Category Archives: entertainment

Book Recommendations (and more!)

Here we go with some book recommendations that will surely thrill your heart and stir the soul. I tell you what, a good book is what gets me through February and March in New Hampshire.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  Young Adult. Tragic, page-turner, very tight writing. John Green says,”Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable.” I liked this, didn’t love it, but it’s a great book to study for sparse but powerful language, the ending is what Cope calls, “cray-cray.” Interpretation: crazy. I didn’t see it coming!

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell. Young Adult. I thought this could have been 100 pages shorter 🙂 but it was really funny, the dialogue was fabulous, and I thought Rainbow (great name!) did freshman sexuality well. A few too many swears for my taste, but Ms. Rowell (Eleanor and Park) is a superb storyteller.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Loved this! Baker tells a forgotten chapter of American history, (at least I didn’t know about it) the part where hundreds of thousands of orphans would get on a train and travel across the country, hoping a family would adopt them. Babies, toddlers, teens. Love the structure of this novel, how it switches back and forth between present and past. Big take away: the human spirit is incredibly resilient. I shall never complain again.




Arming Your Children With the Gospel by R. Wayne and Leslee S. Boss: I try to always be reading something enlightening and spiritually beneficial for my family. This is great. Told with real life stories and great quotes, this book is very applicable to modern culture. I dog-eared many many pages. Chapters I particularly liked: Why Teach the Gospel in the home (no one can do it better than you), The Good Neighbor Policy (sometimes we treat neighbors better than our family), Teaching Children Obedience (obedience is the first principle of family life; all interactions and behavior flow from it), and Developing a Love for the Scriptures (it’s not a burden, rather a marvelous opportunity.)

Helen Keller, a Photographic Story of a Life by Leslie Garrett I love autobiographies. Helen Keller is astoundingly smart, but who I admire even more is Anne Sullivan. She had a very difficult life; was exhausted, nearly-blind herself, and orphaned. This teacher is my hero.

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Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M Appel I’ve long-admired Mr. Appel’s ability to have a full-time career as a doctor AND write hundreds of short stories. He’s won the Writer’s Digest Competition a few times. I received this for free (by emailing him after a webinar!). I have to say, this collection is brilliant story-telling. Didn’t love all the swears in a few stories, but wow, this guy can write!

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly Saw the movie many years ago, but never read the book. Love lawyer conundrums with page-turning story telling. And all I could see was Matthew McConaughey on every page. Need I say more?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Just finished this yesterday! This is my kind of book. Told from the perspective of a brilliant Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s (she’s only 50), this is a book everyone should read. Loved all the medical jargon, human interactions, and the thoughts of a mother who knows she will forget her children. Heartbreakingly good. Now I need to see the movie…Julianne Moore won the Oscar! Also, if you’re a writer, Ms. Genova has some fantastic advice. For instance, this was originally a self-published book. Her advice: don’t get stuck in that holding pattern of not writing and waiting for the literary agent to pick you. Act! Pick yourself. Um, hello Amy.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Middle grade read my 5th-grader loved. Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. A coming-of-age book. I thought it just okay.

What I’ve started: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. So good, so much information.

Other Entertainment News in Television:

1. We did it. In one year, averaging one show a night, we finished all eight seasons of 24. (I’m so proud). Jack Bauer, we love you. No, really. LOVE.

2. We did it. In 6-7 years, we watched the last episode of Parenthood. Best series of real life on t.v. Loved this show. I cried during the season finale…dare you not to.

3. Downton Abbey! The girls and I looked forward to this bonding Downton night every week. The season finale? Carson and Mrs. Hughes! So amazing. And who is this dashing man with a too-fast car? I have high hopes for Mary. Oh, and Edith and her baby! There’s never enough!

4. Chicago PD. A little obsessed with Sophia Bush. I want to be her. Love this show.

The two movies we saw in the last year were recent:

1. McFarland. This is a post by itself so I’ll just say: FANTASTIC! I LOVED it. A must-see for more reasons than running shoes, a coach seeking redemption, and rooting for the under-dog.

2. Cinderella. This movie sparked quite the debate in the house. I loved it. Not everyone did 🙂 Casting was terrific. Cate Blanchett as wicked stepmother? Perfect. And Lily James from Downton? Maybe I was just obsessed with her hair. Her hair. Did you see her hair?

Well, that’s how I got through winter. How did you do it? Did it involve books or shows? I’d love to hear.




That’s Entertainment: Summer Books and Discovering Jack Bauer

Books of late:

1. Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. Not only one of the best memoirs I’ve read, but one of the best books. Fantastic writing. Kelly writes of being a nanny to two children who have recently lost their mother. It’s funny, sad, and left with me loving my mother even more. Read this book! You will love it so much.


A favorite passage: Of course, maybe there’s nothing about any of us that doesn’t in some small way touch back to our mothers. God knows, every day I spend with the Tanners, I feel like I’m opening a tiny flap on one of those advent calendars we used to hang in the kitchen every December 1, except instead of revealing Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, it’s my mother. I can’t see all of her yet, but window by window, she is emerging.

2. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Kerman is a very skilled writer and compassionately writes about the real women in prison, many of whom simply have no life skills and opportunities. I didn’t like everything about this book, especially the sexuality, but if there is a huge lesson from this book, it’s this: Your past catches up with you. Dear children: Please do not smuggle drugs into the country no matter how exciting it seems.


3. To get me in a middle-grade writing mood, I reread Matilda by Roald Dahl, Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls. I’m looking for a funny middle grade…any suggestions? I also read Travel Team by Mike Lupica to see what 13-year-old boys love (my son loved this one.)

4. The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni. I just gotta say – well done, Dianne! It was my pleasure to interview Dianne a few months ago. If you like the King Arthur tales (I adore them!), adventure, and fantasy, you’ll like this book! Next up is Jessica Lawson’s The Actual and Truthful Tales of Becky Thatcher. I’m ordering the Tom Sawyer collection for Christmas, which includes Jess’s book (how cool is that???) and hope the children don’t mind if I steal it first….

5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. First of all, the author’s name is “Rainbow.” Secondly, Ms. Rainbow is from Omaha (like me!) and this book begins on a public school bus in Omaha. Of course I had to read it.

This young adult book has excellent writing, great “voice,” and a good story. But I hid it from my children first, because of the locker-room and school bus language and second because of the sexuality. On the other hand, it was both laugh-out-loud and heartbreaking. You root for “the misfits.” These kinds of books are important. It made me want to adopt all the children who need good parents, clothing, a toothbrush, and kindness. Cope (my 15-year-old), did find the book, gobbled it up in one night and declared it “the most depressing book I’ve ever read. Gosh!”

Many thought-provoking discussions and I’m glad I found this.


6. 21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit by Richard G. Scott. I have a new habit I’m working on. I try to get up every morning around 6 so I can read scriptures, something spiritual, or meditative for the day. I sit on the floor in front of the east-facing window and feel the sun on my face. Even if I only read 5-10 minutes, it makes a tremendous difference in my day. This is an easy read with many profound thoughts from one of my heroes; a brilliant and spiritual giant who teaches simply, yet deeply.

A Short Story:

1. Meet the Vines by Nina Badzin. Bravo! So good. Go HERE to read the very short story – and then vote so Nina can win. I’ve long wanted to write short stories but I don’t really know how. Thank you, Nina, for showing me how it’s done! Very inspired.

A TV Show:

1. So, I’ve discovered this show called 24. It has this totally cool counter-intelligent agent named Jack Bauer. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Yeah, I know, that was so ten years ago…but this is my life. The 8th season was on TV last fall and I told Gregor that we should give it a try since we’ve heard about it for so long! So we started watching (did you know the whole season takes place in a 24-hour period and goes at such a frantic, violent heart-pumping pace that you just can’t STOPPPP watching it? Oh, you knew that? Well, it’s brilliant.) So of course we watched, were immediately hooked, and realized there is backstory (Audrey!) Like, seven seasons of backstory!

Thanks to Amazon Prime, we can watch one, or two, or three episodes every night so that I’m completely sleep-deprived and walking around like a zombie. We’re on season 3 and when Jeff Goins writes that the secret to keeping a marriage strong is having something to look forward to? Well, it’s 24! We’re obsessed. Like Friday-Night Lights obsessed (though no one can quite take the place of Riggins.) I could go on and on about Jack Bauer. My husband likes that he’s so cool and no man or woman can stop him from saving the world one bad guy at a time and I like him because he’s so polite. I mean, he says thank you and please all the time!

I’ll stop now.

The One Movie I’ve Seen:

1. Maleficent. Loved it. Angelina is wow.

A Great And Brilliant Talent:

1. Lastly, I loved Robin Williams so much. He was an inimitable talent. It’s strange to feel the loss of someone you’ve never met, but I do. I especially loved Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Hook. For years, his Peter Pan message echoed through my head…To live would be an awfully big adventure! Rest in Peace, brother. Thank you for being such a decent human being and for entertaining us so well, all these years. “O Captainmy Captain! our fearful trip is done;”

That’s entertainment, reporting from here. And now, if you’ve got any recommendations I’d love to hear!




new year, new blog, and breaking bad?

How is your new year going? I’m a little shiver-me-timber!

It’s been an exciting (and frustrating) process to convert this blog from Blogger to WordPress. May I suggest that if your tech understanding is anything like mine, you ask for HELP. My dear sister-in-law, Cassie, did the hard labor, working long and hard on multiple header options, pages, pull-down menus, fixing broken links, installing plug-ins, and Mailchimp. WordPress is far less friendly to the girl like me who sees programming and HTML as code for RUN. Cassie and I were texting and emailing all through December, Christmas Eve and even Christmas day trying to get the new blog to look right pretty. I could not have done the switch without her. No really, It wouldn’t have happened.

Sometimes I wondered if the entire process was worth it, but I have been drooling over the versatility of WordPress for years. And now you must impart plug-in advice, wise ones.

We installed Mailchimp, an email subscriber list service that gave me a headache, but hopefully will be ever so easy to understand…once I understand it. Sadly, some of my blogger list didn’t convert, so please please Subscribe again even if you already did on the Blogger blog. Lost subscribers are a travesty!

And if you have not subscribed, well I would be pleased as punch about that as well.

I still have work to do adding pictures and links on the sidebar. Like the cows. Do you miss them?

I interviewed myself for the About section. That was rather liberating. And peculiar.

I mulled long and hard on the evolution of this writing place. The elusive “they” say that bloggers should have a “niche.” One theme, one focus. But whenever I decided on one niche (allowance? running? writing? the show donkeys next door?) I felt a great loss. If I wrote exclusively about health, what about the hay field? If the niche was writing, then what about that Little House on the Prairie moment?

Oh dear. Is it a focus problem? My scattered brains jumps like a cat from this to that. Perhaps it is a fixation on moderation.

But what trumps all when it comes to writing? I believe it’s passion. This blog began as an entertaining family journal, but it was also a place to write about messes, failures, love, smoothies, chickens, why I don’t play on Sundays, and occasionally politics. There’s a theme there, right? Um.

I love it all, so I decided to keep it all. I hope you won’t mind.

So we move forward and it’s an exciting prospect. The best way to see how far we’ve come is to look at where we were a year ago. There’s much progress! and things I want to do better.

To ring in the new year we once again burned our Christmas tree. It was very Lord of the Flies minus the pig head on a stick.treeFor the first time in a long time, I wasn’t quite ready to let go of Christmas. I’ve missed the Christmas carols constantly playing, the white lights, the break from real life, and that special feeling that envelops a home for the holidays. The kids are basking in the last days of Christmas vacation, though they sure aren’t basking in the sun.

In the last 24 hours, a blizzard hit the Northeast the great blizzard

It’s gorgeous, but it’s COLD. We tried to go sledding today. For a full two minutes. One run down the slope, one blasted snowball to the face, and there was more than one child crying.

The chickens eggs freeze more quickly than we can gatherchicken eggsAnd if left too long, the eggs freeze and crack, and the chickens begin to peck peck peck. Savages.

Though I’m not looking forward tromping through deep snow to collect eggs and refill water bowls, I do look forward to fresh eggs with dark yellow yolks.

What else am I not looking forward to? Breaking Bad. Finally, after all the great reviews and “it’s the best show I’ve ever watched,” I watched the first two episodes and decided it just wasn’t meant to be. What was it? Hmmm, the moment when Skylar…never mind, I can’t even write that. Was it the body being eaten by acid in the bathtub? Maybe the bloody heart and intestines crashing through the ceiling? Or perhaps it was Walt’s whitey tighty underwear? I just can’t decide. I was rather fond of Walt despite the you know, meth thing. Do you have an opinion on the matter?

What I am looking forward to? a spring marathon (salt lake city???), more queries (I finished my manuscript finally!), beginning a new story (a middle grade read), photography and photoshop, more health-related quests, purging the house of stuff, and of course…Downton Abbey. Here is a read on what we can look forward to here.  Cope vowed to never watch it again after the HORRIBLE HAPPENED. But alas, the DVR is SET.

And now you must tell me what you are NOT looking forward to. And the good stuff too!

Cheers xoxo.


Entertainment I Loved…or Didn’t


1.  Les Miserables.  This was so highly anticipated I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  But no, it just might just be the very best movie I’ve ever seen.  And that’s saying a lot.  I mean, Top Gun has held first place since I was 12!  All of the actors and actresses hit their part perfectly, even Russell Crowe can sing!  Forgiveness, hope, redemption, justice, mercy, honor….it’s all there and it’s SO good.  Cope has been riding the high ever since.

2.  Lincoln.  After I read the Time cover story on Daniel Day-Lewis’ genius as an actor, I had to see the movie.  I loved the tidbit of him having to stay in character while on set and texting Sally Field with limericks and signing them, “A.”  This brought back all the memories of Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans….let’s pause a moment and think about that movie…sigh…Lincoln required concentration, and I loved it.  

3.  Downton Abbey

Yes, like everyone else, I’m obsessed.  I love it so.  Whenever Cope and I hear the Downton music begin or reviewed on the radio, we look at each other and squeal.  No one is allowed to speak or interrupt during the watching of Downton!  It’s as good now as the first season.

4.  Forever Strong.  I saw this movie a few years ago, but we watched it again for a youth activity with Cope and Nelson.  Love it.  It has so many great lessons.  I knew a boy in college who played for the Highland Rugby team.  It was a life-changing experience for him.  This movie is based on the true story of Highland and the real-life and life-changing relationship between a coach and his players.  It’s different and always reminds me of my youngest brother.  Sports, redemption, forgiveness.  It’s there and it’s good.

5.  Nashville.  I love Connie Britton and I like country music, so this is a fun show to watch during the week.

6.  Parenthood.  Emotional, happy, and sometimes sad, this is my favorite show in television right now.

7.  The Piano Guys.  We got this CD for Nelson for Christmas, to inspire him to play the piano.  It’s inspired us all! Downloaded onto my ipod, it’s not only good listening music, it’s fabulous running music.

8.  League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  I know this is an old movie, but we taped it over Christmas break and eagerly began to watch it one evening.  All of sudden I remembered how bad it was the first time.  I’m sorry if you enjoyed it, but I could not stand the thought of wasting two hours of my life watching it again. 

We’re back in the thick of things.  Christmas break is over.  Who knows when we’ll have a chance to watch another movie.  We’ve been so busy we even cancelled Netflix…boo hoo!  But when we get another moment, what do you recommend?  Skyfall?  Impossible?  Smash?

P.S.  Did you see Beyonce sing the national anthem at the inaugeration?  Doesn’t it make you want to just belt it out? That’s good entertainment!


Hunger Games

The coveted mockingjay pin.  The envy of the seventh grade girls.  Oh, Cope wears that pin with pride, every day.  And a braid down her back.
Gregor and I just got home from The Hunger Games.  We took Nelson for his birthday.  Because it was his birthday present, I did not outwardly gasp at the $29 it took to get three of us in.  And I did not make a scene when we were charged $13.25 for popcorn and a soda.  Outwardly.  Only because it was his birthday.  
I read the book a few years ago, before it was all the rage.  The movie was good, it stayed true to the book and Katniss Everdeen was perfectly cast.  The book and movie are horrible too.  The premise, of children killing other children for sport and entertainment, is horrible.  It is such a commentary on our society.  The way we slab on costumes and paint, cheer and clap for those in the arena, turn a blind eye to what is really happening around us.  I felt sickened with realization.  We can’t be those people.
But Katniss, she of course, emerges as the hero.  Not only is she your average girl, but she’s the underdog.  The underdog, I recently heard on NPR is not really the underdog.  They may seem down, but buried deep down, is our belief that they really aren’t out.  Deep down, we truly believe that they can win.  
Katniss is not the underdog, she’s the girl on fire.  We love her for her beauty, her defiance of the capitol, and the way she can shoot that arrow like nobody’s business.  But we love her most of all because of her sacrifice for her little sister, Prim, who would never survive in The Hunger Games.  We love her for the way she sees things the way they really are, in life and in death.
It’s good, and it’s horrible.  
And now I must go because someone is throwing up and the Easter bunny needs help filling baskets.
My last thought:  I still like Gale better.


The Best of…

It’s almost time to say farewell to the great year of 2011.  I’ve had a good reading year.  I wish I had time to read more as the books on my nightstand and bookshelves grow in larger piles than I can keep up with.  However I plan to do lots of reading in 2012.

Since the New York Times publishes their 10 Best Books of 2011, and 2011 Notable Books of 2011, I thought I’d include mine.  Of course, their list is all books published in 2011.  One of my favorites was written in the 60’s, but these are the books I enjoyed most this year.  Oh yes, I love making lists.

2011 Book Favorites:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (read how many times?)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Room by Emma Donaghue
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
Innocent  by Scott Turow
Eat, Pray, Love by Gilbert

What I can’t wait to get my hands on for 2012:
11-22-64 by Stephen King
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (under the tree!)
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Belong to Me by Marisa do los Santos
The Power of Moms, Essays on Motherhood (guess who got an essay published?!)

Movies I Enjoyed:
Toy Story 3
Downton Abbey, Season I (season premiere of season II on January 8th!)
Little Dorrit
The King’s Speech
500 Days of Summer
Slumdog Millionaire
Tangled (love!)
The Tourist
Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian
Robin Hood (scarily, I have no recollection of watching this, but my Netflix says I rated it 4 stars)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Water for Elephants
Soul Surfer

Movies I Didn’t Enjoy:
Knight and Day (really Tom?  still excited to see you in Mission Impossible)
Crazy, Stupid, Love (great cast, but all the yucky…!)

Friday Night Lights (the hit of my year! and oh I miss you.)

Ok really, I’m almost done, but since I’m making lists, here’s a list of:

Products I discovered in 2011: 

Seriously, I’ve got to stop eating these.

Thank you Scott and Lindsey for introducing me to this:

I drink this after every morning run.  Chocolate milk is a great snack/nutrition for a runner or athlete.  Mmm, it tastes great too.

I’m not picky about my hot chocolate, but this one is gooood.  I also like Swiss Miss and Land O’Lakes Raspberry.  And Mint.

This is not something I would have ever picked up on my own.  My husband has introduced to the world of spice.  So good.

Getting sick?  My go-to product:

It has come slowly, but time is teaching me to embrace what I’ve got.  Great for curly hair without the crunch.

And now that that is complete, I can say hello to all the good things 2012 will bring my way.  Time to start making fresh lists.