So the 2017 Food and Wine Festival is quickly coming to an end (sob!) and I am so sad to see it go! I have tried lots of yummy food and drinks at the festival this year, and I kind of wish we had access to all this yumminess all year long. But alas, these goodies will be leaving us shortly (April 16th) and then it will be time to countdown until next year’s festival. I made a lot of progress on my food and drink checklist in the past two weeks so of course I have to share all the goodness with all of you. If you missed part one of the highlight reel, you might want to check that out first. Get ready to get hungry!
Okay, so this is the real highlight for me: the French Onion Mac and Cheese from the Onion Lair. OMG. Probably one of the best mac and cheese dishes I have ever tasted. So flavorful and cheesy and amazing. Also from the Onion Lair is the Chocolate and Raspberry Feuillete Tart. It was a tasty pastry, but it wasn’t anything super fantastic. It kind of tasted like a fancy Pop Tart.
On my one trip to the festival sans Squirt, I took full advantage of being childless for the day and imbibed in all the wine. On the left is the Mimosa Flight from Uncork CA. I liked all of the different flavors, but my favorite was the apricot. It was a surprising choice, but it was yummy. I wish they had included a berry flavored mimosa to balance out the flavors, but the ones they included were all good. On the right is the Sangria Flight, and again, they were all tasty. I loved the peach, but the white sangria was also super good.
These are two items that were on the menu last year, and were definitely highlights of the festival. The Maple Bacon Whoopie Pie was just as delicious this year as it was last year, and I’m glad I got it again. The Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese was good, but it wasn’t as good as the French Onion Mac. It needed salt and maybe some variation in the cheese flavors in order to make it awesome.
I didn’t actually eat this Garlic Rosemary Ice Cream, but my Disney bestie Brianna did. I did sample a bite, and it was not my thing, but Brianna really liked it. I want my ice cream to be sweet, not savory, so this is not an item I would order on my own. Glad I tried it though, because it was definitely interesting!
At the Paradise Garden Grill, we ordered the Pretzel with Beer Mustard and the Beer Braised Pork Tacos. The pretzel tasted like a pretty average pretzel, and while I liked the mustard, I prefer my pretzels with cheese. If it had come with beer cheese, it would have been bomb!
The tacos were amazing. The pork was really tender and the apple slaw on top was the perfect complement. I had been craving good tacos for a couple days when I had these and they really hit the spot.
I have a couple more items on my list that I really want to try before the festival is over, but if I don’t get the chance, I am overall really pleased with everything I sampled this year. There wasn’t anything I ate or drank that I just straight up didn’t like. There were definitely some items I loved more than others (woot woot mac and cheese), but everything was good and I would eat most of the items again if I could.
Have you been to the Food and Wine Festival this year? What was your favorite food or drink item?
So last week I published my very first book. It honestly feels weird to even write that sentence. But I did it, I can check an item off my bucket list. Something I wrote is out there in the world (and not just on a blog). And I wasn’t going to tell y’all about it for numerous reasons that I am going to bore you with in this post. You know, before I tell you to go buy my book and leave me five star reviews. But first, some history…
I wrote my first “novel” when I was eleven. It was handwritten in one of those 350 page multi-subject spiral notebooks. It was a junior high love story with a heroine who bore an extremely close resemblance to me and a love interest who may or may not have been solely based off of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I think it goes without saying that it was not good. But I mean, I filled a 350 page notebook at the age of eleven, so there’s that.
I wrote on and off throughout my junior high and high school years. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper, and my favorite English teacher was my creative writing teacher, Mr. O’Brien. He kind of ruined me for creative writing teachers in the future because he understood my point of view and my voice without me having to explain it. See, even though my writing style has (hopefully) matured over the years, my subject matter really hasn’t. I still love to write about love. My ebook can only be described as contemporary women’s fiction. And while the genre is quite popular and can be extremely lucrative, it is one that (in my opinion) is looked down upon by those who consider themselves to be “serious” writers.
In college, I was an English major. In my junior year, I had to pick a specialty. I knew at that point I was likely going to end up teaching, but I chose to major in Creative Writing instead of English for Educators. The main thing you do in creative writing classes is workshop your writing. So you bring in twenty copies of your short story, the whole class reads and critiques it, then you revise it and turn it in for notes from the professor. My work was consistently disregarded (on the nice end of the spectrum) and ridiculed as brainless fluff (on the harsh end). It wasn’t until my senior seminar (aka the last class I had to take as a creative writing major) that I had a professor get it. This is what he wrote on my main story I submitted to him: “This is great for what it is.” Did I write some ground-breaking, award-winning, super deep and intellectual, thought-provoking piece? Nope. I wrote something fun and light, think classic summer beach read. And for the first time in college, someone was able to see it for what it was, and not think about it in light of everything it was not. The fact that it took that long for someone to get it, and the fact that I had ONE professor in four (okay, six) years of college willing to see my writing for what it was, put a huge damper on my desire to write. For most of my “career” as a writer, I felt like I was not good enough, maybe even not a real writer, because I was writing commercial stories instead of artistic stories (and yes, there are those writers out there that are commercial and artistic. I’m not one of them. At least not yet.).
A couple of months ago, I started writing again. Probably because I felt a resurgence in my desire to create after separating myself from the brain suck that was my job last year. I set out to finish a novel. Not because I plan to make money, not because I plan to make this a career. More to prove to myself that I could do it. I mean, I’ve had the dream since I was eleven. And I read a lot of contemporary women’s fiction, and while a lot of it is great, some of it I read and think I could do better. So I figured why not throw my hat in the ring. And let me just be clear here, I love this genre, I love the story I wrote, and I had FUN writing this book. And if no one reads it, or if everyone who reads it hates it, I’m okay with that. Because I did it. And I’m proud of myself for that.
So why would I not share it with all of you fine folks? Well, about halfway through writing this novel (titled Casting Call, btw) I came up with an idea for a young adult series. And once I fleshed out the idea, I realized that I NEED to write this series. It is a concept that I completely love, and it is a story that I have to tell. And it is the type of series that could potentially land me an agent and possibly even a real publisher (making me a “serious” writer). But I also couldn’t just set aside Casting Call and jump into a new project. Part of the reason I wanted to write Casting Call in the first place was to show myself I could finish it. So it needed to be finished. For a while I started writing the series while still working on Casting Call, but then I decided to put the series on hold and finish what I started.
I finished the writing of Casting Call a couple of weeks ago, and spent the following weeks editing and formatting. I didn’t hire an editor because this was not a project I intended to invest money in (#selfemployed). Luckily, I have done a lot of editing and proofreading in my time so I felt comfortable doing it on my own (and yeah, I’m sure there are typos and mistakes, please feel free to point them out ;o)). And while I do plan on looking for an agent to represent my YA series, for Casting Call, and any subsequent novels I write in this genre, I decided to self publish only as an ebook on Amazon. While I wouldn’t call the process easy by any means (formatting is a bitch), it was way easier than going the “traditional” route. And it allowed me to publish a book I love on my own terms.
Work on my series is going to continue soon (I sent out a rough rough rough rough draft to some of my amazing librarian friends (shout out to Becky and Kristen!) for some notes). It is so different from anything I have ever written before that I am finding it is taking a lot more time and effort than what I am used to when writing. But it is also an extremely gratifying piece to work on and I hope that I can do the concept justice.
I think this is the point where I introduce you to Casting Call, and ask you to throw a few dollars my way ;o) Casting Call is a fun and light-hearted novel about a young actress named Emily who is making her professional theater debut. Things get dicey when she finds herself falling for her leading man–a guy who is off limits for multiple reasons. She has to decide what’s more important, her career or love. I loved being able to travel back to my theater roots as I wrote this novel, and I really ended up falling in love with both of my main characters. I would love to turn this novel into a series as well, assuming I can find the time to balance it with my YA series.
If you have made it this far, thank you for reading this totally rambly and personal post. I really debated whether or not I should even share this on the blog (because anything on my blog automatically gets thrown out into the social media world), but this experience of writing and publishing has meant a lot to me, and it wouldn’t have felt right to not share it at all (God forbid we have any emotions these days that don’t get shared!). If you are a fan of contemporary women’s fiction, or you want something fun and light to read, please check out Casting Call. And if you love it, please leave me a review. If you don’t love it, you can leave a review too, but just be nice about it :oP And if this is totally not your kind of read, please don’t feel like you have to read it! Reading books that aren’t your thing is rarely fun, and reading should always be fun.
Also, you might have noticed that I used a pen name for this novel. Since I am planning on writing another series in a totally different genre, I wanted to separate the two. So this book has my pen name for romance, Michele Matthews (which if you know me, you can figure out where that comes from), and my other series will have my real name (assuming it makes it to publication of course!).
I would love to hear your thoughts on writing, whether they are about my experiences or your own. I would also love to build a writing tribe sometime soon, so please reach out if that is something you might be interested in! Thanks friends, for reading this and for allowing me to always express whatever it is that is on my mind. You’re the best!
So because I spent much of March in bed feeling like poo, I knocked out SEVEN books last month. Hells to the yes. And I actually read a lot of fun stuff that I would love to share with you!
Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman: I read the first book in this series in February and enjoyed it, so I went ahead and picked up the second book. I am enjoying the series, and will continue to read it, but they are not anything earth-shattering. The books follow a young Alexander the Great, along with a cast of interesting supporting characters. If you are into mythology at all, you will enjoy the series. The bad news is that the third book isn’t out yet and I could see myself losing interest in the series by the time it is released. But I also hate leaving a series unresolved, so we’ll see how I feel when it comes out.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity: Moriarity is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I read Big Little Lies (also watched and loved the show on HBO) in two days and did the same with The Husband’s Secret. I found this book to be just as intriguing as Big Little Lies. I love the combination of interesting female characters and mysterious story lines that constantly keep me guessing. I have another of her books on my TBR for this month and I have high expectations.
There’s Always More to Say by Lynda Young Spiro: I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. This was an interesting (and really fast) read. I finished the book in one sitting and was honestly left a little perplexed at the end because I couldn’t really figure out if I liked the book or not. It is written in a very poetic style, with lots of fragments and tons of repetition. Normally that’s not my thing, but I liked it in this book. What was hard for me is that there is very little plot in this story, not much happens. And the characters are hard to connect with because they are both kept gender neutral, and we don’t ever even learn their names. So this book was missing the normal elements that would attract me to a piece of literature, but it was written in such an interesting style that I was able to kind of be okay with it.
Gray Places by Julia Byrd: This is another book I was sent in exchange for my review. If you are a fan of the classics, think Austen and the Brontes, then you will really like this book. The main character is a young woman who is on a mission to finish her father’s book after his death, which is a big deal in the 18th century. Her research takes her to a strange new town, and an even stranger man. The two of course end up falling in love during her stay. There is not a ton of plot action in the book and there is a lot of description of architecture (the subject of the character’s book) that I could have done without. I also felt the characters were a bit underdeveloped and kind of boring. I am not a fan of the classics so this was not my favorite in terms of interesting reads, but if you are into that style of prose, then you will probably like Gray Places.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I LOVED this book! Caraval was in the February Owl Crate (which was an awesome box all around) and I knew I was going to love it from the first chapter. The concept is very similar to Night Circus, but it is a YA take on it, and the journey the main characters go through is totally unique. While I loved the story and the characters, my favorite part was the descriptions Garber uses. She uses colors as descriptions, and her writing is absolutely brilliant. I can’t wait to see more from her, and I can’t wait to see the inevitable movie version of Caraval.
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth: Ugh. So many mixed feelings on this one. First, I must come right out and say how much I HATED Allegiant. I thought it was one of the worst novels in YA I have ever read, and it was such a disappointment considering how much I liked Divergent. I was not the only one who felt that way about Allegiant, it was ripped apart by pretty much anyone who read it and likes books. So I am kind of baffled by the release of Carve the Mark, because while it has some strengths, it also has a lot of problems. And after the travesty that was Allegiant, I would think Roth wouldn’t have put something new out that wasn’t perfect. The strength of Carve the Mark lies in its two main characters, who are well-developed, interesting, likeable, and relateable. I connected with both of them and they were definitely the highlight of the book. The problems lie in the relentless unnecessary descriptions of details that have nothing to do with the main point of the book. And the random and unneeded details make it hard to pick up and focus on the details that do matter, so lots of times I was confused. I also don’t know why this is set up to have a sequel. She could have very well cut the fat and made this one really good book. I am still undecided as to whether or not I will pick up the second book, which doesn’t speak too highly of this one. We’ll see. But honestly, I kind of feel like Roth has had multiple chances and blew them all. So I might be done with her.
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray: Not going to lie, definitely bought this book because the cover is so cool looking. I don’t even think I read the summary before I bought it, so when I saw that it was about multi-dimensional travel, I was kind of bummed. Not my thing. But I ended up really enjoying this book, way more than I would have thought. I am always impressed when an author can present me with a love triangle that doesn’t have a clear winner. Like if I want the main gal to end up with her different guys equally, that is a skill that not many writers have. I found myself rooting for both of Marguerite’s love interests at different points in the book. I liked this one so much I have already finished the sequel (which you can read about in my April reading recap) and ordered the final book. Even if you aren’t particularly into sci-fi, this series is worth giving a shot.
Overall, March was a great month of reading. I have some really good books on my TBR for this month that I am already excited to share with you. If you pick up any of my March reads, make sure you let me know what you think!
It’s time for a look at the most recent Owl Crate subscription box, and once again, I am running late! I am entering my crazy busy time of wedding season and between that and (still) recovering from being so sick, well, blogging is taking a backseat. Oh and we also started potty training this week. #funtimes But despite all that, I gotta share the Owl Crate love, even if it is late love, so let’s take a peek at the contents of the March box, Sailors, Ships, and Seas.
The novel included in this month’s box was Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. I haven’t started it yet because my TBR is out of control this month, but it looks really interesting. Pirates of the Caribbean was always one of my favorite rides as a kid so I have a special place in my heart for pirate lore. I’m hoping to read the book next month if I have enough time.
I am in love with this mermaid washi tape from Simply Gilded. Washi tape is one of my favorite office/craft supplies and this pattern reminds me of Ariel, so I was automatically a fan. I am also a notepad hoarder (as you probably know by now if you’ve read any of my other box reviews) so this octopus notepad from Boygirlparty will definitely be put to good use. This ship themed tea towel from Kitch Studios was my least fave of this month, mostly because it doesn’t fit in with my decor at home so it probably won’t get used, though I do love the quote.
This necklace from The Geeky Cauldron was my favorite piece this month. I love that is has two different sides (see the featured image at the top of the post for the flip side), but this side is definitely the one I love the most. This is a piece I will definitely be rocking in the future.
I am really excited for next month’s (actually this month’s) box because the theme is Head Over Heels. I am expecting some cute stuff and a fun read! If you are interested in trying Owl Crate for yourself (and you definitely should!) please use this link right here and help me out!
To celebrate the return of Southern Charm, I’m sharing my thoughts on the first three seasons, which I binged last summer (also when I wrote this post). Catch Southern Charm on Bravo on Monday nights.
Hold onto your horses y’all, because this is gonna be one hell of a post. About a week ago I decided to listen to my trusty reality TV gurus, Jackie Schimmel of The Bitch Bible and Stassi Schroeder of Vanderpump Rules and Straight Up with Stassi, and give Southern Charm a shot. Stassi in particular has talked about it a lot on her podcast as of late and while I had seen a couple of episodes, it had never really grabbed my attention before. But it’s summer, which means I’m staying up late, and so rather than be productive during those midnight hours, I figured I would spend my time binge watching three seasons of a reality show. And it was so, so worth it. I am hooked. I finished the final episode of season three last night and I am already having withdrawals. Thank God The Bachelorette is on tonight. Anyway, because this is my blog and I do what I want, I’m going to share my thoughts on all three seasons of Southern Charm with you. And hopefully it is enough to convince you to go out and watch so I have someone to talk to about my newest obsession.
Season 1: Not going to lie, it took me a few episodes to really get into Southern Charm. I almost stopped watching, but thank God I hung in there. Around episode 4 is when I really started to get into it, and from there I was hooked. Some thoughts on Season 1:
–Why do they have this weird tendency to call it French kissing? Like I haven’t heard that term/phrase used since elementary school, but this seemed to be a pretty common way to refer to making out. Is this a Southern thing?
–Patricia is my new idol. For so, so many reasons. Calling martinis medicine? Awesome. Having a dressing drink? Awe-inspiring. Employing a butler to bring me said dressing drink? Life goals.
–Why do these men constantly act like little boys?
–Cameran is my girl. Though I hate how she eats like a frat boy and stays stick thin. Not fair.
–Why is Jenna always wearing one leather glove a la Madonna in the 80’s?
–Why do they keep referring to Planet Hollywood as some big successful restaurant chain? Are there any Planet Hollywoods still open?
–I have never seen anyone use a shoe horn before.
–Why do many of these people constantly sound like they are drunk? Are they actually drunk or is just the accent?
Overall: So no spoilers here, but the end of this season is what really convinced me to keep going. Cameran refers to it as the Hot Mess Express, and she is right. I was extremely excited to see what happened in Season 2.
Season 2: Since Season 1 ended with a somewhat shocking revelation (assuming you know nothing about the show or the cast members), I jumped right into Season 2 as soon as I finished with the first one. Thoughts on Season 2:
–Thomas and his raise the roof ad is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I live in LA and would consider myself to be pretty liberal. I would not vote for that man. I can’t imagine any South Carolina conservatives watching that and being like I want that guy to represent me. WTF?
–“Shepistotle”…hilarious. Also, I think we got a much better sense this season of how intelligent these guys really are, which leads into…
–Vocabulary. These cast members (well, most of them) are clearly very well read and well educated. They use words that I have never even heard of. I actually feel like I’m learning something while watching.
–Whitney was a huge dick at Craig’s parents’ house. Because I listen to Stassi, I knew going in that Whitney is an executive producer on the show. That seemed like a very calculated move to stir some shit up, and I think that is lame on his part.
–Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. I mean, seriously? How is this a thing? I’m all for cooking lessons, but domestic pursuits? WTF?
–Shep was a total dick at the auction. Shep, you were jealous of Craig. Just admit it and move on.
Overall: There were some great moments in this season, but watching Kathryn run down the dock in her fur coat screaming at Thomas was one of the highlights. I feel like so much of what she does is exaggerated for the cameras, but I love it anyway.
Season 3: Oh, I have so many thoughts on the most recent season. I have conflicting emotions on a lot of things that happened, and about a lot of the people involved. Hopefully this all makes sense. Let’s start out light:
–Patricia saying “I have no interest in an inferior martini” is the best thing ever. Me neither, Pat, me neither.
–I feel like this is the only reality show on TV where the women actually eat, which is refreshing. However, I am so jealous of how they eat compared to how freakin skinny they are.
–I now want to host a flamingo party.
–Landon and her magazine = delusional. You have an okay idea (certainly not one that hasn’t already been done) and you have all this time to prepare a pitch and you can’t even come up with a mock website? I mean, eleven year olds can create their own website in like a half an hour. Join the 21st century and start a blog, Landon. The good news for you is even if it sucks, you’ll still get tons of traffic because you’re on TV.
–Shep’s red bowtie/cummerbund combo at the Founder’s Ball. I felt like I was at prom.
Now let’s get serious.
–Kathryn and Thomas. The South’s own Romeo and Juliet. I go so back and forth with these two. On the one hand, I do feel like Thomas made some promises (and on camera nonetheless) about taking care of Kathryn and the kids that he (to the best of my knowledge) has not kept. He clearly has enough money to be providing a very stable life for his family. On the other hand, if Thomas is (as he claimed at the reunion) paying Kathryn’s $3100/month rent AND the salaries of the nannies (because you can’t have just one) then Kathryn needs to shut the eff up. There are thousands of single mothers out there making do with WAY less, in terms of money and support, so it is hard for me to feel sorry for her on that front. Also, it does not cost more than $2500/month to raise a child. Trust me, I’m doing it in one of the most expensive cities in the country for much less. I do feel for Kathryn when it comes to the group because they were kind of assholes to her for most of the season, but she certainly doesn’t do herself any favors when it comes to her image. She showed up at the reunion looking like she was heading to the local Ren Faire with her handmade choker (she’s starting a business!) and basically acted crazy the whole time. Had she been calm and mature and maybe slightly coherent, she would have fared much better.
–Landon. I really liked Landon in Season 2, despite her constant awkward giggles, but in Season 3 she really pissed me off. First, her “career” conversations were just annoying. Like I am all about being creative and finding your passion and blah blah blah, but be an adult and pick a path. Do something. Second, I don’t know how you can say you never did anything to Kathryn when you talked shit about her the whole season, didn’t invite her to Shep’s birthday even though he specifically asked you to, then lied about not inviting her to make it look like she just didn’t show up. That is junior high level cattiness, and despite Thomas acting psychotic at that dinner party, he was right when he called you catty and you deserved that. Plus, you totally slept with Thomas and the fact that you continue to lie about it makes you look pathetic. YOUR friend said “Is Landon finally going to admit she slept with Thomas.” There is no speculation there. She stated it as a fact. It happened. Stop lying.
–Cameran. Despite my instant love for her at the beginning of the series, I was annoyed with Cameran most of this season. Again, while his delivery was way off, when Thomas called her sanctimonious and judgmental, he wasn’t wrong. Not wanting to be around Kathryn and Thomas is one thing, but to straight up refuse to go to coffee with Kathryn was just mean. Maybe if you tried being nice, you could be a good, calming influence on her.
–Whitney. Never been a huge fan of Whitney, but I totally believe Kathryn when it comes to the extent of their relationship. She has no reason to lie about it, and he does. Plus the small bits of footage they showed (again, remember he is an exec producer so he has some say it what gets aired) definitely supported Kathryn’s claims that they had more than a one night stand. I’m #TeamKathryn on this one.
–Shep and Craig. You’re adorable and I love you. I think it’s admirable that you at least attempt to include Kathryn and defend her, even if she doesn’t always make it easy on you.
Overall: While a large part of me does feel bad for Kathryn, I also have a hard time being sympathetic because she is a huge part of the problem. Not getting pregnant is not rocket science, and you did it not once, but twice, with a man you knew was going to be difficult. I really hope they get their custody shit taken care of before next season because those parts are hard for me to watch. Once you become a parent you lose the right to act like a child all the time (once in a while is okay) so I feel like they both need to get their shit together and focus on being good parents. And everyone else needs to stay the hell out of their relationship and stop being such jerks.
Needless to say, I am beyond excited for the next season of Southern Charm. There is a good chance I will rewatch the first three seasons before then because that’s how strong the addiction is. The struggle is real y’all.
Have you watched Southern Charm? Let me know your thoughts, I need some fellow watchers to debrief with!
Hello friends! Despite the fact that I have been battling this nasty cold/cough/sore throat for what seems like forever, I have managed to make it to the Food and Wine Festival at California Adventure twice now. BUT I have yet to drink any wine!!! WTF. Also, I am way behind on my checklist. I have a full day trip planned for next week, so I am planning on getting myself a wee bit tipsy imbibing on all the drinks on my checklist, but for today, I have a few food highlights, plus some AP info to share with you.
This year, I decided to buy the AP Sip and Savor pass. I did not get it last year as it seemed like it wasn’t worth the price. However, this year, you get eight food items (no alcohol) for $45, which works out to be about $5.50 per food item. Most of the main food samplers are $6-$9 so this is a good deal. But I am being careful to only use my tabs for the items over $5.50 (some of the desserts are less than that) and pay cash for anything that is under that cost. The bonus is that each time you use a tab at a booth, you get a different AP button (I think they are leftover from previous AP days).
The first two items I tried were the Chicken Teriyaki Slider and the Pineapple Strawberry Float, both from LA Style. The float was super yummy and refreshing, which was awesome as it has been so warm lately. It does have boba in it, which is not my fave, but the flavors were good. I also enjoyed the slider. The pineapplely salsa on it was tasty and I was a fan of the teriyaki sauce. Pineapple and teriyaki is one of my favorite flavor combinations so I was all about it.
The next thing I tried was the Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta from Olive Us. This was pretty tasty, though the texture was not my favorite. The cookie was really yummy, so of course Squirt ate most of mine.
This is the Baked Ham and Swiss Croque Monsieur from Nuts About Cheese. Super yummy! I mean, you can’t really go wrong with bread, ham and cheese. This might be my favorite item so far.
Finally, I sampled the Sweet Corn Nuggets with Beef Chili from Off the Cob. I’m not a huge sour cream fan, so I could have done without the sauce on top, but in general, I liked this one. The corn nuggets were good. but the chili was pretty average. It did have a little spice to it, which I enjoyed with the sweetness of the corn.
I still have a lot of food items to try at the Food and Wine Festival, along with lots and lots of yummy drinks! Have you been to the festival yet? What do you think I need to try?
So I, along with the rest of the planet as it seems, saw Beauty and the Beast this past weekend. Unlike many of the planet, I was lucky enough to get to see the film at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, aka the home of all Disney movie premieres. I love going to the El Cap and I try to see as many Disney movies there as I can. The theater itself is historic and beautiful, and they always have awesome costume and prop exhibits, along with pre-movie entertainment. My thoughts on the movie are coming in just a few minutes, but first, I wanted to share with you some highlights of seeing BATB at the El Capitan.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater (I literally stopped and said, “Oh my God”) is this amazing Swarovski crystal curtain designed just for Beauty and the Beast. Pictures cannot capture the dazzling effect of this curtain. It sparkles and shines and changes color with the lights and it is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, I need one of these in my house. It’s amazing and you have to see it in person to really appreciate it!
Before the movie begins, there is a short projection show on the curtain, displaying some imagery related to the movie.
And as always at the El Cap, movie goers are treated to a half hour of organ playing from award-winning organist Rob Richards. For BATB he took us through several Disney movies, ending with BATB’s animated counterparts Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Lion King.
In the basement of the El Capitan is a display of costumes and props from the movie. These were some of my favorites:
Cogsworth costume and prop…
Belle and Beast costumes from the ballroom scene…
Lumiere costume and prop…
Steins from the tavern scenes…
And the famous rose (this one can be found in the theater lobby)…
Of course, the main attraction at the El Cap is the showing of the movie, Beauty and the Beast. I had some hesitation about the film going in, mainly due to the fact that I have been burned by some movie musicals in the past. Honestly, I’m glad I did have some hesitant feelings because it meant that I wasn’t disappointed. Let me be clear–I loved the movie. Visually, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. If they don’t win every visual effects and cinematography award out there I will be shocked. It’s breathtaking. I also LOVED the additions made to the story (which I won’t detail in case you haven’t seen it); I thought all of the added information made sense and helped answer some questions left by the animated film. Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou were the highlights for me, along with the fab Audra McDonald as the wardrobe (who in this version gets to sing, which is awesome). Dan Stevens as the Beast was also good, as were most of the supporting players.
So for the real question plaguing all of us musical theater peeps: How was Emma Watson? Love you girl, but she just didn’t do it for me musically. Belle is not an easy part to sing, and it was clear that Emma just doesn’t have the chops. I loved her acting performance and I loved the feminist angle that I’m sure she helped influence in the film, but she’s just not a great singer. What bothered me the most was how much you could tell they had altered her singing. It sounded false and kind of electronic. I also did not like how they seemed to use the same effects in some of the other songs (like “Be Our Guest”) thus making amazing singers like Ewan McGregor sound not as good as he should have. Really, Emma’s singing was the only thing about the movie that I didn’t love and I kind of got over it after the “Belle” reprise (where her lack of vocals was most glaringly obvious). But I would have preferred to see one of the many actual talented stars out there from the world of Broadway in the role. Let’s put it this way: I would not go out and buy the soundtrack from the film, I would much rather listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording.
I don’t want to end on a sour note, because I really did love the movie, and I will probably see it again in the theaters. This is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, and I honestly don’t feel like anyone could leave the theater after seeing it and feel disappointed. I’ve been to a lot of midnight showings/opening days, and I think there was more enthusiastic applause at the end of Beauty and the Beast than I have ever heard before. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend taking a trip to the El Capitan to see BATB, but if you’re outside of So Cal, any movie theater showing is totally worth the price of admission.