Friday, December 18, 2015

My Top Three Favorite Christmas Movies of 2015

I’m currently catching up on the vlogmases (vlogging Christmases) of several YouTubers, and just watched Zoella’s top ten favorite Christmas Movies.  It’s funny, she mentioned that it isn’t Christmas without the movies she loves to watch (for her), and later said she has to have watched all the Christmas movies there are. (I’m not sure if that’s possible, but if it is, she’ll probably be the first.)  I actually have only watched less than a handful of the films she suggested (Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey, and Love Actually), and would only watch Love Actually again.  I just personally think Jim Carrey isn’t funny, and but I might give Elf another try… maybe.  The other movies she suggested I will certainly look into.  Here’s a link to Zoella’s video (, and I hope you enjoy my own take on this Christmas love’s list!

3.) Love Actually.  I first watched this movie last year, because it was so beloved by all these people I like to watch on YouTube.  The reason I really decided to give it go really was that I literally have heard of more than half of the cast!  I mean, it’s got Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant (there you go, Jane Austen fans), Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy (for your Pirates of the Caribbean fans), and Martin Freeman.  I mean, most of these actors seem to have been in multiple movies already together, so they’re likely already all best friends in real life.  If you haven’t seen it, Love Actually is based around the Christmas stories of multiple pairs, from disgruntled married couples, loving siblings, love in the “work place”, to the best friend of the groom who actually loves (Get the pun?) the bride.  My favorite is the stepfather and preteen stepson who in the aftershock of their loved one’s death, learn they can be a true father and son, but not without a few hurtles.  Everyone is somehow related or friends, which tie everything together, like a nice Christmas package: especially at the end!

2.) A Christmas Carol, starring Patrick Stewart.  I mentioned above that I didn’t appreciate the Jim Carrey and Will Farrell films too much.  That’s because there’s a great Shakespearian actor to contend with when it comes to classic Christmas films.  This is one of the two Christmas films my mom and I have to watch every Christmas Eve.  I have seen several versions of A Christmas Carol, see plays of it nearly every year, and have read many book versions of it, including the original, of course.  Patrick Stewart is the perfect Scrooge, and the rest of the cast is perfectly done as well.  There are darker parts, sad parts, joyful parts, and heartwarming parts.  The music and costume also add the ideal early Victorian sensation, and the acting is on point.

1.) The Tailor of Gloucester.  This is my other top Christmas film to watch on Christmas Eve.  The Tailor of Gloucester was one of the famous children’s stories by the English writer Beatrix Potter, in the early 1900s (author of Peter Rabbit).  Most of the books were adapted to film in the 1990s, and I watched them on VHS growing up.  My two favorites are The Tale of the Two Bad Mice, and The Tailor of Gloucester.  The Tailor of Gloucester is the story of a desolately poor tailor in the town of Gloucester, in the 1700s, who has been chosen by the mayor to sew his wedding clothes.  This job is a godsend for the tailor, but he unfortunately falls ill a just a few days before Christmas Day, when his work is to be completed.  His cat, Simpkin, tries to help his master, but is angered when the tailor frees the mice Simpkin has caught.  It turns out the Tailor has been helping the mice in small ways for a long time, and this last act before he falls ill proves that giving, even in small ways, brings unexpected rewards, when the mice return the favor.  The film’s animation is adapted from Beatrix Potter’s own well-known work, and there are fun characters, which are mostly anthropomorphic animals.  The film begins and ends with live-action scenes showing 1900s Lake District England, in which Ms. Potter tells the story for her young friend in a Christmas Card.

Monday, December 14, 2015

“What Kind of Dog is That?” – My Long-Haired, Soft-Eared German Shepherd Story

That is the most common question my family gets when we’re out with our German Shepherd.  Our most common comment is “What a beautiful dog!”  It’s true, especially as most people are simultaneously intrigued and gushing when they meet her.  The long fur and floppy ears also often seem to make a often feared breed far more approachable.  Maybe people think she’s a Golden Retriever-Shepherd mix!

Although I certainly support adopting shelter dogs, German Shepherds are in the “difficult to adopt from a shelter” category.  (I’d love to hear anyone’s successful shelter adoption story!)  We have had three dogs, all German Shepherds or Shepherd crosses, all from puppyhood.  Anyway, when our last Shepherd passed away two Decembers ago, we wanted to go the puppy route again.

Tora is a long-haired, red and black German Shepherd (GSD), from a breeder not too far from us.  Because of going the breeder route, we got to meet the other dogs in the breeder’s “pack”.  The dogs we met were absolutely outstanding in personality, training, and beauty.  We also returned for a couple of visits to let her hang out with her dad and another lovely male, as well as a time when all the dogs of her litter were invited to play together.  (They were a mass of mud-puddle diggers, all running around, with our super-social one often leading the games.)

Our last two dogs were trained, but not through a program.  They were both well-socialized and well behaved, but we wanted to work even harder on this one.  We were lucky enough to come across the sweetest Doberman on a walk when she was only a few months old.  He played so well with a puppy a third of his size, we had to tell his owner how impressed we were.  Our last dog had been mobbed by about two dozen Cocker Spaniels when she was a puppy and always associated small dogs with that horrible encounter.  This was one of the factors that helped us take the Doberman owner’s advice and “enroll” this one in the local Petco puppy playtime.  It was actually free, and met every Saturday and Sunday in the afternoon (check your local pet store for similar programs, if you don’t have a Petco).  After a day or two of hiding behind us, she finally was coaxed into playing with a few friendly puppies.  Over the next several weeks, she played openly with Labs, Huskies, Weimaraners, Pitbulls, and Scottish Terriers.  Our eighty-five pound German Shepherd is now the best-socialized dog we’ve ever owned, and I personally think all puppies should experience playtime with a group for a couple months.

Let me know your dog adoption story!  My first two dogs were great, but we have put so much training and socialization effort into our most recent puppy, that I believe she is nearly the most perfect dog we’ve had!  I have plenty to write on in the subject of dogs (we also have cats and rabbits), so I may be posting more along these lines in the future.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Rant: Cleopratra’s Daughter

This is not the first Michelle Moran novel I have read, and it was not my favorite at first, but I have grown to enjoy the lush descriptions of ancient Rome as much as the depictions of ancient Egypt in the previous two novels.  As with several of Ms. Moran’s works, the protagonist is a young girl who grows both mentally and physically through many years that the story covers.  Noted in the first few pages, Kleopatra Selene and her mother (the famous Kleopatra VII, last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt) spell their name in the traditional Greek way.  One of the antagonists, later in the novel, purposely Romanizes Selene’s name, which whether or not true, certainly happened at some point (or we wouldn’t be seeing “Cleopatra” in every wig search at Halloween!).

                                                        (Image from
Selene is the main character, choosing her second name to differentiate herself from her famous mother.  One of the reasons I have gravitated toward this book is the attractive personality of Selene and many of the characters she interacts with.  With many of the historically-based novels I frequent, the main character’s prerogative is to hold nothing back from the reader.  It is not a diary-like, first-person method, but an even deeper, more unrestricted kind of reading.  As with all of Michelle’s protagonists, Selene has a special skill (aside from the natural inside and outside beauty exhibited by many of her protagonists).  In this case, it’s drawing, but not in a poetic, abstract sense.  Selene combines her natural geometry and artistic abilities to create stunning and realistic architectural drawings.  This was particularly clever of Michelle, because it allowed her to showcase many of the fantastic architectural works of the age to her audience, some of which have been lost to time.

As mentioned before, I was drawn to the story not because of the detailing of Rome at first.  This is because Rome is sadly one of the last on my list of interesting historic places.  I have been infatuated with Egypt and Mesopotamia far longer, and even basic historical documentaries on Rome don’t tend to hold my attention.  I think it because of the focus on warfare and the notably grotesque interests of the people living at the time (think of their favorite forms of entertainment).  Michelle Moran has salvaged my impression of ancient Rome, just as she broadened my passion for others, such as New Kingdom ancient Egypt.  For that, she has my undeviating position as a huge fan of many of her works.  This is another fascinating peak into the lives of men and women who lived so long ago.  Great work Michelle!