Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie Review: "Annie"

Without a doubt, "Annie" is one of the all time favorite musicals; it has become a classic and that little red hair girl has sure captivated many hearts throughout the years.
Although the classic image of Annie is different in this modern version, it is definitely worth a visit to the theater.
In this variation of the "Annie" story, the little foster girls lives with her friends and her mean foster mom who makes her life a living hell.  Still, Annie always keeps a smile on her face while holding on to the hope of finding her real parents who dropped her off at a restaurant when she was a baby.
In the middle of an ordinary day, she meets Mr. Stacks (owner of a prominent cell phone company and currently running for mayor in NYC) when he saves her from being ran over by a van.  He happens to be a very "unfriendly" millionaire who brings Annie to his home in hopes of getting some good photo ops to boost his failing political campaign, but Annie turns his life around and he ends up adopting her and quitting his dream of being a mayor.
Of course that is *very* condensed version of the story, but the important part about it is that the movie is entertaining and the music is very engaging.  The actors do a great job portraying their version of the classic "Annie" characters, however, I thought Cameron Diaz's role was a bit exaggerated and her voice is plain awful.  The fact that the story takes place in NYC is pretty awesome too; the shots and views of the city are amazing and Stack's apartment is to die for; I almost wanted him to adopt ME so I could live for a day in that amazing and dreamy apartment. LOL!
Of course, the soundtrack is great but I do feel like the actors' voices are lacking a bit and the choreographies weren't all that. Also, the movie seemed to be too slow at times and the adaptation of a musical to the movie screen wasn't as successful as others have been.  I do think the modern twist was nice and definitely made the story more relatable.
Still, it's a "feel good" kind of movie, appropriate for families and worth the watch.  It gets 3 out of 4 stars from me...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I LOVE "Elf on the Shelf"

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December is such a fun month for us, full of joy, family gatherings and traditions that make it even more fun.
It is also the month when so many parents have fun with the "Elf on the Shelf" and I am not ashamed to say that I am one of those parents. I am THAT mom who puts out the little elf and moves it around every night so my kids get up and look for it all excited.
I personally think it is such a FUN thing to do and when I see my girls' faces light up when they find what the elf has been up to, I just know it is the right thing for us.
The other day our 8 year old neighbor came over and decided that it was a good idea to grab Mama Mia (that's our elf's name!)...as she held the little plush elf and started inspecting it, Olivia looked at her petrified and started sobbing..she kept saying "her magic is gone! she will not come back!". I joined her in panic too and said to her "let's do some research...there's gotta to be SOMETHING we can do to save her!".  After a few Google searches we came up with a solution... "let's sprinkle some cinnamon around her" I said, since that seemed to be the trick to bring the elf's magic back.  We laid her down in a blanket and sprinkled cinnamon around it and all was right in Olivia's world!
The next morning we found Mama Mia sitting in our kitchen next to a bunch of medicine bottles, a bandaid on her leg and a handwritten letter that said "Girls, I'm feeling much better today! Please try not to touch me, remember my magic can go away if you do.  I love you both!". As Olivia finished reading her letter, she turned around and with great conviction she yelled "It worked! Her magic is back!"; she then hugged her sister who seemed to be as overjoyed as she was and they both said "Thank God!". As silly as it may sound, that was such a great moment for me.. to see the look on my daughter's face and the joy she feels by thinking that silly elf is real is just priceless and that's why I love this "tradition".
Do I need an elf for my kids to behave? No! Do I go out of my way to make elf adventures that blow my kids' minds? Absolutely not!  But what if I did?  Who cares? Is it a pain for me to move the elf around every night? Not at all!   Do I LOVE all of it and wish I could do it all year round? YES!
But still, even with all the joy that so many parents feel while giving life to this elf doll, there are so many haters and "grinches" that take to the internet to say how dumb it is to play along. I read this post from a blogger who wrote about how much she "hated" the Elf and how she was resentful of whoever came up with this idea.  And just like that one, there are so many other posts and publications by people who just despise the "Elf on the Shelf".. But "Why?" I ask myself, why are there so many people who go through life criticizing what others do? What if there are mothers who like to make the elf fantasy so big that they spend hours at night planning where the elf will show up the next morning? Someone made millions selling this "Elf on the Shelf".. so what? Who cares if you think the elf is silly? Is someone forcing you to buy it? I personally think it's even sillier to resent it... You don't like it? Then don't do it but please let us "Elf on the Shelf" lovers have fun with our kids and post a gazillion pictures on the internet if we feel like it.
Christmas is about having fun, being joyful and making memories and with God as my witness I am damn sure that my kids will forever cherish the memories they are making with Mama Mia and the day she no longer comes to our house will be the day where my kids no longer believe in magic..and that day, my friends, will be a very sad one for me!
So for now, I will play along with "Elf on the Shelf" and I will soak in all the smiles that it brings to our house and our family!...and I don't care what anybody else thinks...haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate!!!
ELF ON!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hello December!

Hello December!  I'm so happy my favorite month is here!  It is the month I celebrate my birthday, Christmas, New Year's eve and a bunch of other happy days that put me in a good mood. 
I love everything about December; the weather, the food, the lights, colors, decorations... you name it, I love it. 
Here are some Christmas pictures we have taken so far during this holiday season, which I'm sure will be another one to remember!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Keeping the "thanks" beyond Thanksgiving...

Even though I am an American citizen (and definitely feel very American) I wasn't born in the United States so Thanksgiving is sort of a "learned" and "adopted" holiday for me.  I celebrated my first Thanksgiving at 15 and even though it has been 18 years since that first time, I haven't necessarily grown fond of turkey and all the foods that are typical of this holiday and definitely not fond of Black Friday shopping and all the craziness that comes with that!
What I HAVE grown fond of, however, is the "art" of giving THANKS....and I call this an "art" because we often go through life forgetting how blessed with are to have all we have.  Even the most trivial possessions are often taken for granted and this is a great time to reflect and look back at how many times we fail to appreciate our day to day gifts.  Being able to understand the value of our life and everything in it is definitely an art that not everyone masters; it requires reflection and introspection.
When was the last time you went out to celebrate a special occasion and spent $100 on yourself? On a meal?  On a gift?  Did you know that in a developing country, $100 could feed a family of four...for a year?  Have you stopped to think about how many people won't have ANY food this Thanksgiving? Or any other day? Do you ever count your blessings and think about how many people are not as lucky?
And of course by no means do I think that spending money on yourself or splurging on a meal is wrong at all, but what I do mean to say is that giving "Thanks" should be done every day and every time we look at others who are less fortunate than us we should also find ways to help them and inspire them to give thanks as well.
"Thanksgiving" isn't about eating turkey, watching a football game and shopping like a maniac the day after...it is about understanding that blessings shouldn't be taken for granted and that giving THANKS should be an every day thing rather than a once a year activity.
I happen to be very religious so I have a firm believe that the blessings in my life are God given, I thank God every day for EVERYTHING I am and EVERYTHING I have and not a day goes by that I don't stop to appreciate even the smallest gifts.  But you don't have to be religious to give THANKS; if you don't believe in God then simply thank the universe or the people around you but never ever forget to keep the "thanks" beyond Thanksgiving!
Challenge yourself to do ONE charitable work this season.  Donate canned food! Donate toys! Write letters and send care packages to a prisoner!  Do SOMETHING!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope yours is twice is good as mine! :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Movie Review: "Penguins of Madagascar"

"Madagascar" is one of my favorite franchises; I think the characters are fun and the movies are amazing (especially the 3rd one!). My expectations for this movie were high so it kind of breaks my heart a little to have to write a so-so review, but it just wasn't great!
The penguins were funny as usual; their clever ways and funny jokes make for a somewhat entertaining movie, but the plot was just lacking excitement and at times I thought it was too complex for little kids.
The story revolves around "Dave" the octopus who is carrying out a vengeance plan against all penguins of the world...(I'm not **entirely** sure why he was seeking vengeance but we was); the 4 main penguins try to save the day by carrying out a rescue plan with the assistance of special force called "North Wind".
They travel the world in an effort to take down Dave and his league of octopuses and needless to say they run into some complications along the way, which make up for most of the movie.
In the end, the sweetest of the penguins saves the day and all of them are saved from evil Dave.
Even though the penguins are funny and the **lame** plot is well carried out, the movie didn't "do it" for us... Olivia even said she was "bored" and said the movie was just "ok"; it was also slow paced in my opinion.
In all honesty I think the penguins should have remained secondary characters and did not merit a whole spin-off movie of their own; they are cute and funny but just not interesting enough for a whole movie.  I will forever hold a special place in my heart for this funny penguins, but I recommend bypassing this movie.  This one gets 2 out of 4 stars from me...watch it if you want to take your kid out on Thanksgiving break but try finding something better to do if you can!  Sorry, Penguins... maybe next time?... or not!?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

9th Wedding Anniverary

Every year on November 18th I appreciate my husband a little bit more and I sit in awe as I reminisce about life and how much things have changed in the time we have been together.
Today marks 9 years since we stood in front of God along with family and friends and said "I DO!". 9 years since we started this perfectly imperfect adventure that is called marriage and even though I can't say it has always been "peachy", I can proclaim that it has been FUN, LIVELY and definitely ENRICHING.
Our love story isn't one for a romance novel; we met online, talked for a few weeks, our courtship was short (5 months!?!), there was no over-the-top proposal and our married life has been modest to say the least.  There have been times where I have questioned my sanity and even questioned my ability to be the wife I envisioned myself to be..."not everything is perfect" I say, to which he always replies "if this isn't perfect, I don't know what is!".
So today, I want to say to my husband of NINE years that I have LOVED every second next to you and that you are my rock, my north, the half of my heart that beats outside of my body and there's no other man (and definitely no other way) that I would have chosen to live this life with.
9 years is NOTHING...because not even a lifetime would be enough to enjoy your company and the ever shinning light that you bring to my life.  I thank God every day for choosing YOU for me.. for choosing US for me and for helping me find that one person who always brings out the best of me, even in the ugly days!
Happy Anniversary, my forever love.  If God is with us, who can be against us?
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH and I am so honored to call you my husband! :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Movie Review: "Big Hero 6"

"Big Hero 6" is the latest Disney movie and even though I would argue that it wasn't advertised as much, it created enough commotion to be #1 at the box office this weekend.
I'm going to start by saying that this movie isn't as big as Frozen was around this time last year and even though it's a good one (with a great message too), it isn't as endearing as other kids' movies. Also, I don't think I would recommend this one for kids under 5 because the plot is a bit too complex for the very young ones.
The story revolves around Hiro Hamada, who is a very smart 13 year old kid with mad skills in robotics and other mechanical areas; in the beginning of the movie he is into "Bot Fighting" but his older brother Tadashi lures him into doing something "better" with his skill and convinces him to apply to a very well known robotics university. Once he decides to go for it, tragedy strikes and his life path changes drastically (I won't tell you exactly what happens as to not spoilt it!).  Along the way he meets Baymax, who is a "healthcare assistant" created by his brother; this character turns out to be the one who teaches him a valuable life lesson and also the one that brings him close to the other characters (which are great and very creative, by the way!).
Many twists and turns happen during the movie and Hiro becomes a robotics-genius-turned-superhero who develops a strong bond with the fluffy and lovable Baymax.
The movie features some wonderfully created digital images of my favorite city (San Francisco) along with some incredible animation and special effects.
I will warn you that it has many sad parts and my girls ended up crying for several moments and that is why I wouldn't recommend jumping into it with kids who are younger than 5.  Also, I think this movie is more appealing to boys because of the super hero component but it's definitely a good family movie too!
This one gets 3 out 4 stars from me! ;)