insights: giving happy thanks

There are things, big things, to be thankful for, of course, like good health, a husband who makes my heart soar, a family that has my back, friends who have stayed through thick and thin and a dog who thinks I am  the entire world. These are the things to give thanks for.

But there are the other things, the little things, the quirky things that can make your heart leap as you say a silent thank you to God or the universe.

Here are some of the small things, the lovely things, the wondrous things that have made me thankful. These moments are the things I try to remember when I forget just how amazing life is.

(Yes, this is our puppy Emma who thinks she is hidden)

The Happy Things

1. Getting into a bed freshly made with sheets straight from the dryer

2. Hot apple pie topped with a slice of Beecher's white cheddar (Is this just a New England thing?)

3. Finding the PERFECT thing on Seriously, how can you not love this?

4. The way my husband smiles at me and hums when he likes the dinner I've prepared

5. Settling in to enjoy the movie trailers and hearing the dialogue of the people behind me ("Oh! I want to see that. Do you want to see that?")

entertainme: "the twilight saga: breaking dawn"

When I got the invitation to the “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I” screening I knew the exact person I was going to invite as my guest-my friend Sara who is the biggest “Twilight” fan I know and just came back from the premiere in Los Angeles. In fact when I was interviewing the cast at Comic-Con before their first film opened, Sara was the one I called to preview my questions. So, it was only fitting that when I knew I was reviewing the film that Sara should get a say as well.

So stay tuned. Here is my review followed by guest reviewer, Sara’s take on “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I.”

I have to be honest and say that up until last weekend I hadn’t seen the last two “Twilight” films. I had stopped reviewing films for awhile and missed these movies. This weekend though I watched “New Moon” and “Eclipse” so I wouldn’t be completely confused when I saw “Breaking Dawn.” I grew up on John Hughes movies but I liked the story of Bella, the girl torn between Jake (a wolf) and Edward (a vampire.) It was teen angst on steroids and blood.

“Breaking Dawn” however was different. When we last saw Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) Edward had proposed, Bella accepted and they had set a wedding date. Meeting them again in this film, Bella and Edward seem more mature (however gaping the roughly 100 year age difference between the two.) This film is funnier, more romantic and a movie that can truly stand on its own. The three previous films could be seen as movies based on blockbuster teen books, but “Breaking Dawn” is truly a film for the masses, not just the Twihards. There is a wedding, passion (i.e. the honeymoon first sex scenes), anger, joy, excitement, war, wolves, and of course vampires.

Perhaps it’s director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) who gave this film a more wide-ranging appeal or maybe it’s the fact that the material is a little lighter (a wedding and a baby after all). Whatever the combination, it is a winning one that will not only delight the already existing “Twilight” saga fan but it will also attract moviegoers who may not have thought of themselves as fans. They will now.

Bonus: The soundtrack featuring Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" is phenomenal. Download it today here.
Introducing Sara Kosokoff, The Happygirl Experiment’s guest reviewer

The Happygirl: So Sara we saw "Breaking Dawn" tonight. What did you think?

Sara Kosokoff: I loved this movie! I think this might be my favorite of all of them so far.

HG: How did this film compare to the others?

SK: You can tell the quality is much better, the makeup, special effects , the hair. Also, it is nice to see Bella and Edward so happy and carefree. Well, at least for the first part of the movie!

HG: You are the biggest "Twilight" fan I know starting from way back when. I remember when I was covering the "Twilight" red carpet at Comic-Con and I called you to help me out. You pretty much saved me there.

SK: You showed me a list of questions you were going to ask the cast. I nixed all of them, they had been asked a million times already and the fans want to hear something different. I gave you some questions you could ask them that I thought you would get some interesting answers from. Then, during Comic Con, you called me saying you were in a room with the cast, and you asked me  “So, who is the tall British guy, who is the girl with the red hair?. . .” That was funny.... Then you told me to watch the Live Feed. I was at my desk at work (trying to hide that I was watching this!) when all of a sudden I saw you with your microphone, and you were talking to Robert Pattinson. I turned up my volume on my computer and then....YOU ASKED HIM MY QUESTION!!! I almost fell out my chair. The question was something about what was the link to romance and vampires and he said something about that it was sexy to bite someone's neck. I seriously ran down the hallway yelling, I must of looked like a crazy person at work!

HG: You just went to the premiere in L.A. and you met Rob Pattinson. Did it fulfill every dream?

SK: Pretty much! It was my goal to see Rob up close, and to get a pic. It was a stressful 5 days to get to the red carpet but totally worth it when he was standing in front of me, asking "Hey, how are you?" I kind of forgot to remember how to speak! His eyes are really green, by the way. He is so good with his fans, he tries to get to every person and not leave anyone out. I am still bummed I didn't get a pic with Kristen though but who knows? I didn't think I would ever get to see Rob and that happened, so my fingers are crossed!

HG: What do you love about the "Twilight" films?

SK: I just love that they are so relatable. I mean, most girl's don't fall in love with a vampire and have a werewolf as a best friend, but at some point, you have that rush of first love and Stephenie Meyer can tell that story so well. It also helps to have Robert Pattinson cast as the lead. You can thank Kristen Stewart for that one. He tried out for the role cause he wanted to be in a movie with her and she insisted that he was the only person that can play Edward. And she was right.

HG: You obviously read "Breaking Dawn." How similar or different was the film to the book? I know the big love scene was something fans were excited about. Was it was awesome as you expected?

SK: Well, this is only the first part of the book, and it is pretty similar so far. I think the honeymoon was better in the movie than the book, since the book was fade to black and let's just say they show a bit more than that in the movie! I was satisfied with everything. The wedding was beautiful and the birth was terrifying! Now we have to wait a whole year for “Breaking Dawn Part II.”

HG: So rating this movie, 1 to 5 this movie would be a . . .?

SK: I would give this a solid 4.5. Honestly, this was not my favorite book in the series but it is my favorite movie so far!

charming places: review--red mountain resort

It all came down to this: Hawaii, Italy or a spa.

I needed to feel recharged and I wanted to visit a Happy Place where I could get my happy back. I wanted to go someplace where I would feel strong and empowered. Hawaii and Italy are indeed happy but what I needed at this moment was both physical AND emotional inspiration.  Hawaii and Italy were places I wanted to go back to with L. so I narrowed the search down to spas in the U.S. and Mexico. I used to start the search and selected finalists including Red Mountain Resort, Canyon Ranch, The Pritkin Spa,  The Golden Door, Miraval and Fitness Ridge (associated with TV's "Biggest Loser") I called each of the resorts and spoke at length about their offerings and their "vibe."
I felt a little like Goldilocks.
One was too rigid (I didn't want to be intimidated into working out. Push me, yes, but don't make me cry.) Several were too expensive ($6000 and up for one week.) And several just didn't seem like it was a right fit. I spoke with Brad Crump, the Health & Wellness Director at Red Mountain Resort. He told me about the resort like the others had but he listened. He wanted to know what I needed from the resort. Was I there for pampering? To lose weight? To gain a new perspective? To challenge myself? Yes. Yes. And yes.

I drew up a chart listing each resort and their pros and cons. I read the reviews on and their respective websites. Several were in the running but then I read the events calendar on the Red Mountain Resort site and it was this one item that clinched the deal.

This is Bacon, my new friend I did the Pound Puppy hike with. Isn't she wonderful?!"

I knew that any resort that would sponsor something like this was one that I wanted to be part of. I was right. It was perfect. Perfect. It was better than I could ever have hoped.

entertainme: review "like crazy"

Love. Oh, that crazy head over heels first love where just watching your love sip their coffee makes you lightheaded with giddiness. If you've ever felt that first love and you wish you could experience it again, then go see "Like Crazy" the film that won both the Grand Jury and Special Jury prizes at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Starring the lovely Felicity Jones (Anna) and Anton Yelchin (Jacob), the film feels more like a voyeuristic peek inside college students love lives rather than a fictional movie. It could have been a simple boy meets girl, girl leaves, boy pines for her kind of movie but instead it's a warm, sweet, painful look inside a couple who meet, fall in love, throw caution to the wind and then pay for that mistake with a separation so wistful you will grab the hand of your love in the theatre and whisper "I love you. I need you. I love you."

Director Drake Doremus took a unique approach with his actors by combining a short shooting schedule along with allowing them to improvise the dialogue. I spoke with Felicity recently and we spoke about the trust that developed between she, Anton and Drake. Watching this film you can see the freedom the actors felt in the intimate scenes. There is one scene especially that is poignant. Have you ever just spent a lost weekend with the love of your life? Now imagine a lost Summer spent in bed holding onto every single special moment knowing that when Fall comes their bubble will pop and they will be separated. It's a great montage scene of Anna and Jake over the summer in bed, in love. It's one of the loveliest scenes, reminiscent of "The Notebook."

"Like Crazy" is a quiet movie. It's a whisper in the ear, a subtle, beautiful, hazy, sweet film that will send you right back to your first love when life was just about the two of you, before life got complicated.

entertainme: review "tower heist"

There is something wonderfully fun about watching Eddie Murphy on the big screen, exactly where he is supposed to be. It's been awhile since we've seen him ("Meet Dave" 2008) or heard that signature laugh of his or seen that signature sideways glance of "You clearly did not just say that thing to me, dear sir." Face it. We love Eddie Murphy and it feels good to see him in a film where he gets to play to his strong points of comedy combined with "I'm just a misunderstood soul."

As a thief in "Tower Heist" Murphy (Slide) is perfectly cast against Ben Stiller (Josh Kovacs)  as the tower manager as they partner together to recoup money stolen by the penthouse resident who Bernie Madoff-like absconded with millions in a pyramid scam. (Alan Alda is wonderful in the role of this devious miscreant tycoon Arthur Shaw.) Unfortunately for the employees at the tower, Kovacs had previously encouraged Shaw to take on the Tower employees pensions and then lost it all. Feeling responsible he assembles a rag tag team including his brother-in-law Charlie (Played by Casey Affleck), housekeeper Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and the brilliant Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick as a former tower resident recently laid off and evicted) to get their  money back. Watching them scheme is the fun here. Think of this as "Ocean's Eleven" meets "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World." It works especially the humor Broderick brings into the role as the forlorn Fitzhugh.

Losing one's life savings to a maniacal thief a la Bernie Madoff is a sensitive taken directly from today's headlines and I wondered if it was too soon for a film tackling this topic humorous but I was wrong. Listening to the audience howl in the screening it was clear that it's never too soon to see a wretched tycoon get exactly what he deserves. "Tower Heist" with its humor, suspense and great casting is a fun movie for a cold autumn night. Take your friends, order a big tub of popcorn and enjoy the "Tower Heist" ride.