Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cheap Travels

I know it's gotten really late on Tuesday, and so many of you may not read this on "Travel Tuesday," but that's the way it goes some times.

Tonight after work, Christopher and I met up at the downtown Minneapolis Macy's, where we rode the escalators up and up and up to the 8th floor Auditorium, where we went to see the annual Macy's (formerly Dayton's) Flower Show, which runs through the Sunday after Easter. (Oh. And these also happen in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Sun Francisco, in case you're close to one of those places.) **Pssst... That comment is for you, Libby!**

I've gone every year since I've lived out here, and it's always been a great way to be reassured that spring is on the way. Granted, today, it was almost 70 degrees out, so not a lot of reassurance was necessary, but most years it's only in the 40s or 50s, and nothing has started to grow, yet.

I think it was last year (maybe two years ago) when the auditorium was segmented out into various "artistic" landscapes - from tulips in glass vases on a wall to a whole big sculpture in orange sand with flowers strategically forming an oasis. (If you knew me in my days at CenterStage in Baltimore, think the set of "Les Blancs" but with flowers.)

This year, the theme is "Up in the Air" and I was half expecting, half dreading, another very artistic - but unfulfilling - exhibit. As we stepped off the escalator on the 8th floor, we were hit with the perfume of lilies and hyacinth... spring.

The program has artwork of a kind of "vintage" hot air balloon on it, which we immediately found to be the centerpiece of the room. This year, in fact, there are no walls separating the space into individual gardens. There is the central hot air balloon (kind of on an "island" of greenery), ringed by a pathway that simply winds through the flowers. The gardens - each section with its own personality - flow together, and the viewer is presented with a cohesive sight and scent experience.

There are kites floating above, and oversized butterflies and bees. There's even a "hot air balloon" you can stand in to get your picture taken. But the flowers are the real stars of the show. From hydrangeas to magnolia, begonias to gerbera daisies, they are there in all colors of the rainbow. And it's not just the "usual" flowers, there are trees, shrubs, and an arbor of wisteria. There's real birdsong, as an aviary takes up the center of one display.

And have I mentioned that it's all free? I mean... sure... we paid for parking. And there's a shop set up so that you can buy a potted plant (or a cupcake or a book) to take with you. But, for the most part, it's free.

It's the perfect place to go to get away from it all - a wonderful whimsical giftbox filled with spring.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Movie Monday Mangled

Well, I guess "mangled" might be a bit strong for it.

It's just that, in honor of Easter, I'd added "Easter Parade" to the top of my Netflix queue, and even sent back another movie without watching it so that I could get that in time to take home with me when I visit my folks this weekend.

It seemed perfect. Netflix listed it as in stock and available now. It was on the top of my list. I was golden.

And then I got the "We've shipped your next movie" email, today, and it wasn't "Easter Parade."

Granted, it was something else I want to watch, but it's something I plan to watch with Christopher, so it's not really helpful on a weekend when we'll be in different states.

Oh, well. My queue probably needed a little rearranging, anyway.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Caught Up?

Believe it or not, at not quite 10pm on Sunday night, I think I've gotten almost everything done for the weekend.

I've baked and edited and shopped and exchanged. Dishes are (mostly) done, and laundry is caught up (well... except for the ironing, but I don't remember the last time I was caught up on that).

It was another sunny early spring day, so in the midst of housecleaning today, Christopher and I changed our flannel duvet cover to more of a warm weather one.

I've checked the yard for growing things, and watered the indoor plants. I've even made a start at getting ready for the upcoming Easter weekend at home in South Dakota.

In all honesty, I haven't completely kicked the cold-thing that tackled me last weekend. But I'm doing a lot better. Christopher, unfortunately, started coming down with it about 3 days after me, and still has a way to go. (Should that be "a way to go" or "a ways to go"? Thoughts?)

Oh. And I've gotten caught up on reading a few of my favorite blogs. NajMania is back after a little time off (as are the other two blogs she writes). Miz Tiz (at Tiz and Ass) has (rightfully) "I told you so'd" me for not listening to her about skipping "Avatar." And Joe over at "Culinary in the Desert" actually found one of his recipes cooked (and referenced) on Martha Stewart's daughter's blog.

I guess that means it's time for the weekend to wrap up. Not that I want the work week to start, mind you, but I guess the weekend has done all it can. Can't complain too much about that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday. Thank God.

Is there any workweek longer than a workweek where you're sick? Oh. Right. It's a workweek where you AND your partner are both sick.

Thankfully, I'm now on the mend, and Christopher even seems to be about to turn the corner toward wellness.

Although, that said, this has been a good week to discuss on "Friday Food." You see, when you're sick, it's all about the food.

I know. I know. We should be eating chicken soup and lots more citrus. But none of that sounded good.

We've done pepperoni pizza a couple of nights (tonight we even had salad with it). We've done ice cream and Girl Scout cookies (both separately and together). We've eaten Peeps (which are fat free!).

Last night's dinner was eggs and bacon. Much tea has been brewed (mine is always seriously dosed with honey). We've got orange juice in the house for the first time in a while. And there was even the night when I had 79-cent burritos from the grocery store because they just sounded good.

Yes. I know that the chicken soup probably would have been good for us. But the comfort food, that was chicken soup for our souls.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Remember How I Said...

Remember how I said that spring and my sinuses don't get along?

Well, after a few fun days of sinus issues, followed by a few mornings of sore throat and ick, on about Sunday I decided that I probably have a cold.

Monday, I treated my cold - complete with canned orange juice from the vending machine at work - and I was feeling pretty good by Monday night. So good, in fact, that I did a little tiny bit of yard clean-up when I got home: trimming back the ornamental grasses and such.

Yesterday, I tried alternating between treating the cold and treating the allergy/sinus side of things. Because, of course, mucking about in the yard on Monday meant that my allergies were flaring up.

Today, I tried to focus on the sinuses, as the cold kind of started to not seem so bad - just the occasional cough caused by a catch in my throat. I didn't even suck on any cough drops all day. But I could feel my sinuses draining, again.

And Christopher called me this afternoon to say that he was tired and sick - having been coughing all day at work.

Yeah. We're really enjoying the first week of spring around here.

How're you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

3-D Movie With Only Two Dimensions

Hmmm... You don't think the headline gives away too much of my feeling about the movie I saw last week, do you? (Yeah. If that line bothers you, you're really not going to want to read the rest of this review.)

Yes. That's right. Christopher and I finally gave in and went to see Avatar in the movie theater last Friday night. It was one of those "we really ought to see it on the big screen in 3-D, just to see what all the fuss is about" decisions. And, so, we found ourselves wedged into the middle of a theater full of people, having paid our $13 per person (about 50% more than a 2-D movie) for the privilege of those glasses that pinch just behind the ears.

By the way... I'm not sure what all of the other people were doing there. I kept getting the feeling that everyone else in the world had already seen the movie, and that we would probably be alone. But, no, it was pretty packed. And... wow... I can't imagine seeing it more than once. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you've been living under a rock for the past 6 months or so, here's the basic breakdown of the movie: Humans are headed out into space to a planet called Pandora (hmm... I can't imagine what that might mean), partially to peacefully colonize and integrate with the indigenous inhabitants, and partially to rapaciously mine for a new element called -- get this -- unobtanium. (Go ahead. Pronounce it out.)

So... You've got peaceful and well-meaning scientists who want to learn about the planet, but they can't go out into the atmosphere, so they grow these half-human, half-Pandoran "avatars" which they can use to travel the planet. (It's a very basic sci-fi premise, where your consciousness goes into the other creature, while you're really safe and warm in your sleep pod thing.) And, while the scientists are doing that, you've also got the big mean uncaring corporation -- working with the gun-happy military -- to get to the unobtanium. Of course, our hero is a military man with a heart of gold, who just happens to integrate into the indigenous society and find a love interest. Gee. Where could this all be going?

Alright. Enough bashing of the plot. After all, there's so little of it that those two paragraphs are probably longer than the entire movie synopsis that was originally pitched. Instead, let's discuss the whole 3-D-ness of it.

Is it the traditional "throw stuff at the camera"-style 3-D? Definitely not (well... Mostly definitely not). Is it kind of cool at times when stuff is floating through the air? Yes. Do you often get the feeling of being "right there" in the thick of it all? I gotta say yes. Is it the be-all and end-all that I keep hearing people talk about? Let's just say that I think I may have seen a different movie than some of those folks.

Although, I am happy to say that I did NOT get motion-sick during the movie, which often happens to me in 3-D movies.

Okay. Let's add it up, since I already lost 2.5 hours of my life to this movie and don't want to lose much more. On the plus side: Pretty colors. Interestingly-imagined flora and fauna. A plot you really don't have to think about. On the minus side: A plot you really don't have to think about. (At all.) Total over-use of CGI even when it didn't need to be used. A complete disregard for their own science (someone should have mentioned to them that if you can't breathe the air, then you shouldn't be alive if you go somewhere that isn't protected - even if you are the bad guy). And -- oh, yeah -- a storyline that basically beat you over the head with its moral message of "good people are good, bad people are bad" for 2.25 of the 2.5 hours that you were there.

Overall rating: D+. Some of the 3-D was kind of cool. I just wish it hadn't all been wasted in a James Cameron movie.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tiz List #2

Not quite 2 weeks ago (Sunday, March 7th), I wrote up a list of 15 things that you may or may not know about me. Having borrowed the idea from Miz Tiz over at the "Tiz and Ass" blog, I figured I should name such lists after her. So, here we have the fifteen items of "Tiz List #2."

1) Christopher and I finally went to see Avatar last night. (Check back on Movie Monday for an actual review.)

2) Not to give anything away, but I probably should have listened to Miz Tiz's comment on the original list, regarding Avatar.

3) I have 238 DVDs in my Netflix Queue, some of which were added immediately after I started -- something like 5.5 years ago -- and have never made it to the top because I keep moving other things up.

4) I've currently got two DVDs at home. One I've had since January, but have only watched 2/3 of (Christopher and I are trying to watch the episodes together, and we just haven't had time.) The other showed up on Wednesday.

5) My car's heat shield is loose and rattling. Again. See the original story about that here.

6) One of the things that I most dread in life is car noises. I know nothing about them except that they're usually not good.

7) I'm really hoping that the Minneapolis streets get a decent amount of patching, soon, so that my car doesn't develop any more noises.

8) When there is a major change in the weather coming, my sinuses act up.

9) When my sinuses act up really badly, my entire jaw (or sometimes just individual teeth) hurt worse than when I had a broken tooth.

10) As much as I like spring, it's hell on my sinuses.

11) If I could choose a place to live based solely on weather or changing seasons, I would choose somewhere with a really long spring. For instance, Baltimore's spring is at least a month longer than Minneapolis's. That's one of the things I've missed since moving back here.

12) Even more than the protracted spring, I miss a lot of the people I left behind in Baltimore (and the entire NYC-DC corridor) more often than I like to think about.

13) I enjoy puttering about in the yard and gardening.

14) I have, on the whole, no idea what I'm doing when I putter about in the yard and garden.

15) I fear that the mock orange plant which I rescued last spring and potted is now, officially, dead. But I'm keeping hope alive until it's warm enough to put it outside to see whether it comes back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Flat Out There

It's strange how flat the world looks around here, now that almost all of the snow is gone. I noticed it when I got home tonight.

Not only were the clouds flat (as opposed to the fluffy ones that show up in spring and summer), but the ground is looking decidedly flat, as well.

The hillocks of snow which had added so much texture to the yards for so long, have completely disappeared during the last warm spell. The old grass is matted down from the winter, and nothing new has started to push up, yet.

I did find a few tulips sprouting up in a sheltered area next to the garage today, which I must admit gives me as much hope as it gives me fear. After all, we're supposed to have multiple below-freezing nights in the next few weeks, so I suspect I'll be doing a lot of covering of the plants before we get into full spring.

But, once that happens, the grass will start coming up, and the tulips and irises will push through. The daylilies will sprout, and the back corner of our yard will once again be covered with assorted colors and textures.

If we can just make it through the next few flat weeks...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Waters of March

The office I work in has had a water cooler since I started. One of those water coolers with the big 5-gallon water bottle on it that you have to replace each time it runs out. And, with 16 people in the office, we've been going through about 8 bottles every 2 weeks.

The first time I ever came across one of those water things was when I was a little kid and we would go visit my grandparents in South Gate (CA), and they had their water delivered by Sparkletts. Of course, back in those days, you had to take the full cap off of the bottle before trying to flip it over onto the stand. It was always a challenge to invert it without pouring water all over the place. (These days, there is usually just a small piece you remove, to reduce the amount of water that comes pouring out.)

Because I have such great memories of those times out in my grandparents' house, I have always really liked the "glub blub blub" sound that the air bubbles make as they go up through the water in the 5-gallon bottles. And, since my desk moved closer to the kitchen area a few months ago, I've been enjoying hearing that familiar little noise from time to time.

Adding to the old-time pleasure of this, every two weeks, the guy from the water company shows up at our office and swaps out our empty bottles for full ones. We exchange smalltalk as he walks in and out. And then, after that innocuous chat, we have brand new water.

Well, today, a new water cooler got brought in. It's actually a full filtration system, hooked up to the water supply in the kitchen. It's very streamlined, with push buttons on the front for hot or cold water, and a "soda dispenser" style trigger at the back that you press your cup up against. Apparently it's more hygienic, and it may save the company money over time. I'm sure it's supposed to be a good thing.

But I'm going to miss that every-two-week visit from the water delivery guy.

And it doesn't make that old familiar noise.

So how good a thing can it really be?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shamrock Shucshess!

One day before the official end of the Shamrock Shake season, I have finally been successful in procuring one of my own.

I have made plans multiple times to go to McDonald's in the last month and, yet, I never quite made it there. Tonight, on my way home from a Happy Hour celebrating a friend's new job, I finally made it to McDonald's.

And, luckily, the one I went to still had them.

(Yeah. There was one year where I had waited too long and I missed out on them because the shop I went to had run out about 2 weeks early. It was not pretty.)

But, tonight, I am happy to say that I got my hands on a medium-sized cup of the extra thick minty green goodness that only comes once each year.

So I'm now cutting this short so I can savor the rest of it in peace.

Only 11 months (give or take) until my next one.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Botox and Dye, Oh My! (A John Barrowman Update)

So as not to incur the wrath of the one or two people who read my last John Barrowman update and complained that it wasn't "news" because it wasn't current enough, I am hereby letting you all know that the piece of information I'm about to blather on about is probably not, technically, new.

You see, I was sent the link that the info came from last week Thursday (on John Barrowman's 43rd birthday). And the article was posted online the day before that. However, that said, it was news to me, and I'd suspect it will be news to some of you, as well.

(This is the picture that accompanies the article. It looks like
Barrowman is none-too-happy to have everyone fixating on his dye job...)

Some background...

I always look at the celebrity birthday listings to see who is "my age." I figure that I can look at the people and figure that maybe I'm not doing so bad if that's what people of my age look like. For instance (with a little help from the interwebs), I know that... Courtney Thorne-Smith, David Conrad, Joely Fisher, Keith Urban, Lauren Graham, Mia Sara, Phil Koeghan, Rufus Sewell, and Tim McGraw were all born in 1967. (Okay. I admit that, although I knew about Courtney Thorne-Smith, Lauren Graham, and Rufus Sewell all being "my age" I didn't know for sure about the rest until tonight.)

Of course, the key to this is to not look at the celebrities and think "Wow. They look so good and I don't." The key, instead, is to look at them and think "If they all look that good at my age, then I can look that good, too." Sure, it doesn't work unless you have a little bit of a suspension of disbelief, but I'm good at that. (And, if you can find one or two people in the list who actually look older than the pack, you can always just point that out if someone says anything.)

So, when I found out a while ago that John Barrowman was not only my age, but 2.5 months OLDER than me, I figured I was doing really well. After all, he's doing pretty darned well for himself these days. He's a sex symbol. He's got singing and acting careers and a huge fan base. He's even, apparently, got a great personality to go along with the good looks.

So I admit that I was a little surprised, last week, when I found out that part of the reason I have more greying at my temples than he does is that Barrowman has been dying his hair for a few years. And those boyish good looks? It seems that he has had the occasional Botox injections around his eyes to decrease wrinkles.

Hmmm... I guess the creasing at the center of my forehead isn't so bad, when you consider that.

(And don't worry, even without the hair dye and the Botox, I suspect I'd still be posting about him.)

**If you want to see the article from which I got the information, it's here.**

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is It Time, Yet?

I am happy to say that I got through all of the clock changing last night without forgetting any of them. (Well, except for the one in my car which surprised me a little when I ran out for milk this morning, but it's better to have that happen today, instead of on the way to work tomorrow.) And, yeah, it was important that we got up on time today, because we had a cable repairman coming at 8am.

Did you know that the cable guys now come out to do work on Sundays? It was news to me. Good news, mind you, but news.

You see, after yet another mind-blowingly-long hold time with the Bombast folks, yesterday, I finally got through to a representative who said, in essence "All the stuff everyone has done each time you've called since January did the wrong thing, and so we need to send out someone."

So, today, we celebrated the time change by welcoming the cable guy, who spent almost two hours stringing new cable from the street, down the alley, and across the yard to the house. After the number of calls we've made, we found out today that the problem was in the wires - but not exactly how the phone reps thought it was.

Although they kept saying that the wires were probably stressed by the weather, it turns out that ours were actually "chewed on" and had probably had some water damage as a result. Now, though, we have brand new wires carrying a whole bunch of channels we haven't seen without pixelation in quite a while.

Of course, as I sat inside and watched the progress in the backyard, I kept looking at the yard and thinking that it wouldn't be long before we could start clearing out the flower beds for the new season. Unfortunately, that's advised against by most experts for about another three weeks.


It's probably a good thing that I've got the "new" cable to distract me for a while.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Basement Sequestration

I am currently sequestered in the basement. Officially, I am down here to work on some editing that I need to be done with post haste. You can tell how well that's going.

On the other hand, I'm greatly enjoying listening to CDs, which I never think to take upstairs and listen to. (I suspect the grammar in that sentence is way off, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to fix it -- and, no, I'm not worried about moving the preposition from the end of the sentence.) Currently playing is the most recent Broadway revival of "Company" (the one with Raul Esparza playing Bobby). I've also got "In the Heights" and "A New Brain" in the CD changer. Upstairs, Christopher is watching something from Netflix, I think.

I should admit that, although I have a very nice desk in the corner of the basement (we set it up specifically so I'd have somewhere private to do work), I'm currently sprawled on the couch with my feet up on the trunk which serves as a coffee table. I always think that a desk is exactly what I need to get my work done. Perhaps if I wasn't currently using it to store all of my paperwork, it would be a little easier to use.

My goal (but don't tell Christopher) is to find a weekend with some downtime this spring and purge a whole lot of stuff from down here. The reason we don't want to tell Christopher is that I fear he'll get his hopes way up, and then I won't purge quite as much as either of us wants. But, if I do it right, when the rest of the house is warming up as the days get longer, I'll be able to sit at my desk in the cool confines and get something done.

Which reminds me. I'm supposed to be getting something done now, too. Yeah. I guess I should do that.

Right after this song.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fog. Foggy Foggy Fog.

It has been foggy in the Minneapolis area off and on for the past few days. Apparently we've got some kind of stagnant air that is mixing with all of the moisture from the melting snow and causing some serious fog.

Earlier this week (maybe Monday, maybe last week Friday), while I was driving to work the skyline actually had a hazy, smoggy brownish tint to it. That was one of the "air quality alert" days, when the air was so bad for us that people with serious breathing conditions weren't supposed to leave their homes. Luckily, the latest round of moisture is also coming in the form of rain, so the atmosphere is being cleaned out.

And, happily, my sinuses haven't been as bad for the past day or so and my eyes haven't been burning or itching. Both very good things. Especially when the fog on the drive home tonight was so thick in a couple of spots that the visibility was only a half block or so. It was pretty and all, but I had no way to photograph it to share with you, so don't scroll down looking for one.

Tellyawhat, though... If you want to know what it was like, try this: Look out your window and imagine that everything is shades of black and white -- and that you can't see more than about 20 feet clearly. Possibly try doing this while looking through some sheer fabric. If you want it to seem really foggy, you could also try this using a white cotton sheet. Or, alternately, if you want it to be "fog at night" try a black cotton sheet. Do not try any of these while driving.

But, anyway, back to the weather. It's foggy. And it's trying to be wet (a little rain, a little drizzle, a lot of nuisance). And we're not predicted to see the sun again until Sunday or Monday.

How's by you?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hold This

Wouldn't you think that, if every time you call a customer service line the automated message says "We're experiencing higher than normal call volumes," possibly the company* should learn from that and hire more staff?

Ever since Christopher and I "upgraded" to digital cable, we have had problems with it. And, what's really annoying about that is that we only switched over to it because, thanks to a sign-up special, it's actually less expensive than our "regular" cable was. Of course, with the regular cable, we could actually watch all of our channels. While, on the other hand, lately we've been missing a bunch of our channels. And those that we have are pixelating and stuttering like you wouldn't believe.

About two weeks after we got it, it was so bad that, when we called in, they couldn't get the box to reset and told us to bring it back for a brand new one. Possibly that should have been our sign to back out of the whole deal. But we decided to give the new box a chance.

It worked well for a few days. And the box is kinda small and cute and the remote's not too bad to deal with. And we've been really enjoying the On Demand TV shows. But the pixelation is causing us to lose some of our favorite channels because we just can't get them to come in.

So, for about the... I'm guessing 7th time... in the past couple of months, we called the cable company tonight. As luck would have it, there was a major cable outage in our area tonight, causing pixelation and momentary loss of both audio and video (over the course of 35 minutes on hold, I got that part memorized). The technicians (according to the recorded messsage) are working on it.

But, since we were basically down about half of our channels for the past week, and since I had nothing better to do while doing dishes and folding laundry, I stayed on the line until someone picked up. She was really sweet. Explained the whole "there's a major outage" deal, but then actually listened when I told her our continuing saga. And even tried a few minor work-arounds. I have no idea if they'll stick (we've had our box reset pretty much every time we've called), but before we got off the phone our channels were all back.

Here's the thing, though. While we were on the phone, she said that the phone queue was somewhere around 200 callers waiting to be helped. I can see how that would explain the 35-minute hold time before I got through. But, during my other calls, when there hasn't been a major outage, I've still been on hold for 20 or more minutes.

Wouldn't it seem like it would be better customer service to have more people on hand at all times, instead of making us listen to "we're experiencing higher than normal call volumes..." each time?

Or is it just me?

*Not usually one to name names when I'm complaining, I will say that this company's name starts with a C and rhymes with bombast.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fantastical Movie Monday

In the past week I've seen not one, but two, fantastical films. And while I'd love to say that they were both fantastic, mainly I want to say that they were fantasy films. Quite good each in its way, but probably not "fantastic," per se.

First there was "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (not at all to be confused with "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" from a couple of years ago), which is a Terry Gilliam movie about good versus evil. Okay, so it's not really about good versus evil, it's actually about this guy named Doctor Parnassus who has made a deal with the devil and the wager is coming due. But it's not really about that, either, because it's actually about the people around him who get wrapped up in it all. Maybe.

You see, it's a Terry Gilliam movie. Gilliam was one of the members of "Monty Python" and has directed a lot of pretty seriously odd movies. He directed "Brazil" and "Time Bandits" and "The Brothers Grimm" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and, yes, the incredibly ill-fated "The Man who Killed Don Quixote" which (in his first attempt) was completely shelved due to acts of God.

So, with all that in mind, you might not be surprised to know that one of the actors in "The Imaginarium" is Heath Ledger. And, since Ledger died before the movie was finished, the same character is also played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. Don't worry. In the movie the fact that they all play the same character actually makes more sense than some things.

But, well, 2 out of 3 of us who went were all set for Gilliam, and we quite enjoyed the show. Unfortunately, 1 out of 3 of us hadn't ever seen a Gilliam film. Her vote for a movie for this week, after having survived Gilliam last week? Dinner.

Fantastical movie number 2 of the week was the latest incarnation of "Alice in Wonderland" as imagined by Tim Burton. Assuming you've seen at least one of the trailers, you should already know that Alice, in this version, is a grown-up in a very stately - and grounded - family. In fact, she finds herself chasing the White Rabbit as a way to get away from her own engagement party. And, from there, things get a bit... well... curious.

The one thing that all of us agreed upon after the movie was that we really enjoyed the way the movie approached the changes. There is an incredible blending of what we all already know about Wonderland, and what we still have to learn about it. There really aren't any new characters added in - and why should there be when the cast was so amazingly drawn in the books by Lewis Carroll (almost 150 years ago)?

I know it just came out, so I don't want to give any spoilers. Here's the thing: There were a few pieces of special effects that I thought were trying too hard, but overall it was really a good movie. Not a kids' movie, by any stretch (which I think some of the parents of small children in the audience realized about half-way through), it's definitely great for getting anyone's imagination going.

Overall ratings: "The Imaginarium" - B+ (Even for Gilliam it was a bit flawed in sections.) "Alice" - A- (Maybe it's because I had lower expectations, but - a day later - I'm continuing to find new reasons that I liked it.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Giving It Up

No, for better or worse, I'm not giving up on my blog. And, although I always try to do something for Lent, I'm not going to talk to you about what I've done for that this year.

What I am going to do is borrow liberally from the Tiz and Ass blog, and "give up" fifteen (possibly new and interesting, possibly old and boring) things about myself. Now, Tiz actually started hers as a "Twelve Days of Christmas" event, and has gotten up to about 34 (or so) days at this point. But, since I'm starting out, I figure I'll kind of shoot in the middle and go for fifteen. So, I give you the following fifteen tidbits about my life:

1) I love watching "The Amazing Race." (I'm watching it right now as I type this.)

2) I would never want to be on "The Amazing Race."

3) I have not seen the movie Avatar.

4) Although I kind of feel like I should, I don't really want to see the movie Avatar.

5) I will turn 43 this summer.

6) In my mind, the age I most frequently think I am is 26. I don't know why that is.

7) When people ask me my age, I usually have to think about it - not to be funny or to pull compliments, but simply because I don't usually remember right away.

8) I lived in Paris for 9 months between college and grad school, teaching "American English" in a high school.

9) If I had a way to cover my expenses in the States, I would love to go back to Europe for an extended stay.

10) I have a large collection of musical cast albums (both Broadway and off-Broadway).

11) If, for some strange reason, anyone ever offers to make a movie of my life, I will probably ask them to make it into a Broadway musical, instead.

12) Christopher doesn't share my love for musicals, but I love him anyway.

13) I also enjoy watching football, which apparently confuses a lot of people.

14) Some days I really don't know what to do with my hair.

15) I like my goatee, but I'm not thrilled at how much of it has gone white.

And... wow... There are 15 factoids about my life.

I have to admit that it got harder as I went along. And, as soon as I wrote number 15, I suddenly had a bunch more come to mind. So... Hmmm... Perhaps there will be future installments of this. After all, to stop would be giving up, right?

Friday, March 5, 2010

(Snow) Man Down!

When I looked across the street this morning, I saw an orange carrot poking up from the neighbor's yard.

No, I'm not talking about a miraculously early root vegetable crop.

Yes, this is the same neighbor I've written about before. They are the ones who had yard sale refuse on their yard for a month or so last summer. They had massive blow-up Hallowe'en decorations on the yard last fall. And, beginning in November, they started putting up Christmas decorations.

They started with an 8-foot tall snowman. It was a tall, skinny-ish style, fairly innocuous, the blow-up kind that's lighted from the inside. It wasn't exactly the style of the rest of the neighborhood, but it wasn't bad.

They added a 3-foot wide pale-blue lighted snowflake near the front door. That wasn't bad, either, and the faint blue light was kind of nice.

They added little walkway lights - candycanes... snowflakes... trees. Cute enough, although with the other stuff it was beginning to be a bit much. And as they flashed and twinkled in the dark, they were kind of... well... Let's just say I'm glad we close the blinds at night.

As the snow started to pile up, the walkway lights disappeared under the snow - all except for the faint flashing of the lights. The snowflake on the wall stood out a little more as the mildly-rundown appearance of the yard was masked by the blanket of white. And the snowman just stood there, happily waving. Until... well...

In about mid-December, something obviously happened to the snowman. One of his tethers must have broken, and he started tilting backward. It was just a little tilt at first. By around the beginning of January, snow was starting to attach itself to his side and he became a happily-waving listing snowman. A few weeks later, he was leaning backward, one arm above his head for balance as he danced in a perpetual limbo contest.

For a few days in mid-February, the snowman was flat on his back, covered in a good six inches of snow with his carrot nose pointing to the sky. Still inflated. Still lighted from the inside. Just not so vertical.

He sprung back up a week or so ago. Took a few days to get totally vertical, but he was patient and, by last weekend, was waving at passersby once again. And then, after a day last weekend when the tenants were outside clearing the sidewalks (for what may have been the first time all year), he disappeared.

Today I looked out and noticed a slightly-deflated carrot nose sticking up in the yard. The rest of the snowman out of sight in the yard.

Who knows? Maybe with the first gust of winter air next year he'll be back. (Although... if he wanted to leave all the rest of the kitsch behind, I don't know that we'd mind.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crossing Over

Multiple times, today, I was in situations where I saw strange things on the road. Allow me to explain.

First, there was the guy who was apparently trying to read the building numbers while driving down the road on my commute to work this morning. He kept swerving to the right, then back into the center of the lane. Swerve. Center. Swerve. Center. Eventually he simply moved into the righthand lane. I honestly assumed he was on the phone, but when I pulled alongside him, I saw him peering rather desperately out the passenger-side window trying (I'm assuming, I admit), to read the building numbers. Or maybe the building name. Or, maybe, just to check his teeth in the mirror.

On my drive home, tonight, there was the woman in the left turn lane ahead of me (at a very busy intersection), who waited through 2 full light cycles. She crept into the crosswalk during the first cycle (when I pulled up behind her). On the second round, she pulled far enough into the crosswalk that I really thought she was going to pull out as the light changed to yellow. Each time she moved forward, I did too, assuming that she would go and I'd be able to scoot around the corner behind her. Finally, on the third cycle she pulled far enough out into the intersection that she had to turn - or else the cross traffic would have hit her on the next light. On the fourth cycle, I made it through, as did the car behind me (who had also waited through the 3 prior cycles).

The strangest thing I noticed, though, was something I see more often than I can explain. Twice, today, I watched people jog out into the middle of the street because the "Don't Walk" signal had started to flash. But that's the thing that I didn't understand: They only jogged to the middle of the street. So, as the light was starting to turn, there they were in the middle of the road. Why don't people like that jog all the way across the street? Why stop in the middle when the cross traffic is about to pull forward? I don't get that.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Two-fer

I'm not quite sure how I missed yesterday's posting. Especially since I have so many things to tell you about. With that in mind, I'll try to keep both of my top topics short (-ish).

First topic: Movie Monday - The Princess and the Frog.

I finally got to see Disney's The Princess and the Frog last week. I have to admit that, although I wanted to see it, I didn't feel like I HAD to see it. But, wow, it was fun. And there's just so much going on in it.

The main character is Tiana, a young woman (we actually see her as a little girl, too), who lives in mid-1900s New Orleans and has been dreaming of owning her own restaurant ever since she helped her father cook Jambalaya when she was little. She has the place in mind, and she's doing everything she can to make that dream come to life. Her best friend, on the other hand, is a spoiled little rich girl whose father buys her everything she wants - but whose heart is in the right place.

Into New Orleans comes an African prince (a ukulele player named Naveen) who is more playboy than royal. His manservant would like nothing more than for the prince to settle down and start paying attention to the fact that he has no money. The prince is, in fact, going to a ball to meet and be married to Tiana's best friend.

Of course, this being Disney, there is a darker side of the story. The manservant makes a deal with a voodoo master to step in as Naveen, as Naveen becomes the titular frog. Of course, if you've seen anything about the movie, you know that when Tiana kisses Naveen to "cure" him, she - instead - becomes a frog.

The story really takes off at this point, when the two of them befriend an alligator and lightning bugs on their quest into the bayou for someone who can break the spell. It's a rollicking journey filled with great music, good friendships, some stuff that would have given me nightmares as a kid, and - eventually - a mostly-happy ending. (That's not a spoiler - after all, it's a Disney movie.) Overall: A (so much better than I expected it to be, honestly.)

Second topic: Twin Cities Restaurant Week - D'Amico Kitchen at Chambers

Okay. Since I want to keep this relatively short, let me just hit the high points... It's "Restaurant Week" in the Twin Cities. A bunch of restaurants are doing great "prix fixe" menus at amazing prices just to entice people in to try them out. (You can find the whole list at mspmag.com .)

On Sunday night, Christopher and I went to dinner with our friend Darci (you've heard of her in the past) at D'Amico Kitchen at the Chambers Hotel. The space is kind of austere and not overly inviting, I have to admit. But we were seated fairly close to the fireplace, and we were there early enough to watch the sunset change all of the colors outside, so that kind of mitigated the interior. Except for the chairs. Really uncomfortable things with too-low arms and low, slanted backs, which are too tightly packed at the table to allow you to turn even a bit to see the person next to you.

But... Anyway... the food...

The food was amazing. We started with appetizers (Crispy Pancetta, a Beet/orange/chevre salad, and Saffron risotto balls). Entrees were Braised short rib over buckwheat polenta, Butternut squash ravioli, and Hanger steak with roasted radicchio - and we split an order of Parmesan Risotto. Desserts were a Gelato trio (Key Lime mascarpone, Salted caramel, Chocolate Amaretti), Spiced chocolate cake (with olive oil gelato and amarene cherries), and a Frangipane crepe. There was wine, too, and an after dinner drink with some kind of "root vegetable" flavored liqueur in it.

Let me just say that nothing flopped. All of the food was amazing. We've decided that we need to go back for Happy Hour sometime just to have the Parmesan Risotto again. And the best part? Since it was Restaurant Week, this was all basically $30 per person (not including drinks and extras).

So... There you go. A movie and dinner, all in one. If you're near a theater that's still showing The Princess and the Frog, I strongly suggest going to it. And, if you're in the Twin Cities, I'd strongly suggest taking advantage of it.

Either way, I suspect you'll be in for a treat.