& the slipper still fits

Episode 2, North and South

I was so excited for the four-day weekend, dear reader, because it meant even more time to watch North and South. But I've been good! And am determined to watch the episode then blog, the watch the next one. It's actually rather refreshing, I must say. I have for you the second post in this mini-series of four. I wonder what made this episode's cut?

Mother and Son
The second episode opens with a strike looming. While everything seems to be shaking around John, his mother is a powerful moor of strength.  We begin to see the everyday life of the people of Milton and learn much more of the Hale's history.

Throughout the second episode we get to see the amazing relationship John has with his mother. Her unflinching outlook on life, and her fierce determination to see John succeed, bolsters his own confidence. In many ways, Mrs. Thornton is John's only ally in his life. When seen with Mrs. Thornton, John is allowed to show his humorous side, his thoughtful side, he's able to be a bit of a dreamer. It's two actors acting brilliantly opposite each other. For example, John's conversation with Mrs. Thornton before he goes to propose to Margaret is stunning.

The Strike is Brewing
As word of a strike flows through Milton, Margaret is interested to learn more -- not so much the how, but why. On a errand for her mother, she ends up at Thornton's mill and has her first real conversation with him.Still struggling with the customs of Milton, Margaret is eager to learn as much as she can so that she knows how to help. And when the strike finally does occur, she stands her ground that helping those who need help is the only way to live.

Episode 2 is full of lovely Thornton and Margaret moments and many of them have an intense spark of emotion connected to them. I mean, come on -- those looks John gives with his eyes? SO delicious. 

The Dinner Party
The Thorntons always have an annual dinner on the same day, and -- even with the strike -- it brings out the best of Milton Society. And the key topic during dinner?  The strike. While Margaret is forced to defend her ideals, the rest of the party looks on, surprised and unsure. When she gets home, Margaret discovers that her mother is very unwell. Desperate to grant her mother's dying wish Margaret writes to her brother, living in hiding in Spain, hoping he will return home to see Mrs. Hale one last time. 

The dinner party has to be one of my favorite scenes in the whole mini-series. The coloring of the whole scene is beautiful and refreshing and the dialogue is crafted in such a way that tension builds ferociously, but is unable to climax due to the harsh demands of polite society. 

Strike breakers
The strike has continued on long past the Thornton's dinner party and everyone is becoming desperate. Nicholas struggles to help those union men who need more help to feed their families without work. John refuses to go quietly and enlists workers from Ireland. When some of the strikers get wind of the plot, they raid Thornton's mill, hungry for blood. Margaret happens to be there at the time and in rushes to help John against the mob after she pressures him to go and talk to them. Aiming for John, a rock hits Margaret and knocks her unconscious. Once Margaret falls, the strike is broken.

Margaret challenges John's outlook on the strikers directly during this scene, and faced with an angry mob and the openness of her convictions, he takes her advice. John trusts Margaret completely, is what we see; and afterwards, he's humbled that Margaret would defend him. He wants to marry her afterward because he can't imagine not being with her any longer. 

The Proposal 
After Margaret's injury at the mill, John wants to make sure she's alright -- and wants to marry her desperately -- Mrs. Thornton, however, doesn't see John desire as much as she sees his sense of propriety. Margaret's actions during the strike were VERY indelicate and imply that her and John have a more intimate relationship. To end gossip, it would only be proper for John to propose marriage. But then he goes to see Margaret the next day and she flatly refuses his advances and proposal.

Proposal scenes in general are cringe worthy for me. P&P - can't watch it. This was the first time ever I sat through the entire North and South proposal riveted. Richard Armitage is able to so brilliantly show his emotions subtly on his face that your heart breaks with his own when Margaret refuses him. Margaret blunders more, because she's trying to convince herself that she does not love him. Thus, she doesn't even consider his feelings in her remarks. 

At the end of episode 2, we've been in Milton almost a year with Margaret and John; we've been through the rise and fall of a strike; we're dealing with the harsh refusal of a hopeful proposal. Good lord, it can't get and worse.

A Thank You on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving this year seemed to creep up on me. And so all my thoughts on thankfulness have been condensed into the last 3 days. What have I been thankful for this year? Did I even want to think about all the changes that have happened in the last 12 months? Then I lifted my head and saw it. My New Year's resolutions. They've been posted all year by my desk -- just sitting there, challenging me. And as I looked at them, I realized I've accomplished more than I thought, but only thanks to some very special family and friends. And so, this year, I'm saying a

Resolution 1 - Be More Daring
Since last November 24, I feel like I've grown into myself. You know, its that gradual acceptance that its okay to have your own ideas and voice them; its okay to have thicker skin; its okay to impulsively (sometimes) say yes and just leap out of my comfort zone. I completely credit -- or blame -- my wonderful job and the many hats I am fortunate enough to wear during it. Thank you to my work family who, not only opened their offices, but their hearts and wisdom to me and give me the trust and freedom to grow. 

Resolution 2 - Realize I am beautiful 
I think, dear reader, all women struggle with positive self image -- and for a while, I was okay with being "kinda pretty". I never thought it could get better, and thank goodness it wasn't worse, so I just went through my everyday not thinking about striking beauty. 

In the last year though, with the unparalleled and gracious blog posts and comments from women like Ankia, Casee, Bere, and Lala, and the twitter rewatch crew (@darbydashwood @So_Meow @joybtx @ladyrelaynie @aramblingfancy) I've realized I'm not just average -- and no one is. Their confidence has continually boasted my own and their bright and warm  cheerfulness is infectious. Thank you dear bloggers and online friends. You've changed not only my outlook on life, but myself as well. 

Resolution 3 - Accept things I cannot change
Post graduation has really been a test of this resolution. There have been so many things in the last year that I haven't been able to control, that I've taken to heart the things I can. My identity, my truth, my relationships, my actions, my creativity and determination: I've realized that things happen to me not as much because of me, but because others have to live their lives as well, and if I keep to myself and be the best me, good things will always happen. 

I've an unnerving worry about the unknown. And this last year of life lessons has proved that true usefulness of "you can't plan for everything". Thank you to every oops, little change up, and unexpected surprise that has happened throughout the year to loosen me up.  

Resolution 4 - Remember to Dream Big
Dreaming over these last few years has certainly changed, at least what I dream about. It's not that I've "grown up" or that reality has somehow crushed my imagination, but I've realized that my dreams themselves have changed and they're just as big as before -- if not different. Because, you know that dream of having that book of mine completed and out for options is a huge dream...its just not being a huge movie star. Thank you to that family of mine, who let me be silly and rant and rave and dream, even when they don't get it at all. 

Have a very happy Thanksgiving all! Have a wonderful day!

Its a North and South thing, Ep 1

I remember the day I went to buy North and South at the bookstore, dear reader. I scavenged the movie section in vain for 30 minutes, only to be hopelessly disappointed when I couldn't find it. Then, in a delusion of desperation, I went to the clerk and asked if they had a copy of "North and South" in stock. Her reply, "Why would you want THAT movie." I gushed, "because it's a beautiful story with lovely scenery and John Thornton." She sneered, and said she was affronted I could think a movie about the horrors of the Civil War was beautiful. I stammered, shocked, we were not thinking of the same North and South, and before I could clarify it was a BBC miniseries about the industrial revolution and that I wasn't oogling 80's hair, the clerk was gone.

I left the store that day, embarrassed and without a purchase. Instead, I bought North and South 2 weeks later online and never looked back. Sometimes loving a little known movie here in the states can lead you to very strange conversations, or some shocking customer service. Its why only my really good friends, and you reader, know how much I love these classic stories turned into film.

And I must say, North and South is in a continual struggle with Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre for my top affections. However, around Thanksgiving the DVD begins calling me to watch it, begging me to return to the world of mills and trains and cravats. And I always give in. This year though, I thought you'd like to join me. 

Now I won't be summarizing N&S like I've done with The Borgias, I'll leave you a little mystery if you haven't seen it, but I thought over the next 4 weeks I would share my favorite moments from each hour-long episode -- with photos. 

The refusal of Henry Linton
When Margaret Hale gets married, she would like to just wake up one morning and walk to the church. Or so she tells the enamored Henry Linton at her cousin's wedding. And as Margaret leaves London to return to her home in the South, Henry follows--hoping that she will walk to the church with him one day. However, Margaret  is shocked by his proposal and stammers through a graceless refusal of his hand. 

I love the scenes between Henry and Margaret because you can see how dearly Henry does love the idea of marrying Margaret. She radiates strength and determination, kindness and an open heart that is as powerful an allure as hear beauty.  Margaret would make a man of Henry. Her refusal is painful, more so for Margaret than for Henry, because she's the one so horrified at breaking his heart. 

Furthermore, the lush green and gold of the scenes shot in Helstone provide a stunning contrast to the cool blues and purples we will face in Milton.

Coming to Milton
Mr. Hale is a man of his convictions. It is his quiet strength that his children have learned from. When he is challenged to reaffirm his faith in the Church and finds he is unable to, he takes his family to Milton for a fresh start. While Margaret is heartbroken to leave her life, she rises to the occasion, knowing despair and disappointment will help no one in this new place. While looking for a home in this new world of machines and dirt, Margaret meets Mr. Thornton, a wealthy mill owner whose hard life has taught him the virtues of perseverance and honestly; that doesn't mean his isn't still a little rough around the edges. 

The whole point of these first scenes with Margaret and Thornton is to highlight the clashing nature of their willful personalities. North and South and all their values monstrously collide in their first--and subsequent--meeting.
And that face. You get to see Richard Armitage taking the title of sexiest costume drama male lead away from Colin Firth from the very first moment he's onscreen, overlooking a room dancing with warm snow. 

They do things Differently Here
Milton, despite Margaret's best efforts, is not Helstone, and her first months are spent struggling with Northern custom, speech, and social protocol. She struggles to befriend Mrs. Thronton and her daughter, understandably, and is surprised to learn Nicholas Higgins and his daughter Bessie tend to agree with the austere and ungentlemanly John Thornton.  As fall sets in, Margaret finds herself unknowingly drawing and severing lines of friendship she'd be better off not to test.

Margaret is a stranger in Milton almost her entire time in the industrial town. She pays the counter revolutionary in their industrial revolution many times because their logic affronts her own. It is in these scenes she realizes her first impression of Thornton was very extreme and that her convictions are not so shining anymore in this smokey town.

Going to tea with a gentleman and his daughter
Mr. Hale must find work in Milton, and he does so as a tutor and speaker. One of his first pupils is Mr. Thornton, who soon after his first lesson comes to tea. Margaret may look tired, but John sees only the sweetness of a Southern gentlewoman in her movements, and worries that he is the one boring her. 

Does John Thornton love Margaret from the first moment he sees her? I argue yes. And the fact that she speaks her mind and is not afraid of him, only flames his love hotter. Margaret needs someone to embody all she hates about Milton, and -- unfortunately -- she chooses John to take her anger out on. She challenges his way of life as Milton itself challenges hers and he respond with abrupt honesty; as much as he would like to comfort her with sweet words, he knows no other way.

I've seen Hell, and its Snow White
The first episode closes with Margaret writing her cousin and lamenting how lost she feels in Milton, and the industrial workers meeting - a strike of the union imminent. If heaven was Helstone, than Milton is hell and Margaret, strong as she may be, and try as she might, feels the powerful despair or her displacement.

The final moments of the first episode are striking. You see the overwhelming wonder that is the mill spinning cotton with what looks like snow falling all around. It is at this moment we realize the next 3 hours of our journey with Margaret is not going to be easy or simple. It is at this moment we're dealing with more than just a hate-love love story. And its going to be brilliant.

Tumblr themes? Oh my!

Hello there all my tumblr readers! I'm back with an all new tumblr tutorial that will doll up your every day. Now this new information on themes might be old for many, but sometimes--if you're like me--you won't try the new thing until you've heard it won't crash your computer. Well, I'm here to tell you that after a 4 hour debate with my computer/internet educated brother and constant use at work, that themes are just dandy: for Firefox and Tumblr.

First things first -- if you want your tumblr dashboard to look like the above, you need to be using either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. (Download it here.) I use Firefox, so that's what we're stickin' with for this tutorial. If you haven't tried this type of internet web browser, its basically like Internet Explorer, but allows more creative freedom (basically, you can make it really pretty). As my brother warns, just be careful if you're going to search strange and varied regions of the internet. There's nothing wrong with Firefox, but Internet Explorer has some heightened security features that connect to you Windows System and work really well if surfing the web. 

As you can tell by my screencaps, Firefox itself allows you to select pretty themes for the top of your web browser, so your tumblr will be in very good company.. I'm not covering that today though, we're going to install a Firefox "Add On" called Stylish and turn your tumblr from blue to brilliant! 

Step 1: Open Firefox/Chrome and visit the Stylish Page. Once on userstyles.org, select download Stylish for Firefox.

Follow the download process which will take you to an authorized Mozilla page to download the add on. It will load and ask you to restart Firefox.
Step 2: Now that you've downloaded stylish, you can now go back to userstyles.org and download different tumblr themes. Install as many themes are you like. Go on, you know you'll want to change your dash theme more than you change socks. 

Step 3: Now you'll want to enable only 1 theme and disable all the others you've downloaded. To do this, go to Tools > Add Ons. You're Add Ons Manager will pop up in a new tab at the top. Select "User Styles". 

As you can see, I have 6 tumblr themes installed. On the right you have buttons to Edit, Enable/Disable, and Discard. At any one time, you should have 1 theme enabled. At this moment, I'm rocking "Wood Dash". To change your theme, just disable "Wood Dash" and enable a different one by clicking the enable/disable button. 

That's its! And now the next time you login to tumblr your dashboard will look like this: 

Another way to change your theme, and I think this is super easy, is to have the "Add-On Bar" enabled for Mozilla Firefox. That means this: 

Pros - You see your dash more than you ever see your actual layout for tumblr, and I love that I can make it a little different to fit my mood. You can also create your own, and while I haven't tried it yet, the process seems easy. If you can edit a webpage or change your blogger theme, I think you've got stylish nailed. 

Cons- Not all the pages are going to load right. For example, some of the buttons or boxes will always be tumblr blue. A good example is the last screencap, where it should be a lighter purple box, they are classic blue. The themes might take a moment to load and can be sluggish.

Overall, I think Themes and the use of Stylish just jazzes up my internet experience and when you spend as much time as I do on tumblr, its refreshing to see a new look!

American Horror Story?

While I gush often and lengthy, dear reader, on my favorite costume movies and obsess about upcoming feature films, I rarely talk about my favorite (and rather off the wall) TV shows. Do you need to hear how much I love Parks and Rec? Or that I live for Modern Family nights? No, not really and I don't want to waste your time reading me gush about last night's episode. But today, I'm breaking my rule a little bit. And this counts as my Halloween post two weeks late.

Normally, I don't like scary anything. I'll admit it, I sleep with a light on after a particularly creepy Paranormal State; so American Horror Story -- the show heralded as the be-all to end-all of horror concepts, didn't sit too pretty with me. I was further spurred away by several reviews stating the show was nothing but shock horror and melodramatics for 51 and a half minutes. And so the premiere came and went and I went on watching something decidedly more cheerful.

For the last week though my Tumblr has been racked with graphics, quotes, and more, from American Horror Story (brain-child of Glee creator Brian Murphy and his crew), specifically for Tate and Violet's relationship. And I decided I had to figure out what was going on with this show. And after watching the last 6 episodes in 2 days, I think I need to talk about this whole concept of most horrifying horror ever. (Spoiler! I'm sleeping with the lights off tonight.)

The short version: Murphy is blasting to the audience that real horror happens in everyday life. The creepy, horrifying, ghost bit in AHS? Well that's just cake. I can say with confidence, if you watched an episode, the credits would scare you more than the whole episode AND you'd be shocked by the actions of "living" people more than the dead ones.

Here's the plot: Bostonians Vivian (Connie Britton) and Ben (Dylan McDermott) Harmon move with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) to LA after Vivian (grieving from a late-term miscarriage) finds Ben in bed with one of his students, hoping that it will help their marriage. The house they move into though is haunted by tragic murders and very unruly ghosts. Once in the house, Vivian and Ben  continue to struggle in their marriage and Violet discovers more about herself than she thought possible when she falls in love with one of her father's patients (alright, so I think she falls for him...my. opinion.). 

Other than creeped out, I've only been horrified by the emotional tragedies which plague the Harmon family and the brazen, unapologetic nature of the living who surround them. Have there been a few shock moments? Yes. And they are more disgusting and gruesome than "horrifying". What the characters have done to themselves is much worse than those "shock" (and referential, ie Rosemary's Baby anyone?) moments. For example, the juxtaposition of a Frankenstein-like scientist who haunts the house's halls (infrequently) against Ben who leaves his pregnant wife for a week to be with his mistress who is having an abortion, really makes you wonder which one is more horrifying...

I don't want to give too much away, because that's just not ladylike,  but I do want to talk about Violet and Tate (Evan Peters) just a little, since its the reason I started watching. Murphy stated in an interview that Violet doesn't need to read Twilight since she's living it. He's set out to make the audience love Tate like they love Edward. I think here is the really provoking part of the horror story -- Murphy's out to prove the borderline emotionless acceptance of violence and horror by his audience. No matter what Tate has done (and I warn you, you won't like it) we're driven to still like him as a character and find him redeemable. Murphy's making a more poignant commentary on society by just having viewers watch the show than he's making with his characters.

See, we're waiting for a really big scare -- this scare we've been told to expect every week-- and when we don't get it, we're disappointed. When really, we should be horrified by Tate, horrified -- if not disgusted -- with Ben and Vivian, horrified by the denial these characters are living in considering their severe emotional problems. 

To be honest, I'm more shocked at myself for thinking the show isn't that scary, but just morose and sad. The above waxing philosophic  now over, Jessica Lang is a commanding force and Evan Peters refreshing. The actors are putting in a valiant effort with a rather disjointed storyline that, despite its expanded timeline, is singularly one-dimensional.

It's truly an ensemble cast, with a large number of ghosts infusing some -- dare I say -- comedy or emotional variety into the bitter plot line. There's no question it's a new take on the "family buys a haunted house" storyline, that's for sure. And maybe, even 6 episodes in, its just too early to see how horrifying American Horror Story will be. But I'll watching, at least for 1 more episode

Are you watching AHS? Do you have any ideas about what Murphy and his crew are doing? I'm interested to hear what others are thinking and hearing and saying about this white whale of a show.

American Horror Story airs Wednesday nights at 10PM on FX | Watch the first 5 episodes online

Visions of Winter

If you've been with me for a while, dear reader, you know the thought of snow give me the largest anxiety attack known to man. I just can't shake that California clear skies, 65 degree winter out of my system. And with the threat of it from now until May 2012, I sometimes have a serious anti-holiday spirit.

But this year, I will not let it ruin me! No! I'm going to try and be as holly jolly as possible this year (although all in good time: How the Grinch Stole Christmas was on yesterday and I viciously changed the channel). And in gearing up for the holidays, I started on my "vision board" yesterday. 

The the mail, I had received some particularly lovely Winter/Holiday catalogs. Now, since I'm a poor college graduate and have no money, buying from these catalogs is slim to none at this point, but I can admire their beauty in a redefined way. I start by taking my favorite photos - the visions I want my holidays to hold- and cut them up/out/around. And then I just start putting them back together again. 

I love making collages, so this is really right down my alley. The best part, though, is the excitement making the board brings of me. I started to remember my favorite parts of winter and why in the past there was just tangible holiday magic. I felt for just a few moments, what its like when I just start setting up the Christmas tree. 
I know, we haven't even made it to Thanksgiving yet here in the states and its too early to be thinking of December 25th. I'm trying to temper the Christmas enthusiasm until the Thanksgiving fervor is complete, but I thought I little preview couldn't hurt.