Sunday, December 30, 2012

Achievements of 2012

So it's the end of the year. Time to take stock and make lists of resolutions. I looked back to last year's list and I think I accomplished about 40% of what I planned. I don't know if that's good or bad.

What I managed to do in 2012:
  • Travel
    • Southern California to visit Everest & Francine Bear taking Pops along for the ride.
    • Colorado (via Nevada, Utah and Wyoming) to see K2, traveling with CPA Boy and Pops.
    • Little River with Lady Chardonnay and her daughter, mom and aunt.
    • Bodega Bay (twice) with CPA Michelle.
    • Oregon to visit Jeffy & Jilly and family for our wedding anniversary weekend.
  • Writing
    • I am not as regular as I'd like but I have blogged more often. I hope to keep this up and perhaps even up the pace a bit.
  • Projects
    • Finished my son's 6th grade scrapbook. I wasn't going to work on this --- The Boy is still too young to give a crap but he will be appreciative about it someday --- but I realized it was already to go (I map these things out in detail before I start) and I was able to whip through it. It made me so happy to finish something!
    • This is a category where I fall down a bit but I have some projects almost ready to go for the new year including:
      • The vacation album. I have a pile of memorabilia to sort through and then I will begin.
      • The K family story book. This needs to be typed up and then organized into a book format.
      • Still need to scan negatives and photographs. I have all the electronic tools necessary so I really have no excuse to keep putting it off other than it's a more boring activity.
      • I would like to have an afghan project to work on while I watch TV. I am thinking of some sort of "patchwork" pattern. We'll see.
  • I began attending movies somewhat more regularly (as opposed to maybe once a year) and I have seen 4 since October (and an opera!). I love going to the theater so I plan to keep this up.
  • I stayed reasonably healthy and kept off the 30 pounds I lost. Starting this week we will be back to regular, healthy meals again. I still need to lose lots more weight for health (and aesthetic) reasons. Plus manage a consistent exercise routine.
  • I got The Boy employed. If you constantly ask, "Got a job yet?" EVERY TIME YOU SEE HIM he will get a freaking job just to shut you up! Mission accomplished. For now. 
    • The new year will bring questions of "Got a full-time job yet?" or "Got a second job yet?" Fun, fun, fun.
  • I turned 50! I have some good genes to thank because I don't think I LOOK like I'm 50.
  • I read 120 books (or will have, when I finish my current book by tomorrow night!) which is a good round number, averaging 10 a month. This makes me happy but it's thanks to several young adult books which are quicker to read in general. In other words, I probably won't reach this total for 2013. I guess time will tell.
No doubt I'm missing a few things. But this will do for now.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Big Blank Canvas & Christmas Photos

Kel & Everest, 1967 - I was mad and refused to smile, probably because I had "suffered" to have my hair done!

Today CPA Boy went out and did errands and had lunch at IHop.

[And I just have to ask, WHY don't MY pancakes ever come out as good as those at IHop? Is it really the buttermilk that makes the difference? I am not fond of pancakes, being more of a waffle-loving girl, because they just seem like lumps of cooked dough. But IHop's? Yummo!]

We were trying to get together some plans for Christmas Eve and we were perplexed by all the possibilities and decisions to make. Normally, our holidays are pretty set in stone. We have it easy because each of our families live nearby so there's never any major travel to work out.
Kel and Ev, 1968 - Showing off my missing front teeth
  • Christmas Eve: spent with my family, where we have a buffet that hasn't changed much over the years. Cold cuts, potato salad, pizza rolls and egg rolls (as we've all aged into the hypertension and cholesterol years the rolls have started to fall out of favor), spinach dip and whatever else I am in the mood to make (crab dip, cheese rounds, onion dip, etc...).
    • If we have presents we open those next. We used to exchange with everybody but then we picked names for a few years. Now we don't exchange gifts at all. Then we used to play board games after present opening. We'd get home about 11:30 or so and need to get stockings ready or arrange things for Santa. We were lucky to get into bed by 1 am. 
Before!
After! Christmas 1969
  • Christmas Morning: up no later than 7:30ish (even earlier in The Boy's extreme youth) and spent at home where we empty our bulging stockings (we each have two, one for each foot of course!) and open the family presents. We usually need to rush through this and then get showered and dressed so we can head to CPA Boy's family home.
    • We don't eat anything at home because we will have breakfast at my in-laws' house.
    • We head out around 10:30 am which is a much more reasonable time than the 7 am time of the early years (keeping in mind the 1 am bedtime from the night before, all the cooking I had done the day before for Christmas Eve --- and the fact that I am NOT a morning person --- and I was already dragging with exhaustion).
Kel, Ev and K2 in 1970
  • Christmas Day: pick up Grandma, who makes cinnamon rolls and something called rolypolys (I have no idea how this is supposed to be spelled!) which everyone in the family but me adores. (Like non-IHop pancakes, these are just tasteless blobs of dough to me.) 
    • We have breakfast and then the kids open their stockings and presents. Once they are done we begin opening the gifts for the adults. Then we have lunch later around 2 pm, which features French Dip sandwiches. We stay until about 5 pm and then move on to...
Christmas 1971
  •  Christmas Night: dinner at my parent's house. Dad usually makes a leg of lamb and a crown rib roast (or something similar) and all the side dishes.
    • By the time dinner is done and the dishes are washed, we might play more games and then head home by 9 or 10.
  • Home on Christmas Night: our house is a sty at this point with opened presents everywhere that need to get put away. This all gets saved for December 26 though and we are so tired we go to bed as soon as we get home!
1972: Is my dress groovy or what?! (It's some sort of "pleather" if I recall correctly.)
In the early days our poor son really didn't get to enjoy any of his gifts until December 26th because we were always rushing off to the next location!

But with a combination of things our routine is starting to change. The Boy is 19, has a girlfriend and a job that requires working on Christmas Day (movie theater) so we may very well see little of him. My mom has been gone for 1-1/2 years so this will be the second one without her. That changed the plans of my brothers, Everest and K2. Now they aren't necessarily here at Christmas anymore (Ev is currently visiting but will be heading home on the 23rd). Meanwhile, Pops gets no joy from the season anymore because his wedding anniversary is December 24th.

Still groovy in 1973
So the crux of all this is we seem to have Christmas Eve to ourselves. We think we will move the opening of our stockings and family presents to Christmas Eve. We are still working out what we will eat. Possibly fondue (then we will stick to our usual selection of appetizers on New Year's Eve) or homemade pizza.

We will be having an early Christmas dinner on Saturday night while Ev is visiting so we will spend more time with CPA Boy's family on Christmas Day. And we won't have to get up too early on Christmas Day.


No doubt we will figure everything out before Monday night! Have a very Merry Christmas!

Note: I guess we must have stopped the Christmas card photos after 1973. After that we took family pictures. Those cover our teen years and are not necessarily pretty.

It seems, as of right now, that we have avoided the Mayan apocalypse but we still have a few hours left of December 21st to go here in California. Guh.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Long Weekend at the Theater


This turned out to be a big weekend at the theater for me. First, CPA Boy and I went to dinner and a movie ("Lincoln") with CPA Michelle and her husband on Friday night. And second, I saw a simulcast performance of "Aida" on Saturday.

"Lincoln" was excellent and all the accolades accruing to Daniel Day-Lewis are well deserved. I didn't think I had ever seen a Daniel Day-Lewis movie before so I looked up his filmography. Apparently, the only thing I've seen with him is "The Bounty" and in those days (mid-1980s) it was more about seeing Mel Gibson or Anthony Hopkins. I've also seen a few minutes of "A Room with a View" but I don't recall him in the scene I watched.

But I recognized many actors in "Lincoln" and that made it fun: Sally Field (obviously), Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn (from way back when he was in "The Days & Nights of molly Dodd", an all-time fave TV show of mine), Jared Harris ("Mad Men"), Hal Holbrook, James Spader ("Boston Legal" and "Pretty in Pink"), Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies" and "Wonderfalls"), Michael Stuhlbarg ("Boardwalk Empire"), Adam Driver ("Girls") and a few more.

But we didn't get home until 10:30 pm and then I had to get up on Saturday to drive to San Rafael for the 10 am broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of "Aida". "Lincoln" lasted about 3 hours, counting all the previews and "Aida" was 4 hours long, thanks to 2 intermissions. My rear is still numb from 7 hours in theater seats in less than a 24 hour period!

As for "Aida", someone in the audience sitting behind me mentioned that it was probably one of the three most famous operas. Certainly I knew the name but until I read up on it, I had no knowledge whatsoever about it. On the other hand, I know very little about ANY opera. It's always one of the "Jeopardy" categories I can answer very few clues.

So, "Aida". The basic plot is this: Aida is an Ethiopian princess who is a slave in the service of the pharaoh's daughter, Amneris. No one knows Aida is the daughter of the Ethiopian king. Both Aida and Amneris love the Egyptian general Radames. He loves Aida but is offered the hand of Amneris after his big victory over the Ethiopians.

Aida's father is captured as a slave (but the Egyptians don't know he's the king) and he guilts Aida into finding out the route that Radames and his troops plan to use to invade Ethiopia. Amneris overhears the conversation and, out of jealousy, turns Radames in as a traitor. He is condemned to death by burial in the vault beneath the temple. It turns out Aida is hiding in the vault so she can die with Radames. The end.

Other tidbits and opinions:
  • Everything is sung in opera. There is no spoken dialogue. I do not know if the performers should be called actors or singers!
  • The Met Opera broadcasts once a month to theaters all over the world. The transmission is in high-def and looked AMAZING. There were a zillion cameras and many of the shots were close-up of the performers on stage. You could see every emotion
  • During the intermissions Renee Fleming (herself a famous opera singer) interviewed the performers, the conductor, and assorted other people working backstage. You also got to see how they moved scenery around and got the stage ready for the next act.
  • The woman who performed Amneris, Olga Borodina, was just wonderful. During her final solo, when her character realizes she was wrong to turn Radames in, a single tear dropped down her cheek as she sang the last line. And we got to see it all in close-up thanks to the HD cameras. Wonderful!
  • The woman who performed as Aida was also very good and had just made her Met debut last month. Her name is Liudmila Monastyrska. 
  • As for the story of "Aida" itself, it was kind of depressing right from the start. Aida is sad because she doesn't know if her father is still alive, she is a slave and she has a forbidden love with an Egyptian. Her story never has any real moments of happiness. The minute she smiles some new sadness comes along and makes her sad again!
  • The characters are real quick to contemplate death during their low points, which seems a little much in this modern world. I kept thinking that this was NOT an opera to show to impressionable teenagers. (This could be a standard opera storyline for all I know.) And Aida does basically commit suicide at the end by sharing Radames fate.
  • I was probably the youngest person there. By far. I looked up opera and found that the Met has an average audience age of 57.7 years.
  • I didn't recognize any of the music. None of it was stuck in my head afterwards and I am usually a great sufferer from "earworms" (a piece of music that gets stuck in your head, not actual worms). The Verdi pieces I have on my iPod are mainly from "La Traviata" and "Il Trovatore". 
  • I guess I liked it a lot but I didn't love it. I will need to try other operas first to see whether it's opera or "Aida" I don't love.
  • The next Verdi opera broadcast by The Met will be "Rigoletto" in February. Also coming are "Les Troyens", "Giulio Cesare", "Maria Stuarda" and "Parsifal". I'm not sure if I will see any of them; maybe "Parsifal".
And now Christmas is just over a week away and there's still so much left to do!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Greek Cookies

Pops and I spent a few hours on Tuesday making some Greek cookies called koulourakia, a butter cookie that goes especially well with milk or coffee. (Pops also made a different Greek cookie, kourabiedes, the next day.)

Here are all the ingredients (except the flour) all ready to go: orange juice, baking powder, sugar, 1 pound butter and 12 eggs divided into yolks and whites.


This is everything blended together before the flour (14 cups of it!) gets added:


Here's Pops mixing the dough by hand because the mixer bowl was too small. When I make these someday I may try using the KitchenAid dough hooks but of course the recipe would need to be halved or quartered first.


Pops has touched every part of the each cookie but I DID see him wash his hands first! Whew!


Here he's rolling out the dough to the proper size before cutting off pieces to form the cookies.


In our family we always shape them like the letter S. Wikipedia says that the Minoans made theirs in a snake shape because they worshiped snakes for their healing powers. (Those Minoans obviously drank a bit too much ouzo.)


Once the koulourakia are formed they get brushed with egg and baked for about 25 minutes.

This is the aftermath:


 And the final, yummy result!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tree Shopping, Opera and Other Things

The Boy with his cousins KK and AK with AS on the right kicking a stump
On Saturday we went Christmas tree shopping with the Smith side of the family. My mother- and father-in-law have been tree shopping since 1963 (the year before they got married) so this is a LONG Smith Family tradition.

The younger members of the family generally kick stumps and help with cutting the tree. The place we generally go has been less thickly forested with trees so I am not sure that it will be open for much longer. It used to be a family-owned tree farm but now a fire station owns it. They sold trees to finance the new station --- which is now built --- so we think they are just selling off the remainder trees before quitting altogether. But one thing Sonoma County has a lot of are Christmas tree farms so we may need to try other farms next year.
The Boy brought The Girl so everyone got to meet her. They have been going together for almost a year now. 
I think this is a cute picture of me and CPA Boy!
Next weekend I am going to see an opera at the movie theater in San Rafael. They simulcast the performance from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I have NEVER seen an opera before!

The opera is "Aida" by Verdi. I really like his work whenever I hear it so I figured I'd start with  him. The show starts at 9:55 a.m. so I assume we will be seeing the matinee performance as it happens in NYC. More about this next week.

I have a writing project I want to work on so I will be playing with that this afternoon. It's something I already have most of the pieces of and they just need some expanding and illustrating. But there are a LOT of pieces and I am still not sure how to format the whole thing. I'll write more about this when I have finally made a dent in it.

In preparation for my project I was reading about some different types of software that writers use. One is called Scrivener which seemed intriguing. Then there are several different programs to write screenplays. I will just be using Microsoft Word for the time being.

I am also intrigued by the possibilities of self-publishing. Amazon, for example, seems to make it really easy to publish anything. But first one needs to write something worth publishing! (This particular project is not it though. Maybe the next one...)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting in the Holiday Spirit (and Fondue Update!)






I had actually brought the Christmas boxes inside from the garage just after Thanksgiving but I let them sit for a week before tackling them on Monday. CPA Boy helpfully suggested, "You can decorate the tree on Monday in between doing laundry!" THANK YOU, HUSBAND, because there's nothing that makes 6 loads of laundry fly by like doing MORE chores.

Up top we see the "Holy Family". This is how they start out the season. I have not checked to see what they are doing now. Usually Mary is huddled with the Wise Men and all the rest are worshiping the sheep. (Doesn't it seem like "worshiping" should have an extra p? Shipping? Shiping?)

I select wrapping paper with the overall color scheme of our house: red, white and black. Like these:


And yet CPA Boy pays EXTRA MONEY to have Amazon.com wrap the gifts he buys (this kills me). Which look like this under the tree right now:


In no world do the blue or gold packages match anything in the house! Oh well, they will soon be buried under the avalanche of properly color-coordinated gifts for him.

Keep in mind that I really DO appreciate that he shops for me AND "sticks to the list" (what's the point of making a list if people don't USE it?!). I just like matchy-matchy with the holiday decorations. It's always amazing that these Type-A traits pop up in me for such lame things.

Long story short: My husband is a good man in all ways about presents for me, except for this gift wrapping issue!

The tree is very small, only about 4 feet. This year I draped my snowmen garland down the sides rather than wrap it around in a spiral. This was because I put the tree in its final position before I started decorating (the lights are part of the tree) and I didn't want to move it out from the wall to decorate. I like doing the garland draping though; it's fast and easy. And it looks like the snowmen are having an orgy:


Aren't they adorable (ignoring their tendency to orgy, of course)!

Here's the finished tree:


It will look so much better with a zillion packages underneath it. (And no TV in the frame.)

So who wants to read about the fondue place? You do! You do!

The Boy and The Girl ordered the 4-course meal which includes the cheese fondue appetizer, a salad, the meat course and the dessert fondue. CPA Boy and I stuck with the fondue appetizer and salad for dinner.

But first, the menu tells you that you can only order one choice of fondue per cooktop on the table. (These are built in to the table, like a smooth top kitchen stove.) We were seated at a table for four with only one cooktop. That meant we'd all need to agree on ONE thing.

This is where being assertive helps. I asked to move to a table with TWO cooktops. The waiter looked a little put out and went to ask. All the other tables in our section were empty at this point so I could see no reason why we couldn't move tables. After a couple of minutes they moved us across the aisle to a two-cooktop table.

CPA Boy and I ordered the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue and the kids got Spinach Artichoke Cheese Fondue. They place pots on each cooktop (which are double boilers) and when the steam starts to pour out then your server returns and makes the fondue right in front of you.

Ours had a base of white wine and the spinach artichoke had a broth base. These heat up and then seasonings and cheese are added until the right consistency is achieved. Ours required MORE CHEESE which is not a bad thing. You get little bowls of bread cubes, veggies (carrots, broccoli and cauliflower; one out of three ain't bad)) and apples for dipping (diping?!) into the fondue. We still had some dippers left over by the time the cheese was gone so I have to say that you get enough of them.

I'm going to estimate that we had between one and one and a half cups of fondue. Which is a perfectly acceptable amount for an appetizer. (Still, I will make this better --- and less expensively --- on New Year's Eve.) I thought ours was a little too heavy on the wine because I tasted that more than I tasted the cheese. (We are not wine drinkers in general but I do like wine-flavored foods.)

We got our salads next. Three California Salads (and one Caesar Salad for CPA Boy). Totally fine but nothing out of the ordinary if you eat salads regularly: baby greens, roma tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, and raspberry vinaigrette.

Then the main course for the kids (who are both 19 but will forever remain "kids" to me) consisted of a platter of raw meats and more varied vegetables to go with their boiling pot of vegetable broth. The meats included ahi tuna, shrimp, seasoned sirloin, teriyaki sirloin and marinated chicken.

[And seriously, Spell Check? You want me to correct "teriyaki" to "sukiyaki"? You have "sukiyaki" in your dictionary but NOT "teriyaki"??]


The Boy and The Girl dug in. This portion of the meal, wherein CPA Boy and I had nothing to eat in front of us, took by far the longest amount of time. Each of those little hunks of meat took at least two minutes a piece to cook in the boiling bouillon. The kids soon learned to spear the meat or veggie and then just let it sit in the pot rather than hold each fondue fork. They give you 4 per person.

The Girl was finished eating sooner than my son but he finished every single morsel of meat so nothing went to waste. He is a bottomless pit when it comes to food.

But seriously, this part of the dinner must have taken over an hour. By the time dessert fondue was ordered we two old folks were definitely ready for more food! (We got there at 5:30 and left just before 8:30.)


For dessert The Boy wanted a chocolate fondue that had caramel in it and The Girl didn't so the guys switched chairs. The Boy and I shared the Flaming Turtle (milk chocolate, caramel and candied pecans, flambeed tableside!) and CPA Boy and The Girl shared the Yin and Yang (pictured above, with tray of dippers), which was dark and white chocolates in the design you see above. The dippers included pieces of bananas, strawberries, cheesecake, marshmallows, rice krispie treats, brownies and pound cake. I ate a reasonable amount (I think I tried a piece of each dipper) and The Boy polished off the rest. Again, bottomless pit.

I think with the picture above, using the pieces of banana in the bottom left as a size guide, you can see how big their fondue pots are (they are double boilers, remember, so the fondue does not go near the bottom level of the pot itself.). I am curious what would have happened had we remained at a one-cooktop table. Bigger pots? I never saw any but maybe I just didn't notice.

And again, I will make this so much less expensively for New Year's Eve! So our final review is, while it was a nice one-time thing, we'd rather go the the Cheesecake Factory (leftovers for a second meal!) and make fondue at home. Or go there just for dessert (again, one piece of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake lasts for two servings!).

We are glad we didn't order the meat course because we would not have been able to eat much of it and I am not sure what one does with leftover raw meat chunks. Take them home and cook them later?? Seems a little too complex, doncha think?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fondue for the Rich


For The Boy's birthday we gave him coupons for things like "One Month's Free Rent" (he used that one immediately), "One $50 Gift Card of Your Choice", and "One Dinner (with one guest and parents) at the Restaurant of Your Choice". So tonight we have reservations at a restaurant called The Melting Pot.

Originally we thought it was a restaurant in San Francisco (it's actually in Larkspur down in Marin County) and my heart fell. The idea of driving into the City for dinner makes my heart grow cold. Just the idea of parking is enough to make you lose your appetite.

Plus we are in the middle of a series of huge storms, dumping inches of rain in the North Bay causing flooding everywhere. Usually our rain is a series of showers, sometimes not much more than a light mist. But these storms have been hours-long downpours so the ground is saturated, hence the major flooding.

Yeah, driving into San Francisco? NOT my idea of fun. Driving down to Larkspur won't be huge fun either in the pouring rain but CPA Boy's office is just down the street from this restaurant so finding it and parking won't be the nightmare it could be.

Anyway, this restaurant was something selected by The Boy's girlfriend. (My son wouldn't know a fondue pot if it hit him upside the head.) And it's basically a fondue restaurant. So far so good.

BUT! It's hugely expensive! I like eating at restaurants that specialize in something I can't do well at home (I'm too nervous to spend big money on fancy cuts of beef that I can easily turn into hockey pucks when I can have them cook it perfectly at Outback or Cattleman's. (And if it's not perfect enough you can send it back for something else. Can't do that at home with broiled hockey puck.)

And I was reading more about this fondue place on-line and here's what I learned:

There are four courses available: an appetizer fondue (your choice of fondue and bread, apples and veggies), a salad, a main course fondue (your choice of fondue, cooking style and a tray of assorted meats) and a dessert fondue.

All well and good.

BUT! Focus on the main course fondue for a moment. "Cooking style." One might think that that's how the meats get cooked and you have the fun of dipping the tasty morsels into the cheese. BUT no, the meat comes to the table UNCOOKED. So you get to cook your meat in a pot of oil, THEN you get to dip into the cheese.

As a review on Yelp put it, "when I eat filet mignon, I like it right off the grill, NOT boiled in oil."

So CPA Boy and I will stick to a la carte appetizer and dessert fondues. Maybe a salad. If we are going to splurge and eat out a an expensive restaurant, the least we expect is that our food gets cooked FOR us, not BY us.

Note to self: make sure to put reasonable limits on any future birthday coupons!

And since fondue is so ridiculously simple to make, CPA Boy and I decided to make fondue for our New Year's Eve meal instead of our usual selection of appetizers. (These things might get moved to Christmas Eve or CPA Boy's birthday in January.) We have two crock pots so one for cheese and one for chocolate. Join us and we promise you won't need to cook your own food!

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 Books

Only 5 books this month which is a PITIFUL total for me. I tried starting 3 or 4 others but I didn't make it past the first few pages. Plus I had a backlog of magazines to read through so that took away from book time. I hope December will be better but since it's definitely a busier social month it usually doesn't work out that way.

Here's the paltry (but full of quality!) list for November:

NON-FICTION
  • Elizabeth Taylor: Her Place in the Sun: A Shining Legacy on Film by Cindy De La Hoz
    • The Lindsey (Egad, is her name spelled with an "e" or an "a" at the end? I don't care enough to check.) Lohan biopic was much in the TV news this week. I caught about a minute of it because, well, I just had to see for myself.
      • One of the many criticisms was that LL used her regular, raspy voice when we all know ET had a very different way of speaking. And this was true.
    • This is a coffee table-sized book and it was great to peruse while I cooked dinner. Set the timer, read about a film or two, perform the next dinner task, read about the next movie and so on.
    • I have seen a LOT of her movies! National Velvet, Lassie Come Home, The White Cliffs of Dover (her character is played as an adult by June Lockhart!), Little Women, Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Ivanhoe, The Last Time I Saw Paris, Giant, Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, Anne of the Thousand Days (bit part but you can't miss her).
    • Although I have seen a couple of her films with Richard Burton I would definitely like to see more of them.
    • The book offers many pictures and behind-the-scenes stories of each film. Much of her private life is included as it always impacted her acting choices.
    • A
  • New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families by Colm Toibin
    • The first chapter was fascinating, about how mothers are often dispensed with and replaced by aunts instead, focusing on books by Jane Austen and Henry James in particular.
    • Then the next chapters covered writers I had never read (or heard of in the case of J. M. Synge) and that made for harder going. If you haven't read at least one of the works of the authors covered the chapter was not as interesting so I skimmed a lot until I got to the parts about Tennessee Williams and John Cheever.
    • What I read was excellent but so much was lost on me.
    • B
FICTION
  • The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
    • The seventh book in the Thursday Next series. I really love these books. They include literary illusions and wordplay in an alternate universe. 
    • I enjoyed the first few books better because they feature characters from various books (Thursday can go in and out of "Book World") and that made it more fun, especially when you'd read the books the characters came from.
    • The more recent books tend to focus on Thursday and her husband and children and while still entertaining are less FUN somehow.
    • This book had a subplot about Thursday's daughter Jenny who is actually a "mindworm" (thanks to an arch villain). She does not exist but the characters think she does and the conclusion of this plot is sweet and sad.
    • A
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • The first volume in a new Young Adult series. (WHY do I keep doing this to myself?!) The next books are set to come out in Summer 2013 and Summer 2014. Guh.
    • This book features a woman named Alina and her discovery of the power to summon sunlight. The world is a mythical but its based on Russia, here called Ravka.
    • I will wait patiently for the next two books as I enjoyed this one very much.
    • B+
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    • A teen with incurable cancer named Hazel meets Augustus, another teen who's now cancer-free, at a support group.
    • Just reading that sentence doesn't exactly make you want to jump for joy because you JUST KNOW going in that there probably won't be sunshine and lollipops at the end. But John Green co-wrote one of the best books I've read this year (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and it's gotten some great reviews.
    • And it is wonderful. I figured out where the plot was going with the help of a couple of foreshadowing moments so that kind of helped me brace for the end. Mr. Green really knows how to write the world of young adults.
    • A

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crazy Time

I got back from Bodega Bay two weeks ago and haven't had a minute to blog since! Until now. Obviously.

By the way, Bodega Bay was amazing! The weather was absolutely perfect: clear skies, no fog, temperature about 70 degrees and NO WIND. For the Northern California coast this was almost unprecedented! The only exception I know where the weather is consistently good is Santa Cruz but the rest of the coast is mostly cool, foggy and windy.

Pops and I went down to my aunt's house to help start the work of getting it ready to sell or rent. She lives in a residential care facility and her memories have been going bit by bit over the last few years. The bottom line is, she will never get "well" to go home. My aunt is the sweetest person I've ever known. It's never easy watching someone "disappear" right in front of you.

She had many things that my Greek grandmother, who died in 1984, had made so I have been sorting and cataloging it. Here are a few examples (along with the one up top):


And these are just the tip of the iceberg!

Then, all of a sudden it seemed, Thanksgiving was upon us. We had dinner at my in-laws home on Thursday (and it's always nice to hang out with the family) and then on Friday I cooked a turkey and fixings. It's one of the flaws with eating elsewhere on the holiday: no leftovers for the weekend! Tonight is turkey sandwich dinner night and tomorrow is turkey pot pie night. What's left over by then will be frozen for later use (turkey a la king!).

I am still leery of cooking Thanksgiving for the whole family yet. That would mean feeding about 15 people. Not a horrifying number and I can actually cook a pretty good Thanksgiving dinner. (This year only the gravy was less than successful being on the thin side but it tasted just fine!).

Tomorrow I will put up our little tree and get the decorating done. I still have several gifts to buy so that means some computer time in my future. Most of my TV shows are winding down for the season in the next week or two so I have several movies on the DVR to watch. And I also look forward to my annual viewing of the Lord of the Rings films. (Somewhere, CPA Boy is groaning.)

And I've read practically nothing this month! This month's book entry will be short. (Somewhere, CPA Boy is breathing a sigh of relief.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Atlas, iPod and the Birds

CPA Boy was sick so I got to go to the movies!

Generally on Saturdays we go out for lunch and sometimes go shopping for stuff but he came home from work on Friday with a slight fever and a headache. He went straight to bed and slept for about 16 hours. (He's fine now.) But obviously it put the kibosh on our usual weekend lunch plans.


This opened up a convenient four-hour block of time so to the movies I went. I saw "Cloud Atlas" and I really liked it. It's visually gorgeous and it was fun to try to identify the different actors in multiple roles. If not for an article in Entertainment Weekly I wouldn't have recognized all of Halle Berry's roles but Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving (who easily had the best characters), and Jim Broadbent were all pretty easy to spot.

And I didn't even need to cook dinner because I bought CPA Boy a bag of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches yesterday so he is happy.

A good day all around: Kelly to the movies which makes her oh-so-happy and CPA Boy gets the house to himself (once The Boy left for work) which is a rare treat for him. And Chick-Fil-A for meals! Win-win!

Last week when I went on my walk I decided to take my iPod so i could listen to my "Exercise Playlist" which is full of fun, bouncy tunes to keep me moving quickly (I listen with only one headphone in my ear so I can hear traffic.) My iPod, which I've had for years, is one of the big ones and it has a clear plastic cover to protect it if dropped. I wasn't quite sure how to carry it so I just tucked it into my bra strap and walked my way to health.

But when I got home I saw that iPod covers are not impervious to sweat. Gross. So I decided to get myself a tiny, tiny iPod (it was $49!). I was leaning towards the pink one but when I got to the Apple store I saw they had a red one so that's what I got. It's really tiny, only one inch square and 1/4 inch wide. It will just clip to my shirt.

I'm not a fan of the Apple earbuds because they don't fit well in my itty-bitty ears but I have a different set to use.

Tomorrow I'm off to Bodega Bay for a few days. Thirty miles to oceanfront, seafood, a massage and bliss! (And more alone time for CPA Boy who gets our bed all to himself!) And going on walks with my new iPod!

Bodega Bay always makes me think of "The Birds", the Alfred Hitchcock film that was partly filmed there. I watched an HBO movie last week called "The Girl" which covered the filming of "The Birds" and "Marnie" along with Hitchcock's obsession with Tippi Hedren. Apparently there is another Hitchcock movie coming out soon, this time in theaters and starring Anthony Hopkins but that film covers the making of "Psycho".

And I have several books to delve into, including one called Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey (about Highclere Castle where much of "Downton Abbey" is filmed). Fun!

See ya next week!

Friday, November 9, 2012

I know how to use "literally"!

I notice people have been using "literally" incorrectly for years but its use literally seems to be on the rise. I am hearing it ALL THE TIME especially on TV.

Maybe it's on its way to becoming a word that changes meaning over time like "gay" or "decimate". Since "literally" is used so much in place of "figuratively" (or "figuratively speaking") I think that's what many people really think it means. But:

"Literally" means ACTUALLY or without exaggeration!

My head literally explodes every time I hear it used incorrectly! Heh.


It sure saves on hair color and makeup expenses....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Days and Other Stuff

I like voting. I turned 18 in 1980 so I got to vote in a presidential election the first year I was eligible. Years later, in 1992, I found out I was pregnant on Election Day.

Plus I had dressed up for a Halloween party that year so I have a photograph of me dressed as a pregnant nun:

Knocked-up nun and the man responsible, Halloween 1992
We had to dress up in costume for work in those days. I am pretty sure I used that same costume, with minor changes of course, to be a witch the year before or after.

So tomorrow, when Pops and I are out and about doing errands, I will need to go to my new polling location at the high school. I used to vote at the golf course club house but it closed during the sale of the golf course and hasn't opened up again.

Meanwhile I am keeping busy with various things. Like Christmas gift shopping, scheduling the guy to give an estimate on replacing the rain gutters, reading, sewing, photograph organizing, seeing movies and several other things, some fun and some not-so-fun.

CPA Boy and I saw "Argo" last weekend and we both liked it. I really want to see "Cloud Atlas" but it's an almost 3-hour film so I will need to find an empty 4-hour block of time! In other movie-related news, we watched "Clueless" the other night. Neither CPA Boy nor I had seen it before. It's a cute movie but now I really want to read Emma, the book the story was based on, but I have too many library books in the queue first. Maybe I'll squeeze it in next anyway. I still need to read Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Emma of Jane Austen's six novels.

I had not been exercising much in the last month or two and I was really going to town on the M&M dispenser in our house (yes, we have an M&M dispenser. Doesn't everyone?!) so I was petrified to weigh myself. But it needed to be done and it wasn't bad at all! Only one pound up! And I have been back to regular exercise and better eating (read: no M&Ms) the last few days so maybe the scale will move downward the next time I weigh myself.

It is so much easier to say no to things diet-wise when you have exercised that day. I just don't want the hard work to go to waste (waist?)!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012 Books

Lots of books read this month, mainly several non-fiction books which I read quickly.

NON-FICTION
  • Cool, Calm and Contentious by Merrill Markoe
    • Collection of humorous essays about her parents, her dogs, her relationships. 
    • One essay covers her relationship with David Letterman without ever mentioning him by name.
    • I enjoyed the book but was not a big lover of the dog-related essays. I'm not a big lover of dogs. I'm not even a liker of dogs.
    • B
  • Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
    • Another memoir following on the heals of Wishful Drinking which I read earlier this year. Ms. Fisher utilizes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as part of her treatment for depression. One of the side effects is memory loss. She mentions the memory loss throughout but the ECT chapter is a relatively small part of the book. She covers many other things: the loss of her father, her friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, life with her mother and various stepfathers, her marriages, her weight, her daughter, etc...
    • B
  • Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? by Whoopi Goldberg
    • Ms. Goldberg writes a series of essays on how civility has been lost, basically covering a whole raft of pet peeves and giving advice on how to behave in various circumstances.
    • This is not a comedic book so don't read it looking for laughs. I think of it as more of a behavioral guide. Sadly rude behavior is ever more commonplace.
      • Pops and I were at the grocery store yesterday and I needed to grab some onions before we moved on to other parts of the store. But a big guy had his cart in the way of both yellow and white onions and he was blocking the leeks, shallots and garlic with his body. And he was just standing there talking VERY LOUDLY on his cell phone. I said to Pops, "I'm going in," and I squeezed myself between the guy and his cart to reach for the onions I wanted. He just grabbed his cart, continued gabbing on the phone and moved himself in front of the bananas instead. Luckily I didn't need bananas. But nor did I need to hear his side of the cell phone conversation.
      • Last week we were driving in Cotati and the person in front of me was driving erratically, unable to choose a lane so she drove down the middle for a while and then put on her turn signal to change lanes. I'm not sure you can say you've truly changed lanes when you were halfway in it to begin with. As I zoomed by we saw she had her cell phone held to her ear. Which is illegal.
      • Cell phones account for the majority of the rudeness in our world today, don't ya think?
    • B
  • Fifty Animals That Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline
    • Each animal got 2 to 6 pages, depending on their importance such as earthworms for two and six for cows.
    • Lots of typos ("purp le" and I was trying to remember my high school French --- le purp? les purps? --- when all it really meant was purple) and then I find I am mentally proofreading the book instead of enjoying it.
    • I was going to try to read the other related books (Fifty Minerals, Fifty Machines) but I decided I didn't need to do that. And they're not even in my library's system so that's 2 books on my list of things to read that I can delete! Sometimes a small victory is better than reading a book.
    • C
  • Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen's Maid's Memoir That Inspired 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey' by Margaret Powell
    • Originally published in 1968 this is a quick read about a girl's start in service as a kitchen maid and her various jobs until she becomes a cook. Then she marries and leaves service.
    • If you've seen either of the two series mentioned in the title, you've seen some of her words brought to life by the writers inspired by the memoir.
    • B
  • Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield and T.R. Pearson
    • An oral history of NBC's Thursday night television history from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Interviews with actors, writers, producers and others are interspersed with comments by Mr. Littlefield who was the president of entertainment for NBC during those years.
    • The shows covered include Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, The Cosby Show, Will & Grace, Mad About You and Frasier.
    • Fun to read some background information on how some of these shows developed and became hits despite some bumpy roads.
    • B+
  • At Home on the Range by Margaret Yardley Potter
    • This is a reprint of a cookbook originally published in 1947. The author's great-granddaughter is Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame (I haven't read that book though) and she re-discovered the cookbook when unpacking some boxes of family books.
    • The recipes are written in paragraph form rather than a list of ingredients and then step-by-step instructions.
    • I only wrote down one of the recipes to try in the future called Quick Tea Cookies.
    • Elizabeth Gilbert's introduction, with the biographical sketch of her great-grandmother, was interesting and it was great fun perusing the old style recipes.
    • B
  • Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow
    • Movie critic Pauline Kael was born in Petaluma in 1919. As a current resident of this town I was especially interested in reading about that part of Ms. Kael's life but alas, her family moved to San Francisco by about page 8 and Petaluma was mentioned only once or twice more. Oh well.
    • But it was also interesting reading about the movies that Ms. Kael reviewed for The New Yorker magazine. I was not a reader of The New Yorker unless it was in a doctor's waiting room so I haven't read many of her reviews first hand nor have I read any of her books.
    • I adore movies and when I see one I like to learn about its background if I can but my research rarely delves into old movie reviews. All this is to say that I probably won't hunt down her books of compiled reviews but it was interesting to read about her life and her opinions about films. 
    • The book is very detailed so it was kind of a slog in some spots.
    • B-
  • Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Wendy Leigh and Barbara Eden
    • A memoir by Ms. Eden about her career and personal life. She is especially poignant on the topic of her son, who died of a drug overdose. 
    • But the fun part of her story is all about Jeannie and we get several fun anecdotes about the filming.
    • B
  • The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack W. Lynch II
    • Unlike some other books about grammar, this one is not a rule book. Rather it is a history of various efforts to try to regulate or officially organize the rules of English. It also covers the various dictionaries and spends a bit of time on the war on split infinitives and on prepositions at the end of sentences ("to boldly go" is a famous split infinitive).
    • I really like books about grammar so this was fun in that it includes history, another favorite topic of mine.
    • B+
  • Lucy at the Movies: The Complete Films of Lucille Ball by Cindy de la Hoz
    • Just what it sounds like, a coffee-table-sized book with lots of photos from the various films which are especially fun for the earliest films when Lucy was just an extra.
    • I didn't read the synopses of each movie included in each film's chapter but the background detail was fun and put each movie into context with where she was in her personal life.
    • It's amazing she had such a huge career in films before she ever became Lucy Ricardo. When I was little watching "I Love Lucy", "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy" I could never have told you she had been in so many movies.
    • A-
  • Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering by Meredith Baxter
    • I thought I would like this book but I didn't. Ms. Baxter presents her life in such a way that almost all of it is a relentless downer until the last few pages. 
    • It was a quick book to read though.
    • C-
  • Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer
    • I'm not sure how originally researched this book is as it has no footnotes and a huge bibliography. It might be more of a book based on other books and the close watching of Bogart's films.
    • Plus he refers to Bogart as "Humphrey" and Lauren Bacall as "Lauren" throughout which seems weird since he is almost always called Bogie and she is almost always  Betty (her real name) in other books. So sentences like "Humphrey and Lauren had a dinner party..." are just weird to read.
    • I have a biography of Spencer Tracy from the library right now so I should check and see how that book refers to the Bogarts!
    • C+
FICTION
  • Timeless by Gail Carriger
    • The fifth and final book of the Parasol Protectorate series (see the last two months of books read for more details). There is a new series coming next year which will pick up with the daughter of this book's main character.
    • I really liked this series but having read all five books in a couple of months was a little overwhelming. 
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee
    • Book 1 of the Penryn and the End of Days series. Yep, another dystopian post-apocalyptic young adult series. 
    • It has angels as the bad guys and takes place about 6 weeks after the apocalypse. I liked the story but I'm not sure I liked it well enough to pick up the next books in the series which won't be out for a year or two at the earliest.
    • B
  • Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
    • A novel mentioned in a book I read last month (Dear Pen Pal) as a classic but I had not read it or even heard of it. This is the only book by this author in my library's system so I will not be able to read the sequel to it.
    • It's a cute story about an orphan and her secret benefactor who pays her tuition for school as long as she writes a monthly letter to keep him updated to her progress.
    • It was obvious who her benefactor was early on but it was still a charming story.
    • B+
  • These is My Words by Nancy Turner
    • The novel was inspired by the author's family memoirs.The main character, Sarah Prine, tells her story in journal form. It starts in the 1870s when Sarah is 17 and concludes about 20 years later.
    • The characters travel from Arizona to Texas (and back) and suffer many hardships (characters drop like flies from disease and skirmishes with indians). 
      • It reminded me of a great story my son wrote in 4th grade about a family's covered wagon journey. In every other sentence another tragedy happens to the family as they make their way west. We read it and tears stream from our eyes because it's hilarious! The wagon wheel breaks and then Pa breaks his leg. Then he breaks his arm. And then they all get dysentery. And so on.
    • But this book was not funny and is based on real events. There are two sequels and I started reading the second book but I decided that, fascinating as its history of the Southwest is, it's just too downbeat to keep delving into for now.
    • B+
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
    • Hooray! A standalone book by an author who generally writes young adult series.
    • A plane full of teen beauty pageant contestants crash land on a deserted island. It then combines elements of Lord of the Flies, "Lost", 1984 and an intense reality show and consumerist culture to frame the story.
    • Fun read. A couple of parts are certainly implausible but others are right on the nose.
    • B+
  • Crossed by Ally Condie
    • Book 2 in the Matched series (Reached, the final book, comes out next month). The book was good and I am looking forward to the final installment, despite its focus on the "which guy will she pick" plot.
    •  Cassia spends the book trying to find and join the resistance movement while searching for Ky. Ky gets his own viewpoint chapters in this book so half is from Cassia's POV and the rest from Ky.
    • B+
  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
    • The first book in The Chronicles of Kazam series for young adults. Fforde wrote the Thursday Next series which I really love.
    • This book takes place in an alternate world where Great Britain is known as the Ununited Kingdom. And there are dragons. And magic so it's totally fun and cute.
    • The 2nd book has already been released in the UK and Canada but won't be released in the U.S. for another year or 2. Very annoying.
    • A

Friday, October 26, 2012

Actors

Here is the list of actors whose movies I try to catch, mainly on Turner Classic Movies. In no particular order...

  • Lon Chaney
    • He died in 1930, only 47 years old (lung cancer), so he made one "talkie". All the rest were silent and like many early stars, some of his films are lost.
    • He was famous for his makeup skills, portraying Quasimodo, the Phantom of the Opera, and a 100-year-old Chinese man among others. 
    • His silent screen acting skills supposedly came from the fact that both his parents were deaf and he learned to use his face and body to express himself.
    • I love watching his films, especially The Phantom of the Opera, The Unknown (with young Joan Crawford), The Unholy Three (both the silent and sound versions), and He Who Gets Slapped.
  • Buster Keaton
    • He was called The Great Stone Face for his consistently serious expression. When I typed it into the Google Images bar one of the automatic choices that came up was "Buster Keaton smiling"! And the resulting list really had the same non-smiling choices.
    • Some people tend to prefer Charlie Chaplin and some Buster Keaton. I lean towards Keaton but I have definitely liked the Chaplin films I've seen (Gold Rush, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Tillie's Punctured Romance). 
    • His movies didn't do well at the box office (though they are considered classics now) and he was no longer allowed the independence he had. Can you imagine the films he might have made had they left him alone? Oh well.
    • I have seen Sherlock Jr, The General, Steamboat Bill Jr, and a couple of others. I am trying to catch more of Keaton's films as they appear on TCM.
  • Gene Kelly
    • For a while when I was younger I thought I was somehow named after Gene Kelly since my first and middle names are Kelly Jean but I was not.
    • Again, some people prefer Fred Astaire and some people prefer Gene Kelly. I lean towards Gene but I do enjoy Fred too! I definitely need to see more Fred & Ginger movies but I've seen several of his other films.
    • As for Gene's, I have watched Singin' in the Rain, Brigadoon, The Pirate, The Three Musketeers, For Me and My Gal, Cover Girl, On the Town, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, An American in Paris, all the That's Entertainment films and a couple of others. I will be recording Inherit the Wind in a week or two.
  • Montgomery Clift
    • Another actor who died young, only 45 (heart attack not helped by drug and alcohol use). He was gorgeous until a car accident damaged his looks forever.
    • The movies I've seen include The Search (I love this one especially), The Heiress, A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, Raintree County (filming when he had his accident so you can play the macabre game of figuring out the before and after shots), Suddenly Last Summer, The Misfits and Judgement at Nuremberg.
  • Leslie Howard
    • He's probably most famous now for playing Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind where he's overshadowed by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler (as he should be in that film) but Leslie Howard was a star in his own right in the 1930s. (He was in an earlier film with Gable called A Free Soul. In that movie he murders Gable's character!)
    • Some of my fave Leslie Howard films: Pygmalion, Outward Bound, A Free Soul, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Of Human Bondage (with Bette Davis), Intermezzo (Ingrid Bergman's Hollywood debut), Stand-In, Pimpernel Smith and The Petrified Forest.
    • Howard insisted that Humphrey Bogart play Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest and he had enough star power to make it happen. The role made Bogart a star and later he and Lauren Bacall named their daughter Leslie in tribute.
    • Leslie Howard died in a plane crash in 1943 when the plane was shot down by Germans during World War II. There are several theories on why the plane was shot down: the Germans thought Churchill was on the plane, Howard was a spy, the plane was erroneously believed to have flown into the war zone, etc... Leslie Howard was only 50 at the time.
  • Humphrey Bogart
    • I just started reading a new biography of Bogart yesterday!
    • Casablanca is great, of course, and Bogart is fun to watch in The African Queen, The Caine Mutiny, Key Largo, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, Dark Passage, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Stand-In and The Big Sleep.
    • He also died relatively young at 57 (esophageal cancer)
  •  James Cagney
    • I haven't seen nearly enough of his films. I think the first one I ever saw was Ragtime in 1981 and that was his final film.
    • I adore Yankee Doodle Dandy, Footlight Parade, and The Bride Came C.O.D. I've seen many pieces of his other movies so I really need to step up my efforts.
  • James Stewart
    • There are two main reasons why I watch The Greatest Show on Earth, widely considered one of the worst pictures to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture: 
      • It has Emmett Kelly in it. He was the most famous circus clown and I have had a print from a magazine on my wall since I was very young that says "Everyone Here Loves Kelly" and it refers to him.
      • James Stewart's wonderful performance as Buttons the clown. I get tears in my eyes every time I see the scene with Buttons and his mother. He was a wonderful actor.
      • Okay, a third reason is the movie is just so terrible that it's fun to watch!
    • To wit: The Philadelphia Story, You Can't Take it with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again, The Shop Around the Corner, Rope, Rear Window, The F.B.I. Story, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Harvey and It's a Wonderful Life.
      • In the 1980s when I first caught It's a Wonderful Life I didn't like it much because it made no sense. It turns out that I had seen an very shopped up version and many scenes were excised for more commercial time. The COMPLETE film is indeed wonderful and the scene where Stewart makes his prayer to God is especially outstanding.
    • I haven't seen nearly enough of his films either. I have not seen Vertigo! Crazy.
    • Other pluses: He used to read some of his poetry on The Tonight Show. He and his wife named one of their daughters Kelly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Month's Worth of Telemarketer Calls

We all hate when the telephone rings now, don't we? Our telephone saves the last 50 calls and I just counted the legitimate calls (mainly CPA Boy calling on the way home from work each night) and there were 14. So I get calls from people I know 28% of the time.

The other 72% are telemarketers!

This seems a fairly high percentage, don't you think? I can only imagine the volume of calls if we weren't on the Do Not Call list.

There are so many exceptions to the DNC list: charities (any non-profits), political calls, surveys, collection agencies (even if you are not the person they seek), any companies you have had a relationship with for the past 18 months, and of course, the slimy telemarketers who just ignore the rules and call anyway.

Here are the calls (including the phone number and what the caller ID says) I've received for the past 50 calls (about 3 weeks worth):
  • 323-798-8977: Air duct cleaning OR Los Angeles, CA
  • 515-248-7685: National Geographic 
    • I have a subscription but some"who calls me" websites seem to indicate this is not actually affiliated with Nat Geo. 
  • 707-324-0129: Santa Rosa
    • Several local candidates are using this number for political robo-calls so these should stop after November 6.
  • 800-439-6575: 800 Service
  • 855-548-5488: 800 Service
  • 866-992-2931: 800 Service
  • 800-919-2345: 800 Service
  • 424-704-5131: four two four
    • "Helpfully", the area code spelled out is the "name" shown on the caller ID
  • 417-800-2301: Nevada, MO
  • 417-800-2317: Nevada, MO
  • 407-476-5680: Credit Services
  • 305-587-2165: Credit Services
  • 813-444-5700: Credit Services
  • 424-781-3822: Malibu, CA
  • 925-524-3099: Clayton, CA
  • 503-457-1085: Lower Interest
  • "Out of Area" - no phone number indicated
That's 17 different numbers making up 36 of the last 50 phone calls I've received.

Many of these are from "Rachel from cardholder services". The recording always ends with something along these lines: "Press 1 to talk to someone or Press 3 to be removed from the list." Because THAT will get these calls to stop. Not.

She also offers hope by saying "this is your final notice." If only, Rachel. If only.

And there is NO WAY to make them stop. You can answer the phone and connect with a "live" person and politely ask to have your name removed from the list. Invariably the person will hang up on you. They're already on to the next call. Since these telemarketers operate as if the Do Not Call list does not exist, mainly because they robo-dial EVERY residential phone number, you are just wasting your breath.

There is really no point in engaging in any sort of conversation with a telemarketer. You can blast your air horn to kingdom come but THESE CALLS WILL NOT STOP.

And then, of course, even if you decide to pick up the phone there is rarely anyone there anyway. My understanding is that several numbers are dialed at the same time and whoever answers first gets connected. All the other calls register as dead air.

No matter what, THESE CALLS WILL NOT STOP. I don't seem to get them on my cell phone but I don't give out that number to anyone so maybe that's why.

And, egad, don't even get me started on junk e-mail! (But at least you can easily delete e-mail spam.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

September 2012 Books

A bunch of fiction this month, thanks to lots of books from the library. I have at least 4 to pick up tomorrow and possibly 7.

I get many books via interbranch request but since our libraries are closed and Sunday and Mondays my books aren't always there by the time I go on Tuesdays (my general shopping and errand day) so I get those on Thursdays when I am also out running errands.

Right now the trips to the library are crazy in that there is so much work being performed on that street (this is the main artery connecting the east and west sides of Petaluma so it's busy all the time).
  • They are working on the sewer so one whole side of the street is generally closed off.
  • There is a new shopping center going in so the entrance to it is undergoing construction.
  • They are adding a new on-ramp to the freeway.
  • The railway crossings are getting upgraded in anticipation for the new SMART (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) service.
I can get to the library via the back way but sometimes I just forget, like the other day when not only did they have traffic detouring through a side neighborhood but it was time for school to get out. And once I was in that mess I was in it for about half an hour. The things I do for reading material!

And one of the new clerks at the post office knows I always get books in the mail so the other day I was in line waiting and she called out in a loud voice, "GETTING MORE BOOKS TODAY?" Well, yes, but all the other customers don't need to know that. Thank goodness I don't regularly pick up anything embarrassing.

Anyhoo, on to September books....

NON-FICTION

  • 1969: The Year That Changed Everything by Rob Kirkpatrick
    • I heard of this book because Lady Chardonnay's mom gave it to Mr. Lady C for a birthday gift. It sounded intriguing so I picked it up at the library.
    • It was pretty interesting and my favorite parts revolved around the sports events that occurred that year (the Joe Namath Superbowl and the Miracle Mets) and the music-related stories (Woodstock and Altamont).
      • Another thing I learned was that while Woodstock was going on during the weekend of August 15-18, so was Hurricane Camille. So even though I was only 7 years old, I know exactly where I was during Woodstock! In Chalmette, Louisiana, evacuating to Chalmette High School because my parents were told the levee had broken. It hadn't but I wonder how well we would have been protected at the high school. Certainly we would have lost the house (that area had at LEAST 6 feet of water in both Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and our little house was torn down in 2006 as unsalvageable) but I have no idea how high the ground around the high school is. We were up in the bleachers so assuming the building held we would have survived fine. My brother and I were pretty excited by the whole thing but my parents must have been horrified by the whole thing.
    • But back to the book, it also covered lots of things about Vietnam, riots at college campuses (this was the year before the killings at Kent State), Apollo 11's moon landing, Chappaquiddick, the Manson Family murders, the Zodiac killer, and more.
    • I think that people living in those times (yes, I lived in those times but as a 7-year-old so I was unaware of all the awful stuff going on except the hurricane, of course) must have thought the world was going to hell. There was such change during the 1960s, in music and movies, in dress, in the drugs and violence, the sexual revolution, women breaking free from the home, the civil rights movement. 
    • I found a couple of factual errors in the book so I am always leery of all the other facts but overall this was a fun read.
    • B- for the book, A+ for my family surviving Hurricane Camille with no levee breaks
FICTION
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  • The Death Cure by James Dashner
    • A three-part young adult series that starts off when a teenage boy arrives in the Glade with no memory of who he is or why he's there. All the other occupants are boys who also arrived with no memories of their past, one every 30 days. They are surrounded by a giant maze filled with deadly creatures. Then a girl arrives the next day with the message that she's the last arrival.
    • The book recounts their attempts to escape and to discover what put them there in the first place. Another dystopian series but one that doesn't completely revolve around the love connections which is refreshing.
    • I didn't love the conclusion but it didn't end ambiguously so that's a plus.
    • B for all three.
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  • Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
  • Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
    • A young woman named Yelena is a condemned prisoner who is given the choice of immediate execution or become the food taster for the Commander. Guess which one she chooses!
    • A good series but more running, escaping, traveling, plotting or hiding than magic-related stuff, which I was hoping for given the titles.
    • B- for all three
  • Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
    • Carver Young grows up in 1890s New York City, in an orphanage run by a kindly woman (which is a change of pace from almost every other book featuring orphanages) but it's closing so he has to hope for adoption, even though he is a teenager. And adopted he is by a Detective Hawking who works for the Pinkerton Agency.
    • Since Carver wants to be a detective himself it seems ideal. He wants to find his father who's he come to believe is still alive but he also finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation where the killer exhibits the modus operandi of Jack the Ripper. Could he have moved to New York?
    • Interesting book and quite exciting in parts. I especially liked the parts where Carver and his other adopted orphanage friends work together. This seems like the beginning of a series but I don't know if that's the case. Carver would be fun to follow in further adventures.
    • B+


  • Changeless by Gail Carriger
  • Blameless by Gail Carriger
  • Heartless by Gail Carriger
    • Books 2, 3, and 4 of the Parasol Protectorate series. I read book 1 in August and book 5 (the last in the series) in October.
    • The books take place mainly in 1880s London with side trips to Scotland, France and Egypt.
    • The main character, Alexia Maccon, is "soulless" and she can neutralize the powers of werewolves, vampires and ghosts so she is their natural enemy. Naturally she marries a werewolf.
    • It's definitely an entertaining series but reading them all bunched together makes it a little too cutesy. Alexia is a rich, proper lady and there's a lot of comments from her on the propriety of everything related to the whole vampire/werewolf/ghost/normal world. It gets a bit tiresome in bulk but I really wanted to get through it.
    • B+ for all three
  • Every Day by David Levithan
    • The main character, A, wakes up in a different body every day. Sometimes female, sometimes male but always A's current age which is 16. A has guidelines to live this kind of life: don't get noticed, don't interfere, don't get attached.
    • But then A wakes up as Justin and falls for Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. Since there seems to be some sort of geographic component to the situation A never wakes up more than a few hours from Rhiannon.
    • And thereby hangs the tale. It's interesting and you definitely get caught up in A and hope everything works out. The story takes place over the course of about a month.
    • The author wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green. I loved that book and am also looking forward to reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (I'm 20th on the library wait list!). I think I need to start checking out their other books.
    • A
I feel like I'm missing some books on my reading list but that's because it's October 8 and I've already plowed through 5 books this month. They'll need to wait until next month's list!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Computer, Travel, and Other Stuff

Ok, so I finally got my new computer up and running. Hence a blogging delay.
  • Transferring computer data from the old one and installing the necessary programs. 
  • Switching to a dual monitor system (totally cool!). 
  • Trying to get used to a new keyboard and mouse.
  • Figuring out how to get the number lock to already be on when the computer boots up.
  • Getting the old computer out and trying to organize a zillion wires. Ugh. (Much thanks to The Boy for his help this morning!) 
  • Trying to figure out what I did wrong with iTunes where every purchase I've ever made from there appears twice in the music library. You'd think it would be a simple deletion of one of the two duplicates but no. It would never be that simple, would it? It all seems fine now with the exception of a Donna Summer song that seems to have disappeared forever.
Then we had a heat wave with temperatures in the upper 90s and that delayed me even further. It just gets way too hot upstairs even with the air conditioner on so I stay comfortably downstairs. And there's television and books downstairs!

We have had very little in the way of heat waves this season so this should be the last of that until next year. Generally there are at least a handful of heat waves, with temps in the low 90s and low 100s, every year. Since I hate heat, it's fine by me in general but it wreaks havoc on fruit and vegetable gardens.
 
So now I am back with several things to blog about. My list of actors was going to be next but I have general catch-up and September books to get to as well.

And confidential to Lady Jane, yes, Jean Arthur, Thelma Ritter, and Barbara Stanwyck are all great, I agree. I especially loved "Baby Face" where Barbara Stanwyck's character LITERALLY sleeps her way to the top in a great pre-Code classic! And I have seen Jean and Thelma in several things. Wonderful!

And confidential to Pops, I really meant to include her:
  • Maria Ouspenskaya
    • Decades ago my Pops and I somehow became enamored of the name of this actress because it's fun to say! Oooh-spen-SKY-a! See?!
      • There's a woman Pops and I have seen in the parking lot at Target who is always asking people for rides (we gave her one a few months back) and we refer to her as "Maria Ouspenskaya" because she has an old lady/gypsy look to her, just like the real Maria Ouspenskaya!
    • She didn't make many movies and was 60 when she got her first Hollywood role.
    • She was mainly an acting teacher, having studied under Stanislavski whose "system" led to method acting. She also taught dance.
    • I've seen her in "The Wolf Man" and "Dance, Girl, Dance" (an interesting movie starring Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball). I have "Love Affair" on the DVR still to watch and she's in that too.
Our trip to Oregon was fun. We visited with my brother- and sister-in-law, Jeffy and Jilly. (Jeffy is CPA Boy's brother.) We went out to eat a couple of times and went shopping at the Fred Myer store, which is kind of a Target and Wal-Mart combined plus a grocery store. Then CPA Boy and I visited the Oregon Vortex, one of those places with a mysterious house and lots of optical illusions. We also visited the Harry & David store which is based in Medford.

Then we drove home on September 24, our actual 21st anniversary. It was very warm in the upper central California valley. I could NEVER live in the Red Bluff or Redding area! Sonoma County is so pretty and much more temperate. Mount Shasta is pretty but there was barely any snow this time of year.

I actually have photos from the trip but I haven't yet transferred them from the camera to the computer yet (see above re: new computer!).

I read a bunch of books in September, thanks to some young adult series. That reading recap will get posted this weekend. Try to contain your excitement.

Yesterday I went to the movie theater in San Rafael. The movie I saw "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" isn't playing at the theater here in Petaluma. I've been to the San Rafael theater before when I saw "The Artist" last year. It seems the artier films do not play in Petaluma.

What's funny --- in a sad, sad way --- is that the audience is all women and they are mainly older than I am. (I attended the matinee at 11:30.) For "The Artist" there were about 15 people, all female and all older than me. "Perks" had about 8 audience members and, again, they were all older than I am.

Anyway, I really liked the film. It's about some Pennsylvania high school students in the early 1990s. Emma Watson was pretty good. You totally forget about Hermione early on (the short hair helps). The other two main actors were very good as well. I am looking forward to reading the book.

So far this TV season I have not added anything new to my viewing schedule. I am seriously considering adding "Nashville" next week though. We'll see. I like having some more time free for reading or watching some older stuff via the Amazon Prime system. For example, I haven't seen the movie "Clueless" (which was featured in this week's Entertainment Weekly) and I hope to get to it this weekend or next week.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Travels for the 21st Anniversary

I had planned to write up the actor list, but have run out of time before I leave on more travels. CPA Boy and I are leaving for a long weekend trip tomorrow to celebrate the fact that our marriage is now drinking age! Our actual anniversary is on Monday, September 24.

Apparently the anniversary gift list just starts skipping over years at this point. It goes from the 20th straight to the 25th! And then it only includes every fifth year after that. So once you pass the 20th anniversary you can expect nothing!

I will update the blog if I can. Otherwise, see you next week!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Actresses

Sorry I haven't written much lately. If I don't have something to write about I wait for inspiration to strike. Sometimes it takes a while. Odd for someone like me who can talk all day long if I get going.
I don't seem to have as much interest in current movies. I find myself much more excited about the fare of Turner Classic Movies. I still haven't seen enough of the old classics either! But here is a list of actresses I find myself enjoying these days (in no particular order).

  • Katharine Hepburn
    • A couple of years ago I might have said she is my favorite actress of all time. I think she was a fine actress but she was always kind of the same in each role. I still adore her though and she's definitely in my top ten. I especially like Desk Set, Stage Door, The African Queen, Woman of the Year (except for the ending), Suddenly Last Summer, and Summertime. I still need to see The Lion in Winter and some more of her earlier work.
  •  Greta Garbo
    • So many of her movies are tragedies and she never gets to be much of a carefree character. I particularly enjoy the roles where she displays happiness because I think she is even more beautiful when she laughs and smiles. Ironically, she gets to do this in Anna Karenina more than in any other film I've seen her in (so far). You know, before she ends up throwing herself in front of a train. I like Ninotchka, Camille, Grand Hotel, Flesh and the Devil and Queen Christina, which I only got to see part of because the cable cut out halfway through. Luckily this will air on TCM in October. Still need to see Anna Christie and more of the silent films she did.
  •  Jean Harlow
    • I'm not sure where my fascination with Harlow began. Possibly because she was in Hell's Angels (with the famous line, "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?") which I enjoyed. She was the source of Hollywood legends regarding her death: her mother refused Harlow hospital treatment because she was a Christian Scientist, or her husband Paul Bern (who later committed suicide) punched her in the stomach. I read a biography of Jean Harlow and these legends were debunked. Harlow died AT the hospital following kidney failure which was incurable in 1937. 
    • Anyway, I have now seen more of her films including Dinner at Eight, Saratoga (she was filming this when she died so you can tell which scenes are before and after her death), Red Dust and China Seas (where Jean, known for her platinum blonde hair as well as never wearing undergarments, has a wardrobe malfunction when her halter dress slips down). She made a lot of films with Clark Gable; he is in those last three listed.
  •    Audrey Hepburn
    • It's difficult to NOT like Audrey! I have seen My Fair Lady, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday (my fave), How to Steal a Million, Funny Face, and The Nun's Story (another fave). I still need to see Charade, Love in the Afternoon and Two for the Road, among others.
  •  Marlene Dietrich
    • I have only recently discovered her even though I saw her in both Destry Rides Again and Judgement at Nuremberg years ago. I have now seen her in The Blue Angel, The Scarlet Empress, and Shanghai Express and I love her! She compares favorably to Garbo and she sings too!
  • Judy Garland
    • It's hard to watch Judy in so many of her roles and know how unhappy she was during so much of her life. I think that's part of why she continues to fascinate people. I've seen a bunch of her films and I especially like Easter Parade, In the Good Old Summertime, The Harvey Girls and For Me and My Gal.
  •  Lucille Ball
    • I know Lucy from her TV shows first and foremost but she had a thriving movie career before she became Lucy Ricardo. I like several of her movies including Five Came Back, Stage Door, The Big Street and Dance, Girl, Dance. Too Many Girls is also fun to watch (even though it's not a great movie) because this is when she first met one of her co-stars, Desi Arnaz. Like Woman of the Year was the film where Spencer Tracy met Katharine Hepburn for the first time (or Bacall meeting Bogie in To Have and Have Not), it's fun to see the time and place it all began for those couples.
  •  Jean Simmons
    • Here's another actress I was introduced to via television: she was in The Thorn Birds miniseries in 1983. One of my favorite movies of hers is a soapy film called Until They Sail. I also liked her in Black Narcissus (tiny role though), The Actress (she plays a young Ruth Gordon), Elmer Gantry, Great Expectations, Spartacus (one of the few who did not proclaim, "I am Spartacus!"), and Guys and Dolls (also stars Marlon Brando whom I usually dislike but his pairing with Jean was okay).
  •  Elizabeth Taylor
    • Her private life and beauty could certainly get in the way but she was a pretty good actress. I like her early stuff best: National Velvet, Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer. Also Taming of the Shrew, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (I don't like the movie much -- too dark and depressing -- but Elizabeth is fantastic in it).
  •  Ava Gardner
    • Also known more for her beauty and her private life but she was interesting in many of her roles. I haven't seen enough of her movies to really decide how good an actress she was. I've seen Show Boat, On the Beach and Earthquake and on TV in Knots Landing (where I probably first was exposed to her and I adored her on that show). She's intriguing and I liked her autobiography so I will try to catch more of her movies.
  •  Rita Hayworth
    • Another actress known for her beauty and private life but she is fun to watch in her films, especially when she sings and dances. I like Cover Girl (with Gene Kelly), You Were Never Lovelier (with Fred Astaire) and Gilda. I definitely need to watch a few more movies of hers.
  •  Irene Dunne
    • I have loved all the movies I've seen her in: Penny Serenade, I Remember Mama, Show Boat, and The White Cliffs of Dover. Lots more movies to catch up on.
  •  Ruby Keeler
    • I have been able to catch a handful of early musicals lately including 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933 and she's in all of them. She's a great tap dancer but not really a good actress or singer. She is adorable though. When I researched her I found out that she was married to Al Jolson, the biggest entertainer of his day. I'm guessing Mrs. Jolson had a slightly easier time getting roles therefore. She's usually partnered with Dick Powell. I haven't seen her in anything else yet but she made very few movies so I'll need to track them down.
There are several supporting actresses I'm always happy to see in films.
  • Hattie McDaniel
    • She shows up in bit parts in several movies, often uncredited, and her Oscar-winning performance in Gone with the Wind is great too. In her time roles were generally limited to that of the sassy maid but she played the hell out of them. She died of breast cancer when she was 57.
  •  Edna May Oliver
    • She plays all sorts of fun parts like Aunt March in Little Women and Lady Catherine in Pride & Prejudice as one of the best character actresses of the 1930s. She died after a sudden illness at age 59.
  •  Anne Revere
    • Played a lot of mothers, won an Oscar for National Velvet, and was blacklisted in the 1950s. I LOVED her character in National Velvet!
  • Una Merkel
    • She's in Destry Rides Again, 42nd Street, and The Parent Trap (Hayley Mills version) and many other films. She has a very distinctive voice with a cute Southern accent.
  •  Beulah Bondi
    • Played the mother of James Stewart 4 times (including It's a Wonderful Life) and many other mature roles. She often played much older than her age. I don't know how old she is in this picture from the late 30s or early 40s. She was born in 1889 so she'd be in her early fifties perhaps?
  •  Agnes Moorehead
    • We all know her best as Endora on Bewitched but she was in many films in the 1940s and 1950s (and one great Twilight Zone episode in 1961!) including Citizen Kane, The Big Street, Since You Went Away, Jane Eyre, Johnny Belinda, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, Dark Passage, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and Show Boat. She's great in all of them.
Can you guess what I'll write about next?