Category Archives: Dabney AAR

Worst children’s book ever?

LYFThis article at made me laugh. Several of the books listed in it are on my short list for truly awful and inexplicably loved children’s books.

If I had to pick the worst children’s book of all time, I’d probably pick an animated film adaptation. (Cars 2: The book comes to mind.)  But that’s such a forgettable tome, it’s not worth hating. So, were I to pick a beloved book I loathe, I’d pick the creepy and saccharine Love You Forever. Even after learning the heart-breaking story behind the book, I still find it icky and an example of terrifying parenting.

Do you have a book every one else loves that you dislike?

Dabney Grinnan

Gone Girl: Are you going?

GGI don’t usually rush out and see films the day they are released. In fact, the last time I did that, I think it was for the IMAX version of the last Harry Potter film. So, yes, it’s been a while.

That said, yesterday, right after lunch, my husband and I went to see Gone Girl, the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel. The book is, for me, a tour-de-force of writing. Ms. Flynn’s vision of intimacy between two brilliant and deeply messed-up partners fascinates me.

The book has several jaw-dropping plot twists, as does the film, and, as I watched, I thought about what an utterly different experience seeing the film would be had I not read the book. (I was reminded of a similar experience with Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent.) I enjoyed the film which is faithful to the plot of the book but not completely true to the novel’s vision of its protagonists, Amy and Nick.

Have you read Gone Girl? Do you plan to see the movie? (In the interest of suspense, please do not post spoilers in the comments.)

This “Let It Go” video is a joy

The song “Let It Go” from the animated smash Frozen was written specifically for the prodigious vocal talents of Idina Menzel. And she rocks the song.

The song is so beloved that there are literally hundreds of versions of it on YouTube. Of them all, this one is my favorite. Not only does Alex Boyé get props for his ingenius Lion King-like vocal arrangement but the young girl who sings, Lexie Walker–she’s eleven–is a true songstress. (Check out her singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It made my husband cry.

I’ve watched this video about twenty times now and every time it makes me smile.

Dabney Grinnan

“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