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3.22.2017

Coming Soon - Wilson

I have another movie review for you today. I saw a sneak peak of the new Woody Harrelson movie, Wilson. It opens worldwide this Friday, March 24th.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is an overly friendly kind of man with no real filter for his words or actions. He just can't seem to help his extremely strong feelings about life. Feeling lonely though, he tracks down his ex-wife, Pippy (Laura Dern) and discovers he is the father a teenage daughter that Pippy gave up for adoption after she left him. Excited at the idea of being a dad, Wilson finds his daughter and awkwardly attempts to bond with her.

So, um...this was interesting.

I'm usually all for a good quirky comedy, but Wilson was a maybe a little beyond quirky and more just weird? It was almost a bit too over the top and so incredibly awkward to watch. Woody Harrelson actually did great as the title character. He really loses himself in this role, and I genuinely forgot I was watching him. Considering he's usually the type of actor who just "plays himself", I think this film is a real testament to his skills as an actor.

I didn't not like it though. It's just...different. More amusing than funny, and again, just so, so awkward and weird.  Wilson is a film that is only going to appeal to a very specific niche audience. If you're a fan of the graphic novel by the same name or a fan of Woody Harrelson or a fan of small independent films, then go out and see this in the theater to support small little films like this. They need you. If your tastes run more mainstream, you're probably going to want to just skip this one.

3.20.2017

Let's Go To The Movies - Beauty and the Beast

We, and apparently the entire rest of the world, went out last weekend to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie.

A heartless prince (Dan Stevens) is turned into a beast and forced to live hidden away in his enchanted castle. The only way to break the curse is for him to learn to love and be loved in return. When a courageous and bright young woman, Belle (Emma Watson), comes to the castle looking for her imprisoned father; she agrees to take her father's place and stay forever with the Beast. Hopeful she may be the one to finally break the curse, the Beast's loyal servants do all they can to nurture Bell and the Beast's blossoming affection for each other before their time runs out.

As a huge fan of the 1991 animated original, I was so excited to for this reboot. I actually tend to get a little anxiety when I'm this excited to see a film. I worry it won't live up to my expectations and I'll end up be sorely disappointed.

I'm happy to say, Beauty and the Beast did not disappoint at all! It was everything I had hoped it would be. Yay!

It was first a complete visual feast for the eyes. I don't know which was better, the high Baroque costuming and ornate castle or the quaint, but oh-so provincial French village. Everything was just so pretty to look at.

Then there was the story that both honored the original, but was still different enough to set itself apart.

Emma Watson was a terrific Belle. I don't think she's been so well suited for a role since her Harry Potter days. Dan Stevens was able to humanize the beast remarkably well underneath all that CGI. Kevin Klein, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad all did amazing work as well. The "Gaston" number was so much fun!

The only flaw, I felt, was with the cast of characters who lived in the castle. In their attempt to make them extremely realistic looking, they lost a lot of what made them so, well...animated. Their faces were all so tiny and the expression and emotion of their words didn't always translate to screen. There were also quite a few times where I was very aware I was watching CGI. They did such a good job with everything else though that none of that really deters from the overall experience of the film. I mean, "Be Our Guest" was still pretty remarkable.

If you're a fan of the original, you'll most likely love this retelling too. It's a great family film (although it may be just a tad long for the under 6 crowd), it's a great nostalgia film, and it's a pretty great little musical too. Pure innocence and fun.

3.17.2017

Touring Arizona - Canyon Lake

I recently went on a day trip to Canyon Lake for a work outing and was so impressed by this little hidden gem that I wanted to share.
Canyon Lake is about an hour West of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. It is exactly as the name implies - a beautiful lake surrounded by high canyon walls.

We took a steam boat ride around the lake courtesy of The Dolly Steamboat.
It was such a relaxing and serene way to view the lake.
Apparently there was an Eagle's nest with baby eaglets on the top of this rock tower, but I couldn't see it.
We've also had a lot of rain here lately, so the desert was super green and pretty.
There are all sorts of camping sites by the lake and you can rent kayaks and such to explore the area. Nearby is the quaint little Western town of Tortilla Flats for some cowboy fun and food.

I can't wait to go back with the family or our next out-of-town visitors!

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

3.15.2017

How to Make a Snake Cake

I wanted to give you guys a little tutorial on Seamus' snake cake. It was super easy and looked so cool!
The first thing I did was look up "snake cakes" on Pinterest. Then, be prepared to lose a good hour of your life oohing and aahing at the insanely realistic and cool snake cakes out there. Seriously, they're are some really talented people out there. 

Anyway, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with the cupcakes, but needed a little inspiration on how to decorate it. This photo came up and seemed well within my capabilities.

Next, grab a box of cake mix and some frosting. That's right, we do box here. I barely had enough time as it was to pull this thing together and really, nobody cares, especially not kids. No need to drive yourself crazy attempting some insane "from scratch" recipe. This is real life people! 

Back to it though, I'm partial to Pillsbury and picked up their Devil's Food flavored cake and White frosting. Then, just bake the cupcakes according to the directions.

Now comes the fun part. Decorating!!

Seamus' favorite snake right now is the Green Cat Snake. So, I knew we were going to be using green. I used food coloring to dye the white frosting to the shade of green I wanted, then frosted each of the cupcakes. I arranged them in the snake shape I wanted on a Wilton cake board. I ended up using 20 cupcakes to make a nice big "S". Like Seamus says, "S" for snake and "S" for Seamus.
Then, we got out the M&M's - regular and Easter colors. Bill literally picked out all the green ones from each bag, and I arranged them on top of the cupcakes in a striped pattern like the inspiration pic. There are a ton of other snakes and patterns you could go with though. For rattlesnakes you could use all shades of brown. For a California King Snake - orange, brown, and yellow. Wow - Seamus isn't the only one who knows a lot about snakes now. His knowledge is rubbing off on me.

Finally, these candy eyeballs and a Twizzler Pull 'n Peel for the tongue. For the finishing touch, I grabbed a package of Easter basket filling and used it to create a grassy backdrop around the snake.
That's it, guys! Can you believe how easy? The best part it, it looks pretty amazing and your kids, family, and friends will think you're some sort of cake decorating genius.

Have you made any fun cakes lately? What are your favorite birthday themes for kids?

3.13.2017

Touring Arizona - Phoenix Herpetological Society

Seamus is really into reptiles right now...like, really into them. He loves all things dinosaurs, snakes, lizards, and so on. He's like a sponge when it comes to this stuff and can easily recite countless facts he has learned from books and TV.

So, when I saw a van on the highway decked out in alligators and snakes from the Phoenix Herpetological Society ("PHS"), I made a mental note to check the place out for when his birthday rolled around.

PHS is a reptile sanctuary and education facility for rescued reptiles. You know those people who keep venomous snakes and other illegal reptiles as pets? When they get caught, or you know even sometimes die from being killed by their "pet", this is where those animals end up from all over the country. It's actually pretty amazing, and turns out, only like ten minutes from our house too. Crazy!

They only offer guided tours, so you have to make an appointment if you want to visit. We signed up for a 10am tour and headed over last Saturday.

The tour started off with the tortoises and turtles. They literally have hundreds. Some were little...
And some were big! That's a baby Galapagos Tortoise second to the right from Seamus' head. 
We learned all about tortoises and how they make great pets. However, a lot of them end up at PHS because people aren't prepared for how big they sometimes get or how long they live. It can easily be a multi-general pet as they tend to live over 100 years! The spontaneous and crazy part of me totally wants to get one now, but so far, the practical part of me has won out. But seriously, how fun would it be to have a tortoise toddling around the backyard?!
Next up was turtles. Do you know the difference between turtles and tortoises? I do now. Turtles can swim and eat meat. Tortoises only live on land and eat plants. So, you know, if you ever find a tortoise, don't throw it in the water!

The highlight was feeding the tortoises. They may not move too fast, but they can sure finish off a piece of celery right quick. I could have fed them all day.
We saw all sorts of lizards, iguanas, an armadillo, and even a random otter. After that, it was time for the venomous snakes!
Cobras, vipers, rattle snakes - you name it, they had it. It was super freaky when the rattle snakes would start a rattlin' too. Seamus loved it.

Next up, the crocodilus. There are 23 different species of crocodilus (which includes alligators), and this place had like 20 of them. Again, I was amazed at the shear volume of reptiles they have.
The American Alligator was my favorite. This guy was huge! Fun fact, they got him and one other from a family here in Arizona that was keeping them as pets in their backyard. Crazy, right!
Did you know alligators won't eat humans? You could totally get bit by one if it makes a mistake and wind up seriously hurt or dead, but, you know, they won't eat you. Crocodiles, on the other hand, those bad boys will gobble you right up.

We ended the tour (which, by the way, ended up being 3 hours long!) with the non-venomous snakes.
It was a great way to finish off the experience. The handlers brought out a bunch of snakes and lizards that we could all touch and feel. Seamus was surprised the snakes were so squishy.
HPS is really an incredible place to visit if you're in the area. It's a great alternative to your run of the mill zoo, and I can't recommend it enough. They offer a valuable service and have a real passion for their work and these animals.

3.10.2017

Seamus Is Four!

Can you believe it? Seamus turned four-years-old this week! We celebrated with a little family party mid-week, but have big plans for our reptile loving boy coming up soon.
You know it's a party when we eat in the dining room! Yes, we set up shop in the dining room and ate homemade pizza and cupcakes. 
Speaking of cupcakes, I had so much fun making this snake cake for Seamus. It's actually pretty self-explanatory, but I'll have a little how-to post on it coming soon.
Silly boy + party hats = fun, fun, fun!
Needless to say, the birthday boy was very excited.
So, excited that he hardly ate a thing because he couldn't wait to open his presents!
Bill and I saved his big birthday present until last. It was...
A BIG BOY BIKE!

Seamus has been cruising around on his little balance bike for ages now, so we thought he would be ecstatic. Turns out, not so much, but that's okay. I'm sure he'll be biking around on it soon enough. 
All in all, it was a really great night. I can't believe he's four. He's hilarious and so, so smart. I'm beyond greatful that I get to be his mama. Love you, Shea!

P.S. Seamus' Third Birthday Recap | Let's Get Dirty | 1st Birthday Recap

3.08.2017

What I'm Watching - Big Little Lies

Remember when I gushed about how much I loved Liane Moriarty's novel, Big Little Lies (see here)? Well, HBO, turned it into a mini-series with some big name stars (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz), and it's so good!!

I definitely recommend checking it out. Liane Moriarty is great at exploring the drama of everyday life. In this case, it's a bunch of overly involved mothers of first graders. The story starts off with a death, but the viewer doesn't know who dies or how it happens. Liane Moriarty is the master of the gradual build, so you may find the show just a tad slow moving, but if it stays true to the novel, the payout will be worth it.

Reese Witherspoon, and especially, Nicole Kidman are both killing it too. I'd put money they'll both be nominated for an Emmy/Golden Globe next awards season. Also, the amazing homes of these characters and the ocean settings are a general feast for the eyes. If you're looking for a low commitment guilty pleasure, Big Little Lies is it.

What are you watching these days?