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I have this odd little habit of building relationships with people in my everyday life – not people that come over for dinner or go to church with us, but people I see on a weekly basis, almost without fail.

I shop at the same few stores every Monday just like clockwork.  I’m a pretty regimented kind of person, so it’s not a surprise to those who know me well, but it’s also one of the two days we take Mark to work and I have the car (yep, we’re *that* family – the one without two cars).

Invariably, I end up being friendly to those at the store – I’m not an extrovert at all, but you’d never know it when someone who works at the store and whom I see every week engages me in conversation.  😉  I guess I just don’t like being grouchy enough to treat poorly those who serve me.  And so, we have a collection of people in various locations.

It started innocuously enough when we lived down south.  I had a newborn baby in a carseat in the cart at Meijer, and the lady at the checkout stand couldn’t resist peeking under the blanket and cooing at this precious little one.  She saw us weekly with our grocery purchases and watched him grow for 5 years.  And now, we still stay in touch, thanks to email, facebook, and blogging.  *waves at Danielle*  The same with the older lady who greeted us every day at the same store – she began to treat our son as though he was one of her grandkids.  :)

When we moved north, it was a bit inevitable as well.  I shop at the same stores, I strike up friendly little how-do conversations with the people behind the counter.  So when Bob, at CVS, had an interview in Wyoming, he told us about it with a sparkle in his eye.  And we asked about it the following week.  And when Phil, the manager at the store winks and teases me about paying double for a prescription, I just tell him that it’ll be in Extra Bucks and he grins.

The Meijer up here is similar – we have a friend (Tia) who works in the dairy section and she talks to us every time we see her – and if we miss her, we catch up the following week.  And there’s Jan, the sweet clerk at the u-scan at the same store – she smiles when the computer fusses at me about my coupons and helps out, but she’s also one who’s taken the time to ask about why I have a (clearly school-aged) kid with me when I shop.  She smiles and sees how well he’s doing reading labels and helping me bag stuff up, and knows my plans to head back to school as well.

It’s kind of weird, but it works for us.  And when I hear of other customers being grouchy or mean to those who work at retail establishments, I get annoyed.  Life is short and most of the time, it’s not easy.  But it’s not an excuse to treat others poorly.  If they would just take the time to look around, the grouches would realize that the people who work to serve them are human beings too – worthy of respect and being well-treated by those around them.

I like this way of existing.  It makes me smile and I hope it brightens the day of those with whom I come in to contact.

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Brendan was all gung-ho about this movie, despite the fact that he knew virtually nothing about it and hadn’t seen it in the theatre. We knew about the same, but after reading a review online, I realized that it was a fine movie for our next Family Movie Night.

The plot centers on a rat (yes, the four-footed kind) and his family (who is just content to eat garbage). Remy, the rodent-hero, has a nose that leads him past garbage and saves his life by permitting him to discern rat poison from food, but his family doesn’t appreciate his epicurian tastes, nor his desire to combine flavours and learn from the best of the best, the (late) great August Gusteau. Gusteau’s motto is “anyone can cook,” and Remy realizes his dream of learning to cook might not be so far-fetched after all.

The trouble is, Remy is a rat, as I mentioned. And in Paris, a rat is a rat~hated~despite his natural culinary ability. Remy narrowly avoids being killed in a restaurant’s kitchen, and through the event, meets up with Linguini, who is a newly-hired kitchen-boy. Linguini wants to keep his job, Remy wants to cook, and so through some gestures and practice, Remy learns to control Linguini’s movements through Wii -like gesticulations.

“Linguini’s cooking” turns out to be just what Parisian diners want, to the chagrin of the head-chef. The chef is convinced there is weird stuff going on, but cannot get Linguini to spill the beans. He’s also suspicious of the timing of Linguini’s appearance, as Gusteau’s death willed the restaurant to the chef. As it turns out, Linguini is Gusteau’s rightful heir, and when his cooking is praised by the harshest food-critic in Paris, the story comes out.

As much as I didn’t pay attention to the movie when it was first out, I found myself appreciating its “lesson,” as it were. Linguini wasn’t a chef, and once he learned that it was better to be true to who he was created to be, he was the restaurant’s best waiter. Remy was born to cook, and oddly enough, ends up doing just that in a new French restaurant. But if Remy had listened to his rat-family who just wanted him to root through the trash with them, he never would have realized his dream. And if Linguini had listened to the words spoken by the head-chef, he never would have realized the importance of knowing who you are and following your skills and abilities to that dream’s fruition.

There was no foul language, and what violence there was involved a (nearly-blind) little old lady in a farmhouse with a sawed-off 22, shooting at mice. The cunning and ultimate unkindness of the head-chef made me cringe a bit, but I honestly couldn’t come up with anything that was objectionable.

Brendan has requested this movie for Christmas, which may or may not happen. But overall, it was a good movie for our Family Movie Night tradition and I’m always glad to find good, well-done movies to recommend to other families. :).

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So we’ve been watching movies that we already own for family movie night in the last several weeks. And I just can’t bring myself to write about “Cars,” because although it’s a great movie, the 73rd time through, I just can’t wax poetic about its good points.

But this week, we got “Lord of the Beans” from the library. If you’re not familiar with the title, it’s a Veggie Tales title and is (naturally) a spoof of “The Lord of the Rings.” Now as a Tolkien-nut, it’s vaguely sacrilegious, but it’s funny, too. “Toto Baggypants” (Frodo Baggins) receives a Bean of Power and it’s a gift. He wants to know how to use his Gift, and travels over Much Snowia (Moria) in to the Land of Doom to figure out what to do with the Bean/Gift.

Toto is joined by Randalf (Mr. Nezzer as Gandalf), Ear-A-Corn (Larry as Aragorn), Leg-o-Lamb (Jerry the Gourd as Legolas), and Grumpy (Pa Grape as Gimli). Oh, and a miscellaneous elf named “The Other Elf,” who is suspiciously reminiscent of a Keebler Elf. 😉

Of course there are jokes along the way that only fans of the original Peter Jackson trilogy will get (i.e., they go over Brendan’s head completely), and the normal “Silly Songs with Larry” is replaced with “Silly Songs with Elves,” and Larry the Cucumber is dressed as Elvis(h). He is discovered as an “Elvish Impersonator” by Leg-O-Lamb, and in usual fashion, that’s where the Silly Song segment ends.

Toto comes across the Raspberry Forest (Fangorn Forest) where creatures very similar to Ents live, but they blow raspberries as a greeting. And Saruman is represented as “Lord ScaryMan,” the villain of the script. Lord ScaryMan wants the Bean of Power to get what he wants (fame, power, and an espresso maker), but Toto hangs on to it and learns that his Gift is for helping other people, not accruing fame, power, or money. ScaryMan’s evil henchmen are “Sporks,” and look amazingly like the eating device found at Taco Bell restaurants across the nation. Happily, The Other Elf (who apparently has a small bladder) hops in to a tree in the Land of Doom (presumably to take care of business), and comes out with cookies (hence the Keebler Elf nod) that tame the Spork army. Turns out, the Sporks were just hungry! 😉

All in all, a very cute movie. As you might expect from Veggie Tales, a tale that reminds us that our gifts aren’t for personal gain, but to bless and help others. It’s a worthwhile watch, even for the Tolkien purist, because it’s funny and your kids will pick up a beneficial message while you snort and laugh..

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I realized that as we started a new tradition a few months ago of sitting down together on Sunday evenings with a family movie, we’ve come across some winners and losers. But as a parent trying to find those movies, there aren’t always reviews that suit our purposes. Yes, there are sites out there that look at different aspects of the movie, but unless you know what you’re looking for, you might have a hard time. And so, being the opinionated woman that I am (no comments, please Isaiah!), I figured I’d write a weekly review about what we watched and how it went over, including bits on what was good and what was less-than-good. And maybe other families would find it useful. :)

So instead of wracking my brain and going backwards with what we’ve seen, I’m starting fresh with what we watched last night. :)

I read a review on “Hoodwinked” at Plugged In , and was skeptical, but picked it up anyhow with our free-movie coupon from Blockbuster. I was impressed by the cast of actors listed and thought that if it was even partially-good, it was worth the free-coupon-use. 😉 I’m picky, eh?

“Hoodwinked” is rated PG, but I really can’t come up with a reason why. There is no profanity, nothing objectionable, and no violence. Yes, there’s an axe-wielding “woodsman,” but as we find out, he’s really a German-accented actor who’s trying to find his “inner wood-cutter” for a TV commerical.

The movie tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood (the same fairy-tale we grew up with) from multiple perspectives. Just when you think you know the story, the movie convinces you that you don’t. So you get to hear it from Red’s (Anne Hathaway) perspective, the Wolf’s (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman’s (Jim Belushi), and Granny’s (Glenn Close). And oddly enough, even though it’s entirely fictitious, I found myself thinking that this was actually plausible–that I really didn’t know the story of Red Riding Hood. The police chief is voiced by Xzibit, who hosts Pimp My Ride on MTV, and the inspector (a long-legged frog) receives his character from David Ogden Stiers, or Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III, of M*A*S*H fame.

The twists and turns in the plot are worthy of accolades, and my favourite character is split between the Wolf (who is a reporter and writer) and Twitchy, his sidekick and photographer. Twitchy, incidentally, is a squirrel who speaks in a ridiculously high-pitched voice at nearly the speed of sound, and when he actually gets his hands on a cup of coffee…well, watch out! 😆

Brendan loved the movie, but as most animated movies that are deeper than Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, there are two levels of humour. He didn’t get the things we laughed at, but there was enough slapstick comedy that kept him going.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will tell you that we found this movie to be entirely amusing and entertaining–enough so that it might actually enter our permanent DVD collection. And that says a lot–we are incredibly picky about what we actually purchase.

Until next week, happy watching! And if you’ve not started a tradition like Family Movie Night, I highly encourage it. It will be something that your whole family will enjoy and your kids will not forget as they grow up. :).

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