Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie Review: The Kid

I don't often re-watch a movie, but the other night I was in the mood to see The Kid starring Bruce Willis as Russ Duritz. Many people are familiar with Bruce Willis's action films and haven't seen this Disney movie. I highly recommend it.

In this movie, Willis is a high-powered image consultant. He's demanding, rude, and obnoxious. He manipulates people and situations for his own benefit. In an early scene he asks a waiter how many times someone has to be called a "jerk" to make it so. It was lunchtime and 4 people had already called him one. According to one reviewer: "Russ Duritz is a success--he has looks, he has money, and he has power. The only things he's missing are friends and a conscience.

And then, somehow, his 8 year old self shows up. "Rusty," played by Spencer Breslin, is disgusting, uncouth, and embarrassing to Russ.

As the story unwinds, the 8 year old and the 40 year old must come to terms with the other. One of my favorite lines by the little boy is "What! I'm forty years old and I'm not married and I don't have a dog?! I grow up to be a loser!" The older Russ must deal with uncomfortable and even painful memories from his childhood.

Both Russ & Rusty are motivated to get the little boy home. Unlocking memories in the older man appears to be the key.

Both characters are well played and Breslin is absolutely adorable. Possibly because I've reached the mid-life phase of my own life, I found this movie touching. I often find myself reflecting and trying to reconcile who I am with who I thought I might be with who I still want to become.

Two more plusses for this movie: it's clean and has a high "giggle" factor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Making Paper

My youngest daughter just finished her 5th grade Honor's Project (subject of an upcoming post). As part of her project, she had to have a "doing"part ... for her and for her audience. Since her topic was Ancient China who had the earliest paper and the oldest printing press, she thought that making paper for her classmates to brushpaint numbers on would be a good idea.

We found instructions on-line and they seemed pretty straightforward and simple.
Step 1:
Cut or shred newspapers into small squares.

Step 2:
Soak the paper in water.

Step 3:
Mix vigorously to cause the paper to dissolve into a pulp.

Step 4:
Spread the pulp on a screen and set in the sun to dry


Remember ... nothing is ever as simple as it sounds or looks!
Like all projects, you learn along the way. Here are some adjustments we had to make:
-- Torn paper grabs the water better than cut edges.
-- You need a high water to paper ratio.
-- Let the paper soak for quite a while.
-- If you start with hot water, by the time it's cool enough to handle it's absorbed a lot of water.
-- Mixing vigorously with a spoon is not enough. Use a food processor or blender to get "pulp."
-- If you use the daily newspaper, the ink will stain (and ruin) your nice plastic bowl. :-(
-- Scooping the pulp and pouring it on the screens works better than dipping the screens into the pulp.
-- We used my food dehydrator with window screens on the trays.
-- The thicker the pulp, the thicker the paper. Our first batch was more like egg-carton consistency.

Now that we've fine-tuned our process, we're ready to experiment with various added elements. My son made paper the other day with plain paper, grasses and leaves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Family Letter, abridged

This year, our family sent out an "Easter Letter" rather than the customary Christmas family letter. I could say that we didn't want to get lost in the shuffle of the busyness of the season; or maybe we wanted to command more of your attention. The truth of the matter is that we weren't all together until after Christmas for a family picture. And if I can whittle down some of the demands of the Christmas season, I'll gladly do it.

If you didn't get a letter, let me know. The picture was drawn by my son for the front of the card.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Cleaning Tips

When the kids were little, the house was small, and I had unlimited energy, I would attack the our home with gusto and have it done in no time. Now, however, we have a large house, have accumulated lots of stuff and my schedule has many outside requirements. Not to mention that I'm twenty years older!

Now I need a schedule and a plan. If I didn't I'd be easily overwhelmed and inefficient.

Some random bits of advice and tips for your Spring Cleaning:
1. Divide and conquer.
2. Start small and easy.
3. Decide what areas bug you the most.
4. Be content with the messy process.
5. Designate a spot for "get rid of" pile.
6. Don't let children near your "get rid of" pile.
7. Be ruthless with your junk.
8. Make detailed lists. The more you can cross off the happier you'll feel.
9. Have the right cleaners on hand.
10. Have ziploc bags, plastic bins, etc so that you can organize and store your things.
11. Enlist the help of your kids. Bribes and rewards work well.
12. Don't bite off more than you can chew in a day.
13. Reward yourself with your favorite treats.
14. Assign negotiable tasks to your children; non-negotiable, must-be-done-in-a-certain-way jobs are yours alone.
15. Don't underestimate the power of caffeine and well-timed sugar.
16. Cleaning days are NOT cooking days. Frozen pizzas or MacDonald's is more than OK.
17. Resist the temptation to get overwhelmed or discouraged. Life is a process, not a destination.
18. Play "happy music" in the background. The faster the beat, the faster you'll work.
19. Wear comfortable clothes & shoes. Who wants to bend over or crawl on the floor in tight jeans?
20. Enjoy! Working hard feels good and nothing compares to a clean, well-ordered room, closet or drawer. Even if it only lasts a few hours!

I started with the front hall closet. This was the smallest and least complicated area in the house. (Early success is a key!) Completely emptied out, I swept and wiped down the shelves. I decided that only half of the items would go back. Some coats were put away for the season, but many went in the box headed for Goodwill. I store our abundance of tableclothes in bins on the floor of the closet. All were measured, labelled and had their pictures taken. Someday, I'll put together a digital inventory.

This week I tackled the upstairs bathroom. The closet on that room had been a source of irritation for a long time. Linens and toiletries were so intermingled that no one knew where to put things any more. Again, my strategy is to empty, clean, sort, organize and then put things back. Three large bags of garbage went out from the closet, drawers and cupboards. Every inch was scrubbed clean. Ahhh ..... I find myself going in and opening the closet or drawers just to see how tidy they are!

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning hearkens back to the Jewish tradition of cleaning the home before Passover. In remembrance of their hasty retreat from Egypt, the Jews cleaned every bit of leaven from their homes. Agrarian societies continued the practice. Following a closed-up winter, doors and windows were flung open to let the breezes freshen up the house.

At our house,"spring cleaning" happens sporadically. For a number of years we had graduation open houses. This always entailed large-scale cleaning and organizing. I usually cleaned more than I needed. No one came to check my closets or the cupboards next to the oven. No white gloves ran across the top of window or door frames. The problem with the graduation open houses is that you have a deadline AND food to prepare.

This year I want to do some heavy duty cleaning, sorting and organizing. As the mom, I know what's clean, and what's not. And yes, sometimes it really bugs me. Another thing that bugs me is knowing that behind closed doors, cupboards and and drawers are unorganized messes. And a third thing that really gets my goat is knowing that I have too much "stuff."

If you're an internet junkie (which you just might be if you're blog-reading), you can find lots of sites all about cleaning, organizing, homemade products, etc.