What I’ve Been Into: July

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I love these posts Mary does wrapping up her month, and since I’ve been a little low on writing inspiration lately, I thought I’d chime in for July.

Moving and travel summed up a lot of July for us. I was in Ohio and North Carolina, and moved apartments in the middle.

Here are some the books I read in July. City of Bones is the first in the Mortal Instruments series. It’s a young adult, fantasy series. I liked it enough that I think I’ll read at least a few more, but I wasn’t in love with them.

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar took me a while to get into, but I found it incredible. It’s a retelling of the biblical story of Rahab and really going into what it would have been like for a Canaanite to become part of Israel. There was so much Truth in this book without it being preachy.

I listened to The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder in my car during all the travel. It’s by Rebecca Wells, the author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I keep reading her books, hoping she’ll crank out another Ya-Ya book. No such luck. But it was enjoyable to listen to.

The last week, I’ve delved into my every-so-many-years rereading of the Harry Potter series. It just needs to happen. It makes me happy.

I’ve read a few other books, too, but you can read about them on my Read This Year page … when I get around to writing about all of them.

We’ve been making good use of our new Roku and watching Doctor Who on Netflix and New Girl on Hulu Plus. We’ve been itching to watch New Girl forever after missing it when it was on, and it definitely lives up to the hype. Hilarious. Doctor Who can be pretty amusing, too, and while it’s more Mr. V’s type of show, I really do like it, too.

I’m sort of having a hard time remembering whether it was in June or July, but we did go to see Brave in the theater (sans kids). Definitely loved it.

Other things I’ve loved this month:

  • listening to David try to sing the VeggieTales theme song. It is the CUTEST THING EVER. “Cer-eh-ree!”
  • Seeing my babies on the beach for the first time.
  • Swimming.
  • Wearing my two new maxi dresses to death.
  • Trying to stay up late enough to watching gymnastics on the Olympics.

What have you been into during July?

10 Favorite Movies from My Teens

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Are there movies you could watch again and again … even though they are more appropriate for 14-year-olds? Maybe for you it’s High School Musical … or maybe you grew up Pretty in Pink?

All it took was one passing mention of one of these films and I was instantly transported to my own teenaged years. So just for fun, here are 10 of my favorite movies from when I was a teen [I turned 13 in 1995].

1. Camp Nowhere (1994) – Cute boys, four cliques brought together, innocent kisses, and life without parents. I’m pretty sure I could still watch this 18 times in a row. And my heart might still beat a little fast for 12-year-old Jonathan Jackson. Ha.

2. Now and Then (1995) – Four girlfriends in the 60s grow up a little bit and find out about themselves and friendships. I love the flash forwards to their adult selves, and I love the 60s soundtrack! I remember going to see this with my Sunday School class and gushing over Devon Sawa. As my sister said (very, very tired, on a road trip), “Sometimes you just need to see Devon Sawa’s booty.”

3. Casper (1995) – Yeah, I’m pretty sure this one was entirely to do with the 5 minutes Devon Sawa is Casper, the human version. And my 13-year-old self fumed with jealousy that Christina Ricci got to kiss him, again.

4. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – I’ve declared my love for this teen flick before. I’ve seen it a million times. It’s pretty darn funny. And the whole nerdy guy from 10 Things is the head elf in The Santa Clause is the dude from Numbers? Crazy.

5. She’s All That (1999) – As I “matured,” my love for Devon Sawa gave way to an intense love for Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Which also explains my prejudice against Sarah Michelle Gellar, his now-wife.) No, this movie is not really good. It’s your typical girl-takes-off-her-glasses-and-now-she’s-hot-and-guy-loves-her. But … Freddie!

6. Grease (1978) – I’m pretty sure Grease is part of every woman’s teenaged life since 1978. My husbands claims all the words to all the songs are implanted on the second X chromosome. What sleepover is complete without an off-key and window-shattering rendition of “Summer Nights”?

7. Drive Me Crazy (1999) – A little twist on the “one of them changes and now it’s OK” relationship, in this one girl tries to change guy to make her ex jealous. But it’s OK, because she figures out that she likes him for him at the end. I like Melissa Joan Hart and thought Adrian Grenier was adorable in this movie before he got famous on Entourage.

8. Down to You (2000) – More Freddie, more Julia Stiles. I love Julia Stiles. She was in a bunch of teen movies, but she really was and is a great actress. Other than that, I really have no defense for this one.

9. Cruel Intentions (1999) – Apparently 1999 was a HUGE year for teen flicks. Yeah, the premise of this movie is just flat-out awful. But I can’t say I didn’t watch it five or ten times. Besides, I liked being able to legitimately hate Sarah Michelle Gellar.

10. Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) – I remember going to see this with my sister and some friends in the theater and thinking it was one of the stupidest movies I’d ever seen. And then I watched it again … and again … and suddenly it was flat-out hilarious. Kirsten Dunst was perfect in this black comedy set in Minnesota.

What movies do you still love from your teen years?

added to top ten tuesday at many little blessings.

Favorites of 2011

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You know when you have really bad writer’s block? After you’ve been to three states in nine days and thought about nothing but family and Christmas for weeks.

Since imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, I decided to copy Simple Mom and share my favorite books, movies, TV shows, and music of 2011. (As she said, ones that were new to me, not necessarily new to 2011.)

Sometimes it takes the act of writing to spark further writing, which is why “they” say all the best writers write every day. A practice I’ve fallen out of. I write a lot in my head. Does that count?

So without further ado …

BOOKS (of course)

I read so, so, SO many amazing books in 2011. I don’t know what sparked that, if it was just a streak of luck or coming into contact with great recommendations, but I am certainly glad for it.


You can read my treatise on why I think everyone should read Heaven Is for Real. I zipped through the small book a few short hours and found it very affecting. Read it.

I don’t think there’s much you haven’t heard about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Help. Both are wonderful, fast-paced reads that have spurred movies. (The former, movies in both Swedish and English!) There is a reason both are so popular: plots full of detail and excitement, rendering the reader completely unable to put them down. Read when you have the hours to devote to them!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was an unexpected favorite from this year. The author created another world … just after the one in which we currently live. (After reading The Hunger Games, fear of the government is starting to get to me!) Atwood is a word artist and I left this book wanting to read everything she’s written.

You can see everything I read in 2011 on this page. A few other favorites: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks; The Paris Wife by Paula McClain; Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.

TV

I loved watching Top Chef: All-Stars. I suppose it’s part of the little voice in my head that tells me I could be a chef if I REALLY wanted to (I don’t.) that convinces me to watch the crazy cooking shows. I’d seen most of the prior seasons of Top Chef, though, and enjoyed watching the old favorites. (As I am sure I will love Project Runway All-Stars. Woohoo!) 

I am pretty sure Modern Family is the best show on television. (At least if you vastly prefer sitcoms, as I do. I’m just not a drama girl.) It never fails to crack me up; and mid-week, a girl just needs a good laugh.

Mr. V and I still watch How I Met Your Mother, and we will ’til the end. I won’t say it’s the best show out there … it’s had its ups and downs and maybe peaked at season 2. But in all its ridiculousness, it just makes me smile a lot of the time.

Honorable mentions to Once Upon a Time and Firefly, which Mr. V and I saw for the first time and proceeded to mourn the loss of all the seasons it should have had.

MOVIES

I confess I am not into movies like I used to be. Mr. V and I went with the crowd and changed to just Netflix instant streaming with the price increase, and we mostly use it to watch old TV shows anyway.

The only movies I saw in the theater this year were Something Borrowed (and you know that was a great cinema masterpiece) and two-thirds of Monsters vs. Aliens ($1 summer movie with the kids, who started crying, so we left).

So, as I can remember, the best movies I watched this year (for the first time) were The Social Network, Edward Scissorhands, and Despicable Me.

MUSIC

Thanks to the wonder that is Spotify, we’ve listened to a lot of new music this year. (I am not someone who thinks your music, make-up, exercise, etc, need to be “social,” but we definitely enjoy being able to listen to anything under the sun!)

Here are some new favorites.


Station Wagon: Songs for Parents by Sara Groves – If you are a parent, you MUST give this at least one listen. All of the songs ring true and some crack me up. (The line “Do you have any idea how much it hurts to give birth?” is sung in the background of one song. Love it.)

Kari Jobe by … well, Kari Jobe – A great album of praises to God. Love her voice.

The Band Perry – Another great breakout album. Fills my country fix. (Since when do I need a country fix?? I HATED country music growing up. I’ve been in Tennessee too long!)

Kuhzoo by Bellaruse – The lead singer of this group happens to be my uber-talented cousin, Kay Gillette … but if I didn’t like the music, I still wouldn’t listen to it. And I do. It’s crazy, jazz/folk/something type stuff. Just trying listening to The Kazoo Song and see if you aren’t addicted!

If you’ve made it through this lengthy ordeal, you must tell me: what were your favorites of 2011?


Let’s pretend this is a top ten plus, oh, eight list and link it to Top Ten Tuesday. I think Amanda loves me too much to call me out on it. ;)

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For Starters, Turtle Soup

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I wasn’t feeling so well this afternoon, so during Libbie’s nap I hibernated on the couch and watched one of my favorite movies, Babette’s Feast

I absolutely despised the college class where I was introduced to the film. I need one more filler course my senior year, and dropped out of two classes before I finally settled on this one. Had it been first, I would have dropped it, too. It was a seminar on “The Gift.” No, not the story The Greatest Gift or The Gift of the Magi. Just “The Gift.” Period. 

It was something like a combo anthropology-philosophy seminar. How did I end up there? A professor suggested my best friend Michelle take it. But she didn’t.

It stunk.

But as one of the last class sessions, the professor had us watch Babette’s Feast, declaring it the best movie to watch before preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The film is in Dutch and French and is set in 19th-century Denmark. I love the plot line. I love the language. I love the darkness and moodiness of the whole picture (filmography?).

My favorite part, of course, is the actual feast. And to prove my insanity, I took notes so I could tell you exactly what they have during this beautiful French meal (which allegedly cost 10,000 francs in the late 1800s).

Turtle Soup
Blinis Demidoff – pastry with caviar and creme fraiche
Cailles en Sarcophage – Quails in puff pastry with black figs, truffles, and foie gras
Some sort of salad – endive?
Cheese
Rum Cake with Dried Figs
Tropical Fruit
and, of course, lots of wine and champagne, including Veuve Clicquot

Who wants to join me for this dinner party? (Anyone know how to cook a quail?)

It’s really a wonderful movie and I hope you’ll check it out!

Linked to Things I Love Thursday and Friday Favorites.

This post includes Amazon affiliate links. Read more in my disclosure policy.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas on TV

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Yeah, I love White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Rudolph. But I also love these obscure Christmas movies. Enjoy this rerun from 2007!

1. Christmas Every Day

Erik Von Detten (The Princess Diaries) made this movie when he was 14 in 1996…which happens to be the same age I was in 1996! It was a made-for-TV movie made in Richmond, VA, where I grew up. Erik’s character’s little brother wishes for it to be Christmas every day…and so in Groundhog Day-fashion, they repeat the holiday over and over until they get it right! :) Mostly I think I liked it cause it was in Richmond and because Erik was sooooo cute.

2. The Christmas Toy

My sister and I watched this movie every single year off a taped cassette. It’s about a room of toys that come alive when the humans are away. It’s Christmas Eve, and Rugby the Tiger is trying to figure out how he will be Jaime’s present again this year. Sadly, our VHS died this year and my sister had a mental breakdown. Apparently it now sells for like $85 on eBay. A VHS!! We were also fond of the 1986 “Celebrate the season with Kraft” commercials on our tape. [2009 update: They now have it on DVD. But without the 80s commercials.]

3. A Muppet Family Christmas

All of the Muppets and the entire cast of Sesame Street have Christmas together at Fozzie’s mom’s house. The Swedish chef tries to cook Big Bird. Miss Piggy can’t get home from shopping because it’s snowing. Classic. Oh, and they go to Fraggle Rock.

Merry Christmas!

Originally posted December 25, 2007

A Mouthwatering Revelation

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Like probably half of the bloggers in American, I’ve been to see Julie and Julia since it came out in theaters a couple weeks ago. I rarely see movies in the theater, so it was a real treat (especially considering Mr. V and I just saw Harry Potter AND My Life in Ruins in the last month or two). My sister and I went, and, of course, we stopped at the grocery store on the way back home, ravenous.

That is when I got it in my silly mind I wanted to make braised cucumbers, which Julie declares in the movie “a revelation.” So I bought two, threw them in the fridge, and didn’t touch them until tonight (a week later). I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking after I read the book, so I already had it there, resting on my cookbook shelf. I have used it once in approximately three years: to make a one-layer cake that would not exit its pan, despite the requisite buttering and flouring of said pan.

This is how you make braised cucumbers.


Peel the cucumbers. I used two, and the recipe called for six, so I cut the recipe in thirds. Cut the cucumbers into what Julia Child calls “lengthwise strips about 3/8″ thick.” And then the strips in 2″ pieces. Pour them into a bowl. Then remember you were supposed to seed the cucumbers, so take (most of) them back out and slice out the seeds.

Add 2 tsp. white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the tiniest pinch ever (really, what does 1/24 of a tsp. even look like?) of white sugar. Stir it up in the big bowl and let sit at least half an hour.

Take your daughter upstairs for a bath and playtime and promptly forget about the cucumbers until you go back downstairs and realize it’s been 45 minutes.

Drain the cucumbers and pat them dry in a dish towel.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Put it and the cucumbers in a small baking dish. Add a couple shakes of dried dill or basil. Remember that you were cutting the recipe in third and should have only used 1 tablespoon of butter. Decide it will probably just taste REALLY good this way.

Try to add black pepper to the dish while your daughter scurries around your feet and eats long-forsaken crumbs off what you thought was your clean kitchen floor. Try to shoo her away from the premises long enough to stick the dish in a 375 degree oven.

Recall that you probably should have taken a picture of the dish before it went in the oven. Lazily try to take a picture of the dish IN the oven, while still trying to keep the baby away from an open heat device. Fail miserably because you have a crazy tremor in your left hand that makes it impossible to hold a camera steady.

Let the cucumbers cook for an hour, opening to stir them around 2 or 3 times.

These beautiful lovers were my dinner for one tonight, but they would make a fine side dish for two. Or you could actually make it for six by tripling all the ingredients except the butter (or defy the love handles and just throw a whole stick in).

Braised Cucumbers

2 cucumbers, peeled
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
a pinch sugar
1 T. butter
1/8 tsp. dried dill or basil
a few grinds fresh black pepper

Cut cucumbers into lengthwise quarters. Use a spoon or knife to remove seeds. Cut long strips into 2-inch pieces. Combine in a bowl with vinegar, salt, and sugar. Let sit 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375F.

Melt butter. Combine butter, dill or basil, cucumbers (patted dry), and pepper in a small baking dish.

Cook for an hour, stirring a few times during cooking.

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Submitted to Mouthwatering Monday at A Southern Fairytale and Friday Feasts at Momtrends.