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    14 Good Movies and List Love.

    Lists.  My days are filled with them:  emails yet to read, things that need to be done, folks whose calls I’ve missed, songs that’ve played in itunes, groceries to buy, movies to watch…

    Truthfully, I love lists. Writing them, crossing them off, iPhoning them, emailing them, saving them, reading them.

     I use lists to stay motivated!  I find it exciting to be able to cross things off a list – and the yearning to see a list full of strike-thrus is just what I need sometimes to get going, or keep going. I make a white board “to-do” list with the kids almost daily.  At the beginning of this year, I blogged my New Year’s Resolution list (of course, creating a list to stay motivated doesn’t actually guarantee those things will be done).

    I create lists to remember things. How many times have I been to the grocery store, standing in the middle of an aisle, with two children buzzing around me, and myself knowing what I needed to get is… right there… on the tip of my tongue… (if only I’d made a list!)

    I start them to stay organized!  If I know my day is going to be full, I have a lot to get done, and perhaps not quite enough time (is there ever enough time?), I create a list with approximate times assigned to each task. Okay, maybe I’m a little weird, but it keeps me focused, and helps the kids know what to expect next.

    Sometimes? I make lists purely for fun.

    Like the time I challenged myself to pick 10 music albums I couldn’t live without, if I were stranded on a desert island Or, when I reached out to my Twitter followers & asked for their favorite emotional songs  Or, when I listed the tunes I most liked to sing to my babies

    These last couple of weeks, following a fun list-making challenge offered up by one of our co-workers, I spent creating a list of my Top 100 Favorite Movies.  I was excited, and challenged by this list idea! Ranking one hundred movies?  Impossible!  Yet, once I got into the process, I realized there were actually FAR more than 100 movies that I’d consider for the list, and when I got down to the nitty gritty, there were quite a few that ended up not making the cut.  I won’t bore you with the whole list (assuming that you and I may not enjoy lists to the same extent). But, I will give you the first 14.  Why 14?  Because #14 happens to be a movie about a fella who likes… making lists. So, here:

    1) Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella)

    2) The Princess Bride

    3) The Abyss

    4) Running on Empty

    5) Say Anything

    6) The Sound of Music

    7) Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

    8) E.T.

    9) The Shawshank Redemption

    10) Stand by Me

    11) The Graduate

    12) Gorillas in the Mist

    13) Willow

    14) High Fidelity

    **Editing to add: I recently saw Inception.  Which means, that pretty much everyone on this list would get bumped down one (though I haven't decided whether Inception is #1 or #3). But because I mention a list of 14 so many times, I won't change everything up - for posterity.**


    Interestingly, as I looked over my list, I realized how many (seven) of those top 14 have a lot to do with music. Maybe all movies have a lot to do with music.  Or maybe that’s why I’m drawn to certain films. I’m not sure I see any deeper meaning ther, but... it’s just interesting.  Yet another reason I like lists – sometimes you discover things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Also interestingly, Adam took on this challenge around the same time as I.  We didn’t collude with one another, yet, when all was said & done, we ended up with 66 of the same movies on our lists! Wow. I guess that’s what happens when you share 16 years of your life with someone.  Add that to my list of things I love about my husband. Great taste in movies.


    So, do you like making lists?  Tell me about your favorite lists. Or, I’d take a list of your top 14 too.

    Posted: Jul 29 2010, 08:30 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Going Vegan

    I'm thinking about going vegan. This idea has been on my mind, on and off, for nearly as long as I’ve been a vegetarian. I’d say the first I ever thought about it, was back in the very early 90’s. But all I knew about veganism back then was that it was “cool” (the krishnas did it, you know?), and, that it was “super restrictive” (did you know they don’t even eat honey?).

    The first time I seriously considered eating vegan was when I was on a limited diet while nursing my daughter, in an attempt to help her colic & allergies. At that point, I really became vegan by default. I learned about alternatives to milk (then, soy), and then after learning of the soy concerns (like allergens, aluminum, hormone disrupters), the alternatives to soy (rice, almond, etc.). It seemed, at the time, once I got into the groove of the elimination diet, to be fairly simple. And I admit that I felt pretty healthy (though deprived of my cheese, darn it), in spite of (or because of?) losing a lot of weight.

    At that point in time, Adam wasn’t yet vegetarian, and we hadn’t decided to raise our daughter vegetarian, so it was more difficult for me to be vegan. I found that once I COULD reintroduce cheese, I did… and there went that.

    The next time I ventured into the thought of becoming vegan was when my vegetarian husband was diagnosed with borderline high cholesterol, and he severely restricted his dairy & egg intake in a (successful!) natural attempt at weight loss & cholesterol reduction, without drugs. I saw him eating a wider variety of foods, and enjoying things like rice milk “ice cream”, without feeling deprived. I’d changed all of our eating habits dramatically at that time – learned to substitute things like coconut oil for butter and applesauce for eggs in recipes.

    But old habits die hard, and Rice Dream just didn’t quite taste as good as Ben & Jerry’s.

    I thought about it once again after seeing Food, Inc. In fact, that movie has brought about a lot of changes in our diet & ways of looking at food – at the larger picture; not just how food effects OUR bodies, but how our food really gets to be food. How its production affects the earth, and the animals. We buy organic for nearly everything now – really, if I can’t find it in organic, I just wait ‘til the next shopping trip. Our milk & eggs come from pasture-raised animals. And those are big changes, yes. But, still, I can’t help but gag a little when I drink my milk, knowing where it comes from. Knowing that we’re the only species that drinks another species’ breastmilk. Is that progress? I’m not so sure.

    At this point I know there are far more reasons in my life for me to become vegan than there are reasons not to. I feel in this last year – basically since seeing that movie – I’m the closest to actually taking the vegan plunge than I’ve ever been.

    I’ve followed vegans on Twitter, for inspiration. I’ve been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma. My husband is now a vegetarian, my daughter is now a vegetarian, and my son has been vegetarian since birth. I’ve been one for 20 years. All that stands between me & veganism is…

    Well, me.

    I’ve got a couple small issues. Both of which, are, honestly, almost laughable, when I really sit down & think about them.

    The first?

    My daily iced latte. I make this thing every day, and I’ve yet to find a substitute. Though, that being said, it didn’t always used to be iced latte, it used to be iced chai. But then, Tazo went & discontinued their vanilla chai, and darn it, that’s just not fair. When that happened, after frantically calling Tazo, and determining that yes, in fact, they did can my favorite thing to drink in the entire world, I switched to Starbucks double shots (one of the only things I don’t buy organic. Sigh.) – which I embellish with a bit of milk & a touch of vanilla syrup. Yes, fat, sugar, caffeine, laced with dairy – and hard to substitute with rice or almond milk, because, it already has cow milk in it.

    Every morning at work I make one, and when I don’t, I seriously feel the effects. Not just the caffeine withdraw, though I’m sure that’s part of it, but a bigger part, I believe, is the lack of having something cold to sip on while I work. It puts me in the mood to work. I don’t know what it is about it, but I’ve found no substitute, yet. I’ve tried phasing it out. Alternating with green tea. Or, just not buying it. But I get itchy for it. Like I start thinking about it in the morning when I don’t have it. And in the afternoon. And planning reasons to go to the store where they sell it, so I can get it while I’m there (thereby justifying the trip, no I didn’t solely go out to get said Double Shot). Ugh, the commercialized addiction part of this is scandalizing. It’s a personal weakness. I don’t want to give up my latte, and the thought of making it with rice milk, or some other substitute… it’s just not the same. I don’t want to change my habits – that’s what reason one really boils down to. Laugh if you must.

    So then there’s the slightly more understandable and less embarrassing reason: my children. They are vegetarian. And, it’s easy to be vegetarian – there are so many options, without too much thought. Their school serves vegetarian food. Vegetarianism in this era is an understood & generally accepted way to eat. I tell the kids about the foods we eat, why they are healthy, what the benefits are of each food (like, tofu has protein, spinach has iron, oranges have vitamin C, oatmeal has fiber), and generally, I allow them free rein in our kitchen. I don’t buy junk food, and always keep a variety of healthy snacks on hand. I don’t keep a hawk’s watch over what they eat because I know, in general, if they’re eating from their own kitchen, they’re eating healthy.

    Out of curiosity, shortly after watching Food, Inc., I bought a book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids”. It’s a good book, really… in spite of the title (honestly, whoever came up with that series of books, I’ll never understand the philosophy behind making your customers feel stupid). The book has great recipes, thoughtful analysis on the pros & cons of veganism in general, difficulties you might face raising a vegan child, and the good things too.

    In reading this book, I find I’m perhaps more convinced that veganism, while the healthiest option for me – an adult who has already fully developed my sense of self, of controlling my eating – it may not be so for small children, who, some days, may decide that all they want to eat is yogurt, followed by cheese, followed by a hard boiled egg. So, I fear that by putting my children on a vegan diet, I’d be putting myself in the position of micro-managing their mealtimes. I’d want to be certain they were eating “enough”, that they were getting enough fats, B12, omegas, protein, iron, and I don’t want to have that kind of control over my children – I don’t want to pass on to them over-concern about food, I don’t want to police what goes in their mouth, because I believe in the long-run, that can backfire.

    Of course, part of me wonders if that’s not the right mindset. Can’t I just move from where we are as vegetarians, rather effortlessly and seamlessly into a vegan kitchen, and still not worry about what they’re eating, as long as they’re eating? But then, what about school lunches? Parties? Family gatherings? Restaurants? These all sound like excuses my mother might have used 20 years ago when I decided to go vegetarian. Only then, I was already 15, and already knew a good bit about food, and really could make my own decisions. It's a bit of a dilemma.

    Of course, all of the considerations over my childrens' diet, doesn’t mean I can’t be vegan myself. It’s just that in keeping things like yogurt and cheese and eggs in the house, I find myself attracted to those foods as well, particularly when I’m cooking with them. Again, it’s a matter of ease & habit. And self-control.

    So here I am, on the edge, in between. It would take just a little hop to go all the way in. But I don’t like the idea of “giving things up”, which is why I need to work on my frame of mind before I take the plunge. Going into a diet thinking that I'm being deprived isn't going to be successful. It's about making a change, and coming to terms with that change - truly understanding & believing is the best in the long-term. We’re expecting the movie, “Earthlings” to arrive this week (thanks, Netflix), and I’m secretly hopeful it might provide just the right amount of … oomph to get me moving. I’ll report back afterwards.


    In the meantime... why are you vegan? Or vegetarian? Or not? I'd love to hear.

    Posted: Jul 20 2010, 08:40 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    Rubber bands, mix tapes, and nostalgia

    Silly Bandz. Have you seen these? Rubber bands, in the shapes of animals & other objects. At a premium price. Kids collect them, trade them, choke on them, shoot them at other kids… oh wait, no. Well, probably yes. But it’s not a use officially listed on the packaging, anyway.
    Grandma brought each of my kiddos a pack of these rubber bracelets home from vacation last week. I don’t have a problem with silly bandz, really. I mean, except for the paying $5 for a pack of rubberbands part (the inventor of Silly Bandz? Laughing. All. The. Way. To. The. Bank.)
    Now, they’re a little too trendy for my taste, and the rebel in me wants to tell my kids to buck the trend. Yet, at the same time, they make me a bit nostalgic, if you want to know the truth. Before my own bucking-the-trend days, I was a passionate collector of rubber/jelly bracelets. Do you remember those?
    Only I think they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 25 cents a piece, back then. Ya know, back then being early 80’s. (Yeah, I’m old) I used to love those things. Love them like sleep with them, make them into necklaces, get them taken away by my fifth grade teacher, sneak into said teacher’s room during recess & steal them back…
    So it got me thinking about OTHER trendy or otherwise awesome things that make me reminisce on the good parts of my youth. Here’s what I came up with:
    Jellies. The shoes. Oh, I had this most awesomest pair of fluorescent orange jelly sandals when I was about 9. Those babies would GLOW in the twilight, man. I’d strap them on, and wait at the door, for just the right light, just as the sun set, when the sky is that weird grayish purplish color for about 10 minutes, and race out of the house down the driveway to dance in my day-glo orange jellies. Yesiree boss, I was cool. Um, by cool I mean, you know, uncool.
    And then there was Madonna. I’m not sure I can give words to just how much I worshipped Madonna as a pre-teen. She was amazing to me – the most beautiful voice, the most risqué lyrics (hey, I didn’t really KNOW what Papa Don’t Preach was about, but I sure as heck knew as a cruised along on my bike with my walkman on that it was SOMETHING my parents didn’t quite want me to listen to), and marvelous clothes. Speaking of clothes… the very first outfit that I purchased with my very own money – I’d say right around the ripe old age of 10, was (yes, I still remember it like it was yesterday, thank you very much) a white miniskirt that had a roll-down waist, and an orange (are you getting the picture here, orange was cool) slightly off the shoulder shirt with roll-up sleeves that, when rolled up, revealed orange MESH. Very Madonna-esque. Very cool (come on, it was the EIGHTIES). My mom wouldn’t let me get the studded belt. But, you know, you take what you can get. I probably wore that outfit every other day.
    (Okay, don’t have a photo of that outfit, so this will have to suffice. Me, circa 1989. Note asymmetrical haircut & beret. Really, the start of said bucking-the-trend days. Yet, note the Docksiders adorning my feet. Gah.)
    So back to the eighties & music: the mix tape. My first mix tapes were made using the radio. By this I mean that I used to hold my tape recorder up to my sister’s radio & wait with bated breath for the “good” songs (read: “Walking on Sunshine” and “Careless Whisper” and “People are People”) to come on the radio and rush to press play & record in precise unison, quickly press the microphone slot up against the speaker, then dash out of the room & make everyone promise not to go in until the song was done, to avoid any background noise. Of course, there always was background noise. Also, it was recorded in mono. But again, you take what you can get.
    When CDs came out, I was in heaven as far as mix tapes were concerned. No more tape player to tape player recording of tapes from my friends (and yes, I still have the Beastie’s License to Ill on a tape-to-tape dub. Yes I DO.). Now I could have my music in STEREO (and uninterrupted by a side-flip)! I still remember my first CDs. I used to save the long boxes the CDs came in (remember those?) and tape them up all over my walls. I shudder at the thought that I used to pay $17.99 for each CD. Highway robbery, I tell you.
    Eventually I burned all my disks into iTunes, and sold my CDs. And I swear I kept this one for posterity ONLY:
    But back to mix tapes. There was just something about them I’ve not quite managed to duplicate with an iTunes playlist. Maybe it’s the penciled-in song list on the tape label. Maybe it’s the song cutting off in the middle when you unexpectedly reach the end of the tape. There was something just very… tangible about mix tapes. I did keep a lot of my mix tapes, though I no longer have a way to play them. Relics. I just can’t part with them…
    So what else evokes memories of youth? I suppose there were the movies. There are a few movies that don’t ever get edged out of my top 20, no matter how many new movies I see. Classics, you know, like ET (I distinctly watching this from the FRONT ROW of the movie theatre and bawling my eyes out.), The Empire Strikes Back, Karate Kid, Yentl (I loved Barbara as a kid… not nearly as much as Madonna, but still. What ever happened to Barbara?), Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Willow, Say Anything...
    And books! Nancy Drew, Watership Down, Charlotte's Web, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia...
    Sigh. I really lived those movies & books as a kid, not just watched or read them, ya know?
    So, back to the present. When I see my kids with silly bands lined up on their arms, I sigh a bit. Knowing they might remember them in 30 years with as much fondness as I recall mix tapes. Or maybe they’ll forget them. But for now, I’m okay with them, trendy or not. I look at them like a little sign that my kids are breaking out on their own, away from me & my ideas of what is cool or not. Which is exactly what they are supposed to do; growing up. Growing into themselves. It means we’re doing our job right.
    Posted: Jul 14 2010, 17:21 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    The Question of Time

    A stitch in time saves nine.

    Time flies when you’re having fun.

    Time & tide wait for no man.

    Time after time.

    It’s a question of time.


    How many songs, sayings, stories, idioms are about time? How often do we recognize the existence of, and lament the amount of, time in our lives? I will find myself nostalgic about times past, and hopeful at times to come.  I look at my ever-growing children and almost daily am faced with the reality (and fear) that time is fleeting.  And, there is the always-present weighty feeling of never having enough time to do what I want to do.   Like write. I just finished having a twitter conversation with a writer-mommy (@inkgypsy), about having such a strong desire to write, and this far-off feeling that I really want to be a writer, yet feeling that I didn't have the time to do it.  She suggested setting a goal for what I want, make the time for that goal, and the rest will follow.


    I like this idea. Certainly, taking some action, however small, towards my goals is better than mourning the lack of time, fretting over how overbooked I am, how many directions in which I am being pulled, complaining about how late I go to bed, how often my children wake, or how early I’m awakened, or how my to-do list keeps growing, and my would-like-to-do list as well, and how the latter never sees the light of day because I struggle to find the time to get everything done on the former. Pining over times past, when I felt I had so much more time (yet, did I really manage it any better back then?) and worrying over how will I ever be able to find the time to do the things I want to do, when I have all this stuff I have to do. And on an on.  In my fretting over trying to find time, I’m losing time. It is certainly better to take a step towards productivity, and a step away from self-pity.


    Oh, big self-perpetuating sigh. 


    It's really true, isn't it? Getting the things done that we want to; it’s not about finding the time.  It’s about deciding what it is that’s really important, and then choosing to rearrange your schedule to accommodate those things.  Making time for those things.


    So I have decided that  instead of mourning the passage of time, I will seize the day.  Or, more succinctly, when I feel that spark of something I want to do or get done, I’m going to do it. If I can’t do it that moment, I’m going to make a specific plan to get it done, and then… find a way to put that plan into action. and here I am, at 1:30am on my laptop. Writing because I needed to, and I’m so tired of listening to myself complain about not having enough time to do the things I want to do... so I made the time.





    You know, even if I keep the complaints only to myself. My inner monologue matters! What I think, I become. What I want to do, I will get done.


    So no more yearning for missing time.  What’s the point of yearning for time, when it’s right here? The act of troubling over losing time takes time itself.  I’m tired of it.  I’m going to take each moment as it comes, and make the best out of it.


     There’s no time like the present. Right?

    Posted: Jul 12 2010, 01:36 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Berry Picking & Blackberry Cobbler

    This weekend, we took the kids blackberry & blueberry picking.  After being turned away from one farm due to over-picking, and another because of the heat (it was upper 90s – low 100s this week), we stumbled late in the afternoon on an organic farm!  It was an amazing place – in the middle of the densest density of New Jersey’s Philadelphia suburbs – down a hidden dirt road marked with handmade signs proclaiming, “organic veggies this way” leading through a forest to an idyllic farm on the river that you’d have no idea from the road was even there.  There was a map of the trails and fields, a little notepad to record how many berries you picked, and a (unlocked) wood box in which to leave your money.  Looking back on it, traveling down that road was a bit like going back in time. 

    The blueberries were at the end of the dirt road, covered in netting to keep out the birds.  To get to the blueberry bushes, you had to climb inside and under the netting, held up by support arches, barely inches above my head.  Once inside, we were immersed in nature: tall bushes, bursting with berries, green to blue. Insects buzzing, birds chirping, gentle sounds of the water lapping up against the shore. The blackberry bushes were expansive, full of berries, and free from thorns! It was unreal.  Yet, above all, the wonder in our children’s faces at being able to pick, and yes, eat – without even washing first – fruit right from the bushes, was the best part of the experience! Except for the incredible heat, and the mosquitoes, I didn’t feel in any hurry to leave.

    Yet, leave we had to, back to our suburban lives. But 6 organic pints of berries, and an afternoon of family togetherness richer. I want to go back!

    Here, the literal fruits of our labor:

    Picking blueberries:

    And blackberries:


    If you happen to have the opportunity to go berry picking yourself, here’s a blackberry cobbler recipe I threw together with the berries we didn’t manage to finish eating on the drive home! 


    3 pints of blackberries

    3 Tbs of melted butter

    1/2 cup of flour

    1/3 cup of brown sugar

    1 Tbs of maple syrup

    1/2 tsp of vanilla extract


    Preheat oven to 350F. Place the berries in a dish & pour maple syrup & vanilla over top. In a separate dish, mix the butter, flour, and sugar until combined.  Crumble over top of the blackberries. Cover and bake until the juice starts to bubble, and the top starts to brown. Enjoy!




    And... after:

    Posted: Jul 10 2010, 00:32 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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