Friday, May 31, 2013

Iron Man 3, a Movie Review

For someone who doesn't care for "action" movies, I have enjoyed the Iron Man series and Iron Man 3 does not disappoint me (130 minutes). Robert Downey, Jr. returns as Tony Stark with Qwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts,  the woman anchoring this super hero millionaire technical genius. Don Cheadle, who if you read this Blog, know I feel is a significantly underrated very talented actor, plays Colonel James Rhodes. Guy Pearce plays Aldrich Killian, a spurned scientist out for revenge. And, probably the most entertaining character is Ben Kingsley, who I did not recognize, playing the part of the Mandarin. All that aside, once again the good forces are challenged by an evil mind, one with powers that seem unstoppable and merciless.

Tony Stark sets up the story line himself. (No spoiler here, he reveals it in the opening scene.) Basically,  he finds his past coming back to haunt him. And, I am not talking about aliens falling from the skies. Iron Man, once again, rises (no pun intended) to the occasion. However, unlike in the previous story lines where Tony dons his suit, soars into the air, and saves the world, this time he has to prove that Iron Man is more than a high tech red and gold outfit. We see Tony using his practical, mechanical, and technical brilliance to save the world or least the country, with and without the armor. 

At one point in the movie, Tony is dragging a dysfunctional Iron Man suit behind him in the snow and you wonder for the first time, is the suit what empowers him to fight the bad guys or does it protect him from himself? But he finds his way, uses his talents to rebuild Iron Man, and along the journey, finds Tony. 

So far, this was the best Iron Man movie yet. And, obviously, I recommend it.  

Photography Post - Yellow and Pink Store

Everything in the Caribbean is so bright and colorful from the blue sky to pastel paints to the orange Fanta signs. How can you not be happy in a place like this?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where I Will Go

In most unpleasant conversations, one of our daughters will interject the thinly veiled threat- "You know it will be up to me where you end up", as if this bothers me. I plan to keep my wits about me, be around for a long time, and make what ever decisions need to be made. 

After receiving an application to join AARP last week, which I am sure was a mass mailing and  most certainly addressed to wrong person, I started doing the math. I may very well be entering the last third of my days around here - not a good thought when you just realized your smaller clothes are fairly tight. But, I digress.

When I look at the "D's" (for Dr.) in the contact list on my phone it is mind boggling. It contains listings for my Cardiologist, Dentist, Dermatologist, General Practitioner, Gynecologist, Pharmacist, Psychiatrist, Neurologist, Numerologist, Ophthalmologist, Optometrist,  Telepathist, and Mirnerva (but, in full disclosure she is cross referenced under "M" because I do not know her last name and "V" for Voo Doo). 

Besides, I feel very healthy. Well, there are those gentle reminders that I am no longer 18,  the idea of hiking several miles is exhausting, that severe pain in the top of my spine that comes and goes, those pesky gray hairs that continue to appear, and wrinkles on my face in places I would rather them not be. But, I refuse to throw in the towel. 

But come to think of it, if she is going to make the decision, someone is going to have to pay for it. Um, I best make sure those Dr's numbers are up to date because I am going to need them to patch me up and keep me going. I've already figured out I'm never going to be able to retire. And, it's a good thing, because I could never afford to go where I want to go and, God knows, I would hate to have my fate placed in the hands of someone who had been thinking about this since she was five.

Photography Post - Reflections

Clouds reflecting off pools in the coral on Grand Cayman.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's Five O'clock Somewhere

Greetings from the Cayman Islands.

Photography Post - Guy Harvey's Studio

If you have ever been Georgetown, it is hard not to stumble into Guy Harvey's Studio (he and his family live on Grand Cayman). On certain days, you can find him upstairs in the studio working on one of his pieces. As many times as I have been there, I am still taken by his work. The tee-shirts do not do his talent justice. And, he is super friendly chap.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Photography Post - Beach Sweeper

You gotta love a place they sweep the beach every morning - not for trash (there is none) but so it is pristine with no tracks when you first walk on it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Sun and the Sand and a Drink in My Hand

As some of you know I am escaping reality for a few days and going to 19.3034° N, 81.3863° W (and before you go search that on Google Maps it is in the Cayman Islands). It is time for a mental health break,  adult beverages, that blue Caribbean sea, conch, curry, plantains, and coconut palms. So, still check in, I may be able to post some days, I may not. But, have faith, I will be back, better than ever - Monday, May 27.

"Want a towel on my chair in the sand by the sea . . ." Kenney Chesney

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coming Out from Under a Rock

Did I ever mention I hate technology? Oh, yeah, I know I wallow in it for a living. And, I depend on it for a hobby. And, between my iPad, my laptop, and my phone I will no doubt die of some rare cancer brought on by continual exposure to low frequency radio waves. (In case you don't know, my current occupation is testing software and my photography hobby requires much work in a digital medium.)

I have had the same smart phone for over 3 years now. In phone time that is four generations or two eons. Future paleontologists will look at this as "forever" and probably be able to excavate the strata of sedimentary waste layers in that amount of time. But, I digress.

The battery in my cell phone was not holding a charge, and not wanting to buy a new phone nor having any reason to want one, I went into Radio Shack to purchase an inexpensive replacement battery. Nothing is simple. They did not have the regular battery for my phone but did have an extended life one in the correct size. It was more than I wanted to pay, but given it was extended life, it would definitely come in handy. When I went up to the counter to check out, one of the salesman suggested I could get a new phone for the same price as that new battery I was getting ready to buy.

I quickly explained not only did I  not need a new phone, I did not want to change plans because I have been grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan, and any change would immediately throw me out of that unlimited status and cause my bill to go up. Oh, but, no no, he protested. We are just selling the phone, not the plan. After he explained it to me, it made sense and for the same amount of money, I had nothing to lose.

So I opted for the new phone. Then he asked me for my phone number and explained he had to access my account to note that I was buying the phone. Again, he assured me my plan would not be effected. I tried to tell him he would not be able to access my account because, since I have a secure email account on my phone, it is handled by the government services arm of Verizon and retail outlets did not have access to the accounts. He looked at me like I had two heads and was eight years old. That was until, a warning came up on his screen telling him, "This account is a federal government account and you do not have access to it." Of course that led to several questions. I just smiled and said, "Well, I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you and I don't want your mama after me." I could tell he did not know whether or not to take me seriously. I just smiled and bought the battery.

On the way home, I naturally started thinking about buying a new phone. After all, I had had this one since the premesozoic period or 2009, which ever was earlier. So, I called the government Verizon folks and explained my situation. Bottom line, I could get a brand new bright shiny phone with all kind of bells and whistles for almost nothing and because I have the government account (that I have to pay for) I continue to get the unlimited data. Sign me up!

48 hours later I'm looking at a new cell phone that is going to help me run faster and jump higher. Well, that is if I can figure out how to get it out of the box and turn it on. Now in the olden days when you got a new cell phone, you had to call Verizon, mash some special code and wait for the powers that be (probably some little elves that lived in a tree) to swap the old phone number to the new phone. Today this involved simply turning off the old one and turning on the new one. And, voila! The new one had all my information. Scary. 

Of course, this meant that I had a new extended life battery for a phone I no longer used. So I packaged the battery back up and headed down to Radio Shack to return it. When I walked in, the guy at the counter just looked at me. If I had been quick enough I would have asked him if he had some type of miniature audio receiver that would fit in a shoe, but I'm just not that smart. I was more worried about him questioning me about why I wanted to return the battery. 

If they had just had a regular battery, my life would have been so simple. $8.42 and I would have walked out the door happy as a clam. But, just because I had to buy a $49.94 extended life battery, a suggestion was made to buy a new phone. And, look where I am now - trying to figure out how to answer this device when it rings. Life was so much simpler in the dark ages, with my head under a cellular rock.

Photography Post - Pink Lily 1

The bottom of the Pistil of a pink lily.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feed Them Foreign Food and Watch Them Eat

Oh, what fun it was to entertain friends from other places. Or, perhaps as some of them may say - from civilized places. The wedding weekend was fun and special and all those things a wedding weekend should be. Of course ours had that added touch when you throw a bunch of folks from big cities, up north, the west coast, and the heartland together on a sea island in South Carolina.

After we explained to everyone that (1) they could not take a taxi from the airport (2) the closest hotel was 30 miles away, and (3) it would not be practical for them to commute from Charleston, travel plans were made and houses were rented. Oh, there were a few issues. Who knew LaGuardia would decide to close due to storms? That was quite inconvenient.

The rehearsal dinner on Friday night included everyone who had traveled in for the wedding - ie basically everyone who was going to be at the wedding. The menu was truly low country - an oyster roast and Frogmore Stew with hot dogs for the faint at heart. Some folks confused dinner with a parlor game when they were given a knife and a glove and while standing at a table had dozens of hot steaming oysters dumped in front of them.

Those from here immediately went to work shucking oysters. The timid ones concerned with cutting themselves or intimidated by the oysters alone waited for professional assistance (which was not hard to find.) Then there were the ones who had issues with what they found once the shell was opened. Not everyone savors a hot plump juicy bivalve. One guest  commented, "I didn't realize we were eating fossils!"

I'm not sure what they expected from Frogmore Stew, or Low Country Boil as folks call it, but when they saw the mounds of pink shrimp, plump sausage, and corn dumped before them into the long wooden serving bowl, no one complained.

The weather had turned chilly, and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm, but it did not seem to dampen anyone's spirits. Everyone was dry and happy under the beach house, even if they weren't sure what they were eating. Music and libations flowed freely. And, although this old dog crawled back on the porch at a respectable time, the party went on, for some unto four in the morning.

Photography Post - Lawn at Brookland Pointe

The Lawn at Brookland Pointe - it sits on a bluff overlooking the marsh and the Wadmalaw river on Edisto Island in South Carolina. This was the site of our daughter's wedding reception.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The End (I Hope) of the Dress Saga

"After the ball is over, after the break of morn, after the dancers' leaving, after the stars are gone, . . ." Lyrics to a waltz from the 1890s that was later performed by Irene Dunn in the 1936 movie Show Boat. (Fun facts to know and tell.) I remember it as an old song my Mama used to play on the piano during her afternoon performances. But, I digress.

The dress, my MOB dress, you know the one that did not fit? Well, it was time to return it to the shop for some type of compensation for my pain and suffering. After stressing over finding the correct dress, then the thrill of finding a fabulous dress, followed by the fear of it not being delivered on time, then relief that it had arrived, only to find out it did not fit, naturally the saga continued. When one of my daughter's friends picked it up for me and brought it to the beach (the day before the wedding) I was a little anxious, given it is easy to alter a piece of clothing by "taking it in" however, "letting something out" is difficult when there is nothing extra.

I tried the dress on and, alas, once again, it did not fit. Luckily, I had brought a "safety dress", not one I particularly wanted to wear given I had worn it to the wedding of half of my daughter's Bridesmaids. Anyway, it wasn't my first choice and, even in my mind, it was frumpy, but the day before the wedding and being 50 miles from the closest store, that was going to be the dress I wore.

I emailed the shop to let them know that no, in fact, the final alterations did not work, the dress did not fit, I had to wear another dress to my daughter's wedding, and I would be returning the dress. Of course I got the standard, "Oh, I am so sorry. Of course you can return the dress for a full refund," reply.

With everything else going on, it was a week and a half before I got back to the shop with the dress. When I told Sarah, the owner of the shop, how disappointed I was that the dress did not fit, her reply was, "I just do not understand, all we did was replace the zipper. Nothing was done to make the dress smaller." Duh! "The dress was too tight when I tried it on. Jordan and I discussed that." "Oh, I don't think she understood that. She just said the zipper ripped."

OK, I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to get this - "Of course the zipper ripped. The fabric through the bodice was so tight, the zipper would not close. That is why it ripped out." "Jordan still did not say anything about your having concerns about the dress being too tight. But, we will refund you the cost of the dress."

Photography Post - Gate of Brookland Pointe

An old gate at Brookland Pointe on Edisto Island, SC, where our daughter got married. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Time Has Come

You know it is time to leave the country and find a sunny place where smiling people with foreign accents serve drinks with a little umbrellas in them when:

  • the wedding is over
  • your other daughter calls and gives you one day's notice that her lease is up and she is moving back home - until she finds another rental - oh, and BTW, "Can you please come move me?" 
  • one of your pups decides to use the smaller one as bait
  • your external hard drive (yes, the one that backups your photo files) fails
  • the neurologist that has been able to keep you pain free and out of surgery, doesn't make you wait a day and a half in his waiting room to see him, and was hard to get into in the first- is now on a research rotation and not seeing patients - his office refers you to your primary care physician, who you just learned has retired
  • you find that your late mother's mountain home has even more furniture in it and that you need to find a place to store that furniture until both daughters get settled and they can use the lovely antiques you thought you would always enjoy but alas your house is full of well - whatever
  • you had a mental lapse and decided to shop for a new swimsuit
  • and, alas, that lottery ticket you bought as your salvation somehow had the incorrect numbers on it
This is when staying in the West Indies, finding a job scaling fish, and sending for Ellie seems like a good idea.


Looking up on a Charleston street.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ground Hog Day in May - All Over Again

Life is unkind for a middle age woman. Yes, I can opine because it is that time of year. I made the mistake of entering the swim suit department of the store. Deep depression set it. The designers have no scruples. I hope they can reap their millions from the toned bodies of young maidens, because they certainly did not have the largest consumer group in mind when they chose their styles this year (once again). Very few baby boomer women are going to (or even can) fit into what they call "Bathing Attire" these days. 

Every year, I go with an open mind, saying to myself, "It really is not that bad. After all I am not that big and I am not trying to find something Bridgette  Bardot would have even considered. I just want a decent, conservative, one piece swimming suit." And, every year I am faced with the same harsh reality. Ground Hog Day all over again. The offerings do not get any more bearable. (Actually, one of the issues is that they are too bare-able - but I digress.)

I am thankful that the $29.99 swimsuit I purchased in 2005, the stalwart of my water apparel wardrobe, is faithfully still around. Given that it has now averaged costing  me $3.75 a year to wear, I think that is one heck of a bargain. At this point, there is no telling what I would pay for the same suit, should I ever be able to find one like it. And, unfortunately, so far that has not been the case. 

Given the unpleasant reality, I walked out of the store, took a deep breath of fresh air, and realized that, yes, aging is a bitch and youth is definitely wasted on the young. Life will go on. And, I am sure next year this time, in a lapse of amnesia, I'll find myself once more venturing down an aisle to see if perhaps, by chance, a designer has decided that not all women who shop for swim suits are built like Hiedi Klum, even after she has had three children. 

With my shopping over, I made my way to Chick-Fil-A and saw, of all things, they were serving their Peach Milk Shakes. Oh, the gods are cruel and if I did not know better, I may suspect a conspiracy. But, I'm not paranoid, just depressed. And, 850 calories will fix almost anything. Of course eating because you don't fit into a swimsuit makes about as much as, well, let's say designing swim wear that doesn't fit the largest market you can tap. But, who am I? Just a middle age woman trying to find something to buy. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Don't Mess With Pluto

We obviously have not been living right. For weeks before the wedding I was concerned about the rain. Then the weekend approached and I had to add cool temperatures to my list. We got through the wedding, dry but a little chilly.

Now, it is the first week of May and we are having days in the low 60s with rain. What's up with that? The last time I checked my fair state had not moved to San Francisco. And, if so, where are the trolley cars and the Rice-a-Roni? Seriously, this is the type of weather they have out there. As Mark Twain said, "The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco."  Though truth be told that was a misquote from something written earlier by a French writer complaining about a summer in Paris, but I digress.

San Francisco,  Paris, and trolley cars aside it is time for spring. The magnolias should be blossoming. Instead, I fear they may be considering taking hiatus this year. I was diligent and had the "changing of the clothes" in late March, only to have to scurry around and pull out turtle neck sweaters and jackets to make it through April. And, what will happen - we will spring and moved right into the miserable hot summer. Someone up there has a sense of humor. 

In February, we had days in the 70s. The Azaleas bloomed in late March. And, then winter reappeared in April along with monsoon like rains. I am sure Al Gore would attribute this to Global Warming or 'Global Climate Disruption' as it is now termed. Whatever! I attribute this to demoting Pluto from planetary status. 

Obviously the knuckle head who made that decision was not paying attention in Mrs. Kissam's Seventh Grade Mythology class. Otherwise he would have known Pluto was the God of the Underworld (ie Hades, ie Hell). I cannot speak for everyone, but I am old enough to remember the commercial, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Well, it is even worse to piss off Pluto. And, look what has happened.

The ice cap is melting, the Earth's temperature is rising, flowers are blooming early, and spring has skipped us yet again. And, the powers that be, the great minds at NOAA, are trying to blame it on Global Warming Global Climate Disruption? How about someone offed a planet not realizing they were incurring the wrath of the underworld in doing so. 

So, just for the record, in my mind there are still 9 planets in our solar system, San Francisco's weather is just fine for San Francisco, and I would appreciate having our warm spring back. Oh, and I'd prefer to be able to cross the river Styx in peace, thank you.

Friday, May 3, 2013

No Where

Speaking of houses, now that I have long faced reality and sought professional help to assist  me in continuing to live in a ranch style brick house, life can go on. Seriously, for a while I was in denial. I would drive through neighborhoods of ranch style houses and think to myself, "Will I ever have to live in such? Why, I just cannot imagine." Then I would turn into my driveway and voila - I do live in one, like millions of other Americans across these fruited plains. But, I digress.

I have often posted about my parents farm in the mountains, High Acres, and my Mama's dream house that was never finished - a work in progress if there ever was one. Literally, there were unfinished parts when she sold it thirty something years after my parents bought it. 

But, before the mountain house, there was a river house. An "upscale" (as in it had a floor and the roof did not leak) fishing shack on the Edisto River. There were five or six river houses around it, but ours was at the end of a road with a big gate across the drive. Having never had a gated house or even a garden gate for that matter, the large metal farm gate with its heavy chain and lock were impressive to my brother and me. It was big deal when it was your turn to jump out of the car, unlock the gate and hold it open for the car to pass through. We always thought the gate should be closed behind the car to protect the grounds from any unwelcome intruders. Daddy, on the other hand, wanted everyone to feel welcome.

There was a sign on the gate my parents hung when they bought the place. It simply read "NOWHERE". They always said one could interpret it as they wanted. To some it would be a welcome, as in you are "Now Here". To those who just knew they were lost and  came to the end of the road, then they were "No Where" (Which was how we pronounced it.)  Of course, my parents saw it as a retreat, and when friends asked them where they were going for the weekend, they simply answered, "No where." Those in the know would laugh. 

"Nowhere" was a neat place. In sat on several acres that jutted out between the slow flowing black river and a dead creek. The house  sat back about  a hundred feet or so from the river and was most comfortable with a huge kitchen, two nice size bedrooms, a great room paneled in heart pine with a large fireplace, and a wide screen porch that ran across the entire front of the house. There was a giant magnolia tree hanging off the bank that a former owner had secured with cables to keep the river from claiming it. The yard was surrounded by tall pines and hard woods.

And, we were rarely there alone, Daddy had always invited someone down. There would deer, dove, or quail hunts in season. There was always fishing - red breast, catfish, and shad. It didn't take me long to realize what the huge kitchen was for - cooking all the fish and game we had everyday. If it were fowl or venison it was served with rice and vegetables. The fish was always dredged in corn meal and fried just right. And, lord the hush puppies. 

After the sun set there was always a poker game going on in the den or on the porch, with much laughing and story telling. The cigarette smoke was thick as mud -  and, God, the liquor and beer. There were coolers and refrigerators full of beer cans and counters full of bottles of bourbon and mixers. 

My brother and I eventually found Nowhere boring because (looking back on it now) unless one drank like a sailor or played a mean  game of poker, you were out of your element. However, for those who did partake in those vices - they truly were "Now Here".

Photography Post - Drayton Hall -2

The view of a room at Drayton hall. The decoration over the windows is mahogany, a very rare and expensive resource at the time.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Photography Post - Drayton Hall

John Drayton, who was born on neighboring Magnolia Plantation, built this home in 1742. It is said to be one the more perfect examples of Georgian architecture. It sits on the Ashley River near Charleston.

As opposed to restored properties such as those at Williamsburg, Drayton Hall has been preserved. It  stands just as it was with nothing done to "bring it back to its original grandeur." No fresh paint, no fixed plaster. The paint you see dates back to the generations who have lived in the house. Little changed since the beginning. It was built with the finest materials by fine craftsmen at the time.

There is no furniture which gives one the opportunity to appreciate the house, its design, and features better.

This a shot on the main floor looking from one main room into another through a small alcove.