Category: entertaining

How to Do Fancy Easy

Using some simple tips I made a luxurious lunch inn little time

Saturday’s Warrior Review

I normally don’t review movies on this blog very often but since Saturday’s Warrior is an LDS film I felt like it belonged here more.  It was interesting because I saw Everybody Wants Some, the new film from Richard Linklater today along with Saturday’s Warrior.  Both films are set in the late 70s and both are heavily nostalgic and both rely on music to tell their stories.  It’s funny because on the surface they couldn’t be more different but seeing them back to back I saw some similarities. To read my review for Everybody Wants Some go here.

Anyway, let’s talk about Saturday’s Warrior.  Based on the popular stage play written by Lex de Azevedo, Saturday’s Warrior is a musical focused on a Mormon family in the 1970s.

It starts in the premortal spirit life where the family is gathered to say goodbye as each of them leave to join their earthly family.  The oldest Jimmy and Pam promise the youngest Emily that they will make sure their parents don’t get tired of having kids before they can have her, the 8th child.

Then Julie, the second daughter, sings to her love Tod that they will find each other on earth. The last group is Wally Kestler who is desperate to go on a mission and convert the world.

saturdays warriorOnce they get to earth things get more complicated with the appeal of that darn old rock and roll music (gets you every time!) and Jimmy gets dragged into a band that is up to no good.  They even start singing a song literally called ‘Zero Population’ criticizing his big family and threatening the birth of little Emily.

Meanwhile Tod hasn’t been born with the gospel and is an artist and poor Elder Kestler doesn’t have much luck on his mission (until he meets Tod…spoiler alert).

The main appeal to this movie is the songs.  If you have nostalgia for the songs than you will probably enjoy it.  There is no attempt to lessen the camp at all and this is true for the songs.  Aside from having popular Mormon singers like Alex Boye involved they feel like they are straight from the 1970s.

saturdays warrior2I guess you either go with that kind of vintage feel or you don’t.  There’s also no attempt to update the production either.  It might as well have been shot on the Brady Bunch set how low budget 1970s it looks.  That has some appeal but wears thin after a while.

One thing that was weird is the camerawork seemed off the entire time. I am wondering if there was something wrong at my screening.  It felt like everything was chopped off.  You’d have characters talking and their foreheads would be chopped off of the shot.  It was very weird but when I watch the trailer I don’t see that happening.

saturdays warrior3The acting feels low budget and it is a religious film where the Mormon way is the right way and the other is the way of the devil.  Not a whole lot of in between.  If you are looking for a subtle movie about faith this is not the film for you. It’s very cheesy but I knew that going into it.  No surprises there!

Unfortunately the acting isn’t very good and it all feels like a Mormon episode of Saved by the Bell.

If you are a big fan of the music than you will probably enjoy it.  I had fun with it on that level but I can’t really recommend it.  It’s not a good movie but not the worse thing I’ve seen either so take that for what you will.

Overall Grade- D+ (2/5 stars)

My youtube review- If you like this review I would really appreciate subscribing to my channel or giving it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Jane Austen Tea Party

I’ve been having a great time the last few days.  My sister Anna is here for a visit after having been in Japan for the last year.  It has been great catching up and spending time together.  As a special treat for her visit I decided I wanted to throw a little party.

I love entertaining but had gotten a little burnt out last year and so hadn’t done much.  I also got a game from a kickstarter I sponsored called The Jane Game.  It is all based on Jane Austen and was done by a woman here in Utah.  I also got a party pack as a perk for my kickstarter, which I hadn’t used.  It seemed like the perfect time to combine both needs and have a Jane Austen Tea Party!

tea partyThe party turned out really well.  I had teas/hot cocoa to choose from with sweeteners and cream.  Then for food we had chicken salad croissants, cucumber sandwiches, meringue cookies, strawberries, shortbread and two treats from bake 360.

wpid-snapchat-7897501167389300295.jpgI think it all looked very pretty and I enjoyed putting it all together. I also dressed up in as close to a regency dress as I have!  Most importantly in any party I enjoyed spending time with my friends and catching up since I don’t get to see any of them as much as I would like.

After visiting we played the Jane Game and it was a lot of fun.  And I am proud to say none of us ended up as old maids!  We also learned that all of us need to brush up on our Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park.  I’m seeing a movie night in our future.

jane gameOverall the party was a great success and everyone seemed to have a good time.  I feel encouraged to try again and get back to entertaining regularly.  It’s a part of my life I really missed and had been feeling very discouraged about it last year.  It seemed so hard to get anyone together for anything that I wondered if my party planning days were over.  Today let’s me know it’s not.

Hurray!  I think Miss Austen would approve. 🙂

Nora Ephron: I Feel Bad About My Neck

noraephronus

Any friend of the blog knows I love Nora Ephron.  If I could write like anyone it would be her.  She had a way of finding humor in the everyday female experience. Something as little as getting coffee, watching a movie or baking a cake could be witty and full of heart.

She unfortunately passed away in 2012 but in addition to her many movies (directing and writing) she wrote several delightful books of essays including the 2006 I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.  This is not an important book but I kind of love it and it was our choice for book club this month.

Unfortunately nobody that had read the book was able to attend so I am going to share with all you what I would have shared with all of them.  Let me set the scene to start (I always try to make everything pretty but tried especially to honor the uber-classy Miss Ephron.

I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream
I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream

To make the Russian Cream you simply mix 2 cups sugar with 2 packets unflavored gelatin.  4 cups cream.  Heat till hot but not boiling.  Cool down and mix in 4 cups sour cream.  Put in molds.  Let set in fridge overnight.  Unmold and serve with fruit. It’s an easy recipe but it looks beautiful.

We had a pretty pink spread
We had a pretty pink spread
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn't resist
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn’t resist

So now you feel like you are at book club. Let me tell you about it.

One of my favorite essays Nora says:

What I Wish I’d Known”

People have only one way to be.

Buy, don’t rent.

Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.

Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or less beige.

Don’t buy anything that is 100% wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.

You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.

Block everyone on your instant mail.

The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and a half years.

You never know.

The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of money.

The plane is not going to crash.

Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty- five.

Write everything down.

Keep a journal.

Take more pictures.

The empty nest is underrated….

Here was my version of

What I Wish I Had Known by Rachel Wagner

Travel more when you are young

People will not be real with you a lot of the time

Privacy is overrated

A $100 couch is just as comfortable as a $1000 couch.

Do not select the appliance package when you buy your house

Leaving singles ward sucks. Be ready.

A plate of spaghetti will change your life

The dream job is coming

DVR is a game changer

Date more in college

Panic attacks are the scariest moments of your life

Mr Sunshine is still hiding at 33.

Can never own too many maxi dresses

Aside from the basics most of what you learn in school you will never use

Good choice not going into debt

Look up open water swimming in 2001 not 2011

Paying dues will take you ten years

You are a leader. Stop resenting it and embrace it.

Nora and Cooking

Another essay I love is called Serial Monogamy:  A Memoir.  It is actually all about her relationship with cooking and food.  Throughout her life and marriages Nora had adventures in food.  At 16 her mother gave her The Gourmet Cookbook, then the Flavor of France, Julia Child, Michael Fields, Craig Claiborne, Lee Lun’s Chinese recipes, Marcella Hazan, Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson.  Cooking took her through changes in career, 3 marriages and her children.  She even has internal dialogues with the chefs. It reminds me of the rat in Ratatouiee that has conversations with Chef Gusteau

She ends the section in a very sweet way “I especially like making her roast beef dinner, which is very much like my mother’s except for the yorkshire pudding.  My mother didn’t serve yorkshire pudding, although there is  recipe for it in The Gourmet Cookbook.  My mother served potato pancakes instead.  I serve yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes.  Why not?  You only live once”

I love that.  You only live once so make two starches at dinner.  It’s a lovely little essay.

Nora on Parenting

My favorite essay is on parenting.  Even though I am not a parent I am a child of parents and I find it very moving. She starts out saying “I gave birth to my children, which was not that long ago, when there was almost no such thing as parenting as we know it today”

“Back in the day where there were merely parents, as opposed to people engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straight forward.  You didn’t need a book and if you owned one it was by Dr.  Spock, a pediatrician and you rarely looked at i unless your child a had a fever…back in those days no one believed that you could turn your child into a different human being from the one he started out being…”

“All this changed around the time I had children. You can blame the women’s movement for it-one of the bedrock tentes fo the women’s movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce men and women should share in the raising of children; thus the gender neutral word parenting and the necessity of elevating child rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of.

Conversely, you can blame the backlash against the women’s movement- lost of women didn’t feel like entering the workforce or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands, but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full time parenthood to a sacrament”

She goes on to talk about the pressure people feel molding their children into these ivy league perfect people and then they grow up.  I LOVE the ending and I hope my parents feel a little bit of this when we are all back with all our idiosyncrasies and choices:

“Meanwhile, every so often, your children come to visit.  They are, amazingly, completely charming people.  You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them.  They make you laugh.  They make you proud.  You love them madly.  They survived you.  You survived them.  It crosses your mind that on some level, you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell.   There’s no point. It’s over.

Except for the worrying.

The worrying is forever”

I tear up whenever I read that.  The worrying is forever. I can picture my parents worrying about me and it makes me feel loved and I’m grateful for that love.

In Conclusion

Some of the essays are quite humorous.  There is one about her scandalous non-affair with President Kennedy and another about her life in an epic apartment in New York.  They aren’t all equally great but I love them.

It is the perfect summer book.  Light, heart felt and beautiful.  I don’t want to oversell it but I love it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it since I didn’t get to talk much about it this morning.

nora-ephron-quote

 

 

Happy Irish Day!

irish dinner

Happy St Patricks Day! I love entertaining and finding an excuse to celebrate and today I celebrated St Patricks Day a day early.

I also got to celebrate using my pressure cooker for the first real time! It’s pretty intimidating putting it all in there, hoping you have it right and then hearing it whistle and sputter.

It sounded like it was about ready to explode the whole time but I didn’t peak and after an hour my corned beef and cabbage was looking good and tender (normally takes hours, so the pressure cooker was a success!). I finished off rubbing it in brown sugar and roasting in the oven so it got crystallized and sweet.
irish dinner 3

I added mashed potatoes made with sour cream, milk, russet potatoes and butter to the meal and it was delicious! (See recipe below)

My cousin Danielle and her husband Corey came and my sister and her roommate Becca. In between dinner we played Balderdash and then Danielle brought a yummy cheesecake. All in all it was a great and delicious night!

Btw, according to Wikipedia St Patrick’s Day is a day of feasting to commemorate the arrival of Christianity into Ireland. What better way to celebrate then by feasting with friends on Sunday.

Life is good and I hope you all have a wonderful day and week.

Top of the morning!

corned beef and mashed potatoes
Pressure Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
3 lb corned beef brisket
1 large green cabbage
1 bag baby carrots (or 3 carrots peeled and diced)
2 apples diced
1 onion chopped
1 packet of pork rub seasoning (I used this brown sugar rub I got in my Tyler Florence fancy box. It is for pork but worked great with the corned beef)
rub
brown sugar and agave for roasting
Put apple, cabbage, carrots, onion in bottom of pressure cooker.
Cover beef with spice mix on all sides, put on top of veggies. Add water until just gets to the bottom of the beef.
Put pressure cooker on high for about 10 minutes and then turn to low (for me it was a level 4 on the stove).
Let cook on low for an hour and 15 more minutes.
Then take meat out and rub with brown sugar and drizzle on some agave. Put in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until brown sugar is crystalized and bubbly (don’t let it burn!)
Make sure to cut it against the grain and as thinly as possible to keep it from being tough.
Serve veggies and meat.

Mashed Potatoes
8 russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
salt and pepper
Cook potatoes till tender then mash adding milk, butter and sour cream to taste. If I’m going to splurge and eat potatoes I make them really good but it’s up to you.

The downside to using the pressure cooker is that it is too watery to create any kind of gravy but the sour cream in the mashed potatoes made them flavorful enough on their own. You could also add garlic if you wanted.

So, that was my fun night. What did you guys do this weekend? Anything fun? And don’t worry. I will be wearing green on the actual holiday. In fact, check out the youtube channel because I will be opening a very special My Ireland Box in honor of the day. So fun!

Book Club, Favorite Books and a Party

So today was a great day! I’ve mentioned my book club many times on this blog but today was not only a meeting but a celebration of 5 years and 40 books.

I had a lot of fun picking up different items for the decor, designing the cake (executed by Cakes by Socorro out of Provo), getting favors and reading the book.  It was a lot of fun and all the work was well worth it.  It’s very satisfying to see something in your head executed and to give your friends an experience gift. I had a blast not just today but for many weeks, so it was well worth it.

A lot of people have asked me for advice on starting a book club.  Every group of friends is different (mine is an electic mix of people that are really only connected through me so if I want it, I have to do it)

Just for fun I also made 2 videos about books- one is My Favorite Books You’ve Heard Of and the next is My Favorite Books You Haven’t Heard Of.  What do you think?  Have you or have you not heard of the one’s I mention in either video.  Like or dislike them?

 

Even if you don’t ever look at youtube if you could subscribe to my channel I’d really appreciate it.  I’m working hard to make them more professional and learning a lot.

Friendship at 10, 20, 30

I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long.  Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life.  Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend.  I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships.  Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.

Let me explain…

When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others.  For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen.  At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports.  We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.

These were my 3 best friends from high school
These were my 3 best friends from high school

It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices.  Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).

Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends.  No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.

Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people.  You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities.  Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens.  However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).

Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class.  The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual.   This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds.  Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.

College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)
College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)

 

My roommate Heather and friend.
My roommate Heather and friend.
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.

I have such warm memories of that time in my life.  It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time.   Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that.  How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys?  All part of the learning experience.

After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry.  Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2).   This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure.  At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time.  We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.

There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time.   For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days.  So great.    I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office.  For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together.  I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again.  That certainly tells you the influence of friends!

This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school.  I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort.  The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward.  Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends.  It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends.  People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.

During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people.  Or I should say my roommate and I did.  We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions.  Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories.  I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.

fair dance gifts new years girls party tracey dinnerThen my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough).  Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends.  This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).

While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to.  No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing.  It takes work but that work can be a joy.  It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities.  I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them.  Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.

In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was.  https://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party:  “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends.  It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low.  I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”

The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes.  Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times.  It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t.  People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.

Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them.  Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life.  That’s what work tends to do.  Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship.  When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others.  That is a great gift not a burden.

Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process.  I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc.  It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.

In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.

It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends!  To a fun day tomorrow!

 

Best and Worst

best and worst

So I can’t sleep and lately blogging has helped me feel tired so I figured why not?

As I have mentioned in previous posts I’ve been thinking a lot lately about entertainment, movies and art.  What makes something memorable, beautiful, enriching and of course what inspires the opposite emotions.  I realize these feelings are inherently subjective, but my thoughts have not been on what moves society as a whole, but what inspires ME.

So tonight I am going to write up a best and worst on different categories.  It’s actually really hard thing to do.  It’s hard enough to come up with a top 10 list but to narrow it down to one worst and best is tough.  Try it along with me!

Best Book- I could pick Book Thief but North and South I could read multiple times a year.  I’ve talked about it a lot on this blog so I won’t repeat everything. I’ll just say it has my 2 favorite characters in literature.  I love their journey.  I love seeing them grow and change.  It’s so deep and takes time to develop side characters that are pivotal and fascinating.  I love it.  I think it is perfect.

Worst Book- Catch 22.  I hated all the characters.  I mean truly hated. I thought everyone was disgraceful, immoral, and unlikable.  The women in the story are either nurses or prostitutes and everything that is supposed to be ‘funny’ felt distasteful and kind of sick. I hated this book so much that it is the reason why I have a ‘someone must have read the book rule’ in my book club. Never again.

Best Movie- This is really hard but I have to go with Up.  I could watch it 4 times in a day and still love it.  I cry every time I watch the opening montage. It’s beautiful, sweet, funny and surprising.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen it and I love it more every time.  I love the music.  The voice casting is perfect.  The artwork is stunning. The message of finding adventure in life is wonderful.  I love it!

Worst Movie- Drop Dead Gorgeous.  There are only 2 movies I have walked out of in the theater, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Superstar.  Both are atrocious but this movie is so cold and hateful towards its characters and it is supposed to be funny that it actually made me cry.  I left the theater and my friends and sat in the lobby in tears until they had finished the ending.  I couldn’t take it any more.

It’s a mockumentary about beauty pageants that has one girl after another blown up, shot, murdered, burned and attacked.  A character mimics the crucifixion, a girl becomes deaf for laughs, a near dead anorexic girl is wheeled out in a wheelchair with an IV, the mentally ill are mocked, all the girls get food poisoning with its accompanying effects.  It’s gross, dark, cold and hateful so much so that 15 years after I saw it I still remember it far too vividly.

Best Sports Moment- This one is really hard and I wouldn’t say I’m the hugest sports fan in the world but I love the Olympics and there are so many good one’s to pick from.  Michael Phelps 8 in Beijing, Jason Lesak final lap in 4 by 100 relay, Sarah Hughes figure skating win, Dan Jansen finally getting his gold medal after 3 falls.  All would be great picks but I have to pick a moment that I actually was a part of.  This was 2002 Salt Lake and I was outside the stadium watching on a big screen when Apollo Ohno got the gold.  Everyone was cheering it was so exciting!

Worst Sports Moment- I have to go with the Lance Armstrong doping admission.  It was so disappointing. I know many suspected him for years and there was a lot of evidence but to be lied to for over a decade and the way he treated people while lying is pretty despicable.

I actually think the lies are worse than the actual enhanced training.  It was an era where he could not win and not do that and certainly not 7 times.  Even his peers have admitted that.  It’s the smug denials and the cocky attitude for years that makes it reprehensible.  Plus, he masquerades as an goodwill advocate which makes the lies even worse.

Best Meal- It’s really hard but I think for sentimental reasons alone I have to go with spaghetti and meatballs because I’ve been to Italy, I love Italian food and I had a moment of truth over the meal years ago that changed my life.  It is the ultimate comfort food.  (Thanksgiving food would be really high too)

Worst Meal- I have to go with menudo.  Whoever thought eating tripe was a good idea must have been nuts.  It looks like bubble wrap.  The soup is greasy with chunks of stomach floating to the top.  It’s gross!

Best TV Show- I have to go with the Simpsons because it has been consistently funny and engaging almost my entire life. It debuted when I was 8 and it is still on and I still watch it every Sunday.  Recently they’ve been doing amazing things with the opening couch montage which is incredible when you think about it- after 25 years they are still coming up with new ways to present a sofa with 4 people.

Worst TV Show- There have been some really bad one’s but I have to go with Fear Factor because it is just so gross. It existed only to make people want to throw up. Also, I would say The Tudors because I got it on neftlix thinking it was a Masterpiece Classic type show and about 10 minutes in I realized it was basically midevil porn and turned it off.  For shame!

Best Reality Show- Got to go with Survivor, although I love The Amazing Race.  TAR involves more luck and less strategy.  Just people surviving on little each day in the jungle would be compelling but the fact that a person get’s voted off every day is very exciting and makes people behave in intriguing ways. I also loved Extreme Makeover Home Edition.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a needy family getting a house.

Worst Reality Show- Keeping up with the Kardashians.  Why is this still on?  What’s wrong with America?  I resent the Kardashians because I actively try to not know about their lives and yet I know so much.  It’s like a disease that spreads whether you like it or not.  Go away!  I’ve watched one episode and I thought ‘these people are terrible, shallow people’ and nothing over the next whatever years have convinced me otherwise.

Best Dessert- Lemon meringue pie but it has to be very strong lemon flavor.  I’ve had it every year on my birthday since I can remember.  I love it!

Worst Dessert- I mean there aren’t many bad desserts but got to go with rhubarb pie.  I know some people say it is very good but I have never had it made where I like it.

Best Band- This is really hard.  The Beatles are the obvious choice and I love them. However, when I am looking at what was influential on me and not society at large,  I have to with REM.  Automatic for the People was one of the first albums I bought and I’ve listened to hundreds of time with pleasure.

Worst Band- Kiss. I am sure they have some catchy tunes but I heard Gene Simmons on local radio here once and he was such a jerk it turned me off the whole band.  Plus, they look stupid.  Anyone who is trying that hard to get attention isn’t all that talented in the first place.

Best Singer- Got to go with Josh Groban.  I love his voice.  His concert in 2008 was one of the coolest experiences in my life.  (He looked me straight in the eyes and sang to me. No joke).  I love Michael Buble too and he’s great live but if I had to pick one person to sing to me I’d pick Josh.

Worst Singer- So many to chose from…I have to go with Shakira.  She seems like a really nice person but when she sings it sounds like a goat throwing up.  I don’t get it.

Best Song- Over the Rainbow.  I love The Wizard of Oz.  I love Judy Garland.  I love the message of the song. I think I have 13 versions of it.  I love it Hawaii style, Ingrid Michaelson cover, classic.  I love the haunting words (if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can’t It).  Ugh.  So pretty.

Worst Song-  Lovely Ladies- Les Miserables.  I have to pick it because it sullies what is otherwise my favorite thing ever.  I love Les Mis and I love the story of Fantine but this song is so gross and it along with Master of the House are total earworm songs.  They will get stuck in your head forever and given some of the lyrics that is not a good thing.

Best Broadway Musical- Is there any doubt?  It has to be Les Miserables.  Despite 2 songs I dislike, 2 songs that are so corny, I love it.  I love the message, story, most of the songs and it was the first thing I remember really inspiring me as art and music.  It taught me what those mediums could do and how powerful they could be.  I’ve seen it live 4 times, twice in New York and I always have a purse full of tissues at the end.

Worst Broadway Musical- Book of Mormon musical.  Ok I haven’t seen it but I’ve listened to the score, watched scenes.  It is vulgar, distasteful and it paints my faith as naive, stupid and my leaders whom I love as zealous sexpots.  No thank you but seriously read the book…

Best Candy- Reese’s peanut butter cups.  I especially like the Easter eggs. I’m not sure why but they are even better than the cups.  The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is just delicious.

Worst Candy- Good and Plenty.  I think you are either born with the taste for black licorice or you aren’t.  I wasn’t.  Yuck!

So that’s a pretty good list.  What about you?  What’s your best and worst.  You should try it.  It’s harder than you might expect.

Entertainment

Any teen of the 90’s can sing this refrain:

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us…

If you were living under a rock you might not know this is the chorus of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.  With the song Kurt Cobain welcomed in the age of grunge and commented on the general laziness of Generation X and the desire to be entertained instead of creating entertainment.

This is something I have thought about a lot in my life as I love to be entertained.  I can’t think of anything that excites me more than a great movie with spectacular visuals like Gravity or wonderful writing like Midnight in Paris.  I also have a fondness for television, music, books, theater, concerts, dance, games, and the list could go on.

In addition to merely experiencing the media I love commenting and discussing it.  I love the art of criticism and one thing that makes a movie like Inception special is the joy of talking about it with my friends.  I think that’s what I enjoy the most about book club is talking about characters, stories and ideas that are usually near and dear to my heart (as I have for the most part picked the book or suggested them).

Entertainment that handles the big questions or is boldly different such as Defending Your Life (film), The Book Thief (book) or Viva La Vida (music) is easy to talk about but so is less challenging work like While You Were Sleeping or Twilight (yes, I’ve had many a great discussion back and forth with girls on the merits or lack there of on twilight).

Even an experience that is a stinker can provide for great conversation.  Some of my favorite reviews to listen or read are the bad one’s.  In that sense the criticism and discussion becomes part of the entertainment value. Most of the time, thankfully, the only exposure I have to the bad product is the review and yet a good writer/pundit can be wildly entertaining with what he or she likes and dislikes.

I’ve also had the experience of being challenged by both general public opinion and critics.  For example, there may be a movie that everyone else seemingly loves that I didn’t care for (Dark Knight, Godfather, The Graduate) and on the other hand one’s that I like that most dislike (Drop Dead Diva, Hallmark movies, Miss Congeniality, The Blind Side).  Last year some of my favorite film critics hated Les Miserables and I examined my own thoughts on the film while listening to theirs and I still loved it. Not all parts but really liked it.   Critics panned the comedy Super Fun Night but I have really enjoyed it- very funny.

I also got very excited about a movie that others were favorable towards but not effusive about- Holes, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Source Code, all come to mind.

Anyway, there are two things that made me think about this topic.  The first was a twitter discussion today with friends about Gone with the Wind.  I had watched The American Masters piece on Margaret Mitchell and commented that the idealistic depictions of slave era south and the black characters in the film are hard for me to stomach.  Then followed a fun back and forth with friends on the merits of the movie (I like many things about the movie especially Clark Gable)

I guess I’ve kept thinking about the piece I saw last week about Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger.  That book didn’t move me.  I didn’t enjoy it and it fascinates me that some love it so much they literally stalked Salinger’s home for days to get the recluse to impart some wisdom to them.  It’s fascinating to me that humans can experience things so differently?

This sort of brings me back to the Nirvana song.  Are we becoming less participatory in our entertainment choices?  Less open to debate and conversation?  Sometimes I feel a real resistance from peers when talking about such things beyond a base rudimentary level.

It’s interesting because I was raised to talk about things, to discuss my  opinions and not just absorb entertainment.  I don’t think my parents did this as a conscientious parenting choice but it is just part of their nature as question askers and ponderers.  It bothers me sometime that people can watch a movie like The Smurfs and not be annoyed at all of the Sony product placement or the lack of an original idea.  This is the kind of thing I was taught to notice and discuss from an early age.

When I was in college I remember going to see the movie Chocolat which is about a woman who makes tempting chocolates designed to arouse the simple townspeople away from their observance of the fasting period of lent.  To me, the Reverend of the town was portrayed as bumbling and the religious people as repressed.  This annoyed me.  I brought up my feelings to my friends and they were very annoyed with me and one said ‘why can’t you just enjoy the movie?’.  Well, to me the discussion is part of that enjoyment.

Growing up one of the few things my older brother and I had in common is we both loved The Simpsons.  I couldn’t even tell you how many cheerful conversations have started with ‘remember that episode’…I think I partly still watch it every Sunday because just the opening theme brings back great memories with my family. You’d be amazed how many political, religious and ethical discussions have begun with or included a reference to the Simpsons.  25 years of entertainment. 25 years!

On the other hand, my parents make very little time for entertainment in their lives.  Most people I know have some type of music, movie, tv show that they are passionate about.  My Mother is a great reader and plays the piano and my Dad enjoys theater, opera and symphony but I think those things are more of a tertiary pleasure and not something that takes a lot of their time, which admittedly they don’t have much of, especially my Dad.  I think they’d agree that participating in entertainment is not a priority for them and doesn’t excite them like it does for their kids.

It is certainly true that movies and television are not a source of entertainment for my parents.  Neither of them follow any TV shows regularly and go to a movie or two a year. I think this is partly due to the fact that entertainment is so much more available now than it was when my parents were young.  It wasn’t that long ago that you went to a movie once, maybe twice if it was re-released in the theater.  Movies could also be expensive- certainly more so than reading a book from the library or playing with friends.

Now we have so many ways to view entertainment it’s kind of nuts.  Just my house I have dvr, cable, movie theater, amazon prime, hulu, youtube, dvds, cds, mp3s, ebooks, regular books and the list goes on.  On the other hand, there are also so many ways to comment on entertainment , so in some ways the whole experience has become richer and more interesting.

It used to be that aside from personal conversations only newspaper columnists like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (who I love by the way) could share their feelings on movies, art, music etc.  Now anyone can make a youtube channel, write a blog, tweet, podcast for free or at very low costs, and believe me nothing gets people talking more than a blog on movies (nearly 100 comments on my overrated movie blog!).  https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/06/17/10-most-overrated-movies/

Kids can also create their own entertainment so easily. Things like digital photography and video have made it possible for basically anyone to try their hand at photography and movie-making but on the flip side ebooks are rapidly making the once universally available book a technological status symbol.

Creative, independently minded content is easier to produce than ever before and yet we have seemingly endless sequels, prequels and remakes.  Sometimes I feel frustrated at the language and violence in modern entertainment and yet there is clearly an amazing amount that comes out I can and do see, listen to or read.  Plus there is an unending number of things to entertain us from the past. It seems every day I hear of a movie or tv show that I just have to check out, a classic that is new to me!

Clearly I go back and forth.  What do you think?  Was Kurt Cobain right?  Are we just standing back and seeking to be entertained or are we more active in analyzing, discussing entertainment than in the past?  Are we absorbers of entertainment or creators?  Do you enjoy reading, viewing criticism?  Are you nostalgic about entertainment and feel the best has already happened and we’ll never have another Mozart, Kathrine Hepburn or the Beatles? I am at times and then I am not.

I would love to hear what you think about my ramblings.  Have a great week everyone!

that's entertainment