Category Archives: Dabney AAR

“Typecast is a smart, sharp parody of “Royals”

If you’ve turned on your radio anytime in the last year, you’re likely to have heard the song “Royals,” by the song recorded by a powerhouse teenager from New Zealand. The song won Song of the Year at this year’s Grammys and has spawned countless copies and parodies. This one, written, directed, and filmed by Tess Paras is funny and spot on.

“You can’t have two black friends.”

Sad but, on the big screen, almost always true.

Dabney Grinnan

Best “School’s cancelled due to bad weather” announcement EVER

[youtube][/youtube]I live in the normally warm state of North Carolina but yesterday a severe storm blew in and shut the Tar Heel state down. (It took my son four hours to get home from work.)

Every school around sent out “no school tomorrow” videos, but this one, the one from my kids’ school is hands down the best. It’s so good, it’s gone viral. It’s been retweeted by Vanilla Ice (to whom it pays homage), Buzzfeed, CNN, Gawker, and the hits on YouTube are rising every minute.

It’s written and performed by our head of school and head of the Upper School.

Check it out! I promise it will crack you up.

a story about a dream, dying, and the power of Krispy Kreme

6md4g.AuSt.156A month ago my youngest children, seniors in high school, came home raving about a school assembly they’d attended. “Mom, this guy was amazing,” my daughter said. “Cool,” I replied and then the talk moved on to our family’s upcoming Thanksgiving.

I should have paid more attention.

This past Monday, at their school, something extraordinary happened; the sort of thing that makes you believe in the wonder of  “living, loving, and trying” even as you accept the implacability of loss.

Here’s the story. It’s worth reading. Be prepared to cry.

Cookies (and more) for those who hate to cook

Years ago, in holidays past, I enjoyed cooking.  Now, four kids and a two decades later, it’s not my thing. In fact, I go to great lengths to avoid actually making food. My family survives on grocery pre-made goodies, a host of frozen main dishes from Trader Joe’s, and their wits. So, when the AAR staff decided to share their favorite holiday cookie recipes, I was sure I’d have nothing to contribute. But, as Blythe pointed out, I’m probably not the only non-cooker in our readership. And, upon occasion, even those of us who avoid the kitchen do have to produce “home made” baked goods.

So, for those whom home-made treats are something other people do, here are few easy short cuts.

1) Buy slice and bake gingerbread cookies, roll them into little balls and dunk them into colored sugar. Cook them for 2/3 the time on the label. They’ll be soft, sweet, and mildly festive.

2) Make boxed brownies but add a bag of chocolate fudge pudding, a cup of chocolate chips, and a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture. Bake according to what it says on the box. Let cool completely before cutting. You’ll have deeply fudgy brownies the chocoholics in your life will love.

3) Dump a bag of frozen berries into a rectangular baking pan. Add in a package of vanilla pudding and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix thoroughly. In another bowl, melt a stick of butter. Add a cup of granola, a cup of quick oats, and a cup of brown sugar. Mix together and put on top of berry mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice-cream and tell your kids it’s a “healthy” dessert because it has fruit and fiber.

4) Get to know the best frozen desserts at your grocery store. I–and my family–will vouch for almost anything in the Trader Joe’s cake and pie section. In fact, it’s hard to beat TJ’s frozen New York Cheesecake (the one in the blue box) or their Chocolate Ganache Torte. Both vanish the minute I put them on our kitchen counter.

5) Instead of bringing baked goods to the party, show up with a good but inexpensive bottle of bubbly. Your hosts won’t mind a bit!

Happy holidays!

Dabney AAR

Every Sunday, it’s “Modern Love”


Every Sunday morning, cup of coffee in hand, I rifle through the three papers we have delivered each weekend morn, and find the Modern Love column in the New York Times. I’ve read it regularly for the past twenty years. If you’ve never read it, the Modern Love columns are, as defined by their editors, “deeply personal essays about contemporary relationships, marriage, dating, parenthood…any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading “Modern Love”.” The columns are well-written, succinct snippets of the emotional lives of others. Some are funny, some are enlightening, many will break your heart. Continue reading

“Winter’s Bone” and its Katniss Everdeen ready star


One of my two New Year’s resolutions is to see more movies. I’ve spent the last few years reading rather than watching. It’s not just I don’t go to the movies–the only movie I saw in theaters in 2011 was the last Harry Potter. I have also stopped watching movies at home and, by the end of last year, I felt both culturally out of sorts and distressed I’d missed films others raved about. I’ve yet to make it to the theater this month–I’ve still got another week!–but I have been watching movies at home with my husband. Last weekend we watched MoneyballI thought it was good, not great and that both Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman outshone Brad Pitt–and, a film I thought was stunning: Winter’s Bone. Continue reading

A Walk on the Moon


This weekend, I watched A Walk on the Moon for what must be the fifth time. Not only do I think it has one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed; it’s a great lens on the culture shock felt by so many in the US in the late 1960’s. The acting is superb–the film showcases Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen and is a great vehicle for Anna Pacquin, Liev Schreiber, and Tovah Feldshuh. (Listen closely–the PA announcer is voiced by the incomparable Julie Kavner.) Continue reading

Say Thursday

DSC06323There’s nothing like trying to take a family photo to convince me that Plato was right: we can only conceive of perfection and never actually attain it.  Year after year, trip after trip, my family has tried to take that perfect photo where each of us looks happy, natural, and–and this is key–at the camera. We’ve come close, but never actually succeeded. My comparatively small family of six, however, is more successful than my extended family (parents, siblings and their families) of 24. That group tries each year to take one picture of all 24 of us, together, on the same set of lobby steps in Western North Carolina where we’ve been vacationing since I was a child. We’ve never once had a photo where even 75% of us managed to look happy, natural, and at the camera.

Continue reading

I am loving playing “Video Games”… the song

[youtube][/youtube]Last week my wonderful niece Lucy posted this video on my Facebook page and since then I’ve listened to Video Games about a hundred times. There’s something about Lana Del Rey’s voice, her lyrics, and the slow majestic music I find irresistible.   The song strikes me as truly romantic–not schmaltzy or sappy, but somehow connected to the way lovers actually experience each other.  I love the chorus with its refrain of  “it’s you, it’s you,” and the way the song ends with a few simple notes played on the piano. Continue reading

Have you met Lera Lynn?

[vimeo][/vimeo]A few weeks ago, my sister, who lives in Athens, Georgia, asked me if I’d heard of Athens singer/songwriter Lera Lynn.  I said no. She said, “You gotta check her out. I think you’ll love her.” A few clicks of my mouse later and I had a new favorite singer. (I still love you, Adele.) Lera just released her debut album Have You Met LERA LYNN? which is climbing up the Americana charts and–I’ll bet–will soon make its way to the country charts. Continue reading