The Help

I started the book “The Help” on tape during a roadtrip to see my sister in Northern California. We almost made it the entire way without stopping, but my kids needed to go the bathroom. I was so engrossed in the story that I bought the book so I could read it while at my sisters. The book had it’s problems – predictable, read like a screenplay – but I couldn’t get enough. When my sister complained that I needed to put down the book and go get some exercise, I only went out in the freezing Berkeley air so I could listen to my book on my ipod.

When I heard about the movie, I was not surprised. The book was so clearly meant to be a movie. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I’m happy to say I was so wrong. The cast alone made it worth seeing. Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Emma Stone and the rest of the amazing women were perfectly cast.

The book and movie are about a Mississippi woman in the 1960s who comes home from college after getting a journalism degree and goes looking for a story. She finds it in her home and the homes of her friends when she begins interviewing the black women who work as their housekeepers. She uncovers secrets, finds romance, and empowers herself and the women around her. If it sounds like a tearjerker, that’s because it is. But it’s also really funny, well acted, and very entertaining.


Winnie the Pooh

I was so worried that my boys would refuse to go with me on Saturday that I didn’t tell them what we were doing. We were invited to see Winnie the Pooh at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood followed by a talk with the film’s animators.

We had to be there very early because it wasn’t the only screening that day. I woke my boys, fed and dressed them, and off we went. They were a little groggy, but once they saw the theater they were very excited.

That happiness was crushed when I explained that it wasn’t Cars 2 we were seeing but the classic and lovable Winnie the Pooh. At 5 and 7-years-old they feel they’re too old for Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Kanga and Roo. I tried to convince them that deep down they love Pooh and I knew because one of their favorite movies as toddlers was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I used to put it on to calm them down if they were fussy or fighting with each other.

Well, they did need calming down after they had juice and popcorn and Winnie the Pooh did the trick. Once they saw him wake up in his little house, they were hooked. The new Winnie the Pooh that opens on Friday is every bit as delightful as the original. It features different stories and a soundtrack with songs by Zooey Deschanel.

The movie was sweet and funny and very entertaining. But the best part for me was after the movie when the animators drew the characters and then played a partially animated clip.

African Cats

African Cats was released today, Earth Day, but I think it’s really the perfect Mother’s Day movie. It’s about African Cats, yes, but it’s also about the protective instincts that a mother has for her babies.

The story is about two families, one of a polygamist lion and his many wives and the other about a single mother of 5 cheetah cubs. The cheetah, Sita, must protect her cubs from the dangers of the wild while traveling to get food. The other family is a pride of lionesses and their cubs ruled by Fang, the lion.

It was beautifully filmed by Disneynature in the Masai Mara National Reserve on the border of Tanzania. The story is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and it’s really engaging.

It follows the cats as they hunt down a herd of antelope, their main source of food. The lionesses are ruled by Fang, but they are the ones fighting to protect their young. One of the more touching stories is about Mara, a lioness cub whose mother is injured. After many battles to protect her cub, the mother knows the end is near. She makes an effort to get close to one of her lioness sisters so she will take in her cub and raise her.

Even more touching is the bravery of Sita, the cheetah. She’s all alone in a dangerous place taking on lions and hyenas and other cheetahs to protect her cubs.

I know that Disney goes for the heartstrings, but it really worked here. I took my kids to a screening of the movie mostly because I thought they would enjoy it, which they did, but I ended up really liking it.

The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora

A couple of months ago I was thrilled to find the Muppet Show on Netflix. I thought it was finally time to introduce it to my kids. There’s so much good stuff, from Debbie Harry singing “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog to Kenny Rogers and the creepy-old-man-Muppets performing The Gambler,” and of course Rita Moreno and Animal’s feisty “Fever.” I knew they would love it as much as I did.

“Turn it off,” my 5-year-old said. “I don’t like one minute of it,” my 6-year-old chimed in.

>How could they not like it? It has sarcastic, dry humor and 70s pop stars. And puppets. What is not to love?

I was going to do anything I could do to get them to love the Muppets. I still remember the night my mom woke me up to see Kermit the Frog guest host the Tonight Show. Well, all it took for the younger one was a viewing of the Muppets doing Bohemian Rhapsody. For the older one, it was Cat Cora.

When my invitation came to see The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora  last week I was very excited. I told my older son that just the two of us would go and the 5-year would be picked up from school by their dad. Well, my husband lets them play endless hours of Wii, takes them to In N’ Out, and gives them candy. “I want to go with Dad,” he said.

I explained how we were going to Disney Studios. How Cat Cora was making all the food. How there would be Muppets. Real live Muppets! “Why can’t I go with Dad?”

“Cupcakes,” I told him. “There will be cupcakes.”

That got him there, but he ended up really loving the show and, of course, the only female Iron Chef, Cat Cora.

The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora is a really cute web series (and I’m not saying this because I’m a geek who loves Muppets). Cat Cora and her Muppet assistants, Pepe the King Prawn and Muppet Chef Angelo, try to get kids excited about cooking and eating healthy. On they do two shows, one called Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips and Muppets Kitchen.

We got to see Muppets Kitchen live where they made popcorn with nuts and dried fruit. It was tasty and so was Cat Cora’s watermelon gaspacho. They took questions from the audience and my 6-year-old asked, what is the fastest thing to make? I didn’t hear the answer because I was so impressed that my 1st grader asked a thoughtful question in a crowded room filled with adults and cameras.

After the show Cat signed copies of her new cookbook “Cat Cora’s Classics, With A Twist.” I think the first thing we’ll make is a gluten-free version of the roasted plum shortcakes.

We were given the book along with a bamboo recipe box filled with recipes and The Muppet Show Season 3. Say bye, bye to the Wii kids, our free time is going to be spent watching The Muppet Show. Guests include Loretta Lynn, Danny Kaye, and Liberace! I have the feeling the kids are going to be saying “We want to be with Dad,” a lot more.