Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Very Merry Tag

I recently started following Abby's blog Lavender Spring, and as part of her Advent celebration, she's created this delightfully Christmasy tag.  You probably know by now that I'm something of a Christmas addict, though I haven't actually made a Christmas header for this blog this year because I can't bear to replace my Alan Ladd yet.  But I made my book blog all Christmasy, which pleases me no end :-)  [EDIT:  You know you made a good choice in best friends when they read this and immediately email you with Christmasy Alan Ladd pictures so you can have your Alan Ladd and your Christmas header too.]

Anyway, here are my answers to her Very Merry Tag!  I wasn't tagged directly by anyone, but Abby basically tagged anyone who read her initial post, so... thanks for creating this and sort-of tagging me, Abby!

Does it snow where you live around Christmas? (If it doesn't, you have my sincere sympathy.) How much? Any special snowy Christmas stories? 

Not usually.  We do get some snow in January and February most years, but I don't think we've had a single white Christmas since moving here five years ago.  I've had many white Christmases in my past, and loved them, so brown Christmases tend to annoy and sadden me.  I absolutely adore snow.

I don't have any special stories about snowy Christmases, but I do have a fun memory of a very very very snowy and icy New Year's Eve from when Cowboy and I were first married.  We lived in Wisconsin then, near a lot of his family.  One New Year's Eve, all of his siblings and their families and the two of us went to their aunt and uncle's farm about ten miles from where we lived.  A big ice storm blew in and forced us all to spend the night there at the farm.  Cowboy and I and three of his siblings all worked 3rd shift, so we stayed up all night long playing board games and eating leftover food while everyone else slept, and it was a grand time.

Do you get a real tree or a fake tree? 

We haven't had a real tree once in fourteen years of marriage, but I keep saying that one of these years, we're going to drive up into the mountains and cut one ourselves.  My family did that for many years, and it was so fun.  I like the smell and look of a real tree best, but this is the first year in so long where I haven't had a kid so small I worried they would tip the tree over and spill water all over my nice wooden floor.  I did get some of those "Scentsicles" things this year to try out, and they smell really nice, if not exactly real.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

White Christmas (1954).  I adore it!

Where in the world would you like to spend Christmas the most? 

Wherever Cowboy and our kids are.  But if we could all be together someplace awesome like Colonial Williamsburg, I would love that too.

What fictional/literary character would you most like to spend Christmas with? 

Sergeant Saunders from Combat! (1962-67).  I would do my best to make his Christmas merry and bright, even in the middle of a war zone.  We could sit cozily together by a bonfire in some abandoned barn or sawmill or whatever, not saying much, not doing much, just being quiet together, and each knowing that the other was totally okay with just sitting there quietly together.  Bliss.  I like to imagine he would think so too.

(Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders in Combat!)

What is your favorite Christmas song? 

"Carol of the Bells."  Here's a favorite Christmas memory:  This is actually a Ukrainian carol, and I got to sing it with my future in-laws at their church in Ukraine (where they were missionaries) one Christmas.  That was pretty amazing, let me tell you.

What is your favorite Christmas book/story (besides, ya know, the story)? 

Probably "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," a story in the Sherlock Holmes canon that takes place at Christmas and never fails to charm me.  It's one of my favorite Holmes stories, with such a great ending.  Also, it makes me laugh several times, and you know I dearly love to laugh.

Which do you prefer: multi-colored lights or white lights? 

I prefer multi-colored lights on my tree and white lights elsewhere in my house.

 What time period/decade would you most like to spend Christmas in? 

Well, I'll just say the 1940s so it meshes with my wish to spend Christmas with Sgt. Saunders, who is more dear to my heart than any other fictional character in anything at all, be it book, movie, or TV show.

Which period drama has the best Christmas scene/episode?

Welllllll, since I already used White Christmas in another answer, I guess I'll go with Little Women (1994), which opens with a beautiful example of sharing Christmas cheer with others, and also includes a Christmas scene that makes me cry (even just thinking of it, I've got a lump in my throat).  I'm speaking, of course, of the scene where Beth gets a new piano.  Too Much Wonderfulness.

I am not going to tag anyone today because I need to get school going, but I don't want this to languish unfinished anymore.  If you're feeling Christmasy and want to do this tag, please do so!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

My Winter To-Do List 2016

Here are the things I want to do this winter, so before the end of February, I guess.

~ Finish reading Song of the Ean by Emily Nordberg

~ Read Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

~ Reread A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

~ Read three more books from my TBR shelves

~ Read three books from the library

~ Start blogging about my favorite adult coloring books


~ Figure out what book challenge I'm setting myself for 2017

~ Start blogging about how 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation

~ Finish sewing my black-and-white skirt in time to wear it for Christmas

~ Knit myself a scarf like Newt Scamander's

I get sorted into Hufflepuff most of the time myself.

~ Finish the baby blanket I'm making for my best friend from college

~ Finish a rough draft of my western Little Red Riding Hood retelling, "Cloaked"

~ Watch two Christmas movies

~ Watch 3 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Print, frame, and hang family photos in our foyer finally

~ Make "Porter Cake" from An Unexpected Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oseland

There, I think that's a nice mix of goals for all the creative aspects of my life, don't you?

Friday, December 02, 2016

The John Wayne Blogathon is Only a Week Away!

Don't forget that the John Wayne Blogathon begins one week from today, December 9th.  If you've signed up to participate, great!  If you're still considering joining, don't wait much longer, or you'll miss it!  You can sign up right here, or just see all the things people will be posting about if you're curious :-)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

"Father Goose" (1964)

This is the very first Cary Grant movie I ever saw.  And I was so excited by it, at the age of 13 or so, that the next day, I told my art teacher the entire plot in great detail.  Except I forgot to tell her the title, and so after about five minutes of me telling her allll about it, she was like, "What was this movie called?"  "Oh, um, Father Goose."  And she had totally seen it before, and I was a little deflated because I had discovered the funniest movie ever... and she'd discovered it first.

But anyway, I still love this movie.  One of my absolute favorite comedies.  It concerns one Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), a snarky misanthrope who wants nothing more than to sit out WWII on his recently acquired boat.  His frenemy Houghton (Trevor Howard) tricks him into being a plane spotter for the Allies, radioing in the movements of enemy Japanese airplanes.  Walter doesn't like it at all, and he likes it even less when he ends up rescuing a French woman, Catherine Freno (Leslie Caron), and seven little girls of various nationalities.  Freno was fleeing with them from the encroaching Japanese, trying to get them back to their families or something.

Walter and Catherine get along together about as well as my 9-year-old and my 4-year-old, which is to say they snarl and snap at each other a lot, do everything in their power to aggravate each other, and both behave badly for quite some time.

And then they fall in love.

And then the Japanese figure out the island is inhabited and attack.

And, most surprisingly of all, this movie is actually funny!  It's got a wonderful dry humor, with some of the best snappy one-liners and zingy comebacks ever written by someone not named Joss Whedon.  Here's one of my favorite lines that I think would be funny even without all the context, to give you idea of the flavor:

"We could have transferred in George Dickens if he hadn't gotten himself eaten that way."

Seriously, Dickens, what a slacker!  Getting eaten rather than going and helping out the Allied cause.  Tsk tsk.  Anyway, yes, this is a very very very quotable movie.  Love the dialog to bits.  There's also a lot of wonderful visual comedy, mostly in the form of Cary Grant's facial expressions.  His reaction shots are priceless.

While rewatching this movie so I could review it, I spent a lot of time thinking about how it plays with gender stereotypes.  Catherine Freno is supposed to be an uptight spinster whose frigid insistence on straightening pictures and making rules is keeping her from finding happiness with a man.  Walter Eckland is supposed to be a shiftless, slobby escapist who looks out only for himself and would be so much better off if he would just get his act together, take on some responsibility, and find happiness with a woman.  The obvious expectation would be that when Catherine loosens up and Walter straightens up, then they can be together and be happy because then they're better people than before.

Except that's not quite how the movie goes.  Catherine's rules are important.  They help keep the girls, herself, and even Walter safe.  Her insistence on discipline and propriety protects those seven girls during a very scary separation from their parents.  All along, she can tell the difference between rules for the sake of rules, and rules that will keep people from harm.  And Walter's not actually shiftless, he just doesn't like doing the right thing solely because it's expected of him.  He's perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to save Catherine and those seven children, not because he's become a nicer person by the end of the film, but because he's been a nice one all along.  Crusty and growly, yes, but he was never shiftless and selfish -- other characters just assumed he was.

Instead of Catherine loosening up and Walter straightening up, what actually happens is that they learn to see the truth about each other's behavior, the why behind the what.  Catherine has been in important diplomatic positions since a young age, and knows the importance of propriety and protocol because she has seen how they influence people for good or bad.  Walter realized a few years earlier that people who are more concerned about appearances than about who a person is are superficial and not worth dealing with, and he's been searching for a world where he can be valued or not based on himself alone.

He thinks at first that Catherine is someone who would judge him on whether or not he's wearing a necktie, and she thinks at first that he's someone who subverts propriety for no good reason. But when they realize that their initial impressions were wrong, that's when they learn to care for each other.  They don't change inside, either of them, but instead, they stop hiding who they are behind barriers they've erected to keep themselves safe from the world.

It's pretty profound, especially for a movie that is unabashedly silly at times.  If you've never seen this, please do yourself a favor and find it.  You can often find the whole thing on YouTube, pick up a used DVD copy fairly cheaply online, or watch it on a service like Amazon Instant Video.

Is this movie family friendly?  Mostly.  There are a couple of mild bad words, and several instances where a character was going to say a bad word, but it gets cut off or silenced.  There's a bit of danger and excitement, with a fighter plane shooting at the characters and so on.  There are some tame kisses, and a bit of very vague innuendo in dialog.  I would let my kids watch this with me around to mute the bad words -- in fact, I'm hoping to show it to them soon.

I wrote this review specifically for the Cary Grant Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.  Follow the link above to check out the other entries!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How'd I Do with My Autumn To-Do List 2016?

November is basically over and my Christmas Fever is in full swing, so I am just going to go ahead and say that autumn is over for me, which means it's time to see how I did with the tasks I appointed myself back in September, just two months ago.

~ Re-read Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery Check!  My review is here.

~ Read Letters on an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruitt Stewart Check!  My review is here.

~ Read Song of the Ean by Emily Nordberg Semi-Check.  I am about 150 pages into it, but nowhere near finished.

I agree.

~ Read 3 other books from my TBR shelves Semi-Check.  I read Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart and The Blythes are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery, but I never managed a third.

~ Read 3 books from the library Check!  I read The Enemy by Lee Child, The Affair by Lee Child, and A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (instant favorite!!!)

~ Watch Two Years Before the Mast (1946) Check!  It was not as good as I hoped, but better than I expected.

~ Finish season one of Leverage Fail.  In fact, I am forced to admit that I didn't watch a single episode.  Sigh.

I am seriously tempted to jump ahead to season 3 so I can watch this ep.

~ Watch the Ioan Gruffudd version of Great Expectations Fail.  Why do I keep not watching this?  Sigh again.

~ Watch 3 more movies from my TBW shelves Check!  I watched Jack Reacher (2012), The Virginian (1946), and The Martian (2015)(YES, I know I saw The Martian in the theater and so it shouldn't count, but it's been on my TBW shelves for like 6 months waiting for me to find time to watch it with Cowboy.  We finally watched it together last week, so now it's off my TBW shelves and on my regular movie shelves, and so it counts.)

~ Make tomato basil soup. Check!  I tried out this recipe.

~ Try making my own pumpkin spice latte Check! Actually, I experimented with making some pumpkin spice creamers, but same basic thing, right?

This is what it feels like inside my head right now.

~ Finish a rough draft of my western Little Red Riding Hood Fail.  I'm like 10,000 words in and nowhere near finished.  Eep!

~ While I'm at it, find a good title for that story Check!  I call it "Cloaked."  And I made up cover art for it for Nanowrimo, which I feel like sharing even though, should I ever publish it, this will not be the cover, but still, it pleases me:

~ Print, frame, and hang family photos in our foyer Semi-Check.  I got the photos I initially wanted to work with printed and framed, but then decided I needed a few more, so I'm still working on this.

Well, more checks than fails and semi-checks combined, so I guess I did pretty well this fall.  Time to formulate some winter goals!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" -- Initial Thoughts

I've decided that instead of always waiting to blog about a movie until I've seen it at least twice and can review it properly, I will sometimes write up an "initial thoughts" post that is not a review, but more of a reaction.  Then later, when I've seen it again and can write up a more orderly and thought-out review, I will.  I started thinking of doing this when I saw Dr. Strange (2016) a couple weeks ago, but didn't quite decide to do it until today.

Today, I HAVE to post my thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).  I can't not.  And these are scattered, unfocused thoughts, fairly spoilage-free.  Just me sharing my exuberance :-)

First, I don't know about you, but I am now firmly convinced that J. K. Rowling is going to go down in history as one of the most creative minds of all time.  Her imagination is like Newt Scamander's suitcase -- it is far bigger inside than you would ever expect, and much cooler than you could dream.  I stand in awe.

Second, wow.  Yeah, just... wow.  That's basically what I was thinking through vast sections of this movie:  wow wow wow.

Third, Newt Scamander is my hero.  I'm serious.  The guy is shy and awkward and uncomfortable around people, wizardly and no-maj/muggle alike, but that doesn't stop him from standing up to people around him in defense of any creature or person he believes needs his help.  He sees the world with kind and gentle eyes, and I want to hug him.

Fourth, I want to be friends with three of the other characters in this too.  Which means, yeah, I pretty much loved it.  Cannot wait to go see it again; hoping to find a 3D showing this time.  I went right to the bookstore from the theater and bought the screenplay AND the soundtrack,  Have already listened to the latter, and will dig into the former this evening.

Right.  So, that's about all I have to say at the moment.  I laughed, I cried.  It moved me, Bob.  I'm so excited they are making LOTS MORE!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Like This? Try These! #6

Today, I'm spotlighting three retellings of the classic Snow White fairy tale.  One of them is an obvious retelling, but the others, not so much, so here goes!

If you love a good story of a beautiful young woman helping a bunch of quirky guys and getting swept of her feet by a handsome love interest, then you might get a kick out of any of these:

+ Ball of Fire (1941) -- A nightclub singer (Barbara Stanwyck) hides from her mob-affiliated boyfriend (Dana Andrews) by helping a group of eccentric professors (including Gary Cooper) compose a new lexicon by teaching them how "real" people talk in the "real" world.  It's not quite a screwball comedy, but does have a sassy flair.  (This one has some kissing, Stanwyck in a revealing outfit singing a somewhat suggestive song, a bit of fisticuffs.  Quite mild overall.  No bad language.)

+ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) -- A young woman (Jane Powell) marries an exuberant backwoodsman (Howard Keel) almost on a whim, then discovers he has six brothers at home that he expects her to cook and clean for.  Lots of dancing and singing ensues, because why not?  (This one has a little mild innuendo about a newlywed couple, girls claiming to have a baby out of wedlock so their fathers will let them get married, and some kissing.  Also involves kidnapping, but it's not scary.)

+ Mirror Mirror (2012) -- Snow White (Lily Collins) escapes her evil stepmother (Julia Roberts), falls in with a band of thieving dwarves, falls in love with Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), and tries to get rid of her stepmother.  Sean Bean fans will love the way this movie is the exact opposite of most Sean Bean movies -- if you're a fan of his, you know what I mean.  This is a vivid, quirky fairy tale that I think more people should see.  (This one has some low-cut dresses, Armie Hammer shirtless several times, characters wearing only long underwear, love potions, some violence and scary bits... no bad language except I think one instance of taking God's name in vain.  I would show this to my 9-year-old, but not my younger kids yet.)

That's it for today!  Next time, I'll get back to some of the requests you've given me, but if you've got any new requests for movies you'd like me to make comparison suggestions for, let me know!

Also, Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans :-)