Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Ten Favorite Sci-Fi Movies

Okay, I realize some of my choices may cause some people to question my sanity.  And how I rank them.  But remember, these are my favorites, not what I think are the best.  That would be a totally different list -- this is about the ten sci-fi movies I love the most and how often I watch them.  Keeping that in mind... feel free to disagree with me :-)

1.  Serenity (2005)

Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his band of smugglers (Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, etc.) take on an Alliance assassin to protect one of their own and wind up uncovering a vast conspiracy.  I saw this on the big screen and have been a Browncoat ever since.

2.  Return of the Jedi (1983)

Luke and Leia rescue Han, Luke and Han rescue Leia, Lando and R2-D2 rescue everyone at once... and that's only the first sequence, which happens to be my most favoritest.  I've seen the first 40 minutes of this more often than any other segment of any Star Wars movies.

3.  Independence Day (1996)

A pilot (Will Smith), the President of the USA (Bill Pullman), and a variety of other humans band together to save earth from an alien invasion.  I love how it mixes serious, exciting, and funny together so seamlessly.

4.  A New Hope (1977)

An idealist (Mark Hamill), a princess (Carrie Fisher), a smuggler (Harrison Ford), and an aging hero (Alec Guinness) help the Rebel Alliance take out the Empire's greatest weapon.  What can I say about it that hasn't been said a billion times before?

5.  I, Robot (2004)

A robot-phobic policeman (Will Smith) reluctantly joins forces with a robot (voiced by Alan Tudyk) to stop a robot uprising.  Sleek and smashing.

6.  Equilibrium (2002)

A law-enforcement officer (Christian Bale) takes on the regime that has outlawed all emotions.  Imagine if The Matrix had been written by Ray Bradbury.  I just wish Sean Bean was in more of it.

7.  The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Luke learns the truth about his parentage, Han and Leia try not to fall in love, and the Empire tries to figure out what hit them.  I like half of this movie a lot, and am bored by the other half.

8.  Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

Two melllow high school students (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) travel through time to collect info so they can finish their homework and save the future.  Smarter and funnier than you expect.

9.  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

A pilot (Jude Law) and a reporter (Gwyneth Paltrow) try to figure out why there are giant flying robots attacking New York City.  Retro and gorgeous and fun.

10.  Back to the Future (1985)

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) time-travelling car to go back to the 1950s and make sure his own parents get together.  Classic and wonderful.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Build a Tabletop Play Station for Legos

My kids have been begging for Legos for probably a year now.  We said they had to wait until the littlest sister turned two.  In due time, she did, so we gave them their first sets for Christmas.  I also got out all my Legos from when I was a kid.  They went nuts.  They're so creative with them, my dad also went nuts and bought them a whole lot more Legos.  Now my six-year-old son spends 95% of his indoor playtime building with Legos.  My four-year-old daughter spends hours with them too.  The two-year-old loves to build towers from two-by-two bricks.  It's great!

But, as we all know, with many Legos come many sore parental feet.  So I built them a tabletop play station that fit on our card table.  They loved it.  And it worked perfectly!  No Legos all over the floor, no parents howling in pain, no lost Legos (or at least, not many).  It was great.  Took me under two hours to build.

And then we outgrew it.  Remember how I said my dad went a little nuts and started buying them more Legos?  Yeah.  By the end of January, they couldn't really play on the table very well.  (Too many toys is not always a good thing, it seems...)  So I decided to build a bigger play station to fit on this folding table we use when we have lots of people over for Thanksgiving or Easter, etc.  Back I went to the home improvement store for more building material.  A friend had loved my first table so much she wanted me to tell her how to make one herself for her kids, so this time, I took pictures.  And now I finally have time to write up the instructions.  Here you go!

What you need:

  • A saw to cut the sides the right length
  • Thin "wood" for the base -- I used whiteboard the first time and that was the best, but it was the wrong size the second time around.  Get the folks at the home improvement store to cut this to size for you.
  • Edging trim for the sides.  I sawed this myself to get it precisely right.
  • Something to sand with.  I don't recommend these squashy sanding blocks at all.  Look how ripped-up it got after making this one table!  Use sandpaper.
  • Hammer and nails

Step One:  Cut your sides to the right size.  You want them to overlap so you can nail them together, and I find the easiest way is like this:

So you want your sides to be the length of a side of your base MINUS the width of your siding material so it will all be flush in the end, like this:

Step Two:  Set up your sides and use one nail on each corner to hold it together so it won't fall over on you all the time.

Make sure you have this upside down so you can put the bottom on top of it and your edges won't be upside-down once you're finished.

Step Three:  Start nailing the bottom on!  Make sure your edges are flush and your corners are square -- check often as you go along.  I recommend starting with a short side and spacing your nails about six inches apart, or closer.

Be not to put your nails too close to the edge or they'll do this:

Obviously, since this table is intended for little fingers, that can't be left that way.  I had no fewer than six nails do that with my second table.  None my first table, but I used a fancier (and more expensive) trim on it that was a little thicker.  Fortunately, I always carry this in my pocket:

So I pried those nails out pretty easily.  I don't know what I'd do without my Swiss Army Knife!  I use the scissors daily, the screwdrivers at least once a week, the blades to open packages or letters... I love it.

Anyway, here's a look at my finished product:

As you can see... my table is warped!  Argh!  Who knew?  Too many moves, or too much time in the garage -- I don't know.  But I transferred the play station to a couple other tables, and it's just fine:

There you have it!  I've saved the smaller table to use for really big jigsaw puzzles when they're older, since it fits on the card table so nicely.  This play station also totally works on the floor too, though more Legos end up on the floor then, and that kind of defeats the whole purpose of saving adults from stepping on them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Where Your Treasure Is

Over the past couple of months, several of my friends have linked to things on Facebook or Pinterest about how "a tidy home is a happy home" or "neatness and health go together" or "keeping a clean house shows your children you love them."  (I'm totally paraphrasing here, not quoting -- don't try googling those or anything).  And I read three or four of those articles to see if they have some kind of magically delicious tips on how to keep a house full of small children cleaner than I do.  But no, they just talked about cleaning schedules and daily routines and how important it is to teach our children to care for their things and their house, to teach them to work hard to create a clutter-free, clean, orderly, neat world.

And those articles bothered me.  A lot.

At first, I thought it was because they made me feel guilty about the state of my house.  To be very honest, I'm not a good housekeeper.  I sweep the dining room floor a couple times a week.  I sweep the other rooms once every week or two.  On the main floor.  Upstairs and in the basement, it's a lot less often.  I clean the bathroom on the main floor every week or so.  The kids' bathroom upstairs, once every month or two.  Our bathroom upstairs?  Probably four times a year for the whole bathroom, more often for just the toilet and the sink we use most.  I do wash the table and counters after every meal, though!  And the kids pick up the toys and books in the living room every night.  But the toys in the basement can stay all over the floor -- we clean them up if we're going to have company staying with us, since our guest room is in the basement.  And I've only made my son clean his whole room up twice.  I've never had my daughters do that yet.  To me, toys are meant to be played with, houses are meant to be lived in, and I would rather read a book to my kids or play with Legos with them, or write a blog post while they're playing outside and napping, than clean something that's not all that dirty (to my eyes) and will just get messed up again in a few minutes.

However, those articles made me wonder:  am I doing this wrong?  Is there something actually not right about how I'm raising my kids?  Am I raising them to be slovenly, careless, dirty people?  And why am I raising them this way?  Is it laziness?  Okay, yes, partly it's laziness -- it's easier to sit here in my comfy folding chair and type up this blog post than to sweep the garage out.  (Besides, I swept out the garage last week, and that's good enough.)

But also, I realized that I don't place a huge emphasis on things.  On stuff.  We have a lot of stuff, it's true -- I have hundreds of books and movies and CDs.  They have hundreds of toys scattered over three stories of house -- and I do mean scattered, except the Legos, which they conscientiously keep confined (mostly) to the Lego table I built them (and which I swear I'll post about soon, cuz it's cool).  And, it's true that they don't always take the best care of their toys.

Every couple of weeks, I have to have a little talk with them about the fact that they are not treating a toy or book well.  I remind them that all our possessions are blessings given to us by God.  God wants us to enjoy our books and toys, but he also expects us to take care of what he's given to us and not waste our blessings.  It's okay to play with a toy every single day and love it so much that it eventually breaks beyond repair, like the plastic semi truck my son loved to pieces as a toddler.  Glue, bolts, and rubber bands eventually could not keep Jack Truck together any more.  And that happens, toys wear out -- that's part of life in our decaying, fallen world.  However, it is not okay to be careless with our toys and books, to leave a book outside to get rained on and ruined, to throw a truck down the stairs and watch it smash, to ride a bike over a toy trowel on purpose to break it.  To rip books because you're mad.  That is not okay -- that is not caring for the gifts God has given us.

However, the emphasis on caring for our physical blessings goes too far sometimes.  I read those articles, and I got that little twinge of "that's not quite right."  Caring for God's blessings is good, yes.  Being a good steward is important.  But putting so much emphasis on taking care of these earthly objects can be dangerous.  It can turn cleaning and neatness into pietistic good works whereby we try to prove what good people we are.  A clean room is a happy room?  Does that then mean that a messy room is a sad room?  That we should feel guilty for having a stray object out of place?  I think not.  I fear that sort of thinking can, if it goes too far, elevate worldly possessions to heights of such importance that we could end up basically worshiping them.  Serving our houses and our cars and our books and toys and furniture, instead of seeing them as blessings that God intends should serve us.  Caring so much about objects, about stuff, about keeping our houses perfectly clean and tidy and neat and orderly, that they become treasures, precious to us beyond what is good.

It all comes down to what Christ warned in Matthew 6:19-21:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I want to spend more time on teaching my children to live God-pleasing lives than keeping my house orderly.  I want to teach them to enjoy and value God's earthly gifts, but not to worship them.  I want my heart, and their hearts, to be bound up with heavenly treasure, not earthly things.  Moth and rust and time and wear and tear will destroy our stuff.  All these nice things will one day be on a trash heap, no matter how hard we work at keeping our things neat and tidy, tidy and neat.  And if our hearts, our lives are bound up in those things?  They could end up on a spiritual trash heap.

Should my house be cleaner?  Yeah, probably.  I like having friends over once a month or so because it forces me to sweep my floors and clear away some of my clutter, just so my kids and theirs can play without knocking over a pile of books or grinding too many Cheerios underfoot.  Is it wrong to enjoy having a clean house?  Of course not!  But if it's a choice between spending time tidying my house and spending time teaching and learning from my children, well, I've made my choice.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

"Ivanhoe" (1982) -- Initial Thoughts

I was so excited when I won a copy of this on Musings of an Introvert!  I'd only seen the 1952 version before, and it rather... lacks.  But this version is great fun, I'm happy to report.  I very much look forward to watching it with my kids when they're a bit older, as it's totally the kind of movie I would have watched over and over as a kid.  Especially since it includes quite a bit of Robin Hood, who's always been a favorite of mine.

The story, for those who are just joining us, is that Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Anthony Andrews) ran off to join King Richard's crusade against his father's wishes.  He returns home just in time to rescue Isaac of York (James Mason) from being waylaid by forest robbers.

Isaac (James Mason), who has the weirdest and silliest hat in the whole movie.

Isaac is a wealthy Jew with quite a few enemies and a beautiful daughter named Rebecca (Olivia Hussey).  Out of gratitude, he outfits Ivanhoe with a horse and armor to enter a tournament.  There, Ivanhoe is briefly reunited with the fair Rowena (Lysette Anthony), who is his father's ward and was Ivanhoe's intended bride until Ivanhoe's father disowned him because he went on that fool crusade.

At the tournament, Ivanhoe also meets up with three scurrilous knights:  Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Sam Neill), De Bracy (Stuart Wilson), and Front-de-Beouf (John Rhys-Davies).

Three bad, naughty, evil knights.

They're cronies of Prince John's and not well loved of the Saxon populace, being Norman oppressors, etc.  And then there's lots of jousting, and this is getting long, so I'll skip ahead to the fact that Ivanhoe gets wounded, and he and Isaac and Rebecca are captured by those three scurrilous knights, as are Ivanhoe's dad Cedric and Lady Rowena.  And they have to get rescued by Robin Hood (David Robb).

This Robin Hood is pretty cool.  He's got a very Saxon look, all blond and blue-eyed and sharp-cheekboned, and he does the role justice.

Locksley the Lethal

Oh, and I forgot the bad guys also captured Athelstane (Michael Gothard), who's the son of Saxon royalty and cracked me up the whole movie through.  He thinks of absolutely nothing but food!

Athelstane the Always Hungry

I can see why Anthony Andrews fans would like this movie a great deal.  He spends most of it wounded and shirtless.  And he looks very, very good that way.

Of course, with such a lovely nurse, who wouldn't prolong their recovery?

But the real highlight of the casting in this, for me, was Olivia Hussey as Rebecca.  Wow.  She was wonderful!  Beautiful, of course, but also with a mixture of innocence and resilience that really entranced me.

I would totally wear any of her costumes.

Plus, Rebecca is such an intelligent character.  Especially when contrasted to this version's Rowena, who is very pretty and sweet, but extremely dippy.

Though she be but dippy, she is fierce.  Or something.

All in all, this is such a delightfully colorful and joyous production.  Everyone's having a grand time, and they hope the viewers will too.  Lately, I've realized that I really dig movies that simply want to be enjoyable.  The people making the movie are having fun, they want their audience to have fun, and no one is worried about making High Art or Important Statements.

Colors, colors everywhere!

In fact, some of the actors, who we know can Really Act, turn in remarkably silly performances here.  I'm talking to you in particular, Sam Neill.  You spent the whole movie smirking and sneering, except at the very end, where you were suddenly so wonderful it's like you remembered you could act, or something.

One of Sam Neill's vast collection of smirks.

Is this movie family friendly?  Mostly!  There's medieval violence, swords and so on, but very little blood -- this is a TV movie from the '80s, after all.  And there's some talk of taking a woman as a concubine, a bit of leering and menacing toward her, but nothing overt.  A couple of chaste kisses elsewhere.  I can't recall any bad language at all.

Now, one last picture of Anthony Andrews just cuz he's the star and I couldn't find anywhere else to include a close-up.

I'm terribly wounded.  How's my hair?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Sherlock Holmes' Personality Types

Carissa and Charity, two bloggers I've recently "met," are superb at figuring out what MBTI personality types different fictional characters have.  In case, you don't know, MBTI = Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a bunch of questions about your preferences and habits that can lead to great insights into your own personality, as well as other people's.  What I find the most fun is seeing what fictional characters I have the same type as.  I'm an ISFJ, and as I mentioned in this post, Dr. John Watson is also an ISFJ -- I'm so tickled to have a companion in the canon!

But anyway, my husband and I were discussing Sherlock last week, and how the characters are a lot different from the originals.  The show is really a retelling, not an adaptation, and I'm fine with that.  The show tickles me, for the most part.  But that portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is quite a bit different from the character I grew up with.  And, serendipitiously, Carissa and Charity have both blogged recently about what they believe Sherlock Holmes' MBTI type is -- Carissa discussed the BBC version, and Charity discussed the original.  And they're both such fascinating posts that I have to share them.

Go here to read Charity's brilliant post about the canonical Sherlock Holmes.

Go here to read Carissa's scintillating post about the BBC's Sherlock version of the character.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Sunflower Blogger Award

Victoria over at Hope Writer and Lizzie of His Redeemed Child (edit) AND Whimsey Keith AND Heidi of The Far Side of Forever have all nominated me for the Sunflower Blogger Award.  Isn't that sweet?  What a sunny way to brighten up the dregs of winter :-)

The rules:
  1. Share 11 facts about yourself. 
  2. Answer the questions set by your Nomination Blogger 
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers. 
  4. Set questions for the nominated bloggers.
So here are my 11 facts:

1.  My second-favorite candy bar is Almond Joy.
2.  I eat peanut butter straight out of the jar.  With a spoon -- stop looking at me askance.
3.  I hate wearing shoes and socks.
4.  If I had been a boy, my name would have been John.
5.  I was in the chorus of three Gilbert and Sullivan musicals while I was in college.
6.  I was born near where Jesse James robbed his first train.
7.  I've never had a haircut.  I just get it trimmed every six months or so.
8.  I collect Coca-cola stuff, and my kitchen is decorated with Coke items.
9.  I've had the same favorite movie since I was 2 1/2 years old (The Man from Snowy River).
10.  My seasonal allergies disappeared after I gave birth to my first child.
11.  My favorite candy bar is Snickers (in case you've been wondering since fact 1).

Here are my answers to Victoria's questions:

What time period would you travel back to if you had the chance? Why? 

The Old West, of course.  I'd do as much research as possible, drink in the atmosphere and clothes and dirt and dialect and everything about life back then.  Then I'd come back to the present and write smashing novels unlike any western novels ever written before.

Is there a book that you’ve read at least five times from beginning to end?

Sure, quite a few, actually.  I'm on my sixth read-through of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, I've read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte at least five times, and I know I've read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley far more than five times.

Has the Lord done anything recently in your life that has strengthened your faith in Him? 

He's given me the answer to a decision I've been wrestling with, and I feel so free and peaceful now.

What is your favorite family tradition? 

Listening to Elvis' Christmas album while trimming the Christmas tree.  It's kind of a tradition I created -- as a kid, I would insist that his be the first album we put on the record player when Mom started decorating the tree, and I've just continued that throughout my adult life too.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? 

Be more patient.  I've been working on it, but I still have a lot more patience to learn.

What has been your favorite movie this year? This can be in theaters or just from your own personal home viewing.

If mean favorite new movie I've never seen before, I'd say Frozen (2013).  If you mean favorite movie I've seen before but watched again this year, I'd say The Lone Ranger (2013).

And here are my answers to Lizzie's questions:

What name would you choose if you could or had to change your name?

Right now I like the name Reid.

What place in the world (time travel included) would you most like to visit? e. g. Paris in the 1920's, Egypt, 1500 B. C., etc.

Okay, to be different from the above answer, I'll say Paris in the 1920s, like in Midnight in Paris, so I could meet my literary heroes, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

How would you choose to spend a lovely, sunny spring day?

Planting things in my garden and containers!  I'm looking forward to doing just that very soon.

What are three of your favorite books?

To be different from above, I'll say The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, and The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

Three favorite movies?

My three absolute favorite movies are The Man from Snowy River, The Fugitive, and The Sons of Katie Elder.

Books that were made into movies?

The Fellowship of the Ring, Ben-Hur, and Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World.

Do you play an instrument? If so, which one?

I play the piano and trumpet, and I used to play the flute, but I haven't touched one in 15 years.

If not, is there an instrument you would like to learn?

I'd like to learn to play the trumpet better than I do.

What kind of pets/animals do have, if any? If none, what would you like to have?

We currently have a Betta fish named Winter.  But I'd like to have a large dog.  Some day, when the kids are older, maybe we will.

(edit) Here are my answers to Whimsey's Questions:

If you ever were to meet John Cleese from Monty Python in person, what would you say? :) 

"Is Michael Palin as nice in real life as he seems?"

If Anne Elliot and Jane Eyre were real people, which one would you rather meet? 

(You are a mean person, Whimsey.  What a choice!!!)  Oh, probably Anne Elliot.  I think we'd get along better than Jane and I would.  I've noticed that I don't always get along with other strong-minded, take-charge women -- we both want to take charge, hee!

Llamas or goats--which do you like better? 

Goats.  I've never had a goat spit at me, but a llama spat right in my face at a petting zoo once.

What is your favorite vegetable? 

Corn!  Especially corn on the cob.  Nom nom nom.

I know that you are a homeschool mother! Which subject is your favorite to teach so far? 

Art, because I can include all three kids in the same lesson.  And they have so much fun expressing themselves in ways I wouldn't have imagined doing.

(Edit) Here are my answers to Heidi's Questions:

If you could meet one person from history, who would it be? 

Daniel Boone

What book have you read more times than any other?

Picture books aside, probably either The Black Stallion by Walter Farley or The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

What was the first movie you saw in a theater? 

I have no idea.  The first movie I can remember seeing on the big screen and not just that I saw it was The Return to Snowy River, which greatly disappointed me.

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate? 


Spring, summer, fall, or winter? 

Spring and fall are the most creative for me, but I love snow... just not summer, I don't like heat.

If you could be part of any race from Middle Earth, what race would you choose and why? 

The Rohirrim.

What is your dream vacation? 

Ever since I was very young, I've dreamed of visiting Alaska and seeing the Northern Lights.

What do you think the greatest invention in modern times (since the birth of Christ) has been?

The printing press.  All kinds of great things have come about because we can spread the written word quickly and cheaply.

What was your favorite movie of 2013? 

The Lone Ranger

Who is your all-time favorite actor and actress? (They don't have to be living) 

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara

And now I nominate these 11 bloggers for this award:

Joanna of "The Squirrel's Diary"
Ruby of "We'll See How This Goes"
Maddie of "The Madd Rose"
Heidi of "The Far Side of Forever"
Hayden of "The Story Girl"
Ivy Miranda of "Revealed in Time"
Melody of "Regency Delight"
Hannah of "Reading in the Dark"
Analiese of "Portrait of a Maiden"
Carissa of "Musings of an Introvert"
Birdie of "Lady of the Manor"

Here are your questions:

If you had to spend the rest of your life in a different century of Earth's past, where would you spend it?
What's your favorite salad dressing?
What's the worst movie (that you liked least) you saw in 2013?
Do you paint your toenails?
What are your three favorite TV shows?
Are there any books or movies you own more than one copy of?  If so, what are they?

Play if you want to!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

And "The Scarlet Pimpernel" Goes To...

...Lydia!  Congratulations!  You won the giveaway :-)  Please check the email address you provided to find my email requesting your mailing address.

Thanks for playing, everyone!  I really enjoy hosting giveaways because I love imagining the joy the winner feels when they find out they won, and again when they get their prize and can enjoy it themselves.  In other words, I'm sure I'll be giving something away again, either here or on my book blog, sometime soon :-)