Tag Archive: my neighbor totoro


Flowers, Birds, and Butterflies

Last week, we had a garage sale.

There wasn’t a lot of stuff put out and traffic was slow. People were expecting fishing stuff and my husband didn’t have a lot left.

So I sat under a tree with my phone and crochet in the hopes I would get started on a blanket for my niece. What I ended up doing was watching the birds and butterflies visit my pollinator garden.

cup plant silphiumperfoliatumThe goldfinches were enjoying the mini sunflower clusters of the Cup plant. They moved back and forth, hiding from me and my camera, as they hung upside down carefully eating the seeds. The sparrows and other small birds left them alone to eat from the bird feeders hanging off of the porch.

Meanwhile, the monarchs were flitting around the milkweed. They would float around the tiger lilies and hollyhocks. But they actually stop on the milkweed, stopping for a moment before running away again.

I tried to imagine what music could be played to fit the movements and I kept hearing the soundtrack of My Neighbor Totoro. I could see Mae, the little sister, tracking and dancing with the butterflies.

Earlier in the spring and summer, I worked to limit the number of cup plants in my garden. I had to dig them out to ensure the cup plants did not exceed their area. These six foot tall plants with small flower heads grow fast and require a good shovel to remove them.

milkweed-plant-monarch-butterfly.jpgI was removing them while trying to retain the milkweed. The flowers were small pink clusters but now they are done and seed pods are forming. I keep looking for caterpillars. I see none but I do see holes in the leaves.

I hope those Japanese beetles didn’t do too much damage while they were here. I did my best to get rid of them by pushing them into a bath of warm water and Dawn dish washing liquid. I found them on the milkweed and hollyhocks. They dastardly bugs nearly killed my hollyhocks a few years ago. and they really whacked my rose bush a few years before that.

I thoughJapanese-Beetle-Picturet about getting a trap but the husband told me it would attract every Japanese beetle in the neighborhood. I didn’t need that. But the little swimming pool worked out well. I put gardening gloves so I wouldn’t have to feel those creepy little things.

I am not sure a pollinator garden was my intent. This is a sunny area that has been filled in with purple cone flowers, blackberry lilies, tiger lilies, among a few. Next year, if we are still in this house, I am planning to put some Russian sage in an empty spot to bring in a bit of blue and remove hollyhock so that the lower part of the garden will get more space.

Over the years I have learned that gardens are ever changing, ever growing or shrinking, depending on how much effort you put into it. As the season begins to wind down, I have to wonder what next year will bring.

Remembering Roger Ebert

Family Movie Night

 

by Karyn Bowman

 

What is a sure sign of spring at my house?

 

When the weather is warm enough that I feel okay removing last year’s perennial stems. Usually I leave the stalks from the peonies and mums up over the winter. It gives the snow someplace to land that is not flat – and therefore – a little interesting.

 

Image of Roger Ebert  from IMDb.com

Image of Roger Ebert from IMDb.com

This year as I cut away last year’s peonies stems, I thought about Roger Ebert who passed away last week. I grew up on Ebert’s and Siskel’s review show. I read his columns to find out how to write a proper review and to learn how to be better. But I also read his work because I enjoyed his writing style.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Ebert and he was always gracious to me, especially when I was hugely pregnant with our last child and wanted an easy exit to the bathroom – just in case.  That spot was right in front of him which most people never do.

 

More than that, Roger was always interested in what other people thought and asked questions to the room at large in between screenings.  He believed everyone read as much as he did and was interested in what the rest of the room was thinking. For a man at his level of brilliance, it was humbling to know he wanted our thoughts.

 

If there was one thing that Ebert hope to inspire in people, it was to try a movie that may not have seemed like your cup of tea. He encouraged his readers to get out of their comfort zone, not only with his columns but with his Overlooked Film Festival, now known as Ebertfest,  in Champaign, Illinois every April. While the festival started as one thing, it became a chance to Ebert and friends to pick out movies that were not seen for a variety of reasons.

 

My Neighbor Totoro IMDb com 4 2013

Poster Image from IMDb.com

One movie that was out of my comfort zone was the family friendly My Neighbor Totoro. This Japanese Anime movie tells the story of a family who moves out to a house in the Japanese countryside. It is filled with soot sprites that need to be scared away.

 

But more than that, it is near the home of a giant Totoro – king of the forest. However, the young girls are also dealing with an ill mother who cannot leave the hospital no matter how much they miss her. Hayao Miyazaki directs what I  call a near perfect movie that explores Japanese folk tales and the emotions of two girls dealing with fear and grief.

 

I was blown away by the detail of the hand-drawn animation and the joyousness of the story despite the heavy shadow of the sick mother.  It sent our family on a journey to find more anime movies by this director and we have never been disappointed.

 

While I may not have Ebert to thank for discovering this movie, I do thank him for the wonderful writing he produced that was always, always, thought-provoking and moving.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

How many people can say they love Japanese Anime?

 

How many people know it when they see it?

 

If you have kids like my kids, the Uh-Gi-Oh or Pokemon or some other cartoons might be the extent of what you know.

 

"My Neighbor Totoro" Image from IMDB.com

I discovered Anime one day when I was looking for a video for my son who was feeling sick that day and needed to be entertained. In the store I stumbled upon My Neighbor Totoro by Studio Ghibli’s director Hayao Miyazaki. The cover looked worn and tired at that time, so much so I almost skipped over it.

 

I took it home anyway. We watched it and were entranced. The story is about two young girls who move to the country with their father and meet Totoro, the king of the forest.

 

We watch it on a regular basis and I still have that feeling of amazement every time I watch it.

 

Image from IMDb.com

Last week, our 4H group did our semi-annual dinner and a movie night. After supper at Panera Bread, we went over to Movies 10 to watch The Secret World of Arrietty a movie from Studio Ghibli although not directed by Miyazaki.

 

We had kids ranging in age from 8 to 17 and there was not one single unhappy kid in the crowd.

 

The story is based on The Borrowers, tiny people who live in our homes and borrow only what they need. So food items and earrings might disappear as well as tissues. The trick is to stay hidden from the ‘beans, cats and rats. Birds like to eat borrowers as well.

 

In this case, Shaun comes to live at his aunt’s house to rest before a serious operation. He sees a borrower by accident and at first he thinks he imagined it. That is until his aunt tells him about the special doll house that was built for a tiny family.

 

Meanwhile, Arrietty is the only child of borrowers who live in this house. She accompanies her father on her first borrow in the house and he teaches her not only how to be a borrower but how to be a good person.

 

As far as they know they are the last of their kind in the area. Other families have disappeared and where more might be is hard to tell.

 

What is different about this movie is the way the story slowly unfolds. There are few big action scenes and every moment is not filled with music. The sounds of nature suffice and fit better. At first I had trouble slowing down and simply enjoying it. I had to remind myself it was OK to let things play out and not know what would happen next.

 

 

While Disney Channel viewers will recognize Bridget Mendler as Arrietty and David Henrie as Shaun, soon you forget about their real ‘faces’ and believe them as their characters. Amy Poehler does a wonderful job as the mother while Carol Burnett is a hoot as the housekeeper determined to rid the house of the ‘little people.”

 

This movie plays well for children in early grade school through middle school. The animation is beautiful and can be appreciated by all ages. 

 

Other Miyazaki anime movies you might enjoy are Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service for younger viewers while Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away are more appropriate for pre-teens and teens.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Lovin’ that Animation

Family Movie Night

When it comes to animated movies, I am a real sucker.

But like any other movie, I want it to be good. I have gone to the theater to see bad Winnie the Pooh movies or other movies directed at kids that I could not understand how they ever got the green light to be made.

I have a few favorites that I will watch over and over again with my kids. Or maybe without them.

Movie Poster for My Neighbor Totoro, picture from IMDb.com

I first found Studio Ghibli when I was searching for a movie to watch with my oldest when he was sick one afternoon. I picked up My Neighbor Totoro and fell in love with Japanese folk tales and creatures later that day.

The story is about a father and his two daughters who move into a home in the country. It may or may not be haunted but it is definitely near the home of a giant Totoro, king of the forest.  The girls are also missing their mother who must stay in a hospital for the time being.

Hayao Miyazaki directed this film, giving it emotional depth and artistic beauty with the hand drawn animation. If you like this movie, you may also like some of his other films including Ponyo (with a little girl that looks like Mai from Totoro) and Spirited Away. Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke are titles that may be better suited for pre-teen and teenagers.

Buzz and Woody racing to the moving van in Toy Story, picture from IMDb.com

 This year, I was enamored with Toy Story 3, a sequel that was as good as the original. In the running for Best Picture at the Oscars, the story follows the gang of toys as Andy prepares to go to college.  Bad things happen Andy’s bag does not go to the attic as intended but to the donation box to a day care center.

What should be a great second life for toys turns into something else when the toys run afoul of Lotso, the ruler of the toys in the daycare center. We know that an escape plan will be hatched. But what happens after that takes things farther than most ‘cute kids films’ are willing to go.

Go for the whole series, appropriate for all family members, because we get nothing but solid story telling from producers who respect the audience enough to give them the goods without sitting on their laurels.  

Tarzan (1999) , picture from IMDb.cm

My last pick is two movies that I love for being great family films that are exciting and wonderful in their story telling. If either of these two movies happens to appear on regular TV, chances are I will stop what I am doing and watch them. The Incredibles and Tarzan get me every time.

Each has style and a certain elegance in the artwork that draws me in every time. There are plenty of quirky characters and real affection between the leads that make me want to watch them again and again and again.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note below.