10 Things I Love About Spring

April 17, 2017 – After a cruel winter, it is a pleasure to welcome spring. Here are 10 things I adore about the season:

10. Longer days – What a joy it is to drive home from work and still experience daylight.

9. Warmer temperatures – Spring is perfect “no utility” weather. There is no need for heat or air-conditioning.

8. Taking photos – Everywhere you go looks like a picture postcard. Fresh blooms are enough to make any amateur photographer look like a pro.

7. Birds singing – Even the sound of birds chirping in the morning is a true pleasure.

6. Dining alfresco – I love sitting at outdoor restaurants and cafes in the city on spring days. It is great for the soul and for people watching.

5. Spring cleaning – Is it crazy that I love to clean in the spring? It makes me feel lighter to get rid of stuff we do not use.

4. Shopping at the farmer’s market – We have our pick of plenty of options in southeastern Pennsylvania, which gives us access to the best fresh produce around.

3. Cherry blossoms and azaleas – I like flowers, but never have I gone completely bonkers over them. I do enjoy spring blooms like cherry blossoms and azaleas, though. They are short-lived and much appreciated.

2. Sandals and open toe shoes – To get my feet in shape for the sandal season, I used a Pure Pedi foot peel. I was skeptical, but it worked wonders. Like a snake, I shed a lot of skin on my feet (and that was a little gross). However, I love the baby soft skin underneath.

1. Open windows – Yes, open windows are my most favorite thing about the season. There is nothing better than letting the fresh air in and watching the curtains flutter in the breeze.

The 25 best sports movies of all time

041414-sportsmovies-fieldofdreamsstill-vnocropresize-940-529-medium-87September 23, 2016 – In honor of baseball’s upcoming playoffs (better luck next year Phillies) and the football excitement that has returned to Philadelphia and the Eagles, courtesy of Carson Wentz, here is Time Magazine’s all-time 25 best sports movies.

It’s nice to see four baseball movies made the list, namely Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, and Major League, but there should have been a few more. What about Pride of the Yankees or The Natural?

Just about every sport imaginable is represented, even the obscure ones like synchronized swimming. It is a little odd that the only football movie is The Freshman from 1925. I never saw it but I’ll go out on a limb and say they could have made a better choice.

Bad Cinema – 18 family pics for the worst movie ever

cinemashutterstock_129623003September 9, 2016 – A family gathering provided a perfect opportunity to ask everyone to name the worst movie they ever saw. Here is The McMaster’s List of Bad Cinema, better known as movies you want to avoid.

Night of the Living Dead. The cult classic from 1968, a small, independent horror film that cost only $114,000 to make, is my father’s selection. Since it’s gone on to make $18 million internationally, that original $114,000 seems like a rather good investment. Yet, the story is laughable; two teenagers drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. They find something amiss at the cemetery; all of the corpses have come back to life with the sole purpose of killing every human in sight. I’m still puzzled by this, since the zombies move slower than a snails’ pace and any typical human could out run them with ease.

Love Me Tender. Elvis Presley starred in my mother’s pick for the worst movie she’s ever seen. It was his first movie role, which should explain volumes, and viewing it was a part of her first date with my father. The 1956 black and white movie cast Elvis as a Civil War soldier, and a corny one at that. Although I’ve never seen it, Mom says that the death scene, where Elvis succumbs to whatever kills him, is laughable. But Elvis went on to have a pretty lucrative movie career despite her poor review. My parents went on to have four children and nine grandchildren, so things worked out pretty well for them, too.

Hot Tub Time Machine. I’ve never heard of this movie from 2010, but it’s my sister, Linda’s pick for worst ever. Just by the title alone, it sounds awful. The premise may be creative: a malfunctioning hot tub (which also happens to be a time machine) at a ski resort takes a group of young men back to 1986 where they must relive a fateful night. The cast includes John Cusack (who signifies the 1980s on film). Alas, she tells me it is one “really immature piece of filmmaking.”

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I’m not too familiar with this film, selected by my brother-in-law, Roland, but at least I’ve heard of it. This British spy film from 1965 starred Richard Burton in the lead role and focused on espionage during the cold war. Although it did get some good reviews, it’s definitely not a movie that you should expect a child to love. Roland admits he was young when he saw it, and it obviously left a terrible impression. Perhaps another viewing as an adult is in order to form a true opinion, but Roland decided to stick to his guns on this one.

Water World. Another one that would make my all-time bad list is the selection of my brother-in-law, Rex. This bleak futuristic piece of garbage from 1995 has humans has surviving some kind of disaster (perhaps the polar caps melted) and searching for dry land. While some viewers thought it was the most underrated movie ever, I think Rex agrees with me that this feature deserved a Razzie, which it earned, instead of an Oscar, and is regarded as one of the biggest flops in the history of motion pictures.

The English Patient. Speaking of Oscars, my sister, Patti’s pick won a whopping nine of them, including Best Picture in 1997. However, I have to agree that it was pretty bad. Perhaps you could argue that the cinematography was great, but the story was too long and dreadfully boring. I didn’t hate it, but Patti did, and so did Elaine Benes, on Seinfeld who said the movie “stunk!”

Tree of Life. Despite its critical acclaim and award nominations, my brother David has named this movie the biggest piece of crap he’s ever seen in his life. While his opinion may seem harsh, I admit I didn’t like it either, mainly because I didn’t understand it. The film, nominated for the 2011 Best Picture, stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, so you’d think it would be a powerhouse. Instead, it turns into a collection of scenes that never fit together and were not entertaining in the least. For me, this is a huge wasted effort on the part of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and apparently for my brother, too.

Mom and Dad Save the World. My nephew, Rick’s pick as the worst movie he’s ever seen, is a stupid comedy from 1992 that defies all imaginable logic. I remember seeing this when it was out on video back in the day, and I agree with his assessment. It stars Jeffrey Jones, the man who played the principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and who just happens to totally freak me out in every role he plays. He’s just one of those actors that gives me the creeps! There are so many brilliant comedies out there, so why anyone would want to waste their time on this one is beyond me, and apparently, Rick too.

Troll 2. My niece, Lauren’s pick is another one that I’ve missed (thankfully) but a little research tells me it showed up on a lot of best worst movie lists in 1990. There are no well-known stars in the horror movie comedy, but Rotten Tomatoes has this to say about it: “There are movies that are bad. Then there are movies that are so bad, they’re good.” Still, it only scores 6 percent on the Tomatometer, so it can’t be that bad good.

Titanic. Admittedly, my nephew Ryan isn’t a movie person. He considers watching one too much of an investment of his time because it’s two hours you’ll never get back, or in this case, the three hours plus it would take to see this 1997 James Cameron vehicle. Therefore, he considers “Titanic” the worst movie ever made, and while I wasn’t a huge fan, I think it had its good moments, but I know plenty of people who would give him a high-five for his brave choice.

Limitless. I never saw or heard of this thriller from 2011, but it’s my son, Charlie’s pick for worst movie. At the first read of the review, the plot seems a little intriguing. A writer, played by Bradley Cooper, who is suffering from writer’s block, decides he has nothing to lose and tries a new drug that allows him to tap into his full potential. But oh, those damn side effects. The movie also stars Robert DeNiro, who’s had his share of stinkers lately, and also appears in another movie further down on our family list.

Constantine. My niece Leigh’s selection for the movie she ‘s loathed the most is the 2005 fantasy thriller “Constantine”. The film deals with your basic nightmare, and stars Keanu Reeves (hmm … stars and Keanu Reeves … isn’t that an oxymoron) as the man who sees all and therefore must save the world from the evils of hell. I think Leigh and I both agree that the poor script and the casting is truly the devil’s work indeed.

Birdman. Apparently my family doesn’t care much for the Oscar winners. My nephew, Adam’s pick won Best Picture and Best Actor (Michael Keaton) in 2014. This is another I haven’t seen, and I’m not sure I want to add it to my list after Adam’s review. Honestly, I had no desire to see it before Adam’s review! I know a lot of people who loved it, but they are equaled by those like Adam, who hated every minute of it. Happy birthday, Adam!

The Green Lantern. Another recent film from 2011 that made our most despised list is this pick from my nephew, Macey. Strange, he’s the targeted age group for super hero movies, yet he says it was the stupidest movie ever. This is another movie I haven’t seen, but I’m not really into the super hero thing. I think I can live the rest of my life comfortably if I skip this one altogether, and I can safely assume that Macey doesn’t ever want to see it again, either.

The Intern. My niece, Carly’s pick, is the most recent release on the list. This 2015 Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway vehicle is probably fresh in everyone’s minds since it is running on cable TV right now, and I watched it about a month ago. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it as much as Carly did. I need to ask her if it’s an Anne Hathaway thing (since many people despise her) or it was the movie itself that was a turnoff. It made me a little uncomfortable to know that Hathaway’s character was DeNiro’s boss in the film, since he can run circles around her every which way, but I suppose that’s why they call it acting.

Avatar the Airbender. I never heard of my nephew, David’s pick, from 2010. I know the original Avatar, if they are at all related, but the name of this movie escapes me completely, so it took a bit of research to discover that it’s an action fantasy adventure written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan. Reading the reviews, it seems like David is not alone in his assessment. Many people sat in the theater praying for this movie to end. Shyamalan defends his movie, though, and about a year ago, it was announced that he’s making a sequel. Yikes.

Jack and Jill. This Adam Sandler comedy, about a set of brother and sister twins, both played by Sandler, is my nephew, Jack’s selection. The movie was released in 2011, when Sandler was cranking out one bad comedy movie after another and likely making a fortune, but I have to agree with Jack, that this one is the worst of the bunch. It only scored 3 percent on the Tomatometer, the lowest I ever saw. I also couldn’t find one positive review from a critic, and I’m not sure that ever happened before.

Nothing But Trouble. This insane piece of celluloid is my pick for the Worst. Movie. Ever! You’d think a movie that starred Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy (all in their prime) and Demi Moore (fresh off her success in the mega hit “Ghost”) had a lot of potential. I certainly thought so when I went to see this so-called comedy in 1991. Turns out it was the scariest movie I ever saw and not because it was supposed to be. It tells the story of a four people who get arrested for speeding in route from New York City to Atlantic City. They become prisoners of the kooky bunch of nut jobs who live in the small, quaint New Jersey town. I feel awful that I forced my son to see this piece of monstrosity when he was a young, impressionable boy.

Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to add your selections to the comments below so we can save other readers wasting their time on bad cinema.

Ranking the Best

featherNovember 5, 2015 – Who are the best writers of all time?

According to those who rated them on Ranker.com, here is the incredibly long list.

It’s interesting how far you have to scroll down to find a female author, or someone who is alive. It’s even more interesting how much more scrolling is required before you find a mainstream author. There aren’t too many on the list.

Looks like I’m in the minority because I enjoy modern fiction more than the classics.

The Best and Worst of Halloween

Charlie-Brown-Halloween-WallpaperOctober 30, 2015 – Here are a few interesting Halloween-related top five lists for your perusal.

Best Candy – To the delight of dentists everywhere, Americans will buy an epic 600 pounds of candy this Halloween.

Here are the top five best and worst, according to trick or treaters, and Fox News:

Best:
5. Twix
4. M&Ms
3. Kit Kat
2. Snickers
1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Worst:
5. Peanut Chews (I love them!)
4. Mary Janes
3. Mallow Cups
2. Circus Peanuts
1. Necco Wafers

Best and Worst Cities – Here’s an odd list of the best and worst cities for Halloween, according to WalletHub, an online financial resource company. Seems random to me, but WalletHub claims they were ranked on several items, including the number of costume stores available, weather forecasts, the city’s crime rate and the number of candy stores, to name a few.

Best:
5. Laredo, Texas
4. Gilbert, Airz.
3. Newark, N.J.
2. Jersey City, N.J.
1. New York, N.Y.

Worst:
5. Oakland, Calif.
4. Winston-Salem, N.C.
3. Detroit, Mich.
2. Memphis, Tenn.
1. St. Petersburg, Fla.

Best Costume – Haven’t picked a costume yet? You still have a few hours to go. Here are the top five most-searched costumes for 2015, according to Google:

5. Batman
4. A Pirate
3. A Superhero
2. Star Wars character
1. Harley Quinn (a comic book character)

Happy Halloween!

10 Reasons to Keep Blogging

timthumbOctober 28, 2015 – Yesterday I wrote about how difficult it’s been for me to stick to a steady blogging schedule this year. So, I came up with 10 satisfying reasons why I’m in it for the long haul:

1. Blogging keeps me focused on writing. There’s no better reason to keep a blog going than a love for the written word. Even though I write for a living – working as an internal communications manager by day – blogging makes me think and write differently.

2. Blogging is creative. Nothing makes me feel giddier than a good creative project. It’s a natural high.

3. Blogging helped me discover other people’s blogs. Since I started blogging, I’ve discovered so many wonderful blogs and so many wonderful writers. WordPress helps by shining a spotlight on the best blog posts of the day out of the millions of blogs they host through their “Freshly Pressed” feature. I was more than honored when my post was featured in the “Freshly Pressed” section on June 5, 2013.

4. Blogging helps me keep a journal of my life. I often write about family and personal experiences, so it’s a great way to relive memories.

5. Blogging forces me to go places. Lots of interesting places were discovered in the name of research. Creating several series on the blog, such as “A Lunchtime Tourist in Her Own City”, which highlighted some of the things to do around Philadelphia during your lunch hour and “The Streets of Philadelphia”, which featured things to do in the area if you have more than an hour to spend has been a great experience. Both gave me a fresh perspective of my own city.

6. Blogging connects me with the rest of the world. Nothing is more satisfying than checking the blog’s metrics and discovering the clicks from around the world. I’m even more thrilled when I receive a comment from my global friends. I’ve also received some great comments from friends in the U.S. One of my favorites is from a photography post. I took a photo of a small house by the railroad tracks in Beth Ayres, Pa. because I found it fascinating. I actually heard from the grandson of the man who used to live there. Not sure how he found my blog, but it was awesome to hear from him.

7. Blogging helped me discover a love for photography. It all began with taking photos for my posts; then I got bit by the photo bug. Now I’m a full-fledged amateur photographer who is armed with a camera any chance I get.

8. Blogging has educated me. Whenever I consider writing about a topic, I do research and that always leads to an interesting circle. More so, I love learning by reading other people’s blogs. You can learn something new every day!

9. Blogging helps me stick to a goal. Sure, blogging can be a chore. But it’s satisfying to submit the click button on a new post and cross it off my to do list!

10. Blogging allows me celebrate fun milestones. I remember my first post, my 100th post and all of the other milestones along the way. When I started back in 2010, I wondered how long I would last. Now that I’m inching closer to 1,000, I’m more determined than ever to keep going.

The pro sports edge

downloadJanuary 29, 2015 – With the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots in Arizona awaiting Sunday’s Super Bowl, it’s the perfect time for a sports-related top ten list that focuses on weird ways pro sports teams try to gain an edge over the competition.

Deflate-gate is sort of tied into this top ten list, highlighting that the Patriots are serial cheaters. No. 3 on the list suggests that the Philadelphia Eagles are more paranoid than other NFL teams about code breaking, which might have to do with the Patriots getting caught stealing plays against them in Super Bowl 10 years ago.