Gifts That Give Hope Blog Series: Heart Of Haiti

Make A Difference With Your Gifts

I woke up this morning and it was November 24th (how did that happen?!). I woke up this morning and I realized that it’s the week of Thanksgiving. I woke up this morning and realized that Christmas is coming and it’s coming fast. I woke up this morning thankful.

I’m thankful because I’m lucky. I’m lucky to live in a place that isn’t stricken by disaster, a place that is generally safe. I’m lucky because the basic needs of my family are met. I am lucky and my guess is, if you’re sitting at home (or on your phone) reading this right now, so are you. Not everyone on this beautiful planet is fortunate enough to, by mere happenstance, be so lucky.

I woke up this morning thinking about how I can make a difference not only within my own community but also in the World. What can I do to enact positive change for others?

I woke up this morning with Haiti on my heart.

Heart of Haiti is a beautiful project that was started by Willa Shalit, a social entrepreneur, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund after the earthquake that left more than 250,000 Haitians dead and more than a million homeless in 2010. Their efforts, combined with Macy’s department stores, provide an income to the estimated 400,000 Haitian artisans who rely solely on their handcrafted items as a source of income for their families. Participants in the Heart of Haiti program are paid 50% of the wholesale price for each item, which can all be purchased at Macys.com (search for “Haiti”).

Metal Tray From Heart Of Haiti

I recently had the distinct privilege (and I truly, genuinely mean it when I say it’s an absolute privilege to work with the Everywhere Society) to receive my very own handcrafted metal tray from a Haitian artisan in Croix-des-Bouquets (just outside Port-au-Prince).

HeartOfHaitiMetalTray

Like many of the items available at Macy’s from Heart of Haiti, this metal tray is made from sustainable materials (recycled oil drums) and has been hammered, chiseled, and sculpted to create an amazing piece. The talented metal work of the Haitian artisans make for beautiful gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.

Metal Tray Heart Of Haiti

I made the decision about a year ago to be more intentional in my gift giving. I love when gifts have meaning and are impactful. The pieces that are available through the Heart of Haiti program provide that opportunity of enacting change and giving back with each gift that you purchase. When you employ just one artist with a sustainable income (through your purchase), the entire Haitian community benefits helping to rebuild this sector of Haiti’s fragile economy.

HeartOfHaitiTray

I truly believe that purchasing gifts that give hope for your loved ones is a simple way to enact a positive change in the World and I am so excited about the extensive line of beautiful pieces that are available right now at Macy’s. The best part about it is that many of my favorite items (hint, hint to my friends and family) are on SALE right now.

For additional information about how Heart of Haiti is helping the community through trade-not-aid, please visit this webpage.

*I am a member of the Everywhere Society and they provided me with this product for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*

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Teenage Girl Takes on Government: Unifies Nation

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Release Date: Friday November 21, 2014

Total Run Time: 123 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated “PG-13″ for  intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material

CastJennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

The-Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part-One-Poster-HD-Wallpaper

Anyone considering attending “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1″ probably fits into one of two categories: you are either a fan of the first two movies, or a fan of both the books and (at least to some degree) the movies as well.  While those of us who read and liked the books should enjoy “Mockingjay”, fans who just loved the action of the first two movies may find themselves somewhat disappointed.

The first two entries into this highly successful franchise were somewhat similar. Both of the first two films lay emotional groundwork before getting into the titular Hunger Games competition wherein most of the films’ action occurs.   This time around, there are no Hunger Games, and there is less action.

All that is not to say “Mockingjay” is not entertaining. It is, it’s just different. The story starts where the last one ended. Katniss has just been rescued from the games and is taken to the underground District 13. There, she is recruited to become The Mockingjay, the symbol of hope and freedom for the rebellion, but she finds it difficult to overcome the emotional trauma that she has suffered, and her distrust of the people who want to make use of her.

More so than the first two films, this movie relies on the talents of its cast, and Jennifer Lawrence delivers. Her performance is heartfelt, nuanced, and restrained. You like her, pity her, and root for her. One of the things the film does cleverly is toy with your emotions while also making you aware that they are toying with your (and the fictional people of Panem’s) emotions.  It is an effective commentary on the power of propaganda during war, and a balancing act that they could not have pulled off without Lawrence leading the way.

While it may not have been action packed, “Mockingjay part 1″ effectively sets the stage for “Mockingjay Part 2″.  Hopefully the final chapter can be a worthy conclusion to what has so far been an enjoyable franchise.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from 1 to 10, where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Mockingjay: Part 1″ a 5.523983908 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Wow”.

Jim Carrey Selflessly Gives Up Kidney to Save Friend: And It’s The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Seen

“Dumb & Dumber To”


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since one of my all-time favorite movies (yes, it’s true) was released. “Dumb & Dumber”, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, has to be one of the better {dumb} movies of all time next to films like “Airplanes” and “Blazing Saddles”. The original film provided seemingly effortless and completely unexpected entertainment that still leaves me laughing all these years later. I’ve said it before (No joke, it was in my employee profile for a job I had a few years ago) and I’ll say it again: I wholeheartedly believe that there’s a “Dumb & Dumber” quote for just about every situation in life.

Example A: You’re on a very long and very boring road trip and your car is suddenly filled with that awkward silence we all know and hate, “I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this” … “Yeah, that John Denver was full of shit.”

Example B: You’re making plans with a friend: “Does 7:45 work for you?” … “Oooooh, no, that’s not going to work. How about we make it quarter ’till 8?”

See, there’s a quote for everything. I think that’s why I was so excited when I heard that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels planned to come back together for a sequel. “Dumb & Dumber To” hit theaters nationwide this weekend. Does it live up to its predecessor?

Dumbanddumberto

Release Date: Friday November 14, 2014

Run Time: 110 Minutes

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references

Just one month and two days (not that anyone’s counting) shy of 20 years ago, our friends Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) set off on the adventure of a lifetime to return a piece of luggage to the love of Llyod’s life, whom he’d met just moments earlier, Mary Swan..sun…swam…SAMSONITE (it’s Swanson).  Their journey inspired laughs from audiences young and old for two decades and would be considered a classic comedy by some (me). Viewers were left wondering: what did Llyod and Harry do with their lives after their trip to Aspen, California (Colorado)?!

 Fast forward to 2014 when we meet the duo again. Audiences discover that Lloyd has spent the last twenty years in a rehabilitation facility where Harry has been visiting consistently since 1994. Long story short (it’s actually not that long)- we find out that Lloyd has been faking the entire time and that’s where the story picks up.

The two inadvertently find themselves on another cross country road trip (because taking a three hour plane ride is apparently a lot less fun): And you’re there with them the whole time.

“Dumb & Dumber To” is (obviously) not nearly as good as the original movie but it was nice to catch up with Harry and Lloyd to see how far (not far) they’ve come over the last twenty-years. The film was chuckle worthy and, although not quite as quotable as “Dumb & Dumber”, worth checking out if you’re an existing fan. Overall, on the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Dumb & Dumber To” a 2.985945898013 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Heh Heh Heh”.

Iranian Government Wrongfully Imprisons Journalist: Bores Audiences

“Rosewater”

Rosewater (2014) Poster

Release Date: Friday November 14, 2014

Starring: Gael García Bernal

Runtime: 103 Minutes

Rating: Rated R for for language and violent content

There are some movies that capture a person’s attention and hold it regardless of the viewer’s interest in the subject matter. “Rosewater” is not one of those movies.

Written and directed by “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, “Rosewater” tells the story of a journalist who is wrongly accused of being a western spy. The journalist, Iranian-Canadian Maziar Bahari, is imprisoned and interrogated for 118 days in Evin prison in Iran.

As a student of Middle Eastern culture, this was a story that naturally had my interest. Because of that, I was able to forgive some pacing problems that would cause the story to drag for people who are not inherently interested in an exploration of corruption within the Iranian government.

The movie also suffered slightly from stylistic and tonal inconsistencies.  There are some scenes at the beginning of the movie, specifically a “shaky-cam” scene, where it seems like Stewart is trying too hard.  The rest of the movie is directed in a more straight-forward manner and the more stylized scenes feel disjointed.  There are also some attempts at humor that lighten the mood but undermine any attempt to build a sense of urgency.

Despite these flaws, this is a solid telling of a relevant story. Stewart unfolds the story with patience and care.  It is evident that this is a personal project for Stewart.  Bahari was accused partly because of a satirical interview conducted on “The Daily Show” and it is easy to imagine that Stewart was compelled to tell this story due to feeling, in some way, responsible for the events that followed that interview. Stewart’s outrage towards the actions of the definitely shines through and become the focal point of the film.

Overall, this was a flawed but solid debut for Stewart as a filmmaker, and I’m curious what other stories he will want to tell.  On my “It’s an Ordinary Blog” movie review scale where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again, I give “Rosewater” a 3.3498493704 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Hmmmm”.

Oh-My-Gosh-I’m-Back-And-I’ve-Missed-You-So-Much & Other Fun Stuff.

So…ummm…

Hey.

It’s been a while.

How’ve you been?

i-miss-you-please-come-back

OH|MY|GOSH|I’VE|MISSED|YOU|GUYS

awkward

If you’ve been following along with my blog for a while, you (hopefully) may have noticed that I took the month of October off. If you’re new here, hi! I’m awkward. Also, welcome? I came back from a blogging conference in late September and had to turn around a couple of weeks later for a business conference and before I knew it, November was here. I get that it seems strange to take a blogging hiatus shortly after attending a workshop to make me a better writer but I promise I took notes and wrote down everything that has inspired me over the last month.

One of the things that I’ve been doing over the last several weeks has been catching up on various projects around my house and I’ve come to realize one very important fact about myself: I am obsessed with wall decals. OBSESSED I TELL YOU! No, really. I have no less than seven different kinds of wall decals in my house right now.

I make no apologies. 

Little Miss Sunshine

“Don’t apologize, Olive, it’s a sign of weakness.”

In my quest to completely cover  every inch all of the walls in my 1900 square foot home with stickers, I came across a company that can help me with my mission: Kidecals.

Kidecals

Kidecals has been around for about 7 years and their entire goal is to provide us with affordable labels and decals to help organize our lives and decorate our homes. The thing that I love most about the company, though, is the fact that their products are adorable. Let’s be honest, we all love adorable things. Like puppies.

puppies

 

Kidecals can transform your favorite photo or work of art into a canvas creation, just thought I’d throw that in there in case you really love that picture of the puppies…

lotsadots2010

After perusing the Kidecals website, I felt really inspired to finally decorate our newly for about a year now basement. I’ll be the first to admit to you that, since I don’t go down there as often as I probably should (it really is a fun room) I haven’t put much time and effort into styling it.

Basement

I knew that I wanted to transform this part of the basement (pictured above) into a fun play space for my three year old daughter and the Lotsa Dots wall decal was the perfect solution.

Kidecals

The decal set came on a large sheet that allowed me to easily peel and stick each dot onto the wall. I originally put them on the top half of the wall but decided that I wanted to put them down where my little one could enjoy them. They were easy to remove from the wall and re-apply to a different area with no damage to the stickers or the wall.

Basement 2

I’m planning to add a few more things to the space (like a small bookshelf and toy chest) that will make it even better but, for now, I’m loving her little “reading corner”. As you can see in the picture, Catniss likes it, too.

ChalkboardLabels5

Despite the word “kid” being in their name, Kidecals isn’t just for the special children in our lives, it’s for adults too. They’ve got a great selection of labels and decals to help keep you organized and stylish at the same time. I’m using their chalkboard labels in my kitchen to help keep my husband from messing everything up stay organized.

Kidecals

Applying it to my birch cabinets was simple and the chalk goes on smooth.

Kidecals Chalkboard

And now we know that everything has a place…

KidecalsChalkboard

Nifty, right?!

My experience with Kidecals was great. Their customer service is friendly, shipping is fast and FREE, and the products are absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend purchasing from them if you’re in the market for some stickeys.

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If you want to see pictures of my finished basement or you just really love me and want to come hang out, chat a bit, and read awkward things that I say: Let’s connect on Facebook.

Until next time…

-H

*Disclosure: Kidecals provided me with a substantial discount on my decals in exchange for my honest and unbiased feedback. All expressed thoughts and opinions are uniquely my own. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. ItsAnOrdinaryBlog@gmail.com. 

World War II Drama Demonstrates Gravity of Battle

“Fury”

Runtime: 134 Minutes

Rated: Rated R for strong sequences of war violence and language

Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon bernthal

Fury (2014) Poster

Oh look, it’s another World War II movie.  Just what the world needs, right?

Since before the war even ended, Hollywood has loved making World War II movies. World War II offers a level of moral clarity that later wars cannot claim.  The Allies are the good guys, the Nazis are the bad guys.  Given the sheer volume of good or great World War II movies, it is noteworthy when one is added to the ranks that has a different and worthwhile perspective. “Fury” is such a movie.

 “Fury” tells the tale of sergeant named Don “Wardaddy” Collier who commands a M4A3E8 Sherman tank called “Fury” and its five man crew.  The film puts the viewer right in the middle of the final months of the war during the post D-Day push across Europe.

The newest member of the crew is newly enlisted typist Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Norman serves as the surrogate for the audience. He is a normal young man put into extraordinary circumstances, and the audience witnesses as that situation transforms him from that unassuming young man into a hardened soldier.  Lerman is appropriately understated in the role, and is a believable everyman.

The entire cast is excellent.  Pitt is convincing as a leader, and LeBeuof reminds us that he is not just a troubled actor, he is a great actor.

Writer and Director David Ayer brings a unique take to the familiar war movie genre by focusing on the battles between allied and axis tanks, rather than infantry.  “Fury” (the tank, not the film) becomes a character and we are taken inside as the crew battles the larger and superior German “Tiger” tank.

Other movies have depicted the senseless brutality of war, but few do so as effectively as this.  The battle scenes are terrifying, but expertly crafted. War changes people. This is something that we know, but this movie attempts to show you why and how.

On my scale of one to ten, with one being the worst, five being the best, and 10 being the worst again, I give “Fury” a 4.5 with an emoticon based sub ranking of: speachless.

A Story About The Love-Hate Relationship Between A Son and His Father

Release Date: Friday October 10, 2014

Runtime: 141 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and sexual references

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall

The Judge (2014) Poster

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. play something other than Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes.  “The Judge” features a serious and emotional story and strong performances by both Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.

“The Judge” tells the story of Hank Palmer (RDJ), a big city lawyer who returns to his childhood home where his father (Duvall), the town judge, is accused of murder. Hank must find out the truth while reconnecting with his estranged family.

In some ways, Hank Palmer is not so different than Tony Stark. Both are quick witted, arrogant, and, yet, oddly likable.  In other words, both characters are basically Robert Downey Jr.  Here, though, Downey puts in a much more serious and complex performance.  Duvall’s performance is equally strong and he is perfect as the tough titular character.

While the story is important, this is primarily a character driven movie.  In such a movie, the casting is key and they really nailed it.  The two leads are great actors, and they fit  the roles perfectly.  The supporting cast also does will and is equally well chosen. The performances by both the leads and supporting cast make “The Judge” an enjoyable, moving, and entertaining film.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again, I give “The Judge” a 6.349384938098 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Wow, that was intense.”

Missouri Woman Disappears, Ben Affleck Lead Suspect In Investigation.

Intense | Disturbing | Incredible 

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Release Date: Friday October 3, 2014

Runtime: 149 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris

Gone Girl Movie

There are many things that go into a making a great movie. The usual elements that we measure include the cast, performances, plot, direction, score, etc. However, if a movie hits on most or all of these points, but is ultimately forgettable, it cannot be considered great. That brings us to “Gone Girl”, a new release by director David Fincher (“Se7en”, “Fight Club”) and Ben Affleck (“The Town”, “Argo”). It has been several days since I’ve seen this film, and I am still floored. It grabs you in the opening minutes and does not let go.

With some movies it is important to go in with no expectations, and this is one of those movies. With that said, this is going to be a spoiler-free review. This is a powerful movie that you should experience for yourself.

Without giving too much away, I will say that the performances of both Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were amazing. The story follows dual narrative perspectives and each narrative calls for a different type of performance from the leads. In a sense, both actors are playing two different characters each of which fits into the other player’s narrative as well as their own. It’s not an easy task and they absolutely nail it.

David Fincher’s direction brings its characteristic attention to detail and visual flair. He maintained tension throughout and kept me fully engaged. By the end, the entire audience was left punch-drunk from emotional journey they had just endured. If “Gone Girl” walks away next year with awards (and it certainly might) it will be partly because voters were unable to stop thinking about it

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where 1 is the worst, 5 is the best and 10 is the worst again, I give “Gone Girl” a 5.13498309483098 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Wow. SHOCKER.”

Denzel Washington Takes On Russian Mafia Inside Home Improvement Store: Wins.

The Equalizer

I guess it’s true what they say in that you never really do know who’s working at your local Home Depot home improvement store and that’s the whole premise (just kidding, it’s not) of “The Equalizer”, which hit theaters nationwide this weekend. The movie stars Denzel Washington (master of badassery) so I’m really not too worried about spoilers (we all know he’s a winner, both in real life and in his movies) but if you are, I would encourage you to skip on down to the very bottom of this post (just past the last picture). You’re welcome.

The Equalizer

Release Date: Friday September 26th, 2014

Total Running Time: 131 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated “R” for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Marton Csokas

The Equalizer

“…The old man’s gotta be the old man – the fish gotta be the fish – you’ve gotta be what you are in this world…”

Robert McCall is a mysterious and meticulous man living a seemingly ordinary life in Boston. His days are spent working at his local Home Depot home improvement store (If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably Home Depot, but it seems like maybe they didn’t want to pony up the dough for brand placement in the movie, so let’s just call it “Home Mart”). McCall doesn’t sleep much so his nights are spent reading his way through 100 books at Bridge Diner but, like any good movie, everything is not as it seems.

Bridge Diner

It’s at Bridge Diner where Robert befriends Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl who is involved in a human trafficking ring.

{Human trafficking is a very real and very serious issue. For more information, please visit: http://www.humantrafficking.org/combat_trafficking} 

The-Equalizer-First-Trailer

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

After discovering Teri’s involvement in a Russian human trafficking ring, McCall decides to do something about it and “The Equalizer” is born. In an epic moment of vigilantism, The Equalizer unwittingly opens Pandora’s Box and takes on the entire (East Coast) Russian mafia throughout the remainder of the film. The Equalizer, in true Denzel Washington form, kicks a lot of butt and says some great things like: “When you pray for rain you gotta deal with the mud, too.”

The Equalizer, in all his glory, is nothing short of amazing. He’s the guy you want on your side if anything goes wrong and I promise, you’ll never look at a sledgehammer or a nail gun in the same way again. The final battle scene (it was a battle, okay?!) was so epic is had me questioning my post apocalyptic plans to live inside Costco (I’m now thinking Home Depot Home Mart might be a more viable option).

NoSpoilers

“The Equalizer” is an action packed ride that really does keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the film (even with an ending you can see coming – – that’s not a spoiler!). It’s got cheese, like any good vigilante action film, but it’s the kind of cheese you can thoroughly enjoy (at least I did).  Like Gouda.

Overall on the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “The Equalizer” a 4.3439839581 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Great! Now I’m going to question the background of every single person working inside Home Depot Home Mart. Are you REALLY here to sell me lumber or are you a former secret agent?!”

 

 

Remember That Time I Said There Would Be (FREE) Coffee?!

You guys…It’s Friday!!! The sun is shining, Autumn is (finally, thank god) here, and I’ve got FREE coffee (and an assortment of other goodies) to giveaway! I mean, honestly, this is exciting.

ekoffee-prize-pack-giveaway

You might remember my Red Rooster Roaster (I really love saying that) EKoffee review not too long ago but in case you need a refresher or you missed it (GASP!), you can find it here. I’ll give you a minute (I need to go make some coffee anyway). If you’re already familiar and need something to do while I run to the kitchen, check out the Ode To The Coffee Bean:

Now you know that I mentioned an AMAZING prize pack for one incredibly lucky reader and I’m really excited to share that with you today. What I didn’t mention in my original review is the other bloggers who are involved in this giveaway. I have the distinct privilege of knowing some really phenomenal writers whom I look up to and learn from every day. I consider myself to be extremely lucky that they’ve accepted me as one of their own. When you have a few minutes, consider checking them out:

http://karenfosterdesign.com/amazing-word-rub-on.html

Color Me Crystal | Sweet Pennies from HeavenMoms with a BlogCoupon WAHM |

This N That with OliviaFinding Sanity in Our Crazy Life 

 ekoffee-giveaway-prize-pack

Now, onto the good stuff (because I know that’s why you’re here). Our friends over at eKoffee.com (Hi, Jason!) have graciously put together an incredible prize pack that includes:

  • an eKoffee  mug
  • an eKoffee tote bag
  • 1 bag of fresh roasted coffee (eKoffee’s choice)
  • and a $30 eKoffee Gift Card

This giveaway will end on October 1, 2014 at 11:59pm EST and is open to US residents age 18+. I’m already jealous of the lucky winner and can’t wait to hear what they (YOU!) think about the coffee.

Connect with eKoffee online anytime. They’re also on the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and that weird place where you share all of your cat pictures and half eaten food.

eKoffee

 Whenever you’re ready to get in on this giveaway, you’ll have to follow the link right here >>>> Entry-Form <<<< to enter. In the very near future, I’ll have the capability to actually PUT the giveaway form directly on my blog posts (goodbye WordPress.com) but, for now, you’ll have to follow the link…I’m sorry, it’s the worst, I know but I PROMISE it’s safe.

Again, follow THIS LINK RIGHT HERE to enter into the giveaway. And, once more for good measure: This is the giveaway link.

Giveaway sponsored by:  eKoffee.com | Prize fulfillment by:  eKoffee.com