Sunday, August 18, 2013


For the past few years, I've been supporting a program at my local commissary called "Feds Feed Families."  Basically, the commissary packs up bags of food which patrons buy and donate to our local food pantry.  There are usually several sizes of bags with various price points and contents.  Depending on the contents of my wallet, I will buy a bag each time I visit the commissary.  This is a great idea that provides an easy, painless way to fill a need in the community.

This year, there are four sizes of bags.  Here is a list of each bag size, including contents and price.

SMALL ($3.99)
cake mix
canned vegetables

MEDIUM (couldn't find the price, but it was around $5)
tomato sauce (which may or may not be spaghetti sauce--I can't remember exactly what it said)
prepared meal (which I assume is something like Hamburger Helper)
canned vegetables

LARGE ($5.84)
canned vegetables

cake mix or gravy
canned vegetables
instant potatoes

So what's wrong with this picture? 

I feel like these bags were designed by Marie Antoinette and Ronald Reagan (he of the ketchup is a vegetable opinion).  I'm not saying that people who are looking for assistance with feeding their families don't deserve cake or cookies, but goodness, if I can't put a meal on my kids' plates, I'm pretty sure I'm not looking for a cake mix to solve the problem, particularly since it uses three eggs, which could be breakfast or lunch.  I don't even object to ketchup or mayonnaise per se, but they won't do much to alleviate hunger if there's nothing to put them on.

The only bag that makes sense to me is the medium one, which can make two or three meals.  I feel like there's more bang for the buck there, in terms of feeding hungry people. 

Now, I know that these bags are probably not given directly to hungry people, but are given to our local food closet, which most likely supplements them with other items, including food vouchers that allow people to choose their own perishables like milk, meat, bread, etc.  I would just rather see the bags include things like tuna, mac & cheese, peanut butter, rice, and canned fruit.  People will donate the other stuff, as I know from personal experience gathering food pantry donations at my school.  When a child is hungry, cake is just not the answer, as Marie Antoinette learned the hard way.  Let's put real food in our donation bags, and fill our donation pantries' shelves with foods that provide nutrients while satisfying hunger.

Monday, May 27, 2013


My Bucket List Begins

I have always loved the idea of a bucket list, although I don't know that I love what it's called.  I prefer to view it as a goals list.  At any rate, I've been reading a lot lately, and I've begun thinking about things I'd like to do before I die.  (You didn't read that.  I never said it.  I'll deny it till I die LOL.)  I'm going to start it now, but I'll most likely add to it as time goes by.

Mellanie's Bucket List

1.  Ride a zip line
2.  Visit a ghost town
3.  Visit England, Ireland, Paris, and other parts of Europe
4.  Read all the books on a "100 Greatest Books of All Time" list
5.  Get a book published for pay
6.  Have 6 months' savings in the bank
7.  Learn how to crochet granny squares
8.  Take a cruise to Alaska
9.  Swim with dolphins
10.  Act in a play again
11.  Have grandchildren (no pressure, Hillary and Evan!)
12.  See Niagara Falls (I don't know why I've had such a burning desire to do this for a while now...)
13.  Have a lifestyle lift when my surgeries are done and I weigh less than 150 pounds again (yes, I'm vain)
14.  Have my teeth professionally whitened (and re-capped, if necessary)
15.  Learn sign language
16.  Be in a movie or TV show
17.  Take horseback riding lessons

I'm going to stop there because it's enough to be going on with for the moment.  Some of these could be pretty easy to do.  I'm looking forward to checking items off and adding to my list.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I have often described cable TV as 800 channels of nothing to watch.  I get tired of the offerings on my usual channels, or feel guitly about subjecting my family to hours of "murder death kill" programming, so I try to find something else to watch.  Most often, as I'm flipping through the channels, I pause at a movie I may have seen dozens of times and settle in for yet another viewing.  Here, in no particular order, are a few of my tried-and-true favorites, movies I can watch over and over and never get tired of.

     This movie is so silly and over-the-top, but it has a great cast and lots of fun moments.  I love Will Patton as the deadbeat dad who finally gives his son a father to look up to.  Steve Buscemi's character is nuts and practically steals the movie.  I adore Owen Wilson and will watch him in anything, although his deplorable hairstyle is almost a dealbreaker in this film.  And I always tear up at Bruce Willis's final scenes. 

     This movie feeds into my fascination with post-apocalyptic fiction.  I admire the people in the library for doing whatever it takes to ensure their survival.  I love that Dennis Quaid will go the distance to rescue his son.  I don't especially like the politics of this movie, but the story draws me in every time.

     I first read this book when I was in the sixth grade and was a huge fan long before Rob Reiner filmed it.  My husband and I were living in Panama the first year we were married when the film came out, and I made him take me to see it.  Mark Knopfler's score is perfect, the ensemble cast is one of the best ever, and practically every line of dialogue is instantly recognizable in this eminently quotable script.

     This movie reels me in every time (pun very much intended, lol).  I love everything about this movie, especially the instances where it differs from the book.  Lots of great lines, a solid cast, and one of the best movie monsters ever.  My father-in-law never swam in the ocean again after seeing this film.

     M. Night Shyamalan's movies are pretty much all remote-droppers for me, but this and THE SIXTH SENSE are probably my favorites.  On another note, who knew that M. Night was psychic, correctly forecasting Joaquin Phoenix's future need of a tinfoil hat and Mel Gibson falling off his rocker?

13 GOING ON 30
     Jennifer Garner is adorable in this movie as the girl whose wish to be 30, flirty, and fabulous magically comes true.  It's a little hard to believe that a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old's body could bluff her way through her job as a magazine editor, but it's packaged so sweetly that I'm willing to suspend my skepticism.  Andy Serkis is a sweetie, and Judy Greer deliciously loathsome, but it's Mark Ruffalo as the romantic lead who makes this an automatic pause for me.

     Mark Ruffalo is the romantic lead in this charmer, as well, and Reese Witherspoon is a sassy smart-alec of a spitfire in this story of a doctor who slips into a coma after a car accident on the way to meet the man of her dreams.  The delicious Donal Logue is amusing in a supporting role, and Jon Heder is a treat as a psychic.

     I'm not a huge Katherine Heigl fan, and I swear I've read a book with this exact plot because nothing about this movie surprised me and it all seemed beyond familiar, but James Marsden was a charming surprise as the romantic hero, and Judy Greer shows up as the heroine's best friend in a likeable twist on her character from 13 Going on 30.  Everything about this movie is a little larger than life, but in a good way.

     This really ought to be at the top of my list, because I'm pretty sure my entire family is sick of it by now due to frequent exposure, but once I scroll to this, I almost always stop looking.  I despise the First Lady scenes because her death is gratuitous and the characters' reactions to it shallow and short-lived, but those scenes go by almost quickly enough, and we can get back to kicking some alien butt.  I love Margaret Colin and have always wondered why she didn't have a bigger career.  This movie has a great ensemble cast, including the only good-looking Baldwin in Hollywood (Adam, who is NOT one of the brothers).

     This movie maddens me because the soundtrack is so poor--some scenes are so quiet as to be almost unintelligible, and that drives me nuts every time I watch it.  As a ghost story, however, it's a tale told seamlessly, truly frightening in its storytelling without a shred of blood or gore and one of the most intriguing plot twists in movie history.  Being a fan of memento mori, I appreciated the use of the book of the dead in a couple of pivotal scenes.  Nicole Kidman was frosty and refined, and the young actress who played her daughter was perfectly cast and did a wonderful job.

     I like both of these films for different reasons.  TFOTR cemented my crush on Sean Bean.  TROTK wraps up the trilogy nicely.  I rarely watch the second film, but I will stop for either of these two others pretty much every time.

     Okay, the truth is I've only seen this move twice.  I became a fan of Norman Reedus because of the TV show The Walking Dead, and when I heard he was in this movie, I hunted it down so I could watch him in it.  A few minutes in, I realized that I'd seen it before.  Norman Reedus does a fine job, but Willem Dafoe OWNS this movie as the FBI agent in pursuit of the vigilante brothers and their psychotic sidekick.  His performance is what will make this a stop and watch movie for me.

There are, of course, other movies on my list.  I love 2010 (the sequel to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) and 2012, yet another end-of-the-world as we know it disaster flick.  SHANGHAI NOON and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS, A WALK TO REMEMBER, MEN IN BLACK, the last Harry Potter movie, THE BIRDS--my list could go on and on. The next time you find yourself watching one of these movies on HBO or some other channel, chances are, I'm probably watching it, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I've recently read the first two books, Glow and Spark, in a new trilogy by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  Two spaceships are traveling to a distant planet, which will be called New Earth, to colonize it.  All the adults on one ship, the Empyrean, are either killed or captured by people from the other ship, the New Horizon, and the girls are kidnapped because the people on the New Horizon are determined to be the first to populate New Earth.  I really enjoyed both books, and am eagerly awaiting publication of the third, but I had a problem with one character's name, and it kept jolting me out of the book.

The leader of the New Horizon's name is Pastor Anne Mather.  This probably doesn't mean anything to most people, but in real life, Anne Mather is the author of a number of Harlequin and Mills & Boon Romances, and one of the original authors of Harlequin's first spin-off imprint, Harlequin Presents.  I think I know why Ryan chose this name for her character:  Pastor Anne Mather presents herself as a motherly figure, and "Mather" is close to "mother."  Reminding myself of that didn't help me get past the issue, unfortunately.  Every time I encountered the character's full name, I would have to regroup and get back into the story.

I had a similar experience on a recent re-read of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's book It Had to Be You, which was published just before O. J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.  Football is a major part of the story, and the fictional characters make reference to real-life players and coaches.  It was almost surreal to read this book, which portrayed O. J. as a good guy, and to realize that while it was still on the shelves, O.J.'s reputation was forever smeared with the blood of his victims.

Still, it's weird how the tiniest things can rip me right out of the pages of an otherwise good read.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I'm just as fascinated as anyone with timesaving measures and doing things the quickest way possible, even though I sometimes do things the hard way for reasons of my own (building some extra walking into my day, for one).  However, I've recently been reminded of a time-saving strategy that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Reading an article in a women's magazine, I became reacquainted with this tip:  group your silverware together in the dishwasher for faster unloading.  I object to this four several reasons.

First of all, how long does it actually take to put the silverware away once it's clean?  It takes me less than a minute to put all my silverware away, and that's in a couple of steps:  first I take out all the big serving utensils and put them away, then I put away all the steak knives, then all the bread knives, then everything else.  Less than a minute, total. 

Secondly, when you group like silverware, they tend to nestle together.  When they're nested, they don't get cleaned properly, so you have to wash them again, thus using more time and resources than if you'd just mixed them up the way most of us do.

Finally, unless you're part of the Gilbreth clan (the family in the original Cheaper by the Dozen), does saving ten or fifteen seconds really make your life that much better?  It would take you weeks to accumulate a significant chunk of time. 

In my opinion, this is a timesaver that really isn't.

Monday, January 07, 2013


If you know me personally, you probably know that I've been complaining for some time of an abnormality in my abdomen.  Even though I've lost roughly 60 pounds from my highest-ever weight, my stomach is still large and round and looks like I'm six months pregnant.  Plus, when I push on my stomach, it's really hard to the touch. 

After a lot of false starts and failures, I finally got a referral to a doctor who listened to my concerns.  At the very beginning of his examination, he placed his hand on my stomach and promptly said, "You've got fibroids."  At last!  I know it's weird to be happy about that, but I feel vindicated, that this wasn't just me playing the hypochondriac card.

Today I went back to my doctor's office for an ultrasound, and I saw this big dark spot in the middle of the screen.  I asked the tech if it was a fibroid, and she did a little half-laugh and said, "I can't tell you that."

So I said, "Well, can you answer a question?  That's not a big empty space in my stomach, is it?"

Another almost giggle, and, "No, it's not."

I don't know what the scale is of what I was seeing on the screen, but the size of the big dark spot was somewhere between grapefruit and cantaloupe, with several smaller spots ranging from plum to lime.  I have another appointment later this week, where the doctor will tell me the results of this ultrasound.  I really hope that if these are fibroids (and ovarian cysts), they can be removed so I will stop looking like I'm trying to shoplift a bowling ball.

I have immense faith that this is all going to turn out well, but I would still appreciate it if all of you would keep me in your prayers.  I'll let you know what the doctor says later this week.

Friday, January 04, 2013



Now that the holidays are behind us, many of my favorite TV shows will be coming back on the air.  It's been a while since I've had regular appointments with my television, the only recent one being Thursday nights at 9 for Project Runway All-Stars, so I'm looking forward to hanging out with some of my favorites.

Justified is coming on again, and I can't wait to see what Raylan's up to this season.  I love his relationship with Boyd, and can't help thinking about what a team they'd make if they were both on the same side of the law.  Plus, Timothy Olyphant is just so pretty to look at, and I admire how grounded and honorable he seems to be in real life.

Game of Thrones should be back soon.  I've been very lazy in not having finished the third book in the series, so I'll have to get to that soon to keep up with the show despite the many changes.  I feel like I would enjoy it nearly as much even if I hadn't read the books, but that OCD part of me needs some closure.

I'm interested in a new show, The Face.  It's a modeling competition set up like The Voice, with Nigel Barker (formerly one of the judges on America's Next Top Model), as host.  Tyra Banks has got to be upset that one of her people has gone over to the dark side, since her arch-enemy Naomi Campbell is one of the team captains.  From the previews I've seen so far, however, the girls on this show are much prettier than most of those who have appeared on ANTM.

My son has turned me on to a BBC show, Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, most recently seen as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.  I've been reading the forums at and watching youtube clips of these guys on various chat shows, because I just can't get enough of "the 'Batch," as they're calling him on twop.  That deep voice is extremely compelling.  I'm also quite looking forward to the new Star Trek movie, due out in May, in which Cumberbatch plays the villain.  He's got a big career ahead of himself here in the States if he can keep the momentum going, and with his upcoming roles as Smaug and The Necromancer in the next Hobbit installment, that's almost guaranteed.  I love Martin Freeman as well, although it always feels like there's something profoundly melancholy in his eyes, even when he's smiling.  He doesn't smile often on screen, but on talk shows, he's very funny and charming.  The new Sherlock episodes are due later this year, and I can't wait to see the aftermath of Sherlock's dive from a London rooftop.

Last but not least, I've been waiting impatiently for the second half of Season 3 of The Walking Dead.  I have a serious crush on Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, and when last we left the show, Daryl was in deep doo-doo, having been captured by the evil governor of Woodbury.  I must find out how he gets himself out of trouble. 

Of course I'll be glancing in on a bunch of other shows, but these are the programs that will be ruling my DVR.  Here's to a wealth of watching in 2013!