Good Morning/Sponsored Post

It's not even six-o-clock in the morning on a Monday, yet here I am sitting on the couch, in the dark, blogging. It's a meeting day. I'm usually not a proponent of publicly biting the hand that feeds you, but I'm on a big, "important" committee for work that I'm really struggling with. We're redesigning the curriculum to correlate to Common Core (another blog post, for another time) and it's just really frustrating and stressful (while I'm there, anyway). It's a lot to do and I'm often not sure if I've been equipped properly to do so. I'm not always the best at working with others... but here I am. Anyway, the one good thing (besides an hour lunch instead of the normal thirty minutes) is that I don't have to be there until 8:30, as opposed to our normal seven am contract time. So, here I am blogging in my jammies with a cup of coffee while Sawyer gets to sleep in. Lucky bastard. 

Wow. So that was a little out of context. Anyway. 

I'm really just quickly stopping by to report on Tana French's The Secret Place, which Penguin was generous to send me a copy of. Unfortunately, I wasn't a huge fan. Always in search of a solid, well-written, high-interest mystery, I had my hopes up, since I know some of her other books did well. This one was quite lengthy, at almost 400 pages, but that was fine. The premise was quite interesting, being about a cold case at a all-girl's school being resurrected by two detectives. The execution- not so much. 

The biggest flaw, for me, was the pacing. The book seriously dragged. The narration was split between the past, in the time leading up to the murder, and the present, during the rekindled investigation. This should have sped things along nicely, but it did not. I think one of the main problems was that the present section took place during one day and was mainly interviews between the detectives and the girls. This of course could have been done well, but was not.

The characters lacked depth. The ending wasn't anything special. The setting, an old all-girls school, could have added to the story, but it merely existed. The writing was generally a step or two above your standard mystery, although I couldn't figure out if she was going over-the-top with the unrealistic teenage dialogue on purpose sometimes or not.

This book had a lot of potential, but for me missed the mark. 

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

[mad food photographer skills]
So, I was thinking that there might not be enough pumpkin recipes in the blog world. You know, a shortage of sorts. Kind of like the drought in California, but with pumpkin. So, in the interest of helping America, I bring you Pumpkin Molasses Cookies.

The molasses is subtle, so I'm sure you could add more if you compensate accordingly with the flour. Also, please note that the color of Nestle's Pumpkin Spice Morsels are absolutely offensive,  and the taste is a fairly strong (but reasonably so). I baked half the batch on one day and half the other; the cookies that had time to set in the fridge had a bit more of a stronger flavor, as to be expected. The end result is soft, pumpkin-y and delicious. 

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen(ish)
Time: 15 minutes to prep

Ingredients: 
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 bag of Nestle's Pumpkin Spice Morsels
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package of pudding (I used vanilla)
2 eggs
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened 

1. Preheat oven to 350 if you plan on baking immediately 

2. Combine butter, sugars, molasses, and eggs in mixer, combine as you always do when making cookies

3.  Mix in pudding and pumpkin pie spice

4. Slowly add flour and baking soda

5. When everything is all mixed up and ready to go, stir in the morsels 

6. Drop on cookie sheet and bake from 10-12 minutes, depending on your balls size and oven efficiency

Served best with Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbs.

Just kidding. I've never even had one. And did me saying "Starbs" make you cringe? Good. It was supposed to.

Base of recipe is adapted from this cookie recipe, which I adore.
 

Gone Girl: My Theory Supported


Last weekend marked my return to the movie theater after many, many months of absence. I say that like I regularly went before baby- truth is that I struggle to sit through movies, even more so when I’m stuck in the confines of one seat for hours at a time. Nonetheless, my husband and I both wanted to see Gone Girl (me because I was curious to see if this would back up my “bad books make good movies” theory, and my husband because he loves the director, David Fincher), so we abandoned the kid and went.
Several months ago I wrote about my lackluster feelings towards the novel by Gillian Flynn. I thought the writing was mediocre, the characters flat, and the entire premise (including the ending) downright ridiculous. Scratch that- not ridiculous, stupid. There were spots that were difficult to get interested in and others that I wished would hurry along- the pacing was poor. And I didn’t have a problem that the characters were despicable, as I don’t need to like the people I’m reading about (I know this is a common complaint in a sea full of accolades).
The movie, though, was great. I was a little apprehensive that it was over two-and-a-half hours (I prefer ninety minutes), but it didn’t feel like it all (until I had to pee, anyway). While the dialogue and plot events were basically identical to the novel, it was in many ways very different. The acting absolutely made the movie- Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were phenomenal, as were supporting actors Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris. They absolutely nailed it.
The movie’s tone is vitally different than the novel- it’s far more of a satire than the original. I often felt that it was almost making fun of the book, on some level- Affleck and Pike are deliberately overacting, producing this sort of hyper-aware, tongue-in-cheek, borderline campy feel at times feel (should I start a movie review blog, guys? Ha!).  Fincher is directly critiquing the role of the media in our lives, both their ways of spinning things and the public’s ways of believing them. He’s commenting on marriage and trust (although I will give the book credit for maybe doing this at least slightly). He’s showing us how scary boredom, childhood scars, and money woes are.
I find it fascinating that Flynn wrote the screenplay for this movie- if you look at the script alone you would simply see the book condensed. But yet with the acting and direction something much more emerges, something richer and more cerebral. It’s subtle,  but powerful.
Did you see it? Did you read it? Thoughts?  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy Wednesday! Link up below (and thank you to those who link back).

1. My friend is getting married soon and I got this for her bachelorette brunch (so thankful it wasn't a crazy party- I would have ended up as the DD):




2. I've always been staunchly opposed to ereaders, both for nostalgic and practical reasons. This article continues to support my stance.

3. I'm one of the few who doesn't bend over backwards to kiss some Frozen ass, and am already wrinkling my nose at the reassurance of popularity now that Halloween is coming. Every time I see an Elsa I'm eating a peanut butter cup (if I get trick-or-treaters).

4. I'm a fan of the show Cabaret and would love to get to New York to see Emma Stone perform as Sally.

5. I'm so thankful for friends that you know you can easily pick back up with after an absence- people that understand that life happens. 

6. I've been dying for an ARC of Reif Larsen's I Am Radar, so I finally bit the bullet and emailed Penguin. The next day I received an email asking for my address. I have yet to receive it yet, but am excited that it was so easy! I know, beginner's luck.

7. Leave it to Texas (sorry...) to screw up Ebola containment. And seriously, why wasn't the CDC more involved? Did these people not see the movie Outbreak? Do they not remember that creepy monkey? Come on, now (I must confess that one of the most memorable part of that movie is the divorced couple who split custody of their dogs- my husband I would definitely do that if we ever split up).

8. When life gets tough, get some perspective:

[source]


9. Sometimes I crave ice cream, and sometimes I crave going to Yosemite. I know, it sounds lame, but sometimes I get this intense need to just go. The trees, the waterfalls, the smell of campfires at dusk... I'm also a little obsessed with the idea of staying at the $500+ a night Awahnee, but that ain't happening anytime soon. 

10. I'm in love with this blanket (but not the price):

[source]

Trunk-or-Treats are Ruining Halloween


As I roamed own the aisles of Target last week I made my way over to the dreaded seasonal area to buy Halloween candy. "How much do you think we should get?" I asked my husband. This, of course, led to an obligatory recount of how much we went through in years past. 

Three years ago: a ton (people were even driving into our area from other areas)
Two years ago: some
One year ago: less than a bag (we still have some)

Background: we live in a nice neighborhood full of families with kids ranging from infants to teenagers. On our street alone there are close to a dozen kids.

So, you ask, what happened last year? Could it have possibly been the weather? The arrival of a religious sect that doesn't partake in such festivities? Did local law enforcement warn of a killer on the loose?

No, no, no. My friends, what happened was something called Trunk-or-Treat

Yes, trunk. As in the one in the rear of your car.

[source]

Primarily sponsored by churches and sometimes schools, parents park their decorated vehicles in parking lots and dispense candy to costumed kiddos. Sometimes these aren't on Halloween, but more and more they are, meaning families go there instead of door-to-door. 

And now you're up to speed on the slow death of Halloween as we know/knew it.

I'm not a huge fan of Halloween as an adult (although I am admittedly more excited now that I have a tiny human to dress up), but as a kid I had fun with it. My mom made our costumes for many years- I was a clown, a Native American (oopsies), an angel, cowgirl, and Little Red Riding Hood. We'd eat an early dinner and then eagerly wait for the sun to go down so we could take the neighborhood by storm with all the other kids from the neighborhood. It was fun. It was a tradition

But now, there are less and less kids roaming the neighborhoods on October 31. Parents are concerned with safety, enthusiastic about convenience, or feel pressured by certain organizations (or by their kids, who are in turn pressured by said organizations). Cracked.com says it's what happens when "laziness and paranoia collide in a parking lot" (source). Time reported a few years ago in an article entitled "Grownups in Costumes: Have Adults Ruined Halloween?" that there hasn't been "a single documented case of Halloween candy poisoning" and that "sexual-predation rates are no different on Halloween than any other night of the year" (source). Moms get to obsessively pin trunk-decorating ideas on Pinterest, dads get to shoot the shit with other dads by their cars, and kids get to collect ridiculous amounts of candy. But where's the spirit? Where's that creepy feeling you get when you dare to ring the doorbell of the neighbor who you think might be hiding dead bodies in his attic (or something a kid would think up)? Or the butterflies in your stomach when you go to your crush's house (and then his fat, cranky dad opens the door)? The pride you feel when your parents finally let you go out with just your friends (as long as you stay between this road and that road)? What about getting yelled at repeatedly to "not step on the grass" and to "say thank you!" (just another way to teach manners)? 

The idea of trick-or-treating dying out makes me depressed. I want Sawyer to be able to dress up like some idiotic movie characters (okay, but not that part) and run around our block hyped up on sugar making people go "awww" when they open the door to see him. And to later know that he's sauntering around with his pals probably acting like a hooligan or flirting with girls. It's part of growing up.

Resist the urge, parents. Put down the crepe paper, dry ice, and whatever the hell people use to decorate their cars (that sounds ridiculous, decorating a car). 

And rest assured. As much as I hate buying candy for other peoples' kids, abhor hearing my dogs bark a million times, and detest hearing my doorbell ring, I will always buy candy and keep my light on... until at least nine.
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