Married to: Mike Wheeden (editors note: amazing guy!)
Kids: Cameron 17, Zach 15 and Brady 12 (editors note: fantastic kids!)
Occupation: Director of Development, American Porphyria Foundation
I am beyond thrilled for you to meet one of my favorite people in the entire world. Since she lives in Bethesda, Maryland I haven’t had the chance to introduce you to her before but now that her story ties in with the new film Midnight Sun it seemed like the perfect opportunity! Kristen is one amazing gal. I’m not saying that just because she was one of my bridesmaids when she was eight months pregnant (though she deserves a huge round of applause for that!) but she is fun and brilliant and sweet and loyal and kind and all the best things a friend can be. I always knew she was a great mom, but she took it to a whole new level when her son Brady was diagnosed with EPP. She’s got an amazing outlook on how to manage the curve ball she’s been thrown and she’s made it her mission to help other families with similar circumstances. So while there are so many things I’d love to share about my dear friend (like her oldest son heading to college next year!) today we are going to focus on her expertise with Porphyria.
Directed by: Scott Speer
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
When I saw the preview for Midnight Sun , I knew that this would be a difficult film for me to watch. Not because I’m such a huge fan of teen melodramas, but because this story hits very close to home for me. Several years ago, my dear friend Kristen called from a family vacation. Her youngest son, Brady, had gotten a horrible rash after a day at the pool and she wanted my pediatrician husband’s help in figuring out the cause. None of us could have guessed that this was the start of a long process that would eventually find Brady being diagnosed with Erythropoietic Protoporphyria (EPP). What this means is that if Brady is exposed to sunlight, he develops very painful skin rashes. This extremely rare condition is one of several types of sun sensitivity disorders that as a group are called porphyria.
Midnight Sun tells the story of Katie (Bella Thorne), a beautiful 17 year old who suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), an extreme photosensitive disorder. Katie has spent all of her days living inside her house watching the world go by through tinted windows. She sleeps during the day and her nights are spent alone singing and playing her guitar. Her one real teen experience over the years is the crush she has developed on Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), a boy who skateboards by her house each day on his way to swim practice. Katie’s only other link to the outside world is her friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard) a delightfully quirky yet completely loyal friend. The school year has ended and Katie has graduated with the help of her adoring father Jack (Rob Riggle) who has homeschooled her all these years. To celebrate, Katie talks her overprotective dad into letting her go to the local train station to sing after the sun sets. As fate would have it, handsome Charlie has just left a graduation party when he walks by the station and hears Katie’s beautiful voice. Even Katie’s incredibly awkward social skills can’t detract from her beauty, so when the skittish gal dashes off without giving Charlie her name, he’s hooked. Just as Cinderella left behind a clue, Katie forgets her journal full of songs. With Morgan’s help, Katie and Charlie reconnect and when he asks her on a date, she tells him she’s busy during the day but free in the evenings. Read More →
People always say that if you find the right kind of exercise for you, you’ll love it. Unfortunately, I’ve never found any exercise that makes sweating seem fun. Sadly, I’m getting to the stage where I either have to embrace the muumuu or make a change. I’ve tried before to find some kind of physical exertion that I could tolerate. Since I love bike riding at the beach, I gave a spin class a try. The dark room and loud music was a far cry from meandering along the beach and was absolute torture. I tried the “Couch Potato to 5K” running program since I have the annoying habit of being friends with avid runners. This stopped at about 1K with a bad case of shin splints and the inability to even get up off my couch. I do play tennis, but I mostly play doubles so I only have to run on half of the court!
So when Smarty Jen asked me to review Carolina Barre and Core, I tried my best to get out of the assignment. I suggested she find a more fit member of the CSP team to attend the class. I really didn’t want to make a fool of myself, especially in a room filled with mirrors! Here’s the problem though—I’m tired of being unfit! The older you get the harder it is to keep it all together so I knew I had to start putting in some effort.
I was recently introduced to Erin by my friend Joanna Reule, creator of Brave Bone Broth. What struck me during my conversation with Erin is not just that this was one accomplished mom, but that she had found so much of her success by networking with other Charlotte moms. There is a lot of talent here in the Queen City! Sometimes just putting yourself out there and grabbing a cup of coffee with someone can lead to an amazing opportunity. So if you are looking for a side gig, an outlet for your creativity or just a new perspective on an issue just look around—we moms have got you covered! So let’s get to know Erin!
Married to: Drew Rutherford
Children: Riley (10) Brooks (7)
Hometown: Kansas City
Years in Charlotte: 18 this summer!
Occupation: CPA specializing in financial consulting and management for interior design
The simple answer: from my mom…but, not for the reasons that you may think! Rather, when her impulsive teenage daughter (aka ME!) announced that she had become a vegetarian, she simply responded with a credit card and instructions to go out and buy a cookbook! She wasn’t about to change the family meal plan (I came from a very meat and potatoes childhood); rather, she simply encouraged me to figure out how to make this lifestyle change a reality. Over time, and I think to my father’s dismay…they both started liking the meals that I prepared! I eventually gave up the vegetarian lifestyle, but those years built my cooking foundation.
Balanced! Some days I cook granola with the most holistic of ingredients…coconut oil, local honey and organic rolled oats; the next day my kids and I are fighting over the last bite of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Cooking can be such a freeing experience when you relinquish constraints and bid adieu to social pressures to eat one way or the other…funny, this coming from a former vegetarian, right?!?!
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It’s Oscar time! The Academy Awards have been around for 90 years—unbelievable. So many amazing films have been recognized over the years and now it’s time to add one more to the list. It’s been a tough year for Hollywood with the Me Too movement bringing to light so many wrongdoings in the industry. Hopefully next year we will see the results of changes that have been implemented. After last year’s envelope-gate debacle where the wrong Best Picture winner was announced almost nothing will come as a surprise this year. While there are some strong front runners for the top prizes, we won’t know anything for sure until the winners are announced this Sunday night! Here’s a review of the Best Picture contenders. Happy viewing!
(Nominated for 6 Oscars)
If you are a fan of World War II history, have I got a movie for you. Darkest Hour depicts Winston Churchill’s early days as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a time when Hitler’s army was marching through Europe. The newly elected Churchill is quickly informed that 300,000 troops have been stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk and could be lost. He is also pressured to negotiate peace talks with Germany to prevent the Nazis from reaching their shores. Gary Oldman is completely unrecognizable as Churchill and does a masterful job of portraying this incredibly challenging time in the Prime Minister’s life. This is a dialogue heavy film that requires your full attention so I definitely don’t recommend watching it if you’re feeling a little sleepy. Still, it’s a great history lesson and fascinating to see the decision making process of this revered leader during the darkest of days.
(Nominated for 8 Oscars)
I’m ashamed to admit that until this year I was unaware of the heroic events that took place in Dunkirk. Lucky for me, not one but two movies this year highlighted Britain’s amazing feat of courage saving so many soldiers from perishing at Dunkirk. While Darkest Hour depicts the planning behind the great evacuation, Dunkirk makes you experience it from several different perspectives. Writer and director Christopher Nolan is known for creating brilliant films that twist you into knots (like Memento, The Prestige and Inception) where you lose yourself in the plot as he bends time and reality effortlessly. He does the same here where you experience the horrors of war on all fronts. First you experience the soldiers’ struggle on the beach, where German planes fly overhead and drop bombs on the helpless young men (including pop star Harry Styles) with no means of escape. He then moves the action to sea where civilians (Mark Rylance) are headed to help evacuate soldiers. Finally, we experience the heroics of pilots (Tom Hardy) in the air as they shoot down enemy planes to protect their men. The film beautifully depicts the fog of war and the heroism of all involved during the action-packed sequences. Don’t be surprised if you get confused at times as the story is not told in a clear linear fashion.
(Nominated for 4 Oscars)
A hybrid comedy/horror film, Get Out is one wild and crazy ride. It’s not your typical Best Picture flick and that’s a good thing. In the opening scene, a young black man is violently abducted as he walks along a nice suburban street late at night. We then meet Chris (brilliant newcomer Daniel Kaluuya), a photographer who is packing for a weekend getaway with girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Chris is hesitant to meet Rose’s parents as she hasn’t yet told them she’s dating a black man. Rose isn’t the slightest bit worried—her dad voted for Obama so it’ll be perfectly fine! During the trip, Chris gets a call from his friend Rod who warns him that it’s a bad idea to go visiting white folks. Undeterred, the pair arrive at the stunning suburban home and receive a warm welcome from Rose’s neurosurgeon dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypno-therapist mom Missy (Catherine Keener). Chris also meets the hired help—groundskeeper Walter and housekeeper Georgina who just seem a little bit odd. It turns out there’s a valid reason why the pair is so strange and things only get stranger from that point on. Writer and director Jordan Peele has created a terrific taut thriller that highlights the very timely subject of race relations in a comedic yet terrifying way.
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Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Run Time: 2 hours
Rated: R — Definitely R for Ridiculous amounts of the F#$% word!
In honor of the Olympic Winter Games, I felt compelled to spend even more of my free time watching competitive figure skating. As I’ve probably mentioned on more than one occasion, I love the Olympics. I was lucky enough during a semester abroad to finagle tickets to the 1992 Men’s Figure Skating Finals in Albertville, France and it was an amazing experience. I watched Paul Wylie (now a Charlotte resident) win the silver medal with a phenomenal routine and have been fascinated with skating ever since. But who knew that two years later this beautiful competition would become a blood sport?
Full disclosure—I’m Team Nancy. It still ticks me off that people mocked the poor gal for sobbing “Why me?” over and over after the attack. Call me crazy, but if you’ve dedicated your entire life to being an Olympian and weeks before the competition some big nut job attacks you with a lead pipe and bashes your landing leg you might wail and moan too! Putting that aside, I was curious to hear Tonya’s perspective on the whole nightmare and I hoped to gain some insight into her frame of mind. Read More →
I’ll never forget the time I went to see the animated version of Beauty and the Beast. At the end of the film (hardly a spoiler!) Belle declares her love for the beast which breaks the spell and magically transforms him back into a man. He stands up and turns to his beloved with bright rays of sunlight surrounding him as his human face is revealed. At that moment, my friend (who shall remain nameless) then leaned over and whispered to me in all seriousness “he’s not as good looking as I would have thought” which sent me into howls of laughter. The moral of the story was about looking past someone’s outward appearance and seeing the beauty within. My dear friend completely missed the point in that moment.
The Shape of Water has been heaped with critical praise and has received thirteen Oscar nominations. However, this time it seems like I might be missing the point of the film as I just can’t seem to get past a few critical plot points in the story. The film is set in the early 1960’s where Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning woman in a top secret government laboratory. Elisa is mute, but able to communicate using sign language with her friend and co-worker Zelda (the always delightful Octavia Spencer). One night while cleaning they meet Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) a cold bully of a man who has brought a new asset to the facility. The asset is a fish/swamp creature that the Colonel has caught in the Amazon. Although the creature bites off two of Strickland’s fingers in gory fashion, Elisa is intrigued by the creature and decides to befriend it (this being my first Huh? moment in the film). Unafraid of losing body parts, Elisa brings the creature hard boiled eggs, then music, and soon Elisa is teaching the creature some words in sign language.
Elisa soon overhears the Colonel explaining his plans for the asset to Dr. Hoffstetler, the head of research at the facility (Michael Stuhlbarg). To study the creature’s physiology, they will kill and dissect it and use the information in their research for space travel in order to beat the Russians in the space race. The doctor disagrees with the plan as he believes the creature can communicate and doesn’t want it killed. Desperate to save the creature, Elisa plots an escape for her scaly friend. Things really get crazy then as Elisa manages to get the creature safely to her apartment bathtub where she realizes that she is hopelessly in love with the fish (this would be my second Huh? moment).
Director Guillermo del Toro has a love of monsters and of being an outsider. He has spoken of his fondness of old horror movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon and how he wondered what happened next after the creature met the beautiful woman. This is where Hollywood and Main Street might not not meet. It never really occurred to me to think about the creature and the woman falling into romantic love and what might come from that. But what seems rather creepy to me is creative and groundbreaking in Hollywood. Elisa turns on all the faucets, floods her bathroom and has quite a romp with her very male fish friend.
I understand the meaning behind the coupling of Elisa and the creature—love is love regardless of our differences and two lonely outsiders can find true love. But it’s just such a stretch to imagine why Elisa would feel attraction for this swamp thing with his flaring gills and spooky eyes. Affection I can see but lust? Not so much. With reflection I realize I’m just like my old friend who couldn’t see the beauty in the beast but I honestly just couldn’t buy it.
On the positive side, the acting in the film is fantastic. Sally Hawkins is amazingly talented at showing the speechless Elisa’s many emotions as she bares her soul (and more) on screen. Michael Shannon just makes you clench every time his evil Colonel appears he is just so terrifying. Octavia Spencer elevates every scene she’s in but in the future I’d love to see her take on a role other than the sassy sidekick. Richard Jenkins is wonderful as Elisa’s sad and lonely neighbor and has one truly heartbreaking scene that makes you wish his story could have a whole film of his own. The scenery is beautiful and all of the nods to old Hollywood really do give the film a beautiful and dreamy quality. Even with all of these terrific elements in place, it’s still a film about a girl sleeping with a fish.
So if your tastes run more towards Hollywood than small town USA, by all means take in the many delights of The Shape of Water. But if you like your romance to be between humans don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Directed by: Paul King
Run time: 1 hour 43 delightful minutes
If we’re kind and polite the world will be right…
Based on the famous book series by Michael Bond, the 2014 film Paddington was an adorable story about a young bear from Peru traveling to London to find a new home. After fighting off the villainous Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who wanted to stuff him and put him in a museum, Paddington eventually found happiness with the Brown family. Fast forward a few years and Paddington 2 finds our furry hero still happily living with the Browns in the picturesque neighborhood of Windsor Gardens. Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is eager to find the perfect birthday present for his dear Aunt Lucy who is turning 100. At Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, he comes across a beautiful pop-up book that depicts historic landmarks of London. Since she’s always wanted to visit, Paddington sets his heart on buying her the book and looks to find a job. When a stint at the local barber shop goes horribly awry, Paddington becomes a window washer and works hard to earn enough money for the book. Unfortunately, the book is stolen from the shop by washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan (a hilarious Hugh Grant) and when Paddington attempts to stop the robbery he is framed for the theft and sent to prison. Read More →
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Run time: 1 hour 59 minutes
Do you remember the wild 1995 Robin Williams movie about a magical board game? Well a lot can change in 20 years and this Jumanji film is speaking to a whole new generation of kids. This time around, Jumanji isn’t a creaky old board game—it’s an Atari style video game. The game is discovered by four teenagers who are serving detention after school. Before you can say The Breakfast Club, your characters are neatly labeled: Spencer the wimpy nerd, Fridge the big jock, Bethany the princess and Martha the shy outcast. Guess they forgot to include a Judd Nelson rebel type! Instead of doing their detention assignment, the four decide to play the game and each person chooses an avatar. Suddenly the foursome is sucked into the game and they wind up in the middle of the jungle. If this isn’t bizarre enough, the teens are now living in the bodies of their avatars. Nerdy Spencer is now hero archaeologist Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the jock Fridge is now short zoologist sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart) selfish beauty Bethany becomes rotund cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) and meek Martha is now scantily clad Ruby Roundhouse, a killer of men (Karen Gillan). Read More →
I love the holidays and especially enjoy celebrating with friends and family. While presents are a wonderful treat, a lot of stuff accumulates in our house this time of year! We get a lot of questions from family about gift ideas for our kids and it gets much harder as the kids get older. I’ve found that gift certificates for lessons and activities are the perfect answer for the kid who has everything. So if you need a last minute gift suggestion, tennis lessons might be the perfect choice!
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Meg who is a multi-talented mom. We met years ago in my beloved book club and she and her husband John own the Charlotte Indoor Tennis Club. So whether you need that perfect gift for your youngster or you want to get yourself fit and fabulous in 2018, Meg can help!
Name: Meg Hollingsworth
Married to: John
Mom of: Hannah and Jack
Alma Mater: UNC
Years in Charlotte: 45!
My husband played tennis competitively as a junior, going on to play in college. After college he played in local tournaments and leagues and at Charlotte Indoor. When the club was going to be sold in 2012, it seemed to be a good fit for us to become the next owners. Read More →