Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Ref - 1994


Synopsis From Back Cover:

An unfortunate cat burglar becomes trapped in a fate worse than jail when he takes a bickering couple and their annoying relatives hostage.  Before long, they're driving him nuts, and the line between who is whose hostage begins to blur.  His only hope for survival is to act as their referee and resolve their differences - or it's going to mean instate insanity for everyone.

My one Christmas guilty pleasure is watching The Ref with Dennis Leary.  It's crass, vulgar, and overtly crude.  There is a ton of swearing, talks of sex, and just plain naughtiness.

Leary is a cat burglar who, due to a botched job, ends up needing to hide out for a while.  It's Christmas Eve and he takes a couple hostage, makes them take him home, ties up their son, and they all have their lives changed in ways they never knew was coming.

Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are the feuding couple, and they just ooze disdain for each other.  You can tell the love is still there, but there is so much pain and anger overlaying it, that it's hard to see it.  I can't even begin to fill in all the details and the snarky comments that fly back and forth between the three of them, but it's a supreme pleasure to watch.  It's one of the funniest movies I've ever seen in my life.  I'm not normally fond of crass humor, but the intelligence that this cast, including Christine Baranski and B.D. Wong, does it with, makes up for the childish humor.

Underlying that humor though, is a wonderful commentary on what a family is, and what it takes to keep that family together.  It's about the decisions we make, the sacrifices asked of us, and what happens when those choices aren't fully communicated to everyone involved.  It's about finding the familial center again.  Despite all the pain and recriminations flying through the air, this is a family that truly loves each other, they just need to be reminded of what that means.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tamales: Fast And Delicious Mexican Meals by Alice Guadalupe Tapp


Synopsis From Back Cover:

Tamales are a Mexican favorite, beloved year-round as well as at Christmas, when the whole family traditionally pitches in with the work of tamale preparation and assembly. Thanks to renowned tamalera Alice Guadalupe Tapp, it's now possible to enjoy these delicious treas with a lot less labor.  Tapp has worked her tamale magic to turn the classic process on its head by paring it down to three to four steps that can be done in as little as forty-five minutes using handy tips, products, and tools.  All sixty dishes in the book are naturally gluten free, and include both classic tamale recipes - such as Chicken Mole, Sirloin Beef, and Fresh Poblano and Potato tamales - and novel recipes such as Chorizo and Egg, Oxtail, and Baked Fig tamales.  With this book, tamales are fast and easy enough to enjoy every day, and delicious enough to serve at any celebration.

Tamales are one of my many addictions around the holidays.  It's this perfect Christmas present, wrapped up and ready to eat at a moments notice.  You can make a ton of them days in advance, and enjoy the fruits of your labors for days to come.  Other than the dumpling and the taco, I don't think there is a more perfect food.

I think what I love about all three of the foods, is how many different things they can be.  If you can think of something to stuff into them, you can do it.  And for someone like me, who is almost willing to try anything, the sky is the limit.  I'm dying to try the Wild Boar Carnitas, though I'm not sure where I would find the wild boar.  I'm also really intrigued by the Jalapeno Pesto Potato tamales and the Coconut Lime Corundas.  I think for this Christmas I'll be sticking to the more traditional ones, but I'm really loving the idea of some of the other ones.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.

Monday, December 15, 2014

He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special - 1985


Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Orko accidentally winds up on Earth during the Christmas winter, he befriends two children who share stories of the goodwill and merriment that the holidays embrace.  When the finally return to Eternia, the holiday spirit is spread amongst the entire Royal Palace, but this overflowing goodwill attracts the unwelcome attention of Horde Prime and Skeletor.  Will the combined power of He-Man, She-Ra and the spirit of Christmas be enough to stop them.

I have to admit that when I came upon this little gem, some odd years ago, at Best Buy, I shrieked like a Justin Bieber fangirl.  I don't think you can be a true child of the 80s and not have a special place in your heart for He-Man and friends.  As cheesy and as ridiculous as the dialogue was, as juvenile as the names were, and as silly as the action was, the show was awesome.  He-Man is right up there with G.I. Joe, The Transformers, and Jem as far as 80s icons go.  So when they released the Christmas Special on DVD, I had to own it.

As you can imagine, the Christmas Special is even cheesier than a normal run of the mill show.  It's over the top in it's sentiment, and just a bit simple in it's story lines.  The twins, Adam and Adora, are getting ready to have their birthday celebration, and Orko has to go and mess it all up.  He climbs aboard the SkySpy, messes up the controls, and ends up on Earth.  By the time Man-at-Arms gets the spy plane back to Eternia, Orko has brought two kids along for the ride, and they in turn bring Christmas to Eternia.

The rest of the show involves Skeletor and Hordak, at the behest of Horde Prime, trying to kidnap the children to stop the spread of the Christmas Spirit.  The twins in their super secret identities of He-Man and She-Ra, do what they can to foible the evil plans, though in the end, it's Skeletor who comes to the rescue and saves the children.  And in true He-Man fashion they do it all in such a serious tone, that the action is made all that much funnier.

I have watched this every Christmas season since I bought it all those years ago.  It's a a sentimental piece of my childhood that I will never tire of, and every child of the 80s should own.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Christmas Mansion by Hollis Shiloh


Synopsis From Publisher:

In a world of gas lighting and horse-drawn carriages, Rex is fixing up an old mansion to host a Christmas party for his wealthy family's business.  He meets a gentle, insecure magician named Gene, who's come to work on the crumbling mansion's moldings.  He doesn't expect to fall in love.

I think I've already mentioned my recent addiction to m/m romance stories.  It all started with getting  NOOK last Black Friday, and it seems that I can't stop reading them.  I've found myself enjoying some authors more than others, and even liking certain motifs or character types more than I thought I would.  Some of the stories are really heavy on the sex, and most of it is pretty hot.  There are times though when I want a simple romance, light on the sex, and in some cases no sex.  And that's what I got with The Christmas Mansion.

It's cute, simple, and sweet.  Rex is a guy who gets to plan lavish parties for his family, who are all bankers.  He doesn't have a head for numbers, so he plans events for them to entertain their clients, and to woo new ones.  He has found a beautiful, but rundown mansion to fix up for their Christmas party.  Gene seems to be the misfit of his family as well.  He doesn't have as much magic, doesn't have a boisterous personality, and doesn't see himself as all that special.  When he shows up to redo the moldings, he's almost self-effacing.  As different as the two men are physically, and in their personalities, they fit together.  They don't allow anything to happen until the job is complete, at least Gene won't, and it seems as if the wait was good for them.  By the time the job is finished, and the party is thrown, it seems as if they are ready to move onto their next projects, as a couple.

This was the kind of book I want to read during the holidays.  It has romance, magic, and just enough angst to keep it interesting.  It's a guaranteed happy ending, which is what I need to have this time of year.

Challenges: Christmas Spirit

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Very Disney Christmas


I'm getting ready to watch Mickey's Christmas Carol, which I also own on vinyl as well, and it made me think of the other classic Disney moments that I love so much.  So I thought it would be nice to share some of the other Disney cartoons that I love to watch this time of year.






Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler


Synopsis From Back Cover:

Edgar Award - winning editor Otto Penzler collects sixty of his all-time favorite yuletide crime stories - many of which are difficult or nearly impossible to find anywhere else.  From classic Victorian tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy, to contemporary stories by Sara Paretsky and Ed McBain, this collection touches on all aspects of the season, and all types of mysteries.  They are suspenseful, funny, frightening, and poignant.

When I'm able to combine my love of mysteries with my love of Christmas, I'm in heaven.  Make them short stories, and I'm soaring so far above heaven, the angels are having a hard time finding me.

Like any other collection of short stories, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries has a few misses for me, but there are so many more hits.  Going into it, I knew there was no way I would end up liking all 60 stories.  What surprised me, was the fact that I enjoyed as many of them as I did.  Anyone who know me won't be surprised that I jumped for glee when I came across both stories by Agatha Christie, or that I about bust a gut when I stumbled upon the story by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  It's impossible for me to not like something either author has ever written.  Add in stories by G.K. Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh, and Arthur Conan Doyle, and it's a perfect Christmas miracle.

What may comes as surprise to some, is how many of the more modern stories I enjoyed just as much.  I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to mysteries, I'm a Golden Age fan all the way.  I tend to not even bother with some of the newer writers, and I can never get behind the whole "cozy" craze.  Maybe it's because of the main theme, but for the most part I really enjoyed what I read, regardless of who the author was.  One new author, to me anyway, that I really enjoyed was Peter Lovesey.  I'm pretty sure I'll be checking out more of his work.  Did I mention there is a whole section for scarier Christmas stories?  Loved them all!

This will be a collection I can see myself grabbing off the bookcase every year.  I may not read the whole thing through ever again, but I will read one or two of my favorites, or even decide to read through an entire section of stories.  Regardless of how I read them, I know I'll be reading them all again.

Challenges: Christmas Spirit

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham & Faith Durand


Synopsis From Back Cover:

"There is no question that the kitchen is the most important room of the home," says Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand of Apartment Therapy's beloved cooking site and blog, The Kitchn.

The Kitchn Cookbook offers two books in one: a trove of techniques and recipes, plus a comprehensive guide to organizing your kitchen so that it's one of your favorite places to be.

I'm not sure if it's the holiday season, but I've been on a cookbook kick recently.  There is something about winter setting in, the shorter days, the colder temperatures; that makes me wants to cook more at home.  I find myself digging into the cookbooks I already own, and purchasing new ones, to find the next recipe I want to try out.

With The Kitchn Cookbook, I've gotten a few more recipes to add to my arsenal, but I've also discovered some really good tips, and space saving solutions I'm dying to put into practice.  I live in an apartment, and for those of you who are familiar with an apartment kitchen, you already know that space isn't always there, or at best, it's in a really odd location.

I've tried a few of the drink recipes already, and yes they were delicious.  I'm addicted to rhubarb, so I had to try the rhubarb-vanilla soda.  It was so good, and there are variations for rhubarb-ginger and rhubarb-mint sodas that I want to try out as well.  There is a recipe for Siracha-honey popcorn clusters, and I really want to make it.  I'm not sure if I would actually form it into clusters, or leave it loose.  Either way, it sounds damn good and I want to give it a go.  There is even a recipe for sweet potato and caramelized onion hash that includes a baked egg.  I'm not a huge fan of eggs, but I'm thinking that they may have me talked into it after I give this one a try.

I have a sneaky suspicion that I'll be hanging onto this one for years to come.  I'm just hoping I don't spill too much on it, as I tend to do all of my most loved cookbooks.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.