CrunchyMetroMom

Trying to create balance…

Movie Review: “The Pirate Fairy” April 1, 2014

The Pirate Fairy

 

This latest direct-to-home release from DisneyToon studios takes us back to Pixie Hollow for the first time since Tinkerbell learned of her sister, Periwinkle, in 2012′s “Secret of the Wings”. In “The Pirate Fairy”, Tinkerbell (Mae Whitman of “Secret of the Wings” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is relegated to the ensemble, while a new fairy takes center stage – the adventurous, inquisitive Zarina (Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men”). Zarina is a dustkeeper fairy, entrusted with the production and safekeeping of the pixie dust the fairies use to fly.

We meet Zarina on her way to work at the depot that serves as the dust factory, and she seems distinguished from her fellow Pixie Hollow residents primarily in that she walks rather than flying. There’s teasing along the way about how she’s used up all of her dust (again), suggesting that perhaps she spends a little too much time playing around. As it turns out, she’s using the pixie dust for experiments she’s been conducting – trying to understand the magical properties of pixie dust. Her fellow pixies are more interested in that the pixie dust works and have no desire to understand how or why it works, but Zarina persists, even pestering her foreman, Fairy Gary, while helping him transfer the precious blue dust that serves as a multiplier for the gold dust. Just one speck of blue dust in the gold dust produces prodigious quantities of the latter, as Gary explains.

 

Tinkerbell and Zarina

Tinkerbell (Whitman) and Zarina (Hendricks) experiment with pixie dust

 

Zarina is later found in her home, experimenting with chips of blue dust, flower petals, and gold dust. Tinkerbell finds her and lends a helping hand, enabling Zarina to concoct multiple colors of dust in short order. While both pixies are fascinated with the results of the experiments, Zarina’s enthusiasm leads to an unfortunate industrial accident that causes a vine to grow out of control – wreaking havoc everywhere, including the Dust Depot. Fairy Gary strips Zarina of her dustkeeper duties, and she runs away from Pixie Hollow in her despair.

A year later, all of the pixies gather for an annual spectacle that brings together all four seasons’ worth of their clans, and the prodigal pixie returns under the cover of night. She uses some of her homemade dust to grow poppies that emit a powerful sleep pollen; all but Tinkerbell and a small chosen few of her friends remain unscathed and awake. With the majority of the other pixies out cold, Zarina pilfers the entire supply of blue dust and heads for the coast. Tinkerbell and her friends race after her, but Zarina scatters a series of dust colors on them – switching their talents – and heads to a pirate ship under her command.

 

James and Zarina

Cabin boy James (Hiddleston) and Captain Zarina (Hendricks) lord over their pirate ship

 

Tinkerbell and her friends, including Silvermist (Lucy Liu of “Elementary” and the “Charlie’s Angels” movies), have to learn how to control their new talents and sneak onto the pirate ship, where they find the spunky Zarina and her shipmates, including her cabin boy, James (Tom Hiddleston of the “Thor” movies and the forthcoming “Only Lovers Left Alive”). Zarina and James hatched the scheme to get the blue pixie dust so they could produce more gold pixie dust from the tree grown by one of Zarina’s special dust batches. The pirates hope to use their private pixie dust supply to make their ship fly through the air, committing acts of pillage and thievery world-wide with their untouchable “flying frigate”.

 

Tinkerbell and Zarina

Tinkerbell (Whitman) tries to reason with Zarina (Hendricks)

 

Suffice to say that the twists and turns in this plot are telegraphed nicely, and while kids may miss out on the origin story that emerges – keen-eyed adults will spot it and be pleasantly amused. There’s even a subtle reference to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, for those keeping an ear open during a scene on the pirate ship. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes of actual movie (and don’t skip the first half of the credits, lest you miss the final BLINKING ARROW that points to exactly whose origin story is being told), “The Pirate Fairy” is a cute, family-friendly visit to Pixie Hollow that shows the value of friendship, persistence, and the scientific method. Hiddleston has a really great singing voice, so chalk one more point up for the young, talented Brit. One can only hope that he’ll continue to participate in future adventures, since James has many more stories yet to be written.

 

3 stars out of 4

“The Pirate Fairy” is available for sale on DVD and in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack starting April 1, 2014. This movie is rated G for general audiences.

 

Some days, you just wonder how you got here March 30, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:06 am
Tags: , ,

When I was home for several days, fighting off fever, exhaustion and a sore throat that turned out to be strep, I took a whole afternoon off and binge-watched HBO’s “Girls”. I’d heard that it was a good show, and clearly there’s some positive buzz around star/writer Lena Dunham, so I figured that I’d watch a few episodes and see if it was worth giving it a longer look.

Of course it was.

I ended up watching something like 1-1/2 seasons that afternoon, and then I finished off the remaining 1-1/2 within the next two weeks. Somehow, this one show had touched on something that I’d forgotten since “Sex and the City” went off the air: that there is dramedy out there that reminds us of what we once had in favor of what we have now, and how what seemed so awful (or perfect) back then may never have been.

Some of it is parenthood; when you become a parent, your life changes forever. Things that you formerly did (spontaneous travel, spending money wherever and whenever you wanted, etc.) and stuff you previously spent money on (like expensive dinners or event tickets) take a back seat to diapers and car seats. You spend more time at Old Navy in the Baby section than you do in the Womens section, and whether or not you become comfortable with that, it’s part of just how things are.

I have some memories of my twenties, especially before I moved up to Boston, when my Thursday and Saturday nights were spent at Tracks – a long-gone gay club that featured alternative & rave music on Thursdays and drag queen volleyball on any night when it was warm and dry outside. I won’t say that we “did things that would frighten fish” (look it up in “Steel Magnolias”, y’all) – or at least I never did stuff that was frightening – but we partied. A lot.

Even after I moved to Boston, when dh and I were dating (or before then), there was a lot of going out and partying with friends, hopping a MetroJet flight to DC for the weekend to jump up and down at RFK in the Screaming Eagles/Barra Brava section and repair to our friend’s house afterwards to down copious amounts of cava or to a nearby Indian restaurant for curry and Kingfisher. Life was different in my twenties, and seeing “Girls” really reminded me of that.

I have so much sympathy for Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath. She’s a self-absorbed writer (what writer isn’t self-absorbed?) going from bad relationship to bad relationship, where even the one with the person who she believes is the one is weighed down by his own self-absorption. Your twenties are a bitch. It’s incredible to think that I survived it at all.

Watching a “Sex and the City” episode recently, the one where Miranda finally caves in to the notion of moving to Brooklyn because it’s what’s best for her family, I saw the maturing of a character who really had been self-absorbed for so long. Is that where Hannah could be in 20 years? Is that what I became when I got married and had kids?

That’s not to say that I’m not self-absorbed at times; I like my time to myself and my quiet time. I lived alone for several years before I moved to Boston, and I was rarely truly despondent and lonely. There’s something nice about the quiet of not having someone else in the house. I love having control over the remote, which may explain why I end up staying up late so many nights; even a half-hour of shutting the world’s wants out can be wonderfully relaxing.

I have no regrets as to how I’ve lived my life.

And I suppose, by watching “Girls”, I get a double-treat. In one sense, I’m seeing some amazing writing – very honest, no-holds-barred – and acting that really shows very vividly how wonderful and horrible it can be to be in one’s twenties. In the other sense, I’m getting a reminder of why I do and don’t miss my life from before I got married and had kids. I have no illusions about the joys of travel and a carefree life, yet I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. I get so many laughs from the jokes they make, so many moments of wonder when I see them surpass expectations for kids at least year ahead of them, I can’t imagine them coming in a distant second or third to anything. They’re not the center of my world – I have a husband, a job, friends…a life. But my kids don’t come in last, and I wouldn’t ever want to go back to traveling nearly every month, because I’d miss them terribly.

By the same token, I’m glad I got to do some of the things I did when I was younger – the travel, the wild oats sowing, etc. – because I’d hate to think that I’d have to wait until my kids were out of college to experience all of that. At that rate, I might never have gotten to it. So, now, I appreciate it more. When I can get out to a movie and/or dinner, it’s more of a hassle but I cherish the experience. That’s why my girlfriend from up the street and I like to go to Lux movie viewings; if you’re gonna do it, DO IT UP.

Here’s the thing: Lena Dunham doesn’t have it all figured out, and neither did Candace Bushnell. But what they wrote (and, in Dunham’s case, acted and/or directed) even at its most ludicrous has an insane ring of truth. Relationships are hard. Experiences are worth having. Children – for those who actually want to have kids – can be a brilliant, life-altering addition. I think the important thing is to live without regrets. Don’t do what you’ll regret later and don’t regret what you have done, because this life is too short to spend it being angry for what you compromised…or the consequences when you failed to do so.

I know how I got here, and I have no regrets. I wonder how many others can say the same?

 

Showing off our #DisneySide March 26, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:30 am
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At the end of last year, I started to see tons of ads for Disney’s “DisneySide” campaign – this notion that everyone, regardless of age, has a side of their personality that’s influenced or personified by something Disney. These days, what’s considered “Disney” is so incredibly broad that it encompasses not just the characters made famous by Walt but also incredible acquisitions that have their own fan bases and fandoms (such as The Muppets and Marvel). Even people who are fans of shows on ABC or of watching countless hours of ESPN networks (*raises hands*) are showing off their DisneySide as they do so, since Disney claims both network conglomerates as part of their media empire.

And so, when I was asked to show off MY DisneySide, it was hard to come up with just one thing. As I noted in a prior post, about getting Disney Fever, I was asked to host a party. OK, twist my arm. And the party was about showing off your DisneySide. No, seriously, what’s the issue here? And then they sent me a bunch of swag to have and to share. Are you kidding? Are you making this up? These nice people at MomSelect and Disney were kind enough to offer up all sorts of things to help host the party, so with that, I offer up the following disclaimer: I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebrations. As with every other post on this site, all of the opinions expressed here are very much my own. The free products included a very cute American Tourister bag for me and party supplies, t-shirts (for a decorating game), and party favors for my guests. This party was sponsored by MomSelect and Disney Parks and I greatly appreciate their including me!

Now with that out of the way…let’s talk about the party, shall we?

Party Kit

Time for a #DisneySide @Home Party!

 

This lovely party kit came filled with all kinds of goodies: Ocean Spray Craisin boxes, Disney decorations (tons of Mickey, natch), white t-shirts from Hanes – along with fabric markers – so we could have a t-shirt decorating contest, a thick stack of HP photo paper packages, lovely Minnie & Mickey prints, RunDisney bracelets and window clings…just so much stuff it was amazing to dig through it all.

The first order of business was to find 10 kiddos. Thankfully, I had a headstart with my own two, so I contacted some friends and encouraged them to bring their kiddos over to join in the fun! Then, it was a matter of figuring out the food and party favors. Sure, I got some stuff from the celebration kit MomSelect and Disney Parks sent over, but that didn’t mean that had to be ALL that I gave my friends!

 

Favor Bag

Each favor bag was stocked with DisneySide goodies (like the Craisins and HP photo paper), along with thematic pretzels, decks of playing cards, notepads, pencils, stamps, and sunglasses

The favor bag issue thus settled, it was time to get down to the food. I really wanted this party to have a cohesive theme – and so many of the other #DisneySide @Home partiers really had some amazing party themes going on. There were costumes and food and games and things and stuff and I nearly hyperventilated at the thought of it all. And then I had a moment of clarity: why not just celebrate all the things we love without worrying about sticking to one thing? To that end, we went with the theme of “A few of our favorite things”, meaning: anything and everything we liked was totally fair game. I even set up a Pinterest board just to track the ideas I found…most of which were too complicated to do in the time I had (but still totally worth pinning).

With that, IN went the Sofia the First purple party mix and IN went the Frozen cupcakes and ON went the nail polish decorated to look like snowflakes and…oh, of course I had to get in on the action. Why would I let an opportunity like this pass me by? Being the non-selfie-taking person that I generally am, there is no photographic proof of my outfit, but let’s just say that I was the walking embodiment of the theme. Sporting a Marvel t-shirt, sequined Minnie Mouse ears, and my “Frozen” nails, I did what I could to hold up my end of the bargain.

Frozen Nails

Frozen fractals all around…on my nails

 

Sofia the First party mix

Sofia the First…I’m finding out what sugar shock is all about….!

 

Frozen cupcakes

In Summer? Nah. How about “In Mah Belleh”?

 

Of course, it wasn’t ALL sugar. We also put out what we termed a “Hundred Acre Wood Veggie Mix” for fellow Winnie the Pooh fans who wanted something to counteract all of the glucose on the table: celery and carrot sticks, pepper slices and cherry tomatoes. Somehow, I managed to forget to put out some of the food I’d bought (like tortilla chips), but the kids effectively plowed through what was out, so it didn’t seem like more was needed.

When it came time to get into games, we dug into the items from the Celebration Kit: namely, the t-shirts/fabric pens and a Disney Parks Bingo game. First, we had the kids make up their own t-shirts, some using stencils that we made from pictures we found on the web, printed, and laminated for sturdiness, and some free-handing their own ideas. DS was all about having a train of some kind, so when his designated artist (dh) got into the mix, a monorail appeared on his t-shirt. Another party goer free-handed a castle with fireworks on a spare sheet of paper and then transferred her drawing to her t-shirt by layering the paper inside the shirt and tracing. Brilliant!

Kids working on t-shirts

Small hands, quite busy making t-shirts

 

My dd's shirt

Of course, dd wants a castle with fireworks

 

A t-shirt with a project plan

Not everyone wanted to wing it…

 

My ds' t-shirt

A monorail, a Mickey, and a Magic Express bus – of COURSE this shirt is for ds

 

The kids then voted on their favorite design, and the winner won a Little Mermaid Disney Golden Book I’d picked up at the grocery store. When we did the Disney Parks Bingo, all of the kids had similar cards, so I was biting my nails wondering if I’d have multiple winners. Luckily, only one winner yelled out BINGO - and he won a Cars Disney Golden Book I’d picked up at the same time as the other book was acquired.

By the time we made it through Disney Parks Bingo and the kiddos all got cupcaked-up with the “Frozen” confections, the party started winding down. After all, what’s better than giving kids sugar and then sending them home with their parents? A good time was had by all, and each kiddo left with a favor bag, a Minnie/Mickey print, and a balloon (another thoughtful inclusion by the folks at MomSelect and Disney Parks), and one family even left with plans percolating for their own Disney World trip (which they just took!) – fueled partially by the Disney Parks informational DVD included in the celebration kit. I’d be jealous if it weren’t for the fact that we have our own Disney World trip on tap…my first visit to the Magic Kingdom in Florida!

This post would have gone up MUCH sooner had it not been for the Adventures in Strep and rather incredible work schedule that have put me on the brink of exhaustion for the better part of the last four weeks…but I had to get it out so that I could share how much fun we had. Again, I’d like to thank MomSelect and Disney Parks for their generosity in including me in this #DisneySide @Home campaign. I had a lot of fun at the party, and the smiles on the faces of the kiddos were just wonderful. Even better, and proving the point further, the adults had lots of smiles and laughs, too. You don’t have to be a kid to have a #DisneySide. I think you just need to remember that spirit of fun, of play, and the belief that dreams can come true.

 

Disclaimer (encore): I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed in this post are mine all mine. No animals were harmed in the making of this party. Kristoff may or may not be right that all guys pick their noses. And kids – don’t try this much sugar at home without a parent and some vegetables. Seriously.

 

Movie Review: “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” March 21, 2014

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

 

As I wrote a few weeks back, in my review of “Jim Henson: The Biography”, I’ve been a huge fan of Henson and The Muppets since I was a wee kidlet. I still remember the first time I saw “The Muppet Movie” and how amazing it was that The Muppets were on the big screen. We even watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol” every Christmas, without fail. So, it was with no small amount of excitement that I brought the family to this screening, planning to introduce the next generation to the wonder of The Muppets writ large.

The plot of this film revolves around The Muppets needing the next thing to do following finishing a movie. They’re slyly coerced into going on a world tour by the smooth operator, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais of “Extras” and “Derek”). Badguy – who reassures them that the proper pronunciation is “Badge-e” (It’s French,  he coos across the table) – is a tour manager who wants to take The Muppets across the Pond to perform in some of Europe’s most famous cities. Coincident with their agreement, the scene changes to a gulag in frozen Siberia, where an evil character is set to make his escape. Constantine, the world’s most wanted villain, is a dead ringer for Kermit (except for a mole on the right side of his face), and he busts out of the Russian joint courtesy of a stockpile of explosives. Not long after, he connects with Dominic and makes plans to meet up with him in Berlin.

 

Dominic Badguy and Constantine

Dominic (Gervais) and Constantine blow this pop stand

 

While the tour spins up and Kermit books them into a series of fleabag, run-down theatres, The Muppets begin to look more and more to Dominic for leadership and a more glamorous experience. Dominic encourages a despondent Kermit to take a calming walk in dense fog (oh, sure), where he’s ambushed by Constantine – who’s armed with a fake mole and some industrial-strength glue. Kermit is immediately nabbed by the German police, who conveniently deliver him directly to the gulag, into the control of Nadya (Tina Fey of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”). And thus, the plot splits in two: one track follows Kermit (who Nadya reluctantly accepts as not Constantine), while he waits patiently for his friends to rescue him from the gulag; one track follows The Muppets, with Constantine and Dominic pulling off heist after heist, as they gather the pieces needed to steal Britain’s Crown Jewels, tucked away in The Tower of London, always one step ahead of the buddy cop pairing of Interpol’s Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”) and the CIA’s Sam the Eagle.

Jean Pierre Napoleon and Sam the Eagle

Napoleon (Burrell) and Sam, on the case

 

As one comes to expect from Muppet movies, there’s quite a bit of song-and-dance action by both Muppets and humans. These range from the sinister (a gloating Constantine singing “I’m Number One”, accompanied by Dominic glumly agreeing to his “Number Two” status) to the steamy (Constantine soulfully seducing Miss Piggy with “I’ll Get You What You Want”) to the downright silly (the gulag inmates warming up to “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line”, as they audition for the gulag’s annual talent show). The songs are generally okay, but few are memorable enough to make me suggest rushing right out for the soundtrack. For whatever it’s worth, the humans hold up their end of the singing bargain against tough competition; Gervais and Fey show off decent singing chops that nicely complement their well-toned comedic muscles.

 

Nadya and Kermit in the gulag

Nadya (Fey) introduces Kermit to life in the gulag

 

In general, I really wanted to love this movie – but I came away with the feeling that it was trying too hard. Clocking in at just under two hours, it runs a good 20 minutes longer than most small kids’ attention spans – and that brings me to my other concern. While Henson apparently struggled against the public perception that The Muppets were just for kids, this movie is clearly being marketed to young children. I took both of my kids – my 7yo daughter and 4-1/2yo son. My daughter generally liked the film, but the explosions and violence were off-putting for her. The reaction from my son was more visceral; by the time the film reached its climactic scene, he was in tears, snuggled up against me for comfort. So, as the question inevitably comes up as to whether “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” is good for kids, my answer would be that it depends greatly upon the age of the child in question and their comfort level with violence or “action”.

This is much the same problem I had with “Cars 2″, which was a spy film disguised as a kiddie film. That’s not to say that “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” was over-the-top with the explosions or the guns from an adult perspective; Henson loved explosions, so there are definitely scenes in this that he surely would have loved. On the other hand, marketing this film to young kids presupposes that it’s okay for them to watch…and that’s really very subjective. It all depends on the particular child’s tolerance for violence/action (which, in my son’s case, is really low).

On the plus side, “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” delivers the requisite cameos (too many to name without ruining the surprise), bad puns, and some really terrific movie tributes – including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Moonraker”. In many ways, it’s a really cute film, but it runs a bit long in the name of trying to maximize all the usual gags. It’s also a bit unbelievable that The Muppets, who know Kermit so well, would somehow fail to notice that their fearless leader now sports an Eastern European accent and a permanent sneer. But, so what if things aren’t always fully baked? The Muppets continue to entertain, and their human counterparts hold up their end of the bargain. Consider it cute, light entertainment for adults and a mixed bag for kiddos, especially once you get below 8-10yo.

 

2-1/2 stars out of 4

“MUPPETS MOST WANTED” opens nationwide on March 21, 2014. This movie is rated PG for some mild action.

 

Book Review: “A Dance With Dragons” March 19, 2014

(We will return to our regularly scheduled discussion of books and weight loss when there’s weight loss to report – D’oh!)

Funnily enough, for as few times as I’ve posted lately, I’ve been doing a lot. It’s mostly just that I haven’t been posting about it because time, energy levels, or other things have prevented me from it. And so, this is the first of three book reviews that I need to push out from this year’s “21 books and 10 lbs” challenge.

 

Book 2: “A Dance With Dragons” by George R.R. Martin

 

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

 

I originally bought George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series for dh, as we were both fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series. Over time, as he realized that Martin’s vision of an otherworldly medieval world was perhaps too bloody and too filled with “adult themes”, he withdrew from it. In fact, he never even picked up the books. So, of course, I picked them up instead. {Warning: ahead there be spoilers! Not that I’m going to tell you who’s died, but by telling you who’s ALIVE, you find out who hasn’t yet been killed off. Maybe. Let’s just say, don’t read this review unless you’re okay with possibly knowing that someone’s lived long enough to be there at least for a part of this book.}

 

My brother-in-law refers to Martin as “the enemy of happiness”, and I would tend to agree with him. Much as the four preceding novels in the series, the closest you’ll find to a happy ending in “A Dance With Dragons” is of the prurient kind. This book focuses more closely on main characters that were set aside in the prior book – “A Feast for Crows” – so, there’s renewed focus on some of the children of House Stark, particularly Arya, Bran and Jon. You get more time with the golden haired Lannisters, as well, and Danaerys Targaryen gets more than her fair share of page time. The book opens with Arya still learning the arts of concealment and killing, Jon trying desperately to control a continuing escalation at The Wall between Stannis’ retinue and the wildlings, Cersei scheming to get her freedom, Danaerys endlessly lip-chewing in the desert, and Tyrion attempting to make his way East to plead his case to the white-blond would-be Queen.

As usual, Martin focuses on four main themes: people killing people, people having sex with people, people pondering the miserableness of their situation, and people wandering/dithering/nearly-but-not-quite-finding-each-other. I won’t say that it’s become boring after five books; I devoured this one fast enough for something that runs over 1,000 pages. I will say, though, that this is not a book for the faint of heart. Martin’s vision of a medieval world is never sugar-coated, and the hyper-realism and sheer grittiness of his descriptions can be off-putting to those of tender or delicate sensibilities.

There is also a sense of frustration to be had reading some of the rather lengthy tales of indecision and wrong turns; Martin is very clearly in love with Danaerys, else he wouldn’t mind watching her wander, ponder, and generally do not a lot of anything for quite a few pages. Or perhaps he loves her least, since she often is the literary equivalent of the video game character you keep bumping into a wall because you can’t manage to sort out the controller.

For those who are willing to hang onto the dragon, so to speak, and see where it leads – I suspect the ride will continue to be interesting. And, after all, he claims to have “The Winds of Winter” in progress and teed up to keep the (planned) seven-book franchise going. I’ll keep reading…even if I’m reading it all on my own.

 

“Come back in 6 months” February 7, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:36 am
Tags: ,

On the list of things you want to hear when you’re at your doctor’s office for a second-pass mammogram, this rates somewhere in the mid-range.

Let me back up a step or two.

I’ve been going for mammograms annually since I turned 30, with the exception of the years when I was pregnant or producing milk for whichever kiddo had just been born. There’s a family history – my mom’s had breast cancer once and her sister had it twice (once when she was relatively young, too). Ever since my mom was diagnosed, I kind of had the feeling that I was probably wearing invisible pasties shaped like bullseyes.

Fast forward to now, recently having turned 41, and it’s time for this year’s pre-physical mammogram. So, like a dutiful person, off I went to get my digital snaps taken from my doctor’s practice. I love the digital mammography machines; no more of the “wait, lemme swap film trays” nonsense. The thing is, they didn’t read the pictures while I was there, due to the fact that my appointment was right smack during the radiologist’s lunchtime.

So, when I got a message on my cell phone a few days later saying that they needed me to call the radiology department, my blood started to run cold. I called the radiology folks back, and the friendly, helpful gentleman explained that they needed more pictures of my left breast. There was some “density”. Um, okay…

I made another appointment, the first I could get, and off I went yesterday morning to get new – hopefully completely boob-absolving – snaps taken. As I checked in, the receptionist told me that I had two appointments, one for a mammogram and one for an ultrasound. Turns out that they made the second appointment just in case. Oh. Okay. Just go with it.

I brought my book – “A Dance With Dragons” is long enough that I could wait for all of this year’s appointments for me and the entire family and still need more time to finish it – and followed all of the careful instructions about what to wear and where to sit. My wait wasn’t too long, anyway, and then off I went to get “square breasts”, as my mom tends to refer to it. [For those who haven't had a mammogram, they put your breast on a metallic plate and then use another plate - a clear one - to smush it down so they can have a fixed picture without your breast wiggling, wobbling or any other kind of meandering. It's not entirely comfortable. That is to say, at times it's bearable and other times, you're holding your breath not so much because they told you to but because otherwise you might scream.]

After the new snaps were taken, I was sent back to the inner waiting room…and then not very long after, I was just brought right over to the ultrasound room. I’d had ultrasounds done of my breasts before, when I had hormone-induced cysts that appeared (and just as quickly disappeared) during my first trimester of my pregnancy with dd. I found it all such a surreal experience. There were a couple of times when the ultrasound tech, who was training a new girl, stopped to take pictures of dark areas. She froze the screen on one such image and then left the room to get the radiologist. I looked at it, squinting at this amorphous void, and wondered aloud, “What are you, and why are you trying to hide?”

I remember the breast surgeon that I met with during that prior cyst incident back in 2006. I specifically recall that she told me it was a good sign that when I pressed on the spots where she felt lumps, it hurt. “Cancer likes to hide, so it won’t necessarily hurt when you press on it,” she said.

The radiologist came in and immediately picked up the paddle and started roughly moving it around, trying to find something that looked like whatever he saw on the mammogram. There wasn’t much explaining for me. It was more, “We know what we’re looking for and we’ll tell you if we find it.”

After a few minutes of this exploratory pushing and prodding with the gel-covered ultrasound paddle, the radiologist called it a day. “It’s probably just normal breast tissue,” he said. But then, he told me to come back in six months, “to see if anything develops”. I toweled myself off, pulled on my clothes, and dutifully made my appointment for early August. What else is there to do?

So, it’s likely this is nothing. Or, even if it’s something, it may be a benign something. But there’s always a possibility that it’s not a benign something, and that it’s not nothing. There’s a chance that it is something…but I won’t know until at least August. Maybe that’s better, and maybe it’s not, but the only thing more awful than him telling me to come back in six months would’ve been him telling me to go for a biopsy. I guess that’s my cold comfort.

I’ll come back in six months. I don’t know what he’ll find, but I’ll come back. And, in the meantime, I’ll just hope for the best and try not to think about that next appointment.

What other choice do I have?

 

Bourbon Pecan Pie January 30, 2014

Filed under: desserts — crunchymetromom @ 7:59 am
Tags: , , , , ,

As I covered in an earlier post on making a delicious Drunken Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, I had wanted to make a couple of pies so I could see which one works. This recipe is a tamer bourbon pecan pie and was pronounced by my Louisiana-born brother-in-law as a “traditional bourbon pecan pie”. His thumbs up is a big endorsement, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m definitely willing to make either pie again.

Unlike its drunken, chocolate-laced cousin, this doesn’t include pre-soaked pecans – so the bourbon flavor of this pie is more muted. This pie is more “Hi, I’m a pecan pie with a nice splash of bourbon in me” versus “HI MY NAME IS BOURBON AND CHOCOLATE AND LOOKIT HOW I BROUGHT PECANS AND PIE SHELL WITH ME.” In other words, pick your preferred recipe based on your personal desires.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Active Prep Time: 10-15mins

Cook Time: 30-35mins baking

Serves: 6-8 (or 10-12 if you cut itty bitty slices)

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups pecan halves

2 Tb bourbon (I used Knob Creek)

1 refrigerated pie crust

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

4 Tb butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup light corn syrup

Make it Happen

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2. Place the crust into a glass 9″ pie pan and flute, fork or otherwise decorate the edge however you typically like. (Note: cook times may be different for metal, so adjust as needed).

3. Melt the butter in the microwave; approximately 40 secs on HIGH power.

4. In a separate bowl, add the sugar, melted butter, vanilla, corn syrup, eggs, and bourbon. Stir well to combine.

5. Place the pecans in the pie shell.

Bourbon Pecan Pie - just pecans and shell

6. Evenly pour in the mixture from the bowl, over top of the pecans.

Bourbon Pecan Pie - filled

7. Bake for 10 mins at 375F, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for an additional 20-25 mins until the pie is set. You can tell the level of “setness” by lightly shaking the pie side to side; if the filling jiggles as though the majority of it is still liquid, you need more time. It should only jiggle a little in the center, and then it will finish setting as it cools. If your crust starts to get too brown, I’ve heard you can cover just the edges with some foil…but I didn’t find that this was a problem for me.

8. Cool the pie on a wire rack before serving.

 

21 books and 10 lbs (week 4): Restarting the clock January 27, 2014

Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell what week it is. I’m still in a bit of denial about it being 2014 already – much less nearly the end of the first month of 2014 – so you’ll have to forgive my inability to tell what week it is. Furthermore, I’ve been in the grips of some kind of malaise, most likely brought on by my immune system fighting off the double-volleyed attack of dd’s stomach bug from last week and ds’ continuing cold. Actually, both kids have pretty awful colds, with dd having the worse of the two right now. I think Proctor & Gamble is making a FORTUNE off us right now, for all the boxes of Puffs with Lotion we’ve gone through in the last few weeks.

And so, not feeling particularly well for the last several days – plus just still very discombobulated for the last several weeks – my weight loss hasn’t been where I want it to be. Since I ended up losing about 10lbs last year off my starting point, I’d like to see if I can take off the other 10 I wanted this year. Sure, that’s backing down from the whole “losing 20lbs in one year” thing…but, sincerely, I DON’T CARE. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’d rather do this in a fashion where I don’t stress myself out so much about the numbers that I miss the healthy forest for the weight loss trees.

I’m up a couple of pounds, thanks to improper levels of hibition over the first few weeks of the month so…ONWARD AND DOWNWARD, yes?

I have, though, already finished off the first of the twenty-one books I’d like to get through this year. I set up a Goodreads account, so if you’d like to follow along, friend, peruse what I’ve rated, etc., you’re welcome to do so. My current read, partly because dh bought it for me as a present and partly because I like to see if I can challenge myself, is “Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin. I’m not quite sure if I can manage to stick to the pace I need and yet get through that book; it’s 1,050 pages long. I’m giving it a serious try, though it may take me just over a month to get through it and then I’ll be running at a rabbit’s pace the rest of the year to catch up. I also have a lovely box from Barnes & Noble sitting in my living room with the next several books to follow. Ahh…reading…

Book 1: “Jim Henson: The Biography” by Brian Jay Jones

 

Jim Henson: A Biography by Brian Jay Jones

I grew up with “The Muppets” and “Sesame Street”, and Jim Henson has always had a somewhat god-like status in our house, because he managed to be so funny, clever, inventive and astonishing. Reading Jones’ incredibly detail-oriented biography of Henson, you see that he’s all that and more. Through the book, I heard about projects I never knew he’d done (such as the incredible amount of advertising the Muppets did, the shows he did in Washington, DC that preceded my appearance on the planet, and several other works for TV that I just don’t even recall, such as “The Storyteller”). I also read about things that were less joyful – sad things that happened to Jim and his family, sad things that Jim did (humanizing him by really showing that he was, in fact, a human), and the sad details of his final hours.

What you walk away with is a sense that Jim Henson – and the amazing cast around him, particularly long-time collaborator Frank Oz – had a burning need to continue to do things that hadn’t been done and, through the variety of endeavors that did well (like “Sesame Street”) and that didn’t do as well (such as “Labyrinth” or “Dark Crystal”), he managed to make incredible advances in puppetry, animation, animatronics, engineering, set design, and cinematography. Things he did out of necessity, such as putting monitors out of view, where puppeteers could see how things looked to the viewer, became staples of the industry because it just made sense and it made it all that much better.

Jim Henson’s creations have certainly touched my life and made it better; I don’t want to know what life would’ve been like without Kermit the Frog. I just don’t.

Jones puts meticulous detail into the book, almost down to the level of “…and Jim had toast with blackberry jam today, because the nearby store didn’t have his usual orange marmalade…” (NOT A REAL EXCERPT), but the book stays readable and comfortable. For someone like me, who had more than a passing acquaintance with Henson’s work, I perked up when someone I loved was coming up in the story, and I loved hearing the back stories on so many different projects he did. I’m even more in awe of Henson now than I was before I read Jones’ fascinating portrait of the artist, from before he was born up through the time just following his untimely passing.

Fans of Henson’s work should read this book, for sure, and those who don’t have familiarity with his work should study it and then go rent a messload of DVDs. Jones’ rich and vivid descriptions do Henson justice through what Henson himself always strove for: passionate, gripping, and uplifting storytelling.

 

I have a bad case of DISNEY FEVER January 17, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 10:18 am
Tags: , ,

We really only get to do one BIG family trip a year, and this was the year that dh and I decided we’d want to take the kids to DISNEY. I kinda feel like you have to go capslocky when it comes to DISNEY because of what DISNEY represents to me: fun, family, a sense of wonder, and something for kids of all ages. I’ve been a fan of DISNEY movies since I was very small, but the one and only time I’ve gone to DISNEY was when my parents took us to Disneyland on a trip to LA nearly 30 years ago.

So, this year is a big deal for us since it’s the first time that the kids will experience DISNEY up close and personal. My parents offered to defray some of the costs of the trip, so we’re all headed to Florida to DisneyWorld. DH has been to World before, I’ve only ever been to Land, and the kids have only seen the parks during the Disney Christmas Parade that gets televised every year. It took me about 10 minutes last night to explain to my daughter that Nick Cannon DOESN’T work at Disneyland. (“No, honey, he’s an actor. He’s married to a singer.” Her: “Who is he married to?” Me: “Mariah Carey” Her: “Who’s that?” Me: “She’s a singer. Um…I’m not sure what she’s done recently, but she was a big star when I was younger.” Her: “…”)

We’d kept the trip under wraps, so we had to come up with a big unveiling. In this case, DH took a page from the same book his mom used with him and his brother: putting the message on a puzzle. I got a 25-piece magnetic puzzle from Target, and dh wrote a message on it announcing the trip, and then we hid the pieces. Four baggies with 6 pieces each were stashed around the house, with the 25th piece wrapped in a box and placed under the tree with a clue that led the kids to the first bag. Each hidden bag had a clue that led them to the next, and when they’d collected them all they put together the puzzle.

Naturally, the kids lost their nut when they found out we were going to DISNEY, and once I was able to take the two guidebooks we bought out of hiding, dd threw herself headlong into learning everything she could about the attractions and events. Needless to say, the kids are extremely excited, and I have the feeling that this will be probably the best trip they’ve been on yet.

We wanted to wait until we thought they were old enough to remember it and enjoy it. Since ds is turning 5 this year, he’s old enough to get it – and dd (who’s 7) has been on our case for several years to get to DISNEY, just like all of her friends. It was exhausting trying to find a hotel that would work for both family’s myriad needs, but once we did, it was easy as pie getting our booking done over the phone. We’ve since been customizing pieces through the My Disney Experience part of their website and researching through the guidebooks we’ve acquired and the Disney website.

And so, it was with great surprise (and excitement) that I opened the email saying that I was picked to host a #DisneySide @Home party. I have a box that weighs nearly as much as my four-year-old coming to my house, packed with some amount of swag and party supplies, and I get to spend time with friends squeeing about DISNEY and showing off my “Disney side” (easily seen in the part of my personality that has NO shame or self-consciousness about walking around wearing dd’s sequined Minnie Mouse ears).

Mind you, I’m not someone who has gotten numb to any of this. I know people who’ve been to DISNEY so many times that they talk about it like they’re going to just any old amusement park. Honestly, I never want to go to DISNEY so often that it loses its magic for me, although A) I could never afford that, especially since we don’t live in Florida, and B) I don’t understand how you could lose appreciation for all that magic. Then again, I’m the kind of person who appreciates it when a hotel has bath sheets instead of cheesecloth squares posing as bath towels, so there’s that.

In any event, between the planning for our big family DISNEY trip and now the planning for this #DisneySide @Home party, I think everything’s coming up DISNEY in our house right now. And I think I’m okay with that…

 

Drunken Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie January 3, 2014

My brother-in-law is from Louisiana, and one of the desserts he’s made over the years that always captures my love is his bourbon pecan pie. So, when we decided on a date for my sister and brother-in-law to come over for dinner around the holidays, I said I wanted a recipe for the pie so I could make it. Never having made a pie before (which made me an instant target of good-natured ridicule and incredulity), I wasn’t sure if it was a complicated process or not. The response was, effectively, take a standard pecan pie recipe and add a splash of bourbon to it. Oh. Hmm.

As I pondered these thoughts, a friend of my sister’s proposed that I drunk up the pie by soaking the pecans – and he furthermore suggested that I should add chocolate chips. Not being a big fan of hard liquor, but willing to see this through as an interesting experiment…IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE!…I was willing to give it a shot. And so, I made two pies. This is the first recipe I came up with, and the second one will be posted soon in order to give a more vanilla, as it were, version of the pie. (The latter is more of a traditional bourbon pecan pie, whereas this one is definitely more in the vein of “HI, I’M PIE AS A DELIVERY VEHICLE FOR BOURBON AND CHOCOLATE. LOVE ME!”)

The key to making this a really drunken pie is in soaking the pecans – I went for about 12hrs of soaking time, but you could go longer, if you wanted. Being paranoid that the wet pecans would impart too much bourbonness and/or not cook properly, I decided to toast them prior to compiling the pie, so the prep on this is a little lengthy…but it’s not overly active prep time, so there’s that. Also, while I placed the chocolate chips in an anal-retentive “cover all pie bottom surface as best as you can, point-up” OCD layout, you could do something different. I just found this worked best for me, and it allowed me to make the pretty picture that’s shown below of chocolate chip-ville. Bear in mind that the chocolate doesn’t really melt – the chips are basically embedded in the pie. This means that the chocolate holds its own with the pecans as you take bites. For me, this works. NICELY.

Drunken Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

GET IN MY BELLY, PIE. YOU’RE DRUNK.

 

Inactive Prep Time: 12hrs

Active Prep Time: 30mins

Cook Time: 8-10mins toasting + 50-55mins baking

Serves: 6-8 (ok, maybe 10-12…it’s PIE! it all depends how you slice it)

 

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups pecan halves

1 cup bourbon (I used Knob Creek)

1 refrigerated pie crust

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

4 Tb butter

5/8 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup light corn syrup

 

Make it Happen

1. Put the pecans into a glass or other non-reactive bowl and pour the bourbon over top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside on the counter for 12 hours.

Pecans soaking in bourbon

2. About 15 mins before the soak time is done for the pecans, preheat the oven to 350F.

3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, then scoop out the pecans (minus the bourbon!) and place them in a single layer. Set aside the bourbon, in reserve.

Pecans, ready to be toasted

4. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pecans in the oven to toast for about 10 mins. At the end of their toasting time, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

5. Bump the oven temperature up to 375F and get to work on prepping the filling.

6. Place the crust into a glass 9″ pie pan and flute, fork or otherwise decorate the edge however you typically like. (Note: cook times may be different for metal, so adjust as needed).

7. Melt the butter in the microwave; approximately 40 secs on HIGH power.

8. In a separate bowl, add the sugar, melted butter, vanilla, corn syrup, eggs, and 2 Tb of the reserved (now pecan-infused) bourbon. Stir well to combine.

9. Place the chocolate chips in a single layer on the bottom of the crust.

Chocolate chips in pie shell

10. Place the pecans evenly on top of the chocolate chips.

Pecans cover chocolate - YUM

11. Evenly pour in the mixture from the bowl, over top of the pecans and chocolate chips.

Pie - ready for the oven

12. Bake for 10 mins at 375F, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for an additional 40-45 mins until the pie is set. You can tell the level of “setness” by lightly shaking the pie side to side; if the filling jiggles as though the majority of it is still liquid, you need more time. It should only jiggle a little in the center, and then it will finish setting as it cools. If your crust starts to get too brown, I’ve heard you can cover just the edges with some foil…but I didn’t find that this was a problem for me.

13. Cool the pie on a wire rack before serving…and feel free to strain out the pecan detritus from the remaining reserved bourbon using a few layers of cheesecloth. The pecan-infused bourbon got double thumbs-up from my tester.

 

 
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