Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Christmas Gift Guide 2016

2016: dreadful year, brilliant Christmas.

Let's get right into this guide, shall we?

NASA vintage posters. Here is the deal, you download and print. So basically these are "free" if you have a printer that can handle it. Or a few bucks at your local Kinkos (which are now called FedEx Office if you are trying to find one for real).


Download these and many more options here: Visions of The Future NASA Posters


Speaking of posters and exploring... I firmly believe the National Parks are a gift to America. 

An  Annual Pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation areas managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services. Anyone 16 years or older may purchase the pass; children under 16 are always admitted free. Each Annual Pass can have up to two "owners". Now warning: DO NOT buy this for someone aged 62 or older. They can get a lifelong pass for $10 on their own.

$80 America The Beautiful - Annual National Park Pass

Bonus: the worst site in the world, maybe not updated since the 1990s, run by our fine government of course, sells some pretty nice posters - including one of a National Park map and various Dept. of Interior promo posters, from like $5 to $20. Government Bookstore - Posters & Prints

Another far out gift for gals is changing color lipstick. It is one color in the tube, but is another (pink) on the lips.


Everyone out there is in love with Ina Garten. Me too. She has a new cookbook out, Cooking for Jeffery, and while it makes a great gift that many will love, it is the go-to cookbook gift of 2016.

You know what one I can pretty much assure you won't find a duplicate under the tree?This cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. Yes, that Chrissy. The model, married to John Legend, who has a wild wardrobe and a wild twitter account. She has an actual good cookbook. Now, I have flipped through and I wouldn't suggest it for a conservative family member. I will give a visual example below... but if you know someone who can handle the heat, get them in the kitchen with this one.

Hardcover, $18 or Digital on Kindle for $16 at Amazon: Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat


For those who like to eat, but don't like to cook... there is this tiny book of cooks will take you all over the world.

From Amazon, $20: Where To Eat Pizza


Got a green thumb in your fam? Or a black thumb? Or a red, white, blue, yellow, purple, pink thumb?

Seed bombs are the bomb. You toss and grow. Wildflowers, herbs, or edible flowers.

Packs from $9 & up from Seedles: Grow The Rainbow Seed Bombs


Speaking of the garden... A life-long reader of mine, Gwen, told me the other day she was a butterfly. I asked her how she knew she wasn't a moth. Argument ensued.

Look how cute this art kit is?

$17 from Amazon online Butterfly Color Kit
$20 in store at Papyrus Papyrus to check for in store stock


Another kid gift are these kids sized headphones. I can't stand be assaulted with noise, and I can't imagine having some kid around with some device with some annoying game ping, or background music, or even having to watch AND listen to the same Disney movie a million times over. Enter these earphones.

$49 for Bluetooth from Amazon Untangled Kids Bluetooth Headphones
$22 for certain colors of the wired version from Target Wired Kids Headphones


Now, the next two you can give as a set, or break it up. Both from Target, I have both. I love both. They are both quite affordable, but well made. For someone who entertains, or just likes nice things in their kitchen. These pictures really don't do either the justice they deserve.

Pitcher, $13 from Target Libbey Impressions Glass Pitcher
Serving Board, $20 from Target Marble and Wood Board


And, finally, to end the list as always, please give the gift of baked goods.

Shortbread: hard to mess up, hard to stop eating. Recipe found here: Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies


PS- bonus life pro tip: don't vape. It is super gross.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I watched most. I won't watch a few. Who was excited that Joy wasn't nominated? I was too. On to the ones who were nominated...

This movie was well executed, as we watched characters find a sliver of "success" amidst the housing market crash of 2008 the international recession and utter dismantling of banking worldwide. This movie took a raw, complex, thorny event and made it digestible, though a style of filmmaking could be a bit condescending at times and pandered to this superiority complex that the filmmaker had, but then again many of then men in the story have the same issue. I almost appreciated the accidental mirroring of the movie talking to the audience as if we were idiots and the bankers trying to explain their discoveries to others as if they were the same. This movie had another thing going for it: Big names. 

Underrated and long as hell. While wondering if the movie would ever end, I really did enjoy it. It was interesting and emotional. It told a story worth telling and did it in a way that only a movie can. 

It was cute. 

Won't see. It's too much. 

Longer than Bridge of Spies by three minutes, but it felt like three years longer. Casting was on point. Obviously Matt Damon was able to pull it off, and he did with humor and grit and grace. Supporting characters also fared well. Deserves the nomination, doesn't deserve a win. As everyone has noted: it is Castaway in space. Had Castaway not been made yet, I'd like this more (and I don't even like Castaway and I liked The Martian) but the magic of a single-man-isolation-show was lost (on Mars). 

Didn't see. Afraid it will be too violent, but I think we can all agree that Leo deserves Best Actor- and hopefully he will win for this, but really we know he is winning for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and they just are getting around to giving him his due finally in 2016. 

Gah. This was a good one. An excellent one. It was tourmenting and dark and funny and sad and happy. All the emotions. It was also well done; well timed, well balanced, and overall impressed me. It impressed me with the acting most of all. Though it is a "composite" of various captives/victims I did have a pang of guilt for using such tragic stories as my entertainment. I mean, how absurd is it that people are making movies and "enjoying" them. Though, it was eye opening and educational and I can't imagine anyone "enjoying" watching this movie, though it is still a movie. A full length one at that. Sometimes I save short films to explore and expose topics in a shorter format that seems almost more respectful.  It was more complex than any other nominated film this year. It took bigger risks and therefore it had bigger returns. 

It also was a topic that is so sad and draining, at every turn I was more and more upset... but they made a good movie with the story. It was over acted (Mark Ruffalo) and it was a bit ridiculous with the costumes (Rachel McAdams pants). There were flaws. It might win, and I don't think it deserves it. 

What should win: Room

What could win (no primaries, split top votes, 2nd or 3rd then default wins): The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, The Revenant 

What shouldn't win: Spotlight, The Martian, Brooklyn, Mad Max

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Sicarco. It was my personal favorite movie of 2015. It did get some technical noms and I am over here, like, "the sum of the parts?". It really was good. It was a good movie. A good story. Good acting. Wasn't into itself. Made me think, really think. And didn't rest it's laurels on some hot topic or some hot story from the past. It was it's own. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christmas Gift Guide 2015

Buy yourself something. Buy the people you love some things.

Here are some gifts to consider.  

Even the heartless still love summer, cute animals, and ice cream...

This print ($30) is for them: a child, a bathroom, a kitchen, a puppy room (you don't have a puppy room in your house?)...


Did we land on the moon? Probably not. Should your cold beverage land on the wooden table? Probably not. $38 set of four leather coasters, choice of colors. 

Moon Leather Coasters


Is soap on a rope still a thing? It is. 

For $15 you can give it to any man. They will laugh and then you know they will use it.


Keeping in theme with keeping things clean and dry, I was introduced to Turkish Towels this summer. The brilliance is they are thin (compact & pack-able), they dry super fast, and sand doesn't get all in the terry knit. Good for the beach, the sticky southern humid bathrooms, and vacation.

$11 to $25 depending on size and color. Amazon offers a million different color choices.


A $23 book of cool things. 


Speaking of rarely seen things, have you ever seen someone totally cool with their phone being at like a 1% or even a 9% charge. Complete panic sets in. I was with my cool friend Louise in Texas last winter and she whipped out a portable charge like everything was easy. 


This stamp can be YOUR FACE or someone else's face. I almost never want to sign my name to anything ever again. Stamp me, please. 


$90 and a two week turn around time is required.

[Hat tip to my housemate Kirstin for telling me about this life changing gift idea.]


I hope you have lots of moms, sisters, daughters, and self's to buy for because here is another female-leaning gift. 
Street Level Reversible Faux Leather Tote & Wristlet
It is reversible! It is faux leather. It is pretty. It is functional.  It is only $48 (& free shipping!). It comes in like 8 different colors from metallic to classics. 


I was conditioned  to think of this... Every time I am in nature, I want to reach or ask for the 'nocs... and no one ever has any. 

I know nothing of quality of binoculars, but I know Costco has the best buyers. So for a slight splurge of $150 an outdoor enthusiast can get something they wanted, or didn't know they wanted. 


And, as much as I am no outdoor enthusiast, I am a kitchen enthusiast. For any type of foodie (baker, griller, etc) you are bound to find a spice gift at Penzeys they will want. Bonus: spices take a while to expire, and they instantly inspire. 


Depending on the pack, $15 to over $100. Bonus idea: you can totally DIY with this to save money, I wouldnt recommend a grocery brand, but you can easily find some "high end" spices to put together in a cute gift box. 


Do I go to the movies enough to justify spending $40ish a month for a movie pass? I would if I had one. 

Go to the website to verify it is in the area. You can give a 3 month ($125), 6 month ($225), or 12 month ($400) membership. 


And last, but NOT least. Make some caramel sauce, jar it, and give it:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Best Pictures

After listening to all the noise I created by not watching every single movie nominated last year (regardless of film-worthiness or my actual desire), you will be happy to know: this year, I saw every single best-picture nominated movie

Spoiler Alert: I use the term "spoiler alert" because it is the common colloquialism. A more proper term would be "Informing Alert". Why wouldn't you want to know what you are getting into? Informing Alert: I don't like surprises much. Not only that, some of these movies are steeped in history. Things that actually happened (and some things that didn't exactly happen- I'm looking at you Selma). If you are concerned about not wanting to know something then reevaluate your stance and then read on... There will be "spoilers".

American Sniper - This hard-to-watch is now the highest grossing war movie ever. Some media acted all shocked that it had such a huge opening weekend at the box office, and I was like "Um, did you see the trailer?" It was the best trailer I have ever seen. It made me feel things: patriotic things, empathetic things. It made me consider my family, what I would do for my country, where the line should be drawn, where enemy lines should be erased. The movie was just as good as the trailer. It depicted a realness from the perspective of a warrior that was hard-to-ignore. Not only about while being deployed, but also about being home and the homeland he serves. From what I understand, it also stayed true to the story. Though tragic and tough, the story was beautifully told and taught audiences a lot. Bradley Cooper should win Best Actor for his performance. It is my Best Picture pick. It was the best overall and it was the best at what it was.

Birdman - I will say it: this movie is weird as hell. I consider myself pretty open to artistic stuff, but this was heavy handed even for me. They were able to pull it off. Crazy as it was weird. That was the point though, to take us into this world of a crazy man in a crazy back stage world. As far as the acting goes, Michael Keaton proved he was more than just Batman in the most meta way possible. He can act, but he wasn't the best. Ed Norton, who never disappoints, didn't. And if you are on my private fashion emails, you know I have an affinity for Naomi Watts. While Emma Stone somehow has tricked America into having a collective affinity for her, she seemed less annoying to me. In comparison to other films: it was the best of an art-house movie. A few years ago The Artist won, an that was weird and art-house, and terrible, and poorly done, and shouldn't have won anything. Birdman was good, and well made and maybe could win with out pissing me off. It makes me wonder if this year's dark horse Birdman (so many animals) will come out the victor? [Insert lesson on voting primaries here, and why this movie actually might win considering the others will split votes and this one could be universally liked enough to be 2nd Best with 1st Best being a 4-way tie, and Last Best being a 3-way tie.]

Boyhood - Look, this went were movies have never been. They created something really new. Well, kind of. It is like when produce came out with those cotton candy flavored grapes this summer, or when we got the grape flavored apple. Still fruit, but new. Still a movie, but new. Boyhood was a little boring, the plot wasn't wowing anybody. Though, it did give me curiosity to wonder if every persons personal tale is at least that interesting? If so, that is interesting: to consider that everyone might be mildly interesting if I cared enough to find out. Linklater will/should win for Director. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Here is the problem with this movie: it reeked of Wes Anderson. Wes Anderson smells good, but it is old hat. It was exceptionally entertaining. I loved it. Had this movie been the first WA movie ever made it could win. But it isn't, and it won't, and it shouldn't. 

The Imitation Game - USA won that war. Unrelated: This movie shouldn't win this Oscar. It was good, not great. Just like Britain's contributions to WW2. 

Selma - This movie was comprised of long scenes depicting MLK in private, quieter moments- with The President in the Oval Office, with his wife discussing an affair in the middle of the night, even showing his own contemplations leading to major decisions made on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Unless everyone that knew MLK kept meticulous and deeply personal journals, and/or cooperated with the filmmakers in an intimate way with the clarity of objectiveness and with out personal bias, let alone the shaded view of 50 full years in between then and now, we don't know what was actually said or thought. So, this movie is pretty much made up, around a framework of history. Selma is  wrong to voice history like this. The movie did a fine job emotionally investing the audience, it's really a shame they threw credibly to the way side. They had a responsibility to respect history and they did not. The Civil Rights movement is important to understand and telling the story of the Selma March was worthy of a film. I agree with the general sentiments of the movie. Agreeing with morals of the protagonist of a movie doesn't mean the movie was good. I did not like this movie much. When people say they really liked this movie, they might mean to say they really like civil rights or they really like MLK or the story is important. 

The Theory of Everything - It was semi-captivating, and it was semi-superbly acted by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. When I say semi-suberbly acted, what I mean by that is Eddie did a phenomenal job, but within external limits. He really transformed his body and his delivery was amazing. But he didn't speak for much of the film. Some say that makes it more difficult, since he can only rely on his body language/facial expressions. I say it makes it half as hard. Simplifies it and amplifies the performance he did give. Sorry, bro. This one goes to Bradley. Also, I couldn't tell if Felicity Jones is that good, or was just that well-cast. The personal story of Stephen Hawking is amazing. It is a story of genius (see below) that was able to connect to a broad audience, because really it is a story of struggle and love, and we can all relate to that. I also appreciated the cinematography, costumes, and lighting. The secondaries that help transport you to another time. Those details were spot on. 

Whiplash- I saved the worst for last. (And the list is alphabetical). In the worst of cases, people mistake abuse for love. This movie/story gets something very wrong. I've long said not all who are manic are geniuses, but all geniuses are a some degree of manic. Manic can be a symptom of genius. In Whiplash they make it seem like if you are manic the symptom could be (musical) genius. That if you really just let go of all sanity, something creative might be able to come out. No. Not how it works. This was unfortunately written by someone who is looking at genius from the outside in. Continually purporting that if the main character could just get to that level of instability, he might find this depth of drumming that he didn't even know he had! Sorry, again, no. 

True: You may have this gift of musical genius and when you tap it, sometimes the manic escapes. 

False: When you have this intense instability, sometimes the music escapes. 

When JK Simmons' character goes on a diatribe about why he is pushing his students so hard abusive, claiming it was just bred of love; he saw something in his student that he knew he had to force to come out, and that is how all successes come, from a push to be better and that if someone had said "that was nice" then nothing great would be... OMG while watching, I considered hunting down the writers phone number so I could CALL THE WRITER AND EXPLAIN GREATNESS and how it all actually works and how love really can conquer all. I am not claiming to be a genius, but I am claiming to know about behavior management. Sure, people have made strides out of spite, out of resentment turned into passion... that has happened. Every time it has happened, it is tragic. It sells the greatness short. This movie got it wrong in a major way. Which is why when I just now (after writing all I just wrote previous) looked up the writer/director... a few fun facts: his father is a writer, the teacher was inspired by his own experiences with a director, and he is a mere 30 years old. So, he might really benefit from a lesson on how greats are actually made. Maybe instead of me, his father should make that phone call. Heal some things. JK Simmons does a really good job and he or Edward Norton should win for supporting actor. At the end of this movie it seemed to start to redeem itself by showing the student in his own twisted behavior, but then threw it all away in the last five seconds. Stop glorifying this behavior, stop trying to get approval from a maniac, stop trying to explain and defend something you don't understand. This film is immature. This film did have good tempo though. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

State of the Joke

Typically I live blog during The State of the Union. Adding in my thoughts as the Presidents tells us what he wants us to hear. 

This year I was unable to watch live since it aired one hour into a three hour flight I was on... I figured I'd deplane and hear all about the highs and lows. It would be the chatter of DC. 

I am a person who reads the news daily. I watch the news most days. The only thing I have heard about the SOTU is some ad-lib joke that President Obama delivered. 

[In case you missed it, it went like this... Obama: "I have no more campaigns to run..." and then all the GOP interrupt with a roar of applause. Then O: "I know... Because I won both of them.]

Ok, mildly amusing. He was quick-thinking. 

The problem with all of this: No one seemed to care enough about ANYTHING else he had to say. The media kept replaying it. I read more than one article headline about it. 

The rest of his speech? Who knows. It isn't that the joke is soooo good that it overshadowed the rest of it. It is the rest of it didn't matter.  But it does! America has a lot going on these days. Mostly amazing things. A few things internally that we need to deal with. That we need a President to step in and speak to... 

I didn't hear or see anything up there but a joke. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mary McMullen's 2014 Gift Guide

Good things to give. Good things to get. Goods. 

[Hope you enjoy my gift guide this year.]

The goods: The Atlas of Remote Islands. Want to know about where you want to go? It would be cheeky to add a nice beach towel, or pair of swim goggles to this gift. If you are looking for a luxury splurge, pair it with flight tickets to Hawaii or Puerto Rico

Good For: Travelers, Those who Wish To Travel, Wanderlusters

$23 from Barnes and Noble 

The goods: A Fancy Gold/Silver Bocce Ball Set.  The thing about bocce ball is it is fun for damn near anybody. Any body. Also easy to play any where. This one has got style. 

Good For: A good all-family gift, Italian grandparents, anyone really. 

Gold and Silver Petanque Bocce Ball Set- $50 from Brookstone

The goods: Megaminx Dodecahedron Puzzle12 sides! Different Shapes! Oh My! 

Good For: Anyone who likes the rubix cube, smartie-pants, 

$10 from ThinkGeek 

The goods: Camera Remote Shutter for Smartphone. This isn't just for selfies, but also for group shots or whatever. 30 ft clearance, no apps to download, seems easy.

Good For: Self-obsessed, people who travel, parents, bloggers.

Muku Shutter- $39 from Amazon

The Good: Citrus Zinger Water/Drink Bottle. It keeps the fruit and the gross bits out of your water, allows it to steep & flavor your water. Also an opening at the bottom where you can put your ice in but a small opening at the top to drink out of. I saw some lady with one in the parking lot. It looked like the most refreshing drink I'd ever seen. The lime was hanging out at the bottom like it owned the water. 

Good For: Anyone! Especially sports enthusiasts, health junkies, foodies, a co-worker, 

Original Green Zinger Bottle from manufacturer site (Zing Anything), $16

Green, Pink, or Orange colored bottles, $18 from Neiman Marcus

The Good: Zoku Slush & Shake Maker. Another beverage gift, I must be thirsty! My mom bought this for my 9 year old niece; she loves being able to make "slurpees" anytime she wants. Well, not anytime. It works the same as the other zoku products: freeze the base beforehand, and when you want your shake or drink, pour the liquid in and it will freezes in minutes. No other fancy equipment needed, just pour then stir into frozen drink heaven. 

Good For: Kids, Adults in warm climates, drinkers (Cabernet Sorbet, anyone?)

Zoku Slush & Shake Cup, Assorted Colors, $20 from Williams-Sonoma

The goods: Snoozies Sequin House Slippers. 

Good For: Someone you are comfortable with, a girly girl, a niece, a cousin, a sister, a friend (in which case I suggest going full sparkle with a matching set- one for the both of you), a glamorous Grandma, yourself if you are a lady-reader.

Adult Sizes, Jewel-tones

Adult Sizes, Assorted-colors
Kids & Tween Sizes, Assorted-colors

$12-$20 a pair depending on size & color selection at Amazon.

The Good: Sport-brella. It's a tent-umbrella hybrid. Shelter from the sun, the wind, the sand, birds, a sprinkle shower, and other elements. This handy thing sets up easy. 

Good For: Beach Bums, Soccer Moms or Dads, Guys Who Want to Be More Outdoors-y, Picnic People

Original Sport-brella, $60
XL Sport-brella, $80

The Goods: Disney Princess Tiaras. Do you know any Disney Princess's? I know a couple

Good For: Little girls

Costume Tiaras, $10 each from JC Penney

The good: Nameplate Necklace.  Are personalized name necklaces out of style? Not with this one. You can also use a social media handle instead. I am still not over the fact @Real_Darrell is one character too many for their 12 character limit.  

Good For: Girls 12-42 years old. 

The Homemade Good: Cherry Pie. Homemade treats are usually shared of the individual variety around the holidays-- candies, cookies, etc. Why? Impress them with a whole pie! Let them keep the pie pan/dish (hot tip: Home Goods). And the red seems festive. And you can freeze it for a few months until you want it. It just is what I want. 

Good For: Anyone with taste (that is a pun).

My preferred Cherry Pie Recipe: I use this store-bought frozen crust and these jarred morello cherries, both from Trader Joe's. It really easy easy as pie.  

My Gift Guides Through The Years: (Many pictures are now outdated, most links work though--- you can also google the item, might be worth it).

Last Year, 2013


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Best Picture?

This years Oscar Noms for Best Picture blog is going to be a big let down. If you came her looking for something interesting, move along. Which is appropriate, it is the same for the lot of films. Many I did not see. Those I did not see, I noted & are indicated in red

My past nomination commentaries: 2011 | 2012 | 2013

SPOILER ALERT: I will type freely. Might spoil it. 

BEST PICTURE Nominations
  • Nebraska
    Did not see. Too boring. Even the colors are boring. 

   The Wolf of Wall Street
   Did not see. Forgot to include it in the first draft of this post. To which I say: F***!

So, what picture do I think got snubbed? 
Blue Jasmine. It did just as good of a job as the ones nominated. And it was interesting enough for me to even want to see it. Actually, it should win best picture. It was not only really well done, I am having a hard time thinking it had any flaws. 

And finally, not necessarily the "best" but the film I enjoyed watching the most in 2013 was by far "Before Midnight". 

I'd also like to thank the academy for not nominating Mud for anything. I hated it.