Movie Review: La La Land

7 Nominations → 7 Wins → Golden Globes Record!

While watching the Golden Globes Awards Ceremony, I got caught up in La La Land fever and knew I had to see this movie…to see if it merited all the hype.

I wasn’t disappointed.

From start to finish, the movie entertains and engages us. The music is simply delightful—not surprising that awards were given for Best Song and Best Musical Score—and the acting is superb—Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have extraordinary screen chemistry.

Set against the backdrop of modern-day Hollywood, this is an old-fashioned story of an aspiring actress who falls for a piano-playing jazz pianist. While much of the movie is grounded in reality, the musical numbers remind us of the razzle-dazzle days of old Hollywood. My favorites include the opening scene where people exit their cars and start dancing on a traffic-clogged freeway in Los Angeles and a later scene where the young lovers take a metaphorical flight up into the stairs of the Rialto Cinema.

I believe it’s impossible to watch this movie and not be uplifted by its inspiring message. Emma Stone said it best: “These have been really rough times. To have something so transporting that brings you joy and nostalgia and hope and heartbreak for two hours is really needed now.” (Interview–Closer Magazine)

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King


Today is Martin Luther King Day, an American federal holiday that marks the birthday of an inspirational clergyman, activist, and leader who is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights in the United States.

My favorite quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King…

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

The time is always right to do what is right.


I’m happy to welcome Guelph writer and blogger Lisa Ivaldi. Today, Lisa shares her insights into fearlessness and offers a free download of her workbook, Wake Up to What You Love.

Here’s Lisa!

grizzlybear1Like most people, I have experienced profound, life-threatening fear over the years – meeting a grizzly bear on a walking trail at Lake Louise, spinning out on ice on Highway 401, a bomb threat on a commercial airplane. So I get that fear – the “unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm” – is a warning signal to put your brain and body on hyperalert so that you can more effectively deal with the threat.

It’s a great system designed to keep us safe. But what if fear is taking over your life? What if you (and by you, I mean me) are so firmly rooted in your comfort zone that you are missing out on a larger life? How do you know if you are keeping yourself away from actual threats or if you are just playing it too safe?

These questions all came up for me during a soap making workshop. Yes, you read that right, a soap making workshop! Making soap is a combination of science and cooking – two areas in which I do not naturally excel. The instructor, Linda Boyle, explained the process and it sounded so complicated that I was ready to say forget it – too hard. Then she talked about how the lye* we would use is a caustic and poisonous chemical that can badly burn skin, and I was ready to leave – too scary.

All of a sudden lye was up there on my fear list with grizzly bears and bomb threats. Why did I sign myself up for a workshop that used materials so hazardous they could maim me? If I had known any of this beforehand, I would not have registered.

Fortunately, the instructor was a friend and it was a small class, so my fear of leaving and looking stupid overcame my fear of lye. As it turned out, the process wasn’t that complicated. It was a beginner workshop and Linda walked us through it step-by-step. The lye part was no problem as Linda had premixed it with water and we just had to stir it into the oils. The light went on for me when Linda likened working with lye to making French fries with hot oil – I know hot oil can be dangerous and can cause nasty burns so I am careful!


After I got home with my beautiful handmade soap I started wondering, how much of life am I missing out on because I think things may be too hard or too dangerous? This prompted me to take the advanced soap making workshop – the scarier one where you have to work with raw lye.

I know it sounds silly, but I really had to push myself to sign up for that second workshop. I’m glad I did because although I enjoyed the classes, I realized that while soap making was no longer scary, it really wasn’t something I want to take up as a hobby or creative outlet.

Now it’s a matter of figuring out when I am avoiding something due to fear or if it is something that is truly not of interest to me. I found a method I like from Dr. Valerie Young, author of Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, “One way to tell the difference is to imagine yourself as the confident, fully capable person you would like to be. If the supremely competent you was faced with the exact same decision, how would she feel? If you’re still averse, then you know something other than confidence or lack thereof is at play, and you have an opportunity to explore what it is.”

So thanks to Soap Making 101, I am now more able to tell the difference between something I might enjoy, if only fear wasn’t holding me back, and something I just don’t want to do. In my mind that’s a key difference between living a small life and living an authentic life. I don’t want to do everything, but I don’t want to miss out on doing cool things just because I am afraid.

(*The lye or sodium hydroxide combines with the oils to make soap – there is no lye left once this chemical reaction takes place.)


lisaivaldi1Lisa loves sharing information that will have a positive impact on the world. Her first article was published in Vitality Magazine in 2002 and this monthly personal growth blog has been online since January 2011. Her work has also been published in Business Venture, Enterprise Magazine, and, City Parent Magazine.

Lisa’s workbook, Wake Up to What You Love, was published in 2013. She occasionally blogs for The Eco Guide and has written advice articles with her teenage daughter in On Butterfly Wings – an online newsletter for girls.

If you are interested in having Lisa contribute to your publication, she would be happy to speak with you.

Where to find Lisa…

Website | Blog | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter

Download your free copy of Wake Up to What You Love here.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

As a retired mathematics teacher, I took great pride in watching three brilliant African-American women help launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The film focuses on the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematical prodigy whose grasp of analytic geometry makes her indispensable to NASA.

But Katherine’s workplace environment is far from pleasant.

As the only female mathematician in a sea of white men, she is barely tolerated by her colleagues and forced to endure indignities. I couldn’t believe her half-mile trek to the “colored” bathroom in a separate building and the “colored” coffee pot that was designated for her use. Thankfully, Director Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) intervenes.

Acting office supervisor (without the proper title or pay), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) deals with an unsympathetic superior (Kirsten Dunst), who accepts and promotes the idea that segregation is “just the way things are.”

Feisty Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) faces discrimination at all levels when she applies to the engineer training program at the University of Virginia.

Eyes riveted to the screen, I alternated between goose bumps and brimming tears, as I watched these ‘60s women surmount challenges and receive the respect and recognition they rightfully deserved. Photos of the actual women in the closing credits add to the authenticity of this larger-than-life film.

Celebrating La Befana

befanaGrowing up, we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany with a special meal and treats. While my brothers and I attached more significance to Christmas Day, my mother considered January 6th to be the Italian Christmas. She would regale us with tales of la Befana, the friendly witch who delivered gifts to good children and lumps of coal to the bad ones.

While I’ve heard many variations of this tale, I prefer my mother’s version.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.