Cabin 2007

cabin_12-23-07.jpgAs usual, the cabin did not disappoint. There were guests in and out, and I sadly missed the guitar concert that started the morning. Listening to my brother play guitar is one of life’s great times for me. I felt especially excited to be there because I’d thought there was no way I could do it because I had a kid. Yet again, Carlton proves he’s dad of the year!

We ate delicious food and treats, many prepared by the host’s mom (my cooking inspiration since high school). There were also decadent fried biscuits and apple butter. These are Nashville mainstays that are required for the cabin-ness to be complete. We watched a bit of the Colts game and talked while the adults were there (I call them the adults but realize that I am technically an adult- but I cannot call them by their first names, so you know what I mean, right). After the adults left, we exchanged some gifts and got down to the business of gaming. Our host had, of course, a new game for all to try. I’m in!

Citadels was an absorbing, fun game. It was very easy to learn the mechanics and we started playing quickly. The only hitch was that the host had to write the character classes on a napkin so we could remember order of play; the game, being card-based, could have had this printed on a master card. It did contain some game mechanics on cards for each player.

With each round, the play changed. First people vied for their favorite characters (not shockingly, there was a spat between LBFH and Ken over who would be King each round. Ah, the Alpha male!). I stupidly played obvious characters, making it easy for other characters to guess who I was and assassinate/rob me. At one point, maybe feeling sorry for me because I kept losing, Thurbrand passed me the card of the character I wanted to play that round. It was very nice, but I definitely realized my game style was obviioouuuus! It became a very good intellectual game, with some things left to chance but others required strategy, bluffing, and knowing your fellow players’ styles.

I noticed with amusement that I, and some of the others, were resisting using Magic-style moves with our cards, such as tapping, even though no such mechanic was needed. It must be in our blood…

It took about 1-2 hours for play, and was taking longer and longer as each round, the players were more savvy and were going through more permutations of next moves and other meta plays. It can be a quick parlor game or a serious battle to the death, depending on the players’ skill, experience, and BAC.

I loved the game so much that I’m buying it. I want to have a little gaming session at my house, just to see old friends and also to play games again. I do miss gaming. The nice thing for me about games like Citadels is the defined end, as opposed to role playing. For me, I tend to fade quickly due to my demanding parenting schedule (Five AM is ugly early). I can play middle-earth-type games, visit with friends, and opt out for an early bedtime without risking my character’s life (I’m looking at you, Athran the Button Pusher).

We had a between-games break before starting a round of Carcasonne, during which LBFH pulled out the guitar and several of us sang along. We caught sight of a gorgeous moonbow that Ken noticed while out on the deck. Sadly, though I was supposed to have one of my brother’s deliciously prepared cabin breakfasts, I had to depart early. Ah, parenthood!

I Am Legend directed by Francis Lawrence

IMDb link

I am becoming spoiled by the IMAX experience. The audio is so incredible and the enormous picture doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, the fabric sections in my local theater have one flaw on the side of the screen that is noticeable during dark scenes. It’s as distracting as cigarette burns in non-digital films (thanks, LBFH, for making me notice those in every single movie).

I could compare this to a futuristic Cast Away, but it is much broader. Will Smith proves again that he can carry a movie as well as, if not better than, Tom Hanks. Who would have thought the hilarious, skinny kid from Parents Just Don’t Understand would be such a fun actor? Smith’s character, Robert Neville, is a doctor and a military man. He uses his scientific skill and military firepower to navigate a dead New York City. He’s already skilled at living in this world when we meet him, so thankfully we don’t have to be bored while we watch him try to light a fire.

The pharmaceutical industry provides a frighteningly villified virus (I promise we aren’t all bad!!). It kills billions of people and gives a rabies-like reaction in the tiny percent of surviving population; Neville is alone in his immunity. The action provides heart-pounding entertainment with enough thoughtful pauses that I could actually catch my breath. Aside: as a new parent, a few scenes involving the virus’ effect on children were especially heartbreaking.

Despite a few implausible scenes and CGI obviousness, I was mesmerized. This is a thoughtfully done action-adventure film that I’d gladly see again.

[rate 4]

Spicy Roasted Vegetables

Veggies before CookingIt’s some sort of cooking crime not to have some sort of roasted vegetable dish in your repertoire. Easy and colorful, this packs a great nutritional punch.

Preheat oven to 450F (use convection if you can). To a large, heavy roasting pan, add

one red pepper, cored and seeded, cut into chunks
one yellow pepper, cored and seeded, cut into chunks
one very large or two small sweet potato(es), cut into small chunks
one large red onion, cut into chunks
one small yellow squash, cut on the bias
one small zucchini, cut on the bias

Drizzle generously with

olive oil.

Sprinkle with

2t kosher salt
1t freshly ground dried chili peppers
1t dried thyme (or 3t fresh)
1t freshly ground pepper
2 dashes liquid smoke.

Toss lightly using tongs or clean fingers. Place in oven and roast. Resist the urge to open the door! After 15 minutes, toss lightly to redistribute (I strongly recommend using tongs for this one). Roast for 10-15 additional minutes, until all vegetables have a golden hue to the edges.

The kosher salt draws moisture from the vegetables, so if you have time before cooking, allow the vegetables to drain on a cooling rack above the roasting pan. Drain and discard the juices. Try other root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or russets. I like the sweet potatoes better for the balance to the heat. If you’re feeling ambitious, deglaze the roasting pan with white wine, add 1t cornstarch, and thicken off-heat. Pour over vegetables and serve with couscous.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Taste: [rate 4.0]
Ease: [rate 5] (if you make it, the pan sauce reduces the ease to 4 stars)

Praying Mantis Named Yorick

My husband told me he found an enormous praying mantis on our driveway the other day. “It’s about to die,” he said. “It’s barely moving.” He moved it from the driveway to the shelter of the porch. It didn’t move for 24 hours, so he brought it inside to show me the beautiful but dead insect.

“Oh *&#@!,” Carlton eloquently said. The “dead” bug started moving in his hand! We realized that it was moving more due to being in the warm of indoors. But what to do? Keep it? It was surely dying due to old age and the climate combined. We put a plastic box over it and decided to decide after watching a movie.

We came upstairs to Sunny barking at something. The mantis had escaped the container and was on the carpet, flaring its wings at the little beast barking at it. We rushed to help the mantis with her forearms tangled in carpet fibers. I found a spare aquarium (no surprise there) and we protected the mantis from our many predator pets. Carlton made a dish of water for her and I googled what mantises eat. But where to find live bugs this time of year?

Amy’s house after dinner! We’d been at a fundraiser dinner and talked about the mantis on the way home. The best part was that none of the three of us questioned the silliness of caring about feeding a dying wild bug. We gathered carcasses and even a live spider or two into a bag.

We put it all in the aquarium, and while the mantis turned her head to look at us inquisitively, she displayed no interest in food. I even used a chopstick to nudge a live spider under her nose. She looked at it, but made no move at all. She was almost dead. As expected, she died within three days. She didn’t eat or drink anything. She knew it was the right time to go, and she died without being squished by a car or something.

I’ve always had a soft spot for living things, especially sentient ones. When I was a child, my parents bought me Pets in a Jar and I devoured the book. Even bugs I never collected were fascinating. I gained so much respect for caring for them and knowing what they needed (that book even made me think planaria infecting my aquaria were cool).  I still have the book.  My dad and I looked at earthworms in his garden, watching them wriggle in my hands before I set them free.

My subscription to Ranger Rick ensured a steady stream of new creatures and new knowledge.  I loved them all- even slugs, especially spiders- and I still don’t kill spiders in my home.  And not only is all of this true, it’s one of the things I really like about myself.

So alas, poor mantis, we barely knew ye, but we enjoyed meeting you and hopefully you enjoyed having food and water as you shuffled off this mortal coil.

Shakespeare + bugs.  Up next: Britney haiku.

Baby Wise Book Review

Finding new blogs is a really fun treasure hunt. I’ve found a lot of parenting blogs; they range from individual parents posting an online diary to collaborative sites with multiple contributors and sound advice.

The largest group of parenting bloggers are the moms. That’s no surprise- most of the links I follow are from other women’s blogs. One theme I’ve found among new moms is that they are really frustrated with their child’s sleeping and eating patterns. Trust me, I feel your pain. I have two words that may help: Baby Wise.

My sister was a new mom three years ago and she called a friend of hers, frustrated and tired. The friend told her to immediately obtain a copy of the book. From that day forward, my sister’s parenting woes became a lot easier. She had another baby and this one was started with the Baby Wise philosophy. My sister can tell of the enormous difference it made for her second child.

As a result, I bought my own copy of Baby Wise and read it cover to cover about four times before Ainsley was born. In the early days, when I was often emotional and tired, I read sections of it while she slept or nursed. I can attest that it works! My baby has slept well from the very start. Don’t let me fool you…it’s been rocky, but it has worked. After the first couple of weeks, Ainsley moved to a 2 to 2 1/2 hour schedule for feedings. After 5 weeks, it was every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, with one 4 to 5 hour stretch every night. Since the age of 9 weeks, she has a very predictable schedule of 8 hours of nighttime sleep and feedings every 3 hours during the day. (again, I say “predictable,” but of course it isn’t 100% perfect.)

I had read that some parents think BW expects parents to ignore their child’s cries. Not true! The book states over and over that hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed earlier than scheduled. It emphasizes a need for family and for nurturing. It’s not a book about how to love your child, it’s about how to give the gift of peaceful sleep to your baby. For a few days, I slept in a bed in her room, next to her crib. I learned her fussy cry and comforted her to sleep; I learned her hungry cry and fed her. When it was time for me to sleep in another room, she didn’t have to be moved so it didn’t disrupt her.

Because of the Baby Wise routine of feeding-waketime-naptime, Ainsley learned how to go to sleep, not be nursed to sleep. This has liberated me and has also meant that Ainsley is happy in the arms of other caretakers. She’s been put to bed by three different grandparents, her aunt, and especially her dad. She has been able to enjoy the love and comfort of not just Mommy, but also all of those other people who love her.

The best thing that BW did for me was to give me the confidence to assess the situation. Food is not the only thing Ainsley needs when she cries- sometimes she needs a new diaper or just some cuddling. Sometimes, she just wants to fuss for 5 minutes before she drifts to sleep!

Baby Wise worked so well for me that I recommend it to anyone who’s frustrated over their infant’s sleep (or lack thereof).

Here Come the Mummies!

Last time the Mummies were in town, I was carrying an extra human around with me, so I didn’t attend the show. I wasn’t going to miss this one! If you’ve never heard of the Mummies, they are a dynamic funk band with fantastic live shows. They are the height of kitsch: they not only sing every single song as a double entendre, they perform in full costume every time. I wouldn’t recognize them if they were out of their mummy garb! I never thought I’d like funk, but these musicians are great fun to watch and they are very talented as well.

So we dressed up, found a babysitter, and headed to the Vogue. Our usual ticket connection guy was MIA. We called him on our way, only to find he wasn’t able to attend the show…for the first time in years. As we arrived at the Vogue, I saw a sad little sign that read “Mummies- tonight- Sold Out :).” Oh no! We didn’t even think of that! So we hung around outside hoping someone would have tickets. We weren’t the only ones. This guy and his I Dream of Jeannie date had elaborate costumes but no tickets. Groups of us loitered, hoping for the best.

As we waited, some people in zombie costumes wandered past the Vogue. They were playing the zombie part very creepily. A minute later, a guy dressed as Michael Jackson (pre-plastic surgery and skin bleaching) wandered past. We joked he might break into Thriller. Then, about 20 yards past the Vogue, a car pulled up, opened its windows, and out blasted Thriller! The zombies and “Michael” broke into the Thriller dance. It was hilarious and well done. Even some of the Vogue staff stopped by to cheer and clap. After the dancing finished, “Michael” announced that he had extra tickets! We cheered, rushed over, and bought two.  A crowd clamored for the tickets and we all congratulated each other on our good fortune.

The Show OpensWe ran to the Vogue entrance as an entourage of ecstatic fans.  The drumbeats of Do You Believe had just begun.  We didn’t miss a thing!  The performance rocked as always.  The crowd sang every word, and fans who’d never met were singing to each other and the band.  The costumes were wild (Michael and gang were just the beginning) and everyone was having a great time.

It wasn’t their best show to date, but it delivered energetic funk in a great atmosphere.  I’m glad to see that this band that used to play at the tiny, now defunct Patio is now packing the Vogue full.  They announced that they’ll be rocking the Vogue on New Year’s too- a first- they usually play in Tennessee that night.  Oh, and TiVo Big Shots this week- they have a song on the soundtrack!

New Year’s Eve, here come the Mummies fans!

Fauxtoberfest 2007 Update

Those are NOT all my empties!This is apparently a busy weekend for most people I know! We only had a crew of three to attend the Fauxtoberfest for Tuxedo Park Brewers.

We all expected it to be in a park somewhere in Fountain Square, but it was actually in someone’s yard! I felt like I was crashing a private party. We ordered beers and chilis and ate and drank in the cool, crisp weather. They offered free two ounce tastings, so I indulged my palate.

Blackout Stout- This was my last beer of the evening. I love stouts and this one was delicious. The person pouring had likened it to a Young’s Double Chocolate, but I thought it was less overly sweet and offered a roastier flavor, with notes of coffee and toasted marshmallow. I’d drink this as dessert.

Dog Days Cream Ale- This had been named “Cream Corn,” but the brewers decided that evoked a rather unpalatable dish served by lunch ladies. Carlton suggested “Corn Dog” was a better name yet. The beer was smooth and creamy, with a mouthfeel similar to Boddington’s. Made with Indiana sweet corn, it was a great ale for a Hoosier brewer. Delicious and mild with a candy-like aftertaste.

Flat Tire Amber- I was expecting something like Fat Tire. This beer was nothing like Fat Tire. It was crisp and a little too boozy, with none of the buscuit character I expected. It was a perfectly good Amber, but not my favorite beer of the night. Midwest Supplies markets a Fat Tire kit called Flat Tire already, so maybe this one’s up for a name change also.

Big Buck Oatmeal Stout- Chewy and hearty, this was my favorite beer of the night. It was a great beer for a fall afternoon. Nutty and delicious, the stout delivered big flavor in a beer best sippe, not chugged. Best drunk while socializing around a quiet fire.

Wrecking Ball Robust Porter- At least I think it was Wrecking Ball. I couldn’t read the small print on the tap handle. It was a porter, in any case. I didn’t think this was a special beer; just drinkable and easygoing for a porter.

Raspberry Wheat- I only had a small taste (still not eating wheat).  This wasn’t on the menu but was very good. I dislike fruit beers as a general guideline. I always wonder- how bad/boring is the beer that it had to be hidden behind fruit? This was bursting with raspberry and apple notes, but wasn’t stickily sweet. The beer was straw colored. That’s usually a sign that the fruit flavor came from an extract instead of the actual fruit. As a beer purist, I should (and usually do) dislike the use of flavorings; however, this was the perfect way to have berry flavor without adding sugar or making the beer pink.

The Tuxedo Park crew had outdoor games, tables, a free cream soda tap, a fire pit, and a CD mix that brought back my college days.  In fact, the whole party had the feel of a college house party…but with better beer.  The brewers I met were really nice and we talked homebrewing for a long time.  They offered to let me watch an all-grain brewing session so I could see what it’s like.

Where can Tuxedo Park beer be purchased?  Uh, I don’t know.  I forgot to ask that one!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directed by Michel Gondry

IMDb link

Have you ever wished you could redo an event in your life? I’ve often lamented that I didn’t study more in college. I a lifetime of boneheaded decisions painfully clearly. In high school, I said mean things about my friends when I was feeling insecure; in college, I was more interested in socializing than studying, eating, or sleeping; after college…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have dated a stalker by choice.

Eternal Sunshine provides me with the “what if” fantasy of erasing those memories from my brain as though they never happened. Joel and Clementine both decide that they hated their relationship so much that it was better off erased. Clem’s erasure is completed with no remarkable effects; however, the technician in charge of Joel’s is more interested in in beer and the opposite sex than in ensuring his job is done well (sounds like me in college). As the memories are pulled from Joel’s head, he relives each of them one last time. Joel begins to wonder why he embarked on this at all. His memories of Clem are often as sad as they are sweet, but he realizes he wants to keep them and starts fighting the erasing machine.

What follows is a captivating view into one director’s idea of how our synapses fire and misfire as they trigger memory. Reality bends and some scenes feel like cartoons or dreams. Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Joel is very good, despite the fact that a few scenes are obviously Carrey as Carrey, mugging more than acting. I even liked Kate Winslet as Clem and thought she somehow looked prettier with crazy red hair than she ever did in her other films.

Spoiler ahead!

In the end, the erasure negatively impacts everyone: those who do it as well as those surrounding the erased.  While the movie had a few times when it swirled around like a madman, it drew the conclusion I always have: my experiences and mistakes, however grave or embarrassing, have made me who I am today.  Maybe the cruelty of other kids- and my resulting lashing out- led to my compassion for people and animals.  Maybe I’m such a diligent employee now to make up for earlier follies.  Maybe if my GPA were 4.0 I would have had a different career path and wouldn’t have met my husband.  Maybe all the desperately wrong people I dated helped me to see what I didn’t want in a spouse…and, regarding my bad relationship behaviors, didn’t want myself to be.

Regret is wasteful, and this film shows how our efforts to deny our selves do not end up bettering us.  I didn’t expect to like this movie but I find myself wanting to see it again to reexplore each layer of plot and theme.

[rate 3.5]

3:10 to Yuma directed by James Mangold

3:10 to YumaIMDb link

Strike one: Russel Crowe’s in it.  Strike two: I dislike Westerns, even everyone’s favorite, Unforgiven.  I used to hate Westerns (and still kind of do) because of the fact that women are almost never portrayed in strong roles.  I was irritated by the fact that every woman was a meek wife, a waitress/server type, or a whore.  I’ve made my peace with the fact that this genre is not going to change and that it is about male bonding and man versus man/himself.

Being that this movie was already made once, I expected no different; it was true to genre.  However, it was one of the better films I’ve seen this year.  The pacing was spot-on: like a good symphony, it had balanced highs and lows instead of simple, full-on adrenaline.  Dan Evans is a rancher who is struggling to make payments on his property.  He has only been consistent at failure and is keenly aware of that fact.  He backs away from his first confrontation with Ben Wade; however, as the film progresses, their relationship is that of equals.  In fact, I would assert that Ben Wade feels that Evans is the better man, as evidenced in the film’s last scenes.  The dialogue is complex without being stuffy.  I would say the costuming is excellent, except the oddly fitted white leather jacket and fancy studded chaps on Charlie Prince.  It was a strange touch that I feel will date the movie if watched in 20 years.

Critics had panned the ending as odd or wrong or, as Roeper said, “weird.”  But I thought the ending perfectly befit the themes carried throughout.  It showed the kind of man that Evans was and the kind of man that Wade respected (even if his show of respect was “weird”).  I can’t say much more without spoiling.

I even (begrudgingly) admit that Russel Crowe was excellent.

If all you want is an action movie, 3:10 delivers; if you want to explore complex themes, this is still the movie for you.

[rate 4.5]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest directed by Gore Verbinski

Cover ArtIMDb link

I wanted to love this movie. I really did! But I found myself groaning more than I found myself laughing.

The first movie was surprisingly fun to watch so I had equal hopes for this one. I had company at my house for the evening and was ready to enjoy an action film that was witty and had fun fantasy wardrobe stuff. “Swashbuckle” is fun to say, too, and I planned to sprinkle this review liberally with the term.


The costumes did not disappoint, and the actors’ performances didn’t either. But the movie did. The script was tight and the wit was intact; however, the writers of the action sequences threw in every possible cliche’ they could. I often talk about “suspension of disbelief” and the amount of it required to watch a film. Obviously a movie with an undead octopus-faced character requires it. However, action sequences should be cleverly choreographed and demand that the characters have superhero-like grace and ingenuity. I do not need to see two characters on a runaway mill wheel and think “surely that wheel would have already hit a tree.” The sequence was so long that I thought that thought over and over. It totally ruined my immersion.

Also, the movie “ended” about four times. Each time was a big, dramatic, loud action sequence with all the overtures of a denouement, but then the film just wouldn’t end. It left me begging for the real ending instead of enjoying any more of the movie.

Verdict: watchable, yes. But not as swashbucklingly swashbuckle-y as I’d hoped.

[rate 2.5]