Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Summer To-Do List

Naomi Bennet posted a long summer to-do list on Wonderland Creek the other day, and inspired me to write a similar post.  I love lists, I make to-do lists allllllll the time, and I have a ton of things I want to do this summer, so why not share?

This summer, I want to:

~Start writing my next novel, another YA western

(It doesn't involve any Rangers, but I can't resist using this photo whenever I get a chance.)

~Go see Age of Ultron again

~Read 3 books about Robin Hood (because My Year With Robin Hood has stalled)

~Read at least 6 other books from my TBR shelves

~Read at least 3 other books from the library

(I will, of course, look exactly like this while reading all those books.)

~Have a squirt gun fight with my kids (Actually, just had one yesterday, but need to have another!)

~Have friends over for a sprinkler party (Been meaning to do this for two years now...)

~Clean out and organize my "crafting corner" (Which has turned into a Giant Pile O' Stuff.  Again.)

~Make a collage of inspirational writing quotes to hang above our computer desk

(And they will revolve around this quote, which I got
from Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper by SARK.)

~Finish watching Agents of SHIELD (We got soooo behind because of being sick and being gone, etc.)

~Watch Cranford and Return to Cranford (I just got the first disc out of the library.)

~Try new popsicle recipes (My kids can't seem to eat enough popsicles.  Hmm.)

~Make lavender lemonade

Lavender Lemonade Recipe
(This is one of the main reasons I harvested and dried my lavender last year.)

~Dance in the rain (For obvious reasons.)

~Clean the pantry (Doesn't sound fun, but needs to be done.)

~Watch at least 6 movies from my TBW shelf (It's triple-stacked right now and very sad.)

~Figure out if the dragon story in my head is workable (I never write fantasy or magical realism.  But I want to write this sooooo much right now.)

(This is a statue in Varna, Bulgaria, and I didn't even know it existed until
about 2 minutes ago, but it needs to be on the front cover of my book, if I write it.)

~Get off the computer and play with my kids more (Which I'm going to do right now.)

What about you?  Got a list of things you want to do or accomplish this summer?  I hope to come back and revisit this in the fall to see how much of it I got finished.

Friday, May 29, 2015

MEMM Day 28 - Favorite Middle Earth-related item(s) you own

I have a lot of Middle-Earth related mathoms, as they'd call them in the Shire.  Shirts, bookmarks, jewelry, mugs, posters, maps, pens, journals, board games, vases, candle holders, and of course the books and movies themselves.  Today, I'm just going to show you four things:

These are my favorite Middle-Earth-related items, and the ones I use the most often.  Not coincidentally, they are all from the same Etsy shop, The Ring and the Lion, run by my crafting friend Sarah.  She buys handmade pottery and then hand-paints phrases on them in Elvish with gold.  The two on the left she made for me by request, with specific phrases on them that I like to be reminded of.

The big green mug on the left says "Go where you must go, and hope!"  The brown mug says, "Forth now, and fear no darkness!"  The pale green mug says "May the stars shine on your journey."  And the blue vase says, "For all hobbits share a love for things that grow."  I use the big green mug for flowers too, when I have great big bunches of them.

My most favorite is the pale green mug:

I didn't capture it very well in the photo, but the handle of that one has a little leaf at the top of it, which is so elegant and Elvish-looking.

I actually have a tea light holder from her too, that says, "A light in the darkness shall spring" around it.  But it's really small and didn't look nifty with these pieces, so I didn't include it.  I've bought several other pieces from her too, over the years, as gifts for one friend or another.  Sarah makes other cool things too, and her whole shop is dedicated to Tolkien- and C.S. Lewis-inspired stuff, so definitely go check it out!

And look at that!  I finished the whole meme!  It only took me FOUR full months, but hey.  I didn't quit!  Yay!  Thanks for exploring the Middle Earth movies with me :-)  And as Gandalf says, "Go where you must go, and hope!"

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Guest Blogging about the "Cinderella" Soundtrack

I've got a guest post up this morning on James' blog about the music from Cinderella (2015).  Head over and give that beautiful music a listen :-)

I got to see Cinderella a third time last week, this time with my mom and my daughters all at once, and it's confirmed:  I love it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"North & South" (2004)

I've seen this three times now, three times in 4 months, and I finally feel qualified to blog about it a little.

Yes, it wasn't until February that I finally saw this amazing miniseries.  In fact, I hadn't even heard of it until a year or two ago!  Isn't that awful?  And at first, when bloggers mentioned North & South, I thought they were talking about the Patrick Swayze miniseries about the American Civil War.  Took me a while to realize this was a completely different thing.

Eventually, Heidi, Kara, and DKoren together convinced me to give this a try.  I originally watched it on Amazon over 3 or 4 nights,  and yeah, completely fell in love with it.  Promptly ordered the DVD.  Have watched it twice since.  Want to watch it again.  Because every time through it, I see new details, new depths to the characters, new nuances I had missed before.  Like the first time through, I didn't notice how often Margaret looks back over her shoulder -- when Mr. Thornton said, "Look back.  Look back at me," I found it pretty swoonworthy, but I didn't make the connection until my second viewing with the fact that she was constantly looking back at the factory or at other people, and so he'd noticed that and wanted her to do it one more time.  Little things like that, see?  So powerful, so rich.

One of the coolest things about this miniseries is how, by the end of it, I like every single character.  Okay, except Fanny Thornton, I don't really like her.  But everyone else, by the end, I like!  Even the characters I disliked or was annoyed by to begin with, like Mrs. Thornton, Mrs. Hale, and Mr. Bell.  By the end, I couldn't do without them.  I even love some of them.  Not as much as I love Nicholas Higgins and Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale, but quite a bit.

To be honest, I'm not sure who I like best in this miniseries.  I love Margaret (Daneila Denby-Ashe) for her intrepid curiousity, the way she ventures forth in a strange world time and again, asks questions about things she doesn't understand, and apologizes when she misunderstands Milton ways.

I love John Thornton (Richard Armitage) for his general stubbornness, whether it's about making his workers do as he says, doing the honorable thing at all times, or refusing to stop loving Margaret or even try to forget her.

And I love Nicholas Higgins (Brendan Coyle) for his shrewdness, his openhearted ways, his tender care for his daughter and Boucher's orphans.

I think this may be the most perfectly cast period drama miniseries I have ever seen.  Not one actor feels out of place or wrongly chosen, and I can't imagine anyone else in these roles.  However!  I do really want to see the 1975 version too, because... Patrick Stewart!  Happily, the library has it, so I'm hoping to see it soon.  I'm sure I'll review it when I do.

I just finished reading the book this week, and also reviewed it today, here.  I leave you with this one passage from it, which I think proves my point about Mr. Thornton's perfect casting, at least.
"Now, in Mr. Thornton's face the straight brows fell low over the clear, deep-set earnest eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was looking at.  The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and instantaneously except by children" (p. 81).

Is this miniseries family-friendly?  Mostly.  There's a bit of mild violence (hitting, kicking, throwing rocks) and a couple of era-appropriate curse words.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Ten Favorite Animated Movies

Been a while since I did one of these, huh?  Today I'm focusing on animated feature-length films.  I think it's a pretty nice mix of classic and modern, Disney and Pixar and some non-Disney too.  I've loved some of these since I was a small child, and others I saw as a teen or adult.  There's even one I just saw this past year and immediately loved so, so much.

1.  Robin Hood (1973)

Ye olde story of Robin Hood robbing the rich to feed the poor and battling Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham... except, they're all animated, talking animals.  Hilarious and heartwarming and swashbuckling and wonderful.  I have loved this movie so long I can't remember the first time I saw it.

2.  101 Dalmatians  (1961)

Two dalmatians and their owners stop the evil Cruella de Ville from turning 101 sweet puppies into a coat.  Much less grisly than it sounds, but at the same time, too dark for me to let my little kids watch it yet.

3.  Toy Story (1995)

The whimsical, witty answer to that question of just what toys talk about when we're not around to hear them.  With a script co-written by Joss Whedon, you can't help but laugh at the characters as you fall in love with them.

4.  Tangled (2010)

Rapunzel paints, sings, wields a mean frying pan, and dances her way into the heart of an errant knave and the audience.  I first saw this last year, and after the first hour or so, I was like, "Well, this is nice."  But after the lantern scene, I was like, "I looooooooooooooooooove this movie!"  Yeah, it shot into the top 5 tier that fast.

5.  Cars (2006)

A smirky race car gets stranded in a ho-dunk town run by an ex racing star who doesn't want the other townsfolk to know he used to be famous.  I first saw this at a drive-in theater, how perfectly fun is that?

6.  Aladdin (1992)

A humble thief finds a genie, gets turned into a prince, and tries to steal a princess's heart.  I was so very nutty about this movie when I was a teen, and I just introduced my kids to it last month (minus a couple of the scarier bits).

7.  Frozen (2013)

Do I even need to tell you what this is about?  Princess Elsa accidentally unleashes an eternal winter and nearly kills her sister, but it turns out all you need is love, just like the Beatles said.  Visually stunning AND heart-warming (pun totally intended).

8.  Anastasia (1997)

Two con men pass off an orphan girl as the missing Princess Anastasia of Russia.  Twist is, the orphan they pick?  Really is Anastasia.  First saw this at a friend's house my freshman year of college, during my first Thanksgiving away from home.  Love it, love the soundtrack, love the sheet music -- just a delightful movie.

9.  Lady and the Tramp (1955)

A prim and proper Cocker Spaniel tames a hound dog with her innocence and loyalty to her humans.  Sweet and sentimental, yes, but sassy and funny too.

10,  The Iron Giant (1999)

A lonely little boy befriends a giant robot, but fearful townsfolk think it's a Communist threat and try to destroy it.  This is a poignant look at growing up, friendship, acceptance, and love, and I wish more people had seen it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

MEMM Day 27 - Favorite end song

Obviously, "The Last Goodbye" from TBOTFA.  Nothing can compare.

And since I'm pretty sure you've heard the Billy Boyd version already, today I'm sharing Peter Hollens' splendid a capella version, which you've probably heard too, but just in case, why not?

My second-favorite ending song is "Into the West."  I have the sheet music for it, and I love playing and singing it.  The refrain in particular touches a melancholy-yet-contented chord in me.  Since I shared the Peter Hollens version of "The Last Goodbye," here's his version of "Into the West" too.

And actually, the first Peter Hollens video I ever watched was his rendition of "The Misty Mountains."  So I'm going to share it too.  Because I can.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Violets, Love, and a Link-Up

Heidi Peterson has started a new link-up series on her writing blog, where she'll post a subject each month, and whoever wants to can do a post that involves that subject and then link up on her blog.  This month's subject is violets, and as soon as I read that, I knew what I wanted to post about:  the scene in A Room with a View by E. M. Forster where Lucy falls into a sea of violets, quite unexpectedly, rather the way one falls in love.  Here it is, from chapter six:

At the same moment the ground gave way, and with a cry she fell out of the wood. Light and beauty enveloped her. She had fallen on to a little open terrace, which was covered with violets from end to end.
"Courage!" cried her companion, now standing some six feet above. "Courage and love."
She did not answer. From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam. But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head, the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.
Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.
George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.
Before she could speak, almost before she could feel, a voice called, "Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!" The silence of life had been broken by Miss Bartlett who stood brown against the view.

Isn't that a marvelous scene?  Even if you don't know the characters (and if you don't, please do yourself a favor and read the book!), that description of the violets, of a place where "beauty gushed out to water the earth" is so magical, isn't it?

Violets are one of my favorite flowers -- I love finding them growing wild in my lawn.  I have African violets in my kitchen too, to have a spot of beauty all year long.

Oh, and this month's link-up also involves a giveaway!  Go here to learn more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MEMM Day 26 - Favorite one-on-one fight

Hmm.  This is actually a really tough question for me, because I'm not sure I have one.  I haven't had one particular one-on-one fight that I look forward to with great delight in any of these movies.  I guess I'll go with Sam vs. Shelob because it's such a heroic moment, and Sam really comes into his own there.

Also, I'm a big fan of killing spiders, or even just wounding and driving them away, so on a personal level, I'm happy Sam dispatches Shelob :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A New Guest-Blogging Adventure

Starting today, I'm writing an occasional guest post for James the Movie Reviewer about some of my favorite movie soundtracks.  The first one is up here today, focusing on the score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).  I hope you dig it!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Ten Favorite Screen Characters Tag

Jamie over at Two Blue Eyes tagged me with this a few days ago.  I'm supposed to list off my 10 favorite characters from movies or TV, and then tag up to 10 bloggers to do the same.  I haven't done one of my lists of ten favorite something-or-others for a long time, so I thought this would be a good addition to that series :-)

These are characters I love on screen, though some of them I also love in the books or comics that inspired them.  But I am referring here to particular onscreen incarnations, okay?

1.  Sgt. Saunders (Vic Morrow) from Combat! (1962-67).  I love so much about Saunders.  His courage, his stubbornness, his moral certainty, his compassion -- he's such a nuanced, layered, complex character, and I love him dearly.

2.  Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from the X-men movies.  Ahh, Wolvie.  What can I say?  I would love to be Wolvie, to have his swagger, his lack of caring about what other people think, his high level of snarkiness.  I'm going to be very sad when Hugh Jackman turns in his claws in a couple of years, as I can't imagine anyone else embodying this character nearly so well.  I kind of don't want to see anyone try.

3.  Angel (David Boreanaz) from Angel (1999-2004) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I have so much sympathy for Angel, with his load of guilt for his past misdeeds, and his burning desire to help people, to atone for all the misery he's caused, to find forgiveness.  And I admire him, too, the way he stands back up every time he stumbles.  Doesn't give up, this vampire of mine.

4.  Sawyer (Josh Holloway) from Lost (2004-2010).  I've never been particularly attracted to "bad boys," but I'm fascinated by con artists and Southerners, so I was interested in him from very early in the series.  I love how he reinvents himself over and over, but can never actually change who he is inside.

5.  Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) from the Granada Television productions (1984-1994).  I love Sherlock Holmes in the original stories, and Brett's performance most closely matches the Holmes in my imagination.  He's brilliant, brusque, and so impatient, but has a kind heart and a twisty sense of humor.

6.  Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) from the Hobbit movies.  I rhapsodized here last month about why I love Bard so much, so today I'll just say that I admire his devotion to his family and his determination to protect them.

7.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) from the Avengers movies.  I get so annoyed by people who write Thor off as brawny eye candy.  He's so much more than that!  He's intelligent, but somehow a bit guileless, and he overlooks the faults of people he loves, which is why Loki can trick him so easily.  He's loyal, protective, trustworthy, and unselfish.

8.  John Reid (Armie Hammer) from The Lone Ranger (2013).  John Reid is my doppelganger.  Seriously, he is like a male version of me -- I've never found another movie character I identified with quite so closely.  I love his blend of naivety, intelligence, bookishness, manliness, and loyalty.  He's not at all like the original Lone Ranger character, but I am totally cool with that.

9.  John Watson (Martin Freeman) from the BBC's Sherlock (2010--).  He's so unendingly nice, isn't he?  And he puts up with so much nonsense, not without a growl or two, but still, he's the best friend anyone could ask for.

10.  Heath Barkley (Lee Majors) from The Big Valley (1965-69).  Heath's one of those characters I want to hug and take care of.  He's had a rough life, growing up illegitimate and fatherless.  I love how he fits into the Barkley family when he finds them, and yet is always just a little bit "other," never quite feeling secure in his new role as brother and step-son.  Of all the characters I love, he's the one who needs the most emotional TLC, though don't get the idea that he's weak or helpless!  He can shoot, brawl, and ride with the best of 'em.

Now, I'm supposed to tag 10 bloggers, so here goes:


Play if you want to!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

MEMM Day 25 - Characters you wish you liked more







Don't get me wrong -- I do like all of them!  But not as much as I think I ought to, or as much as I'd like to like them.  Does that make any sense?  I know they're awesome, but the feels aren't there.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

MEMM Day 24 - Favorite moment/line in The Battle of the Five Armies

Get comfy.  You know I'm truly madly deeply in love with this movie, but I've managed to narrow this down to my twelve favorite parts.  I tried shaving it farther, but I couldn't give any up to make it a nice round ten, so twelve it is.  And this is in order of how they happen in the movie, not of how much I love them -- if I could pick one favorite, I wouldn't be listing twelve!

1.  That little smile of dawning awareness that he could possibly kill Smaug -- that's my favorite part of the whole opening sequence.  Well, that and when he tells Bain to look at him, not the dragon.

2.  Bard's reunion with his daughters -- that look of relief he has!  The husky way he says, "Come here!" when he first sees them, the way he clutches them to him -- all so wonderful.

3.  Then there's Elrond's arrival at the evil fortress, and the subsequent fight.  I love that fight!  Especially how beautiful his cape looks when he's fighting.  It's hard to capture, but I tried:

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.  I want one!

4.  Then there's the whole exchange between Thorin and Bard, which I dearly love.  Bard starts out really hoping he can just make this ugly altercation end before it really begins.

Thorin says he's listening, but he's really not.  He's already made up his stubborn mind.

Bard starts to feel this isn't going to work out, and he gets pretty sad over it.  Can dwarves really be this stubborn?

Thorin's like, "Yeah, you have no idea how stubborn we can be.  If I make sexy eyes at you, will you get scared and go away?"

And Bard's all, "You've got to be kidding me -- what's wrong with you?"  And then that hand-slam of frustration -- delicious!

5.  I also love the way Bilbo sneaks past those guards.  It's pure Martin Freeman adorableness -- the most obvious sneaking actions ever, and it cracks me up.

6.  I know we all love it when Bilbo reluctantly admits he's the hobbit who stole Thranduil's keys and helped the prisoners escape.  "Yeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssss."

7.  But I also deeply love it when he tells them he's not doing it for them, he's doing it for his dwarf friends, even though they're stinky and rude.

8.  Then there's this shot.  Wow.  Could Thorin's return from madness have been more majestic?  Nope.

9.  And his reunion with Kili -- ohhh, so heartwarming.

10.  Okay, and this is a moment that I loved a whole lot even the very first time I saw TBOTFA.  When Thranduil sees the slain elves, he reminds me so strongly of Legolas' reaction to Boromir's death in FOTR.

This sort of wonderment, of working to wrap your head around the reality of death.  Yeah, I know elves don't exactly die like humans, so it's not the same thing, but anyway, Thranduil's expression really reminded me of Legolas', so I like it.

11.  And I love Bilbo's farewell to the dwarves.  Oh, it makes me tear up every time.  Such a poignant, sweet moment.

"Don't bother to knock."  Awwwwww!

12.  Finally, I love Bilbo's parting from Gandalf.  He's such a different hobbit than he was at the beginning of the first movie, isn't he?

This shot of Gandalf as he leaves is probably my favorite single image in the whole movie.  The light is gorgeous, and it looks like the most perfectly Middle Earth place I can imagine.

(I know I totally didn't adhere to my own rules here, but I'm sorry, I just can't pick one.)