First look–Kenneth Branagh and all-star cast bring Christie’s Poirot back to the big screen —

Everyone is a suspect. The clues are everywhere. For mystery lovers, it’s a staple. It’s Agatha Christie’s most well-known 1934 novel come to life, Murder on the Orient Express, the fourth major production for film or television of the classic whodunit in the English language–the 1974 Academy Award winning Sidney Lumet film being the best known. […]

via First look–Kenneth Branagh and all-star cast bring Christie’s Poirot back to the big screen —

First look–Kenneth Branagh and all-star cast bring Christie’s Poirot back to the big screen

The first Agatha Christie novel I ever read was the timeless classic, Murder on the Orient Express, featuring the Belgian genius Hercule Poirot. With a cast led by actor/direction Kenneth Branagh, Hollywood once again brings the iconic tale to the big screen.

Everyone is a suspect.  The clues are everywhere.  For mystery lovers, it’s a staple.  It’s Agatha Christie’s most well-known 1934 novel come to life, Murder on the Orient Express, the fourth major production for film or television of the classic whodunit in the English language–the 1974 Academy Award winning Sidney Lumet film being the best known.  For the older generation the story is known, but for a new generation the stage is set for a big screen version of Clue/Cluedo.  As with the 1974 version, the cast of the 2017 version is extraordinary.

So how do you cast a film against the last generation of film greats?  Leading a bevy of thespian knights and dames, Sir Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as master detective Hercule Poirot, the world’s greatest detective, played previously by Albert Finney (who refused a knighthood in the year 2000).  Sir Derek Jacobi plays the butler Edward Henry Masterman…

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Film Quiz: Inspirational Women

I came across this interesting quiz that highlighted decades of strong, female leads and had to share it. It’s amazing how many inspirational women we can find movies of all types, from dramatic romantic heroines to advocates of political change to military powerhouses. Film has long had the ability to capture the best, and the worst of us. Perhaps from this list you can reconnect with an old favorite or find a new one.

Alex Raphael

After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Alien Covenant on the same day, I twice saw the trailer for Wonder Woman (and what looks to be the woeful King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). DC will be hoping for success for its empowering heroine to match films within the Marvel Universe. It got me thinking about what other Hollywood females have been inspiring viewers through the decades. How many did you get? Are there others that inspire you?

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 1 1. (1930s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 2 2. (1940s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 3 3. (1970s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 4 4. (1980s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 5 5. (1990s)

GI JANE 6. (1990s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 6 7. (2000s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 7 8. (2000s)

MCDVEGU EC003 9. (2000s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 10 10. (2000s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 11 11. (2000s)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 12 12. (2010+)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 13 13. (2010+)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 14 14. (2010+)

Film Quiz - Inspirational Women Film 15 15. (2010+)

Answers below

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Keep Yourself (and Dad) Cool This Father’s Day

For many parts of the county June signifies the arrival of consistently warm weather and that annual weekend event honoring fathers.  Summer is just weeks away, but already in the Midwest we are seeing temperatures rise into the nineties, so it’s just as important to prepare for warmer weather as it is when we are expecting ice and snow.  How can we make the best of the of the day (and the season) without risking heatstroke or sunburn?

Involve everyone.

Plan Father’s Day activities to include the kids; let them have quality time with dad.  Let kids help prepare a special breakfast in bed, or simple handmade cards to celebrate.  Give Dad a break from weekend chores and let him indulge in a shared favorite activity with the kids, while you prepare a meal (Bonus: you may get a little peace and quiet for yourself!)

Father's Day 2010...

Photo credit: Јerry via / CC BY


Food is a vital part of any celebration.  Remember it’s Dad’s day, so plan to include his favorites, whether that means firing up the grill or preparing his favorite breakfast or dessert.  My husband has his eye on upgrading our grill this year.  Does anyone know where to get a good deal on a professional quality model?


365/319 Father's Day

Photo credit: California Cow via / CC BY

Take time out to chill in the shade.

If possible avoid spending time outside during the hottest part of the day. If you’re planning to be outside for the entire day or if you’ll be working in the heat, make sure you take a break in the shade to cool off, and drink plenty of fluids.

Keep hydrated.

If your idea of the perfect Father’s Day is a beer by the pool, make sure you limit the amount of alcohol you (or Dad) actually consumes.  Alcohol actually causes dehydration, which can increase the risk for heat exhaustion or heatstroke.  Make sure to keep plenty of cool, nonalcoholic beverages available for yourself and your guests.


Father's Day Bliss

Photo credit: Olaf via / CC BY-SA


Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Don’t let sunburn spoil the fun.  Whatever type of sunscreen you choose, be it waterproof, spray-on, wipe-on, sports activity or sensitive; make sure you follow the directions.  Also, remember that scalps burn too.  My husband found that out the hard way last year after a long motorcycle ride, so either work sunscreen into hair, especially if it’s thin or fine, or wear a hat.

Seek relief with indoor activities.

If you have small children and/or elderly parents to entertain, they may not be equipped to deal with high temperatures, especially in areas where humidity is common.  It may be best to plan some activities that involve air conditioning.  Movies can be fun for all ages, but this year has been rather hit and miss for quality, so take time to look at reviews and pick something everyone can enjoy.

Above all else, have fun and a Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there.



Who Would You Shield?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “shield?”  A shield can be a company logo, a symbol of authority, a weapon used by medieval warriors and the occasional costumed superhero, or the acronym for their organization.  However, a shield can also be a verb; to shield means to protect, to shelter, to defend against words or weapons, sometimes at personal sacrifice.

4368 Shield

Photo credit: steeljam via / CC BY-NC-ND

In today’s world we are often surrounded by dangers and troubles.  Accidents, disease, and crime are not something we can always guard against.  We try to shield our children from the harsh realities of violence; we would shield those we love from any who seek to harm them; we use a shield, often metaphorically, as a defense against painful words or concepts.

When my children were small, I wanted to shield them from the world, keep them safe and innocent of all the evils that existed.  I never wanted them to be subjected to bullies, or peer pressure, or rejection from potential love interests.  Of course, to keep them from all emotional turmoil would have been not only impossible but a real disservice to them in the long run.  Better that I teach and guide them as they began to step out from behind my shield, than to keep them ignorant and unprepared.


Photo credit: Djuliet via / CC BY-NC-ND

As a mother with two now-grown children I had to learn to allow my children to experience life.  Yes, I guarded them from all harm, but I allowed my shield to be transparent while doing so.  In other words, I explained to them why I protected them and from what or who, so they could see and hopefully understand the dangers they could face when they stepped into the world on their own.  Eventually, I knew, the time would come when I could no longer protect them, but must trust that they were well prepared to protect themselves.

That doesn’t mean my shield isn’t still there, ready to grab at a moment’s notice.  I’ve learned the instinct to protect doesn’t go away when the children move out and start their own lives.  However, that’s not necessary as often now, as they have shields of their own, ready to protect themselves and their loved ones whenever necessary.

Here’s to acknowledging those we will always want to protect,


Sneak Peak-Excerpt from Virtual, coming soon

Welcome to another sneak peak from my upcoming novella, Virtual, to be released shortly on Amazon.



“What happened to you?” Leslie asked.  She looked in his eyes, really looked, and realized, while bodily her husband stood in front of her, his eyes were as blank and uncomprehending as a zombie.  Someone else was controlling him like a puppet.

He jerked the flashlight out of her hand and she let him, too shocked to react.  He walked around behind her, brought his left arm around her waist in a parody of a romantic embrace, and pointed the gun at her right temple.  He’s going to kill me, she thought.  This isn’t a game anymore.  She thought of her kids back in the real world, and realized the stranger in her husband’s body had not won yet.

She took a deep breath to calm herself as he cocked the trigger, and cupped both hands over his gun arm and dug in with her fingernails, pushing the arm away from her head.  Still holding on to the arm with the gun, she ducked under his other arm around her waist, twisted sideways, and landed a side kick into his midsection.  The kick made him double over, and she followed up with another kick to his head to bring him to his knees.  Somewhere in the process of twisting his arm he lost his grip on the gun and she kicked it as far as she could.

She scooped up her machete and flashlight and headed for the brush.  She had hurt him but not taken him out, so she barely made it ten yards to the shelter of a tree with large, five foot tall exposed roots before he was had his gun and was after her again.

He fired several rounds at her but she hid under the tree roots and he could not get a clear shot.  She hooked the flashlight and machete back onto her belt.  The shadows and the cover of the roots were of more use to her here, and she didn’t intend to go against a gun with a knife.  She managed to reach the far side of the tree but could not see Rex in the dim light.  She held her breath and tried to listen for him, but the soft ground and abundance of vegetation masked his footfalls.

She slowly leaned out from the tree roots to look for Rex, but before she could look around something hit her from above.  Not again, she thought as the pain brought her to her knees.  Sure enough, Rex materialized from somewhere above her and grabbed her arm, jerking her to her feet and out from under the shelter of the tree.  He stuck his gun in her back and forced her to walk into a small clearing.

By twisting her arm Rex forced Leslie to her knees and then brought the gun up to her head again.  Apparently he was taking no chances this time.  He walked around till he was facing her, keeping his free hand pressed down on her shoulder.  Leslie kept her head down and folded her hands, fingers intertwined; the model of defeat.

She waited until he cocked the gun again to strike.  She shoved with both hands against the arm holding the gun, pushing it out of her way.  Then she lunged forward and brought her intertwined hands up hard between his legs.  When he howled and dropped his gun she snatched it up in both hands and rapped it against his knees.  He went down, and she jumped to her feet, holding the unfamiliar weapon in both hands.  She trained the gun on him as she considered her possibilities.

Think, she ordered herself.  This person who looked like her husband was intent on killing her.  It wasn’t like a sword battle, one shot to the head and you were dead; game over.  She could take him out, but she was afraid her husband was still inside somewhere.  She could tie him up and go for help, but who and where?  She could take him with her, and try to figure out what happened to him, but since he wouldn’t even talk she was not going to get any help from him.

Sensing her hesitation, Rex brought his right arm up and curled his hand around the back of her knees, knocking her off balance.  She dropped the gun but managed to keep her feet.  She kicked him square on the chin before he could rise, and unable to see where the gun landed in the vegetation, took off running as fast as she could.

Leslie was afraid.  For the first time since she had begun playing this game, she was afraid of losing and afraid of the man who was currently trying to kill her.  Something terrible had gone wrong with the game or the programming, and with a sick feeling Leslie realized it was up to her to fix it.  First, though, she had to survive.

Dare We Pin Our Hopes on Girl Power?

image courtesy of

My love affair with superheroes began when I was about eight, seeking out the comic book section of the grocery store while my parents stood in line.  I eagerly perused the new issues each week, searching for a good story to accompany the colorful illustrations, and quickly found a number of favorites.  I was disappointed; however, that almost all of the “heroes” were men.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading about Batman and Superman, but it seemed most of the women who wore costumes were sidekicks, cousins, or nieces of the male heroes, who were considered the main attraction.

Where was the role model for young girls?  Only one female “superheroine” stood out to me as being a character in her own right, with her own storylines not dependent on a relationship with a male character.  Who was this independent woman-Wonder Woman of course!  She could fight the bad guys as well as any costumed superhero, with strength, speed, and grace that defied the laws of physics, as well as the limits of ordinary men.  She was beautiful, brilliant, and had her own gadgets, not to mention an invisible plane.  What made her really stand out though, was her kindness, and her resolve to end conflicts without violence whenever possible.


Wonder Woman Poster
image courtesy of

“Wonder Woman” began her career as a comic book character in 1941.  She has graced numerous issues since then, both as a solo character and as a member of the Justice League.  She appeared in numerous cartoons and a live-action television series in the 1970s.  Over the years, her image has graced every sort of merchandise imaginable, including lunch boxes, Barbie dolls, and costumes to fit fans of every age. She has been held up as an icon for feminism, for female independence, for patriotism thanks to her early years fighting Nazis and her colorful costume, and as a role model for impressionable young girls.

Last year, she made her big screen debut in the somewhat disappointing Marvel D.C. epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Despite the problems with the last few Marvel D.C. features, including the most recent, Suicide Squad, I’m still holding out hope that the movie version of Wonder Woman, coming to theatres on June 2nd, is worthy of the legacy of the character.  I’m crossing my fingers that Warner Bros. have learned from the issues with their other features: namely, that big budget special effects don’t make up for poorly developed plots and badly underdeveloped characters.

image courtesy of

I’m hoping that the newest incarnation of my favorite childhood superheroine actually lives up to the hype her character deserves.  In an age where superheroes are no longer considered just for kids, don’t we deserve an epic blockbuster about the number one costumed female hero of all time?

Here’s to seeing you in the ticket line.


Whoops!  Sorry, everyone.   Of course, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are products of D.C., not Marvel.  I obviously did not drink my tea before I wrote that.  My apologies for the confusion.