Downton Abbey- I’m friggin’ glad and sad all at the same time!

I meant to get this up a while ago, but alas, life.

The main idea is that I’m uber in love with Downton Abbey and I don’t care who knows it! For some reason I didn’t start watching it until last winter after moving to a new place and not having satellite. You know, the old school method of checking DVD’s out of the library. Why did I wait so long?

To echo my title, I’m so friggin’ excited to be watching the new season. But also feeling sad that it is the last. I keep waiting and hoping Julian Fellowes will pop up and say “Changed my mind folks, gonna write at least 5 more seasons.” A fan girl can dream can’t she.

I had a prediction at the beginning of the season that Branson would come back and he and Lady Mary would end up together. So far, things seem to be going in that direction.

I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out for both the  downstairs and upstairs folk for the remainder of this season. I’m thrilled that Lady Edith has developed her own level of independence with running the magazine and having her own flat. And of course Marigold! She deserves every happiness, and I think she’s finally due a love life.

I had watched one of the preview programs, actually several of them, so I knew there was a scandal in store for Lady Mary. I was impressed with Lord Crawley’s cleverness in handling the blackmailer, and more impressed he didn’t hold it against Lady Mary.

downton abbey horses

I’m also curious as to how things will turn out for the main character, the silent yet always speaking, the stoic yet oh so elegant, the title character; the house itself. There seems to be more talk than usual this season about the Crawley’s fading lifestyle and the possibility of downsizing both the staff and the shelter. Lady Mary seems determined the Crawley’s will stay at Downton and I have confidence she and Tom will work up a plan to keep them there for generations to come.

I put together a Downtown Abbey top ten, a la David  Letterman, expressing my favorite things about the show.

10. The clothes!!

9. Home decor that puts anything on HGTV to shame.

8. Mrs. Patmore and Daisy; they have such an endearing relationship.

7. Daisy and Mr. Mason; they also have such an endearing relationship.

6. Elegant horses and riders. I wanna take dressage lessons every time I see a riding scene. And riding side saddle seems like a talent in and of itself, one I would like to acquire.

5. Anna and Mr. Bates, free at last! And the hope of continued happiness with their growing family.

4. Lady Edith-she will be happy this season if I have to commandeer the script and make it happen myself.

3. Branson. He’s a bit of eye candy in my opinion.

2. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. May they have marital bliss. As soon as Carson can quit his OCD behaviors about the food.

1.Did I mention the exquisite clothes??

Yes, I’m in love with the costumes on Downton! More so the upstairs wardrobe than the down, but the attention to detail is impeccable for all the show’s wardrobe.

Downton Abbey has some of the best quotes on television. Here are some of my favorites so far this season:

“Sometimes I feel I’ve been given one little bit of happiness and that will have to do.” Lady Edith  (not because I believe it to be true this season, but because it seemed so fitting for her based on past seasons)

“The working class may be coming up but I doubt if you are.” Lady Mary to the blackmailing wench.

“Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.” Tom Branson

“All that’s needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Molesley to Baxter

“Why not? I know several couples who are perfectly happy, haven’t spoken in years.” Dowager Countess

Hahahaha! I just love the Dowager! Some of the best lines on television come out of her mouth, I swear it.

In closing, it is Thursday night, and as they say on the D.A. Facebook page; 3 more sleeps until Downton night!

Downton Abbey

 

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The Revenant-Not for the faint of heart!

Some Spoilers! If you haven’t seen the movie you might not want to read.

The Hubby and I went to see The Revenant movie a couple nights ago.  If you’re looking for a nice relaxing night at the theatre this is not it! LOL  Don’t get me wrong, a great film, just very intense. I did quite a bit of squirming, gasping, and even some eye covering.  In fact, I don’t recommend eating a large meal before going or there could be up-chuckage. Also, go in with an empty bladder, not only is it 2.5 hours long but if my Sprite had kicked in during the bear attack scene I would have needed clean up in aisle 5.

A few observations and thoughts on the film:

I have to say that Leonardo DiCaprio has NEVER disappointed me in any of his performances and this is no exception.

The scenery is quite beautiful, although very cold and snowy. I found myself shivering a lot in the theatre, as that is what many of the men were doing on screen. The cold Sprite probably didn’t help much either, but I’ll blame the visuals of the snowy, harsh conditions.

I live in an area where bears have been spotted and I love to go for walks.  Thanks to this film I will now not only be on constant guard but will feel the need to carry some sort of bear beating weapon! And I’m a nature buff and a bit of a conservationist generally speaking. But even nature lovers don’t want to be eaten by large predators on their leisure hikes, jus’ sayin’.

The bear attack scene did appear to have a CGI element to it, but still very realistic looking, and Leo’s reactions to it all were completely believable and the scene was uber intense. In fact, everything I’ve learned about bear attacks from Animal Planet tell me Hugh Glass (DiCaprio’s character) should be dead after that, amazed he survived it. But, the movie is being described as a “survival” tale, and survive he did! And not just that bear episode either. I squirmed through the movie wondering what more he could possibly go through, and then- more life threatening action.

A great cast of nearly all men (my inner feminist could argue against this lack of representation, but there just weren’t many women in this story) led by Leo, an excellent casting choice, and supported by Tom Hardy, who plays the bad, bad, really bad guy to a tee, Forrest Goodluck, who plays Glass’ son, a rather handsome Domhnall Gleeson who plays their captain (I learned in my Google-ing that he is also the son of Brendan Gleeson who played Ruby’s rough around the edges but remorseful father in Cold Mountain-another film I luvs), and a young man who reminded me a lot of Johnny Johnson from Little House on the Prairie-an English actor named Will Poulter. Many other talented men  and some women, many of whom were Natives, but too many to list, so I’ve shared the IMDb page web address below. On a side note, if you didn’t know this already, you can “like” an actor/actress’ or a film’s IMDb page by scrolling down a little on the right side of the page and clicking the FB “like” button. You have to be logged into FB at the time for it to work.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1663202/

If I were to rate The Revenant on a 5 star scale, I think I would give it a 4. Again, superbly acted, fantastic cinematography, great effects, lovely scenery, strong plot, hopeful ending (if I understood the ending correctly). I can definitely recommend seeing it, just remember the stomach and bladder warnings I mentioned.

Enjoy!

Roweena

 

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AABGJM

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AABGJM

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AABGJM

Funny Short Film About Book Lovers

Link to view Bookies and the Beast

An online acquaintance of mine participated recently in a short film for a 48 hour film contest. They were given a genre, line of dialogue, specific character, location, and a prop to include in their film, as well as an over all theme for the entire contest. All of these details were given to them on a Friday evening around 6 and had to have the film complete by Sunday at 6 P.M. This included the writing, casting, filming, and editing. I thought it was pretty cute and just wanted to share with all of you. The link is above, it’s about 6 minutes long. Enjoy!

 

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle

The Trend of Teacher Blaming

It’s that time of year again. The time when teachers prepare report cards for the students they’ve been teaching since around Labor Day. For the past 8 weeks they have reviewed, taught, assessed, reviewed again, re-taught, sent home homework for extra practice, had aides (if they are in a building lucky enough to have any) work in small groups to help those who are struggling, contacted parents regarding missing homework or behavior, and just generally worked their butts off to ensure success for their students. After all of this hard work, which most teachers generally enjoy despite its difficulties, they gather assignments, projects, and the aforementioned report card to show the concerned parents.

Sadly, it is also the time of year when the parents teachers need to talk to the most will not show up. It is the time of year when the parents who did not show up for the Open House the first week of school, who didn’t answer teacher’s phone calls, who somehow don’t have email but can post complaints about the school on Facebook, who never sign their child’s planner forcing the oldest sibling in the house to forge their signature, will not show up for a 15 minute conference with their child’s teacher. So the teacher who needs to discuss important things with them will not be able to. Like the fact that the child was prescribed ADHD medicine two years ago but doesn’t seem to be getting it, as his or her behavior is very off task and disruptive, causing them to fall farther and farther behind. Or the fact that they have not returned any homework since school has started, causing them to not only lack mastery of the skill but also have several zeroes in their grade book.

So the teacher will not see certain parents at conference time, but interestingly enough these parents will show up almost immediately at the school, in their pajamas, when they are told they must sign their child’s IEP and Medicaid documents, or their Medicaid checks will be cut off. Or will show up while the teacher is in the middle of teaching a lesson to tell them, in front of all the students, that they are going to sue them for not meeting their child’s special needs.  Or, when the weather turns cold, these parents will show up in the office demanding hats and mittens for their child, claiming they don’t have any nor the money to get any. Or, the school will most likely see these parents when they are informed their child no longer qualifies for free lunch.

So we will see these parents. Eventually. Whenever they feel the teacher has made a mistake. When they feel the consequence for their child’s behavior was too harsh. When they finally see the report card (which had to be mailed to them because they didn’t come to conferences) and see that their child is not passing their subjects and not functioning at grade level. Then they will show up, spewing words of blame and dislike for schools. The teacher should have been helping the student more. The teacher is responsible for their learning. The teacher is responsible for their behavior during the school day. It is amazing how quickly a parent can get to the school when they feel they have someone to blame.

My words for the teachers: Hang in there! Remember that school may very well be the best part of a child’s day. Remember that the child who needs his ADHD medication may not be getting it because his parents are selling it. Remember you do make a difference in the lives of all your students, whether the parents appreciate it or not.

My words for the parents: Wake up! If you can not take some responsibility for your child and his or her learning, how is he or she supposed to learn to take responsibility as they get older? Please get your priorities straight. Getting your child up and dressed for school, with medication if needed, homework in hand, and with proper outdoor clothing, should take precedent over you sleeping until 10 A.M. because you stayed up partying with friends all night (in the same house where your child was trying to sleep).

Here’s to a successful fall conference to all the teachers out there. May all your students show progress no matter how small.

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle

Drunk History- My New Favorite Show!!

I started watching the show Drunk History recently due to recommendations from some friends.  Love!!

The premise of the show, created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner, is that a host gets drunk, and continues to drink, while discussing some bit of history.  As the tipsy narrator tells their tale, actors portraying the historical figures act out the story, and lip sync all the dialogue. It’s hilarious to say the least.  Hearing someone describe “Fu%&ing President Abraham Lincoln” and see Abe introduce himself as “Fu%&ing Prsident Abraham Lincoln” complete with non verbal intonation, body language, drunk giggles, the works, is just plain funny! My description doesn’t do it justice- you just have to watch it.

Many well known actors play the lip syncing historical figures. Stephen Merchant, Greg Kinnear, Octavia Spencer (who NAILED a hilarious sketch about Harriet Tubman), and Will Ferrell  are just a few of the talents who have loaned their skills to the genius silliness.

Drunk History. Tuesdays 10:30/9:30central. Comedy Central.

Your future looks bright (although maybe blurred and slurred) if you plan on watching Drunk History!

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle

The Beautiful Shores of Lake Michigan

If you ever have a chance to visit Michigan, do it!  Especially in the summer.  It is truly one of the most beautiful states in the glorious U.S.A.  And I truly feel the west coast is lovelier than the east coast.  The east coast has some nice spots too, most of them on the northern side, but the west coast is amazing.  If you can, take a drive along Lake Michigan, starting in the south near the quaint lake town of New Buffalo.  Lovely beach, lots of shopping, restaurants, and even an amazingly large and gorgeously designed casino.  The Four Winds Casino and Resort is owned and operated by the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Natives and its architecture and décor reflect their influence.  Magnificent Native artwork enhances the walls.  It has the look and feel of a northern log cabin resort with 4 star posh hotel amenities.  Even a kids room and day care, and a large event center for concerts and such.  And food; to die for.

But anyway, back to the natural beauty of summer in Michigan.  So explore New Buffalo, then cruise up the road a bit and you’ll find Warren Dunes, a fabulous beach with very tall sand dunes to climb, several antique and artsy shops, more beaches in Bridgman and soon the adorable city of St. Joseph.  St. Joe would make a great stopping place for lunch, cocktails, adventures for the kids, or just to hang out at Silver Beach.  Another great town with lots of shops, restaurants, (Silver Beach Pizza is highly recommended) and a gorgeous beach.  Down near the water there is a Carousel for kids and adults alike, a mini-water splash/play area, and a kids hands on indoor play zone.

Travelling farther north along the coast, you’ll find the city of South Haven.  Not as much to offer as St. Joseph, but definitely has several great beaches.  Two beaches in town and one a bit south at the Van Buren State Park.  Also a town with lots of eating choices and several ice cream shops.

Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Ludington, Manistee, Traverse City, Petoskey, I could go on and on.  If wine sampling is your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Michigan. At all.  Especially in the southwestern area, near many of the towns I mentioned above between New Buffalo and South Haven.  Traverse City and the Leelanau Peninsula boast many wineries as well.  If beer is your thing, Michigan will keep you “hoppy”.  Grand Rapids, nicknamed Beer City U.S.A., has several breweries, as does Kalamazoo.  Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo.

Sunsets along Lake Michigan are among the most beautiful in the world.  The water is so vast and blue it is really more like a small ocean.  As far as the swimming, it’s really unbeatable.  Clean, clear water and no worries of salt, sharks, or any other things that might concern you in the real “oceans”.  Lots of adventurers have fun with jet skis, boats, kite boarding, and even surfing.

I could ramble on and on, but I shall stop and let you explore Michigan on your own time and agenda.  I really don’t think you would regret any time spent there.  Unless of course you go in January and are stuck in one of its famous Polar Vortex style blizzards.  Then you would be cursing me and my recommendation.  No, I’ll stick with recommending visiting the Mitten State during the lovely summer months.

Enjoy!

Roweena

 

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Review

Recently I finished reading Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. If I had to find one word to describe the whole story I would choose “intriguing”, although rather “sexist”, “frustrating”, and “infuriating” at times. Maybe “spellbinding”. I might also choose “addicting” as I found it difficult to pull away from and deal with reality in my own life. I found the writing very engaging and easy to follow, yet not simple. The writer’s style of describing both the 1940’s world and 1740’s world made it all really come to life, without boring the reader with cumbersome facts. The tapestry of characters, places, relationships, and events that develops in your mind as you progress through the pages is as good as a museum painting or film. If you are anything like I was as I read it, you will travel a beautiful, yet rocky, steep, frustrating, and even terrifying, at times, trail of places, history, and emotion, and feel your heart and mind giving way to the journey. The characters will definitely do things you won’t agree with as a reader, and at times you will feel angry at them, but you might finish the book feeling part of your own heart and soul enveloped in the lives, hearts, and souls of the characters and the beautiful Scottish landscape.

Before you read any further, please be SPOLER ALERTED! If you have not read the story yet and would like to with a completely unknowing mind, you may want to stop reading. If you have read the story or don’t mind a sneak peek, proceed.

Outlander is an epic tale of a young British woman from the 1940’s thrown back 200 years in time to Jacobite era Scotland. She immediately meets the antagonist of the story, Black Jack Randall, whom, due to his strong resemblance, she at first mistakes for her husband, Frank. Quickly she discovers the British captain is far from anything like his descendent, her husband, and finds herself in danger. Rescued, and kidnapped, by a group of rough, but fairly kind hearted, Scottish clansmen, she meets Jamie Fraser, a handsome, young kilted soldier, who needs medical attention, which Claire administers using skills learned as a WWII combat nurse. After spending some time at the clan’s haven, Castle Leoch, Claire, who is suspected by some as being a spy for the British, develops a friendship with young Jamie, but secretly searches and plans for a way back to Frank and to her modern world. This proves difficult as she is watched closely by members of the Castle and not allowed to leave, in essence, she becomes a prisoner. She also begins to see the reality of a time period where human, and especially women’s, rights, are much different than in her own.

As the story progresses, Claire, who is now viewed by the clan, in a way, as their property and still suspected to be a spy for the British, is forced into an arranged marriage to Jamie, in order to prevent her capture and imminent torture by Black Jack. Claire, being still married to Frank in the modern world and maintaining hope of returning to him, is reluctant to marry, but sees no other option. Marriage to Jamie turns out to be quite blissful, at least in the beginning. She enjoys his company and feels comforted by his protection.

Yes, all is well on the newlywed front, until around Chapter 22, when Jamie decides to dole out a rather harsh (in my opinion) punishment to Claire for not following his orders. Man, do I have some thoughts on that whole scene, some of which can be read here: https://roweenarickman.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/a-letter-to-claire/     I won’t explain too much about the details of that portion of the story. This is a part where the history (if history is the reason that scene is in the book, I’m not fully convinced its presence in the plot has much to do with history) is shocking, reminding us of the lack of women’s rights (human’s rights in general), outside of what the men in their lives granted them, during that time period. Honestly, as a reader, I did not feel this scene was necessary to the plotline, and its presence in the story, for whatever reasons, nearly ruined the book for me.

Disturbing, aggravating, and sexist as that whole scene was, as well as some of his and Claire’s behavior shortly after, I began to forgive Jamie (not as quickly as Claire did) as the story progressed. Their happiness seemed to surpass their strife, at least for a while. And certainly by the end of the book, knowing all that he endured to free her from Randall, he had earned some redemption and forgiveness from me.

Strife the two lovers did experience, in multitude. Claire’s capture, physical injuries, and near execution for suspected witchcraft, resulting in having to flee the sanctuary of Castle Leoch. Jamie’s near heartbreak as he returns her selflessly to the stones where she fell through time, his capture by the Watch near Lallybroch, Claire’s driven and desperate searching and plotting to free him, his near death at the hands of Black Jack, her near death leaving the prison to find help, and his long, physically and emotionally painful rehabilitation. Jamie’s recounting to Claire of his final torture by the hands of the cruelly sadistic Black Jack made my heart truly ache for him. I challenge any reader to get through it without shedding, or at least coming close to, shedding some tears. At times the reader is left wondering if the two shall ever find peace. The last few pages of the novel leave us knowing the two have reached a point of happiness and some peace, although their future, knowing what Claire knows about it, will certainly not be without its difficulties.

Gabaldon intertwined some historical accuracy with a consuming, difficult to put down, life and love story. Through Claire’s eyes and experiences, we learn a great deal of Scottish clan history, the Jacobite uprising, British rule (and brutality), superstition, medical history, and even a few things about herbal and plant remedies. I found some elements missing, one being that some of the problems don’t seem to have full resolution or vindication. I feel that Claire dismisses serious things too easily at times, and even comes across as devoid of proper emotion for certain situations. Perhaps absolution comes later in the lengthy book series, Outlander is, after all, only the first book in an eight part series. I also found the sexist, violent, and rape related themes to be quite disturbing. There were also a couple portions where the plot just didn’t seem to work. I found myself questioning things a great deal.

Now that I’ve given you a serious overview of the plot, on a personal and somewhat humorous note,  let me say I would not last long in 1700’s Scotland. I would have thrown myself off the nearest precipice (lots available in Scotland) or found some 18th century poison to quietly end my misery. Here are a few reasons:

  1. I can’t stand the smell of raw sewage, especially near my living area.
  2. I don’t really like herring.
  3. The whole concept of men being responsible for and in charge of women makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
  4. A system of justice that involves so much physical abuse and punishment is just straight up weird to me.
  5. I can’t stand leeches.
  6. Sex in the 1700’s. How often people bathed back then…think about it.
  7. Toilet paper. I really don’t think I could live without it.

I could probably go on and on with the list, mentioning my loss of technological conveniences as well, but I’ll admit sometimes I enjoy getting away from it all and living simply and free from distractions. Like a long weekend camping, but after a few days I’m ready to get back to my modern life.

Which brings me to Claire. I admire her spirit, strength, and tenacity to survive in this throwback world, a world where women had little or no rights, outside what was granted to them through the men in their lives. I don’t agree with the way she lets Jamie treat her sometimes, even outside of Chapter 22. He can be a brut at intimate times, acting in a way that could be described as rape. Claire seems to be ok with his behavior though, ultimately giving in, so I guess it’s her business. (Although I don’t agree with the message that behavior sends to readers.) Like I said I would have offed myself long before the ending of Claire’s story, if I were in her shoes. Or somehow made an escape to the stones. Somehow. Or perhaps I could have found strength and love in the partnership with Jamie, the way she did. It would have been hard for me to get over the whole Chapter 22 incident with him though, honestly.

Outlander is also not without its points of humor. Jamie himself has a wonderful sense of humor, one of the things Claire ends up really enjoying and loving about him. The story brings us several humorous situations as well. Claire and Jamie’s initial consummation of their marriage, although definitely romantic, was certainly giggle worthy as Jamie, a bit naïve in this department, makes a post coital confession to Claire. Jamie’s conversation in the stable with his young cousin Hamish about the details of marriage and its benefits, some of Claire’s “girl talk” conversations with Geillis, her acquaintance during her time at Leoch, Jamie and his sister Jenny’s childhood stories and sibling banter, an incident with some silly underwear and a waterwheel, and Claire’s own quick wit, are a few of the elements that help keep the story light hearted and entertaining through the serious undertones.

Would I recommend Outlander to readers? Well, here is where I feel conflicted. If I do recommend it I must do so with words of caution. If you choose to read it, be prepared for some controversy, and be prepared for some sex scenes, some of which are rather detailed. Be prepared for the mention, and some detailed description of, rape. Be prepared for violence, including some domestic violence. Also be prepared to be frustrated and even angry at times. Remember, it is set in a time when women were second class citizens. If you are sensitive to, or simply not interested in reading about any of these things, it will probably not be a book you will enjoy. In fact, there may be parts that will traumatize you. I certainly had my moments of frustration and discomfort as I read it, but like I mentioned, the author’s writing style keeps many readers turning the pages.

Link to Roweena’s Publication on Amazon/Kindle