insights: from death row to a happy girl: payton's story

I know that homeless dog stories can be sad and hard to read. This is not one of those stories.

The cages were lined up in a long, neat row atop tables, the kind of tables you typically see at church picnics laden with potato salad and Mrs. Burke’s dream bars. It was a brilliant sunny Saturday, rare for Seattle, and I was at a pet adoption event hoping to find a sister for Emma, our Westie. In the crates were all sorts of dogs, groomed, excited and ready for a family. Attached to each cage was a laminated printed sheet detailing the story of the dog. Earlier that week I had visited a local shelter and played with several dogs but I didn’t feel that thing, that warm peace that makes you aware that you have fallen inextricably in love. That morning I had gone to another adoption event and cuddled with a Pekinese puppy with blue eyes but the connection wasn’t there either. I knew when it was right I would feel it just like I did when I met my husband, L. and when we met and fell in love with the white puppy who became our Emma.

entertainme: "the hunger games" review

Writing this review for "The Hunger Games" movie seems almost superfluous. With the pre-excitement level for this film bigger than the "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" series, it would take hundreds of critic reviews saying that the "The Hunger Games" film was about a mom encouraging her kids to eat vegetables through various kitchen challenges for fans to even think twice about seeing this movie. It's already a winner.

entertainme: "salmon fishing in the yemen" review

Sometimes an idea can sound so far fetched that it actually makes sense. Like building a clear glass walkway high above the Grand Canyon or taking a submarine miles and miles down in the ocean where the pressure is equivalent to that of three SUV's sitting on your toe. So building a reservoir in the Middle East desert to fish for salmon (who swim upstream, mind you) doesn't seem like a big stretch at all then.

That's the premise of the new Emily Blunt / Ewan McGregor film "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat") "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is the story of Harriet (Emily Blunt), a calm but determined publicist for Sheikh Muhammed who decides to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. Yes, salmon in the desert. Ewan McGregor is Dr. Alfred Jones, a quiet fisheries expert thrown together with Harriet to make this happen as salmon fishing in the Yemen becomes on national importance to Britain. Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") is brilliant in a supporting role as Pat Maxwell, a fiendishly wonderful press coordinator for the British Prime Minister. Watch closely and you can see a resemblance to Fiona, her character from "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

entertainme: interview with austin vickers

On a recent rainy day in Seattle I sat down with Austin Vickers, former corporate attorney turned leadership expert and writer/producer of the film "People v. the State of Illusion" to talk about his new film. After screening the film and feeling energized I wanted to know how using your imagination can help you change your life. What I learned is that it's easier than you think.

Happygirl: You have been a leadership expert for years. Why do a movie now?

Austin Vickers: For the last ten years I have been speaking about emotional intelligence and film is now a medium where we absorb most information and it is a powerful medium. When you can create a film that can both present information that is life changing and touch people emotionally through a story then it doesn't get more powerful than that.

the happygirl guide to the perfect pesto

Spring means the return of simple food, fresh ingredients from the farmer's market. This week I bought basil and garlic and made a light, vibrant pesto that made for one very happy dinner.

the happygirl pesto recipe
1/4 cup walnuts
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil (lemon flavored olive oil lends a great fresh essence to the pesto)
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
2 cups fresh basil leaves (I used all the leaves from a living basil plant- found in most supermarket produce sections)
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

entertainme: your spring happygirl playlist

One thing I will always remember about that Spring of my senior year of high school was the way the white lilacs bloomed outside my bedroom window. My grandfather had planted them for me when we moved into the house and for some reason the sweetness of the lilacs floating into my bedroom that Spring was so potent that even now when I close my eyes I can recall the scent so clearly that it brings tears to my eyes. I remember, too, falling asleep listening to Chicago and the way the cool evening air carried the sounds of crickets through my open window.

Spring has such promise. The grass is lush, windows are flung open to allow sunshiny air inside and we listen to music that makes us happy and kinda bouncy. I hope this Happygirl Spring Playlist accompanies some of your happy days this season!

(Click the play button before each song to hear a clip and use the scroll bar on the right to hear all 18 songs.)


entertainme: "people v. the state of illusion"

The day after I screened Austin Vickers' new docudrama "People v. The State of Illusion" I thought about those Magic Eye Illusion posters that were a phenomenon in the early 90's. I remember standing with my friends looking at these posters at the mall kiosks and while everyone else saw the 3-D image of a pony or a dolphin I never saw the image. Ever. No matter how much my friends or the clerk tried to show me how to cross my eyes and let the image come into focus I couldn't see the image. It was all in the perception and I just didn't have the ability to see beyond rows of random colored dots.

Why do some people have the ability to literally see beyond what is in front of their face? As a leadership training expert, filmmaker Austin Vickers explores the theory that by using your imagination you can retrain your thought processes and change your life, regardless of your current circumstances. In the docudrama, written and produced by Vickers, "People v. The State of Illusion" introduces you to Aaron, a man whose life was thrown off course by a bad decision. Thrown in jail and missing his daughter Hope he is in a precarious position. Can he change his life while incarcerated? When all control is lost what options are there for someone with little hope? Through the story and interviews with experts, audiences are introduced to the idea that regardless of what has happened in the past, what matters is your intention right now. Do you want to change your path? Can you imagine a life that is happy and content?

entertainme: "21 jump street" review

Several years ago just before "Superbad" came out I was having dinner with my friend Kari who was at the time, a publicist with Sony Pictures. She said "I can't wait until you see 'Superbad.' You will love this movie. Love it." A few weeks later I did the movie junket for this film and I loved it. And I feel the same way about "21 Jump Street." I can't wait for you to see it. You will love this movie. Love it.

entertainme: video: christopher walken reading "where the wild things are"

Last night L. and I literally cried laughing watching this absolutely quirky video of actor Christopher Walken reading the classic children's book "Where the Wild Things." In addition to reading the lines in the book he riffs on the pictures giving his thoughts on  things like the big-headed Elmo-like character to why there are trees in the ocean. This is one of the most random and surreal videos you'll ever see.

Watch this video of Christopher Walken as our March video pick. It's a happy thing.

insights: happygirl experiment #28 banging metal

Several ago when we were living in Connecticut I took a class in metalsmithing. Each week I put on protective gear including a gigantic mask, elbow length gloves and protective boots. I felt like Alex in "Flashdance." I had a delirious amount of  fun wielding a torch and hammering the heck out of metal. The tools were enormous, sharp and hot. In every class I felt dangerous and literally cutting edge. It was amazing to me that I could wield a blowtorch and come away with a shiny metal cuff.

entertainme: "friends with kids" review

In 2001 writer / actor Jessica Westfeldt made a name for herself with her single girl and the city sleeper hit “Kissing Jessica Stein.” Westfeldt’s single girl / no kids is all grown up now in her newest film “Friends With Kids” which begs the question “Can you be happy and have a kid with a friend and skip all that romance stuff?”

In addition to writing “Friends With Kids” Westfeldt also stars as the lead character Julie with the brilliant Adam Scott (Jason) (“Parks and Recreation”) as her best friend / potential baby daddy. Westfeldt’s real-life long-term (since 1998) boyfriend, actor Jon Hamm (Ben) (“Mad Men”) also stars with Kristen Wiig (Missy) as a sex-all-the-time-until-they-have-a-kid couple. Rounding out their group of friends is Maya Rudolph (Leslie) and Chris O’Dowd (Alex) as the been-there-done-that-and-bought-the-overpriced-souvenir-married-with-kids-covered-in-jello couple.

While the movie trailer may make it seem like a comedy, "Friends With Kids" leans more towards a drama. Even with all the comedy power in this cast, don’t expect a “Bridesmaids” fun ride. This film is more serious and thought provoking. If your biological clock is ticking can you have a child with a close friend, bypassing all the messy, emotional stuff? Moviegoers have seen this scenario most recently in the comedies “The Switch” (2010, Jennifer Aniston) and “The Back-up Plan” (2010, Jennifer Lopez). While these two films tackle the beautiful single girls who decide to have a baby plot with funny punch lines, “Friends With Kids” isn’t afraid to explore the darker side of the “Let’s have a kid together as friends” option. What happens when things do get messy? (Ben and Missy) How do you keep the fun in a marriage after kids (Alex and Leslie) What happens when emotions come into play (Jason and Julie) Adam Scott is adorable and funny and witty as the best friend / baby daddy Jason and at times it’s frustrating watching their characters beat around the bush and date others when the audience clearly knows that Jason and Julie belong together, not as friends, not as parents but as a couple, messy emotions and all.

Who should see this film: Single girls who suddenly start to tilt their heads and smile as they look in the window of Pottery Barn Kids.

* As a side note I was at dinner with some girlfriends recently and a friend suggested that the reason women LOVE Adam Scott is that he reminds us of those oh so sweet guys we dated once after we graduated from college and who were  just  too nice and would someday make a great husband but we were too stupid at the time to know that this was the guy we should have kept dating and not the guy who made our dads cringe

insights: you is kind

This morning my smart, kind, witty, beautiful friend, Ginger Chan, reminded me of a quote from "The Help." I remember how it struck me when I first heard it in the film and hearing it again this morning I kinda want to write this quote on a bunch of Post-It's and randomly stick them on the windshields of cars.
I think I am going to do just that.