Monday, January 20, 2014

Garden Sculpture

A few weeks ago CPA Boy and I were were shopping for a new kitchen island table. On our way into Rohnert Park to stop at Home Depot we saw a roadside vendor with a bunch of those metal sculptures: chickens and dinosaurs, pigs and roosters. Those are made from various color pieces of metal and have a rustic look (i.e. the metal has spots of rust).

But then I saw THIS:
It is so very pretty and looks great in our front yard where we have several rose bushes (though they are all cut down for the winter). It's actually about 5 feet tall. The large rose is about 8 inches across and the smaller rose is the size of an actual rose.

I placed it near the front door which is to the left in the photo. From the street it almost seems like a real rose bush.

We decided that the rose sculpture looked better than the multicolored animal sculptures.

Meanwhile, CPA Boy and The Boy are at a San Jose Sharks hockey game tonight. Over the weekend we had delicious shrimp sandwiches and cherry crunch for dessert. Here's a tasty view:


 Now I'm off to catch up on "Downton Abbey"!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kelly's New Look

My brother K2 made me some new icons based on my new haircut which must be shared with the world.

Here is what he thought I would look like:






I thought this might be my new look too but instead I look more like this:





I have added it to the right to go along with my other icon. Now I have the hair of the character Rogue from the X-Men.

Thanks, K2! We'll need to update as my hair grows out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Coolest Christmas Gift

For Christmas I told my son that he needed to start taking part in giving gifts rather than just receive them. After all, he's 20 years old and employed! It's not like CPA Boy and I need more presents but I just thought it was time for our son to participate as an adult. I made it clear that it didn't need to be fancy or expensive, just a little something for each of us to unwrap.

And The Boy really came through!

CPA Boy received a gift card to his favorite fast-food place (Chick-Fil-A, which opened in nearby Santa Rosa last summer) and I got a life-size Tom Hiddleston!





Mr. Hiddleston is most famous for playing Loki in "The Avengers" and "Thor" movies. But I discovered him in the "The Hollow Crown" which was shown on PBS last November.

"The Hollow Crown" comprised 4 Shakespeare plays: Richard II, Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two and Henry V, none of which I had ever seen or read before. The cast included Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Julie Walters, Michelle Dockery, Simon Russell Beale (an amazing Falstaff), Ben Whishaw (I knew him from "Cloud Atlas") Rory Kinnear and, of course, Tom Hiddleston.

These plays, especially Henry V, are the source of many famous Shakespeare lines including "Once more unto the breach, dear friends" and "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

The plays were excellent and I was especially enamored of the actor playing Prince Hal, the future Henry V. I looked him up to see what other things Tom Hiddleston had been in and discovered he plays Loki. Both "The Avengers" and "Thor" were available to watch on Amazon Prime so I got to see him in those as well.

Since The Boy works at the theater we always (teasingly) ask him to bring home the life-size displays for our favorite actors and actresses. But these are hot commodities among the theater workers and our son basically brings home very little. (So no Jennifer Lawrence for CPA Boy and no Hughs --- Jackman or Grant --- for me.)

Around the time I discovered Tom Hiddleston the Thor sequel had just opened and I jokingly begged The Boy every day for a poster or cardboard display of Loki. And that was my gift from him!

But both The Boy and I need to remember it's in my office upstairs because it scares us to death when we forget! That's why Loki is in front of the closet so he doesn't scare me as I walk into my office!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Competitive Cherry Desserts

CPA Boy will be having a birthday this weekend. His new age will be a square number! To celebrate I will be making one of his favorite dinners (shrimp sandwiches) along with a favorite dessert: Cherry Crunch.

Cherry Crunch is a favorite dessert in his family. In my family we had a cherry dessert too: Cherry Pie Pudding.

They are very similar as both are made with canned cherry pie filling then baked and served with vanilla ice cream.

I have no idea where the recipe for Cherry Pie Pudding came from. My mom made this often when we were young. It was a great dessert for the winter months. I couldn't find anything exactly the same when I did an Internet search. I don't remember any real "puddingness" to it. The topping baked up more cake-like than pudding-like. (In Cherry Crunch the topping is more crunchy than cake-y. Hence the name, duh.)

You can use any kind of canned fruit pie filling instead of cherries, by the way.

I'll try to remember to take a picture of the Cherry Crunch to post next week.

Here are the recipes:

CHERRY CRUNCH

2 cans cherry pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

In a 13x9 pan empty the cans of cherries.
Mix the cake mix, butter and nuts until crumbly and spread over the cherries.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

CHERRY PIE PUDDING

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar


Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the egg and then the flour and vanilla to make a batter.
In a saucepan heat the cherries, water and 1/2 cup sugar. (You may wish to add additional sugar depending on the tartness of the cherries.)
Poor the heated cherries into a 1-1/2 quart deep casserole baking dish.
Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the cherries.
Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Haircut with Before and After Pictures!

When CPA Boy came home from work he didn't even comment on my hair as he is not generally observant about these things. He just grabbed some dinner and headed to his TV to watch hockey. So I guess my hair really isn't much of a change.

It's still in the same basic style. My stylist said really short hair would not be flattering to my face which is round, round, round. Even if I were thin I would still have a round face. I called one of my college ID photos "Smiling Balloon with Hair" and I was thin then!

So the plan is to just keep it at this new length and trim it every two months.

Here are the "before" pix:
You can see how shaggy the whole thing has become.
Being silly.

 Here are the "after" pix:

My hair got wavier once the weight of the old hair was removed.


Better than it was! Not the most flattering picture though.
I think it will take well over a year to grow out so this will be a long-term project. This will actually be a good style to have as it's just long enough to make a ponytail or a French braid.

And maybe at some point I could think about adding some long highlights so the new white growth is more blended. The stylist said I should just use the temporary 28-day hair color but in my experience that stuff never comes out of my hair completely. I do think there are some sprays to cover up the new growth wash out easily (I used them to color my son's hair for the "crazy hair" days in elementary school and they always came out of his hair with shampoo).

So, yay?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Irresolutions 2014

Irresolution means uncertainty. As I mentioned before, I do not make or keep New Year's resolutions but that doesn't mean I don't have goals! And it's never certain I will manage to achieve them so here are my Irresolutions for 2014:

  • Watch a complete Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie (or more).
    • Oddly, given my movie buff credentials, I have never seen a whole Fred & Ginger movie. CRAZYTOWN, amirite? I have seen clips of several of the musical scenes and occasionally catch parts of some of them on TCM but never an entire film.
    • I have watched many movies with Fred Astaire in them (The Band Wagon, Easter Parade, Funny Face, Holiday Inn, You Were Never Lovelier, On the Beach, and one or two others, but I just couldn't make it through Finian's Rainbow) and I have seen a few Ginger Rogers movies (Stage Door, 42nd Street, and Gold Diggers of 1933).
  • Watch "Star Trek", the original series.
    • I have seen many episodes but not all of them. It's time to correct that deficiency as I am definitely a Trek fan (Trekkie, Trekker, whatever). Because of all the reading I've done about the various "Treks" I feel like I have seen them all. Isn't it amazing how certain cultural things slip through the cracks?
    • I have seen all of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and all the movies except Insurrection and Into Darkness. I have not seen the cartoon series but I think I can manage to live without it.
  • Get my hair cut and let it grow out in its natural color. Which seems to be white. Sigh.
    • I am very close to having this done because I have about 1-1/4 inches of new growth that does NOT look good against the rest of my dyed black hair. I didn't mean to have black hair as I prefer a nice dark brown but my hair absorbed so much color it got progressively darker and is now this flat black hue.
    • My hair is currently about 20 inches long (yes, I measured) so it will be quite a change in my look from long, dark hair to short, white hair.
    • When I was young my hair was relatively straight and it would dry flat (maybe thanks to the blowdrying that was de rigueur in the 70s and 80s?). Once I was in my 30s it tended to wave and frizz so I am afraid I will have a mop of white hair and look like a fat Q-Tip...We shall see!
  • Write something. Anything.
    • There are some family projects I'd like to do. I still have the collection of family stories and words to write up. I would also like to compile a family cookbook that we could perhaps print out via Amazon's publishing system. I think you can take something written in Word and upload it to Amazon and then order copies. 
    • And, of course, blog more.
  • Make exercise a regular part of my life.
    • This just needs to be done.
  • Finish the vacation scrapbook I started last winter.
    • I was stymied by some missing data cards or negatives, which are still missing. But I have the printed photos that are now scanned and digitized so there's nothing keeping me from getting back to it except day-to-day errands, chores and other calls on my time.
We'll check back in 12 months to see if irresolution turns to resolution.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Last Batch of Books Read in 2013

NON-FICTION

  • The Secret Wife of Louis XIV: Francoise d'Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon by Veronica Buckley
    • After his first wife and mother of his heirs died the king married Francoise. It would have been a scandal as she was not royal so they kept it quiet. She had an interesting life.
  • The Annals of Unsolved Crime by Edward Jay Epstein
    • Just a rehash of various cases, nothing worth recommending to read.
  • The Skies Belong to Us: A Tale of Love and Terror from the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan Koerner
    • This book was fascinating, especially the history of hijacking, which happened all the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Everyone wanted to go to Cuba it seems and Cuba welcomed the early hijackers mainly to piss off the United States (some of the hijackers are even still living there today!) but after a while they had enough and hijackers tried to go other places.
    • This particular story was about a couple who planned an inept hijacking. While it was certainly interesting it paled in comparison to the history of hijacking and how it led to some of the things we do at the airport now. Until the mid-1970s there were no lines at all for security. Anyone could go to any gate. Hard to imagine in our world today!
  • The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Laura Wattenberg
    • I follow this author's blog (http://www.babynamewizard.com/blog) and she writes about baby names trends for yesterday and today. And the website also has a graph showing the popularity of names over the decades which is endlessly fascinating if you like the history of names like I do! Her book is a distillation of the website data. It's really a fun book to browse.
    • CPA Boy was concerned when I was reading this book and simultaneously eating lots of dill pickles...
  • Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood by Jim Steinmeyer
    • This was a biography of Bram Stoker who worked as a personal assistant to a famous Victorian actor and as the business manager of the theater where the actor performed. He based his character on several notables of his era including his boss, the actor Henry Irving, Oscar Wilde (whose ex-fiancee Stoker married) and Walt Whitman. Interesting slice of life in late Victorian England as well as an interesting look into the book Dracula (which I have not yet read).
  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
    • If you are looking for an expose' on Scientology then this book is for you.
  • Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox
    • These two sisters were the children of Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs whose marriage united Spain. Katherine was the first wife of England's Henry VIII who set her aside for not having a son (and we know today that this was HIS fault and not hers as only men supply the X or Y to determine a baby's sex) thus sparking the Reformation of England. Juana, also called Joanna the Mad, seemed to just have had a capricious temper and bouts of depression. This made it easy for her husband and later her son to wrest control of Spain from her, imprisoning her for decades.
  • Loss of Faith: The Dead Man Walking's Forgotten Victims by D.P. Smith and Michael L. Varnado
    • I graduated from Mandeville High School in Louisiana on Tuesday, May 20, 1980 (two days after Mount Saint Helens erupted as it happened). One week later one of my fellow graduates, Faith Hathaway, was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered. Her assailant was one of the men who make up the composite character in the book and movie Dead Man Walking, a film I never plan to see. 
    • I didn't know Faith personally but I knew who she was. She was in the same row as mine during graduation. We sat alphabetically and her H put her on one end while my K put me on the other. I had a slight acquaintance with a friend of hers though and they were both part of our Senior Trip to Disneyworld.
    • I moved to California on June 1 and I think Faith was only presumed missing at that point. It was a bad year for our class as I know there was a suicide earlier during the school year.
  • The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler by Ben Urwand
    • This was very interesting. Because Germany was a huge market for movies, second only to the United States, most of the Hollywood studios agreed to make concessions to Hitler's government (if they hadn't then their movies could not have been shown at all). This meant that Hollywood caved to censorship rather than lose money (shocking!). 
    • This also meant that a German embassy consul reviewed all scripts and dictated to the (mainly Jewish) studio heads what they could film or not film. Jewish characters virtually disappeared from the screen because of it. It all ended with the start of World War II.
  • The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
    • I had such high hopes for this book but I ultimately was very disappointed. It wasn't scholarly at all. I mean it was based on interviews with some of the surviving wives and some of the information was fascinating. But then you get comments on how perfect and saintly Annie Glenn was (she and John are still with us, both in their 90s) but no real backup as Mrs. Glenn declined to be interviewed herself.
    • And after the next set of wives join the original Mercury Seven it got much harder to keep track of them all. You do come away with great admiration for Marge Slayton (the defacto leader of the wives) and Betty Grissom (whose husband died in the Apollo 1 fire).
    • Since many of the wives were married to test pilots they had a reasonable amount of experience with tragedy. They were expected to remain stoic and perfectly coiffed and dressed in 1950s style while their husband's risked their lives.
    • Someone needs to write a scholarly book about the wives! With lots of footnotes!
  • Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller
    • The story of Miller's parents and their struggles with hoarding. She grew up in a hoarding environment back before anyone even really knew what hoarding was. Very interesting but what a sad illness for those that struggle with it!
  • The Tudors: The History of England Volume II by Peter Ackroyd
    • Just what the title says. I adore British history and I know a lot about the Tudor dynasty (even if I always confuse Cromwell, Cranmer and Wolsey). I am looking forward to the next volume.
FICTION
  • Thorns of Truth by Eileen Goudge
    • This was a sequel to Garden of Lies where a woman basically trades babies so her husband doesn't figure out that their daughter is really the result of her affair with their handyman. This story covers the two woman as adults and how their children's lives are affected by the original switch.
    • My pet peeve about this book (CPA Boy is tired of hearing me complain about it) is that both woman were born on the same day in the same hospital. Never once does this come up in all the years they know each other. Obviously people aren't as obsessed with their birthdays as I am but really?! Not even a snippet of "Hey! We share a birthday! Isn't that a stunning coincidence?" It just seems like something that would be cleared up in a sentence or two.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
    • I really liked this book when I read it but my memory of it has slipped away. It is a young adult novel with time travel and an interesting twist.
  • Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
    • A very quick read. Lois Duncan's books are not so much young adult as they are young teenagers. It's a good story with slender details.
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
    • I really liked this book, where the Earth mysteriously begins to slow down its rotation, first by adding a few minutes to each day and then eventually causing days to last for weeks and then months. It doesn't commit to the bitter end but that's okay.
  • Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
  • In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
  • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
  • Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
    • A four book series where an 11-year-old girl switches places with her twin brother. He goes to school to learn sorcery; she goes to the capitol and pretends to be a boy to learn to be a knight.
    • A great series that would have been great to read when I was a girl (not enough adventure books featuring girls in my day!).
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
    • Not quite a sequel to Code Name Verity but set in the same time period during World War II with a small overlap of characters. This one involves a young female pilot who ends up in a concentration camp. Wonderful in its own way though not as great as Code Name Verity (a book hard to top!).
  • Champion by Marie Lu
    • The final book in the Legend trilogy. I am always glad to finish a series and this one ended in a satisfying manner. So many of the books with teenage protagonists end with them living together in true love buy the end. This one has a twist on that ending which is just perfect for the story.
  • The Returned by Jason Mott
    • People start returning from the dead all over the world but no one understands why. An elderly couple who lost their 8-year-old son to drowning in the 1960s get him back. Then the "returned" are rounded up and placed in camps to keep them away from the "living".
    • There will be a ABC TV series based on this book starting in March. I may need to check it out.