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#smileaday Spoiling Sweetman. We celebrated my husband's birthday tonight. Just a little lowkey night: a lovely bolagnese and a Mexican chocolate cake for dessert. Another episode of The Dragon Prince (we're trying to only watch on episode at a go, to make it last). I guess this is what they call domestic bliss :-)

All work was worth it to see his shy happy smile, my favorite of all his smiles.

taurus

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cake batter in bowl#smileaday Making cake.

The youngest and I like to bake together. A lot of times, this is just box-kit cakes, but tonight's preparations are to be a birthday cake for Daddy, so it needed to be special. We made our cake from scratch this time: Mexican chocolate. It smelled so good while it was baking that I am sad we're not eating it until tomorrow.

If people who are good with plants have a green thumb, what do people who are gifted bakers have? Because the littlest Bryant has one, whatever it is. Everything she bakes is lovely.
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designer you cover#bookeveryweek Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck.

An engaging and sometimes heartbreaking story about a woman who has to find her way in the world again after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband. He had been not only her life partner, but her business partner, as the two had run a successful business (the titular Designer You) renovating homes and writing about the process. So, she lost the center of two of her worlds at the same time.

The story meandered a bit for my taste, which fit thematically with what was happening and how the character felt, but was a bit frustrating at times for me as the reader. Still, overall, it felt like a realistic vision of what might have happened, and meandering is part of that "figuring it out" process.

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just cause book cover#bookeveryweek Just Cause by Ian Thomas Healy

The Just Cause universe is a fascinating one, with a long history, and the world building is quite good. Our main character, Mustang Sally, is a third generation speedster in a world that has known about and organized parahumans for at least that long. I liked her and was cheering for her to find her place in this world.

There was a lot of potential for good conflict in this plot. Sally's father was killed by the big bad guy (Destroyer), so she had a personal stake in the fight when he reappears on the scene. Her relationship with her mother was a bit strained. She was falling in love. She had a strong desire to prove herself. Unfortunately, things overall went a little too easily for Sally. She felt almost charmed in that she was successful at everything she tried without much struggle, failure, or serious roadblocks along the way. So, while I still enjoyed the story, the overall effect was that it lacked tension or a sense of urgency. Too smooth.

I definitely enjoyed the descriptions of powers and the considerations of drawbacks and idiosyncrasies that might come with certain power sets. A lot of interesting characters were introduced in this book, which leaves the author plenty of room to play in this universe for quite some time to come. In fact, I sometimes wished the book would slow down a little and take time to build relationships a little longer before letting bad things happen to characters. The emotional impact could have been stronger if I'd had more time to get to know and care about the supporting characters.

Overall, good and enjoyable. I would read more by this author.

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#smileaday The Library Book Sale.

I'm on the board for my local Friends of the Public Library and today we had a pop up book sale. We usually have a spring and a fall book sale, but thanks to Marie Kondo encouraging everyone to examine their collections, we had a flood of donated books and had to hold an extra sale so our storage room could meet fire code.

I love our book sales. It's such a voyage of discovery, walking around and looking. The collection is far more eclectic and changeable than anything you'll find in even the quirkiest indie bookstore. Maybe there's a glut of cookbooks because a local cook decided to cull the collection; or maybe we have a ton of graphic novels because someone thought they were now too old for them. Maybe someone unpacked their old college books and decided they don't need that book of 17th century poets anymore.

The other great thing is spending my day with book addicts, who are looking for odd things and are thrilled by these serendipities. We'll all so grateful to feed our addictions so inexpensively, and getting karmic credit for library support at the same time.

It's a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon for sure.

friends of the library logo

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lifeforce posterYesterday's Retro date was to see Lifeforce, an 80s horror/scifi movie that I had never even heard of, but which Sweetman remembered fondly from his boyhood. If you've seen it, you probably remember it as "that one with the naked vampire lady from outer space."

It was, of course, a bit cheesy and dated in some ways, but overall I really enjoyed it. That naked vampire lady was Mathilde May and she was really rather amazing. That eerily smooth walk and quick changes in position definitely made you feel that she was not human; the physical/body acting was effective in a similar way to Elsa Lanchester's Bride of Frankenstein. The nudity actual made some scenes creepier and more frightening, like when the "space girl" (the character was never named) blew out a bunch of windows than just walked across the broken glass like it was a flower filled meadow.

I also really liked the puppet and special effects work with the desicated victims who came back to life. The eyes were better done than the production date would have led me to expect.

Very creative and interesting take on vampires. I may have to check out the source material, a novel called The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson.
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#smileaday Planning time with Sweetman.

I know this probably sounds dull to a lot of people, but Sweetman and I like to plan together, both short term (what's for dinner tomorrow?) and long term (where will we live in 15 years?). It's an important point of connection and a language of love for both of us.

February has been painful in that, with one Bryant or another sick nearly all month, we couldn't plan together. Either he had to make plans or I did, but we were spread too thin to plan together.

So, today we made plans. And it was glorious!

premeditated

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#smileaday Retro night. Sweetman and I are fans of the Retro Film Series at the Carolina Theatre. If we had but world enough and time (and money), we'd probably hit nearly every show. Tonight, after nearly a month of sickness at our house that meant we missed a great film festival here, among other things, we made it! #datenight #retrofilm

retro film series logo

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#smileaday I don't have a headache. Reasonably sure this is the first day in February in which I went through the whole day without having a headache of one sort or another. Between illness, allergies, noise, and stress, it was a helluva month. Not having a headache made such a difference in my demeanor that I was walking around singing this song all day. "Human Again."
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 #smileaday Finishing something painful. In this case, the FAFSA paperwork. My college girl asked me to do it early because there's a new scholarship she wants to apply for. It's not the worst application sort of paperwork I've ever had to do, but it's up there in the top 10 with medical forms and query letters. 
 
But it's done now and I don't have to do it again . . . until next year. 
frodo meme
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 #smileaday Being a musical nerd with my daughter. 
 
I was in chorus AND band in middle and high school, so you can imagine what a musical nerd I must be. Apparently, I've passed that on to my youngest, because after homework tonight, she wanted to watch Into the Woods, which has been a favorite of mine since college and now has a pretty good movie edition (though I'm loyal to Bernadette Peters' witch and don't like Meryl Streep's as much). 
 
Anyway, we enjoyed sitting together tonight and re-watching this one (we've already watched it together at least a couple of times). Still so good, and even better with her. 


into the woods dvd

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mrs. maisel Yesterday, I watched the first season The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. My daughter suggested it for me, and she's usually pretty good at spotting something I would like. She was right :-)
 
Mrs. Midge Maisel is a paragon of privilege in upper west side New York City in the 1950s. She's well, if impractically, educated, with a degree in Russian literature from Bryn Mawr. She's married to a seemingly successful businessman and has two kids and a great life. So, of course, it all falls apart in the first episode. 
 
There are hints right away that these young people aren't entirely conventional, the biggest being that they are regulars at a seedy comedy club, where Midge bribes the manager with brisket to get stage time for her husband. In fact, Midge thinks everything is golden until her husband blindsides her by leaving. 
 
Now, generally, Midge isn't my kind of a character. There's the distinct aroma of "Manic Pixie Dreamgirl" wafting about her and I hate that. I've never been able to watch the Gilmore Girls, for example, because I don't understand why no one has killed Lorelei yet. 
 
But, while Midge fits that character type, she also doesn't. She has it together in a lot of ways. She's not a black hole of selfish need that destroys everyone around her; she's self-sufficient, at least in terms of self-esteem. In fact, she helps other people along her journey. She has a wild streak for certain, but it's a secret release, not her daily life M.O. I'm not yelling at the screen telling the other characters to "Run! It's a trap!" 
 
Once she starts doing stand-up comedy, beginning with a late night, drunken rant in her nightgown that ends with an arrest for indecency (alongside Lenny Bruce), she's brilliant. It's an amazing moment, where a woman who has never needed a vocation just found hers. 
 
Overall the show is a great period piece that feels spot-on about gender and other politics of the era (admittedly, I'm too young to remember the 50s firsthand), sharp-witted, and heart-felt. I'll definitely watch Season 2 (more slowly, though; I'm finally well enough to go back to work tomorrow!). 
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 crimson peak posterToday's sickbed viewing was Crimson Peak. I barely heard of it when it went through cinema. By the time I'd registered I might like to see it, it was gone. So, it's been on my TBW (to be watched) list for quite a while. All I'd gathered about it was that it was a gothic story and, of course, that Tom Hiddleston was in it. 
 
For someone like me, raised on Dark Shadows soap opera reruns, Edgar Allan Poe, and gothic novels, this was a delight! It has it all: a gorgeous, charming foreign man with a secret; a wonderfully falling apart, ruined, and isolated house of incredible opulence; a naive bookish young ingenue with more backbone than is suspected; horrific apparitions; subtext galore; beautiful gowns and nightgowns with the long romantic hair to match; and dangerous experimental mining equipment, mysterious vats, and a rickety elevator. 
 
The performances were magnificently overwrought. They had to be, just to be seen in the incredible setting!  In typical Del Toro fashion, the film is darkly gorgeous, all rich textures and moody lighting. Del Toro clearly knows the tropes of this genre well and used them to great effect. Horrible in the best possible way!
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 #smileaday Not having a fever. The bar is pretty low  for smile a day when I'm sick. But I'll definitely take fever-gone. It's nice to feel like I can think. normal temperature
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Anne with an E My sickbed marathon continues. Because I am trying to push myself enough to get things moving without pushing myself too far and getting sicker again, it was a good day for episodic TV, each piece long enough to recoup before I tried moving around and doing things again. 
 
Today I finished Anne with an E, which I had already watched most of. It's an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. People either love it or hate it. Which seems to depend on whether you loved the books as a child, or the earlier TV adaptation. 
 
I read the books as a child, and liked them, but they aren't among my heart's books. They're too nice for me, I think. Decorous. I saw at least some of the older TV series and it was a very faithful adaptation. Neither the books nor the old TV series is so bad as to be called saccharine, but both definitely gloss over any real ugliness. 
 
This series doesn't do that. In the three seasons I've watched on Netflix, we've seen how Anne's life before her arrival at the Cuthbert's might have gone. It wasn't pretty. It ranged from actively abusive to neglectful at best. In that light, Anne's relentless optimism and joy in life definitely come across as a choice, a coping mechanism even. That changes things considerably. 
 
Critics say that this show goes too far the other way, making everything too grim and dark. But for a series with a young adolescent girl at its center, I think it's spot on to how those troubles feel. It really is the end of the word when you blurt out the wrong thing at school and everyone remembers, or when you accidentally dye your hair green, or when you are the one who figures out what's going on, but no one will believe you because you're just a little girl. 
 
One of the great things about the series is how nuanced nearly everyone is. Everyone behaves badly in one way or another, and a lot of the show is about making amends and learning to move on when you've hurt someone. Many times characters are their own worst enemies, and this is exacerbated by the small town politics where everyone knows and remembers everything about each other, and wants to keep each other pigeonholed. 
 
This isn't Green Gables as I remember it from childhood. And from me, that's a compliment. 
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 #smileaday It's harder than usual to find my smile a day. I'm still sick and I'm a terrible patient. So, today, it's less a smile than simple gratitude for little things that make me feel a smidge better, like nice hot showers three times a day. 

little things
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 snicket posterSickDay Marathon, day 2, included my last few episodes of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the series on Netflix. 
 
I've enjoyed the entire series. It captured what I enjoyed about the books when I read them with my eldest daughter (now 19). The costumes are a level of humor all their own. The musical elements are fun. "Look Away" the theme song gets stuck in my head from time to time. 
 
It's obvious the cast is having a great time. A lot of favorite actors star or make appearances in the show and seeing them is a delight like special guest stars on an old TV show used to be. Neil Patrick Harris and Lucy Punch are fabulous as you might expect, and Patrick Warburton is a perfect narrator. But my favorite is probably Usman Ally whose hook-handed man finally got a name this third season: Fernald. The child actors are universally good as well. 
 
And for a show that promises "nothing but dismay" it had a pretty satisfying ending. 
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 Sick day movie marathon day 2. Dune, Redux the fan edit by SpiceDiver. I don't remember exactly how I learned that this existed, but as soon as I did, I was intrigued. There was much I liked in the 1984 movie of Dune and it was also such a hot mess! I wanted to see what someone else was able to make of it. 
 
This edit was quite good. I mean, some flaws were not really fixable, like the unintentional comedy of Baron Harkonnen and some of the wooden acting. But dumping all the unnecessary voiceover and puts things in a semblance of chronological order made the whole thing make a lot more sense. 
 
It still felt choppy here and there, but not nearly as much so as the theatrical cut I first saw all those years ago. The costuming and sets are still brilliant and gorgeous. The intrigue and politics were smoothed out into something almost comprehensible. 
dune fanedit
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 #smileaday Digital content when you're sick. 
 
When I was a kid and I was sick, we didn't even have a VCR or Cable television. Those didn't enter my household until I was a young teen. I remember that every time I'm stuck in bed feeling too sicky to want to read. Lucky me, here in the 21st century, I can choose from any number of services to feed me entertainment of variable quality and content without lifting my head off the pillow. 


netflix and ill

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pan's labyrinth poster Last of my sickbed film festival for tonight. Pan's Labyrinth. My comments are spoilery, so don't read if you want to view it unspoiled and haven't yet. 
 
You know, I've only seen two movies about war in Spain, this one and Carol's Journey. Both of them (spoiler alert) end with dead girls. War in Spain is definitely not good for prepubescent girls. I jest about heavy things, but I did find it funny that in such a small sample there was that similarity. 
 
I'd heard a lot about Pan's Labyrinth, and most of the things I'd heard panned out (ha!). The puppetry was beautiful and creepy as heck. If all the labyrinth stuff was in this little girl's imagination, as the story certainly leaves room for, she was a child of darkness for sure. 
 
But then again, what other kind of child could she have been given all the tragedy and sadness she'd experienced already? The story doesn't give her age, but I'd guess her at about 11 years old, and she'd already lost her father, seen her mother hook up with a dangerous guy, seen her mother suffer through a life-threatening pregnancy, lived in the scary household of said dangerous guy, connected with members of the resistance, and then seen her mother die. 
 
The other Del Toro movie I remember well is Shape of Water, and there are some similarities in feel between the two films, including the fantasy happy ending representation of what came for our tragic heroine after death. 
 
Definitely on the darker side of fairy tale, bringing to mind other movies like Legend and Labyrinth. So much ambiguity all the time. I couldn't tell whether I should be hoping she'd do what the labyrinthian creatures told her or that she'd discover their lies in time, because it definitely seemed like they were dodgy and playing right into what she wanted to hear. (Which makes sense if they only exist in her imagination). That deep ambiguity was woven through every scene in the real world and the fantasy one and is the main emotion the story evoked in me. 
 
Quite good. I'll watch it again sometime when I don't have a fever. 
 

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Samantha J Bryant

March 2019

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