Tag: television

Survivor Blood vs Water

Survivor-Blood-Vs-Water-logo

Let’s lighten things up a bit and dive into some delicious reality TV.  My roommate asked me the other day “Do you like any shows with a plot?”    There are a few comedies that I enjoy (How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory etc) but the only drama I like is Downton Abbey.  Everything else is reality TV of some kind.  Probably my 2 favorite are The Amazing Race and Survivor.  Despite both being on for 10+ years, they manage to capture my interest and entertain.

This season is the 27th season of Survivor and it is one of its best, which is interesting because when they first announced it my eyes did a serious roll.  It sounded like another gimmick- blood vs water.  The twist this season is 10 returning players, 10 family members/relationships but it has done a great thing for the game.  Jeff Probst has talked a lot about the twist adding layers but it really has.  In the past the tribes formed alliances and then when the merge happened those alliances stayed strong, with the stronger team picking off the weaker team one by one (think last season with the bros).

However, this season that line is a lot fuzzier because now at the merge you have family members coming together, which gives the potential for old alliances to be dropped.  You also have the redemption island situation where castmembers compete to get back on the show.  I’m not a fan of redemption island but it has been a chance for people to switch with their loved one’s, so some people like Rachel have been voted off not because they were strong but because they hoped that their loved one would switch, which did not happen in the case of Tyson/Rachel (who are 2 of the many survivors from Utah!)

This is what makes survivor interesting.  The strategy.  You have to constantly be thinking ‘what is in the best interest of my tribemates?  What will they want the most?  Tonight was a great example with Monica losing her husband out of the game and finding out Kat was considering voting her off.  She immediately got to work and changed the vote from Vitas to Kat.  She’s gone.

It is also key to lead at the right time in Survivor.  Boston Rob learned this lesson on his master class on Survivor Redemption Island.  He was a friend while still being the leader, making the big moves.  Cochran actually did that quite well.  This is why the winners of Survivor come in 2 packages- you have the likable leader (Boston Rob, Cochran, Parvati) and the likable peacemaker (Sophie, Fabio, Todd Herzog).  You also can’t lead to soon or too late.  You can’t work too hard or be too lazy.  You have to help on the challenges but not be too threatening.

It’s really interesting.  I’ve been impressed with Aris and Vitas (sp?).  I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them wins.  Especially Vitas going over to the all girl tribe and how he ingratiated himself so quickly.  Made him seem sympathetic and kind.  It’s also got to be tempting to keep a man on the tribe to help with physical chores, caring wood etc.  I wonder how long they will keep the new tribes.

Anyway…you can tell I don’t get to talk Survivor chop shop with anyone.  I do enjoy listening to Rob Cesternino’s podcasts on Survivor.  He is funny and the analysis very entertaining.

It’s really a very entertaining show.  Do any of you watch?  Are you fans?  What do you think of the blood vs water spin?  Do you think you could vote out your loved one to appease your alliance?  I don’t know.  Depends on the loved one (just kidding).  I guess most of them have probably had conversations before hand about what they would do, but it would be tough.

Oh!  The other weird thing about this season is everyone is burning the hidden immunity idol clues.  It was first the Culpeppers that did it twice and now Vitas did it today which was baffling.  I don’t know why they don’t just find it as a tribe or an alliance and use it collectively?  Usually the idol clues aren’t that important to finding idols (Parvati and Russell were the kings of idol finding and it defintely helped Parvati to win).   It just shows what a weird season this is.

So that’s all I have to say for the moment.  Let me know what you think of the season and the show.

 

 

Fall 2013 TV Review

Network-logos

Anyone who knows me knows I love television and yet I don’t think that has gotten quite the treatment on the blog that it deserves.  I have written a lot about books and movies but not as much about TV.

The funny thing about me and TV is that neither of my parents watch it at all.  There is not one show that my parents watch on a regular basis or have ever devotedly watched.  Even the siblings I grew up with (Megan and Ben) are not huge TV people.  Aside from the Simpsons there wasn’t anything we were big fans of (and yes I have like 12 seasons of the Simpsons on DVD.  Not sure why that surprises people but it does).

Why do you think that is?  Why would I be such a fan of TV from an early age when I had almost no exposure?  I suppose part of it is my friends watched a lot of TV so I picked up some of it from them.  I also have a bit of a lazy streak in me and I’ve always liked TV as a way to unwind.  A movie is more of an investment where television is 30 minutes to 1 hour (less with the magic of DVR).

TV is also a longer commitment so you get to know the characters better and I’ve always been a lover of layered characters.  Even silly shows like Boy Meets World provided relatable personalities that grew up with me (literally when I started high school Corey and Topanga did, college, etc).

Anyway, so I’ve watched a lot of the premiere’s and new shows for the Fall 2013 line up and here are my initial thoughts

New Shows (this seems to be the year of the return of the sitcom where last year was the ‘we want to be Mad Men dramas):

Mom- Anna Feris,  Allison Janney are a mother daughter team of misfits.  Kind of a recycle of Reba with a bit more bite.  I thought the pilot was promising but the second episode not as much.  We’ll see.  Good casting.  Love Janney in just about anything.  Has lead in of How I Met Your Mother so that could help it.  B

The Crazy One’s- Robin Williams, Sarah Michele Gellar- father, daughter ad executives (that seems to be the big fall back career for Hollywood when they need a blah job for its characters).  Didn’t think it was funny and Gellar looks old and haggard.  Whoever does her makeup isn’t doing her any favors.  Robin Williams does the same schtick he has done since Mrs.  Doubtfire.  D

Dads- So bad.  Corny.  Nothing was funny.  Sons and their competitive annoying Dads (seems to also be a theme this year child and obnoxious parents).  F

Super Fun Night- Rebel Wilson stars as a buisnesswoman who has just gotten a big promotion, but parties with her girlfriends to keep her motivated at work.  It is a cliched premise but I laughed a lot.  It hasn’t gotten great reviews so probably won’t last long but I thought it was really funny.  Dialogue is sharp.  The banter between the girlfriends was natural.  Watch it America A+

Back in the Game- James Caan is a former baseball player who’s daughter comes back to live with him and ends up coaching the little league baseball team of her son with her Dad’s help.  Basically the same kind of banter that was in King of Queens or Everybody Loves Raymond.  A real dud.  It makes the crucial mistake of taking itself seriously.  F

Devious Maids- Kind of entertaining for a soap opera.  Good performances although some latina cliches (how many times can they say hot salsa or hot mama in one show?) Still, if you are in for some drama and can’t watch telenovelas without english subtitles check it out B-

Returning Shows-

Middle- Still my favorite show on TV.  I think the writing is funny.  I love the child actors.  I love that it is about Indiana and they get the details right.  I love that the couple aren’t constantly bickering.  I love that there isn’t always a moral at the end of every episode (had enough of that with Modern Family).  I just love it!  A+

Modern Family- Speaking of the before mentioned show its back and returning to its boring, cliched ways.  I’m so sick of the women on this show.  They are all such types.  Now Cam and Mitch are getting married which could be funny but everyone I know is over this show.  It isn’t modern and worse it isn’t funny D

Simpsons- The premiere episode was a spoof on Homeland and as I’ve never seen Homeland I didn’t really get it.  It still looks great and the even on a sub-par episode the nostalgia alone is enough to get some votes.  25 years I’ve been watching that show . 25 years!  B-

Drop Dead Diva- (This was actually a summer season but I didn’t mention on the blog and it is a great show! I love the leads.  I love the return of old Jane (Although they got rid of her way too fast). They need to bring Fred back . New angels have all been bad.  Was totally on team Owen until he was a petty jerk all season.  Go Grayson! The cases are so stupid but they are really just angles to get to the juicy developments with the characters.  A

How I Met Your Mother- I was very skeptical of a 9th season for this show but it was renewed and I’m glad.  The first couple of episodes have been really funny and sweet.  I’m glad we get a whole season getting to know the mother and seeing how she meshes with Ted (although they haven’t met just yet).  All the characters are returning to their original warmth and the plot has become simpler I think this entire season is focused on Barney and Robins wedding.  We will see how it ends.  A-

Big Bang Theory- In premiere episodes Leonard comes back from sea and hides from Sheldon to spend time with Penny.  Very funny.  Rajesh can now talk to girls so that should be funny and I’m going to make 2 predictions- Sheldon has long island iced teas and things progress with Amy and Bernadette gets pregnant.  I think both of those would be really funny.  Still, really funny start to season. A

Downton Abbey- And yes, I am watching the UK stream online and it is great!  Matthew is gone, Mary is reeling, O’brien is also gone but a new hire has a previous connection to Mr. Branson now Lord Branson husband to the late Sybill.  Edith is coverting with a married publisher.  Lady Violette is keeping everyone honest and change is happening all around them.  Fashion is noticeably different this season..  Love the addition of Lady Shackleton.  She’s going to give Lady Violette a run for her money.  B+

Mindy Project- Anytime Morgan is on screen I laugh and luckily he is on screen a lot.  The cameo with James Franco was funny.  Wish he could have been fulltime cast because it was good.  Bummed Casey is getting the heave-ho so fast after Haiti but it had to happen.  Clearly the producers want Danny and Mindy to get together but they will probably drag that out over 8 seasons.  Still I laughed a lot at the first 2 episodes.  A-

Reality Shows-

This is my favorite category this season

Survivor 27: Blood vs Water- I was very skeptical when I heard about the latest twist.  10 returning players and their family members are battling it out for a million dollars.  I think its a little lame when they’ve had now 2 all star seasons in a row (well basically 2 fans vs favorites in a row).  However, the family angle has proven to be better than I expected.  What makes it interesting is that there is a new layer at tribal council.  For instance, when the team voted out Rachel it wasn’t because of her strategy or her skill/lack of skill in challenges- it was because they wanted Tyson, her boyfriend, out of the other tribe.

What I don’t like about the new season is the return of redemption island.  Didn’t Boston Rob’s epic season basically prove that was a dumb idea?  It doesn’t work.  The person who makes it back on redemption island will get voted off every time.  Think about who would want to face a scrappy redemption island winner at the final tribal?  Plus, it is anti-climactic to have people not really be leaving the game after tribal council.

My pick to win it all- I’m going with Tyson.  He doesn’t have the burden of family early on, can be more strategic, he’s great at challenges and is likable guy that a jury will want to vote for.

Could you guys believe the whole Colton fiasco tongiht?  What a wimp!  I mean did he think survivor would be so different this go around?  What on earth?   He kind of pulled a Brandon Hantz and knew he was on the outs and quit.  That is so lame and Probst said that he faked the appendectomy on One World.  I guess the producers brought him back to create drama but please.  Quitters are so lame.

Still, very entertaining season so far.  A

The Voice- Christina and Ceelo return and I’ve lost interest for some reason.  The contestants just aren’t doing it for me and I would rather watch HIMYM and Dancing with the stars on Monday, so I’m done with this show.  Plus, I can’t remember a single name from last season.  Clearly they didn’t make an impact.  D

Amazing Race- new season started this Sunday and it is looking interesting.  There honestly isn’t a team that I’m really pulling for.  At first I thought the Afghans were going to do well but they’ve made some pretty dumbheaded mistakes.  I couldn’t believe how many people didn’t read the clues all the way in Chili.  Come on!

Boy girl teams usually have the best chance so I think Tim and Marie or Nichole and Travis could do very well.  I love seeing the different cultures, challenges and characters.  Still the show I would most like to be on.  I think my brother and I would be a fun match up because we are so different.  A+

Dancing with the stars- this season is pretty entertaining. Diverse stars from Bill Nye to snookie. Lots of high scores early on. Leaves little room for improvement. Only Monday episodes this season which is very smart A

Project Runway- An interesting and quite volatile cast (how many meltdowns can one cast have!).  So far I haven’t been blown away by anyone but I think Braden will probably win.  There hasn’t been a great season since Christian Siriano won.  C

I guess those are the biggies.  The Foodnetwork I give a C.  The old shows like Chopped are still good but new shows like Cutthroat Kitchen have been lame.  They are clearly running out of ideas.  Nothing on Bravo has interested me for many years and I do not like much on premium cable.  I am told the season finale of Dexter was a big disappointment but never watched the show.  I did watch some of the season of Mad Men that just finished and it was depressing.  Don Draper is just a despicable human being and so is everyone else on that show.  I admit I’m curious to see how it ends but not that curious.

I also have tried to watch Breaking Bad 3 times and each time I get to episode 3 and start to squirm.  Too violent and cynical for my tastes.  So you all enjoy it and I’ll stick to my lighter fare.

What shows do you like this year?  What about returning shows?  I am disappointed Bunheads doesn’t appear to have been renewed.  I liked that show.   Oh well.  That’s Hollywood for ya!

Please share in the comments section what you think of reality tv, comedy or anything else.  Also please share if there is something I missed which you enjoyed.    I would love your feedback.

Thanks!   (anyone seen Orange is the new Black?  What do you think? I’m leary to try netflix again after what they did to my arrested development.  Egads.)

fall preview

Enough Drama in My Life

tv-and-web-based-drama-banner-495w
Don’t like any of them except for Downton Abbey and maybe Lost

So I’ve been living with my roommate since the beginning of February and everything has gotten better than I could have ever hoped for.  Seriously, I was worried after living alone for 3 years that I would be hard to live with, and I might be but things seem to be working.  Phew!  Maybe one of these days I will be able to convince her to do a profile on this blog.

I think what makes it work is we have a similar cleaning style.  She’s better than me but we’re in the same realm.  We are also both hard core Republicans (love talking politics with her!), both strong in our LDS Faith and both have big, loud families. We also both like TV, which may seem like a little thing but it helps.

What has been interesting is to compare our television viewing.  We both like bride shows and project runway (our biggest argument was over a PR elimination).  I like Survivor, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, and Food Network shows.  She likes the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter and Girls.

The other day we were talking and she asked me ‘Do you like a single drama with a plot?’  To my surprise, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Finally after thinking about it forever I came up with 1 show- Downton Abbey.  I guess Masterpiece I like but that was it.  I could think of shows I used to like such as 24, ER, Lost or an occasional old school Law and Order. (I watched Mad Men for a while but it got too adult themed and ridiculous for me)

This had never occurred to me.  No drama in my TV life!   I wonder why?

Part of it is I am an anxiety absorber and so if something is very tense and dramatic I feel tense and upset.  I internalize things much more than I should but I honestly can’t really help it- especially if it is about murderers or rapists, things like that.  I honestly don’t go to very many dramatic movies because they leave me unsettled.  There has to be an element of hope in them (ie Slumdog Millionaire) for me to benefit from the experience.

Some shows like Drop Dead Diva or How I Met Your Mother have occasional moments of drama while carrying on a comedic tone, and that is nice.  Some shows like Bones I liked but I got bored with.  I tried shows like Breaking Bad and it was too violent, and too much profanity for my taste.  Plus, it felt so pessimistic and somber.

I guess when it comes down to it I watch TV to be entertained.  I’m tired at the end of the day and I don’t want to be challenged.  I want to have fun and laugh.  I also admit that I prefer things that are PGish on television, but I think I would lean to comedy and reality TV anyway.   I don’t like seeing dead bodies or medical procedures and I don’t like being scared, upset, or seeing things about murderers, so that takes out most detective shows and medical dramas.  I used to like X-files but even that got a little gross sometimes.

I also never watch shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians or other follow me around kind of shows.  I do watch Pawn Stars and shows like that but I can’t even handle the reality version of drama.  I don’t even like Restaurant Impossible. I want to have confidence in my restaurants and that show freaks me out.

Anyway, it was just a funny revelation.  I don’t like drama.  Is there anything I’m missing that I just have to see?  Please let me know!

I do like the new BYU TV show Granite Flats which is a drama, so you never know!

2012 Favorites

Happy New Year!  My neighbors are lighting a million fireworks so I’m still up despite coughing my head off.  I thought it might be fun to give you some of my favorites of this year.  Here goes

Favorite 2012 Book

1.  Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson- Should be no big surprise to anyone as I’ve been pedaling this book to everyone I know (and everyone else has liked it to.)    It is a ‘regency romance’ in the style of Heyer or Austen.  It is a juicy story of Marianne Daventry as she tries to train herself in the ways of good society at large estate of Edenbrooke.  Along the way we get a highway robbery, kidnappings, miscommunications and tons of romantic dialogue.

edenbrooke

2. Other books I loved this year- I read 50 books this year and some of my favorite are Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, Boomerang by Michael Lewis, The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfield, and the somewhat trashy but enjoyable Chicago Stars series by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Favorite 2012 Music-

1. Chris Mann- Roads- The standout on season 2 of The Voice (much better than the winner who I can’t even remember his name!).  A great debut album.  If you like Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli you will like Chris Mann.   He has a light opera voice  but isn’t afraid of a modern song like Viva La Vida

2.  Phillip Phillips- Home- Probably my favorite single of the year.  I must say I didn’t think his album was as good as the single but I still love this song. The winner of the last season of Idol made me wonder if I should watch the show again.  A folksy, earthy song that I could listen to again and again.

Favorite 2012 Movies-

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower- I’ve mentioned it a couple times on this blog but this movie really spoke to me.  It is set during my high school years (the setting could have been my high school) and I could relate to every character.  Dark, sad, tragic, funny, bizarre, disturbing, intriguing and everything else.  I liked all the performances and even little details like the music were perfect.

Written, and directed by Stephen Chbosky as adapted from his novel, it is one of the rare instances where I think the movie actually improves upon the book, which is written in the tired cliche of a letter-format.   I loved Emma Watson who does a convincing American accent and all of the teens felt like teens with authentic problems, parties, attitudes and romances- something so rarely seen in the teen movie genre.  I felt so inspired after seeing this movie for the first time that I went home and wrote a chapter of my book.  It made me want to write, express myself, and be creative.

I will say that this movie is not for everyone.  It is challenging but I found it exhilarating!

2. Les Miserables- The much hyped live performance version of the broadway musical adapted from the Victor Hugo novel (which I have never been able to get through btw).  I first saw Les Mis when I was 14 years old and went to NYC with my choir group.  I knew every song, every line of dialogue and for once my high expectations were completely met. I was blown away.

I then saw the show again in 2006 with my Aunt Kate when they did a revival and it moved me once again.  I love the story of the merciful Jean ValJean hunted by the ruthless Javert who seeks only justice.  I love the music and aside from a bit of over-the-top antics from the Thenardiers I thought the movie totally nailed it.  I loved the performances, cinematography, long fading shots, singing (with the exception of Javert), staging etc.  I loved it.  It brought me to tears and I wanted to see it again almost immediately.  I liked almost every single choice they made.  Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

3.  Other movies I liked- Friends with Kids, The Hobbit, Bully, Pirates: Band of Misfits, ParaNorman, and Brave.

Favorite Television 2012-

Such a weak year for television.  All the reality shows are getting tired including once reliables like Dancing with the Stars, Pawn Stars and Project Runway.

1. Downton Abbey- I got on the Downton Abbey bus early in 2011 but really loved both seasons this year, although I’m still traumatized by the recent Christmas episode!  Still, Dame Maggie Smith’s scenes are worthy of note alone.  There are so many well developed characters and the dialogue is always sharp.  I’m a believer in soap so I don’t really mind those elements.

2. Drop Dead Diva-  My favorite show this year. Drop Dead Diva had a great season with a huge ending that has me dying to know what is going to happen.  They got slightly less ridiculous in the cases presented and the romance between Jane and Owen felt believable.  With the return of Fred in a slightly altered form next season proves to be great.  A campy, silly show but done so well I love it!

3.  BYU TV- I’ve been enjoying BYU TV lately especially their shows American Ride and The Story Trek.  American Ride is a bikers version of American history.  Interesting and entertaining.  The Story Trek is great.  They literally go door to door and try to get interviews, hearing everyone’s story.  It is great what they come up with.  I like that I can turn on BYU TV and always find something enriching and clean.  It is not overly Mormon, just squeaky clean and fun shows.

4.  Other standouts- Go On about a widowed radio sports jock who goes to a grieving group, Up All Night about a couple struggling to raise their little girl in yuppie LA, Portlandia making fun of all things hipster, The Mindy Project basically the tv form of Mindy’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which is another favorite book of the year and I thoroughly related to. I also enjoy Bunheads written by the writer of Gilmore Girls and has the same crackling dialogue.  Plus, it has Sutton Foster in it who is divine.

So there’s some of my favorites of 2012.  What are some of your favorite books, movies, music, TV?

Annoyed Women

So today I was watching some TV after going to the gym and doing some errands.  I flipped from King of Queens to Everybody Loves Raymond to Home Improvement.  At the end of all this channel swapping I felt depressed, depressed for me and for all women.  The women presented in these and many other shows are constantly irritated by their lives, jobs and especially their husbands.   These women seem to have a continual roll in their eyes and a groan on their mouths.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Its interesting because if you think of the history of TV it used to be the other way around.  For instance, in I Love Lucy Ricky was the man with the constant eye roll.  When did things change?

The thing that gets me is why would anyone want to stay in a marriage or live a life they are perpetually annoyed with? I like my life and if something is annoying me it is usually my own pride that is to blame, more than anything else.  Of course, I live alone so maybe I don’t have as much potential to be annoyed as others….

What say you my married friends? Do you find yourself continually annoyed with those you live with? Do these images of nagging women make you more or less likely to imitate their behavior?

I guess part of it comes from the comic standby of needing a ‘straight character’. Not straight in the sense of sexuality but just in the sense of comic timing.  If everyone is crazy, off the wall, it isn’t funny but if one character is normal in contrast to the crazy it is more humorous.   This can be seen in all of the famous comic duos such as Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.  I guess you have to have one character to the be the idiot for most humor to work but why does it always have to be the man? Couldn’t it be a little bit of both?

A show like the Big Bang Theory allows all of its character to be smart, stupid, crazy, funny and ridiculous at moments.   The men and women are the butt of equal jokes.   One of my favorite shows, the Middle, does a pretty good job with an even keeled humor between the sexes and spares the constantly annoyed wife routine.  (Most of the real humor in that show involves the kids).

Arrested Development created great humor by having a straight man (Michael Bluth played by Jason Bateman) surrounded by both male and female idiots and wackos.  That approach works well too.

The funny thing is that I rarely notice this behavior with one viewing.  Its only when I have a day of leisure and watch a number of episodes in a row that it starts to bother me.  I wonder if as a society we cumulatively view episode after episode if the annoyed women  can be damaging.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into all this?  Some might say- “it’s just entertainment, no big deal?  It doesn’t impact my marriage/life?”.

That may be true but the subtle messaging the media gives us can be important.  It can cause women to expect men to behave like animals and then encourage men to then behave like animals.  Most of us after all are what others expect us to be.

I would think viewing such programs would make women more prone to fault finding and feel validated in their anger and irritations.   Things that should just be ignored are played out on TV to a comic benefit, creating a subtle approval of such behavior.

I live alone so I am free from annoying people most of the time (one of the great advantages of my lifestyle!).  Still, I hope when I get married I am not perpetually annoyed by those I live with.  What kind of life is that?  Why not find something you like  if you are so annoyed?

Reality TV isn’t much better.  In fact it is worse! Instead of fictionalized harping of wives towards their husbands we get ‘real life examples’ of a Jon and Kate Goslin or Bruce and Kris Jenner hating on each other.  (Not to mention the scores of ‘real housewives’ who mostly complain despite all their opulence).  I don’t really watch much reality tv but it can get depressing real quick!

Of course, you can always turn the TV off and pick up a book, which I did today. (Although the annoyed wife is certainly prevalent throughout modern literature as well!).

That’s my soapbox for the day! 🙂

What do you think about all the annoyed woman on TV? Do you think it has damaging effects for men, women and relationships? (or maybe you are all just annoyed with me 🙂  Sorry!)

Rachel’s Favorite Things

So today I am playing Oprah and am going to share some of my favorite things. Unfortunately I can’t give you free stuff so it might be less exciting but always fun to share.

Nantucket Bike Basket

First item I’m excited about is my new bike basket from LL Bean.  Isn’t it so cute and nice and deep to carry a bag of groceries or some mail 🙂

The Nantucket Bike Basket Co (talk about specialization) makes several baskets for LL Bean but this was my favorite.

http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/69236?feat=69237-ppxs&dds=y

The description on the website says “This durable bike basket is made from very fine rattan cane, woven for a classic, retro look. A replica of the style originally made in Nantucket during the whaling era of the 1920’s. Leather straps attach to your bike’s handlebars.”

What can be wrong with that?
It was actually hard to find a good bike basket so I’m thrilled with this find.

It is $39 with free shipping.

 

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I rarely find a new book that I love.  It’s just hard to get through all the sludge to find something that is clean, engaging and that excites me. Certain genres are harder than others, romance and comedies being the most difficult. Recently I found a book by local author, Julianne Donaldson, called Edenbrooke, that totally won me over.

It is about a girl named Marianne who in the 18th century (Jane Austen era) is bored and lonely with the society at Bath and is sent to the estate of Edenbrooke where she faces some startling situations and a dramatic romance with the flirtatious Phillip.

I was expecting it to be fan fiction but I was engrossed.  It really had great momentum, fantastic romantic tension and wonderful character development. I think Donaldson did almost the impossible by writing a believable Austen-like story that is not over the top romantic but engages the reader.  It was certainly a bold undertaking and I think she totally pulled it off.

It actually had one thing Austen never has- romantic dialogue.  We get it in spades but not so much that it feels like a dime romance novel.  To me it was perfect.  (You know its a good book if you stop listening to the audiobook and start reading because you are dying to know what is going to happen).

Go find it! Read it!

                                                                                  GoPicnic.com

One of my biggest challenges is finding meals that are easy and healthy, especially when I’m exhausted. I need things to be fast, healthy and delicious.  Recently I discovered the gopicnic meals in a box.  They have 9 different boxed meals, 6 of which are gluten free.  Most are under 400 calories and loaded with protein.

I’m not going to say they are the most substantial meal but in a pinch they will do fine.  An example of one meal is:

Turkey Stick and Crunch Meal

  • Old Wisconsin Turkey Snack Stick
  • Popchips Barbeque Potato Chips
  • Niagara Natural Tropical Fruit Bites
  • Sweet Perry Orchards Baja Blend Fruit & Nut Mix
  • Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Cookie

Sounds pretty good hah? I love them as a replacement for fast food or after a work out.  They also worked great for a road trip.

On the gopicnic website you can sign up for a subscription and get them for as low as 3.30 a box.

 

The Middle

I’ve mentioned it briefly on this blog but I love the show The Middle. It has just finished up its 3rd season and I think it gets better and better each year.  The show tells the story of the Hoosiers middle America, Heck family, and their hilarious struggles with everyday living.

The family has a stressed out mom played by Patricia Heaton (much more likable here than in Everybody Loves Raymond).  The level-headed but not stupid Dad is played by Neil Flynn from Scrubs. They are a very realistic couple who  seem to enjoy one another.  It is not a continual complain session by the wife over the husbands dumb antics.

The real stars of the show, however, are the children in the Middle.  The oldest son Axel is played by Charlie McDermott and he is basically my brother as a teenager but maybe more athletic.  Most of the show he is in boxer shorts.  It is a great performance.

My favorite performance is by Eden Sher as middle daughter Sue.  The costume department gets the tween fashion look right and she is perfectly eager. Sue tries out for things and never makes them. (I can certainly relate to that!).  She is also eager to make friends and fit in but that eagerness makes her not fit in and make friends.  I love her!

The youngest Heck is played by Atticus Shaffer as oddball kid Brick.  It is another funny nerdy performance.

In the end the Heck’s feel like a real Hoosier family and they get all the Indiana details right from Colts shrines to trips to Brown County to Tasty Kake and Steak N Shake (regional specialties). As an honorary Hoosier I love the all the details.  Watching The Middle is like being back in Indiana with my friends. 🙂

Lands End Swimsuits

Yes, that’s me in a swimsuit and yes, I have no issues with that.  I’m a big girl and I look good in a swimsuit. Deal with it!

The reason I can say this is thanks to Lands End Swimwear.

They have a wide range of swimwear both casual and active and the thing I love the most about their suits is they have active wear for plus size.  All 3 of my suits are from Lands End.  I don’t know what I would have done without their unique suits.  It is so hard to find active wear for plus sizes and I appreciate their presence in the market.

This month I got my first non-plus size suit from them because I wanted a tankini for longer swims.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked better in a suit. Hurray!

I also like that Lands End has suits that are modest with a low leg line and without being super tight.  Thanks!

 

So there are some products I’m mad for at the moment.  Will keep you posted as I find more.

Downton Abbey

So everyone who follows me on facebook knows of my obsession with Downton Abbey.  I know it is totally trendy but what can I say, I love it!  Its actually been a great release for me with recent stresses.  What better escape is there than to an Edwardian estate?

For you 3 people who don’t watch it, it is a BBC television series set in a British manor house called Downton Abbey from 1912 onward (the first episode starts with the sinking of the titanic).  According to the website there are 33 developed characters within the series because we get to know the Lord and Ladies upstairs and the hard working servants downstairs.

What is so refreshing about this show is that wealth and status does not define goodness with the various character profiles.  There are the villainous and noble of both classes. In fact, it is amazing how well rounded every character is. In these economic times I find it is an easy out to make the rich guy the villain.  For instance, in the much touted Social Network Mark Zuckerburg is immediately under suspicion because he is rich.

It is also historically accurate including such nuances as having Lady Grantham be an American heiress, which at the time was very common.  With land prices reducing in value pre wwI British nobility relied on American women to save their fortunes and estates.  There is also a great sense of waiting in the gentry vs work and business in the servants quarters.All the details in sets and costumes are superb.

So, two seasons have come and gone (stupid BBC and their short seasons! Now we have to wait a year.  What’s a girl to do!).  To read an update on the various characters go to http://enchantedserenityperiodfilms.blogspot.com/2010/09/meet-characters-of-downton-abbey.html.  They are all wonderfully acted especially the Dowager Countess played by the amazing Maggie Smith.

I think what makes the series work so well is the tension and humor on so many levels.  The house in many ways is a kind of min-world experiencing all the problems and victories of class struggle, relationship drama, sibling rivalry, health issues, forbidden love, spite etc.

You also have the fascinating role the outside world plays on the mini-world of Downton.  With the waning importance of the upper class and the greater options to working class families for education and employment reliance on the Grand House was not the same as it once was.  With the advent of World War 1 (Did you know that 30,000 people died in one battle of that war.  Wow!) and the death of so many young men ‘service’ as a profession was even diminished further.

Also, the war brought the mixing of classes with servant and Lord battling together for the same cause. In fact, in one scene in Downton the servant William saves Matthew Crawley in the worst battle of the war.  Still performing his duty to the end.

You have characters like Carson, the buttler, who resists change almost as much as Lord Grantham and others like Lady Sybil who yearns for it.  Then you have other great stories like Anna and Bates the servants romance that ends on quite the cliffhanger for season 2.

The Dowager is my favorite character.  She is actually quite modern and has all the great lines in the show.  Here are some good one’s.

Here’s some other funny one’s http://video.pbs.org/video/2196625085/

I was talking with my friend the other day about the chaos in Syria.  We both agreed sometimes it feels like there are too many challenges and sadness in the world.  It can feel like there is nothing you can do to help in the world.  Its kind of comforting to escape to a world that feels in control.

Downton Abbey also satisfies all emotions.  It is romantic, sad, funny and everything else.  The only bad thing about it is I have to wait a year to see it again.  Thank goodness I have season 2 on amazon video on demand (season 1 is available via netflix season 1).  It has been such a gift to me this month.  Seriously I needed an escape to Edwardian England.  Thank you BBC and Julian Fellows and all the actors and everybody involved.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Also, it has been hilarious to watch Downton while reading the tweets of the comic Patton Oswalt @pattonoswalt  .  They were so funny and more so because he’s a die hard fan.  I have found that television is much more enjoyable if you can follow a twitter handle while you watch (I love watching the debates while looking at twitter).  Even the music in Downton is great!

Enjoy and now we just have to look forward to Great Expectations coming soon!