My Life A Bit South of Normal

Monday, January 21, 2019

Breakdown of a Hallmark Movie

I am a sucker for Hallmark Movies. Who can argue with unrequited love, romance, and happily ever after?  - well anyone who is willing to suspend reality. But, for now, we can all enjoy a nice glass of wine and enjoy a sickeningly sweet story, fair to middling acting, and a predicable plot. 

After several years of watching these melodramas, I think I have come upon the (not so) secret formula.

The main characters usually involve one of the following

  • a young lady in a predictably doomed relationship
  • a widowed or divorced parent
  • a prince (or princess)
  • sports figure
There is usually:
  • a fall festival
  • winter carnival
  • hometown production
  • flower show
  • pie bake off
  • deadline for some up and coming writer
  • ball (or gala)
Venues include:
  • a ski resort
  • small town
  • book store
  • restaurant
  • (previously unknown) kingdom
  • farm (or dude ranch)
  • vineyard
There is always at least one or more of the following:
  • a parent concerned about their child's happiness
  • the best friend trying to show the main character the obvious
  • a significant other in the background  who
    • is clueless about the status of the relationship
    • has strayed from the relationship
    • is an ass
    • has some financial interest in the protagonist
  • emotional confusion
  • a royal prince or princess from a small unknown European principality trying to hide their real identity
  • a monarch trying to steer their child in the right direction to save the kingdom
  • a royal female (princess, duchess, lady) who is supposedly destined to marry the prince in an arranged affair (usually to save the kingdom)
  • a well known celebrity - writer, actor, sports hero, artist
What you will find is:
  • abstainess, less a beer or 2 shared by the guys, the occasional glass wine or champagne 
  • innocent kisses
  • that look between the 2 that lingers
  • each character exchanging looks back as they part
  • a lot of hand holding
What you will not find:
  • a reference to sex, nudity, drugs or violence
  • excessive PDA
The end will offer
  • a common female protagonist who appears at the ball in a couture gown
  • winning the pie, pumpkin, cookie bake off
  • saving the ranch, the restaurant, the small business
But to get to that end, there is a formula
  • there will be a "significant other" in the picture (albeit usually just alluded to, glimpsed in the early minutes of the movie, heard in phone conversations, etc.)
  • some effort (planning the festival or gala, saving the business, facing fears)
  • 20 before the end there will be an interrupted kiss
  • affirmation of an attraction between the 2 main characters
  • reemergence of the significant other (usually at the worst time possible)
  • 15 minutes prior to the end there will be a misunderstanding
    • an over heard phone conversation
    • a proposal witnessed from the shadows
  • this will result in the spurned lover exiting stage left (no need to stay around)
  • 10 minutes prior to the end the protagonist will search for their loved one, only to find they have left, totally dejected
  • very close to the end, a friend, parent, innocent bystander, queen, or king will reveal the truth of the situation and the spurned loved one will reappear, 
  • the festival will be a hit, the business, farm, vineyard will be saved, etc
  • love conquers all, the final kiss
And, if its a Christmas movie, then everything is escalated
  • chances are there will be a snow ball fight, a sleigh ride, hot chocolate, carolers (or any combination of these)
  • venues that include a small town, a ski resort, or a major city
  • selecting the perfect Christmas tree
  • a good chance Christmas decorations will be involved
I'm not an expert, a writer for Hallmark, whatever. But having seen way too many of these films, I think I know a bit.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

671 Pages of Everything

Watching the demise of Sears and Roebuck brought back memories of my childhood. At 6 years old, the Sears and Roebuck Catalog was my window to the world. I could sit for hours just going through the catalog. As a child, Sears was just a catalog and a small office downtown where Mama would go to pick up the items she had ordered.

As I grew up, my tastes changed, Google came along, and well . . . Sears was just a relic. I was never impressed by the retail Sears stores. It just wasn't the same as the imagination of an 8 year thumbing through 671 pages of "everything" in the world - at least my world.

But Sears and its catalog was a big part of American life for a long time. News Graphic wrote that the Sears catalog, "serves as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living." From the 1890's until 1993, the catalog offered everyone in America a "Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone and the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth", claiming that "Our trade reaches around the World." 

And they were not kidding, 1898 Sears offered "Female Pills for Weak Women".

The 1902 catalog featured the "Giant Power Heidelberg Electric Belt" for men. Touted as "The most wonderful relief and cure of all chronic and nervous diseases."

The Fall catalog of 1909 offered - "The Sears Motor Buggy [boasting] speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and operation so simple even a child could do it."

In the Fall of 1932, one could even buy a house. Many of these still exists.

And, chicks in 1942. Who knew?

And then there were the "fashions" of 1973.

But, tonics, cars, chicks, and fashions aside, my best memories of Sears was in the late fall when the Wish Book arrived - that magical book with every game, toy, and doll that ever existed in the world - well at least in my world. My brother and I would fight over the Wish Book, each of us circling our dream gifts with a blue pen. The corners of dozens of pages were turned down as place markers for treasures that we wanted to add to Santa's list.

One writer reminisced - "There were chapters on wrenches and telescopes, on air hockey and grandfather clocks; there were “Star Wars” action figures I never saw in actual stores, and screenshots of video games that I would never see again, and images of disturbingly cooperative families playing board games."

To this day, there is one item, actually an entire page, that I wished and dreamed of and pleaded for. I can remember it like it was yesterday - the Little Hostess Buffet. But, it was never to be. Neither Santa Claus nor my parents shared my enthusiasm. They could not relate to my "I'll just die if I don't get it" feelings. If I just had this incredible piece and all its accouterments, I would be set for life. Oh, the parties I could plan, the friends I could entertain, the tables I could set. But it was not to be. It never arrived.

Perhaps the price of $13.47 ($103.72 in today's world) had something to do with it. 

To this day, I love to entertain, especially with china and crystal and silver. Looking back on that 1964 catalog, I'm not sure not getting my Little Hostess Buffet made me destined to imagine tablescapes, collect linen napkins, amass sets of China and sterling or, perhaps, my wish for such a "toy" was a prophecy of a life long enjoyment of entertaining. 

Is yesterday's Sears Catalog today's Amazon? If so, maybe it is nostalgia, but having the catalog (often hidden beneath my bed to keep it from my brother) was much more rewarding than scrolling through screens and web pages. After all, it is hard to circle what I want on line with a blue Bic pen.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Rangpur Limes, Elderberry, Juniper, and Chamomile

Ever wondered the origin of the term "Pick your poison"? Well, here you go:

"The origin is simply that since the mid-19th century "poison" has been slang for alcoholic drink (in Australia a pub was known as a "poison-shop"). This may refer to the Latin root "toxicum" (meaning "poison") of the word "intoxicate", or it may just be a reference [to] the bad effects of excessive drinking. Thus the phrases "what's your poison?" "Pick your poison" and "choose your poison" arose naturally. There is no reference to any historic incident, and no connection with Aristotle or Henry VIII, neither of whom was either poisoned, or poisoned anybody!"*

My poison of choice is gin. Unlike Vodka that is traditionally made from potatoes, but can be produced from virtually any fermentable ingredient that are filled with starch or sugar (mainly wheat, rye or corn), Rum distilled from fermented sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses, Bourbon - which is made from distilled corn, wheat and either wheat or rye, Scotch from malted barley, Irish Whiskey from both malted and unmalted barley - Gin is made from botanicals, such as juniper, coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, almond or liquorice along with florals (Angelica archangelica, chamomile and elderflower, Rhodiola Rosea, rose petals).

The uninitiated will comment that gin tastes like "gasoline", "mouthwash", or "pine needles". Wait, have patience grasshopper. Unlike tasteless vodka, a gin is complex, floral, spicy, citrusy. 

My first gin was Beefeater. In college I was introduced to Boodles, not that I could afford it, but I enjoyed the bottle or 2 I received as gifts. Later on Bombay introduced their Blue Sapphire, which has nice citrus  and juniper notes. What I enjoy most these days is Tanqueray's Rangpur.

This unique gin is infused with Rangpur limes. Actually, a "Rangpur Lime" is not really a lime, rather a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the citron. It looks like an orange but has a strong citrus lime flavor. All this gives the gin a great lime flavor  (along with floral notes) even before one adds the tonic and slice of lime.

During our most recent annual "Girls trip to New York", we found ourselves spending most of a miserable cold rainy afternoon in an Irish pub. When you put 3 southern women at the bar in a New York Irish pub, things get very interesting. But, I digress. 

An hour or so into the afternoon, I noticed this blue barrel shaped bottle among the other bottles of gin. I inquired of Mike, our friendly bartender, what it was. He brought the bottle over - Gunpowder Irish Gin. Never heard of it. Irish gin? (But then what else would one expect in a true Irish pub?) Always willing to venture out, I ordered a Gunpowder G&T. The anise and berry notes along with a light lemon background are mixed with aromatic florals.  Wow!

I am not encouraging alcohol consumption by any means. Consuming alcoholic beverages should be more than just intoxication. It should be serious, responsible, and enjoyable. You can enjoy a good small batch Bourbon, savor a good peaty Scotch, sip an Irish Whiskey, or whatever one does with Vodka. Or you can appreciate the complex subtleties of a fine gin - just saying.

As a side note, a G&T was the Queen Mum's adult beverage of choice - the underlying basis of her 'Big Red Bus' quote - and she lived to be a 101.

* Quoted from The Phrase Finder.