Hughes Family: December 2014

Another year draws to a close. As as the old year goes out, gasping for life, it throws one last month-long party. As always I thought “Oh, surely things can’t get any busier than last month!” Wrong as always. It’s a running joke with no punchline. Here are a few highlights from December, my nemesis.


Another birthday! This seems to be a recurring problem. Wake up! Here’s a blue birthday. Donuts at school. Presents from the grandparents. And then a trip to Texas Roadhouse (what is it with this family and steak?)  along with a  few more gifts. What do you get the boy who has everything? Cash. Cold hard cash. For games. But not cold hard games (digital goods- what a scam).  A nice birthday, but we weren’t quite done.


A few days later we took Mike and some of his friends to play Laser Tag at Jack and Jill’s.  After the lasering and tagging we had pizza, cake and presents. Spoiled enough? Since these collages are getting much more “advanced” I have upped the resolution on some of them (like this one… but unfortunately not the next one).


Behold the yearly graham cracker “gingerbread” houses. I crammed a lot of magic into this shot. Just like real life that day- lots of magic. Or maybe it was yelling… sometimes I get them confused. And this year one round of houses wasn’t enough. So…


…we did it again! We had Fran’s sister and her daughter over for more faux-gingerbread house-making. This time I opted to make the houses in advance instead of letting the kids “help” (note the horrific mess in the last picture and compare it to the relative organization in this picture). Next year I hope we’ll try and make three houses each.


The Hobbit: Battle of the Third Movie courtesy of Blade HQ, Megaplex Theaters, Zupas and Peter Jackson. I love our yearly work movie. Next year: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I will camp out to get tickets if I have to. People are going to get jobs at Blade HQ just to watch that movie.


Ever heard of Cup Bop? Korean BBQ. They came and catered a work lunch for us (BHQ BBQ). I thought it was fantastic food and now I feel like some kind of weird stalker because I’m willing to drive for miles and miles to get their delicious Cup Bop cups. Last time I went  I dragged along Claire and Mike. They were not mighty fans of Cup Bop. I wept a little. Next time I will go alone. Shhh…just eat.


We did Sub for Santa this year (to offset our selfishness). We got our family sort of last-minute and spent part of Saturday afternoon before Christmas shopping at Target (oh… wow… busy!). The kids got somewhat involved and I think by the end we were all feeling pretty good. Chloe, Claire and I wrapped most of the presents. Later as were dropping off the gifts the kids got into a fight. I may have yelled something like “Do you even know what the hell we’re doing here?!” It was a bad parenting moment. I was trying to force my kids to feel the spirit of Christmas and I was angry at them that it wasn’t working. Really I have myself to blame. I don’t know if our act of “service” will count, but hopefully some of our good intentions made it out alive.


Christmas Even dinner with Fran’s Family. Delightful as always. As everyone knows I love to have parties / dinners/ events at out house so that’s where we did it this year. To be fair Fran’s extended family is pretty wonderful.


Here is a picture for the ladies! Les bûches de Noël (Yule Logs for the English speakers).  The origin involves a King named Pierre. One day he decided to eat a log. He liked it so much he made a rule that everyone would eat logs for the holidays. Eventually a clever baker made a cake that looked like a log. People rejoiced and have eaten log-shaped cakes ever since.


Christmas Day. It snowed during the night which was a treat (white Christmas – check). The family managed to pry me out of bed by 9:30 am which might be a new record. We had our traditional hot chocolate and croissants and then it was time for gifts.


I’m not sure if everyone got what they wanted, but supposedly it’s the thought that counts. Sometimes I feel like we are too preoccupied with what we are getting as opposed to what we are giving or even what we  already have. I think we were able to keep things fairly simple this year (the presents here are from my parents and sister too) and we tried to incorporate serving others which is a step in the right direction. Merry Christmas!


Christmas Dinner with my family. We had amazing prime rib and appetizers courtesy of my mother. And we had amazing green bean casserole courtesy of my Grandma. It was a pretty amazing feast (Did I mention it was amazing?). Afterwards the kids opened presents from my Dad’s sister. I have never seen a family have so much fun with balloons. Ever.


We really didn’t want to have a party this year- there was just too much going on and the house was (is) still getting moved into. We did get together with the Browns (and Browns) for dinner. Then they followed us home for some small talk and a few games until the new year hit.


Snow means sledding. I missed out on this one. It looks like they’re sledding on a trail. Is that allowed?


But sledding on a hill (or trail) just doesn’t cut it anymore. Eventually you upgrade to being pulled on a sled by an ATV. Good times with the Ercanbracks! I missed out on this one too. A plot, perhaps.


Determined not to be left out of the next round of sledding I decided I would need to make my own hill. The whole family gathered snow from the driveway, poured it in bins and hauled it to the backyard We made a small ramp feeding into a snow covered decent inside our trampoline pit. If you were brave enough to take the ride a concrete wall rewarded you at the base of the pit (no one got hurt). Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

And then, like a flash, it was 2015…

Movies Watched in 2014

These are the movies that I have watched in 2014 (they have to be current movies from 2014 year or late 2013 watched in 2014 to make the list). Newest movies are at the the top. My goal last year was 50 movies, half in a theater. Final count: 37 movies, 21 in theaters. Not even close.

Unbroken 7/10 – I didn’t read Unbroken but I did enjoy the movie. I think it’s difficult to portray years worth of suffering in a two hour film and we, as viewers, tend to forget that the story is true which may compound that difficulty. Fran said she wished they had included the struggle and triumph of the post war chapter’s of the book.

The Hobbit 7/10– Weakest of the entries. Absolutely watchable, but extended far beyond what was necessary.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 7/10 – Quite entertaining. Solid visuals and a fun story. I had heard that Michael Bay planed to “rape our childhood memories” but this was not at all the case.

22 Jump Street 7/10 – Some solid and funny moments. Not as good as the original.

Million Dollar Arm 6/10 – Contrived but entertaining. Not a big sports fan so I’m sure that’s why I didn’t relate too well.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 8/10  – This was enjoyable. A little slower paced than it could have been (ergo two movies) but lots of things here to appreciate. Every time I think Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have been Katniss she changes my mind.

Need for Speed 7/10  – Okay, I admit it. Parts of this movie really lame. But in other ways it really delivered and stayed true to the roots of the game. I got what I wanted from it and sometimes that’s enough.

The Penguins of Madagascar 7/10  – This was a cute movie (and I suppose that makes sense given that whole plot of the movie revolves around Penguins being cute).

Expendables 3 6/10  – I’m pretty sure this is the same movie as number two… Good thing all the bad guys are so incompetent!

Maleficent 7/10  – I liked it better in some ways than Sleeping Beauty, but less in others (why did they have to make the fairies that dumb?). The altered back story is interesting and the movie has memorable moments.

A Million Ways to Die in the West 6/10 – Vulgar hit and miss humor. Seth needs to stick to cartoons and teddy bears.

Big Hero 6 7.5/10 – Another excellent effort from Disney (who needs Pixar?). I’ve loved robots since I was little so there’s an emotional element here that’s satisfying. It was a little hard to relate to the characters, but the story and visuals were excellent.

Interstellar 9/10 – For me Nolan is becoming what M. Night should have been.I loved the twists and turns this movie took. I guess I’ve always been a sucker for “Save the Earth” science fiction. No real disappointments for me on this one (with the possible exception of some questionable casting- but that’s not a big deal). It was a blast to be able to go see this in IMAX with the whole family.

John Wick 7/10 – I would say this movie succeeds at it’s goal. I think I’ll leave at that.

The Maze Runner 7.5/10  – I really enjoyed this movie. I liked the casting, pacing and the perpetual tension they created. I’m not a huge fan of creating more questions that you answer, but I guess that’s what sequels are for, right?

Hercules 6.9/10  – Watching a heavily buffed up Dwayne Johnson strut his stuff as amoral mercenary who uses the Herculean legends for personal gain is an interesting angle. He may not really be the son of Zeus but there is greatness in him after all. Fun to watch, but it’s a one trick pony.

Muppets: Most Wanted 6.5/10  – I really struggled though this movie. The songs and comedy just didn’t connect with me. I know the movie is supposed to be a little silly, but it may have been a little to silly for its own good.

Heaven is for Real 6.9/10 – Eh… it’s a nice enough feel-good movie but it didn’t resonate with me on a deep level.

Guardians of the Galaxy 9/10 – I had my expectations pretty high for this. I try not to do that, but with Marvel movies that’s been hard for me. To pluck five obscure comic book characters out of “thin air” and give them their own movie seems like risky business. But the writing, cinematography and acting made it work really well. I already want to watch this again.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 6.9/10 – Certainly okay to watch, but not particularly memorable. Good action / thriller filler.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 7.5/10 – This surprised me. I’m not a huge Planet of the Apes fan but this movie lays some thoughtful groundwork for what is to come (what already came). CG has come so far it’s amazing.

Snowpiercer 7/10 – I’m not completely sure what to make of this movie. The storytelling is compelling but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from it. If you try and think of the movie literally it doesn’t make sense, but as an allegory it’s entertaining.

Transformers: Age of Extinction 6.5/10  – This was a massive disappointment. Three hours of bad dialogue, impossible explosions, an incomprehensible plot mixed together with robots. I love robots. It’s too bad they made Optimus Prime into such a sissy. I swear everyone beats this guy up.

300: Rise of an Empire 6/10  – After the first 300 this movie was a total let down. Reminded me a lot of Sky Captain (i.e. everything looked CG). I just couldn’t bring myself to care what was going on.

Lone Survivor 7/10  – Harrowing and intense this movie inspires awe and gratitude.

Edge of Tomorrow 8/10  – I admit it. I like Tom Cruise. I have liked all his recent movies and I can’t figure out why he can’t seem to score a box office hit. Edge of Tomorrow is basically like a science fiction Groundhog Day and I really enjoyed it.

I, Frankenstein 5.5/10  – I like Aaron Eckert. He even makes a good Frankenstein. But this movie is difficult to enjoy when the plot retreats into a God vs. Satan end of the world vehicle. Between so-so CG, a mess of a plot and a monster who’d clearly rather be somewhere else this one is miss.

X-Men: Days of Future Past 8/10 

Godzilla 7/10 

Amazing Spider-Man 2 7/10 

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier 7.5/10 

Divergent 7/10  – This was actually a lot better than I was expecting. Reading the book prepared me for the worst in some ways. While I liked the books ideas there were some serious plot issues that I feel like the movie actually addressed and corrected. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

Saving Mr. Banks 7.5/10 – While not quite historically accurate this is a great story. I liked the acting, pacing and feeling of the movie.

The Lego Movie 7.5/10 – I might have gone in expecting too much. Visually stunning and plenty of action & dialogue to hold adult and kid interest.

RoboCop 7/10 – A surprisingly good update on the dated classic.

The Monuments Men 6/10 – I guess deep down I’m not a guy who’s into history and who think human life is more valuable than art.

Captain Phillips 8/10 – Love Tom Hanks (maybe not his accent in this) and he does a fantastic job. Good pacing, lots of tension and action.

2013 Movies
2012 Movies
2011 Movies
2010 Movies