Cool Charities You Should Check Out!

The holiday season is a great time to just love your life. For us Americans, it starts with Thanksgiving, a day where we express our gratitude and meditate on the things we are thankful for in our lives. And as a bonus, calories and diets don't count. We then may go into the dark weeks of final exams or general trying-to-get-crap-at-work-in-order-before-the-end-of-the-year time, and then it's Christmas or Hannukah or Diwali or whatever winter observance you enjoy. I know most of us sort of ride the tide of Christmas specials on TV and the "spirit of the season" (even if it's not the holy season for you in particular) and just have a ton of fun taking it easy, partying out the year and into the new one.

But during these times of joy, it's really important to consider that however fortunate we are, there are those struggling. Being grateful is good for the soul, mind, and body, and one great way to take it a step further is to pay it forward by working to perpetuate good. That's why it's a great time to give to charities and other non-profit organizations to give back to the community. In the spirit of giving, I've put together a list of some great charities I love, and also given you a little info on some charities whose missions you might want to reconsider. Remember that even if you can't make a financial donation, you can still help by donating your time, items needed for a project (like canned food or books), and/or publicizing a great organization both as a resource for others and a great place to lend support.
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Harper Watched: Girl Most Likely

Welcome to another Harper Watched review! Today I'm talking about the indie flick starring Kristin Wiig and Darren Criss, Girl Most Likely, which you can catch on Netflix.

I was originally drawn to this movie by the fact that Darren Criss is in it-- I've been on this ride since his A Very Potter Musical days, and I'm probably never gonna leave him. He'd posted about it a lot when the film first came out, but living in Williamsburg, Va, I was only able to get my hands on it via Netflix. Admittedly when it did turn up on my Netflix homepage, I didn't touch it for a while. The film cover and synopsis were interesting, but didn't really capture the kind of whimsy or tightness I like to see when I watch movies so I got distracted by other movies. Or maybe there was a part of me that kind of felt like the movie hit a little to close to some part of me I'm disappointed in. More on that later.

Girl Most Likely stars Kristin Wiig as Imogene, a former wunderkind playwright now struggling with her own mediocrity walking amongst the New York City elite. Her long-term boyfriend breaks up with her, sending her into a tail-spin which costs her her job. In a last ditch attempt to get him to show that he really does still care for her, she half-heartedly attempts suicide. This effort sends her to her backwater roots in Atlantic City, far from her upper-crust circle she doesn't quite fit in with, and into the arms of her dysfunctional family: a brother who struggles with social interactions, a gambling-addict mother, the absurd man her mother is sleeping with, and the Backstreet Boy impersonator who has rented out her room in her absence.

It's a comedy that pivots around the acceptance of the absurdity, heartbreak, and freedom that comes with knowing who really cares for you. It's sort of a coming of age story--- granted Imogene is sort of past the age at which that sort of thing typically happens in stories, but that's sort of the point.

This movie is really likable. It's sweet, it's funny, and it's the type of sensibility that feels like reality with a bit of a smirking edge to it. I would recommend it for those who have a sense of humor that hinges more around realizing everything about life is crazy than slapstick moments or physical comedy.

As a story about a past-her-prime playwright I kind of shrunk away from watching this movie for a while, because it's been half a decade since I wrote a half decent play. I used to win competitions and now I worry it's all gone. I think I was kind of worried about what kinds of things it'd make me feel about my own mediocrity as a writer-- would I feel made fun of or judged? Would I feel pressured to give up? Or to have to write again to feel worthwhile? Would it show a me with all of Imogene's failures and none of her successes? I kind of worried about all of he above. But in the end, it really was a great film and the message surrounding Imogene's playwriting seemed to be about knowing who you are, owning it, and then trusting yourself enough to make art again-- and I think that's a really great message.

Harper's Rating: 4.4 / 5

Great cast
Well-written story
Humor is driven more by events than dialogue (it's a pro for some people, but I am not picky in that sense)
Darren Criss as a Backstreet Boys impersonator
Darren Criss wearing eyeliner as a Backstreet Boys impersonator
George Bousche, the spy
There's a sincerity about this movie that I really like
None, really

Check out Girl Most Likely on netflix!

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Harper Watched: Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart

Today's Harper Watched is about a French animated film now available in the US called Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. I had seen a trailer/preview for the film earlier this year and I was very excited to see it so I picked it up when I came upon it at Target.

What first drew me to seeing this film was a combination of inherent interest in animated movies (because I'm basically an 8 year old with discerning taste) and the wonderful visual style of the animation. I first came across a clip and I thought the song was so sweet and pretty (although lyrically a little strange, which I later realized was a function of a few different factors which I will get into later). Before I get into it too much, here's the trailer.

So as you might gather from the trailer, this story is something like a steampunk, fairy-tale-esque fever dream. It's about a boy named Jack who was born on the coldest day ever, and has his frozen heart replaced with a cuckoo clock. As a result, he's delicate, and above all else, he can never fall in love-- his heart wouldn't be able to stand it. But of course, on the one day he's finally allowed into town, he hears a lovely little girl singing a song in the square about how she has poor eyesight but dislikes wearing glasses. Her name is Acacia, and she sprouts thorns when she feels upset or threatened. He falls in love with her and goes on a quest to find her again, no matter what it might do to his cuckoo clock heart.
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DIY - Closet Curtain

It's no secret that I like to live in an aesthetically pleasing space. Aesthetically pleasing is a super subjective phrase, but I think we can all agree that bi-fold doors are ugly as hell. They're a solution for the problem presented by regular doors that take up a lot of space swinging out, and they also don't present the sliding door problem of never being able to see the whole closet and having a really difficult to access middle-area. So in theory, bi-fold doors are a great idea, but mine were terrible. They had no detailing like slats or panelling-- it didn't even have a nice texture or knobs. They were absolutely austere. They looked like these, but worse since the geniuses who installed them in the apartment stuck a stopper in the middle because the pair of doors were too wide when closed flush for the doorway. The stopper prevented you from knocking the doors into each other (which I assume was the objective) but because of this, the doors didn't close all the way and were constantly protruding into the room. It was an assault on my eyes, and looking at them made me so annoyed every day! So I finally made the leap and carried out the DIY solution I've been dreaming of since I saw those stupid things. I took the doors out and made curtains.

I didn't want to assault your eyes with the stupid bifold doors either. I love the way this DIY turned out! It only took about an hour and it looks great! Looking at my closet now makes me super happy rather than pissed off. It never juts out into my room like those stupid bi-folds did, and it's a really easy project for renters like me since there's no drilling or anything involved in this fix, and I can take these things with me wherever I go.

(In case anyone is wondering why I have a drawer tower in my closet, since I didn't want to have to deal with a ton of furniture at the end of this school year when I graduate, I didn't want to buy myself a dresser, so I've just been using a garment rack and these drawers.)

I bought the fabric at JoAnn's and I bought the tension rod at Target from the bath section. It's really important to measure your doorway first. I got two lengths of 2 yards since my closet is about 6.5 ft for my main fabric. The white additional fabric helped close the gap and served to make the loop through which the tension rod would go. I could have done the whole thing in the main fabric at 2.5 yards if I wanted, but I liked the idea of the two fabrics, and the pattern of the fabric helps lengthen the look even though the white cuts it shorter, visually, so I felt they balanced out well. I made two curtain panels by cutting the white fabric length-wise, folding each of those pieces in half length-wise and then sewing the open edge to the top of the main fabric panel.

Then I just fed the tension rod through the curtains, and followed the instructions to set the tension rod. For these, all I had to do was pull and twist to set them up. It looks really nice now and I love what it does to my space visually and texturally.

Some tips on picking fabric:
  • Unless you're planning on layering fabrics or want a sheer look, go for a heavier fabric. Some upholstery fabrics will fit the bill really well.
  • Avoid fabrics that stretch or wrinkle. That's probably not the look you're going for.
  • Make sure your curtains add-up to we wider than your doorway so that you get that nice drapey look-- the opposite is true for bi-fold doors. 
  • Be careful about color-- this is a big swath of space in your room and making a mistake about color can totally overwhelm your space. I have a colorful room, but I didn't want the closet to overpower everything so I went for muted tones.
  • Going along with the last bit of advice, be careful about patterns, too! There are a lot of really cute fabrics out there that would look totally cute as the covering of the seat of a chair or as a pillow that are way too busy and overwhelming in large doses. I was tempted, let me tell you, by some really cool geometric prints, but when I took into account the scale of this project I reminded myself that proportion is really important. (Same goes for fashion! It's why I don't wear dainty necklaces.)
What do you think? Do you like the new look?

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Black Friday Haul 2014

It's finally here, kids! My Black Friday haul! Sorry it took a while, but school comes first. I'm sharing my discounted finds from this Black Friday.

First up, my outlet finds.

I bought mulling spices and a floating mulling spice/tea infuser ball for a gift for a friend. I was able to get both because they were 40% off!

I snagged this cute cranberry-colored sweater for myself at 50% off at Loft! 

I didn't buy a ton of stuff at the Outlets this year since I was exercising some restraint because I knew I wanted to buy myself a ukulele online.

I bought Settlers of Catan, one of my favorite board games EVER, for only $32. It sounds steep, but it retails at $40 and almost never goes on sale. 

I also bought these cute Monster High UNO cards for $5. I love UNO and I've been meaning to get a deck since I was like, 7. I finally got around to it with these cute as hell Monster High Cards.

I also bought two Monster High dolls for myself-- I've wanted Monster High Dolls pretty much ever since they came out. This Black Friday, Target had a few of them for $5 (normally around $20)! I bought Ghoul Spirit Venus McFlytrap and Frankie Stein. These dolls give me life, you guys. I love the fashion and character design of Monster High Dolls so much, and the webshorts and movies are so great.

In addition, I bought the DVDs of The Wedding Singer and a Miss Congeniality 2-pack, each for $5. I didn't really like Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (I mean, just read that sub-title!) but how could I turn Miss Congeniality down at only $5? These are some of my favorite movies. I know everyone these days is all about online streaming, but Netflix really doesn't have all the movies I like, and they take stuff off of it every month to make way for new things! Plus, to me DVDs are a little like books in that if I really love a movie, I want to own it!

I got these cute lounge pants at Hot Topic. They were part of a BOGO deal so I got them 50%  after buying a plushie for a friend. They have Ariel all over them and are super warm and comfy.

 In keeping with my Disney theme, I also bought this Disney seatbelt belt to add a little whimsy to my outfits and this adorable Up necklace. it was a BOGO 50% off to the necklace got knocked to half price.

I also did a bunch of online shopping. I did end up buying myself a ukulele, as well as a DVD of Epic, and an on sale copy of Humans of New York (for about $11) which has already arrived. I'm still waiting on the ukulele and Epic thanks to a backlog at the school's post center.

I also bought a bunch of stuff from small businesses online-- gotta support small business! I'm not gonna post links to the exact items I bought, some at full price and some on sale, since most of them are gifts. But here are the shops I ordered from-- definitely check them out!

Did you buy anything fun on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

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