Besides being buried under the holidays, I managed to take some new head shots in December. They are needed for book promotion in 2014, so I came in right under the line. But only when my husband–a newly signed actor–needed his head shots, did I join him and our camera in the back yard for a hundreds-of-pictures, few outfits, session. These will be used for book jackets, websites, and promotional material for The Night of One Hundred Thieves and The Family Elephant’s Jewels. What a riveting life I do lead.
As far as entertainment, movies and shows were at a low while other stimulation (games, toys) was at a high.
The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug (2013). At the theater. Well, if you have returned to the theater for the fifth installment of this trilogy and pre-trilogy, then it’s pretty safe to say the movie would have delivered on your expectations. True, the writers are really drawing a not-very-long book out into three, long movies (think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), but fans are sure to enjoy it, anyway. I enjoyed it. My kids enjoyed it. And cult classics Tolkein and Lost (with Evangeline Lilly) collide.
Once Upon a Time: In Wonderland (TV series, 2013–). A couple years ago, I tried to like Once Upon a Time, but the main character just didn’t cut it for me, so I cut it. Even so, I gave the new Wonderland spin-off a try. Kevin and I were so unimpressed that we didn’t make it past the first two episodes. (You always have to make sure the pilot wasn’t a fluke.) I love the fairy tale themes, the modern twist on Alice’s insanity, etc., but it was completely flat.
Battlestar Galactica (miniseries movie and TV series, 2004-2009). Then we tried Battlestar Gallactica. Whew, was that refreshing! I felt like I was back on my first episode of Firefly. Maybe even better. This show is simply stunning. The effects are astonishing for a TV show. There is always some great plot-twist going on. You’ve got a wide ensemble cast (one of my favorite things about any story). Whatever the genre, you care about these people. It’s good stuff. Now, I could do without the constant, half-naked Cylon lady and her constant blurring of the lines between sex and religion, but despite that, we will definitely be seeing this one through.
Billy Elliot (2000). I own this one, but I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I pulled it off the shelf for a quiet night, alone. I’m going to say that there are some things here that I appreciated in a way that I couldn’t before. Just a great movie. Feel good. Triumphant. Makes you want to get up and dance. But I also love how people are motivated by love to change–even do a whole 180–because sometimes that does really happen.
I received two movies as Christmas gifts, so I thought this might be a good time to revisit them:
Grease (1978). Revisiting my early teen years, with this one. We had this cassette, as well as The Sound of Music and Beaches, within arm’s reach of the VCR at any given time. It is helpful that I know all of the songs, because you do want to sing along, but otherwise we’re just talking a real classic, here. If you can stomach musicals, you should have seen this by now. (Note: On closer inspection, I can’t recommend this one for pre-pubescent kids or family time, even if it is fun to sing along.)
Beaches (1988). So, I think it was probably because death had visited our little family during our formative years, but this melancholy, musical romp was a big part of my cinema education. Even now, I marvel at the acting and the story arch, even though some of it is probably out-dated (and I still don’t really like Hilary’s character). I also couldn’t get over how great a match Mayim Bailik was for a kid version of Bette Midler. In the end, it’s about friends and support. Duh: it spawned one of the biggest musical hits of the 80s, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” However, only CC’s great Broadway numbers leave me singing long after the movie is over.
We also gained some titles for our Christmas DVD library, this year:
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985). I grabbed this on impulse buy, but how could I pass it up? We were big He-Man and She-Ra fans as kids, so I just knew this would take me back. Can’t recommend it on anything but nostalgia, although the kids seem to like it.
Home Alone (1990). I thought my son would enjoy this one, as he did. That, and we had all sorts of fun conversations about what we would do if we were accidentally left home alone. If you are over 25 and have never seen this, I don’t know what rock you were under in the early 90s. It’s a Christmas classic, even if it isn’t my absolute favorite.
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection (1965 for A Charlie Brown Christmas). I had actually been looking for a collection just like this, so that we could enjoy Charlie Brown at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And even though I am likely to force my kids to sit through these once a year along with Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), I can understand that their calm, sometimes derogatory and dysthymic brand of comedy is lost on modern kids (and even adults). Pure throw-back.
Nativity Story (2006). We had this given to us awhile ago, and have never gotten around to watching it. Full of speculation and guessing (as all Bible-to-movie art must be), I appreciate this movie because it means something to me. I will watch it again and use it as a tool to teach my kids about their Christmas heritage. Cinematically, it is only okay. And where are the singing hosts? And why is Mary so mellow all the time?
And here are my family’s personal highlights of the Christmas gifting season:
- Wii Just Dance (Kids and Disney) and Wii Mariokart. We are always a little behind on the technology, and I am not a huge fan of gamers, but we have managed to make the Wii work for us. We all love to play Just Dance, and MarioKart is a standard. As far as board games, Temple Run (yes, the board game) has sort of freaked out one of my kids, while Apples to Apples and The Hobbit LEGO Game have been real winners.
- Discovery Kids Extreme Weather Tornado Lab (a water cyclone in a jar, basically, run by a motor) and a lava lamp. My son just can’t get enough of these, except that he’s started seeing faces in the lava. He runs the tornado as he builds (see below).
- Big Boots. This is a new entrant into the mounds of “pretend” toys that litter my son’s room. This particular series involves little men that can never fall over (like muscular Weebles) and dinosaurs and Yeti.
- LEGOs. Can’t live without ’em. Both my six-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl “got into them” in the same year. They spend hours and hours many days using directions to build various things. And we have to keep them organized. My son’s building arsenal also extends to blocks, K’Nex, Bionicles, etc.
- Rainbow Loom. Of course, the nine-year-old had to have one of these and has been looming happily since last summer (when she received an inferior brand that was replaced over the holidays). She also has a box for all those different colors of rubber bands, with her name puffy-painted on the front. Perfect! Of course, her crafting gifts did not even begin to end there…
- Old fashioned accessories, hair paint, and nail polish. Girls will be girls, and need a fifteen-strong cube of glitter nail polish. (Note: girl’s accessories came in the craziest of over-sized boxes this year. I kid not, they could make ten headbands into a table-sized gift. Only slight exaggeration.)
- Despicable Me 2 Fart Blaster. Not only does the gifted enjoy this, but every kid who comes over to play, and many (esp. young, male) grownups who walk through the room of toys. You know your in-laws really love their grandson when they are willing to hand over a toy of which the sole purpose is to make fart noises.
- (Some outdoor toys might have made this list, but there’s no telling yet, due to weather.)
- Art easel and other art supplies, as well as instruments. I paint and draw. Kev acts and plays bass. So our son doodles and daughter crafts and crafts with no end in sight.
- Cash. That was my husband’s favorite. As far as I can tell, he like to ferret it away and count it in secret.
- Kitchen blow torch. Creme brule, here I come! Plus, Momma in the kitchen with a blow torch: awesome.
- New clothes at New Years sale prices. Possibly my favorite. Not only do I get new clothes, but I get to pick them out and shop. Triple threat.
- Waffle iron. The family favorite, because we can’t wait to use it.
- And finally, but best of all, books!: Cool Creations in 35 Pieces (a LEGO book, Sean Kenney), The LEGOs Idea Book (DK), Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder (Jo Nesbo), Dragonbreath #1 (Ursula Vernon), Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew (series, Carolyn Keene), The Secret Series (Pseudonymous Bosch), The National Audoban Society Field Guide to Spiders and Insects, and 39 Clues (series, collaborative authors), as well as the cookbooks Pok Pok and The Cake Bible.