Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

 I hope everyone was able to have a Merry Christmas today.  Practically my entire family, minus Steven and Krista, are sick!!  There's something going around, because I know others who are sick.  Heh, I blame all the snow and grayness.  But I am starting to feel better, which is good.  Last year I was sick New Years Eve and Day, so hopefully getting sick during the Holiday season won't be a new tradition.  Positive thinking.

I found the above tree on the Utah Valley University campus, next to the ballroom.  So pretty.  I had a bit of fun taking pictures as the colors changed.

Safe Travel!

And a farewell to Matt Smith as the Doctor.  * Just shed a little tear *

Monday, December 23, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks, Movie Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

"There is far more substance in Saving Mr. Banks than the first 2 Hobbit movies combined."  That's what my brother Steven said when we left the movies last Saturday, and it's true.  I heartily agree.  There is more substance in Saving Mr. Banks then the first two Hobbit installments: More substance, character growth, and emotion.  Etc, etc, etc, but I'll get to all those "et cetera's" later.

Saving Mr. Banks is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mary Poppins back in the early 1960's.  I heard once that the making of Mary Poppins was quite tumultuous, mainly because author P.L. Travers, played wonderfully by , was obstinate and stubborn over her creation.  For 20 years Walt Disney, played by , wanted to get Mary Poppins turned into a movie, promising his daughters he would do so, only problem was Mrs. Travers owned the rights and wasn't too keen on releasing them to the animation King.  She's not a big fan of cartoons.  Saving Mr. Banks is a tail of the two weeks Mrs. Travers spent in L.A. working on the movie, and of her own personal story that helped shape her books.  Who is Mr. Banks?

In a very interesting and worth reading article written by Chad Jones, Richard Sherman, the last living member in the Mary Poppins creation team, and brilliant brother-brother composer, is quoted as saying, "I find myself getting angry when I relive it. My stomach tightens when I talk about it . . . Nobody ever talked about those weeks for years.  God, was Mrs. Travers difficult. She was impolite. She was, shall we say, a hard woman to figure out. Very strange. Enigmatic. Haunted by something.”

That "Haunted by something" is what this movie explores, and does so quite well.  We see, in flashbacks, Mrs. Travers growing up in Australia during her impressionable years.  The moments are sweet, enchanting, telling, and horrifying.  brilliantly plays her father, a man with creativity, dreams, and a terrible addiction.  

The transitions between Australia and the 1960's are very well done.  I've seen some very rocky scene transitions this past year, but these transitions are smooth and timed.  No scene feels wasted.  Everything is perfectly balanced.

And the 1960 scenes.  I loved watching the Sherman brothers at work.  If you've heard music from The Jungle BookThe Aristocats, Charlotte's Web, Bedknobs and BroomsticksChitty Chitty Bang Bang, Snoopy, Come Home, and, yes, even it's a small world (after all), you've heard their music(Actually, some of you may lament a little over that last mentioned title.)  The music they wrote for Mary Poppins is some of their most brilliant, winning an Oscar for Chim Chim Cher-ee.  The two brothers have accomplished so much, we've all been touched by their talents, and it was fun seeing their musical methods depicted on screen.

Another delightful character that I almost forgot to mention was Mrs. Travers driver, Ralph, played by .  He was so charming I really wondered if the character was real or not.  Movie magic!  It's hard to tell.

My only complaint, ONLY complaint was that of Tom Hanks.  Wikipedia states that, "To accurately convey Walt Disney's Midwestern dialect, Tom Hanks listened to archival recordings of Disney in his car and practiced the voice while reading newspapers. Hanks also grew his own mustache for the role, which underwent heavy scrutiny—with the filmmakers going so far as to matching the same dimensions as Disney's."  During both viewings of the movie I had a hard time seeing Disney in Hanks.  Just, for some reason, I couldn't see past the actor.  Walt Disney is legendary.  We all know what he looks and sounds like.  He's distinctive.

But that's my only complaint, and it's not big enough to change my rating for this movie.  This is one of the best movies I've seen all year.

Saving Mr. Banks is full of Magic, and it's a movie I can see over and over again.

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

Read more here:

Read more here: ever talked about those weeks for years,” Sherman says in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “God, was Mrs. Travers difficult. She was impolite. She was, shall we say, a hard woman to figure out. Very strange. Enigmatic. Haunted by something.”

Read more here:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Seed, an Original Poem

The Seed

“This is a seed
that's all I know,
if you plant it
something will grow.”

“What will grow?”

“I do not know.
Something big and strong.”

“But it is so small.”

“It's small, that's true.
It's small like you.
And like this seed
you will grow too.”

“Will I grow big and strong,
strong just like you?”

“You might.”

“And this seed will grow too?”

“It will, but only if you plant it soon.”

“What if I don't plant it,
what will happen then?”

“If you don't plant it,
it'll stay tiny and thin,
as its always been.”

“No change?”

“No change at all,
this seed will stay small.
You need to go plant it,
so it can grow tall.”

“After I plant it
what should I do?”

“Water it, nourish it,
tend to the seed.
Give the seed light
and pull all the weeds.”

“Is this all I do?
Just water and nourish it once
and I'm through?”

“Not once or twice
or thrice and your done.
It's day in and day out
in the shade and the Sun.
And If you neglect it,
miss just a day,
the plant that has grown
can soon pass away.”

“Does that mean it's weak,
the seed was not strong?”

“No, the seed was a good seed,
it's you who did wrong.
The seed will reflect
all the deeds that you do,
so you must be patient
and see all things through.”

~ Sarah Stufflebeam

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Movie Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I was so mad, So Mad, after watching the first Hobbit movie last year, entitled "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," that I fumed for awhile. Even then I still gave the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, regardless of my lukewarm, scathing review.  I must have been in the Christmas Spirit or something.  But as time went on I got more mad, more furious, and more disappointed.  I was tempted to go back to my original review and lower the rating, but my disheartened spirit led me to inactive listlessness . . . until today, after viewing the second Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and decided the second is better then the first, but still not as great as the Lord of the Rings adaptations.

The Desolation of Smaug is still-too-long at 2 hr. 40 minutes.  And the smorgasbord of Lord of the Rings bridging, The Silmarillion, changed bits of The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson's imagination running amok remains, only this time it's more enjoyable.

Maybe the Tolkien purist in me is showing, but I still wish Peter Jackson did a faithful retailing of the book.  Those scenes I remembered from my childhood displayed in full glory on screen.  Like the barrel scene, when the dwarfs and Bilbo escape, is still vivid in my mind.  Even that was changed from the book to add excitement and nerve.

How can one simple book be turned into three movies?  By fill and fluff.  But unlike the first movie, I didn't mind the fill and fluff in this second installment as much.  Peter Jackson actually created a whole new character that never, ever existed in Tolkien's work.  The wood-elf Tauriel, play by Evangeline Lilly.  Is it sad to admit that my favorite character in the movie wasn't a Tolkien creation, but was a Peter Jackson addition?  I quickly grew to like her character, who appears alongside Legalos (a Rings trilogy only character, brought into The Hobbit by Jackson), portrayed again by Orlando Bloom.

Still, I don't think I'll be completely at ease until The Hobbit is finally finished, then all the fluff and fill will be easier to stomach.  I do like how this movie is setting up the Lord of the Rings, you see the connect better this time around, but this movie ends on a bit of a cliff hanger.  A jarring, In Your Face cliffhanger. I hate it.  It's unnecessary.

And the CGI/Composting is still super weak.  Annoyingly weak.

When all is said and done, I wish a collectors blu-ray would become available, a movie-cut consisting of scenes that Only existed in the books.  That would be nice.

Until then, we've still got a bit of story to look forward to next year, including the Battle of Five Armies.

Overall these three Hobbit movies are not a retailing of the book, but a prelude to The Lord of the Rings.

MPAA: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December's 2013 POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review

It feels like I'm one of the last ones to get the December box this month!  The previous two months I was one of the first.  Snow and Holiday package season.  I'll blame that.  I didn't get this box until last Saturday, over a week after many others got theirs.

POPSUGAR is a monthly subscription lifestyle box for gals.  The cost is $39.95 a month, free shipping, but it's cheaper when you subscribe with a 3, 6, or 12 months subscription.

On any month you can receive goodies for home, a book, fitness, snack, makeup, pampering, fashion, etc.  You never know what you're going to get, only that it will be fun and worth around $100, give or take a little.

You can subscribe here.

 The overall contents of the December box.

Ghirardelli Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Squares, valued around $5, and Ghirardelli Milk and Caramel Squares, valued at $4.25.  Chocolate!!!  I wanted chocolate in this box, and I got it.  Normally I wouldn't buy the Holiday variety pack, though I saw it at Target the other day, but it was fun trying out the flavors.  Pumpkin Spice Caramel is tasty, and the Peppermint Bark is out of this World.  So good.

Milk & Caramel SQUARES Stand Up Bag
Milk & Caramel SQUARES Stand Up Ba

 CC Made Classic Caramel Corn, valued at $4.  I haven't tried this yet, saving it for later, but it looks really good.  I love a good caramel corn.  

 Govino Go Anywhere Flutes, valued at $12.95.  I'm not too crazy about this item, mainly because I don't drink.  Martinelli on Christmas Eve/New Years?  The plastic is super, super thin.  I've drunk from bottled water with thicker plastic.  They're hand wash only for a reason.

 ModelCo Fibre LashXTend Mascara, valued at $20. Mascara is one of those beauty products you can never have too many, because, unlike foundation or blush, once you start using mascara you have 3-5 months, depending on who you talk to, before you have to throw it away.    

MIXT Studio Wrapping Paper, valued at $9.00.  It's cute, on newsprint like paper, and I love the twine.  I'm making scrapbooks for Christmas, and this paper is too small.  I know some people got this Popsugar box to gift, and they were unhappy this product was in the box, because opening a gift on Christmas day, with Christmas wrapping paper inside, is kinda weird.  And Popsugar really pushed gifting this box last month.

 NCLA Designer Nail Wraps, valued at $16.  I've been wanting to try nail wraps for a longtime, but haven't brought myself to try them yet.  Plus this set, called Peppermint Lane, is an online exclusive.  I'm always so messy when I paint my nails!!

 I messed up a little when trying them out, but the results are pretty good.  Not quite sure how I feel about them.  I had a hard time pulling the nail wraps off the sheet with the paper part sticking, and then having to try and pull the paper off the sticky part.  We'll see how long they last.  They survived the shower this morning, and my nails look Christmas festive.  It's fun trying something new.

And now for my FAVORITE item in the box!!!!!!

 Lulu Frost for Popsugar Bracelet, valued at $110.  I've never heard of Lulu Frost before, but they're super tres chic and high end.  A really cute, but simple Morse Code beaded bracelet is $72.  I'm a HAM, Morse code on jewelry is just plain awesome.

This bracelet was made exclusively for Popsugar, which is really cool.

From the website:

"Created exclusively with POPSUGAR, this delicate bracelet is a go-to holiday accessory. Featured in the POPSUGAR Must Have box it makes for a perfect gift.

Brass chain, silvertone plated zinc, glass stones.

Measures 6" length with 1" chain extension."

I love it.  The chain is very Steampunk, and the charm is very Art Deco.  I'm really into both right now, so the combo is fun.  Plus I just think this bracelet is really classy.

 The overall value of the box is around $181.20.  But then value comes from personal perception, and I feel I got my money's worth out of the box.  Some really nice items and . . . chocolate!

Friday, December 13, 2013

New USA Harry Potter Forever Stamps 2013

Last week I noticed on the USPS, United States Postal Service, website that the USA issued on November 19, 2013 a new Harry Potter booklet with 20 different stamps spanning all seven films.  Being the stamp collector/Postrossing lover I am, I had to buy them . . . three booklets worth.  One booklet to keep unused for my collection, and the other two for postcards.

One booklet is priced at $9.20, the cost of 20 Forever stamps.

I absolutely love the design and layout of these stamps!

 The back side of the booklet.

 With stamps I really love, I like to get a First Day of Issue canceled envelope.  Usually when you by them you have to get all 20, or whatever is in that set, but I can't afford the $32 price tag.  I always get the DCP covers, Digital Color Postmarks, instead of the black and white cancellations, because I love the designs and art of the colored postmarks.  They're more interesting to look at.

Luckily there is a set where you can buy a single booklet with a randomly placed DCP first day of issue envelope for $10.95.  I couldn't resist.  I'm so lucky to have gotten Ginny Weasley.

I bought my stamps off the USPS website because, with the Holidays, I didn't want to stand in line, and the local post office has a habit of running out of the good/popular forever stamps.  I didn't want to take a chance.

I hope the USPS continues to do more stamp booklets like this with fun themes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

200 Postcrossing Postcards Received!

I joined Postcrossing on September 28, 2011.  It wasn't until the beginning of July 2013 when I received my 100th postcard, 21 months after first signing up.  Here I am in November, 4 months since reaching my 100th postcard, and I received my 200th last week!

What is postcrossings?  It's an international postcard swap.  You sign up for an account, and when you first join you can only have up to 5 postcards out at a time.  Who you send to is completely random, and when you send a postcard you send an I.D. number unique to that postcard.  When it's received, that I.D. number is registered, and then you will randomly receive a postcard in return, from whomever is requesting to send a postcard at that time.  Who you receive from is also random.  You don't receive postcards from people you send to.  (You can if you wish, it's called a direct swap, but that's done privately and doesn't count towards your total.)  When you receive a postcard you register its I.D. number, and the sender will now randomly receive a postcard from anywhere in the World.

There are people from 216 different countries currently signed up: Russia is first (11.3%), followed by U.S.A (10%), China (9.4%), Taiwan (8.9%), Germany (7.7%), Netherlands (6.6%), Poland (5.2%), Ukraine (4.5%), Belarus (4%), etc, 21.6% making up the "other" category.

I've sent 216 registered postcards to 34 different countries. 3 postcards I've sent have expired, meaning they were sent, but never received, so I'm just out of luck.  5 postcards are still traveling (one postcard I sent to the Netherlands has been traveling 23 days.)  15 postcards are traveling to me, I just haven't received them yet.  The longest time period a registered postcard I've sent has traveled is 77 days, and that was to Russia.  The longest time period a postcard has traveled to me, also from Russia, was 193 days!  Crazy!  I don't understand how it got lost in the mail like that.

I've received 201 postcards from 36 different countries:

Australia: 3
Austria: 1
Belarus: 12
Belgium: 1
Brazil: 3
Bulgaria: 2
Canada: 6
China: 14
Czech Republic: 9
Estonia: 2
Finland: 6
France: 3
Germany: 21
Greece: 1
Hong Kong: 3
India: 1
Italy: 1
Japan: 3
Korea (South): 2
Latvia: 1
Lithuania: 2
Malaysia: 1
Netherlands: 20
New Zealand: 3
Norway: 2
Poland: 5
Portugal: 1
Russia: 25
Spain: 1
Switzerland: 2
Taiwan: 8
Thailand: 2
Turkey: 1
Ukraine: 13
U.S.A.: 14
United Kingdom: 6

Each stack represents a different Country.  I know I've received postcards from 36 Countries, and there's 37 stacks pictured.  I messed up while sorting them.

Needless to say, I'm addicted!  And I need to be careful, because it took me 4 months to achieve what at first took 22 months!  But then when you start out you're only allowed to send 5 postcards, and I'm at a point where I can have 13 postcards out at a time traveling . . . it sure adds up.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Do What You Can

"I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you.  I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity.  I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure.  I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve.  I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know.  If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass."

~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Book Thief: Movie Review

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Germany was not an easy place to live during World War II.  That period was tumultuous.  Those who didn't support Hitler did so at their own peril, secrets and dangers abound.  The Book Thief, a movie based on the best-selling book by Markus Zusak, follows some of this, showing what it was like to be a non-Jewish citizen during this time.  But the story mainly follows Liesel, played by , who is a foster child living with a new family: Hans and Rosa ( and .)  It's with these new parents that Liesel learns how to read and gains a love for books, which, during this time, was a dangerous affair.  With hundreds, in not thousands of books being burnt in villages and towns, there isn't a lot of reading material to be found.  In The Book Thief Liesel learns to not only find her courage, but to find her voice as well.

Admittedly I haven't read the book in which this movie is based, and I've read that a lot of parts and themes are lost in this adaptation.  Some reviewers have even criticized this movie for not going deep enough into the horrors of WWII.  This is one girls story and what she experienced.  Meeting and befriending a Jew, hiding underground during bomb raids, and trying to not get caught up in the war movement.  Simply not showing loyalty to the cause was dangerous.

This movie gets into the details of living during WWII while still keeping the movie family friendly.  This isn't lighthearted material by no means, and the fate of many characters isn't kind, but many horrors that would give this movie a R rating is left out.  This is no Schindler's List.

I love this movie.  I love its sweetness and gentle tone.  The celebration of the written word.  When Liesel finds herself in a Library surrounded by books, I couldn't help but be swept away by the romanticism of it.  I understand what she is feeling.

My only real complaint was not realizing till the end of the movie the Narrator's identity: Death.  It was probably explained early on, and I just missed it, but because I missed this fact I was a little confused at times, trying to figure out how this guy fits into everything.

The acting in The Book Thief is spot on and well cast.  The cinematography is breathtaking and beautiful.

Now I need to read the book :0)

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Embracing My Inner Hufflepuff

(Edit, 2017: It should be noted that I took the Pottermore test a second time and got Gryffindor, and since the site updated the test awhile back I've gotten Gryffindor the last several times I've taken the test.  Yes, I'm crazy like that.  So I've claimed Gryffindor, but Hufflepuff is my secondary house, making me a Gryffinpuff.  It's a thing.  Anywho, Hufflepuff is still an awesome house!)

When I received this Hufflepuff badge a few years ago I should have taken it as foreshadowing.

Last February I wrote about my Pottermore House Sorting Identity Crises.  It's a continuing saga in my life, never ending.  I'm split between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, but deep down I'm a Hufflepuff.  I'm no longer in denial!

J.K. Rowling even admitted that Hufflepuff is, in many ways, her favorite house.  (Realize she didn't say it was her favorite . . . second favorite, then?)

And then there's the badger.

"Hufflepuff's are trustworthy and loyal.  We don't shoot our mouths off, but cross us at our peril; like our emblem, the badger, we will protect ourselves, our friends and our families against all-comers.  Nobody intimidates us." ~ From the welcome message on Pottermore.

The above picture is of a Honey Badger from Africa, which the Guinness Book of World records labels as the most Fearless animal in the world.  The most fearless!!!  Even more then a lion!

"In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion." From Wikipedia.

How cool is that?

And have you seen their fingers?  Oh, I mean claws.  You don't want to cross a badger, they can be pretty vicious.  Not so cute and cuddly, are they?

The badger did leave in the end, but according to a comment by Judy on YouTube this wasn't the end: "Yes the badger did kill the kits but not on the day of this fight. After this fight the badger went down in the den with one kit already down there. 15 or 20 minutes later the kit came out in fine condition. We figure the badger had been eating their cache of ground squirrels. That night the female fox dug a new den and the kits went to it. The next day both parents went hunting and the badger left the soriginal den and went to the new one. The kits were never seen again, except a few pieces." 

 Patient, True, Just, Loyal, Friendly, Sweet, Good, Hard-working.  Those aren't bad traits.  They're amazing traits! 

 Even J.K. Rowling stated that in the final battle against Voldemort in the last book, the only two houses where everyone fought was Gryffindor and Hufflepuff,  Only half of Ravenclaw got involved, and obviously no one from Slytherin.

But between Gryffidor and Hufflepuff, some of those in Gryffindor fought to showboat and boast, but everyone in Hufflepuff fought because they truly believed in the fight.  They were unselfish.  They didn't fight for self-gain, but because it was the right thing to do.  Honest, good, Integrity, and pure courage to fight and defend when the moment calls.  Fearless. 

The World would be a better place if there were more Hufflepuffs.

But regardless of how AWESOME Hufflepuffs are, we still get a bad rap!

My brother Steven kindly sent me these two Memes, though he's claimed for quite a while that he'd be in Hufflepuff, too.

The first Hufflepuff meme I saw a little while back.  Out of the Peanut characters, I've always identified most with Charlie Brown.

A bunch of Memes making fun of Hufflepuff's I found all over the net.  See the bad rap we get!!!!

This is super sad, but funny.

Heh, the below picture is so true!

This pie chart represents why we get the bad rap we do.  Poor representation.  (I'm sure it's exaggerated, but it sure feels right.)

And, anyways, with a last name like Stufflebeam, how can I not be a Hufflepuff?

(I don't know who the originators of the memes are, but if you want credit, and can prove you actually are the original author, please message me with proof, and I'll give you the credit you deserve.)