The Lazy Genius Collective

Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.

Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.

Your Guide to Summer Movie Nights

Want some ideas on how to throw a movie night? This week's episode of The Lazy Genius Podcast is for you! But you also might just want some actual movie ideas, so strap in.

Every movie on this list is currently on Netflix. Hopefully they'll last through the summer amen. 

For Families with Little-ish Kids

1. Zootopia (98% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Why it's great: Our world could use more empathy and acceptance, and this movie has it in spades. Or claws. Trunks and snouts and such. Funny, heartfelt, idealistic, and totally relatable. 

2. Homeward Bound (88% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: Three pets escape from a California ranch to find their owners in San Francisco.

Why it's great: No movie has so many happy tears. And sad tears. There are so many tears, y'all, but you love every single one. P.S. My sister and I recorded a podcast episode about movies that make us cry, and Homeward Bound gets a giant slice of that pie.

3. Cool Runnings (75% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: When a Jamaican sprinter is disqualified from the Olympic Games, he enlists the help of a dishonored coach to start the first Jamaican Bobsled Team.

Why it's great: An underdog story that never gets old. So many one-liners, nothing objectionable, and a fantastic lesson on how to handle difficult circumstances. I don't have a podcast episode about every movie on this list, but I was totally on a podcast about Cool Runnings. I have a lot of feelings. 

4. The BFG (74% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: An orphan little girl befriends a benevolent giant who takes her to Giant Country, where they attempt to stop the man-eating giants that are invading the human world.

Why it's great: If you don't pick apart a pretty simplistic plot and remember that this is a kid's movie, you'll really enjoy it. Anything that has Steven Spielberg attached has a lot resting on its shoulders, but not every one of his movies has to be Oscar worthy. Just enjoy it; you totally will.

5. Annie (52% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: A young orphan girl's adventures in finding a family that will take her.

Why it's great: The music is stellar, the acting is beautifully over the top, and I will never not love Carol Burnette in anything. 

For Your Group of Guy and Girl Friends

1. Spotlight (96% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Why it's great: Doesn't it sound super light and fun? I realize it's not. BUT, YOU GUYS. This movie should be boring as hay-yull, and it's NOT. I couldn't believe how riveting it was, how amazing the acting was (hello, Mark Ruffalo, how you doin...), and how I wanted to talk about it for an hour after it was over. That's why it's such a great movie night for a certain group of friends... there's so much to talk about after. There's a reason this movie killed at the Oscars. Trust me. Plus Rachel McAdams in 90s pleated khakis amen.

2. Doctor Strange (90% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Why it's great: You'd think I would say Benedict Cumberbatch and walk away, right? You would be wrong. Actually I'll Benedict Cumberbatch + Rachel McAdams and then walk away. Kidding. This movie is so fun. Quirky (thanks, Tilda Swinton), super cool saturated cinematography, a passable American accent and 'tude from BC that makes it even harder to not force him to marry me, and a story that fits in the Marvel universe without feeling overdone. It's different, full of action, and has something for everyone.

3. Zodiac (89% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

Why it's great: I won't lie to you; this mess is scary. There are a couple of scenes that are so simple in their terror that you wonder if you actually have a spine. No gore, no blood, just suspense at its best. Plus the performances by Jake Gyllenhaal (yes, please), Mark Ruffalo (umm, really??), and Robert Downey Jr. (an embarrassment of riches, really) are fantastic. 

P.S. If you have your eye on a dude and need a reason to snuggle closer, I'm not saying this movie will help you do that, but I also can't say it won't.

4. The Man From Snowy River (80% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: In 1880s Australia when young Jim Craig's father dies, Jim takes a job at the Harrison cattle ranch and he is forced to become a man.

Why it's great: Sweaty Australians on horses, unrequited love, an underdog meets coming of age story, Kirk Douglas at his most crotchety, and a STUNNING film score. This movie has been a favorite since I was a kid and still holds up. 

5. Braveheart (78% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, Sir William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England.

Why it's great: Epic. Epic epic epic. It's a tiny bit slow in places plus there's a sexy scene that might make a coed group slightly uncomfortable, but other than that, it deserves all the Oscars it won 20 years ago. Such a great movie that you haven't seen in years or never actually did. Plan a movie night, and change that.

For a Girls' Night

1. Laura (100% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.

hy it's great: Dana Andrews, y'all. DANA FREAKING ANDREWS is why it's great. Old school film noir was made for a bunch of ladies on a microfiber sofa and a bottle of chardonnay, and this movie is practically perfect. So moody. SO GREAT. 

2. Howards End (92% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: A businessman thwarts his wife's bequest of an estate to another woman. (Terrible description, but whatever.)

Why it's great: You've got class issues, bizarre love triangles, amazingly coifed hair, and a cast to kill. Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave... possibly one of the best acted movies ever. 

3. The Imitation Game (90% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

Why it's great: I could talk about the score, the acting, the riveting story, the beautiful direction... all are fantastic. But, LADIES. Benedict Cumberbatch. Matthew Goode. Allan Leech. Mark Strong. Keira Knightley. This movie is loaded with pretty people and awesome costumes. It won an Oscar for its screenplay and was nominated for picture, directing, editing, score, production design, and acting for both BC and Keira. Y'all. IT'S SO GOOD.

4. Mean Girls (84% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George.

Why it's great: Well, Tina Fey wrote it, so that's a thing. Lizzy Caplan is an insecure goth girl, and that's amazing. We get to remember that Lindsay Lohan was actually really good before life went upside down. And Rachel McAdams as the main mean girl? And she's PERFECT??? We haven't even talked about Gretchen Wieners having a Toaster Strudel fortune or Karen Smith predicting the weather with her boobs. THIS MOVIE IS JUST SO GOOD. Such a great rewatch with a cocktail in hand.

5. While You Were Sleeping (80% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Plot from IMDb: A hopeless romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient.

Why it's great: Sandy came on the scene in Speed and then five minutes later STOLE OUR COLLECTIVE HEART with one of the most charming rom-coms ever. Her big sweaters, her creepy neighbor, Peter Boyle as the perfect ornery dad, and Bill Pullman. William James Pullman. The denim jacket, the rocking chairs, the floppy 90s bangs... this movie is perfect. There will never be another movie like it.

What will you watch or watch again for your summer movie night?

P.S. I had no idea there was so much Rachel McAdams on this list, and I'm not at all sorry.

Wonder Women, First Half of Round One

In the interest of equality and summertime fun, we're going to vote for our favorite ladies in Hollywood. 

I know; it's a little overwhelming.

A few notes before we start:

  1. No voting for our favorite [insert name here] like we did with the guys. Too many names, way too many awesome Jennifers. We're starting with the bracket.
  2. The choices are living actors or have at least had a modicum of success in acting. No musicians, personalities, or beloved deceased ladies. 
  3.  This bracket has been through a VERY INTENSE vetting process. I apologize if your person was left out, but it's because they didn't meet the qualifications of being generally popular + popular with the past voting sensibilities of this group. It's a field of 128 which seems like a lot, but IT'S NOT. So many omissions, ones that made me weep. They're seeded according to general popularity which I ascertained in various ways. Please trust me. I don't want to make you angry or cry. This is the best it can be amen.
  4. We'll vote every Friday until we have a winner. Voting is open each week until Wednesday evenings, and then I have to close it in order to get the next round ready.
  5. This is for your FAVORITE. Not prettiest (we're bigger than that), not most talented (everyone has skills, y'all)... just your favorite human person from the choices in front of you.
  6. Be nice in the comments. If I can tone down my hatred of Anne Hathaway for the masses, you can, too.


Oh, and I don't have a bracket for you to fill out; I can't find one big enough! We'll do two regions today and two next week. It's a LOT, so strap in.

P.S. So you don't get confused, today we're doing regions one and four since they're paired together in the overall bracket. I told you; this whole thing is super scientific.

P.P.S. I'm saving detailed background checks for later rounds. Frankly, I don't have time to research 128 women as much as I wish I did. #children You get snippets, and we'll get detailed later.


#1 Sandra Bullock vs. #32 Jessica Alba

Sandy, America's sweetheart amen. (Sorry, Julia.)
While You Were Sleeping, The Blind Side, Hope Floats, Gravity, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality

Jessica, mediocre actor turned lifestyle brand mogul. Respect.
Fantastic Four, Honey

#16 Glenn Close vs. #17 Jenna Fischer

Glenn, consummate professional with an epic career.
Damages, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Stepford Wives, 101 Dalmatians, Fatal Attraction, The Natural, Air Force One

Jenna, Pam Pam Pam Pam plus she makes face sandwiches for her kids on Instagram.
The Office, The Giant Mechanical Man, Blades of Glory

#8 Julia Louis Dreyfus vs. #25 Lauren Cohan

Julia, the most accomplished comedic actress in history.
Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Veep

Lauren, a beloved and still alive (for now) character on The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

#9 Meg Ryan vs. #24 Alicia Vikander

Meg, our 90s best friend. And that hair.
Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Courage Under Fire, City of Angels, In the Land of Women

Alicia, a shockingly beautiful human who has a short but incredible career pluuuus Michael Fassbender is her boyfriend. I mean.
Ex Machina, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne, The Light Between Oceans

#4 Emma Watson vs. #29 Margot Robbie

Emma, an activist and our modern day Audrey Hepburn plus Hermione.
Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast, The Circle, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and a magical turn in This Is the End

Margot, an up and coming beauty who told Leonardo DiCaprio to get out of her light. Yes.
The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time, Suicide Squad, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Focus

#13 Jessica Chastain vs. #20 Robin Wright

Jessica, a perfect performer, no bad choices, and the most perfect face.
The Martian, Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty, The Help, The Tree of Life, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, The Huntsman: Winter's War

Robin, a princess turned badass.
The Princess Bride, Wonder Woman, House of Cards, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, Moneybag, White Oleander, Unbreakable

#5 Connie Britton vs. #28 Krysten Ritter

Connie, Tami Taylor, Rayna James, and HAIR GOALS.
Friday Night Lights, Nashville, This Is Where I Leave You, 24, Spin City, American Horror Story

Krysten, a background player that steals the scene and then came Jessica Jones. Praise.
Jessica Jones, Breaking Bad, Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23, Big Eyes, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars

#12 Taraji P. Henson vs. #21 Allison Janney

Taraji, quite simply a rockstar.
Empire, Hidden Figures, Person of Interest, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Allison, an award shoe-in who keeps killing it.
The West Wing, Juno, Mom, American Beauty, The Girl on the Train, Masters of Sex, The Way Way Back, The Help, Away We Go, Hairspray

#3 Emily Blunt vs. #30 Anna Kendrick

Emily, perfection inside a person and married to a Final Four pick in John Krasinski.
The Devil Wears Prada, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, Sicario, The Huntsman: Winter's War, The Adjustment Bureau, The Young Victoria

Anna, a musical theater tiny person rockstar who needs to start making better career choices.
Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Into the Woods, Cake, Drinking Buddies, Twilight

#14 Sally Field vs. #18 Jodie Foster

Sally, she's basically our mom.
Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump, Lincoln, The Amazing Spiderman, Brothers and Sisters, ER, Steel Magnolias, Norma Rae

Jodie, and she's basically our big sister. 
The Silence of the Lambs, Contact, Nell, Panic Room, Elysium, Flightplan, Sommersby, Taxi Driver, Freaky Friday

#6 Rachel McAdams vs. #27 Gal Gadot

Rachel, perfection. I mean, total and utter perfection.
The Notebook, Spotlight, Doctor Strange, True Detective, Mean Girls, Southpaw, The Vow, Sherlock Holmes, Midnight in Paris, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Family Stone, Wedding Crashers

Gal, an intense bummer that Wonder Woman is up against Rachel because she's transforming film as we speak.
Wonder Woman, Batman v. Superman, Fast & Furious, Date Night

#11 Viola Davis vs. #22 Blake Lively

Viola, a classy talent beyond reproach and a chameleon
How to Get Away With Murder, The Help, Fences, Suicide Squad, Ender's Game, Prisoners, Eat Pray Love

Blake, annoyingly beautiful and married to someone else who's annoyingly beautiful.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Green Lantern, Gossip Girl, Age of Adaline, The Town, The Shallows

#7 Natalie Portman vs. #26 Marion Cotillard

Natalie, a spunky water sprite who's been acting since she was a fetus
Black Swan, the early Star Wars movies, V for Vendetta, Jackie, Jane Get Your Gun, Thor, Brothers, The Other Boleyn Girl, Garden State, Cold Mountain, Where the Heart Is

Marion, a French acting goddess with a perfect face
La Vie En Rose, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Rust and Bone, Assassin's Creed, Macbeth, Midnight in Paris

#10 Helen Mirren vs. #23 Alison Brie

Helen, seriously? There are no words.
The Queen, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Calendar Girls, RED, Trumbo, The Last Station, Gosford Park

Alison, she's not just funny, y'all.
Community, Mad Men, Get Hard, The Lego Movie

#15 Angelina Jolie vs. #18 Ginnifer Goodwin

Angelina, a super interesting personal life and an unpredictable career propelled her to stardom.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Girl Interrupted, Salt, Wanted, Maleficent, A Might Heart, The Good Shepherd, Lara Croft, The Bone Collector

Ginnifer, a pretend princess who actually married her prince
Once Upon a Time, He's Just Not That Into You, Big Love, A Single Man, Walk the Line, Mona Lisa Smile, Ed

#2 Tina Fey vs. #31 Jennifer Love Hewitt

Tina, we all want to be here so there's that.
Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Date Night, Baby Mama, Mean Girls, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, This Is Where I Leave You, Muppets Most Wanted

Jennifer, a teen idol and still around
Ghost Whisperer, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Can't Hardly Wait, Party of Five, Criminal Minds, The Client List, Sister Act 2, Kids Incorporated

Time to vote for Region One! (Keep scrolling for Region Four.)

There's more! Keep scrolling for the next region!


#1 Meryl Streep vs. #32 Kathryn Hahn

Meryl, zero words needed. But probably more space to list all of her movies.
The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia, Doubt, Out of Africa, Kramer v. Kramer, It's Complicated, Mamma Mia, Into the Woods, August: Osage County, The Hours, Adaptation, Marvin's Room, The Bridges of Madison County, The River Wild, The Iron Lady, Sophie's Choice, The Deerhunter

Kathryn, the sidekick impossible to not love.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Crossing Jordan, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Bad Moms, Transparent, Parks and Rec, This Is Where I Leave You, Revolutionary Road

#16 Helen Hunt vs. #17 Judi Dench

Helen, a comedic actress turned dramatic and still kicking, y'all.
Twister, As Good As It Gets, Cast Away, Mad About You, What Women Want, The Sessions, Pay It Forward, St. Elsewhere

Judi, she's a dame and she's James Bond's boss. WINNING.
Casino Royale etc., Philomena, Pride and Prejudice, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, J. Edgar, Jane Eyre, Chocolat, Shakespeare In Love, 84 Charing Cross Road, A Room with a View

#8 Melissa McCarthy vs. #25 Susan Sarandon

Melissa, possibly the funniest human on the planet right now.
Bridesmaids, Gilmore Girls, Mike and Molly, The Heat, Spy, Ghostbusters, St. Vincent, This Is 40

Susan, a pot-smoking party animal who is still one of the best actresses ever.
Stepmom, The Client, Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Feud, The Lovely Bones, Elizabethtown, Anywhere But Here, Bull Durham, Little Women

#9 Katie Holmes vs. #24 Yvonne Strahovski

Katie, could she have a more bizarre personal life?
Dawson's Creek, Batman Begins, The Kennedys, Ray Donovan, The Giver, Thank You For Smoking, First Daughter, Pieces of April

Yvonne, if you play Chuck's girlfriend, you're automatically a favorite.
Chuck, The Handmaid's Tale, 24: Live Another Day, The Astronaut Wives Club, Dexter

#4 Lauren Graham vs. #29 Holly Hunter

Lauren, the most normal famous person out there. Please be our friend, Lauren!
Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, Evan Almighty, Bad Santa, Sweet November, NewsRadio

Holly, if you ever meet me in real life, I can do an awesome Holly Hunter impression.
The Firm, Batman v. Superman, The Piano, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Saving Grace, The Incredibles, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Crash, Always

#13 Julie Bowen vs. #20 Ellie Kemper

Julie, she made all of us stay-at-home moms normal again.
Modern Family, LOST, Ed, Happy Gilmore, Boston Legal, Weeds, ER

Ellie, ohmygosh she's so cute please let her live with me.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Office, Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street, The Mindy Project

#5 Zooey Deschanel vs. #28 Jessica Lange

Zooey, the original hipster.
New Girl, 500 Days of Summer, Elf, Almost Famous, Yes Man, The Happening

Jessica, a powerhouse for decades.
American Horror Story, Tootsie, Cape Fear, Big Fish, The Vow, Feud, Rob Roy

#12 Keira Knightley vs. #21 Tilda Swinton

Keira, she came out of her mother wearing a corset.
Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually, The Imitation Game, Everest, Begin Again, Atonement, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Jack Ryan

Tilda, the weirdest chick in history and possibly one of the most talented.
The Chronicles of Narnia, Doctor Strange, We Need to Talk About Kevin, War Machine, Trainwreck, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer, Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton

#3 Jennifer Garner vs. #30 Felicity Jones

Jennifer, our beloved one with dimples and a killer right hook.
Alias, Juno, Dallas Buyers Club, 13 Going on 30, Miracles from Heaven, Catch and Release, Daredevil

Felicity, a newer face but one that will be around a long time.
The Theory of Everything, Rogue One, Inferno, The Amazing Spiderman, The Tempest

#14 Monica Potter vs. #19 Lupita Nyong'o

Monica, another TV mom that made us all feel normal in our insanity.
Parenthood, Patch Adams, Boston Legal, Trust Me, Con Air

Lupita, is there a more stunning human and soul out there? Gracious.
12 Years a Slave (her first real role, y'all), Queen of Katwe, The Force Awakens, The Jungle Book

#6 Mindy Kaling vs. #27 Diane Lane

Mindy, a boss lady powerhouse who's hilarious and doesn't back down.
The Mindy Project, The Office, Inside Out, and soon to be in the new all female Oceans 8

Diane, she's who we want to be when we grow up.
Trumbo, Batman v. Superman, Man of Steel, Inside Out, Unfaithful, Secretariat, Nights in Rodanthe, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Perfect Storm, Murder at 1600, Lonesome Dove 

#11 Charlize Theron vs. #22 Diane Keaton

Charlize, it's impossible that she's a real human.
Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hancock, That Thing You Do, The Road, Arrested Development, The Italian Job, Sweet November, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Cider House Rules

Diane, the definition of quirky and still very beloved.
Father of the Bride, Annie Hall, The Godfather, The Young Pope, The Family Stone, Something's Gotta Give, Marvin's Room, The First Wives Club

#7 Julie Andrews vs. #26 Sarah Paulson

Julie, she's the only person who could play a queen and we actually forget that she's not one.
Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, The Princess Diaries, Julie's Greenroom, Despicable Me

Sarah, she can't miss. A massive talent.
The People v. OJ, American Horror Story, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 12 Years a Slave, Carol, Mud, Deadwood

#10 Kerry Washington vs. #23 Kate McKinnon

Kerry, no one has done more for the popcorn industry.
Scandal, Django Unchained, Ray, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Last King of Scotland, Boston Legal

Kate, laugh out loud funny.
Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, Rough Night, Office Christmas Party, Ted 2

#15 Michelle Williams vs. #18 Scarlett Johansson

Michelle, an indie film water sprite with a tragic personal life and the best public best friend ever.
Dawson's Creek, Manchester by the Sea, Brokeback Mountain, My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island, Blue Valentine, Oz the Great and Powerful

Scarlett, real talk I'm not a fan, but you can't deny she's a huge star.
The Avengers etc., Lost in Translation, He's Just Not That Into You, Her, Chef, Lucy, Vicky Christina Barcelona, We Bought a Zoo, The Black Dahlia, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Nanny Diaries

#2 Emma Stone vs. #31 Kirsten Dunst

Emma, no one is cooler without trying to be.
La La Land, Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love, The Help, Birdman, The Amazing Spiderman, Zombieland, Superbad

Kirsten, a child actor that dropped off and has since made a huge resurgence.
Little Women, Bring It On, Fargo, Spiderman, Hidden Figures, All Good Things, Elizabethtown, Wimbledon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mona Lisa Smile, The Virgin Suicides

Voting closes Wednesday, June 28th! Next round goes up Friday. Peace be with you and yours, Wonder Woman.

How to Survive Dinnertime Panic

We all have the same 5 o'clock panic origin story...

"I don't know what we're having for dinner."

And if kids are involved, you also have to contend with them being irrational food monsters. 

Here's how you survive. Ready?

Step One: Don't panic.

I know; it's easier said than done. 

See, your brain has a panic mode, and when it's in panic mode, it doesn't make the most rational decisions. There's actual sciency stuff about it. When you panic, your brain chooses survival over logic. 

Survival looks like this.

And logic looks like this.

When you slow down and take a literal deep breath, that tells your brain you're not dying and that you actually have time to figure out a plan from the garbage situation you find yourself in. 

Your circumstances don't change, but your attitude does. 


Step Two: Look at your list of panic meals.

You have to force your brain to be logical, so help it along by having a list of choices. Otherwise you'll only come up with this.

Your list is like a snowflake; it will look different than anyone else's. Sure, grab ideas where you can, but remember that you get to decide what works for you and your particular brand of panic + cooking skills + budget + time + picky eater quotient.

That's why you need a list. Not a list in your head. You need actual words your brain can read to pull you back from the ledge of dinner panic. Put it on the fridge, in your planner, in your Notes app, on Evernote... whatever makes your brain feel safe. 

And if you want extra credit or if you're not naturally detailed, add details to each meal. For example, if the idea is meatball subs, the detailed tasks might include microwave meatballs, grate cheese, slice and sauté onions and peppers, slice bread, etc. I know you're smart and that you know how to make a meatball sub, but when you're panicked, all bets are off. And if you've already had a bad day or have kids screaming at you or just can't. do. it. anymore, giving your brain some time off is worth it.

Need some ideas to get started? Here are a few...

  • Mediterranean wraps: naan or flatbread (freezer), Italian dressing, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta, and deli turkey or rotisserie chicken
  • Oven nachos
  • Noodle bowls
  • Arugula salad with Parmesan chunks and a fried egg
  • Italian panini: deli meat, salami, cheese, roasted red pepper, pesto
  • Steak tacos: sliced marinated meat from the freezer, tortillas charred on the stove, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, salsa
  • White bean salad: canned white beans, chopped tomato, cucumber, onion, feta cheese, Italian dressing, rotisserie chicken
  • Grilled cheese and roasted green beans (beans in one layer with olive oil and salt pepper at 425 degrees for 20 minutes while the grilled cheese cooks)
  • BLTs
  • Spinach artichoke pasta: think dip but with pasta... frozen spinach, canned artichokes, lemon, parsley, Parmesan, pasta, cream
  • Sweet potato black bean burritos: diced and steamed sweet potatoes, canned black beans, chipotle sauce, cheese, lettuce, wrapped in warm flour tortillas

Step Three: Choose and delegate.

Choose the panic meal you already have ingredients for. Don't carry your panic to the grocery store, y'all; you'll lose your resolve to actually cook and are very likely to make a decision you'll deeply regret later. 

Choose your meal, and if you have other people in your house, delegate listed (or in your head) tasks to anyone else who's eating with you. Sally grates cheese. Bobby's in charge of setting the table. Johnny opens cans. 

Getting all of your Walton children on board with the process, even if it's just one task, will get dinner on the table quicker, will (POSSIBLY) provide family bonding time, and will continue a culture of being around food together. 


Step Four: Tell yourself the truth.

If the panic stays panicky, if the meal is gross, if everyone is yelling, it doesn't change who you are as a person.

If the panic turns to euphoria, if the meal is amazing, if dinner ends with trust falls, it doesn't change who you are as a person

Your value doesn't come from how well you succeed or how dramatically you fail. Your value is rooted in love, not lists. Remember the love of your family, your friends, yourself, and the God who made you. Even if you don't believe in that last part, the love is still the truth. So don't let a wonky meal or angry attitude or another trip to McDonald's get you down. 

Now go on... be kind to yourself.

Skeptical? Feel like you need an attitude adjustment? This week's podcast episode is for you... The Lazy Genius Gets an Attitude Adjustment About Her Cooking. Check it out.

11 Summer Books You Don't Have to Wait For

Summer reading has become my new favorite industry. We're lawfully required to have a book in hand if we're within ten miles of water, and I'm all...

My favorite spot to get book recommendations is my friend Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy, and she just put out her annual summer reading guide and I'm all...

Some of my favorite reads have been in past guides - The Secret Keeper, Ready Player One, Eligible, Jane Steele - but the bulk of her suggestions are new releases, i.e. library waiting lists are months long and hard copies won't be on sale for awhile.

So what's a girl to do? If you're impatient, here are some beloved books to read this summer while you wait for your turn at the library. A few of these are currently just a few bucks on Kindle, so click the title and see if your favorite is super cheap right now.


Token YA Pick

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Have you seen JunoMosquitoland doesn't resemble it in terms of plot, but do you remember how you felt after you watched it? How it was unlike anything you'd ever seen but still seemed so familiar? That's how Mosquitoland feels. It was quirky and quick, lighthearted and heartbreaking, and a delight to read. 

The story follows a teenage girl who runs away from home after her parents split up. It's a self-discovery road trip story but without being dumb and predictable. I laughed, I cried more tears than a person should, and the cover is super dreamy. I adore this book.  


Weird Psychological Thriller

Black Chalk by Christopher Yates

The premise is head-scratchy but super interesting. Six college students create a game, a social experiment of increasingly embarrassing and even dangerous social situations, to see how they react, how they withstand ridicule, and maybe a little because they're insane? Who knows. The story is fascinating, the characters are rich, and the writing is solid. The ending? Meh. Until the last few pages, this book was one of my favorite page-turners ever, but the ending didn't do it for me. I'm still glad I read it, but if a lame ending ruins your experience, skip this one. Otherwise, crazy good. And also crazy. 

Even Creepier Psychological Thriller

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

You've heard the name because Gillian Flynn wrote Gone Girl. This didn't get the same buzz, but man is it good. The story centers around Libby Day, a woman who's lived an oddly secluded life ever since her mother and sisters were murdered when she was seven. The murderer? Her 15 year-old brother. But there has been a vocal group of people who believe Ben is innocent, and 25 years later, they come to Libby hoping to unofficially open the case. The story is dark because it's about a murder but even more so because Libby's soul is tragically wounded. Her angst, anger, desperation, and vulnerability ooze off the page. Super engrossing, creepy, dark, and awesome.

Dystopian Series You'll Forever Be Obsessed With

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I still don't understand why more people haven't read this trilogy. It's one of my favorites EVAH. It's if The Hunger Games and Star Wars had a spy thriller baby. Y'all, it's so good. SO. GOOD. Darrow lives and works in a mining colony on Mars, preparing the planet for habitation. After his wife is accused of treason and executed, he joins a secret society trying to overthrow the government that took his wife and has been lying to him his whole life. And, y'all, that's like the first couple of chapters. It's rich. In all three books, I'd read a climactic scene and think, "I can't believe the book is almost over!" and suddenly realize I wasn't even halfway through. It's such a ride, so well written, full of characters you love to root for, and the story is unlike any I've ever experienced. READ THIS SERIES NOW, OH MY GOSH.

Dystopian Series That Feeds the Divergent/Hunger Games Hole In Your Heart

Legend by Marie Lu

The United States is in turmoil (obvs), and 15 year-old June is a prodigy being groomed by the government to help bring peace and maintain control for The Republic. Day is The Republic's most wanted criminal. When June's brother is murdered and Day is the prime suspect, the manhunt leads to surprising results. Of course it does. This story is fantastic. It's really easy to imagine, the characters are believable, and there's always someone to root for, a quality that's important for a lot of readers. This entire trilogy made me so happy and narratively satisfied. 

Light and Fun

Garden Spells  by Sarah Addison Allen

Anne recommended this book to me when I was on her podcast What Should I Read Next, and it was a perfect read to counteract all of the dark dystopias I usually go for. The Waverleys have odd abilities, magical even. One sister, Claire, is a caterer who uses ingredients from the secret family garden to make delicious food that also makes the eater feel any number of feelings. Another sister, Sydney, is recently returned to the Waverly house with a daughter in tow and a mound of emotional problems that zipped-up Claire isn't ready for. It's a story about sisters, romance, and wonky Southern social circles with a few magic flowers thrown in. A perfectly lovely summer read.


Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls

My favorite memoir ever is The Glass Castle. If you haven't read it, you're welcome for the bonus pick. P.S. The movie comes out soonHalf Broke Horses is Walls' second book, but the story is technically a prequel to the first. Can memoirs have prequels? That feels weird. It's about her grandmother and mother, both of whom we experience as much older people in her own memoir, so it's fun to see their origin story. Well, maybe fun isn't the best word. It's heavy with atmosphere and drama. Half Broke Horses reads like a dusty Kevin Costner film; you practically need a glass of water as you read. But Jeanette's grandmother is AWESOME. Like, one of the coolest ladies ever. So hardcore, willing to make the tough choice, totally flawed, and a feminist before her time. I luuuuuuved this one.

Family Drama

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

This was the first Oprah Book Club choice I ever read, and I think about it to this day. Astrid and her tortured artist mother, Ingrid, live a colorful but unpredictable life. When Ingrid is convicted of murdering an ex-lover, her teenage daughter is sent from foster home to foster home, dealing with situations she never asked for or deserved. From the foster-for-profit home to the desperate-to-have-a-baby home, Astrid keeps looking for what her mother never gave her, and we wonder if she'll ever find it. It's beautiful, tragic, and hopeful. And after you read the book, the movie's actually pretty good. 

Emotional Mystery

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon has been murdered. Now she lives in an unusual version of heaven, watches over her grieving family, her confused friends, and her murderer who's still at large. All of those things make her an excellent narrator. This story is riveting, the writing is my favorite kind - beautiful and descriptive but not flowery and over the top, and even though his performance was lame in the movie, I like imagining Mark Wahlberg as the dad taking justice into his own hands. Y'all know how I feel about Mark Wahlberg. I have this one on my shelf and have grabbed for a reread more than once.

A Classic

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Yes, you get a Jane Austen pick. But have you read this one? Most people I know haven't. And if you're in those ranks, you're missing out on an amazing part of life. Persuasion is a masterpiece. If you're into unrequited love, DUDE. This one has it in spades. And the crazy part? Persuasion is said to be majorly autobiographical. Score.

Anne Elliot is plain, well mannered, and part of a respectable family, a family which persuaded her to long ago reject the proposal of a poor man she loved. When that man returns to their lives as a wealthy, successful admiral, oh man. It ain't pretty, y'all. But it's SO PRETTY. This one is a dollar on Kindle and four in paperback. Click that title up there, and get it. Right now.

Heartwarming Fantasy Series

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

Here's what I want you to do. I want you to read the first book On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and just trust me. Yes, it's a little slow in places, and longtime songwriter turned novelist Peterson is finding his way. But I PROMISE he finds it midway through the first book and KILLS IT in the final three. I love this four-book series more than Harry Potter. And Narnia. It's sacrilege I know, but it's the truth. It's BEAUTIFUL. Hopeful, engaging, exciting, fantastical, and everything you want in a series. I can't wait to read this to my kids soon, but even if you're on your own, it's well worth it. Prepare to sob like a colicky baby.

What would you add to the list? What's a great summer read that we don't have to wait for? And don't miss this week's podcast episode: The Lazy Genius Reads.

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