September - Crush List

Every time I realize it's Crush List time I can't believe another month has come and gone. Here's what I'm loving right now.

1 - Lena Dunham's new book "Not That Kind of Girl"
2 - This black and moody Anice Rug from Crate and Barrel
3 - This "Things That Are Awesome" print on Etsy
4 - These Tomboy Loafers from the LOFT.
5 - Bright, soft, and velvety pillows from Lulu & Georgia

I'm really looking forward to October - great weather, a little trip, Halloween, and a visit from my parents. It should be lots of fun.

Update:  I picked up Not That Kind of Girl.  Also, I saw the rug in person, and I'm not loving it quite as much now.


Coming Soon - The Good Lie

Last night I was invited by a friend, who is a member of the Phoenix Film Society, to see a special advanced screening of The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon. It is a powerful film about the harrowing experiences of a group of Sudanese children orphaned by war, raised in a refugee camp, and given the opportunity to start over in America. Check out the preview.

I had not even heard of this film before seeing it, so I went into it blind. I really enjoyed it though. Reese Witherspoon's role is actually very minor, but I'm glad she did this project. A big name like her will draw in viewers and help spread awareness on the plight of "The Lost Boys of Sudan" as these orphans came to be known.

After the film, two of the actors and two of the producers from the film talked to the audience (which besides the Phoenix Film Society included the local AZ Lost Boys Center) about why they were drawn to the project and what it took to get it made (over 10 years of work). I really enjoyed listening to the actors speak. The four main characters of the film were all actual Sudanese refugees themselves. They talked a lot about how this may not have been their actual story, but it was still their story. The heartbreaking part was learning that history is repeating itself in Sudan as a new civil war has started, and the refugee camps are filling up again.

If you'd like to help support the Lost Boys (and Girls) still in refugee camps in Sudan, you can donate to The Good Lie Fund here or even find a local group to help them adjust to a new life in America - you can donate to the local AZ Lost Boys Center here.


Disney Project - Song of the South

The Disney Project almost came to a screeching halt with the film, Song of the South. Disney never released the controversial film on DVD, so I had a hard time locating it to watch. I did eventually find a random website that streamed it, so I settled in with my computer one night and gave it a go.
Watching this film with my 21st century eyes, I can see how it comes off as insensitive to modern day viewers.  The film is based off the real Uncle Remus stories published in the late 1800's.  It's set on a plantation, but I was unclear if it was pre or post Civil War.  Sally and her son, Johnny, come to stay with Grandmother, who is the plantation owner, after Johnny's father has to go to Atlanta for an unknown reason that comes off as very ominous, but is never actually explained.

Johnny's feeling abandoned, and with no one to turn to finds friendship with a plantation worker named Uncle Remus. Uncle Remus is a natural storyteller and whatever situation Johnny or his friends seem to be in, he has an appropriate "Br'er Rabbit" story that teaches them valuable lessons. (The "Br'er Rabbit" stories are all animated). Due to a misunderstanding, Sally comes to feel that Uncle Remus is a bad influence on Johnny and forbids him from seeing Johnny. Johnny continually visits Uncle Remus despite his mother's protests, so Uncle Remus decides to leave the plantation.

Johnny is seriously hurt while attempting to stop Uncle Remus from leaving the plantation. While unconscious he continually mutters, "Uncle Remus." Grandmother brings Uncle Remus to the boys' side. He wakes up, oh and father returns too, so everyone is thrilled. Sally realizes how important Uncle Remus is to the children, and everyone lives happily ever after.

I think it is important to remember that this film was made in 1946 - a time when race relations were very different than how they are today. I think it is commendable that essentially Disney's first live action film (or at least the first that was more live action than animation) featured an African American man in the starring role. I think it is the whole idea of the "happy slave" that causes the controversy today. All the workers on the plantation are content as can be, and generally love and care for the white family they work for. The intended audience for this film was children though, so if Disney was going to make it they really had to make it like this, right? The story was not about plantation life at that time, but a kindly old man telling fables to children that highlight good morals they can use as they go through life. Oh, and Johnny is the only "privileged" white child Uncle Remus is telling his stories too. The other two children in the film are a little black boy who lives on the plantation and a poor white girl who lives nearby.

I don't believe the film is racist, but rather a sign of the times. It's entertaining enough and includes the classic songs "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "Everybody Has A Laughing Place." It's portrayal of African Americans during the Civil War era is in no way accurate, but no different than other old films like Gone With the Wind for example. I don't think it quite warrants the stigma associated with it. Unfortunately, by not releasing it on DVD, it's hard for anyone to make that decision for themselves.


Coveting Chairs

Hey, remember my dining room table? (see here for more details) The chairs are working fine for us for now, but in my view, they've always been temporary.
I hadn't really thought too much about it since either. However, looking at this next picture things are looking pretty bare in the dining room. I still need drapes, a new light, and a rug; so it might be a little premature to be thinking about chairs yet. And I really wasn't thinking about them...
until I saw these!!! I love them. They're a total mixture of a traditional upholstered dining chair with the clean lines of a mid-century modern dining chair. They would bring really nice texture, color, and lines to the room. The only thing holding me back is the price tag ($400 a pair). I would need at least 6, and $1,200 seems a lot to spend right now. So, for now I'll just be admiring from afar, saving my pennies, and hoping they're still around when I can afford them.
What big ticket items are you guys saving for? Everything I want seems to cost $1,500 - that's like the magic price tag for every project I want to do in the house. Decorating piece by piece over a long period of time is really hard to do. It just feels like you'll never ever get the finished room you want, am I right?


Fireplace Update

When I last updated you on the family room it was looking like this. Still the putty beige color, and not much happening above the fire place.
Well, it was one of the rooms that we painted a few months ago (see here, Pure White by Benjamin Moore). So, now it's looking like this. The too small painting above is now part of our gallery wall in the living room (see here), so I decided to fill the vacancy with some family photos.
I actually have very few photos of any of us hanging around the house. It's not really my thing. I usually just make photo books. Before I added these three, there were only two other framed photos in the whole house.

Right now they are just leaning on the mantel. Bill likes them leaning, but I think I eventually want to hang them. We'll see. I also added two little gold cacti I picked up on Zulily.

It's a small improvement, but I still hate the fireplace. Personally, I think we should just get rid of it. We have not used it once since moving in last December, and I would much rather have the corner of the room back both here and upstairs in Seamus' room. That's a big project though, so we've talked about just revamping it - maybe a chunky railroad beam mantel and new tile or stone.
Here's a closer look at the photos. I had this black and white 8x10 already of one of my favorite baby pictures of Madeleine. She's 9 months old there. I also had a black and white 8x10 from our wedding. Would you believe this is the first wedding picture we've displayed? Our 6-year anniversary is coming up, so I figured it was about time.
Finally, I ordered a black and white 8x10 picture of Seamus from his 9 month photo to flank the other side. The frames are these from Target.

What do you guys think? Should we hang the photos or leave them as is? Should we just chuck or revamp the fireplace? I'm think a super cheap short term solution may be to paint the slate tile? I think it would be just like painting brick, maybe. I could pick a fun color from the rug. Also, I think I should put some logs or candles in the fireplace too to at least give the illusion that we use it.


A Hint of Mint

I'm in the process of trying to pick a paint color for Madeleine's room. I was looking for a very light and soft mint green. I picked the below three Benjamin Moore colors to test out: Light Touch, Minty Green, and Irish Mint.
Here they are up on the wall.
The verdict - all too blue. Seriously, not one of them looked green at all. So, it's back to the paint store to continue searching. I think I'll need to pick up some mint chocolate chip ice cream to bring with me for a color comparison.


Book Report - The Leftovers

Yes, another Book Report post. This is what you get from me - whatever I happen to be into at the moment. Right now, it's reading.

I finished Tom Perrotta's "The Leftovers" a few days ago. It's a really quick read, but I didn't care for it much. I'll tell you why, but first I have to tell you why I decided to read it.
Image from here.
I kept seeing the previews for the new HBO show based on this book over the summer. It looked interesting and a just a little bit scary. I was intrigued. The premise - what if a large population of the world one day, all at the same time, simply vanishes. How would those of us left behind (aka the leftovers) deal? Also, it starred Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, and the ninth Doctor himself - Christopher Eccleston; all favorites of mine. So, I started to watch it. Two episodes in I decided it was just a little too violent and disturbing for me, but I was still interested in knowing what happened to all the people. (and also what was up with the weird cult?) When I found out it was based off a one and done novel and not a series I decided to ditch the show and just read the book to get my answers.

The reason I didn't care for the book, then?  NO ANSWERS!!!!!!!

Seriously, not a one.

I will say that it was well written, fast paced, and flowed well - also not at all gross or violent like the show was. There just wasn't much of a story. I guess the characters lives were a little better at the end than they were at the beginning, but just a little bit.

I suppose I should say that the book does answer one question. It may not tell you what happened to all the people who disappeared, but it does answer the question - what would the people left behind do? The answer, cope as best you can and just keep going.


This Little Piggy

I literally ran into another new-to-me Arizona animal yesterday...a Javelina!!

I've been getting up early to run at 5am during the week, and it's still pretty dark outside at that time. At the end of my route I ran past a bush and heard a large animal scurry. I thought it was a coyote, but when I turned to look saw it was some kind of wild pig. I happened to be in a cul-de-sac at the time, and had no way to get back home without running back past it (although on the other side of the street). I was so scared, but I slowly walked past it. It was standing in a neighbor's yard, lit up under their garage light. It just stared at me, and I stared back - that's when I realized there were two of them!!  I tell you, this little piggy sprinted the last block to home like my life depended on it. When I got home I googled "Phoenix - wild pig" and the search results were littered with the word "Javelina."
Yep, that's definitely what I encountered. From what I read they are actually relatively harmless unless you threaten their young. Happy to know my fear of getting gored in my subdivision was unfounded, but still hope I don't run into another one any time soon.

I still can't believe how different the wildlife is in the Southwest versus the Midwest (check out here and here). Bill has seen multiple rattlesnakes while biking - which is crazy! I hope I don't come across any of those while running.

Photo image from here.


Book Report - Written in My Own Heart's Blood

Earlier this week I finished Diana Gabaldon's latest book, "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" (Outlander Series Book #8). It did not disappoint.
First, I'll say that it was so much fun reading this book while also watching the series come to life on the small screen.  (If you are not watching Outlander on Starz start doing so now!!) I read "Outlander" in college some 15+ years ago, and I still enjoy the adventures of Jamie and Claire as much now as I did then.

That being said, not every book in this series is as great as others, so I was very pleased when "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" was more along the pace of the first four books. Jamie, Claire, and a hodgepodge your favorite supporting characters are in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War; while Brianna, Roger, and their kids are in Scotland during the 1980's.

Jamie and Claire's story was steady and chalk full of history. They are still very much in love in a way that reads as believable. They are the voice of wisdom to all their young relations and strays they seem to pick up along the way. They still seem to find themselves in the middle of all the action, but are there a little bit more reluctantly than before. They do what they need to do, but all they really want to do is go home.

Brianna and Roger's story was where all the suspense of this book lay.  Separated by time they were each dealing with enormous obstacles - Brianna and the kids trying to escape Jem's kidnappers and Roger's search for Jem in the past with his however many times Great Grandfather. Their stories were exciting on their own, but combined with the added suspense of how, when, or if they were going to be reunited again kept the 800+ page story moving quickly.

It had a very, very satisfying ending (no cliffhangers here), but made it obvious that there is still more to come. (I hear 10 books in all!) Yay!


My New Jam - Bang Bang

I'm really digging Jeesie J, Ariana Grande, and Nick Minaj's new song, Bang Bang. Man, can Jessie J sing!

What are you listening to lately?


Disney Project - Make Mine Music

We watched Make Mine Music the other day. It's another collection of segments movie rather than a full-length feature, and it was definitely my favorite in this genre so far. I actually vividly remembered a number of these shorts from my childhood.
Image from here
Funnily enough, the first segment "The Martins and the Coys" was censored in the version Netflix sent me, but I found it online here. The gunplay was considered too intense for children. It's so silly when you compare it to what is on television nowadays. I thought it was pretty harmless. I wouldn't mind if my kids watched it. This was one of the ones I remembered watching from when I was little.

I also remembered:

"All The Cats Join In" - Bobby socks and Big Band Music. I loved how animated people looked in this one - especially the girls. So, cute.

"Casey At The Bat" - The famous and fun poem about a cocky ball player.

"The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" - A funny little tale about a whale who only wants to sing opera.

"Peter and the Wolf" - A classic. My favorite.

"Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet" - A sweet little love story about two hats who fall in love, are separated, but find each other again.

There were a few other segments, but they weren't as entertaining in my opinion. "Blue Bayou," "Two Silhouettes," "Without You," and "After You've Gone" were music centered only - no real story. Luckily enough, the other stories redeemed this little film. I would definitely watch this one again anytime.

Do you remember any of these? They used to play these little shorts on the Disney Channel when I was younger - like in between shows. Does anyone else remember that? They should still do that. I would enjoy it for the nostalgia factor; plus, they're just really entertaining and fun.


Children's Book Report - My Pet Book

I recently picked up "My Pet Book" by Bob Staake for Madeleine. The bright red cover instantly caught my eye, and I was drawn to the illustrations. They reminded me of another book we had at home, "Bugs Galore." Turns out that one is also illustrated by Staake (although written by Peter Stein). I just love his bold, graphic, and colorful style.
When we actually sat down and read it I was so pleased with the story too. It's about a little boy who wants and then gets a book for a pet. He goes on all sorts of adventures with his book and doesn't have to worry about having to take care of it like you would a dog or a cat.
One day when he comes home from school the book is gone, and a frantic search ensues. And when all is well again...

The boy's mom gently asked him
How a book could bring such joy.
"It's cuz every book's a friend!"
Said the yawning little boy.

That pretty much sums up how I've always felt about books and how I hope my children will feel about them someday too.

I'd love to hear what children's books you and your kids are loving right now. Do you stick to the classics? Or venture out on new releases? Do you actually buy them or just check them out from the library? We're do a bit of both. I have to really be drawn to a book before I'll buy it, so I like the library to keep a good rotation going while always searching for the next special book to add to our collection.


Labor Day Fun!

I hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day! We had a pretty low-key day; making sure to play outside with bubbles before it got to hot. The lawn sprinklers turned on unexpectedly, and Madeleine had a blast running through them. Seamus didn't leave the patio, but was super excited about the whole thing.
The unofficial end of summer is here, and we survived the Phoenix heat. I'm really looking forward to temperatures dropping back under 100°.