Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar Oscar Oscar!

This year I managed to see eight of the nine Best Picture nominees. The only one I haven't seen is Philomena, and there's still a little time, so I might sneak that in before Sunday night. I'm pleased to say that I didn't dislike any of the nominated films. Here are my thoughts and predictions:

Original, right?

American Hustle
This is the movie that Aaron and I saw first; unfortunately we kinda slept through some of it. We're planning to see it again Saturday afternoon.

Captain Phillips
Wow, was this an intense movie! If I didn't know it really happened I'd think it a ridiculous plot. Barkhad Abdi is so deserving of his nomination as Supporting Actor ("I'm the captain now," even though you've seen it in every commercial, is a terrifying line). His performance really makes you fear him yet feel sympathy for him at the same time. If Jared Leto weren't in the race I'd be pulling for this guy. Tom Hanks was robbed. His final scene alone is worthy of a nomination.

Dallas Buyers Club
The movie itself is quite good, but the performances are stellar. I'm a McConaughey fan but much of the time I just feel like I'm watching a version of himself onscreen. In this movie, I forgot I was watching Matthew McConaughey. Jared Leto's Rayon was heartbreaking.

I didn't expect to like this one, but I really enjoyed it. I did not see it in 3D (it tends to make me queasy). Sandra Bullock was truly amazing, and she'd be my pick for Best Actress, but I haven't seen Judi Dench or likely winner Cate Blanchett.

Another movie I didn't think I'd like; in fact, I might not have even gone to see it if my friend and fellow Oscar nut Michelle hadn't told me how good it was. Original and well-acted, I bet it will win the screenplay award.

I'm a fan of director Alexander Payne, and this was no exception. It's a simple movie and it's predictable, but the simplicity is its charm. Bruce Dern does an admirable job, but June Squibb steals the show. I would totally be rooting for her to win Supporting Actress were it not for Lupita Nyong'o.

I'm bummed I haven't seen this yet. It won't win, but I will make certain to watch it at some point.

12 Years a Slave
This is such a powerful movie. As I mentioned above, I think Lupita Nyong'o should win. Her performance was devastating and Chiwetel Ejiofor was also incredible but I fear that this isn't his year.

The Wolf of Wall Street
I was entertained by this movie, and I like Leo (and love Jonah Hill), but I still feel it was too long.


Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o
Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett (though I haven't seen Blue Jasmine, she seems like a sure bet)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity - I truly believed I was watching a movie filmed in outer space.

Best Picture:
As I said, I didn't dislike any of the movies I saw. I'm fascinated that six of the nine nominees are based on true stories, and the other three are so well done. Aaron's favorite was Gravity. My pick is 12 Years a Slave. I had a hard time figuring out why exactly I'm choosing it over the others, but I read this in Entertainment Weekly (from an anonymous screenwriter who also backs 12 Years):

"...choosing 12 Years validates the idea that the film should exist. Some of the performances are stronger than others; the script is strong in some places, not others. But these stories should not be marginalized, and it's a triumph it got made. The film needs to be in the world, and for all the years that it hasn't been, this is the best picture of the year."

Not my words, but I couldn't agree more.

For #backthatazzup Friday, I'm sharing one of the nominated songs. It probably won't win (Let It Go is the frontrunner) but it makes me, well, Happy.

Happy by Pharrell Williams on Grooveshark

Check back on Monday for my running commentary on the show. I adore Ellen Degeneres and can't wait to see how she does.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Show me how big your brave is....

Just in case you don't understand where that title came from, you should listen to this song. I'll wait.

Brave by Sara Bareilles on Grooveshark

I'm a big fan of Sara Bareilles and I fell in love with "Brave" even before I knew the significance of it. She co-wrote it after seeing a friend's struggles with coming out. Her goal was for the song to get radio airplay. Not only did she accomplish that, but she earned a Grammy nomination in the process. Her co-writer, Jack Antonoff (from the band fun.) calls the song a "civil rights anthem" for our time. Incidentally, I sang it at karaoke last night.

OK, hang on, because shit's about to get real.

Version of the quote by Martin Niemöller, photo from the
Holocaust memorial in Boston

I am not comparing Holocaust victims to blacks in 1960s America to post-9/11 Muslims to LGBTs today or any other persecuted group of people, but you'd better believe there are similarities.  I have experienced discrimination, but nothing to the extent that they did/do. After all, I may be female, but I'm about as WASP-y as you can get. I don't know what it's like to be refused service based on my skin color or my ethnicity or my religion. Now there are stories all over the news about states possibly passing legislation that would make discrimination against homosexuals legal.

Are you freaking kidding me?

It's awful enough to hear about the anti-gay laws in Russia or the one just signed in Uganda this week. This is the United States of America. How can we let this happen? Why is it OK to discriminate against any group of people? I can't begin to imagine living in an area where I might see signs that read "Heterosexuals Only." (On the other hand, if a business owner truly feels that way, maybe it's best to go ahead and post it, so I know not to spend my money there.)

And I can't even discuss the so-called "Christians" who go out of their way to not only protest but actively cause pain to members of the LGBT community or anyone else who isn't like them. A couple weeks ago in church we sang the song which includes the line "and they'll know we are Christians by our love." I thought to myself how sad it is that that's not always the case anymore. These days if you tell someone you're Christian he/she just might think you're a follower of Fred Phelps and his westboro baptist church, which by the way, is in no way affiliated with any real Baptist denomination (I can't even bring myself to capitalize it). And crazy enough, there are less that 50 members of that "church," but they get so much press that I fear people believe they're legitimate.

I'm here to tell you that THOSE people are not Christians, nor is anyone who tries to tell you that "Jesus hates gays." Newsflash: Jesus hated no one, and nowhere in the Bible did Jesus even mention homosexuality. I'm also here to tell you that real Christians don't hold all the cards when it comes to loving your neighbor. In my mind, that's a human quality. The end.

I'm far from perfect. I can be catty and I sometimes judge people based on their clothing or hairstyle or some other meaningless trait. I've been bullied and I've been a mean girl. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. A friend posted this on Facebook recently and I have to be honest that the non-perfect part of me really has a problem with the next-to-last one on this list.

There are a lot of things in life that we can't control. But we really can do something about the threatened legislation going on here in our own country. Speak up. Use your voice. Vote. I wanna see you (and me) be brave.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Aaaaaaand... we're back!

Just in case you've been living in a cave out of the loop, Aaron and I were in Jamaica over the weekend. This was the first time we've (successfully) taken a warm weather vacation in the winter. We left early Friday morning and I'm telling you, we weren't even off the plane in Jamaica and Aaron said "we're doing this every year."

We stayed in Montego Bay at the Riu Palace Jamaica, not to be confused with the Riu Montego Bay which is right next door. The Palace is newer -- it just opened in December -- and it's adult-only. We were welcomed with a champagne (cava) toast. Our room wasn't quite ready but we got a couple piña coladas and relaxed in the shade (we were still wearing travel clothes, which were too warm for the 80 degree weather).

The Riu Palace is all-inclusive, and I do mean ALL. Here's our room, complete with liquor dispenser:

Friday afternoon, and all day Saturday and Sunday, this is where you could find us:

If you're looking for pictures of excursions or nightlife, you won't find them. Our goal for this vacation was to do nothing. We were only gone from Friday morning to Monday night. We could have gone snorkeling or to the resort next door for nighttime entertainment or any number of things, but we didn't. Aaron did get in two runs (half-marathon training) but other than that, we were next to the pool or at the swim-up bar.

This was our first time staying at an all-inclusive resort. We had read a lot of reviews of different places and we talked to fellow vacationers about their experiences. Here are my tips and observations. When going the all-inclusive route, it helps to be flexible. If you're a picky eater or a picky drinker, this might not be for you. The Riu Palace has four theme restaurants (we ate at the Japanese and Italian ones, and there's also a steakhouse and a "fusion" restaurant) and a buffet, where you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate breakfasts and lunches from the buffet and seriously, if you can't find something you like, you're too picky. Also, if the swim-up bar is busy, it's really not helpful to be ordering a "banana daiquiri with dark rum on the bottom and 151 on top." Really?

Some of the daily activities included sangria and paella made on the beach.
Also, beach aerobics, pool volleyball, water aerobics (I didn't do any of that).

One of the negatives I read about the Riu Palace is the proximity to the airport. It's very close, which is great in terms of the shuttle ride to and from your resort, but if you're not a fan of airplanes flying over you all day, go ahead and find a resort that's farther away. It didn't bother me at all, and if you know anything about Aaron, you know that he's a total airplane nerd, so he loved it.

Sorry for the squinty eyes!

Another complaint I read, and also heard from some people there, was the lack of nightlife. Again, we didn't care. I mean, y'all know where we live, right? We have multiple places we can walk to anytime we want. The Riu Palace has three bars, one of which is open 24 hours. At Riu Montego Bay, there's a nightclub and being a guest at the Palace gives you access to anything at Riu Montego Bay as well (which is also where you can go windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, etc.). I also read some conflicting reviews of the staff and all I can say is that we found the staff to be wonderful: friendly, happy and helpful. I will suggest that, even though tipping is not required, take some small bills to give to your favorite bartender or anyone else who provides great service.

Our philosophy was "we can go out at night in Columbus; what we can't do is be outside in a pool/on the beach drinking and reading and relaxing." Consequently, we were early to bed and early to rise. We're definitely well-rested! And we have zero regrets and declared it one of the best vacations ever. Yesterday morning Aaron said over and over that he didn't want to leave. I kid you not, we saw no rain until the moment the shuttle arrived to take us to the airport (and it didn't last). But of course, we all have to go back to reality sometime, and this morning we woke up to snow, so I have to just keep looking at this:

One of my new favorite pictures

Friday, February 21, 2014

Buh Bye, Gross Weather!

In case you haven't heard, we're gettin' out of Dodge this weekend and going to Jamaica! By the time you read this, I'll either be on my way or already sitting in the sun sipping an umbrella drink and reading a book. Of course, as I write this I haven't even packed. Just a tiny, insignificant detail.

While the weather this week hasn't been nearly as cold as, well, the previous five weeks, it's still been crappy. We'll be going from this:

To this:

And from this:

Actual photo taken from my house Thursday afternoon

To this:

And no matter what:

What else could I possible play for you today than this?

Jamming by Bob Marley & The Wailers on Grooveshark

See you next week!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Stop #16 - The Pint House

If you're new around these parts, this post is part of a series called Restaurant Odyssey, in which Aaron and I visit every restaurant in the Short North area of Columbus. Today we're talking about the Pint House, which opened last April. Our visit took place in early June with several of our neighbors.

I'll just get this out of the way. Aaron and I both wanted to hate the Pint House. It was opened by a group which, at the time, also owned several bars in the Arena District that... let's just say they're not bars we frequent on even a semi-regular basis. But we were pleasantly surprised by our experience.

The Pint House is located in a space that most recently was a clothing store and before that it was a futon store(!). The inside is pretty huge and while it doesn't have a patio, it does have a roof that opens up when the weather allows, and the large windows street-side open up, so if you're lucky enough to get a table by the window you'll be treated to some fun people watching. That's all in the front section; the back section is darker with large picnic table-like seating.

Our gang: Aaron, Michelle, Amy, Colin, Angie and Eric (I was the photographer, so to speak.)

We arrived late afternoon on a Saturday and all the prime seating was taken so we sat in the back area and ordered beers from their large selection. They also offer wine and liquor, of course. It didn't take too long for a table to open up under the open roof so we ended up moving. (I have to mention that I was outvoted on this; I always feel bad for the server if we're moving to a different section.) BUT I must admit that if you can get a seat in the front on a beautiful day it's worth it.

The menu then was more limited than it is now but we ordered a couple pizzas, the pretzel appetizer and fish & chips. One of Aaron's favorite expressions is the food is "better than it should be." It's bar food, sure, but it's good bar food. And it's served on wooden planks which is just kinda cool.

Our takeaway from the Pint House is that we'll go back for sure but only on a weekend afternoon/early evening. Later at night it can be very difficult to get in, plus there's a much younger crowd and that's just not our scene anymore. But that's just us.

Next up: Union Cafe!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm the kind of girl who...

My fellow Columbus blogger Holly is hosting a link up today, and I thought it was time to throw out a few facts about me, especially for any newbies out there.

I’m the kind of girl who…

  • loves my hair. After years of perms I finally discovered my natural curl. Now the color is a different story. Premature grey runs in my dad's family and as soon as I saw my first grey hairs (at age 23) I called my stylist.

  • enjoys spicy food and prefers salty over sweet but if it's sweet, vanilla/caramel over chocolate.

  • has a steel trap memory for a lot of weird things. I remember what our phone number was when I was little, even though I haven't had that phone number for 36 years. (It was 864-7637.)

  • has no problem doing nothing, yet it's hard for me to totally relax my body. I'm hoping that won't be an issue this weekend when I'm in Jamaica!

My motto

  • is a girly-girl when it comes to shopping, hair, jewelry, makeup and fashion (although I don't like pink) BUT I also like violent movies and sports, especially football.

  • will stay quiet while I'm forming the words I want to say, but once I start talking, look out! I'll be honest and tell it like it is, while still being sympathetic and listening to YOU... unless of course you're being an idiot. ;)

  • loves to read, watch TV and movies, and sing. If you're new around here, I sing karaoke on Tuesday nights and on Gwensdays (which I like so much more than "hump day" but I realize that Gwensday doesn't mean as much to people who aren't me) I often share a playlist of what I sang the night before. Time After Time and I Want You to Want Me were duets with my karaoke partner in crime, Kat. Quote of the night from Amy to me: "Killing Me Softly and a fake ID will be your ticket to American Idol." Hahaha! That would have to be one hell of a fake ID.

Karaoke 20140218 by Gwen Carmack on Grooveshark

There's still time to enter my giveaway! You have until midnight tonight (Eastern Time).

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Weekend and a Giveaway!

Good Monday morning, friends! ("Good" Monday?) I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Per usual, here's a bit of a recap and at the end of the post I'm giving away a $25 Target gift card, so stick around!


Aaron, Colin, Amy and I trudged through the falling snow to Mike & Amy's house, where we had a fabulous dinner with new friends Nick & Regan. Pasta with lobster, homemade bread, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus (not pictured) -- all delicious. And Colin put together chocolate strawberry margarita shots. He hollowed out the strawberries, dipped them in salted chocolate, and filled them with tequila and triple sec. And wine. So much wine...

After all that wine, it was a pretty lazy day. We watched the USA/Russia hockey game, napped a bit, and watched various movies, including Nightshift, Pitch Perfect and Apollo 13. Then we went to our neighborhood's annual Chili Cook-off, hosted by Angie & Eric.

There were 15 chilis to taste and judge. Oof! Categories were Best Traditional, Best Spicy, Best Unique, Best Vegetarian and Best in Show. The winners are in the bottom left picture. Aaron and I did not make chili this year (15 entries are plenty!).

Church in the morning, then laundry and more Olympics watching. Aaron made his famous gumbo, and we attempted to watch Captain Phillips on demand. We got about halfway through it but it took so long to download and the buffering got annoying so we'll finish watching it tonight.

Today marks my 250th post! In honor of that occasion, I'm having my first giveaway. It's open to US and Canada and will run through Gwensday at 11:59 pm. Good luck (and I hope I set this up right)!

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Friday, February 14, 2014

We've Got a Groovy Kind of Love

Thanks for all the Bella love yesterday! Of course, now her ego is bigger than ever and she'll be impossible to live with but that's OK.

Aaron and I don't do Valentine's Day. We don't even get each other cards, but we always receive a card from Wittenberg University, where we met oh-so-many years ago. Last year's card is here, and here's the one we got this year.

Way back when we were still in college and did pay attention to VDay, I made a mix tape for Aaron (yes, as in cassette tape). These aren't quite all the songs but they all have meaning to us. So here's a 25-year-old Valentine from me to Aaron:

Valentine's Day 1989 by Gwen Carmack on Grooveshark

An extremely unflattering picture of us from college.

For those who don't know, Aaron's business is audio/video/home automation. This week they mailed out candy bars to their customers as a Valentine. They also launched a new website and they have brand new Twitter and Instagram accounts. Check them out!

Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine's Day! I love you guys!

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