Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

If you enjoy seeing things blown up and massive amounts of collateral damage, then Man of Steel is the movie for you.  I have not seen that much collateral damage in a while – maybe The Avengers could rival it.  But the visuals in Man of Steel were very stimulating.

As far as the story of Superman: I grew up watching Lois and Clark on TV with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.  That’s the superman I know.  I didn’t ever see the original superman movies with Christopher Reeve.  And I haven’t even seen the entire Superman Returns movie from 2006 with Brandon Routh.  Though, I heard that Superman Returns actually didn’t do well at all at the theaters and actually lost money on the movie.  I only watched the first season or 2 of Smallville before it started getting really weird.  I haven’t read the comics either.  So with that said, Man of Steel is very different from the version of Superman I know.

But I liked it.  It is actually a little more sci-fi than I was expecting. There was a lot of time spent on Krypton, and the Kryptonians played a big role.  There were spaceships involved.  Very sci-fi. I wasn’t really expecting that because most of the superman I knew from Lois and Clark took place on Earth and was mostly against Lex Luther.

Well, obviously the bad guy wasn’t Lex Luther – but also the story of Clark Kent was different than what I knew.  I won’t spoil the major difference for anyone – you’ll just have to go see it.  But it shocked me to actually gasping in the theater out loud.  Lois and Clark’s relationship is also different from what I’m used to: Lois not knowing that Clark was superman.  So that was a hard adjustment.  But one of my favorite lines was from Lois when she was asking about the “S” on his suit.

And I know there was some outcry about the ending – something that happens in this movie that the diehard superman fans were outraged over.   And sure – I’m obviously not a diehard fan.  But I do love my Superman.  But I actually thought that they handled it pretty well in the movie.  If it was going to happen, I think the tension was high, the emotion true, and the situation was accurate.  I think they handled it very well.  But at the same time, I understand that they broke the rules with Superman….but in this modern time, honestly, I think they had to do it.  Though, I won’t lie, I was also looking forward to a different outcome to see how they’d handle it the other way also.

But the story itself was decent.  I wish it was a little less sci-fi than it was.  There was a lot of camera movement that made me want to close my eyes a few times because it might make me nauseous and I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  But overall, I liked the acting – there were some BIG names in this like Amy Adams, Russell Crow, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane.  Some of them had pretty small parts to be such a big name.  But my thought is that they are probably expecting to make a sequel – which I hope they do!

I had no idea who Henry Cavill was before this movie.  He is about the buffest guy I’ve ever seen!  One of the first scenes is of him without a shirt, and holy moly!  If you want to see some man meat, you should go see this.  His chest and arms are huge, but he still has a small waist and legs.  It was crazy. And he’s actually much cuter than I thought he was when I saw the previews.

I don’t really like Russell Crow, so I could have placed someone else in the role of Jor-El.  But I don’t think he was bad…I just don’t really like him. I know a lot of other people love him though, so hopefully they like him in his role as well.

Overall though, I thought it was good and very entertaining.  If you go in expecting a superhero movie, I think you’ll enjoy yourself.  If you go in expecting a drama with an intense plot line, you’ll be disappointed.  But I enjoyed it, and I hope they make a sequel.  I really liked the last 5 minutes of this movie.  More like the Lois and Clark I know so well.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Closet Remodel

Now that we've decided to stay in our house for another year or two, we decided it was time to make some improvements to make it the house we want.  The only real reason we wanted to move was because of space.  But we can make it work.  So time to do some updates since we built our house with pretty much the base inclusions with only a few upgrades.

Our first project:  Master Closet and Bedroom

Between the two of us, we didn't have a WHOLE lot of clothes.  But we found ourselves constantly running out of space.  And the closet was just a place I did not enjoy walking into.  So we decided this would be our first project - and heck, while we're at it, might as well paint the Master bedroom as well.

I didn't take any before pictures, but in the pictures below of the demo, you can tell where our shelves and bars used to be.  Pulling them off wasn't that hard.  We had to use a razer to break the caulking all around the edges that touched the wall.  And then some brunt force to break the glue and pull against the nails.    Then we just used a drill to remove the screws holding the brackets on the wall.

 Once the demo was done, we had to paint the walls.  This was actually a much harder task than it should have been.  The builder left us lots of paint called "Swiss Coffee".  They said it the color of our walls.  But every time I've done touch up, it doesn't match.  So we went ahead and tried it again, and Swiss Coffee looks very brown against the white of our walls.  So we headed over to Home Depot to see if they could help.  We didn't know that they have a program that can do a color match if you bring something in.  So we went back home, grabbed part of the boards we had taken off and did a color match.  The paint matches better than Swiss Coffee, but it still doesn't match exactly.  But once we get clothes in there, we didn't think anyone would notice.

Once the walls were dry, we could start putting the new closet together!  We had bought an organization kit that included shelving - we had to do this because our back wall is so long, that we couldn't find a rod that was long enough (without being like $200!).  Plus, I like the look of shelving in the closet - even though at the time, I had no idea what I was going to put on those shelves.  So the first thing to do was put together the kit.  I'm happy to say that I put it together all by myself - well, with some help lifting the top piece onto the bottom - because I'm not strong enough nor tall enough to do it myself.  We measured and put that on the center of the back wall.  We anchored it to the wall so it won't fall over.

Then the rods and shelves came.  We had a little help (okay a lot of help) from my dad who is a engineer. He helped plan out how to make it all work, and then Brandon did all the heavy lifting and bending and whatnot.  The first shelf took quite a while to install - partly because we had to figure out spacing, and partly because some of the studs were hard to find.  We had to reference our pictures from when the house was being build several times!

TIP: If you are building your own house, make sure to take a LOT of pictures during the framing and electrical stages.  It will help you out emensley later on - we've referenced them for haning TV mounts, building the closet, handing pictures, etc.

Once the first shelf went up, the rest went up fairly easily.  It looked so good, but it needed some finishing touches.  So we went to several stores looking for baskets to place on the shelves.  Who knew finding nice baskets would be so hard!  We finally found something we really liked at Target...but our store only had 3, and we wanted six!  So we drove to another store that said they had several of each color.  But once we got there, we couldn't find them.  We had 2 customer service people helping us try to find them.  They ended up being in the back room.  So we finally had our baskets and I'm really happy with the result.  We moved the laundry hamper to the laundy room where it actually fits in the space peferctly.  This gave us more room to utilize now as well.

Of course, we are still at a loss as to where to store things like our luggage, that used to be in our closet, but now doesn't fit since we don't have the floor space we used to.  But we'll figure it out.  The closet turned out great!

We also painted our master bedroom.  Even though the color isn't a dramatic difference, it still is so much more welcoming when you walk into the room now.  It has a much calmer feeling.  And with our new furniture that we bought with our tax refund, I think our room is just about done.  The only thing left is doing something with the bathroom...but that's going to be a big project!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: Towering

by  Alex Flinn
Date Read:  6/20/2013

Rating:  ★ ★

I came into this with pretty high expectations.  First, I have loved all the other Alex Flinn novels that I’ve read.  Second, Rapunzel is one of my favorite stories (especially Tangled!!).  But unfortunately this book fell short of my expectations.

First, it was really hard to connect with Rachel.  For about the first half of the book, she only had like 3 chapters from her POV.  This kept throwing me off because she is the title character.  Obviously she was the one who was going to save the day – whatever needed saving anyway.  But I hardly knew her.  And I also always find it hard to connect with characters that have never experienced the world.  I get bored with characters in which everything is new to them.  I get bored with other characters having to explain things to them.  So once Wyatt and Rachel met, I was also mostly bored because he had to explain things to her.

The beginning was also very hard to follow.  Or not really follow, but to see how everything was going to connect. The beginning seemed so far off from a Rapunzel story it was hard for me to get sucked into the book.  I also think Flinn left us in the dark a little too long about what happened to his friend.  Obviously that was important to his character, but in the end, it didn’t really advance the story.

I’m also still confused why Rachel had magical powers.  This world seemed so “real” that having magic seemed really random.  And it only came into a play a few times – she noticed that she had them, she showed them to Wyatt, and then used them to save the day.  But that was it.  The magic seemed kind of forced to me.  And I’m just still so confused as to why it was there.  <spoiler> Obviously she had to have healing tears so that she could save Wyatt…but that seems about it to me </spoiler>  And I’m also really confused as to why they only showed up when she needed them.  Why did her hair grow only when she needed it to grow? <spoiler> And why did they stop once she had saved the day? </spoiler>

The plot was so disconnected for me.  The story about Danielle seemed like a back story to me at first, but then it somehow became the big plot point.  And the fact that she has to save these people was just weird.  I didn’t know why.  <spoiler> Well, obviously they were druggies that needed help, but since it was also a back story until then, it seemed really weird to me </spoiler>  And why was Rachel the one who had to do it?  What made her special that she got the random magical powers to save everyone??  And why was the way to save the day to give her magical powers? Again, this book was so real, she should have saved the day without magic.  Or the world needed to be more magical.  It just didn’t work for me.

I also knew who Rachel was way at the beginning of the book.  So the revelation towards the end of the book wasn’t nearly as mouth dropping as I’m sure it was supposed to be.  But really, it wasn’t hidden very well.

I would say the only good points were how quickly it reads.  And it’s also a short book at only 293 pages.  I actually thought the story about Wyatt’s friend was the most interesting part.  I wish she had written a book like that instead.  And the setting was nice.  She does a pretty good job of illustrating her settings…or maybe I just have a ton of predisposed setting for princesses kept in towers. Lol. 

So overall, I’m very disappointed in this book.  I was wavering between 2 stars or 3 stars.  I don’t give very many 2 star reviews, but now that I’ve written my review, I really didn’t have any good qualities to describe about it…so I think 2 stars.  Such a shame.  I was really excited for this book. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Addicted to Gossip Girl

I started watching Gossip Girl on Netflix probably about a month or so ago.  I decided to start watching it because I’m actually a fan of watching TV on Netflix because there are no commercials, and you can watch episodes back to back to back and not have to wait a week in between episodes or months between seasons.  I had a lot of friends who loved the series while it was actually on TV.  So when I heard that the series was over, and I saw it on Netflix, I decided to give it a try.

I almost stopped watching after the first couple episodes because I absolutely hated Chuck’s character.  He was such a perv and seemed to have no drive or any redeeming quality.  But I stuck it out a few more episodes because I liked Dan.  And I’m sure glad I did.

Beware of spoilers if you have not seen this show:

Throughout the first season, I was a huge fan of Dan.  And then Dan and Serena.  I liked their dynamic and watching Dan try to fit in to Serena’s world.  It was very interesting. And of course I loved to hate Blair.  Jenny was also one of my favorite characters.  I like watching the sweet, down to Earth kids try to survive in their Upper East Side prep school.  But I hated when Jenny turned into a brat and tried to fit in with Blair and her posse. 

In the second season, I was more about Chuck and Blair.  I felt so bad when Blair was left waiting for Chuck at the plane and he never came.  Watching their relationship develop was so much fun.  They both had this pride that held them back from being happy with each other.  Neither one wanted to be the first to say “I love you”.  And of course the tragedy with Chuck’s dad was so sad!  I thought for sure Blair would pull him out of it quickly.  But I’m glad he was able to save his relationship with Lily.  I think it’s really sweet.  And of course Jenny became a monster. And by this point, I was so sick of it I wanted to turn it off every time it focused on her.  I was really happy when she went back to her old self at the end of the season – too bad it didn’t last very long.  And my favorite thing was at the very end of the season when Chuck finally told Blair he loved her!  FINALLY!

I loved that Chuck and Blair were so happy together – even if they had some weird relationship and games they played with each other.  It worked for them.  They both made each other better, and Chuck finally had something to live for – his love for Blair and his success with his hotel.  His character has grown leaps and bounds.  By season 3 though, I was pretty sick of Serena and Dan.  I don’t really care about either of them anymore.  I saw Dan and Vanessa coming from a mile away.  Serena has just dated like 10 guys but I don’t really care about any of them.  Jenny went back to being obnoxious as Queen Bee.  But again, Blair was the most interesting.  Having to “slum” it at NYU when she had dreamed of going to Yale was so hard for her.  But again, Chuck was there helping her fight through it.  Blair and Chuck are easily my favorite characters.  I am glad that Jenny left to go live somewhere else – obviously she couldn’t handle the stress and peer pressure and I don’t think I could have handled another season of that.  The season finale blew my mind!  I can’t believe Blair and Chuck did that to each other…but OMG!  Chuck getting shot was NOT expected.  I was so glad I didn’t have to wait months to see it!

Now I’ve started season 4 and so far it’s just okay.  At first I was really frustrated that Chuck was with the girl who “saved” him.  I wanted Blair to rush in to a hospital and profess her love.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead she just ran into him Paris, and he stayed with this other girl – even brought her back to NYC.  But I just finished the episode where Blair tried to falsely incriminate Eva and so Eva left.  Chuck was so mad, but it is clear that Blair loves Chuck.  Though, he asked her if she did it because she still loved him, but she said no.  I think Blair is still in love with Chuck – actually it’s pretty obvious.  But I think she denies her feelings because she feels like she shouldn’t still love him after what he did to her – selling her to his Uncle to get him to leave and then sleeping with Jenny Humphrey.  But I’m pretty sure she still loves him.  Again, I didn’t really care about Dan finding out he had a son, and then that that son wasn’t really his.  I never believed it was his.  There was no shock value there.  I’m pretty over Georgina coming to town at the end of every season.  I don’t like her, and I wish they’d find another way to start drama for a season finale.  Again, still not interested in Serena either.  I don’t feel bad that both guys she liked have moved on.  Though, I’m not sure of Dan’s feeling exactly, I still don’t really care who they end up with.  I’m just hoping that by the end of the series that I care about all the characters again.

So that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.  I’m a probably 25% into season 4.  I haven’t watched an episode in about a week, so I don’t remember which specific episode I’m on.  I’m totally having Gossip Girl withdrawals though – and it’s for Blair and Chuck.  I can’t wait to see what happens to them.

I’m hoping Netflix will add Season 6 soon.  It was only a half season, and I heard the DVD released early.  I really don’t want to have to wait for the last 10 episodes until October.

I had also heard that there was going to be a Gossip Girl spin-off.  But the only reference I can find is that there had been a back-door pilot episode for the one with the back story on Lilly.  And I saw a lot of “it’s a go” and “it’s been canceled”.  The fact that I never saw it leads me to believe it was actually canceled.  Which, to be honest, though I really liked the back story, I don’t know how intriguing Lilly’s past would be.  So I’m not disappointed on that one.  But my husband said he heard something recently about a Gossip Girl spin-off.  I was not able to find anything that was recent about that. Does anyone else know anything about this???

Monday, June 17, 2013

San Diego Trip

We took a trip to San Diego this weekend to get away from the debilitating Arizona heat.  We took a vacation from work on Friday and headed out at 6am.  It's about a 6 hour drive from Phoenix, so we made it to San Diego around noon. 

First we went to Coronado.  We always have to spend a few hours on Coronado every time we come to San Diego because it is just such a quaint little town.  But when you go on the weekend, it's packed.  We decided to go the day we got in for that reason.  It was still crowded, but we found a parking spot fairly easily.  We walked around a little in the cool breeze, and then ate lunch at our usual spot, Costa Azul.  It is voted best Mexican food in Coronado...and it is always delicious.  And it has seating on a patio so you can enjoy the cool Coronado weather.

Later that night we went to the Padres vs. Diamondbacks game.  We wore our dbacks gear and headed to Petco Park.  This is the neatest park I've seen (though, to be fair, I've only been to Chase Field and Petco Park).  There was a neat area for kids to play and a grassy area to sit and watch the game.  But my favorite part was sitting behind home plate and seeing out to the city.  You can actually see into the stadium when you're walking or driving down the street.  And it has an old school scoreboard and everything.  Very neat.  The best part of the evening was talking with the Padres fans sitting next to us who were really nice, and then about halfway through the game, Derrick Hall, the president of the Diamondbacks ballclub, came up to chat.  He spent about 10 minutes with us in the upper deck and thanked us all for coming out to support the dbacks.  He even patted my shoulder!  I thought that was super cool.  The president took the time to come all the way to the upper deck (which obviously is not where he watched dbacks games) to thank us for our support.  It was super cool.  I can't wait to catch another Diamondbacks game at Petco Park the next time we go to San Diego.

The next day we just enjoyed the beach.  We slept in a little bit so we didn't make it to the beach until about 10am.  But it was so cold with the breeze, it was nice to let the sun come out a little.  We walked up and down the beach collecting sea shells and taking pictures.  A seagull decided to be a model for me which was fun.  After about 3 hours, we decided to head back to the hotel to shower and head downtown for dinner.  We found a delicious restaurant in Little Italy (makes us want to go back to Italy again!) for dinner, Davanti Enoteca.  After dinner, we found a place to have a cannoli and we sure wish we weren't on a diet!  Cafe Zucchero had so many mouth watering desserts!!  We enjoyed the sunset at Mission Beach.  And then headed back to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas for a bottle of wine on the beach.  It was great.

On Sunday morning we slept in and packed up to head home.  We stopped in downtown again for brunch at Cafe 21.  This was probably our best meal.  The most delicious omlette we've ever had with sauteed onions and bell peppers with rib meat marinated in a fig and chai tea.  They also make 6 homemade varities of Sangria every day.  I had the Pineapple Kiwi.  It was delicious.  Perfect for a summer morning.  We also split some tiramisu pancakes that were so rich and delicious.  This restaurant was a little expensive, more than we paid for anything the entire trip, but the food was so good, we didn't feel bad about it.  I definitely recomment checking out this restuarant for brunch whenever you go to San Diego.

Overall we had a good trip, but wished it was longer.  We hope to find more things to do and cool little restaurants on all our future trips to San Diego.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: Beastly: Lindy's Diary

Beastly: Lindy's Diary
by  Alex Flinn
Date Read:  6/7/2013

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ 

I was pretty excited to see that there was a book from Lindy's POV.  I have enjoyed reading books where they are from the other character's POV.  But it just didn't live up quite to what I was hoping for.

Naturally this follows the storyline of Beastly.  I thought it was a good concept for this to be Lindy's diary.  See things really from her perspective throughout the story. But because it was from a 16 year old POV, the writing was rather annoying.  Some of the thoughts were not described well, and there was a huge overuse of underlining words to accentuate them. 

The second half of the book actually got better...perhpas because she talked more about what happened, there was more action to write about?  Whereas in the beginning it was mostly about her past and her thoughts on things?  Idk.  But it just didn't quite live up to what I hoped for.

It was enjoyable enough.  If you enjoyed Beastly, I think this is a cute addition to the story.  It reads fast.  I'm not sure how much of the dialogue was exactly the same as in Beastly, because I read it so long ago.  So maybe it would be more frustrating to someone who read Beastly recently...but I don't think you need to run out and read this.  But if you have a few free minutes of reading, pick this up.
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