Monday, August 16, 2010

Ten Things I'm Digging Right Now.

I won't call it a top ten, because that might imply some kind of coherence or actual ranking. But here are ten things that are on my "yes!" list right now.

1) Contigo travel mugs. Is it possible to love a travel mug? After hating so many, I'm fonder of this one than I expected I would be. This mug uses "autoseal" technology that makes it truly spillproof. It's so spillproof that I can actually put my coffee in my purse and it doesn't spill. This is a vast improvement over previous spillproof mugs that I've managed to spill in the upright position. I loved mine especially during the early days of breastfeeding when I wanted to have a drink on hand when I was sitting on the couch feeding the baby, (sometimes water or tea, not coffee) but my 3 year old and/or my cat was constantly knocking my cup on the ground.

2) My new baby-sitting co-op. I had heard wonders told about such things as baby-sitting co-ops, but they're not that easy to come by. For the longest time I didn't know anybody nearby who would be interested, plus, some people had their own set-ups with regular baby-sitters, nannies, or in-laws. Finally, though, a group of us with similar needs banded together and decided to start swapping sitting. I've sat for other families a few times now, and every time, their kids were asleep and I just played on the computer or watched a movie. I earned credit I can use for a few hours of sitting at my house one day. It's a win-win situation!

3) Composting. During our gardening adventure this year, we probably learned more about composting than we did about growing stuff. I'm not sure why we never did this before. Actually, I know why--we didn't know much about it and it sounded "complicated." I'm here to report that composting is very easy and quite worthwhile. We converted a trashcan into a compost bin. We have reduced our waste big time and, in theory, have some really nice, rich dirt. We're about to start planning our fall garden, so I hope we'll be able to use some of it! But even if we don't, I've learned that making the dirt isn't the point. We were throwing stuff into landfills (in our trash bags) and there was a simple and easy way to get rid of it here at home.

4) The library. Duh, right? I've been an enthusiastic library user since I was Nora's age, and I have used our DeKalb Library quite a bit over the years. I'm just particularly loving it right now. Sometimes I forget that it's a great source for nonfiction books, like cookbooks or gardening manuals.

5) Twitter. Twitter had been around for a couple of years before I caved and joined, and I used it for many months or maybe a year before it really started making sense for me. I like it because it's easy to read on my chosen wireless device, whereas Facebook is kind of a pain. Facebook is better for catching up with old friends and looking at pictures. Twitter is pithy. It can be mundane, but despite it's reputation I don't think it's actually more mundane than Facebook often is. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that I often follow random links and end up reading thought-provoking articles that I wouldn't have otherwise stumbled upon. When I post on Twitter, I don't worry as much about other people reading/responding, probably because they usually don't. My thoughts just float out into the ether, with no burden of being particularly important.

6) Snoballs. This love has been facilitated by the fact that there have been new snoball businesses that have popped up in both Decatur and Pensacola. Snoballs are shaved ice with flavored syrup dumped on top. My favorite flavor is cotton candy. I can't escape the fact that these are pretty horrible for me, health-wise, which is one reason I'm glad that school is starting back and I can finally break my habit. I have heard rhetoric arguing that a snoball is a "healthy treat," but I'm not buying it.

7) Amazon MP3. Amazon has hundreds of free songs available for download every month. It's a great way to hear new music in all genres. It also has a massive rotating selection of $5 album downloads. I stopped buying physical CDs a couple of years because I don't have a good place to store the jewel cases and I found I was listening to my Ipod more than I was listening to actual CDs. I also love the monthly sampler from Paste Magazine, which features all of my favorite types of music, but my subscription is on hold right now.

8) Flip Burger Boutique. Burgers are obviously the trendiest restaurant fare of 2010 with localvore restaurants coming in a close second. A marrying of the two? All the better. Most people I know adore Farm Burger, which I have tried and liked, but is not at the top of my list (yet). Flip Burger Boutique also features a grassfed burger, but it's menu is a little more gimmicky. I happen to like gimmicky burgers and wacky dipping sauces for fries, so Flip is right up my alley. The fries are the closest to my personal ideal I've seen at any of the restaurants I've been to lately, also I also give fry props to Leon's Full Service for their fries and sauces. Our family is going to attempt to swear off restaurants for a while, so I wish the above burger boutiques a fond farewell...for now. I'm sure I will be back in your loving arms soon, but I hope to return weighing less and with more money in the bank.

9) Bray Family Farms. We finally signed up for that meat CSA we've been talking about for a while. Our first pick-up is later this week. Since I haven't tried their meat yet, this is premature adoration. However, I have faith that the food will be delicious, we will learn a lot, and we will be glad that we are greatly reducing our consumption of factory-farmed meat. So, whoo-hoo. Bring it on!

10) These folks.

My sweet, loving husband; my two effervescent girlies, and myself. That's right: I dig myself. Photo credit goes to my amazing friend Dara, who takes pictures of lots of interesting things on the Gulf Coast and everywhere else she goes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In which I gush about Ramona and Beezus

I took Nora to see Ramona and Beezus last night. To the uninitiated, I was a Beverly Cleary fanatic when I was a little girl. Beezus and Ramona (the title of the first book in the series) was one of my first chapter books. I read it in first grade. I was taking an ill-fated gymnastics class and my mom bought the book for me one night while I was in class. In my mind that was the same night she slammed my hand in the locked car door in the Zayre's parking lot, but it was probably a different night.

I identified heavily with Ramona. I still do. I've learned since then that a lot of people do, which is one of the wonderful things about the books. Books were good, good friends to me when I was growing up. I think I read the Ramona books hundreds of times and all of the other Beverly Clearly books, even the dated 50s-era books like Jean and Johnny, dozens of times.

I had forgotten they were making a movie until about 6 weeks ago. I was in Pensacola and Nora was talking about a witch that was so scary, she scared herself! That reminded me of the scene in Ramona the Pest when Ramona was a witch for Halloween, picked out an awesomely frightful mask, but was so scared of it she ended up having to hide it. One afternoon while Jason was home and Anneliese was napping, I took Nora to Barnes & Noble to get a copy of Beezus and Ramona. We have to read them in order, am I right? Because of the limited selection in the store, I had to get the movie tie-in cover. I thought it was lame.

We both enjoyed reading the book and have been on the library waiting list for Ramona the Pest. In the meantime, I couldn't resist watching the trailer for the movie.

My initial complaint was that Selena Gomez is all wrong for Beezus. Which she totally is, but my curiosity was getting the best of me and I wanted to see the movie. I'd heard that dear old Beverly Cleary was very involved in the script and she liked the final product. Even Roger Ebert found the movie charming.

I was pleasantly surprised with the film. I had expected to merely tolerate it, but instead I found myself cherishing it. I can hardly think of a book-to-movie translation where they've gotten it this right. Even if I go in with really low expectations, I find books-to-movies to be wholly disappointing when I've read the book, especially if it's a book that is particularly beloved.

Joey King was great as Ramona. When I was a kid I had loved Sarah Polley in the PBS Ramona TV series. As an adult I've been a big fan of Sarah Polley's acting and I wondered if I had room for another big/small screen Ramona, but Joey King really fit the bill. I had to get over the fact that both of Ramona's parents are Sex and the City alumnae, but in the end I liked them both quite a bit. From Ginnifer Godwin's first scene, I worried that her portrayal of Aunt Beatrice would be too saccharine, but as the movie progressed I think she was wonderful. The character of Aunt Beatrice became fully realized in a way she never was for me in the books. As far as Disney teen Selena Gomez goes, her acting was just fine. I don't think that Beezus was written true to the books, though, and her plotline in the movie was the weakest one. I guess there's a reason they changed the title from Beezus and Ramona to Ramona and Beezus.

I think the thing I liked the most about the movie is that they really got the details right. I loved how the Quimby house was just a tiny bit shabby, how sometimes Ramonda's mom wore something that didn't fit quite right or was a little bit dated. (Side note: I loved their cozy bungalow and the amazing and stylish storage their house featured. I aspire to use space that wisely.) There were no throwaway scenes; almost every scene I can think of came directly from one of the books. I wasn't sure how they would incorporate all of the books and various ages of the characters in one film, but that translation was pretty seamless. The dialogue was sharp and often lifted effortlessly from the Cleary novels. Since I recently re-read the first book in the series, I had to smile that one of the businesses in the movie was named Bendix, after 4 year old Ramona's favorite doll in the book. Ramona's dad is an artist and his "work" was a loving tribute to illustrator Alan Tiegreen, who illustrated the Ramona books that were written in the 70s and 80s. I appreciated the fact that some of the humor was a little more complex and appealed to me as an adult, but it wasn't cheap or tawdry in the least. I'm no prude, but I usually find adult humor in children's movies to be tiresome and unfunny. The common thread in almost all of the children's books I have loved is rich plots and great characterization that is for kids, but not at kids, i.e. not dumbed-down. Cleary is probably the queen of this. I love her so!

One of the complaints I've read about the movie is that it's a little too squeaky clean for some, but that's really a-okay by me. Cleary began writing in what was arguably a more innocent or restrained time for children's literature (you should check out the Carolyn Haywood books if you want squeaky clean!), but she has never shied away from conflict. Ramona and Beezus had plenty of "modern problems" and modern context, but at the heart of the movie is strong characters and stories that generations can relate to.

Oh, and I totally want to live on Klickitat Street.