Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Nook - May is music & movies month - part 5

When I thought about making May a movies & music month, I thought about a few of my favorite CDs and a few favorite movies & figured I would split them up on the blog.  However, I didn't consider that there are actually 5 Mondays this May.  What to do with that last Monday?  Kid's choice, of course!

Microcosmos is one of our favorite movies, but this is coming from 3 Bachsters that love bugs and one Mama that loves to photograph bugs.  If you like insects, you'll love this movie.  There is hardly any dialogue in the film; rather, it shows up-close videography of insects in their habitats.  There is a rain scene, and it shows how bugs are affected by this force of nature (the ladybug being flung off a leaf is really cute).  Ants are shown sharing a drink of water from a raindrop.  There is a scene in which tons of caterpillars are marching to who-knows-where and they get in a traffic jam.  A hardworking dung beetle is forced to figure out how to get his dung-y treasure off a stick.

The first time the Bachsters watched this movie, there were shrieks and squeals of glee from the TV room.  I guess it's a good thing there's little dialogue, we would have missed it all anyway.  They were so charmed by seeing the insects, up close, in their own little world, that it was almost as fun watching the kids watch the movie as it was to watch the movie itself.

When I learned that Barenaked Ladies had a kids album out, I just had to check it out, as they are one of my favorite bands.  Snack Time by BNL does not disappoint.

After repeated listenings, I've determined that the band's songwriting strategy for this album went something like this: "ok guys, what are kids into?  I!  Great idea, let's elaborate on that theme.  Hmmmm.  I know....erasers!  Yes, great idea!  Let's write a song about erasers!"  There are also songs about hand-me-down coats, allergies & popcorn!  As trivial as these topics seem, they make for great songs for kids, and they all have awesome singability.

One of my faves (and a Bachsters favorite, too) is the song about 7-8-9 (or should I say 7 ate 9).  It's so clever, and it's classic BNL.  I just love these guys!  We also like the song about drawing - it's a very catchy tune.  The Bachsters all have many songs on the album that they like, and of course they know the number it is on the CD, so they can just request it by number (Mommy, can you please play number 10?).  You'll find yourself listening to this CD even without the kids, it's so good!

Do you have any movies &/or CDs that your kids love?  Please share!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy 1st Blogday!

Happy Blogday!

One year ago, I started this little hodgepodge of a blog with this post.  It's been a fun year & I hope you've enjoyed the blog!  Thanks to everyone who has stopped by - I really appreciate you taking the time to view my photos & read the posts.

Let's celebrate....who wants a cupcake?


Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Nook - May is music & movies month - part 4

Have you ever gone to see a movie & as you're leaving the theatre, practically forget everything you just saw?  Within a day, you've forgotten most of the scenes....maybe one day you'll completely forget you even saw the movie?  I really hate movies that are so generic that they make no lasting impression on the viewer.  So, today I thought I'd post about a few movies that are just the opposite (for me, anyway): movies that I remember years later: scenes, dialogue, imagery, etc.  Movies that are both enjoyable and memorable.

The Truman Show starring Jim Carey is an intriguing movie.  In the film, Carey plays a man who is the ultimate & original reality star: from his birth he has been filmed 24 hours a day.  He lives in a perfect, 50's style world where everyone is pleasant and happy.  Americans love Truman and his show is a huge success.  The only thing is, Truman is completely unaware that he is the subject of this show and that the world he lives in is a made-up fantasy land where everyone in his life is a paid actor.

Truman starts to suspect things are a little off.  He is captivated, even years later, by a pretty girl he knew in high school who tried to tip him off to the truth.  He sees his long lost father (an actor that was let go) on the street one day.  As Truman starts to dig further and further into his reality, the producers are behind the scenes, throwing everything his way to prevent him from discovering the truth.

This is a movie that makes you think, that you'll love to discuss and contemplate with others over coffee or chai after you see it.  I haven't seen it in years, but I still find the premise of it fascinating.

Contact starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey.  I love this movie about what it would be like to make contact with aliens.  It is so different from your typical alien movie, though & that's the best part.

Jodie Foster stars as an astronomer who lives her life with one goal: reaching extra-terrestrial life in the far depths of space.  In her lab, she listens to sounds from deep space.  One day, these sounds drastically change, and it is Dr. Arroway (Foster's character) who is able to decipher the sounds to determine that it is actually a message from the unknown.

The real magic in the movie is the actual meeting of the aliens - it is done in an ingenious & sensitive way.  There are so many movies with alien themes and so many of them are the same as the one before, but this one differentiates itself from the others.  I think it's about time I watched this one again.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off starring Matthew Broderick.  This is a classic 80's movie about a teenager who ditches school one day.  Matthew Broderick plays the eponymous Ferris Bueller, who is lovable, charming and a bit mischievous.

Ferris feigns an illness to get out of school, and his parents comply like putty in his hands.  Through some pretty elaborate schemes, he manages to get his best friend, Cameron, and his girlfriend, Sloane, out of school as well.  While he's off exploring Chicago in Cameron's dad's priceless 1961 Ferrari (well, actually the parking attendants get more mileage out of it than Ferris and his friends), there are outside forces determined to expose Ferris' deception: his cranky sister Jeanie and the school's principal, who cross paths in a really funny plot point.

All through the movie, Ferris stops periodically to talk directly to us, the audience.  We are in on the secret and on his side.  Save Ferris!

What are some movies that left a memorable impression on you?  Please share!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

My foray into juicing

I've been wanting to start eating healthier - more fruits & vegetables and less sugary sweets (I'm a real sweet tooth).  One thing that I've been reading about is juicing and how it is so great for your body.  So, I've recently tried my own homemade juices....and they are awesome!

My first juicing attempt was simply with organic carrots.  I really thought it would taste horrible, and when Little Dude tried some and said "blah," I figured it must be pretty yucky.  To my surprise, it was delicious!  Sweet and wholesome, just like a carrot but in juice form.

The next day, we tried a fruit juice concocted by our 7-year-old.  Apples, an orange, kiwi, mango, was so good!  I've also tried carrots with a granny smith apple - so sweet and yummy!  Today, I tried carrots and celery, which wasn't as tasty, but I'm not real keen on celery anyway.  Maybe if I throw in some other kinds of veggies along with the celery?  As tempting as it is to make fruit juice all the time, I really want to focus on veggie juices - my daily veggie intake could use some help!

Have you ever made homemade fruit or veggie juice?  If so, what is you favorite recipe? 


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's raining...again

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains.  
One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.  
-Adeline Knapp
It's been raining around here a lot.  We've been staying inside so much, that I finally decided, if you can't beat them, join them.  So, I've been getting my camera & getting some shots around the yard.  The picture above, and the following one, are macros done with extension tubes and my 50mm lens.  
Look - my peonies are about to bloom!  I'm so excited!
These 3 pictures were all taken on separate days and as you can see, they all include raindrops!  I have a tendency to stay indoors when the weather is yucky, but like the quote at the top says, there are some really beautiful things to be seen when it rains, even in your own backyard.
Hope you're having a nice Wednesday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Nook - May is music & movies month - part 3

Have you ever fallen in love with an album so hard that you listen to it over and over and over again, so that it somehow becomes part of you, part of your history?  It speaks to you in such a profound way that you want to be listening to it every waking moment?  I've had a few albums that have moved me in such a way:

December by George Winston is one of the most beautiful collection of songs ever.  The overall feel to the CD is somber, pensive & quiet.  It's no wonder that I clung to it like mad when I was going through a rough time my first year at college - in the winter, no less.

This is not a lengthy CD - only 39 minutes.  But each song is perfect.  If you're not familiar with George Winston, he is a pianist who composes his own work.  Of course, this being a holiday album (somewhat), Winston puts his own spin on some traditional holiday melodies, like The Holly and the Ivy & Carol of the Bells (I think this one is my favorite here).  There are also some original pieces as well. 

Once you listen to this, I guarantee you will want more George Winston.  I also love his Forest album and Linus & Lucy.  If you ever get a chance to see him in a live performance, you'll want to do so - he'll be barefoot & he'll be doing some interesting things to show you how he gets some of the sounds from the piano - such as basically getting into the piano itself.

Every time I listen to this CD (and I listen to it year round, not just winter time), it comforts me as it once did many winters ago, like a gentle hug from an old friend.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan.  I had never heard anything quite like this album when I first listened to it, and it pulled me in right away.  There's something about it that's dreamlike - like you're in the deep woods and you thought you saw something mysterious and you're following it to find out what it is. 

I think the first song is the most "magical" in the set - it's called Possession.  It starts with heavy chords on an organ, and I have a funny story about it.  When DH and I were living in our old house, we had this album in the CD player.  In the middle of the night, all of a sudden we are awoken by the ominous organ playing, extremely loud (as we must have had the volume cranked up from the last time).  If you've ever heard this song, you might be able to understand how freaked out this would have made us!  It turns out that some power had gone out in the surrounding neighborhood & the power company was out tinkering with the lines.  Somehow, when our power went back on, it started the CD up all on its own.  I thought for a moment that I was being haunted and my haunting even had a soundtrack!

The other songs on the CD are great too - most of them are sort of moody & ponderous.  McLachlan has a beautiful voice and on some of the songs she's belting out, and on others she is singing in a quiet, understated way.  This album has great singability.

I started listening to this album when DH and I first moved to Columbus, OH.  And I listened (and sang along) to it so many times that it is forever etched in my brain and vocal chords!

Rock Spectacle by Barenaked Ladies.  Oh, Barenaked Ladies, you had me from "hello."  Seriously, it was love at first listen and I have been a huge fan of BNL ever since I heard The Old Apartment on the radio.

This album is a live album of some of their best songs they had to date of its release.  And this CD was my first introduction to the group, although I love their other albums, too.  This is an especially fun CD because BNL is a great band to see live - their show is energetic, funny and leaves you wanting more.  I think I've seen them in concert maybe 3 times and it was always an absolute blast!

This CD has some of their most popular songs on it - Brian Wilson, the aforementioned The Old Apartment and If I Had $1000000.  These are all great songs, so incredibly fun to sing to!  But there are lesser known songs on this album that I love just as much - Hello City has always been one of my faves, as well as Life in a Nutshell and These Apples.  The singability factor here is way, way up.

The downside to listening to an album so many times is that you can get burned out.  I'm sorry to say that I haven't been listening to BNL as much the last couple of years because I think I might have overdone it a bit in my enthusiasm for their music.  But I still adore them, and every time I play one of their CDs today, it's like instant-happiness.

Do you have any favorite albums that you couldn't stop listening to, once upon a time?   


Friday, May 13, 2011

Dawes Arboretum

On Mother's Day, we took a little trip out to Dawes Arboretum, which is located in Newark, OH.  It's really beautiful there - 1,800 acres of trees, flowers and gardens.  I've been there a couple of times before, but DH never had & the kids didn't remember the time I took them, so it seemed like a nice place to go on a beautiful Spring day!

Since Dawes is so big, we limited our trip to the area around the Dawes house, roaming around the gardens and trees near the house and then taking a tour of the house.

The small portion of the arboretum we visited was full of gorgeous, mature trees.  Almost every tree has a sign near it, telling you what kind of tree it is.  If it was a special planting, there is a plaque at the base of tree, letting you know who planted to tree & the year it was planted.  One huge mature tree I saw had a sign stating it had been planted in 1935.  It was so idyllic and peaceful, wandering from one enormous tree to the next.

The dogwood trees were in bloom:

This is an appropriately named shagbark hickory:

After wandering around for a while, we made our way to the Dawes house.  The house was built around 1867 and was purchased by Beman and Bertie Dawes in 1917 to be their country home.  At the time, the house was situated on 140 acres.  When the Dawes' founded the arboretum in 1929, they purchased additional acreage, and at that time had 293 acres.  Anyway, the house is a lovely brick home with 12 foot ceilings, almost all of the Dawes' original belongings....and no photography allowed!  But it was a real treat to be on the tour and see their home.  And, thankfully, none of the Bachsters broke anything - there were antique breakables everywhere!  That earned them a trip for ice cream afterwards!

After our tour, we checked out the garden:

The best part of the day was the pond behind the Dawes house.  Our oldest saw a salamander as we approached, and there were whirligig beetles all over the place (we love whirligigs).  Then our 5-year-old caught a damselfly - she was so thrilled!

We explored the Cypress Swamp on our way out of the arboretum, hoping to see salamanders again (no luck, but I spotted a very cool beetle).  We really just scratched the surface of this lovely place.  I still haven't been to the Japanese Garden & it's one of Dawes' highlights.  There are also lots of trails to explore, an observation tower to climb, an area of magnolias (I must check that out next Spring).....many, many reasons to return.  But at that point, we were all tired and definitely ready for that ice cream!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Nook - May is music & movies month - part 2

I used to watch a lot more movies than I do now, maybe because with 3 little ones, it's been difficult to find the time in recent years.  And  now, when I do have more time, I try to get some knitting done (or putter on the computer)!  But I really love movies & here are a few that I think are just great:

Amelie is hands down, my favorite movie!  It's about a quirky young woman who lives in Paris.  She finds herself doing little deeds that will make others happy, unbeknown to them who has changed their lives.  For instance, she finds a very old trinket box in her apartment and sets out to find the little boy (now a grown man) who it belonged to.  But being the unique individual she is, she sets up an elaborate situation in which to give him the trinket box.  She never does things in a straightforward way, which just adds to her charm.

In the midst of all of Amelie's top-secret do-gooder work, she has found a very odd scrapbook.  She is intrigued by the scrapbook and sets out to solve its mystery.  She is also intrigued by the owner of the scrapbook and finds herself falling in love with him.  Can Amelie find true love and happiness herself, just as she brings to so many people in her life?

The film is in French with English subtitles.  Don't let this dissuade you (when the movie first came out on DVD, I overheard a couple in the rental store decide not to rent it because of this - they missed out on a great movie).  I should also mention that the soundtrack to the movie is as quirky as our heroine and it really sets the tone and helps "make" the film.  Oh, and now whenever I'm making a recipe with lentils, I must stick my hand in the bag - one of life's little joys, thanks to Amelie! 

Raising Arizona starring Nicolas Cage & Holly Hunter has always been one of my favorites.  Cage stars as Hi & Hunter is Ed and they are a young couple with one dream: to start a family.  However, they are unable to, so they hatch a scheme to kidnap a baby from a local wealthy family who just had quintuplets.  Their reasoning is that this family has more kids than they need.  They take little Nathan Jr., along with his instruction manual, a Dr. Spock book.

It's been a long time since I've actually watched this movie from beginning to end, but I caught part of it a few months ago, and it cracked me up, as it always has.  Hi & Ed have all the best intentions, but quickly are over their heads.  Ed is a police officer & struggles with breaking the law, even though she wants a baby more than anything.  Hi attempts to be the best husband and Dad he can, although he must rob a convenience store when Jr. needs more Huggies.  And to complicate the situation, Hi's old prison buddies just broke out & have come for a visit.  Oh, and there's the little matter of the bounty hunter searching for the kidnappers.

This is a Cohen brothers film & it lives up to any Cohen brothers expectations that you might have.  The camera work is so great - we are on the road, with the Huggies, as Hi drives by and swoops them up during a getaway.  We are on the motorcycle, watching the road pass by, with the bounty hunter.  And the music is so perfect - it's sort of a yodelling that is heard throughout - keeping up the quick pace along with the humor.  The overall package is really perfection.

Since we're on the subject of Holly Hunter, another favorite of mine is The Piano starring Hunter, Harvey Keitel & Sam Neill.  This movie is a lot more somber than the others I've just discussed, but it has something in common with them: a great storyline, acting & soundtracks.  When DH & I went to see this movie when it first came out, I was completely mesmerized by it & left the theatre in a daze.

In the story, Ada (played by Hunter) is a young single mother (I can't recall if it's addressed in the movie whether she is a widow or had her daughter out of wedlock) - but this is set during a time when single moms are just unheard of (I think it's early 1800's).  Anyway, she is going to be married to a man who lives in New Zealand, so she & her daughter set off for this wild country, along with her beloved piano.  When they arrive onshore, she immediately starts playing.  It's her way of communicating, for as long as she can remember, she cannot speak.  I take that communicating part back, because Hunter is able to communicate all the range of emotions her character feels in her new life, without needing one word at all.

Once Ada and her daughter (played by Anna Paquin, who is now all grown up) get set in their new lives, Harvey Keitel's character enters the scene to shake things up.  Ada and Keitel's character (sorry, I don't remember his name) start to fall for one another, with disastrous consequences.  It's a haunting movie that you will unlikely be able to get out of your mind for a long time.

There's one more thing all 3 of these movies share in common: a message of hope.  If you've seen any of them, please let me know what you think of them! 

So, Amelie is my all-time-favorite movie....what's your favorite movie?   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there!  I hope everyone had a great day!

Our oldest was so cute...she was so excited to decorate for Mother's Day.  She made sure to tell me last night that I needed to go to bed at the same time she did, so that she could get out of bed to decorate.  She's such a sweetie!  Here is what awaited me in the kitchen this morning:

The weather was so nice today (no more rain!).  We took a fun family excursion - I'll share pics later this week!

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Nook - May is music & movies month

I thought I'd mix things up and do something a little crazy for May's book nook posts.  Instead of the usual discussion about books, let's chat about music & movies.   Music is up first.........

Pretty, Odd by Panic at the Disco.  This is my favorite CD of all time.  I absolutely love it & love every song.  It has great singability (see, I love singing along to music in the car - probably much to the Bachsters' chagrin - and this is absolutely the best CD to sing along with).  I adore the lead singer's voice.  I love the lyrics and the melodies.  I love the memory I get of the time in my life when I first discovered this CD and listened to it over and over and over (it was Springtime).  I think Northern Downpour is my favorite song on the album.   I really love the first song too ("oh, how it's been so long, we're so sorry we've been gone.  We were busy writing songs for YOU!").  You might be familiar with the song that follows that first one - Nine in the Afternoon.  I also love the one about "when the moon fell in love with the sun" (I forget what that one is called).  They are all just perfect!

I read somewhere that the group was splitting up because they were divided on the style of music they wanted to do.  I can see that being true, because their first CD sounds way different than this one (it's a much harder rock sound than my beloved Pretty, Odd).  It saddens me that this group will no longer make music like this (I think the "hard rock" members of the group retained the name Panic at the Disco and the more Cheryl-friendly members are now The Young Veins.  But don't quote me on that).  I guess the fact that it will never be duplicated makes Pretty, Odd very special indeed.

Reservoir by Fanfarlo is a recent discovery.  I listened to this CD every time I was in the car for about 2 months straight and I never tired of it.  This group, an Indie band from the UK, did a song on the soundtrack for the movie Eclipse & that's where I first heard of them.  Well, I really loved that song and was very intrigued by the lead singer's voice - he sounds exactly like David Byrne of the Talking Heads, I think (but he's not David Byrne as it turns out).  So, I checked out their debut album, Reservoir and loved it.  Not only does it have great singability, but there is one song that is made for a head-bopping-dance, which my 3-year-old always does every time it's on.  It's really cute.  The song is called Ghosts.  The other song on the CD that I really liked is called Harold T. Wilkins, Or How to Wait for a Very Long Time.  Long title, I know, but good song & the Bachsters, who are forced to share my music choices, agree.  They kept requesting number 9!  But I really love all the songs on the album.

Despite the singability, I should mention that I can't understand a lot of the words, which (unfortunately) doesn't stop me from singing along.  I really can't wait to hear what this group puts out next, because I really love their first album.

So Red the Rose by Arcadia.  Oh, how I embarrass myself every time I listen to this CD.  I sing along because it is unavoidable (and great fun), but I can't understand a word of it, so I make up all sorts of weird nonsensical lyrics.  No one in the vehicle seems to mind, though.

This group is made up of a couple of members of Duran Duran, so if you like them, you're sure to like Arcadia (Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes & Roger Taylor).  It was just a side project for these band members - in fact, the other members of Duran Duran did their own side project as well.

I'm so smitten with this CD.  It's very short - only about 35-45 minutes or so - but packed with great music.  It has a definite 80s vibe to it, especially with Rhodes' keyboard, but it's not a "dated" 80s sound, if that makes sense.  And I love Simon LeBon's voice.  The CD starts with a great song called Election Day.  One of the songs is only instrumental & it's got a neat mix of varied instruments.

By the way, DH and I saw Duran Duran live, several years ago before the Bachsters came on the scene.  If you ever get a chance to see them, do.  It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to (but I am a big fan of Duran Duran).  As I mentioned, if you like them, you'll love this little offshoot that they did.

Tell me - what's your favorite CD?