Brave Themed Birthday Party

The Princess recently turned seven, and this year, she wanted her party to be Brave-themed.

So I came up with some ideas that went with the theme. First we got some molded plastic crown goblets, along with gold paper plates, napkins and forks.

Then, I made Will O’ the Wisps, like the one Merida follows into the forest, using battery-operated tea lights, double-sided tape, some blue cellophane wrap and streamers.

First I put the double-sided tape around the edges of the tea lights,

and then I sort of randomly attached the cellophane.

Using more double-sided tape, I attached thin strips of white streamers under the cellophane. This was also good for folding parts of the cellophane to get a sort of rounded, billowy shape.

And then I used some white lanyard (because I couldn’t find the fishing line that I KNOW IS AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE!!) and hung them in a trail to the door of the party. They looked really great blowing in the breeze, and after the sun went down they looked really cool, as the little tea lights flickered in the night air.

I also made crowns (using paper crowns from the craft store and glue-on jewels) for all the girls. For the boys, I got some ear-headbands, though at this time of the year, I had trouble finding inexpensive bears and had to settle for mouse ears. The kids didn’t seem to mind. For goodie bags, I used gold paper bags, and inside of each was a little teddy bear, bullseye cookies from snack bakeshop and a little bow and arrow set that I made using popsicle sticks and Q-Tips. (Directions for those on Practice What You Pinterest) tomorrow.

For cake, I made little cupcakes that looked a bit like the one Queen Elinor eats that turns her into a bear, and these were butterscotch flavored cake with vanilla butter cream icing. To make the cake, I started with a basic white cake recipe, and then I added a box of Jello Butterscotch Pudding mix.

The cupcakes were baked for 20 minutes,

and once they had cooled, I put a ring around the top with vanilla butter cream icing.

Once all the rings had been placed, I took what was left of the frosting and added red food coloring. (I think that the center-circle of the cake in the movie might be red, but I couldn’t justify using the amount of food coloring it would take to make the icing red, thus mine were pink.) The pink icing was used then to fill the center circle on top of the cupcakes.

For games, we had a tug-of war, and I bought a little toy archery set. The kids had a nice competition to see who could hit the target, though it turned out to be more fun than it was competitive.

It was a really fun party, and The Princess had a great day. Though one other thing I forgot to mention: During the party, I set my iPod to play some Bagpipe music via Pandora Radio to go with the theme. One of the guests (or perhaps more than one…) kept turning it off though. Go figure.

Watching The Dark Knight Rises in the Wake of Aurora, Colorado

Before you read any further and get your Batman Underoos in any kind of bunch, I want to tell you two things. First, this post will probably contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you want to see the movie, come back another day. Secondly, remember that everyone has an opinion of their own; it’s what makes us individuals. We are entitled to have our own opinions, and

Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Now THAT was an action figure.

I will respect yours only if you respect mine; but bear in mind that I am not the target audience for The Dark Knight Rises. I am an American woman, in her mid-forties with young children. I have never played an action video game, and the last comic book I bought was probably a Richie Rich or an Archie. I have never owned or thought about purchasing an action figure for myself…well at least not since the first Star Wars movie was released…the first time.

That being said, last night, after weeks of excited anticipation, my husband, Manfrengensen and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. We greatly enjoyed the first two installments of this franchise, have been fans of Christopher Nolan, its director, since Memento, and even watched Batman Begins on Thursday night to heighten our sense of anticipation. I procured a babysitter for Friday night, opening night, and we made plans to have dinner and see the film.

On Friday morning, I woke up, made my coffee, and checked the computer. One of my friends on the Facebook mentioned something about prayers going out to Colorado, so I went straight over to the New York Times to see what she was talking about. And my heart just sank, right from the headline. I felt sick as I read the story. How do these things happen? We always ask that when these things happen, but the fact is, they happen all too often.  (See a great article written about that by Roger Ebert here.) I don’t want to debate gun control in this country, I have been doing that since I was in high school. It goes nowhere. Ever. And that’s sad. Manfrengensen said the best thing I can think of about the Second Amendment. He said, okay, we have the right to bear arms, so you can have a musket, because that’s what the Framers had in mind. They never thought of assault rifles and the kinds of combat weapons we have turned into the monsters of today. Good point, I think.

But I digress;  back to Batman. Of course, Colorado was on our minds as we entered the multiplex last night. We got there a half-hour early, and the theater was already 3/4 full. There were no open spaces left in the stadium seating, so we had to sit in the fourth row of the ones down on the floor. Manfrengensen pointed to the exit door, which is something he has never done at the movies before, and we talked about how that guy must have bought a ticket, gone in and propped the door open before going out and getting his weapons from the car.

The lights went down and the movie started, after about a dozen previews for others. And right out of the gate, I was cringing at the violence. Mind you, I don’t think that violence in movies is the cause of shootings like these. Lots of rational people see movies like this one and don’t go out and shoot people, so there’s definitely something wrong with the people who do, not the culture itself. But the film still made me feel…I don’t know…uncomfortable.

There’s a lot of shooting and automatic weaponry in the film. There’s also a lot of hand-to-hand combat, complete with extra-loud sound effects of bones crushing on every hit. I wonder…which bones are they implying are being crushed? Are they the bones in the hands of the puncher, or in the bodies of those being punched? Either way, the fight scenes are too long. How many times can one punch with a broken hand? I doubt it would be too many. Even for Bane.

The movie is dark. Darker than any of the others in the series. There’s corruption, cowardice, degradation, nuclear weaponry. The entire infrastructure of the city is destroyed. The one percent get pulled from their homes and thrown out into the streets. There are times when Bane is still unintelligible. And for a Batman movie, there’s nowhere near enough Batman in it. Not enough Batman, and too much Matthew Modine. Why did we need Matthew Modine exactly?

And don’t even get me started on Anne Hathaway’s skin-tight Cat Woman costume and the way they had her ride the Bat Cycle with her rounded can in the air.

Plus, can I tell you something else? Edna Mode has ruined Batman for me. The whole time he’s fighting Bane, punch after bone-crushing punch, I’m thinking, are you kidding me, Bane? Just grab that cape and pull! That would be the end of that.

But seriously, I’m not saying that The Dark Knight Rises  is not worth seeing. Technologically. it’s brilliant. As far as the script goes though, it’s not as good as the other two. And I didn’t find Bane to be that great of a super-villain. He’s all mitts, mask, and diabolical philosophy, but he lacks the style and theatricality of The Joker, Spiderman’s Green Goblin, or even Lex Luthor. Bane’s less super villain, more semi-super villain.

I didn’t think any of the acting was anyone’s best, except for Michael Caine. But you know what? I don’t want to see an old man cry at the movies. There are only about three things I can think of that are sadder than an old man crying. Don’t you think? I don’t want to see an old man crying. Who wants to see an old man cry? But he was great. So great, that I was sorry there wasn’t more Alfred in the movie. I would seriously  like to see Caine nominated for an Oscar.

Overall, it had the feel of a third and final installment for me. Way too much going on. Bruce Wayne gets laid, there’s more than one villain, just too many ideas that needed tying up before it was over. I haven’t hated a film this much in years, and to tell you the truth. I wanted to walk out and tell Manfrengensen to meet me later in the lobby. But again, I admit, I am not a member of the target demographic.

Now, would I have had any of these feelings if not for what happened in Colorado? I went to a dark movie, already feeling pretty dark. The thing is;  yes, it’s just a movie. It’s entertainment and we are meant to enjoy it. But that’s really hard in a world that can sometimes be so angry and dark. When reality feels futile — I mean, what can you do about the crazy murderers of the world? There is no Batman who will come to our rescue. It is up to us to learn from events such as these, not just say, oh well, isolated incident, so don’t change anything. To not think about it until the next time it happens, when we all say, why didn’t we do something about this last time this happened? Maybe we could  have prevented it happening this time? Is that even a possibility in today’s political climate? Wouldn’t it be great if it was? If we could make this the last time something like this happens? Then we can all go back to enjoying our entertainment.

15 Great Movies and One Mini-Series to Watch During Memorial Day Weekend

1. Saving Private Ryan

2. Platoon

Believe it or not, Charlie Sheen was once a serious actor.

3. Stalag 17

4. Full Metal Jacket

5. The Deer Hunter

6. Apocolypse Now

7. Glory

8. Empire of the Sun

9. Casablanca

10. M*A*S*H

11. The Hurt Locker

12. Black Hawk Down

13. A Midnight Clear

14. A Very Long Engagement

15. The Red Badge of Courage


AND The Mini-Series:

Band of Brothers (Big surprise, but it is an awesome series. I mean, I’m a girl, and I think it’s awesome.)

I have no doubt that the diolog in Japecake’s version is better than the real thing


Tyler’s Mom

TYLER and BRODY sit cross-legged on a worn shag rug


Miss! F-4.

Miss! B-7.

Miss! J-10.

Miss! C-7.

Miss! A-4.

Miss! D-7.

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I deploraxed The Lorax

Was The Lorax originally meant to represent Teddy Roosevelt? He certainly has a convincing moustache.

I took the kids to see The Lorax yesterday. I really wish I had read the reviews before I had promised to do that. I was going to write a lengthy review, but A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said most of what I wanted to say, and I feel, said it more eloquently than I ever could have, so I’m sharing that with you.

I don’t mean to seem like I hate things, or that I am no fun, but I must tell you that as I sat in that darkened theater, I felt sad. Mostly sad for Dr. Seuss. I kept thinking that if he were alive, he’d go out in his yard, dig a grave and practice rolling over in it.

As Scott mentioned in his article, Theodore Geisel exercised tight control over his work, which his heirs have abandoned. That’s why we get these overblown adaptations that have little to do with the original story. These tales are perfect for the ten-minute-long animated shorts we got in the 1970’s. They don’t need all these added-on backstories that muck them up and make them run for 90 minutes.

Another thought that kept occurring to me was an article I’d just read about how folks today, for the most part, really aren’t that green. That everyone likes to use the buzzword “green” but in practice, we still keep consuming and discarding and leaving the saving of the planet to others who are too few to stem the tide. We need the latest smartphone, the latest TV, what all the other kids are wearing, and we feel better about ourselves when we throw our plastic bottles into a conveniently placed recycling bin, but overall, we can’t be bothered to carry our own reusable bags into the mall.

While the message of “save the trees” is still there, pretty much everything else Dr. Seuss stood for is not. Sure the little kids will walk away with that idea about saving the trees, but they will also come away feeling like they laughed a lot — at things that were kind of mean-spirited. Language is used to cut other characters down, and slapstick is what really gets the laugh. For some reason there’s also a fat bear that’s played for laughs as well.

Dr. Seuss was a genius, I’m not going to deny that. But his genius was his simplicity. The way he used his children’s books as allegories about racism, environmental issues and war is a great thing. But it’s not like he was the only one. I see a lot of Dr. Seuss’ words everywhere these days. They are plastered all over Pintrest, quoted on Facebook, painted on library walls. But you know, Theodore Geisel is no more the world’s greatest philosopher than Shel Silverstein is its poet. We are wise to use Dr. Seuss as a starting point to talk to our kids, but we need to back that up with more complex ideas — and follow through on those ideas ourselves.

WTF, John Cusack?

I don’t mean to keep harping on the guy, but this was an actor who had once showed so much promise. And now he’s doing this??


Crime fighting Edgar Allen Poe? Um, no. The pitch: From Hell meets Se7en.

“No matter how this ends, you’ll be relieved when it does.”

Chalk up another straight-to-DVD release for Cusack. Makes me sad.

To quote Get Shorty: “I’ve seen better film on teeth.”

Zombies, Shmombies

There seems to be a lot of zombies out there this season. For some reason, zombies are in. There’s The Walking Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, video games with zombies, and about a million movies about zombies. All the kids I’m talking to on the bus stop, they’re planning to be zombies for Halloween.

I hate zombies. I pretty much feel the same way about zombies as I do about roller coasters. Call me crazy, but when it comes to roller coasters…well, they’re not my thing. I don’t know if I will live to be 110 years old, but even if I do, that puts death close enough for comfort. I don’t need to artificially enhance the feeling of imminent death. As far away as death might be at any moment, that’s close enough for me.

And that’s how I feel about zombies. I encounter enough people on a regular basis, working, driving, talking about Celebrity Apprentice, that I don’t need any fictional zombies.

A kid’s video review of

Suggested titles for Pirates of the Caribbean 5

Dead Horse’s Chest

On Second Thought

The Depps of Depravity

Pirates of the Caribbean There Done That

At Franchise’s End


"You wear too much eye makeup. My sister wears too much...People think she's a whore."

Yeah, we’re that family.

Did I say kids were awesome?

The kids have been at each other’s throats for days. They’ve been arguing about EVERYTHING. I swear, if one of them says it’s cloudy today, the other one will point out that the percentage of blue sky to clouds negates the other’s declaration. And with three of them, this kind of thing is always happening between two. There is never a moment of peace. Plus, Manfrengensen has been working 6-day weeks, so when Sunday comes, I just want the day off.

Last night, I took the kids to seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, which they liked. It had some funny moments, but also made me uncomfortable in some parts, but it’s just a movie, so I try not to take it too seriously. Edison came away with this idea of “Mom Bucks” where he and his siblings would earn play money from me for doing chores and things, that they would later exchange for real cash. That’s cool and all, but not really what I want to get with. I mean, first of all, they get allowances, and there’s really nothing that they want for. In addition to all that, I take them to the movies, and I also buy them things. Like yesterday, we went to this big community garage sale, and I got Edison a nice bike, almost new, for $20. After that, I took Clooney out to get him a Spooner Board, which you might think is overindulgence on my part, but it’s really just selfish. You see, by buying him this toy, I’m buying time for myself with kids outside. It’s win-win, as I see it. I don’t do it often, but I do it. To tell you the truth though, right from the start, I’m not too comfortable with this Mom Bucks thing because, and maybe I am being too idealistic here, but shouldn’t the motivation to help around the house and be kind to your siblings be intrinsic? Is that naive on my part?

Now, Edison is an early riser, and he rises every day with some kind of bee in his bonnet, some idea that he has, thing he wants to do, grand scheme he needs to execute. He’s off and running, sometimes without even remembering to brush his teeth. (Ew, I know, right?) Today’s idea: MOM BUCKS. So that when I come down, at Church-Time-minus-30, and no coffee yet made, he’s got every version of Monopoly we own spread out on the family room floor, and he has devised an ELABORATE set of parameters as to how each Mom Buck shall be earned.

I had to tell him to park it. Pistons were not firing yet, you know?

And this after I had gone into Clooney’s room (where The Princess sleeps on a fold-out chair on the weekends) to find them already locking their devilish horns. Clooney, I guess, had begun the day by declaring that this was The Princess’s last night in his room. I just backed away slowly, closed the door and pretended not to have witnessed.

Got to Mass just as the priest was getting ready to head up the center aisle. It wasn’t too crowded, I guess some people took off today, or maybe they are going to other masses because there’s no Sunday school this week. Manfrengenson trailed behind me and the boys with the Princess. We got good seats right up front. I really like our pastor. He gives an awesome homily, really knows how to tie the Gospel into what we’re dealing with in our 21st Century lives. He’s funny, comfortable with the flock, a very human kind of guy. When the homilies are over, I often want to hold up my phone and wave it in the air for an encore. “Woo-hoo! You rock, Dude!” Father Dave is like my spiritual Justin Beiber.

Today, however, I was distracted. The kids were jostling for space near me. The Princess, who’s usually in Sunday school during the 9:00 was insisting on sitting on my lap, while Clooney kept brushing his face against my arm like a cat trying to get its whiskers clean. The kicker was Communion. Before it started, the Princess, who is almost 6, and not at all a small 5, was insisting on being carried to the Priest while I went. I refused, and she refused to let it drop, whining in my ear during the entire Consecration. Communion time comes, and I pushed her out into the aisle. She’s still hanging onto my right arm and whining, while Clooney follows us, and takes hold of my left. They ‘re both hanging on me the whole time I accept the Eucharist and back to the pew, where Clooney immediately starts complaining that there’s a stain on his knee. For Pete’s sake, can’t I have a few minutes to pray? Just a minute to talk to God and ask him for the patience I need to deal with these people??

So, Clooney’s still kvetching, I haven’t knelt down yet, but as I turn to look at the problem, I notice that The Princess’s sippy cup has leaked milk all over the pew. Must be a whole pint there on the seat, so I reach into my purse for a wad of Kleenex, start mopping, the whole time, Clooney’s trying to sway my attention to the stain, I just want to pray…I’m kneeling while I’m cleaning (the rest of the congregation’s still going up for Communion) and as I straighten my leg to stand, the knee of my pants sticks to the kneeler. What’s on Clooney’s pants, what’s now on my pants, are the crushed raisins that The Princess has carelessly dropped during Mass.

These are the days that try moms souls…