Getting Personal #275: Stranger Things The Upside Down LEGO Set

Al got me the massive Stranger Things The Upside Down set for Christmas!

Part 1

Part 1 was building four things: Hopper, the mini-fig stand with the Stranger Things title card, Hopper’s Hawkins Police Department SUV, and the bike.

The wheels really move!


Part 2

The second part was building the base of the “real world” house and Mike.

The base took the better part of two hours! But you can start to see parts of the house and the yard.


Part 3

Part three began building the house and Joyce. She is holding Will’s drawing in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Plus, her mini-fig head has two different facial expressions.

The enclosed room is Will’s bedroom. It has his bed, desk, boom box, and shark poster.

The other room is the living room with the couch and coffee table. The yellow phone is on the wall. You can see the alphabet and Christmas lights on the wall next to the door.


Part 4

Part 4 saw the completion of the living room, with the green chair, and building Lucas. He’s holding his slingshot and a flashlight.

The siding was added to the house, along with the front porch furniture and accessories.


Part 5

Part 5 included the roof and building Dustin.

Dustin is holding a walkie-talkie and his compass.

Part of the ceiling is this cool light brick that lights up when you push the button!


Part 6

Part 6 included building Will and the base of the Upside Down house.

It’s definitely darker!


March 18th: This post was scheduled to publish before I finished the set, so I will update soon!


Part 7

Part 7 is building the Upside Down house bedroom and living room.


Part 8

Part 8 is continuing the Upside Down house, with the living room, and the outside details, like the siding, chairs, and other finishing touches.

I love the blues and grays.


Part 9

Part 9 was the roof and additional details.

Love the spooky vines and leaves.


Parts 10 and 11

This is the end!

Getting Personal #269: My Favorite Things of 2021

Image Credit: Quote Master

So, before starting the lists of favorites, here’s my tally for books and Book Reviews for 2021:


Now, on to my favorites!

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

  • Baby Driver
  • Beanie Mania (HBO Max)
  • Black Widow
  • Coming 2 America (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
  • Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (Disney+)
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife
  • Moxie (Netflix)
  • Noelle (Disney+)
  • Richard Jewell (HBO Max)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy (HBO Max)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • The Tomorrow War (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Without Remorse (Amazon Prime Video)

Favorite TV Shows

  • Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (HBO Max)
  • Black and Missing (HBO Max)
  • Cold Case – Seasons 1 – 7 (HBO Max)
  • Hawkeye (Disney+)
  • Head of the Class – Original Series (HBO Max)
  • Hoarders (YouTube)
  • LEGO Masters – Season 2 (Hulu)
  • Loki (Disney+)
  • LuLaRich (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Midnight Mass (Netflix)
  • Supermarket Sweep (YouTube)
  • Ted Lasso – Season 1 (Apple TV+)
  • The Baby-Sitters Club – Season 2 (Netflix)
  • The Muppet Show (Disney+)
  • WandaVision (Disney+)

Favorite Podcasts

  • 48 Hours
  • American Radical
  • Auld Lang Gone: The Lost Carmen Sandiego
  • Criminal
  • Cold – Season 2
  • Crimes of Passion
  • Dateline NBC
  • Embedded
  • Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera
  • Life After MLM
  • Mind Over Murder – Seasons 1 and 2
  • Operator
  • Over My Dead Body – Season 3
  • Suspect
  • The Thing About Helen and Olga
  • Up and Vanished – Season 3
  • Small Town Dicks
  • StoryCorps

Well, that wraps up my favorite things for 2021!

What about you? What were some of your favorite things of the year?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #249: Sesame Street LEGO Ideas

The front of the box.

I knew I wanted this LEGO set when it was first announced. At the time, however, it was a lot of money, and I felt I didn’t absolutely need to have it.

However, I made a decision a few months ago to reward myself with it at the end of May. I’m so glad I did! I was pleasantly surprised that it shipped so quickly from the LEGO website. I bought it on in the middle of a week, and it arrived that weekend.

I documented the journey in stages. There were six sets of numbered bags in the box, and I figured I would stretch it out as long as I could. The entire set is 1,367 pieces.

The back of the box.

Part 1

The beginning was building the street and the base of 123 Sesame Street. Each part had a new Muppet mini-figure to build. Big Bird was first, my favorite.

I love the attention to detail. See the spiderweb?


Part 2

The second part was building Elmo and the first floor of 123 Sesame Street.

Do you see the back wall of Big Bird’s nest?

The bottom floor is Elmo’s room. I love how the windows look real and open!


Part 3

The third part was the second floor of 123 Sesame Street, and Ernie.

This part added the bathroom, with Rubber Duckie, and more to Big Bird’s nest.


Part 4

The fourth part included the roof of 123 Sesame Street, and Bert.

Bert and Ernie’s bedroom is done, too.


Part 5

The fifth part included Cookie Monster, Hooper’s Store, and the apartment above.

I love the details. The stickers really help illustrate the set!


Part 6

The final part was Oscar in his trash can, the garden, the fire escape, Big Bird’s nest, outside Hooper’s, and the Sesame Street signpost.

I can’t get over how much research was put into this LEGO Ideas set! It was well worth the money – About $130 total. The instruction book had fun photos and backstory on the designers and creators.

This will be proudly displayed in my office. It’s currently on the living room coffee table. I smile every time I walk in the room!


I really loved this set. Many of you know how much Sesame Street means to me!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #232: My Favorite Things of 2020

Image Credit: Quote Master

So, before starting the lists of favorites, here’s my tally for books and Book Reviews for 2020:


Now, on to my favorites!

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

  • 13th (Netflix)
  • Knives Out
  • Onward (This was the last movie we saw in theaters before COVID-19 took hold!)
  • Soul (Disney+)
  • Spotlight (Netflix)
  • The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime Video)

Favorite TV Shows

  • Forensic Files (Netflix)
  • Hoarders (YouTube)
  • How to Fix a Drug Scandal (Netflix)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – Seasons 7 – 8 (Hulu)
  • McMillions (HBO Max)
  • Murder on Middle Beach (HBO Max)
  • Stargirl (The CW)
  • Stranger Things – Re-watched all seasons (Netflix)
  • Supermarket Sweep (Netflix and YouTube)
  • The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – Season 1 (HBO Max)
  • The Innocence Files (Netflix)
  • The Mandalorian – Seasons 1 and 2 (Disney+)

Favorite Podcasts

  • Atlanta Monster
  • Crimes of Passion
  • Dateline NBC
  • Female Criminals
  • Forensic Files
  • Helping Writers Become Authors
  • Just Us For Y’All
  • Killer Knowledge
  • Monster: DC Sniper
  • Morbid
  • Murder in Oregon
  • Small Town Dicks
  • Spying on Humanity
  • StoryCorps
  • The FRONTLINE Dispatch
  • The Way I Heard It

Well, that wraps up my favorite things for 2020!

What about you? What were some of your favorite things of the year?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #109: Thoughts on “13th”

Image Credit: The Maine Campus

As part of my continuing education on Black Lives Matter and becoming a better ally, I wanted to sit down and watch this documentary on Netflix.

Immediately after finishing it, I wanted to watch it again. I was overwhelmed, horrified, and angry.


Ava DuVernay is a master. The interviews that were conducted spanned from activists, to authors, to former Presidents!


Saturday, July 25th

I need to write more after I watch it again tomorrow. More to come. Thanks for reading!


Update – Monday, July 27th

I sat down and watched this again yesterday. I had my phone out and took proper notes this time. Keep in mind – This was originally released in 2016.

The United States makes up five percent of the world’s population, but has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

The documentary is very much a timeline from the Civil War through 2016. One of the key points was D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) film. The burning cross symbol was created by Griffith, not the KKK, because Griffith thought it was a good cinematic image.

The Nixon era (1968-1974) was the beginning of the “War on Drugs.” Nixon took drug addiction and drug dependency and made it a crime issue, rather than a health issue. I also learned a lot about the Southern Strategy – Taking Democrats on multiple southern states and leading them to the Republication Party.

The Reagan era (1981-1988) was the modern war on drugs. Nancy Reagan embarked upon the “Just Say No” campaign. Crack cocaine came on the scene – It was in small doses, and cheaper than powdered cocaine. Mandatory sentencing penalties were enacted that were harsher for crack cocaine. Black communities were virtually decimated – Men started disappearing from the homes and neighborhoods overnight and not coming back for years because of getting arrested and convicted for possessing crack cocaine. At this point, economic inequality, hyper-segregation, and drug abuse were all criminalized. It turned into a war on communities of color. Black people have been (are still are) over-represented in the news media as criminals. The “super-predator” label was thrown around constantly. Black parents ended up, inadvertently, supporting policies that were criminalizing their own children. The Central Park Jogger case in New York City was absolutely awful.

The George H.W. Bush era (1988-1993) was affected during the campaign for President. The Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis was holding a commanding lead, until Willie Horton was let out of prison on a weekend pass, and went on a horrific crime spree that included kidnapping, assault, rape, and murder. The Bush campaign used Horton’s story as part of a campaign ad on crime.

The Clinton era (1993-2001) sent a strong message of “Democrats are not soft on crime.” More police were put on the street, federal funding for law enforcement was upwards of $100 million dollars. Polly Klaas was murdered. The massive 1994 crime bill ($30 billion dollars) included the “three strikes law” – Three felonies and you’re put in prison for the rest of your life, mandatory minimums for sentencing, truth in sentencing where prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, parole was virtually abolished. This led to a massive expansion of the American criminal justice system, including prisons and law enforcement. Even the smallest police forces were militarized with military-grade weapons and equipment. Years later, Clinton admitted that “I made the problem worse.”

The documentary then goes into the case of Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down by George Zimmerman in Florida on May 26, 2012, and the issue of “stand your ground” laws since then.


One of the most fascinating segments was about the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). It’s a private club that brings together politicians and private corporations. Walmart eventually left ALEC, but the American Bail Coalition and Koch Industries remain. One key stakeholder for years was the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). They make contracts with states to build private prisons, and then the states are required to keep those prisons filled. CCA has made $1.7 billion in profit – They’re getting rich off punishment. In addition, CCA holds contracts to detain immigrants. In essence, CCA has merged the immigration system and the prison system. After a major story from NPR in 2010, CCA left ALEC.

However, the Prison Industrial Complex continues to make money. Companies such as Corizon Healthcare, Aramark, and the National Correctional Industrial Association are involved with supplying healthcare, food, and “jobs” to prisons and prisoners. I say “jobs” in quotes because what I really mean is prison labor.

Another problem is the issue of bail and bond. Kalief Browder was arrested for a crime he did not commit. His bail was set at $10,000. He couldn’t afford the bail, so he sat in jail. They offered him a plea deal, but he said no. He wanted to go to trial. After three years, all the charges were dropped. However, by that point, he’d been in Rikers Island and in solitary confinement multiple times. The system is designed to break you in 30 days. Browder died by suicide at 22 years old after he was released.

In the United States, there has been 100 years of Jim Crow, terror, and lynching. If you’re a convicted felon, you can’t vote and you can’t get a job. How do you re-enter American society? You can’t. Some progress has been made in “removing the box” to take the felony conviction question off job applications, but there’s a long way to go.

The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for white men in 1 in 17. For black men, it’s 1 in 3.

Black men make up 6.5 percent of the U.S. population. Yet, they make up 40.2 percent of the U.S. prison population.

There was footage of riots in Watts (1965), Detroit (1967), Newark (1967), Los Angeles (1992), Ferguson, Missouri (2014). The common thread? Police brutality.

The overarching message from the interviewees is that people of color want to have human dignity. And to live in the United States, the supposed greatest country on this planet, and there’s a significant number of people who don’t have human dignity? That’s not okay in my book. We need to do more work, America.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #108: Thoughts on “The Baby-Sitters Club” (Netflix)

Image Credit: The Today Show

The minute I saw the trailer for the Netflix take / re-boot of The Baby-Sitters Club, I knew I wanted to watch it!

I ended up watching all 10 episodes over the course of one day – Last Saturday. I was so easily sucked in!


As someone who devoured the books as a kid, I was a little nervous, as the Netflix series appeared to have been updated for modern times. But, it worked out really nicely. I want to re-read all the books now.

The girls playing the club members were cast so well. I was so gleeful when I realized, at the beginning of episode two, that the creators and producers had used the handwriting of each girl. I remember that from the books, and the CD-ROM game! I think I had the Clubhouse Activity Center.


If you’re looking for a lot of nostalgia that’s updated for today’s girls, tweens, teens, and moms (Dads, too!), this is a great series. It’s fun, easy to watch, and engaging. It also covers a lot of real-life experiences, particularly friendship, parents, divorce, boys, periods, and bullying, among other things.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #103: “The Elegance of Kindness”

Image Credit: Found on Gratitude and Trust

This post started with an email and a YouTube link. Thanks, Momma V.!

Al’s mom sent this link to me, asking if I’d seen it: Story Behind the Song: The Rainbow Connection


I hadn’t, so I clicked on it. It’s a bit dated now – It was posted in October 2016. However, what I clicked on and witnessed was nearly 12 minutes of magic and appreciation. It was an interview where Paul Williams discusses how “The Rainbow Connection” came to be. In the middle, Williams mentioned his website, Gratitude and Trust, along a post he wrote called “The Elegance of Kindness” about Jim Henson. I paused the video, grabbed a Post-It note, scribbled that down, and continued the video.

Visiting the website a little while later, I noticed that Paul posted it in September 2013. But, dates don’t matter.


As I started reading, all I felt was warmth when I digested Paul’s words. What an amazing life he’s had as a songwriter. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, a major feat by itself. And, to meet AND work with Jim Henson! Wow.

He told the same story in the video as he did in his blog post, about not wanting to throw any surprises at Jim when he and Kenny Ascher were beginning to produce the music for The Muppet Movie (1979).

Jim smiled, and reassured Paul with these words, “Oh, that’s all right Paul. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful. I’ll hear them in the studio when we record them.”

Hearing Jim say that immediately allayed Paul’s fears and worries. He also told this story in the liner notes when the soundtrack was re-released for the nearly 35th anniversary of the movie. And, in a way, this meeting paved the way for one of the most memorable and warm songs that has ever been created.


But the point here is “the elegance of kindness.” As I was telling Al about the video and the blog post, he immediately nodded and said, “Yes, exactly. That’s how many people have described Jim Henson. How kind he was.”

Jim Henson died in 1990. I wasn’t quite two years old when he left the world. But, I’ve learned who he was. And what an impact he has made! In his short 53 years, he became a legend. He created the Muppets, helped develop characters for Sesame Street, produced The Muppet Show, started the Jim Henson Foundation, and founded Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.


I made the same connection that Paul did about Jim. With kindness comes trust. With kindness and trust, magical things can bloom and grow. I don’t think “Rainbow Connection” would have been written if Jim Henson didn’t trust Williams and Ascher. There have been so many issues with trust, time and time again, with the world of entertainment. And it’s not limited to entertainment, either.

I write this post as the pandemic continues. I’m frustrated and appalled at the President of the United States and other leaders who have spouted clear lies, and they have incited great fear among millions of people. Millions of people who have gotten so many mixed messages at the worst possible time. No wonder I have trust issues! And there’s not a shred of kindness from the top. Sadly.


However, my spirit has been renewed. There is kindness, still.

Some Good News with John Krasinski is AWESOME!

I’ve loved Steve Hartman since he started reporting with CBS News in the 1990s (Remember Assignment America? And throwing a dart at a map of the U.S.?). A while ago, he did a four-part series called Kindness 101. Not only are his kids adorable, but he’s sharing many of his stories, old and new, and reminding everyone who’s watching what the important things are in life. Character. Gratitude. Empathy. Optimism. Purpose. I’ve watched all of them, and I’m excited the series is continuing.

Just today, I read a father’s account of his daughter, Emerson, and her letters. Her handwritten letters and decorated envelopes. She wrote a letter to her mailman, Doug, expressing her appreciation for him to help her mail her letters. Now, it’s gone all over the country, through thousands of people and postal workers. I’m inspired to be a pen pal again.

And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sesame Street’s theme is now “Smarter, Stronger, Kinder.” The elegance of kindness can, and should, be embraced as young as possible. But, you’re not too old to start. You’re never too old to embrace something like kindness.

Enjoy a special performance of “Rainbow Connection” from Kermit that posted to YouTube last week.

Stay safe, stay well, friends.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #194: My Favorite Things of 2019

Image Credit: Quote Master

So, before starting the lists of favorites, here’s my tally for books and Book Reviews for 2019:

Ratings Tally

  • 5 stars: 4
  • 4 1/2 stars: 5
  • 4 stars: 5
  • 3 1/2 stars: 2
  • 3 stars: 0
  • 2 1/2 stars: 0
  • 2 stars: 0
  • 1 1/2 stars: 0
  • 1 star: 0

ARC Reviews – Zero this year. Here’s to more in 2020.


Now, on to my favorites!

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • A Girl Like Her
  • Blinded by the Light
  • Captain Marvel
  • Dolemite Is My Name
  • Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  • Frozen II
  • Long Shot
  • Midway
  • Shazam!
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • The Devil We Know
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Favorite TV Shows

  • The Act (Hulu)
  • Cold Case (Netflix)
  • Emergence (Hulu)
  • Flint Town (Netflix)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – Seasons 2 – 6 (Hulu)
  • Mindhunter (Netflix)
  • Stranger Things – Seasons 1, 2, and 3 (Netflix)
  • Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Special (PBS)
  • The Orville – Seasons 1 and 2 (Hulu)
  • The Passage – Season 1 (Hulu)

Favorite Podcasts

  • Aftermath
  • American Girls
  • Bag Man
  • Cold
  • Dateline NBC
  • Forensic Files
  • Not Guilty
  • The City
  • The Dream
  • The Thing About Pam
  • Today in True Crime
  • Visitations

Well, that wraps up my favorite things for 2019!

What about you? What were some of your favorite things of the year?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #101: Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Special

The minute the 50th Anniversary Special was announced, I marked my calendar for November.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the full special posted on the PBS website for a whole week, from November 17th through the 24th. I watched it twice! And I experienced so many emotions!

I really enjoyed the story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a great host! And so many former cast members were a part of it. The songs were my favorite part, especially the performance of “Sing” at the end.

I’m planning to get it on DVD when it is released.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #28: Foster Care and Opioids

Research published in July 2019 indicates that the number of children entering the foster care system has more than doubled since 2000.

Other reasons for removal, including neglect and abuse, declined.

Coincidentally, Sesame Street introduced a new Muppet around the same time. Karli is staying with her “for-now” family while her mom is away getting better. The Sesame Street initiative focuses on addiction as a whole, but makes the connection to foster care. Karli’s mom is getting help for alcohol addiction.


Resources

More Kids Are Getting Placed in Foster Care Because of Parents’ Drug Use, NPR, July 15, 2019

At This Camp, Children of Opioid Addicts Learn to Cope and Laugh, NPR, October 9, 2019


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂