane Austen now can we!!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Only in Arizona!

It was the perfect day. I was on my way to finish up the last of my Christmas shopping. The radio was on 24 hour Christmas music, and they were playing one of my favorites, the Trans Sibrean Orchestra playing "Christmas Cannon", when what to my wondering eyes should appear...I saw Santa Clause on a motorcycle, on his merry way to cheer up children somewhere. It was magical, funny and exciting all at once. I felt like a kid all over again!
I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas Season and the Spirit it can bring into our lives!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Final List of Must See Chrismas Movies!

So far I have given you 10 great Christmas movies to see, now for the rest of the list. I know it will be impossible to see all of these movies during this busy time but if you want Christmas to last all year.... Anyway, the next on the list is "The Shop Around the Corner". This has been remade 2 other times, ("In the Good Old Summertime" and "You've Got Mail") but the original, as usual, is the best. Probably just because Jimmy Stewart is in it but also because of all the other great actors. It takes place all during the Christmas season and is really fun!
Next has to be "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Not much more can be said about this classic. It is amazing to me that this movie is still enjoyed by a new generation, which shows that it is not the new technology but the story that makes a great movie.
Ditto for "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". Even though the Jim Carry movie version is good, my grand kids still prefer the animated original!
This next one is probably not known to many of you. It is "Holiday Affair" with Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum. Both great actors, this is about a widow with a young son and how 2 men are trying to win her affections. I bet you can guess who wins. Robert Micthum is really good in this and he is in a role you rarely see him in, the romantic lead.
Then of course is "A Muppet Christmas Carol". How could you go wrong with the Muppets and the GREAT Micheal Caine! Enough said, except that this movie is hilarious! It is also a great way to expose young kids to Dickens without scaring them. The "spirits" in this version aren't as scary as others.
Now you have my top 15 Christmas movies to check out. However, here are some others that are worth seeing:
The Ultimate Gift (this is a great one!!!)
Claymation Christmas Show
Creature Comforts Christmas
Polar Express
The Santa Clause 1,2,3
White Christmas
The Nativity
Meet Me In St. Louis
If I have left one that you like off the list, let me know. I am always looking for fun Christmas movies to see!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What An Amazing Show!!!!

I was going to write a review of the play "The Winter's Tale" by William Shakespeare that is being performed at the Mesa Arts Center for the next 3 weekends by the Southwest Shakespeare Co., but then I read the review in the Arizona Republic and it said it all!
The Cast was perfect, their performances were impeccable, the costumes were amazing, the set was very creative, and at intermission, the Wassail that was on sale was delicious. There were even some very cute bears to by as a souvenir! (You will get the significance of the bears if you see the show). So, the evening was unforgettable.
Here is the link to the Arizona Republic article:
This play is rarely performed and it is my favorite so please go see it. Half of the shows are already sold out so hurry!!!! You may not ever have the opportunity to see it done this well again, unless SSC does it again of coruse.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Five More GREAT Christmas Movies

Here is a list of 5 more Christmas movies that are great to watch while decorating or if you need help getting in the holiday mood! Do you love the song "White Christmas" but don't like the movie of the same title? Well then, you need to watch "Holiday Inn". This movie can be watched on every holiday because it takes place throughout an entire year and there is a song for every holiday of the year. It is great fun!
Next is "The Bishop's Wife" with Cary Grant. He plays an angel sent down to help a bishop who is having a hard time getting things done. Cary Grant is amazing....but he is in every movie he's ever made. This holiday movie was re-made with Denzel Washington (who I love to watch!) but the original is soooo much better!
Next is "Elf". What more can I say but this is so fun to watch. Will Farrell is perfect as Buddy the Elf, but watch for a cameo performance by Peter Billingsley, yes, I mean Ralphie from "The Christmas Story". He is the head elf that helps Buddy feel better when he is so behind on his toy building. (he is here in the red suit)
"Millions" came out about 3-4 years ago and I instantly fell in love with it. It is a heart warming story about 2 brothers whose mom has recently died. Their Dad moves them to a new home and one day while out playing, the younger brother finds a duffel bag full of money. It takes place during the Christmas season and it has a lot of good messages about the true meaning of Christmas. As a side note...the portrayal of the LDS missionaries is hilarious even if it is inaccurate. This movie was made in England so that is why there is the inaccuracy. But it is so funny.
Last movie for this group is "Joyeux Noel". It takes the true accounts of the first Christmas during WWI where the soldiers stopped fighting for a few hours and came together to celebrate Christmas even though they were enemies. It is beautiful and very touching. They are parts in sub-titles but most is in English. There is one "scene" you will want to skip but it is not on the battlefield so you will know what I mean when you get to it, so skip past it. The rest is perfect!
If you have a comment on any of these movies, let me and everyone who reads this blog know what you think of them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Top Five Christmas Movie Picks

As fas as I'm concered, the Holiday season starts on November 1st. However, there are some things I can't do until after Thanksgiving. One is put up the Christmas decorations. The second, is break out the Christmas movies. Now, every holiday at out house has a list of movies that we (I) watch to celebrate the holiday, so I thought I would let you know about some of my favorite Christmas movies.
First and on top of the list, is "The Christmas Story". I always watch this on Thanksgiving Day as I am cooking. It is the best of all and so funny!
Next is one you might not have heard of. It is "Christmas in Connecticut" with Barbara Stanwyck. It is one of the rare comedies that she was in and she is great. Sydney Greenstreet, who is always a "bad guy" is also in this and he is perfect and also very funny. Check this one out if you can find it (or call me, I have it).
I know my third pick is probably everyone else's first, but next is "It's a Wonderful Life". AHHHH, Jimmy Stewart.... What more needs to be said.
Then we get to "A Christmas Carol". My favorite version, (and I have 5 different versions, including "The Muppet Christmas Carol"-very funny!) is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sims. It is a classic and he is the best Ebenezer Scrooge.
Last in my top five, and I do watch them in this order is "Miracle on 34th Street" with Natalie Woods. I love every character and actor in this movie! And because it starts on Thanksgiving, it is on my Thanksgiving and Christmas movie list!
Check out these movies, and during the upcoming month I will let you know of other great Christmas movies, some you might not have ever heard of.
Have a Great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two Random Thoughts on Two Different Subjects

Christmas is such a fun time. I especially love to listen to Christmas music. However, there is one song that should be banned from all Christmas affiliation! Let me explain.
When I was in first grade, our class had to learn the Christmas song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" for the school Christmas program. Even as a 6 year old, I remember thinking how wrong it was for a mommy to kiss anyone but her husband and I was upset that we were being taught this song to sing in a program like everything was OK.
I remember feeling devastated that Santa was going around and kissing any mommy that would let him. In order to save all children these feelings, I want this song banned!!!!

Christmas should be a happy time not a disturbing time for children. That is my opinion on that song!

Next, I heard a rumor that the only show I watch regularly is in danger of being cancelled!!!
If you haven't seen it, WATCH IT!!! It is a great murder mystery every week!
Maybe we can change ABC's mind if they are really thinking about cancelling it. It is so frustrating when there is so much garbage out there on TV that a great show can't make it
Here is a link to sign an online petition to ABC to keep it on:
Please Vote!!!
Thanks for letting me vent on those 2 subjects!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Tough Movie Review

This is a hard one to review. My husband has been trying to get me to this movie for a couple of weeks but I have been able to avoid it until last night. I knew "The Boy In the Stripped Pajamas" was based on a book but due to the subject, I had never read it, although it has been highly recommended. And due to the subject I knew it wouldn't have a happy ending (you know I need a happy ending!). But the ending was much worse than I ever anticipated!

Here is the basic story: Time is WWII in Germany. Brunos' father is promoted to be a Commandant of a concentration camp, so the family moves out to the country for the new post. Through a number of situations, Bruno inadvertently comes upon the camp during his explorations of his new home and there he meets a boy, the same age as he is and they become friends. Brunos' parents have completely shielded him from the situation so he has no concept of what is happening around him and to his new friend.
As the movie progresses he begins to learn about the Jews, his fathers role in the camp, and what he is being taught, and he is very confused. At the end, he tries to redeem himself for a mistake he made against his friend (Shmuel) he sneaks into the camp to help Shmuel find his father who has gone missing. However, it is the day that Shmuels' barrack is to go to the gas chamber.
The frantic search of Burnos' family and then the realization of what has happened to him is gut-wrenching. I haven't stopped crying about it everytime I think about it.
The movie is beautifully made and very well acted. Although, two of my favorite English actors were in very evil roles, so now I have to go watch them in the "happy" movies to get the pictures of them out of my mind.
So, I recommend it but with very great reserve. It is not one I will ever watch again and it will probably take me several days to get over it and stop crying.
I am curious, if you have read the book, is this how the book ends? Let me know. SOOOOO Sad!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The final step for the Train Garden

Here are the pictures of the Train Garden with all the props added. Now it feels like it has come alive with all the villagers added. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Train station, water tower, scholl, and farm houses
School with boys playing
Mountain lodge, with deer and Moose
Farm house with livestock
How much fun is this?!?!?!?!?!?

More Pictures of the Train Garden

So now the final step of getting the train up and running was getting all the props added to it. I trimmed all the bushes to look like trees, then added all the villagers and animals. I hope you can see some of them. There is a wedding going on at the church, a snake oil salesman in the village square, Passagers waiting at the train station. By the school we see kids playing. On the farms we see all the animals and on the mountain are all the forest animals.
Town square

Another shot of the aquare

The blacksmith and general store

Church with wedding
Hope you enjoy seeing it while I have fun playing in it

Monday, November 10, 2008

Southwest Shakespeare Company: "The Winter's Tale"

Just a reminder so you can make plans. My favorite Shakespeare Play, "The Winter's Tale", is being performed at the Mesa Arts Center starting Nov. 28th. Get you tickets soon as it is in the smaller Farnsworth Theater so there will be fewer seats available. This play has everything from drama, tragedy, comedy, romance, forgivness and redemption, miracles, and even a BEAR!. It is the first play to make me cry! Here is a clip to pique you interest:

It is a great start to your Holiday Season celebration! I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You are all AMAZING!!!

I just saw my counter at the bottom of my blog and I realized that I had over 1000 hits in less than a week!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! As much as I enjoy doing this, it is even more fun to know that someone else out there is reading it besides me! Thanks again!

You have got to get this product!

Just a quick blog about this amazing product. I go through alot of produce but about 1/4 of it got thrown out. I saw a news story a couple of weeks ago, on Phoenix's Fox 10 news about Debbie Meyer's Green bags. They gave them rave reviews so I went out the next day with my friend Anita and we bought them. I specifially tried the bananas and strawberries because they are the produce I throw out the most and after 10 days they were still perfect. The bananas ended up lasting over 2 weeks without one brown spot.

If you want to save money, learn to use more produce in your meal planning and then get this product to save your produce. You will also save on gas because you won't have to go to the store as often to get produce. To borrow a phrase from the 70's...TRY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT!


Monday, November 3, 2008

One of Australia's movie Gems

Many of my favorite movies have come from Australia. Such movies as, "Strictly Ballroom", "Man from Snowy River" just to name a couple. But of them all, "The Dish" has got to be one of the best and the funniest. This comedy is based on the true story of Australia's roll in the Apollo 11 moon landing.

It stars Sam Neill (who is great in almost everything he does), Patrick Warburton (Puddy, to you "Seinfeld" fans), and several great Australian actors that you wouldn't recognize, but are all great!
The story starts just a couple of days before lift off in July 1969. Parks, Australia has got a reciever, or "the dish", that will pick up the transmissions from the space ship while it is in the Southern Hemisphere. But something goes terribly wrong and they lose the rocket and all the computer data.
Getting it back up and running before the landing, without letting NASA and anyone else know is where the comedy ensues!
They used the actual footage of the moon landing in the movie and I still get a little teary eyed (ok a lot teary eyed) when ever I watch it again.
There is never a dull moment and the supporting characters are very funny. You will even have a small bout of pride in America. If you have seen it here is a little quiz...What did the band play as the American National Anthem? For a great laugh check out this movie!!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Step 2 of getting the train back up and running.

Here is the next step of the train garden. I had to clean the track, oil all the wheels and connections on the cars and it is ready to go.
Next step is to add all the people and props to the Village. I will show you when I am done!!!
How cute is this!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My second favorite time of the year in AZ is October. It is like a new beginning, let me explain why. First, it is when the night-times start cooling down so we can open windows for the first time since April. It is also the time to put up Halloween decorations, (my 2nd favorite holiday!). It is that time I can get out and start doing FUN yard work, like, seeding the lawn for winter, starting back up the vegetable garden, getting the train garden up and running, and the small flower gardens: the “Shakespeare”, “Alice in Wonderland” and the “Knot” gardens planted and ready for the beautiful winters we have here. Nothing says fall here like the smell of manure!!!!
Here is the first day of cleaning up the train garden from the long, hot summer.
Join me in a couple of days for the next step, and you can see my village come back to life for the fall, winter and spring! YEA!!!!!!!!!!