Archive for December, 2016


Ending the Season

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The Christmas Season is almost over. Some of you might be celebrating later because of work schedules or travel schedules or various events.

Been there, done that.

christalkindl-marketThis past weekend we finally squeezed in a visit to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. The traditional German Christmas market is one I have longed to go to and not just because parts of my family are German.

I love the smells of roasting nuts and mulled wine. There were sausages, potato pancakes, and hot apple cider. There were beautiful knits from Germany, Ireland, and Guatemala. I saw incredible wooden works of arts including a Santa nut cracker. One booth offered up embroidered table scarves that were quite stunning.

The entire village was lighted in beautiful yellow glowing twinkle lights. The effect was magical under the watchful eye of the Picasso statue. We had a long walk back to the car but the market was totally worth it and I can’t wait to go back again next year.

while-you-were-sleepingBut now that the season is almost over, if you haven’t watched certain movies, this is your last chance before it feels a little weird and out of place. You might want to get While You Were Sleeping out of the way. This Sandra Bullock movie is about a lonely CTA worker who saves her favorite customer from being run over by train.

In order to see him at the hospital, she lies about being his fiancee so that she can visit with him. Unfortunately, Peter Gallagher is unconscious and unaware he has a fiancee. Then his family show up and embrace Lucy as family. The woman, who had no one but her cat and a wannabe boyfriend, suddenly is surrounded by family and has a stocking on the mantle with her name on it. It is a heady experience which gets complicated when she meets his brother, Bill Pullman.

Now you know what happens next. It is pretty clear. For me, this time the journey is totally worth the ride. Our heroine is sweet but a little goofy. Her main love interest is gruff and wanting out of the family business. And the supporting cast is phenomenal, especially the old family friend who has to tell the patient he is a putz.

But I love it. It makes me laugh and cry. There are sweet moments and funny one. There are times that I swear I know which neighborhood each scene was filmed in and others that make me wish for the dreamland of LaGrange.

In case this movie is too happy, too sappy, too girly there is always the Die Hard series.

Yippe-ki-yay, indeed.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend we went to get our tree. It is a family tradition.

We pile in the car and head out to Cupola House Tree Farm on 3000 West Road. This year we took the dog who loved every moment of jumping around in the snow. The rest of us wandered around until we found the perfect tree, a blue spruce.

After getting the tree, we stopped at my mother’s to shovel off her drive from all of this snow. And then we came home before more snow began to fall. While my daughter made cookies, I put on the lights and the multitude of ornaments collected over the years.

christmas-tree-farms- christmasgeek com

Image from Christmasgeek.com

I have various soldiers, and musical instruments and angels. There are lots of angels and snow men. But as I looked around it seemed as if I am missing a large box of decorations. This means an extensive search in the basement must be done and I am not looking forward to doing that.

In the mean time, I am looking at our tree and feeling happy with it. That is until I realize that a certain ornament would hang better if it was in a different spot. And one I do that, five other ornaments will have to be moved to make everything fit together again. This will happen every day until we take down the Christmas tree. Am I the only one who does this?

Perhaps I should by some tinsel so that I stop the foolishness. But I don’t think they sell tinsel anymore, I never see it in the stores when I go looking for it.

Listening to the radio, I heard a segment about the top ten Christmas movies. White Christmas was not on the list. A classic movie but somehow that didn’t surprise me. The people who know and love Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are decreasing every year.

christmas-carolThe other missing movie which surprised me the most was A Christmas Carol. Maybe I am old fashioned but I love this old tale by Charles Dickens. There are several versions and every few years someone feels the need to recreate it. Bill Murray did a comedic version. George C. Scott made one in the 90s. My personal favorite is the Alastair Sims 1951 edition.

In case you do not know the story, a very rich but miserly man is visited by the ghost of his former partner. He is told to expect three ghosts that might to help his examine his life. After that he will have a choice to make: to continue life as it is and suffer through the after life or change his ways to be better. Can this man, after a lifetime of coldness, learn to warm his heart?

Well, you might know the answer if you have seen this movie. You might know the answer if you have had to question your own actions. Is it better to be a miser or to give with a willing heart?

As Christmas comes nearer, I know what I wish to be and to do.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Another Birthday, Dear Jane.

Dear Jane,

Another birthday has past and yet you do not look a day older than 40.

Your nighttime routine must do wonders (snarkity-snark-snark).

birthday-cakeWell, happy birthday anyway.

It has been cold and snowy at times here. I drove home in snow that wasn’t quite snow, not quite sleet. It kept trying to freeze up on my window, i had to drive with the front defroster and window wipers constantly going.  Otherwise my windshield would have been a solid layer of ice.

Well, the good news in my life is that I start class for the Library Technical Assistant certificate in four weeks. The bad news is nothing right now. There are a few hick-ups but we are managing. Christmas may not be a shower of presents but that is not the important point.

I always ask about you and the responses are few. I hope wherever you are, you are getting fair swipes at the hypocrites who managed to get into the best rooms. Done here, Jimmy Bakker is selling heavenly mortgages and food stores so you have something to eat in heaven. The man is scamming people once more. All I do is hope I will never be like that. Gullible, I mean.

I can be taken in by a good story, especially if there is any bit of plausibility. A good story is a good story whether it is true or not.The thing is, I never want to be so cynical that I look at every story as if it could be false. That is not how I want to live. Oh, I love a good conspiracy theory every now and again. But to live on that on a regular basis is crazy.

donald-trump

It is next to impossible to find a good picture of this man.

I feel the same way about our current political climate. I am not a fan of the President-elect but I have a feeling he will not be thwarted by the Electoral College. So the next four years are going to be filled with constant strife and degradation. The money that man will make of off the office of the President will be legendary by the time he is through.

Oh, but that stuff is boring. I predict Hollywood is going to make many comedies and musicals for the next few years to take our minds off of the mess that is going to be Washington D.C.

One of the most disturbing things I have found in post election life is the use of the word snowflake. Trump supporters are using that word, along with cupcake, to belittle democrats who are protesting Trump’s win. Every time I hear them say ‘snowflake’ I can’t help but feel that they are a bunch of sore winners. Do they realize how they make themselves look – which is meaner and more stupid than they all ready are – when they use these derogatory terms? Probably not.

Well, I have bored you enough. Best wishes and I hope all is well wherever you may be.

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays,

your devoted friend, etc.

 

 

The Best of Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Do you have your must-watch movies during the holiday season?

I know I do.

Just like those must have treats, the holiday season doesn’t feel right without certain movies.

christmas-cookiesOne holiday treat I miss are the mini pecan pies one of my mom’s friends used to make. She used a cream cheese dough that was perfect with the custard and nut filling. But Chris has been gone for too many years and I never could re-create them.

However, I can make kolachi cookies and plan to do so this year. I think one Saturday will be spent in the kitchen rolling out dough and filling them with apricot or cream cheese filling. I wouldn’t mind making white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies as well. And I think the kids want those peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

One thing I have never been able to do is make a decent pie crust until I found a recipe that called for half butter and half shortening. Forget the Martha Stewart food processor version. This recipe never falls apart on me or make me wish I hadn’t attempted a homemade crust. Now I just need to learn how to make those pies with the beautiful leaves and vines.

A Christmas Story Peter IMDb com

Ralphie talks to Santa in “A Christmas Story”; Picture from IMDb.com

As for movies, it is never really Christmas without watching A Christmas Story. Will Ralphie get his rifle? Will his dad win the battle against the furnace? Will his little brother ever get to go outside without looking like the Michelin Man? I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t care if I have seen this movie a thousand times. I love spending time with this family. So much so that we have taken on a family tradition of going to the Chinese buffet for our Christmas meal – without the duck.

Another tradition I like to include is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sometimes I feel as if the music is too much of a minor key while other times it leaves me breathless and happy. But the story is the thing here as Charlie fights against the commercialization of the season. It is symbolized by his friends and family desire to be the biggest, brightest of the season and his rebellion of picking a Christmas tree that is the saddest one on the lot. Joy is the end result as we remember the Christmas story.

The Nativity Story poster IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com

With so many biblical movies in the past few years, the one I lean towards in The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac as Mary and Joseph. It shows the time in which Mary is betrothed – unwillingly- to Joseph. A message from an angel changes her life, puts her in great danger, and challenges Joseph to act with faith. While the movie was made quickly, I find it beautiful to watch and deeply compelling. Each character grows more precious in my eyes as I come to understand their bravery, knowledge, and wisdom.

All of these are watchable by many member of the family. But the one I love most of all is Love Actually. I watch it with the husband or girlfriends because it has enough swear words and sexual situations to be uncomfortable with my adult children or mother.

Love, Actually IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com.

That is despite it being a movie that is best for late-teen to adult viewing. And yet, what I love about this movie is its message of hope in most cases. That we can find love with the right person. It’s just that there are many definitions of love in this movie and not all of them are happy. Couples are challenged, find that while love exists it cannot work for them, or that the person they love the most is never who they expected. And all of this takes place during the Christmas season.

Without any of these my Christmas is a little more lackluster, a little less teary, a little less hopeful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Tales of Christmas Emotion

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some times a new book can shed light on an old subject.

jimmy-stewartThis week a friend shared an article about how Jimmy Stewart was affected by his service during WWII and how that brought something new and raw to his post-war movie career. That and many similar articles were based on the new book, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe.

Having read the article from the Chicago Tribune, I was curious to look at the movie again and see what hidden depths I could glean. After all, this book asserts that Stewart suffered from PSTD from his desire to keep his men safe, not a possibility for men bombing Europe in planes.

After two years of service in the Army Air Corps, Stewart came home for some R&R at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and back to Hollywood. After being gone for many years, Stewart was no longer leading man material, his spot had been taken by Gregory Peck. Finally, Frank Capra offered him the role despite Stewart really wanting a comedy. But this was the only offer he had at the time.

its-a-wonderful-life-bridgeStewart imbued his portrayal of George Bailey with desperation. He is a man who wants to travel the world, become an engineer who builds things, and get out of Bedford Falls forever. He sees his friends and neighbors and even his little brother get opportunities that George knows will never fall his way. And yet he has a great life with his wife, Mary, and their four kids.

Well, it takes time for him to recognize that, which is the basis for the movie. With the help of Clarence, George’s guardian angel, we find out that George helped more people than he ever realized. From saving his brother from drowning to providing loans to people to have nice homes and businesses, George has helped many people in his town.

Watching it this time around, I saw the fear in Stewart’s eyes. I saw the desire of a young man to not be stuck as he believes his father was. I also saw a man who passionately loved a woman and how their relationship would be the end of his hopes and dreams of leaving.

The word that came to me during various scenes was desperation. In the lowest moments, George seems desperate to solve his company’s money problems through the years, he is desperate to leave town and go on adventures, he does every last-minute trick to save the business after his father’s death. But the word that comes to mind whenever Mary is in the scene is hope. Mary is the beacon of light that guides George back to clearer thinking.

She saves him more than once in this movie, she saves him when all seems lost. Even coming home from the office on a terrible day, Mary knows something is amiss. She is his touch point, the center point, the sanity is a world gone mad.

Edmund Gween Miracle IMDb com

Edmund Gween as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Picture from IMDb.com

Donna Reed would report that this was not a happy set. It was not a set filled with laughter and jolliness as was ‘Miracle on 34th Street was reported. But they are two different movies. The latter told of the joy of Christmas that can be found all around us, it’s underlying message is of faith. But the former is about a man who sees no way out of trouble but to jump in the river and freeze to death. This movie is about the glory of the unknown blessings we can be if we choose.

As much as we need the simplistic joy that is Miracle on 34th Street, we also need the heart-rendering, soul searching agony that is It’s a Wonderful Life to remember that we touch many people in a day and we might be the only good interaction they have.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.