Friday, February 20, 2015

My Favorite Party Planning Accessory

It's no secret that I like to throw parties.  And I like to stick with a modest budget as much as possible.  That means that I reuse a lot of party supplies.  It's amazing how some things can be repurposed and reused to look completely different at each party.

My most favorite party decorating item in the whole wide world is the Tolsby frame from Ikea.  This little, white 99 cent frame is so versatile!

You can make anything, print it out, put it inside the frame, and then you have brand new party decor every time.   Love it!

Here are a few ways I have used the frame.

This is for my upcoming movie-themed Oscar party on Sunday.

For an ugly Christmas sweater party.

For Audrey's Little Mermaid party.

For Isla's Mary Poppins party.

For my friend's Tiffany-themed birthday party.

For Audrey's Tangled party.

For a friend's mustache-themed baby shower.

For our Golden Hollywood themed Oscar party in 2013.

For our Black/White themed Oscar party in 2011.

I'm pretty sure I have used this frame at other times too, but those are all the pictures I can find.

I found some similar frames at Party City last year (for a little more money), but their quality was cheaper.  I like Ikea's much better.  Next time I am at Ikea, I'm going to stock up and buy like 20 of them!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Thoughts on This Year's Oscar Nominated Movies

I love to watch movies (though not quite as much as I enjoy reading books!).  My friend Heather and I have been throwing an annual Oscar party for the past few years, and it has been my goal in recent years to watch all of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture.  I have never actually reached that goal though, due to time constraints, movies not being available in our area, or me not feeling comfortable with the movie's content.  However, this year, for the first time, I did see all eight of the nominees!!

I've seen several people post on Facebook about what a bad year this has been for movies and the Oscars, and I am wondering if we are watching the same movies?  I have really enjoyed (nearly) all of the nominated movies this year!  Perhaps I am just feeling very uncritical lately.  But with each new movie that I watched, I walked away saying, "Wow, that was really good!"

I'm going to give a little review of each movie and try to put them in order of my favorites.  But I really did like most of them a lot and it is hard to rank them!

1.  The Theory of Everything
I don't think this is really the best picture of the year, but it was a personal, sentimental favorite for me.  I loved it.  It is about the physicist Stephen Hawking and what happened when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (ALS).  It is also an unconventional love story about him and his first wife, Jane.  I just thought it was a beautiful movie with amazing performances from the actors.  And emotionally, I was greatly affected by the story and the visual portrayal of how ALS affects a person.  The movie evoked many of the same emotions that I had after finishing the book Me Before You (one of my all time favorites!), which shares some similarities with this movie.  Eddie Redmayne was SO good as Stephen Hawking, and as I have researched and read more about how he prepared for this role, I am just more and more impressed by him.  He is my pick for Best Actor this year!  The Theory of Everything is out on DVD now so you can watch it before the Oscars!

2.  Whiplash
Daniel and I went to see this one together, and we both loved it.  I think if you have ever been a musician at any level, you can really appreciate this film.  It is about a jazz drummer at a music conservatory, and it is a super intense, edge of your seat kind of movie!  Most people think I'm crazy when I describe it that way, but it's really true.  Generally most people don't think of the music conservatory world as being "intense."  But this drummer is pushed incredibly hard (and over the edge) by his conductor at the school, and it leaves us with the lingering question, "how far should one be pushed to achieve greatness?"  From an educational perspective as a music teacher, I found the whole concept intriguing.  And the movie was done really well, with the feel of a psychological thriller.  (Warning:  There is a LOT of bad language in this film).  I think this DVD will be out in March.

3.  Boyhood
The concept of this movie alone is intriguing enough for me to say I loved it.  Filmed over a period of 12 YEARS with the SAME actors, this is a coming of age tale about a boy and his family.  The story is so very ordinary, and that makes it extraordinary.  It is just so real.  Almost like a documentary.  This could very easily be a real boy's life!  It was so fascinating to see how the actors/characters changed in each new year.  I also was intrigued by all the pop culture references and the technology changes over the years.  This is a movie that has never been made before and will never be made again.  Worthy of Best Picture in my opinion.  It's out on DVD now so you can watch it before the Oscars!

4.  Birdman
Birdman is probably one of the more artistic movies of this year's nominees.  It is unique and a bit bizarre, but so entertaining and interesting.  It's about a movie star who is past his prime and trying to get back into the business, so he decides to produce, direct and star in a Broadway play.  My favorite part about this movie was the cinematography.  The entire movie is made to look like it was shot in one long take.  So there appear to be very few camera breaks throughout the entire movie.  It was so fascinating to watch the way they put this movie together.  I really enjoyed it, and would not be surprised if it won Best Picture this year. It's out on DVD now so you can watch it before the Oscars! (Another warning:  this one is R rated for good reason).

5.  The Imitation Game
I felt like this was just an all around good movie that appeals to a broad audience.  I wish more people would have seen it, as I don't know many people who have gone to it.  It is the story of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the German code leading to the end of World War II.  Have you heard of Alan Turing before?  I most definitely had never heard of him or about what he did and how he did it.  So interesting to learn about such a big part of history that was kept secret for a long time!  This was another movie that was truly enjoyable, and has the feel of a classic.  I would recommend everyone to see this one!  (I think it is out on DVD in March).

6.  American Sniper
Another good movie!  I'm telling you, they are all good this year (so far at least, I haven't gotten to #8 yet...).  War movies are not my favorite, and there were a few moments in American Sniper where I felt it was a little slow and my attention lagged.  But overall, I thought it was a great movie and an interesting portrayal of the real American war hero, Chris Kyle.  More than Chris Kyle's story though, American Sniper made me think about what kind of sacrifices soldiers make.  I have always thought about soldiers being willing to "sacrifice their lives" as them being willing to die for the cause.  But really, I think the sacrifice is so much more than that.  American Sniper portrayed what it is like to go to war, and then come home.  Life for Chris Kyle (and his family) was never the same again, and this movie showed the consequences of war and PTSD on the personal lives of soldiers.  It made me extremely grateful for all soldiers who are willing to sacrifice their lives, but it also made me extremely sad for them that they (and their families) have to pay such a high cost.

7.  Selma
Another great historical movie.  I really enjoyed this one about Martin Luther King and his role in leading the march from Selma to Montgomery to earn voting rights for black people.  Though I did think it started a little slow.  But once the story got going, it was really well done.  There is a lot of controversy about this one, because the movie has been accused of being historically inaccurate.  I don't know enough about history to point out these inaccuracies.  But the story as told did make for a good movie, even if it isn't all completely true.  There is also some controversy about this movie not getting more Oscar nominations.  But I think the media is making much too big a deal about this.  It was a good movie, but as you can see I am ranking it 7th on my list of good movies this year.  In my opinion, there were quite a few better movies.  What made this movie especially important and timely is its release so soon after the racial protests and riots in Ferguson, MO and all around the country.  Watching a movie about race relations in the 1960s made me realize both how much and how little our country has changed since then.

8.  Grand Budapest Hotel
And now we get to the one movie that I really didn't like at all.  I remember the first time I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked like the stupidest movie ever.  Who would ever want to go see it?  And then it started winning awards and getting nominated for Oscars.  Seriously?  I tried to have an open mind while I watched it.  But even then, I just didn't like it.  I don't even want to take the time and effort to try to describe the plot now.  It is a super artistic and stylized movie with a unique look.  I did like the visual appearance of the movie.  But I found it to be silly and dumb and boring.  The humor didn't click with me at all.  I don't think I am a good fit for Wes Anderson's style.  If you really want to torture yourself, the DVD is available now.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day

Last week, we had a little photo shoot in order to make a Valentine card to sent to our family.  This was the final result.

But I also ended up with some fun outtakes from our little photo shoot.

Isla has been so cooperative lately for pictures, and I love it!

On the night before Valentine's day, Daniel and I took advantage of the high school youth group's offering of a babysitting night at church.  We left the girls there, then went out to dinner with another couple.  It was nice to be able to enjoy a dinner with other adults and no interruptions!

Last year, we started a new tradition of doing a family dinner on Valentine's Day.  For this year's dinner, we didn't go quite so fancy as last year.  The girls still wanted to dress up in pretty dresses, and I also painted their nails earlier in the day, which they loved.  We had a heart theme for this year's dinner, with some cheap heart decorations, and a heart themed meal.  We had heart shaped, individual homemade pizzas, along with heart shaped strawberries, green beans formed in a heart shape, and homemade heart shaped whoopie pies for dessert.

Love these girls!!!