Documentaries on Netflix

Get your snacks ready!

I’m not a cold-weather being, so without fail when winter sets in I watch. These documentaries on Netflix are what I liked, and if it’s not on my list, either I didn’t see it or I didn’t like it. There’s no point in trash talking films I didn’t like when it’s mostly subjective anyway, right? Right.

After pulling this together, I’m surprised at how many documentaries on Netflix I’ve watched over the past few months. And it’s been a mild winter! It’s a long list, so I organized them in categories. You’re welcome!

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When the Path Reveals Itself: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island

“When the path reveals itself, follow it” is a quote from Cheryl Strayed’s book of quotes Brave Enough. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a good quote, but this one resonated with me. Although the words first hit me as revelatory, I realize that following paths is exactly what I’ve been doing my entire life, and it’s been a beautiful, difficult, messy, grand journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If you have not read Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’re missing out. It is about love, loss, the choices we make, and never giving up. If you decide to give these books a look, use the links above and Amazon will send me a little something (you don’t pay more; Amazon just shares with me). But, I’m not here to sell books, now am I?

My story is about following a path.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, I took a trip to Georgia to visit friends I had not seen in a few years. Of course my sweet Grace came along with me–my copilot, my bubby. She is my heart and gets a ride-along every time it’s logistically feasible. I didn’t have an agenda or any expectations other than to spend time with friends, relax, and enjoy some food and drink.

Grace is my copilot and my heart!

This photo is from a previous trip and in the previous Altima. Not much has changed other than the weather and the car.

And relax is exactly what we did, my visit perfect right there. But, someone mentioned Jekyll Island to me. I was staying on St. Simons Island and was not familiar with JI, and as the conversation went on, it was disclosed (the world already knows so I’ll share in my signature late-to-the-party fashion) that a scene from The Walking Dead was filmed at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Scream!

I had no choice but to go the very next day. I mean, the path revealed itself, right? So off we (me and Little Miss) went to Jekyll Island. I stopped at the visitor center to be sure paws were allowed on the beach, grabbed a map, and we tootled down the road in the Altima, nose prints and all.

Somewhere on Jekyll Island

Disclosure: I saw only a small portion, a sliver, of Driftwood Beach. Grace does not handle heat well and about a minute into taking photos, she was done. Flopped herself on the ground and refused to move. I gave plenty of water and even poured some on her to keep her cool, but she was full-on protesting. We returned two days later in the morning when it was not so hot, but she was no more impressed and again asserted her right to a peaceful sit-in. I had the sense to access the beach at a different point the second day, so I got to see more of the beach even though the pupper wasn’t having it.

The path to Driftwood Beach

Just from the slice I saw of Driftwood Beach, I know I’ll be back. It’s a beauty I can’t explain. Goldenisles.com attempts by saying “Driftwood beach will amaze you with the beautiful driftwood and trees that resemble a tree graveyard.” Nothing like the words “tree graveyard” to convey beauty, right? But that’s exactly what it looks like and it is beautiful!

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach

The short of it is that erosion has caused the trees to die, topple over, and become driftwood. Driftwood Beach is a photographer’s dream, and it is a popular site for weddings in addition to everyday beachy things people do.

Driftwood Beach

I am so taken with this beach that it is on my very short list of places I would visit again and again. And I need to get back there to see the rest of Jekyll Island with its Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Gatorology 101 class, eco-programs, festivals (including the Shrimp & Grits Festival), five beaches, historic sites, and beach village with shopping and dining.

But back to the path. The path revealed itself and I followed it. I followed it to reconnect with friends, to meet new people, to see Grace be a dog which very seldom happens (she had 6 or 7 doggie playmates at a party we attended), to discover a corner of the world that stole my heart.

Grace made some friends too

Our back yard view while we awaited fireworks

These paths are everywhere in our lives, and for me it’s about seeing them and sometimes saying yes. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that a path is just that. If you start down a road that feels wrong, hang a left, or a right, or do a U-ey and find another. What are we but a compilation of our experiences? The paths we have traveled, whether by choice or otherwise, are what make us who we are.

Not every path is easy, nor is every path beautiful, but if you never walk them, how will you know? You might miss the beach of dead trees that is one of the most breathtaking sites to behold.

Cheers to your path,
Kelly

Review: CineBistro – Waverly Place (Cary NC)

I had the pleasure of attending a dress rehearsal for the newest CineBistro location at Waverly Place in Cary. Many thanks to Tara Mead Schaup, Event Manager, for coordinating an evening of cocktails, great food, and previews. I attended as a guest of a guest and was not compensated for writing about my experience. As always, this review is my honest opinion.

CineBistro is a movie theater with in-theater dining, a full-service bar, and a lounge. If any of you are thinking, ‘I know what this is, I’ve been to Raleighwood,’ stop right now. I’m not here to pick on the RW, but that’s like comparing an AMC Pacer to a BMW. Yes, it’s that different.

The bar and lounge are comfortable in a modern lodge sort of way. I would compare it to the bar at a Firebird’s restaurant. The bar menu includes a fair selection of beers–from domestic and imports to IPAs, a whole mess of liquor drinks (seriously, 22 of them), and a wine list better than I’ve seen at some restaurants. You can spend $8 on a glass of Cabernet or $110 on a bottle of Perrier-Jouet, and everything between.

But you know what I really want to talk about. The food. The food! This isn’t fast food or what you might think movie theater food would be. This is savory, flavorful, sit-down restaurant food.

To kick things off, I had The Bay Crab Dip (lump crab and three cheeses served with aged cheddar pull-apart rolls for dipping). The serving was plenty for two people to share, and it was all crab. I mean, if you like crab, get the crab! It was cheesy, too, and did I mention that it was nearly all crab? The rolls were dense and heavier than I prefer, but that’s a matter of personal taste. My main course was the Ribeye Cheesesteak (8 oz. shaved ribeye, slow-roasted in-house, with sautéed peppers, caramelized onions and topped with creamy American cheese). Even though the cheese was MIA (remember, this event was to work out the kinks), this was possibly one of the best cheesesteak sandwiches I have ever experienced. The beef was tender, not dry, flavorful, and there was plenty of it. It was served with one of my favorites–sweet potato fries. Can’t go wrong there. High points on the food.

Ribeye Cheesesteak with Sweet Potato Fries
Ribeye Cheesesteak with Sweet Potato Fries (that’s half the sandwich in the photo; I lost my mind when it arrived and ate half before taking a photo)

Dessert. I skipped because I’m on a low sugar diet, but I did sample the Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brûlée to my left and the Cineful Chocolate Cake to my right. It’s tough for me to rate desserts since I’ve kicked sugar–everything tastes overwhelmingly sweet now. However, my two friends who let me sample theirs both said they were delicious. Note: the chocolate cake is both gluten-free and soy-free. There are several vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on the menu. Bonus points there. The menu has a lot to choose from. You can get a Caesar salad, a 9 oz. filet, or pan-seared Atlantic salmon, to list a few items.

Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brulee
Butterscotch Bourbon Creme Brulee

Cineful Chocolate Cake
Cineful Chocolate Cake

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the seats. Oversized, leather, electric push-of-a-button recliners. Can you see it: a glass of red wine, a nice ribeye cheesesteak sandwich, and a recliner. Movie? What movie?

You can purchase your tickets online, at the kiosk in the lobby, or at the ticket counter. But they’ve made the experience even better by allowing you to reserve your specific seats in the theater. No searching in the dark for an open seat! This is not Southwest folks, this is reserved-seat civilization.

Were there snafus? Of course. Some received their food quickly, while a couple of us waited. There was a glitch with the computer, but as soon as it was apparent some of us were not eating, servers from other stations quickly came to pitch in and re-take our orders. We were allowed two cocktails at this event, and when my friend ordered her second, it arrived about 20 minutes later. I’m not sure if this was connected to the computer glitch, but the staff never seemed flustered, and they were apologetic and professional. I didn’t mind eating late–the whole point was to give the team a practice run before they open this weekend on September 4.

How much for all of this cinematic glitter and glam? My evening described above, on a “live” night, would break down like this:

Movie ticket – $14.50
Cabernet (glass) – $8
Crab Dip – $13.50
Cheesesteak Sandwich – $15.00
Gratuity (17.5% added for you) – $6.40
Total – $57.40

That’s steep for my budget, so I won’t be doing my Oscar marathon here in January. However, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the whole experience. I’ll definitely go back, probably for a special occasion or a girls night. For the couples out there, this would be a great date night. I recommend giving it a try. I think you’ll like it!

Cheers!
Kelly

Book Review: Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne (North Carolina Author)

Cover of Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne
Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne

Barefoot to Avalon, a Brother’s Story, is David Payne’s sixth published book and memoir that is insightful, raw, and gut-wrenching. It’s the story of an unconventional childhood and a dysfunctional family whelmed by tragedy. Barefoot to Avalon focuses on the violent death of David’s brother, George A., and the years and moments leading up to the horrific accident—a familial thread of resentment and feelings not communicated. Feelings not spoken just hours before George A.’s death, which David witnessed. Their father pitted the two against one another since childhood, while their mother did nothing to mitigate. David’s brother lived with mental illness for much of his life, and because George A. was high functioning, his breakdowns were difficult for those around him to understand and he received little empathy. Yet, when David was wrestling with a declining career, alcoholism, and a marriage near its breaking point, George A. was there to help him move from Vermont to North Carolina for a chance at a fresh start with his wife and children. After a week of near silent brotherly bonding while reducing David’s life to the contents of two trucks, David and George A. set out on the highway. George A. lost his life, and David could only watch.

While I enjoyed David Payne’s novels Gravesend Light and Early from the Dance, I was utterly engrossed in his memoir from beginning to end. Barefoot to Avalon reads as though it were written from the author’s heart and with brutal honesty. At times, I found the writing style difficult to follow. There are stream-of-consciousness narratives that tripped me up, and the author shifts from one time period to another often, sometimes more than once in a paragraph. I understand why he may have written in that fashion, possibly to convey the chaos in his heart and mind, but I personally prefer a more fluid, chronological structure. It did not, however, take away from the story of his relationship with his brother, his brother’s battles, and his own battles. It is a sincere glimpse into the life of an acclaimed novelist and into the heartache and tragedy of human life. If you enjoy memoir, I highly recommend Barefoot to Avalon.

If you would like to order Barefoot to Avalon via my very own Amazon Associates link, clickity-click here.

Cheers,
Kelly

April Book Challenge 2015

I’ve been up to something. I participated in a bookish photo-a-day challenge on Instagram. What’s this, you ask? Well, a calendar was posted listing a particular type of book or a book + something, etc. for each day, and the idea was to share a photo of said books/items. My friend Julie at MyBookRetreat put the challenge out there, and it was hosted by @msbooklover and @crochetandbooks. The tags were #AprilBookChallenge2015 and #SpringTimeReaders, and, of course, I was in!

I jumped in this thing spur of the moment (imagine that) because it’s been a while since I’ve tried anything new or outside my proverbial, comfy little box. And you know what? It was an incredibly positive experience! It not only tugged me back to taking some creative photos, but it also got me thinking about books again. Books I’ve read, what I liked about them, and how they touched me. I’ll share a few of my favorite photos with you here, and if you’d like to see the entire month, check me out on Instagram at @kellygropp.

A calendar with a type of book noted for each day
le calendrier

Here are a few of my favorites–they turned out nice!

An open book with the pages looped back on themselves to create a heart shape
April 5 was “heart page.” I had no idea what a heart page was until this challenge. I grabbed an old book, “Yankee From Olympus,” and chose a page with a gentleman’s photo.

April 6 was "Books & skies." I chose a pristine journal against the beauty of giant trees against the sky. Some of the best stories are yet to be written.
April 6 was “books & skies.” I chose a pristine journal with tall, beautiful trees against the sky as the background. Some of the best stories are yet to be written.

Red book, Robert Kennedy and His Times, and my father's watch
April 21 was “bookish watches.” I have a watch that belonged to my father, and chose another old book from my shelves, “Robert Kennedy and His Times.” Dad and Bobby Kennedy were contemporaries, so it seemed fitting to pair the two.

Book "all the light we cannot see" and army photo of my dad along with letter he wrote home during war
April 29 was “favorite book of April.” That was easy! “All the Light We Cannot See” is a novel set during World War II that I could not put down. In another nod to Dad, I paired it with a photo of him along with a letter written to his parents while serving in the US Army during World War II.

You can read my review of All the Light We Cannot See here.

Those are a few of my favorites, but there are 26 total (I missed a few days). Take a peek at @kellygropp over on Instagram to see them all…and more!

Cheers!
Kelly

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

Cover of All the Light We Cannot SeeSet during World War II, this novel delicately and seamlessly weaves the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner together in a way that is spellbinding. The story of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, the much adored blind daughter of a French museum locksmith, and Werner Pfennig, a brilliant orphan turned German soldier, is a story of wonder, self-preservation, love, and the human desire for redemption.

Marie-Laure was a young child when she lost her sight, and only 12 when she and her father fled Paris to live obscurely in the French countryside with an agoraphobic uncle until the war ended. Marie-Laure did not know of the treasure they carried with them. Werner and his sister lived in an orphanage in Germany and had little time or resources for entertainment, until Werner discovered the world of radio waves with spare parts and his inherent ability to understand circuitry. He and his sister would stay up through the night listening to a gentleman broadcast a children’s show from worlds away. That very talent led Werner to attend the academy for Hitler Youth, tearing him from his sister and the only home he knew. Both Marie-Laure and Werner were set on dreadful paths not of their choosing, yet their lives would intersect tenderly amidst the chaos.

Each character is so clearly developed and vividly portrayed, I felt akin to them. This book is not simply set in World War II, it transports the reader to occupied France. The voice of Marie-Laure makes you feel her blindness, listening to and feeling the world around her, as that world crumbles. The voice of Werner sets your heart racing with fear: fear of losing everyone he cared about, of enduring the merciless academy for Hitler Youth, of giving his life for country.

From the very first chapter, it was difficult to put down. Doerr’s language is like poetry, conveying volumes of insight and feeling, yet this novel reads easily. I could read this book again and again.

If you’d like to purchase this book via my Amazon link, click here. Many thanks!

Cheers!
Kelly

Book Review: “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet”

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz

“The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz is a research-driven, anthropologic, narrative history on how we have come to be entrenched in our misguided belief about fat, our diet, and our health. Although Teicholz references studies and clinical trials, and meticulously shows the reader the actual results and not just the pieces that have been lifted and manipulated, this book reads like a novel. There is a protagonist (the health of the entire U.S. population), antagonists, plot, and drama. It is sad that this is a true story—one which we do not yet know the final outcome.

Unbeknownst to us, fat, specifically saturated fat, has been proven time and again to not be the villain as it has been portrayed. For example, it is known that “LDL-cholesterol…is a largely unreliable predictor of heart disease risk.” Yet we are told to curb our fat intake for the sake of our cholesterol levels. Saturated fat actually increases our good cholesterol level. Further, studies show a link between eating carbohydrates and sugars (not animal fat) and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

The author pulls the curtain from the studies and clinical trials that for 60 years have proven the low-fat diet to be a failure in weight loss and in good health. Still, the idea that fat begets fat is so ingrained in our belief system that credentialed scientists and our own government have turned their backs on real data. Add to that Big Food and the media, and you end up with a food pyramid prescribed to everyone and healthy for no one.

Nina Teicholz did her homework for nine years reviewing existing studies and trials, interviewing the scientists who conducted them, and researching our own history and the history of other countries–those who are healthier than the U.S. and those who are not. There is one constant: fat is not what we’ve been told it is. I found this book fascinating and incredibly informative. I couldn’t put it down.

Cheers!
Kelly

If you’d like to purchase this book via my link to Amazon, click here.

Book Review: Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire My Month of MadnessI give five out of five stars to “Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan, a memoir written with honesty, courage and raw insight to a degree few of us will ever achieve. It is the story of a young journalist, Susannah, who develops psychotic symptoms and behaviors over a short period of time. Cahalan eloquently tells the story of the events immediately prior to and after her breakdown, and has journalistically pieced together the month she lost while suffering a debilitating, potentially fatal disease of which the medical community is only beginning to become aware. This true account of one woman’s fight for her life is maddening, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. It is a fascinating look at matters of the human brain as well as matters of the heart. Furthermore, this memoir has the power to raise awareness of a little-known disease that may be affecting thousands; awareness has the power to save lives.

This book needs to be read far and wide not only because it is impossible to put down, but also for its potential to start much needed and overdue discussions about mental illness and its stigma, misconceptions, and in this case, misdiagnosis.

Cheers!
Kelly

If you would like to purchase this book from Amazon via my link, you may use the link above or click HERE. Many thanks!

Book Review – “The Author Training Manual”

The Author Training Manual” by Nina Amir is a detailed, well thought-out and comprehensive guide to get you from wanting to write a book to actually being published. The book is divided into three sections: Manual, Sample, and Training. The Manual section is further broken into 12 chapters taking you step-by-step through the author training process.

The Manual section is the bulk of the book, and it facilitates the development of what Amir refers to as an author attitude, looking at your idea and your writing objectively, and creating a polished business plan and book proposal ready for submission.

The Sample section of the book is helpful as it shows samples of actual business plans and book proposals, complete with feedback from agents and editors. This is a huge plus for those of us who are visual learners.

The Training section of the book includes training exercises that correspond with the chapters in the Manual section. These exercises are extensive and can be completed after each chapter is read or after reading the entire book.

I like the simplicity of the language Amir uses – any layperson should get as much benefit from “The Author Training Manual” as would a seasoned business person or author, which is helpful since you are likely a first-time author if you are reading this book. I also appreciate the methodical layout. If you follow the manual and exercises through each step, you should be able to produce a solid business plan and book proposal. That is, of course, if you have a good book to write – which Amir discusses in the second chapter “How to Begin: Evaluate Yourself and Your Book for Success.” She provides references to websites, books, and apps to help you further understand, evaluate, and manage your process. If I were pressed to provide constructive criticism, it would be that there is almost too much information – and that is purely personal preference. There are so many suggested readings that it almost becomes overwhelming. Being thorough, however, is not a bad thing if you’re serious about publishing a book. I give this book four stars and recommend it to anyone contemplating their first novel, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, or memoir.

Cheers!
Kelly

Click HERE to purchase The Author Training Manual at Amazon using the Chubs Lived Here link.