3 Sentence Review: Movie — The Menu

  1. The Menu is similar to And Then there were None in the overlap of meticulous planning, isolation, and retribution.
  2. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say people die, especially given the first sentence, but the methods taken and reasoning behind each act of violence make sense within the warped mind of Chef and his entourage, and as a whole, the movie is a well-paced targeting of the privileged and elite with a strangely satisfying ending.
  3. Although we ended up at this particular movie based solely on timing, it’s another weird movie (see last 3 Sentence Review: Everything Everywhere All at Once), but one that I enjoyed watching and found genuinely humorous.

Full title: The Menu
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy
Rated: R for strong/disturbing violent content, language throughout and some sexual references.
Run time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Brief Synopsis: A young woman accompanies her date, an obsessive foodie, to a remote island for an exclusive tasting hosted by a renowned chef. The guest list is elite and limited and grows smaller still as the elaborate details of The Menu are revealed.

~ ~ ~

Props to me for getting through this review and not using a single food/restaurant/cooking pun. I dare you to read any other review for this movie and NOT be steeped dredged beaten inundated with predictable word play.

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It’s that time of year again…

Time for Thanks, Gifts, and Giving

In introduction (or a simple reminder)–a few years back I read an article in the Tribune that offered personal stories about “The Gifts that Stay with us for a Lifetime.” The sweet, silly, nostalgic stories about the ‘gifts’ given really resonated with me. I requested friends, family, and readers to share similar memories to be posted here.

The response was overwhelming.

Once again, I am asking for YOUR stories, in your words, about the ‘gifts’, whether literal or not, that have stayed with you. Send them to LiteraryMary@comcast.net with the heading, re: Thanks, Gifts, and Giving. I plan to post them the last week of the year, December 26 through 30.

Not sure what to write about or how to write it? Click on the links for inspiration:

One Cherished Gift
The Thanks, Gifts, and Giving Post pt.1
T, G, and G Part 2
Yes, Virginia, there is a THIRD post of Thanks, Gifts, and Giving!
Gifts and Gratitude
Gifts and Gratitude, Again

Short and sweet, photos encouraged.
Thank you!
I look forward to reading (weeping) and sharing your funny, loving, memorable ‘gift’ stories.

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But wait–there’s MORE!

That phrase seems to have been a trend in my life lately. The DAWGs wrote to that exact prompt a few months ago. Our recent unseasonable November 70 degree streak had the weather forecasters claiming it. And then there was the Stampin’ Up© OnStage Conference I attended this past weekend.

SO MUCH MORE!

I’m still processing the deluge of tips, tricks, and techniques I learned while being distracted by the sneak peek of the new catalogs, and, of course, reveling in the joy of new relationships forged this weekend.

I have many stories to share. Some SU!© specific, but others could be applied as life lessons in general, including 3 is a Magic Number, The Power of Fun, and Road Trip!

My head and heart are full. I am exhausted. I am energized.

But wait, there’s more! I am also eager to connect and share.

Stay tuned…

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In Honor of Election Day

I realize this is only mid-terms, but I wanted to share a story I wrote in August for my DeKalb Area Writers Group (DAWGs). We were challenged to a multi-part assignment inspired by the NYCMidnight contests. In addition to the selected prompt, Exploit a Trope, we also had to limit our word count to 100 and write a story to a designated genre using a specific word.

My exploited trope: Playing against type. Also potentially, The Pete Best.*
My designated genre: Political Satire
My specific word: Empty Cereal Box

My 100 word Story:

Role Call

Behind the table laden with folders and headshots, the producer, director, and talent agent peruse a roomful of applicants.

“Today we’ll be casting for the role of POTUS,” the director announces. “It’ll be a four-year-run with second term option.”

The panel sits through auditions of every size, shape, gender, and race. It’s an exhausting process.

“We’ve had inept, arrogant, blustery, and bumbling.” The agent taps a photo. “I’m leaning toward this one.”

“Yes,” adds the producer. “Colorful, bold, engaging, generally appealing and basically informative.”

In agreement, the director says, “It’s official, the empty cereal box will be our next president.”

~~~

*The Pete Best trope describes a situation whereupon the replacement is better than the original. A subtrope of The Other Darrin.

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A Haunt-ing Short Story

I entered to be part of the annual #SpookyShowcase again this year, but unfortunately I missed the deadline for the Twitter event. So, I offer my short story to you today. Happy Halloween.

👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻🎃👻

On Sundays, the family can be found sitting in the formal dining room. Father is seated at the head of the table, mother to his right, Sampson, the nine-year-old to his left, and George, the eldest at twelve, facing him. The table is set with all the Sunday best, grandma on mother’s side’s China, father’s grandmother’s crystal, and Great Aunt Genevieve’s finest linens.

Sunday meals require a lot of focus to prepare, set up, and execute. Everyone contributes to the menu planning, table setting, and cooking. The entity takes its time, savoring the satisfaction of tradition, relishing in the structure and, of course, the delicious food. It believes these cultural rituals are important, and to the best of its knowledge, appear to be a dying custom.

It slips into mother, rises, excuses herself to check on the roast. “Finish your salads,” she calls from the kitchen. “Those are garden fresh tomatoes.” A few minutes later, she’s placing a handsome roast in front of father. She sits. The entity leaves her body and slips into the man of the house. The entity enjoys playing all the roles.

“Oh, Carol,” father exclaims. “This meat smells divine.” He stands for better leverage and begins slicing the pork into serving sizes. He loads a plate, then passes. He sits.

The entity hops into Sampson’s body where the boy hands the plate to his brother. The entity returns to father, slices, passes, sits. The entity switches bodies until everyone has been served. And again as mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans are passed.

It settles into father first to eat. Savoring each morsel, he makes small talk that will not be immediately addressed. The entity moves clockwise around the table, enjoying time in each body, playing to each individuals quirks and habits. Sampson refuses to eat the green beans. He belches openly in good company and frequently rests his elbows on the table. George, who chews with his mouth open, chastises his brother’s table behavior.

Each body needs sustenance, and the entity revels in the interaction of a family dining experience. Lastly, is mother. She takes dainty bites and asks about everyone’s upcoming week. She will need to go grocery shopping tomorrow and has an appointment with her stylist on Tuesday.

The entity slips into father. “Wait a minute, honey,” he says. “I have that meeting downtown on Tuesday. Can you change your hair appointment?”

Father sits passively as mother says, “Oh dear, how did I mess that up? We are usually so very organized with our obligations. Never an overlap. Of course, I will call and change it first thing tomorrow.” She rises from the table and goes into the kitchen, returning shortly with a pie and pot of coffee. She slices up pieces and passes them to her sons. She sits.

“Thanks, mom,” George says.

“No ice cream?” Sampson asks, face merely inches from his plate as he shovels in pie.

“Not tonight. That’s on my grocery list,” she says with a smile. She offers a slice to father then pours the steaming black liquid into his cup. She sits.

“Blueberry! My favorite,” father states, practically inhaling his dessert. “Excellent meal.” He drags his cloth napkin across his mouth. “Boys, please help with clean-up.” He tosses the napkin to the table, rises and walks to the living room where he turns on the television and settles into the recliner.

George stands, collects the salad bowls and pie and dinner plates, then neatly stacks them. “You get the plates, Sammy, I’ll grab the serving stuff.” He proceeds to clear the table of the roast platter, potato bowl, and bean dish, moving them to the kitchen counter. He returns to sit at the table.

Sampson stands, and, reaching for the stack of plates, sticks his thumb in remnant gravy. With a loud clank, he sets the dishes back down then licks his thumb. He lifts the pile and walks into the kitchen. The faucet can be heard as he rinses the plates, but before loading them into the dishwasher, he pauses. His body rests against the counter.

“Sampson,” mother calls from the table. “Sunday best, dear. They must be hand-washed.” She casts a glance across the table to an idle George. “Every week I need to remind him!” She stands, removes the cutlery and glasses, and goes into the kitchen.

Sampson comes out and punches George in the shoulder on his way to the living room to curl up in front of the television. Shortly, George stands and walks behind the sofa, smacking his brother in the head.

“Dad!” Sampson whines.

“Da-ad!” George mimics.

“Boys!” their father growls. “Play nice or go to your rooms.”

George sits on the opposite end of the sofa. “He started it.”

A little later, Mother comes to join them, a cup of evening tea in her hands. They all know that it’s warm bourbon, but none of them says anything. She sits between her sons and sips. They watch the Sunday evening family movie, the entity taking turns with each member. At ten o’clock, it’s bedtime. First to prepare for slumber is Sampson. When he is washed, brushed, flossed, and pajama’ed, he gets beneath his covers.

George is next, although he takes longer in the bathroom.

Then father lumbers up.

Mother makes the rounds, cutting lights and checking doors. She goes upstairs and tucks in both boys, brushing hair away and kissing foreheads. She is grateful when George doesn’t fight her on it. She prepares for sleep, pinning her hair up and creaming her face. In bed, she leans over to carefully kiss her husband. She’s very efficient at not leaving a smear of lotion on his cheek. She lies down, closes her eyes, and sleeps immediately.

The entity exits the room, goes downstairs and finds the resting body of the housecat, Butterscotch. The orange tabby mews, stands, then stretches. The tinny bell on his collar rings as he ducks out through the pet door.

👻😼🎃👻😼🎃👻😼🎃👻😼🎃👻😼🎃

I hope you’ve enjoyed my short story. The theme this year was ‘Haunt’.

Previous #SpookyShowcase submissions:
Seas the Day!
Plenty
Resurrection Rosie

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3 Sentence Review: Movie — Everything Everywhere All at Once

As promised, here are three sentences that summarize my thoughts on the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once.

  1. This movie is really weird.
  2. I’m glad I watched it, and I know a lot of people LOVE it, but I can only recommend it to you if you are okay with long, sad, silly, mundane, bizarre, juvenile humor, ass-kicking action, multiverse theories, and emotional trauma–consider yourself warned.
  3. Although the sci-fi themed ending was satisfying enough, I did not think that characteristically it ended well, and even though the ‘message’ seems to be that “nothing matters”, I found the absurdist moral of the story to be quite the opposite.

Full title: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Directors: Daniel KwanDaniel Scheinert
Writers: Daniel KwanDaniel Scheinert
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis
Rated: R for some violence, sexual material, and language
Run time: 2 hours 19 minutes
Genre: Surreal, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Sci-fi

Brief Synopsis: A middle-aged woman who consistently fails at life becomes entangled in a bizarre series of events in which she, because of her deficits, is tapped to save the multiverse by channeling her varied, successful, and occasionally bizarre doppelgänger lives.

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The Puppy Reunion!

As you may recall, in April of 2019, our Pembroke corgis, Jackson and Miskey, had a litter. It began as a harrowing experience, but overall ended up great.

All of our puppies found terrific homes. Seriously, we lucked out in the extended family department. We hosted our first Corgi Crew Puppy Party that August. A great time was had by all! We had 7 of the eight puppy families attend and we discussed making it an annual event.

Then, we lost two years.

But now–
Our Puppy Reunion 2022 was this past Saturday at a great (private but rentable) location that one of our Puppy Moms discovered. Again, we had 7 of our eight original litter! Plus their mom & dad and a bonus 3 siblings. For those of you into details, that’s TWELVE dogs! And a couple of horses, which interestingly enough, the dogs were oblivious to.

It was very interesting to catch up and swap notes on treats, toys, and tricks. The runt of our litter, by a very noticeable amount, is no longer the little one. It was fun assessing who looks like mom or dad, who inherited which disposition, and a little bit o’ bragging on how smart they each are. So smart.

I will admit, I was having some anticipatory anxiety about the experience. The farmland was new to us, it’s been three years since our last gathering, and socializing is just different now. I kinda think everyone was afraid their dog would be the naughty dog, but you know what? We were all wrong. We have GREAT dogs! There was an inevitable scuffle or two, but overall the corgi crowd was amazing.

Thank you to all of our JaM Corgi Crew Families for making this reunion happen. We weren’t able to get a group shot this time, but I look forward to trying again next year.

And again and again. Even after we eventually, inevitably, get one.

Maybe after a couple of hours of fresh air and fun play, the dogs will reenact this photo, lol.

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Bears Down!

Originally, I had planned to write a 3 Sentence Review for the surreal-action-sci-fi movie, Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film about a middle-aged woman who consistently fails at life and becomes entangled in a bizarre series of events in which she, because of her deficits, is tapped to save the multiverse by channeling her varied, successful, and occasionally bizarre doppelgänger lives, but then I watched the Bears game and I couldn’t help but wonder . . .

What if there’s a multiverse like, oh, I don’t know, maybe Everything Every Bear All at Once? What if every missed opportunity on the field, every botched draft selection, and every wasted team potential spawned a new universe where they got it right? Under those circumstances, it’s easy to believe that somewhere, the Super Bowl has been renamed the Super Bears and Chicago fans are rewarded often and impressively for their dedication. Also, continuing with the movie’s premise, it’s not a stretch to believe that Eberflus, or Fields, or maybe straight up the chain of command all the way to the current McCaskey in charge, has been tasked with saving all the worlds.

Think about it–how many seasons have the Bears appeared great on paper? Had high hopes for draft prospects? Lost games they should have won? Now, imagine each freshly generated universe where they’re reliably better on the field. Worlds where they took Mahomes instead of Trubisky. Many a cosmos where they look good, avoid injury, and earn each well-played victory.

Of course, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand that there must be versions where footballs are live grenades, dinosaur eggs, or cream-filled long johns.

And the Bears of those parallel worlds still play better than the Bears of ours.

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Happy Birthday to Me

It’s not actually today, but it is in October, and that’s close enough to count.

I am NOT one of those people who will get mad at you for missing my birthday. Firstly, because I’m willing to accept well wishes at any time! But mostly, because I find no shame in looking forward to and announcing it.
It’s not about gifts, really!
It’s not about accolades, I swear!
It’s not about my expectations or need for validation, I promise!
I celebrate my birthday because EVERY single year I am grateful to have one.

My mom died when she was 26. Much too young to have a nine-year-old. Mucher too young to die.
(Okay, that’s not technically a word, but I believe it successfully gets the point across.)

So, yeah, I acknowledge my birthday. I will gladly acknowledge yours, too. Unless you’re one of those people that holds out on sharing the information. If you are, I wonder–do you do it in hopes folks will remember? Or in hopes they won’t? Either way, seems like an unnecessary test, and who needs that kind of stress when they could be celebrating?

I love my birthday and I am perfectly prepared, willing, and able to honor it myself. I don’t need others to observe, recognize, or commemorate it.

But if you do care to join me, the official day is October 8th.
No party, no presents, no RSVP necessary, but feel free to treat yourself in my honor. Be generous, it’s going to be a great year.

For my birthday, perhaps you deserve the reward of a good book? Why not purchase a download or paperback copy of my new novella, School Spirit?

Gratuitous plug? Sure. But hey, seems like a win-win way to celebrate!

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Freeport Bound

This past Saturday, we picked up the BBs and drove to Freeport for the day. The drive from DeKalb to Freeport is quite the haul, over an hour, but stopping halfway to get the grands breaks it up nicely. Until my foray into the northern Illinois area writers arena, my only association with Freeport was–c’mon fellow classmates and West High Warriors, I want you to say it with me, “FREEPORT PRETZELS, CRUSH ‘EM!” It’s been a while since my competitive high school days, and in that time, I have come to know more about the city of Freeport and it’s fantastic residents and offerings.

Our number one goal was to visit the Children’s Hands-On Museum (CHOM), which is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 am to 2 pm. But, Mrs. Mike’s Potato Chips is also only open until 2 pm on Saturdays. With priority and expediency, we stopped by Mrs. Mike’s first to purchase caramel corn, cheese corn, pretzels, and of course, a couple of bags of Mrs. Mike’s chips. (These are what Mrs. Fisher’s used to be. So good. Worth the drive, Rockford peeps.)

Then we went to the Children’s Museum. It’s in the Lincoln Mall, which they are redeveloping nicely with a stamp and craft store (oh my!), a used Book Nook, as well as a couple of clothing boutiques, a salon, a portrait studio, a bargain store, and more. The CHOM is a smaller version of the Rockford Discovery Center Museum. There are educational and thematic stations throughout (it’s bigger than a first impression may imply). Our boys played, explored, and had a great time. Their favorites were the flight simulator, the magna-tiles, STEM room (dinosaurs!) and sensory room. We will definitely go back and visit again.

After CHOM, we hit up the KFC-Long John Silver drive thru for our picnic lunch fixings. Then we drove to Krape Park, one of the city’s, area‘s, Northern Illinois’, STATE’s greatest parks. Honestly, such a fantastic destination. Krape Park is beautiful. In addition to the plentiful picnic tables provided for our outdoor dining, the sprawling multi-use grounds offer a carousel, disc golf, hiking trails, a waterfall, mini-putt, tennis courts, pedal boats, and several playgrounds for kids of all ages. And grandpas, too. The boys tried each of the playgrounds, made a bunch of friends, and had a lot of fun. We will definitely bring them there again, as well.

We bribed them away from the playgrounds with the promise of ice cream–at another Freeport staple–Union Dairy! Union Dairy is near the Freeport library, a lovely location where I have met for meetings, participated in author fairs, and offered advice on self-publishing. This day, it was down the street from the Pretzel City Brewfest with food trucks, beer trucks, and live music. Under kid-less circumstances, we would have totally checked that out. Instead, we went to the old-fashioned Union Dairy counter and ordered generous scoops of delicious ice cream.

One last stop before delivering the kids home was Curran’s Orchard, but they’re located in Rockford, so doesn’t really count for today’s post. (Sidenote: best caramel apples I’ve tasted this season!)

Our day trip to Freeport with our grandsons was a huge success. Whether the places mentioned are new to you, or old favorites, I hope you’ll check out Mrs. Mike’s, CHOM, Krape Park, and Union Dairy sometime soon.

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