#271 - 274. Scary Movie Bonanza 2.0

Spoiler alert: these movies weren't that scary. The Shining on the other hand...

Spoiler alert: these movies weren't that scary. The Shining on the other hand...

I used to think I didn't like scary movies.

Last year, I forced myself to watch a few. Oddly enough, I kind of enjoyed them... though I still fight myself from thinking about ghost hands clapping in my closet at least once a week (thanks, The Conjuring!). 

I asked my Facebook and Twitter pals for their best scary movie recommendations. I selected a few of the most mentioned. Aside from one dud, I sussed out some legitimately creepy flicks.  

Dare you to watch them.

At work. 

Or home alone.

P.S. Is it just me, or are the trailers almost always creepier than the actual movie?

* * *

The Others

The synopsis (per IMDB): A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted.

I remember seeing a preview for this movie right before it hit theaters. It gave me the willies. No way I'll ever watch that! 

Thirteen years later and I'm watching it. 

Of all of this year's scary movies, I was the most nervous about this one. I can handle serial killer flicks, gore porn and monster movies.

But paranormal stuff? Nightmare city! 

Though there were a few jumpy moments, this was just a well-executed film. Stunningly shot, a great (albeit predictable) plot twist-- it channeled classic Hitchcock, which is my absolute favorite. Check out this pic of Nicole Kidman-- she could've been cast in The Man Who Knew Too Much. I loved it! 

Conclusion: Even 'fraidy cats can handle this one. Watch it!

* * *

The Hills Have Eyes

The synopsis: A suburban American family is being stalked by a group of psychotic people who live in the desert, far away from civilization.

The Aaron Paul look-alike next to me at Half Price Books kept peering over my shoulder, commenting on every scary movie I checked out. He vehemently told me The Hills Have Eyes is one of the scariest movies ever, mainly because "it's based on a true story."

If this guy was anything like Jesse Pinkman, I figured he knew a thing or two about scary movies.

Fifteen minutes into this flick and I was like NO WAY is this based on a true story. Googled it. Pure fiction. 

You know when movies are so bad they're good?

This was not the case.

Terrible acting (but not bad enough). Ridiculous plot (but not ridiculous enough). Dumb decisions galore (I did roll my eyes a lot... c'mon, why are you going back into the house?!!). There was a lot of gore, which was just gross. 

Conclusion: Creepy, but mainly this movie made me wish the hills had an eye for detail or irony or camp. 

* * *

American Horror Story: Freak Show

The synopsis: An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven and a freak show.

I'm a sucker for a binge-worthy series, but was always too afraid to watch American Horror Story. However, if I could get my husband onboard, I wouldn't have to watch it alone. 'Cause that would be too scary!

I convinced him, stating I had to do it for Hey Eleanor! What a sucker. (Just kidding! I love you, Josh!)

We hopped into the fourth season, Freak Show. First of all, great acting. I mean, both Kathy Bates & Jessica Lange?! Amazing music, too-- Ryan Murphy is the guy behind AHS, so I am not surprised.

We're currently three episodes in and the plot line is s-l-o-w-l-y building, in a good way. I'm sensing this season's two-headed woman is just an episode or two away from doing something very disturbing. I can't wait!

And Twisty the Clown?

I can't stop thinking about him.

I can barely bring myself to do laundry in our basement because OBVIOUSLY he's down there!

Conclusion: It's quite a feat to find a good plot & great acting in the horror genre (it's sort of like porn in that way!). AHS nails it. Watch it... and then watch out for Twisty.

* * *

The Shining

The synopsis: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

I don't think I've seen this movie for 15 years, but since it's the scariest movie of all time, I figured it was worth a revisit.

The Shining incorporates so many fears into one cohesive package: isolation, paranormal activity, gore, a maniacal killer, creepy children and so much suspense.

And yet the movie relies on no cheap scares!

There's no boo! moments or gratuitous blood and guts. It's a subtle build to an explosive ending. 

When you think of the current state of horror flicks, they're usually bottom of the barrel actors (sorry, but we all know it's true!) performing in cheaply produced, badly written films. 

The Shining is based on a book by Steven King (one of the best storytellers!), directed by Stanley Kubrick (the opening vista shots with the ominous music sets a pitch-perfect tone), starring Jack Nicholson (he plays nuts like no other!).

That's a trifecta of greatness you just don't see in this genre. 

Can we try convincing legit writers, directors and actors to start doing movies like this again? Are there any new horror films that we'll still be watching & freaked out by in 35 years? I want to know!

Conclusion: You could watch this movie every Halloween and it would still scare the pants off ya. A nearly perfect film.

* * *

Share the scare!

I don't anticipate watching The Others or The Hills Have Eyes anytime soon. Tell me about the scary movie you watched as a kid that still haunts you.

(For me, that would be The Company of Wolves, which I never even watched! I only saw the art on the VHS tape and was scared for years!)

I'll pick my two fave comments by 11:59 pm on Friday, November 7. The lucky (?) winners will get my copy of one of these movies.

Post away!


#270. Fact: 99 Percent of Fear is Anticipation.

A nice pic from the folks at the Soap Factory's Haunted Basement. Cute, right? | Photo by Dan Norman

A nice pic from the folks at the Soap Factory's Haunted Basement. Cute, right? | Photo by Dan Norman

I made up that 99 percent statistic, but anecdotally I know it's true. Don't worry, I'll explain. But first:

I hadn't planned on visiting the Soap Factory's Haunted Basement

I went for the first time last year. I didn't sleep for the three weeks between the time I purchased the tickets and the actual event.

I wish I was kidding. 

Somehow, I had more anxiety about walking through a basement full of actors than I did jumping out of an airplane.

Fear is so irrational sometimes. 

Spoiler alert: I survived the 2013 Haunted Basement. It was not at all like I'd expected and I was proud of myself for facing my fear. I did it! I didn't feel the need to go again. 

That is, until three of my girl friends expressed interest in going. 

They'd all heard about it and were all on the fence. Leaning into my fears has changed my life, so just went online and bought us four tickets. 

No backing out now, ladies! 

(Just for fun, I suggest you watch this year's Haunted Basement trailer.)

The four of us went last Wednesday. I'm not going to dish on the details because I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't been yet.

Us four ladies with our official Haunted Basement masks.

Us four ladies with our official Haunted Basement masks.

Here's what I am willing to share:

  • We all had to wear those creepy masks, pictured above. 
  • About 40 of us entered the basement at the same time. We toured the space for about 20 minutes before heading back upstairs.
  • Us four girls were separated into two pairs immediately & we never saw each other once in the basement.
  • My friend Alyssa and I managed to stay together for the first 10 minutes. I lead the way, which is something I would never dreamed of doing last year. I was notably braver this time around!
  • One of the haunted basement's goals is to get you alone. A man dressed as a cat eventually pulled Alyssa & I apart and led me away. I didn't see her again until we were back upstairs.
  • I spent about half of my time in the basement walking around alone. Last year, I would've probably lost my mind. This year, I felt fearless!

Conclusion: A great way to deflate fear is simply to experience it. Let it happen. Most of the time, once you're in that "scary moment", it's not even half as bad as you imagined.

Ninety-nine percent of fear is the anticipation. 

Just a year ago, I was paralyzed by the anticipation of going through the basement. After experiencing it, I learned I had nothing to worry about. This, I didn't fret at all. It was a breeze.

Once I learned fear is all about the build up, I could step into a lot of uncomfortable situations with less anxiety. Not just haunted basements, but public speaking, trying new sports, you name it. 

I'm actually thrilled that I returned to the Haunted Basement. It perfectly illustrated how much I've grown and changed through the last year. I'm no longer that anxiety-filled ball of bananagrams and I couldn't be more thankful! 

* * *

P.S. Here's what happened during last year's Haunted Basement. My brave friend, Kate, joined me in this year's basement. Here's her great blog, Flock of Broads.

#269. I Ran My First 10k (& Why I Don't Think I'll Do It Again)

Me and my guy, before the pain.

Me and my guy, before the pain.

I workout. Always have.

I'm no Jillian Michaels, but I'm in decent shape.

This is precisely why running pisses me off.

No matter how fit I feel, I am not good at it. When I try really hard, I still run a 10-minute mile.

Some people walk a mile in 10 minutes.

Not only am I slow, but I also don't really enjoy running. That whole runner's high thing? Never felt it. People who clear their mind on a run? Not I. 

Me + running? We just never clicked.

Despite that, I decided to sign up for a 10k trail run. I'd never run in anything over a 5k race. And trail run? Psssht, nope. Great Hey Eleanor challenge, right?

I trained with the husband. For two months, we did at least one distance run a week (anywhere from four to seven miles), plus a few weekly Crossfit sessions.

When race day arrived, I felt decently prepared. 

It was a cool day, overcast with a light drizzle. Perfect running weather for the City of Trails Trail Run (why hello, redundant name)!

What's more: only 50-some people had signed up. So relaxed and low-pressure! I stretched out a bit and found a great 90s hip hop Pandora station to carry me through.

Naughty By Nature! TLC! Kris Kross!

A gun shot rang out (actually, I think a DJ yelled ready-set-go! over a crappy sound system) and we were off. 

First of all, trail runs beat road runs, no contest. You're too busy watching every step to realize how miserable your body feels! We spent 80 percent of the race navigating wooded trails, dodging trees, rocks and roots. The time flew. With "Return of the Mack" blasting in my ears, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. This was fun!

An hour in, the trail stopped.

The route's arrows pointed toward a long, straight road stretching through a neighborhood.


As I ran down the never-ending street, without another runner in sight, the smile faded from my face. It seemed like the road stretched on forever. 

Running wasn't fun anymore. 

I'd run for 30 seconds, then walk for 20. I swear It took me a half an hour until I finally saw the end. 

I finished in 1:14. But more importantly, I finished.

Finishers! Let's go grab a beer. 

Finishers! Let's go grab a beer. 

Unfortunately, the story does not end here.

For the four or five days after training runs, my ankle would absolutely kill. It would eventually go away. I tried switching shoes, I iced and took Advil and event went to a chiropractor. These things lessened the symptoms, but the next time I hit the pavement, I had the same issue.

I rode it out because I wanted to do this 10k.  

I needed to prove to myself that I had mental toughness.

Yes, I finished the race. But since completing the 10k, I've only run once. It was about a mile-and-a-half, purposely short so I could test my ankle. It hurt for the entire week after. So I made a decision.

I'm hanging up my running shoes.

Initially, I felt sad. I'm not one to throw in the towel.

But then I really thought about it.

I always felt like a failure at life because I'm such a slow, crabby runner. But I love walking, biking, rollerblading, skiing, skating, yoga, spinning, Pilates, lifting weights.... and it occurred to me that maybe I should pour my energy into the stuff I love.

What a revelation!

It's difficult enough to find the motivation to exercise, even if you like what you're doing. There is no reason to make this any harder. 

So runners: I'll see ya at the finish line. Or at a bar after the race, bloody mary in hand. 

* * *

P.S. This isn't my first post about running. Here's the time I shared 6 ways I make running less terrible, the time I ran with the bulls and the time I ran a circular saw and didn't lose a digit!

Links I Love: Smart Ladies Edition

Sometimes I can't decide if highlighting just one gender at a time actually helps or hurts this whole equality thing. However, it just so happens that I stumbled upon a lot of smart things created by women. So... enjoy!

* * *

I watched most of Ken Burn's The Roosevelts documentary on PBS (though they disappeared faster from OnDemand than a dish of candy corn at your grandma's knitting circle). The docu-series confirmed what I've been learning for over a year:

Eleanor Roosevelt is a badass.

So smart, wise and approachable. If you're not ready to commit to the entire series, check out this quick-n-dirty slideshow showcasing some of her best quotes. Brilliant!

Attention midwesterners (the born & bred kind, the relocated kind, the wannabe kind): You need to be paying attention to Annie D'Souza & Co.'s love letter to fly-over country, the Midwestival.

It's a hub for all things Minn-Wisc-Dako-Iowas.

And not tired stories you've heard a million times; fresh, new stuff, like this interview with Phox or this fashionista's favorite stuff

Get this cookbook now!

Get this cookbook now!

In case you missed it, Dana Cowin is my hero

I love her new cookbook, Mastering My Kitchen Mistakes. Not only does she admit to being a so-so cook (ballsy, since she's been the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine for 20 years!), but she admits it to some seriously admired chefs, recruiting them to help her make up for her inadequacies.

It's a delight with great & super useful recipes. 

Oh, and if you live in the Twin Cities, she's giving a talk at the Hennepin Country Library this Thursday. I'll be there with bells on! Here's the rest of her tour schedule, with dates in Seattle, Portland, & a few stops in New England. 

If you've seen me at any point in the last week, I've probably mentioned my latest obsession:

The capsule wardrobe. 

I was introduced to the concept a few months ago, but really connected with the idea after checking out Un-fancy. Love Caroline's simple, elegant and effortless style.

I think I am going to give the capsule thing a whirl! 

* * *

If you like these links, you might like following me on Twitter & Instagram, where I'm always sharing the coolest, scariest, funnest stuff I find on the web. See ya there!

My 6 Favorite DIY Halloween Costumes.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Richard Simmons is applauding.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Richard Simmons is applauding.

I'm into Halloween.

It's 100 percent because of the costumes. I love thinking about them. I love assembling them. I love getting ready to go out.

Halloween parties are okay.

But the stuff leading up to Halloween parties? I love it! 

I don't have anything planned for the 31st, which makes planning this year's costume a little pointless. But I will still get a costume together, even if it means I sit at home and watch TV. (Any Halloween event suggestions in the Twin Cities? Lay it on me.)

In my opinion, it's the details that makes a good costume great. Here are some of my faves from previous years.


1. Richard Simmons

Do you wanna burn some fat?! 

Do you wanna burn some fat?! 

I've never had a more fun Halloween. It was this night back in 2011 that I realized Richard is my spirit animal. I got to hug people and do aerobics all night. It was almost as good as the time I took his workout class in Beverly Hills.

Richard Simmons Recipe:

1 brown 'fro-y wig 
1 red or blue tank (the classic Simmons look; I bought a thrift store tee & cut off the sleeves/neck)
1 sports bra in the same color as the tank (ladies only)
1 pair 80s-style hot pants (mine were an American Apparel splurge). Dolfin shorts are ideal.
1 pair white slouch socks
1 pair ugly, white athletic shoes (Goodwill, baby!)
Silver glitter
Glue (definitely some sort of fabric glue; a hot glue gun helps attach sequins)
Optional: shiny, tan tights

Everything here is basically ready to wear, aside from the tank's design. I went with a classic Simmons look: glittery starbursts and big, graphic SWEAT lettering. You can get crazy here. I mean:


The only issue: you'll be finding glitter around your house for months, which I kind of loved.

Richard Simmons Halloween Costume.

Richard Simmons Halloween Costume.


2. Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli!

Liza Minnelli!

I've worn this number twice and am considering it again for this year. So comfortable, super dramatic and cute without being skanky!

Liza Minnelli Recipe:

1 black pixie wig
1 package fake eyelashes & glue
1 over-the-top glitzy earrings
1 thrifted sequin top that just barely covers your butt
1 pair black booty shorts
1 pair opaque tights
Black jazz shoes or another pair solid black, pointed shoes

Do this makeup look, finishing with the eyelashes. Wear the booty shorts over the tights for a covered, but glam-jazz-hands look. 

The wig makes this costume. If you buy a wig at a costume store, you're probably going to pay loads for cash for a crappy wig. But do you want to go to a real wig shop for a costume? Nope, that's going to be expensive, too.

My favorite place to buy wigs in the Twin Cities is 7 Mile Fashions at Lake & Hiawatha. It's an urban beauty supply shop. Their wig selection is outstanding. Mine was about $30 & was my splurge costume item. I'm sure your city has a few similar shops; Google it. 

All the single ladies, all the single ladies.

All the single ladies, all the single ladies.


3. Sookie Stackhouse (+ Frida & Rachel Zoe)

Obviously the real versions of these three hung out in real life.

Obviously the real versions of these three hung out in real life.

2010 marked the year I took some Halloween pics with my real camera!

True Blood is a little over now, but Sookie Stackhouse is still a great costume that's easy to pull off.

Sookie Stackhouse Recipe:

1 fitted white tee (I splurged on an actual Merlotte's shirt from the show)
1 piece of green construction paper to make Merlotte's logo (if you don't get the real-deal shirt)
1 pair black shorts
1 waitress apron
1 pair sneakers
1 latex-y vampire bite + adhesive & fake blood
1 waitressing tray
3 plastic bottles (I used SoBe)
Super glue
1 can red spray paint
1 roll duct tape 
3 copies of this True Blood label, printed off your computer

The clothing aspect it pretty straightforward. However, I think the True Blood bottles make the costume. I peeled the labels off three SoBe drinks, then sprayed painted the bottles red. After they dried, I attached the True Blood labels.

Next, I glued the bottles to the waitressing tray. I added a strap of duct tape on the bottom to make it easy to carry.

Bonus: Frida & Rachel Zoe

Maggie's Frida costume:
Hair in two braids; fake flowers glued onto hair clips (about 6-7 individual pieces); eyebrow pencil to connect brows; high collar white shirt; necklaces; vibrant shawl; floor length shirt, preferably of some sort of woven fabric... she found hers at a thrift store and it's perfect.

Allison's Rachel Zoe costume:
Blonde wig; 70s sunglasses; bathrobe; the biggest Starbuck's cup possible with Rachel written on it. 

Sookie & a race car driver!

Sookie & a race car driver!

Navigating the crowd with ease!

Navigating the crowd with ease!


4. Red Hat Society

Red Hat Society meeting!

Red Hat Society meeting!

This is one of those costumes you either REALLY get or don't get at all (maybe this link will help). It's a great group costume. My grandma absolutely loved it, which is all that mattered to me!

Red Hat Society Recipe:

1 red hat. Decorate with purple & red garish stuff. We did feathers and bows.
Dress in head-to-toe purple and red... bonus points for polyester fabrics
Sensible shoes to match
Old lady purse full of Werther's Originals or your old lady candy of choice

The ideal place to take this costume is any sort of daytime riverboat cruise. Be sure to not tip your bartender to be extra authentic.

Next stop: Dayton's for a luncheon!

Next stop: Dayton's for a luncheon!


5. Elliot from ET



A shout-out to my friend Liz, who built this entire costume around the fact that she found an ET doll at a thrift store. So good, right?!

Elliot Recipe:

1 plain red hoodie
1 plain white tee
1 set of handlebars from a kid's bike (check out a used bike store or thrift shop)
1 plastic waffle-y basket
1 E.T. doll
1 white hand towel
1 bag Reese's Pieces

How awesome is that costume!?

6. Bridesmaids

And you said, I'll never wear this dress again. Ha!

And you said, I'll never wear this dress again. Ha!

Another great group costume for the ladies (or guys, too!). Pretty self-explanatory. And you thought you'd never wear that dress again! 

* * *

What was your best-ever Halloween costume? What are you wearing this year? 

P.S. What HarMar Superstar had to say about wearing a costume. 

268. What It's Like to Be Self-Employed.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

Last Thursday marked my first day as self-employed person! I've dreamed about what this might feel like for a long time. Not that I was desperate for it or anything, but you know, after working full-time for over seven years, a girl's gotta wonder!

What would I do? Oh man, the possibilities! 

I had the most perfect day, ever.

I woke up at 6:30 and had coffee and breakfast with my guy.

I worked on my website until 9 am.

I then took Patsy, my sweet puppy, for a walk. We went to the Apple store and returned our wireless router (it was pretty crappy) and exchanged it for a more powerful one. They let dogs in the store, so it was especially fab.

Did I mention it was 70 degrees, sunny with fall colors exploding everywhere?!

Next, I brought Patsy home and went to daytime yoga. 

Who goes to daytime yoga?! I do! At noon! It was neat!

Afterward, I didn't even take a shower. I went right to Macy's where I returned the three duplicate wedding gifts that had been just sitting in our guest bedroom, burning a hole in my brain/eyes.

Who has time to return stuff when they're working full-time?!

Then, I went to JCrew and bought a puffy vest. I know I'm "technically not making any money," but I'm sure my husband will never read this, so shhh!

My next move? I went to Crate & Barrel to pick up a gift card. 

I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishments. Look at all of the things I just checked off my to-do list. Stuff that I'd been meaning to do for literally months!

And then exiting via Crate & Barrel's revolving door, it hit me:

Oh my god, what if I'm lonely (#268!)?


Will every day be like this? Me, darting around from task to task, only hanging out with my dog? Social interactions limited to sales people and some guy heavy-breathing next to me in a hot yoga class? 

I've never done this work-for-myself thing. I've always worked with others. Specifically, I've always worked with people I like. And for the past seven years, I've worked with Dusti, who has become more of a bestie/sister to me than a coworker. 

Is this a mistake?

I still don't think it is, but with big life changes, it's not all upside. You have to take the good with the bad. Change is hard. That's why we hardly ever do it unless it's absolutely necessary. 

This will not be the last time I second-guess my choice. But I'm prepared for it. For now anyway. Nothing happens overnight.

And as for loneliness? 

Well, I guess that's why God invented coffee meetings, lingering midweek lunches and happy hour.