Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hell in a Hand Basket

And folks ask me why I want to move to some distant remote island in the West Indies?

Well let's see, the Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other. The Syrian government is killing their own citizens. God only knows what is going on in Iran and Iraq. Putan's thugs in the Ukraine don't have enough respect for the remains of those who lost their lives in the MA-17 tragedy to allow authorities to enter the area and remove the bodies. And now the breakout of Ebola in Africa threatens the rest of world being only one "plane ride" away.

The United States Congress is basically useless, strangled by partisan bickering and more interested in protecting their jobs (getting re-elected) than being concerned about the US economy and jobs for the taxpayers funding their jobs. And now they are preparing to leave on their annual August break - basically a five week vacation.

FOX cancelled Raising Hope, NBC cancelled The Micheal J. Fox Show, CBS cancelled How I Met Your Mother, and worst of all ABC cancelled Trophy Wife - Seriously. (Some people have way too much time on their hands.) The world may truly end because CBS has yet to negotiate a contract with Jim Parsons for the 2014-15 season - the Big Bang without Sheldon - just saying? That would be akin to Scandal without Olivia Pope. 

The world is going to Hell in a hand basket. This world is full of knuckle heads. Yes, the beauty queens are living in a world of fairy tales and silver clouds when they wish for world peace. Don't we all. 

But to cancel The Trophy Wife! Oh the inhumanity of it all!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life Moves On

I trying to do the final edits of the wedding book so I can get it out. I have sent it to several readers for their thoughts. Naturally, I am reading through it again, and making even more changes. I cannot decide whether it is my albatross or Lady McBeth's spot. (Ah, the curse of an English major!)

Meanwhile we are awaiting the impending arrival of our first grandchild. So as I finish my book on weddings, I wonder if a book on the perils of grandmother-hood is in the making. I would never attempt one on being a parent, first my children would shoot me, second it would be a sad commentary on life. Although it would support the survival of the fittest premise. but, I digress.

Back to the wedding book. Reading through it for the 59th time, I realize that I did survive my wedding and managed to pull off my daughter's wedding with minor trauma. Check! Then it dawned on me - I have two daughters. 

Solace was nice while it lasted.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

And So It Goes, a Movie Review

Sometime you just need a movie like the older man walking out of the theater behind me commented to his wife, "Now there's a good old romance. I liked that."  Well it's not quite that simple, And So It Goes, Rob Reiner's new film did not strike the professional critics that way. Micheal Douglas plays a crotchety old realtor who just wants to sell his last house and retire. Diane Keaton plays his neighbor a nightclub singer. Oren (Douglas) is able to get his way about almost everything until his son drops a granddaughter he never knew he had off on his doorstep for several months. Not only was this not in his plans, it doesn't suit, and he tries to pawn her off on Leah (Keaton).

The story is not necessarily as predictable as one would think. I am not a Keaton fan but found this to be a better role for her than usual. The role of Oren could have been written for Douglas. The story is funny and poignant. It does not lag and brings together a well rounded cast. My favorite is Claire played by Frances Sternhagen (a Tony award winning actress) as a straight shooting elder relative who works in the realty office and is one of the only people in world who understands Oren and one of the few people he trusts. 

Perhaps the critics panned it because they compared this to Reiner's previous box office hits such as When Harry met Sally and The Bucket List. Comparing anything anyone does to When Harry met Sally is like going against Gone with the Wind, just move along. Let's just say Rob Reiner has not lost his talent. This is not a film for the critics. This is a film for those of us who want to escape the ugly news of the real world, house cleaning, and the office for 94 minutes and get lost in a story on the silver screen. 

It is nice to walk out of a theater for once feeling good, not that we had seen a hero save the world, not that we witnessed a spectacular epic with a cast of thousands, or the film of the year people will talk about for weeks. Rather, we just know for an hour and a half we were able to see other people handle a situation as best they could without a lot of angst and screaming. And when it was all over, we realized that could have been us. Well, maybe not in Fairfield, Connecticut in a 8.6 million dollar home. Hey, but we can always dream. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Freedom 55

Searching for a job at the age of 55 in today's world is not fun. Instead of getting credit for time served that gave me all my gray hair, I constantly read articles about how those in the 55 and above age range are "doomed" in this economy. That's always encouraging.

I was reading an article in my alumni magazine about jobs and they mentioned the "Freedom 55" and how it no longer exists. Why even bring it up? Those who started with the state or federal government straight out of college caught the the "Freedom 55". The rest of us missed the train. Sure I have 35 years of solid work experience. Unfortunately, I did not stay with the state for that entire time. And my time with the federal government started in my my late thirties. 

Oh, I have friends who are now retired and enjoying the good life. But that is not an option for me. So after taking nine months off to catch my breath, I am scrounging around like a mad one trying to fine a job that I can enjoy for the rest of my working life or, more likely, the rest of my life. My Daddy never told me it would be like this. But, then my Daddy never told me I would be living in a brick ranch house with flying squirrels in the den.  

All the cheery optimists say, when life throws you lemons just make lemonade. My thought is, when life throws you lemons, put them in the 'fridge for the iced tea and go find a quite bar that serves chilled wine. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Begin Again, a movie review

Begin Again is a just a good movie, a good package, well done. Keira Knightly plays a songwriter down on her luck, Mark Ruffalo plays Dan a disgraced former music executive. When the two of them run into each other, the story unfolds. 

The screen play is fresh and not always predictable. Adam Levine plays a rock star. CeeLo Green plays himself. Scarlett Johansson was originally cast in the lead but dropped out. Although Johansson is incredibly talented, Knightly's outer look of vulnerability over an inner strength, she sometimes is unaware of, is such a strong part of this story, I think much of the effect would have been lost with anyone else in the female lead.

The music in the film is excellent and makes it even more enjoyable. The story never lags but moves along like a good melody with the emotional ups and downs of life. It is truly a story of a man with innate genius even at his lowest, Dan's ability to spot talent even when knee walking drunk. It is the story of a song writer hidden in the shadow of a up and coming star. It is the story of a daughter trying to find her way through the ugly maize of the teenage years. 

All these threads are woven together into a story of a not so perfect world that is enjoyable, well written and a pleasure to invest 104 minutes of your life.

Tammy, a Movie Review

Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. She is one of the best comedic actors of our time. That said, I was somewhat disappointed in her latest film Tammy. I am not alone, the critics panned the flick. But I do not always (OK I rarely) agree with the critics. 

When I read that McMarthy wrote the screen play and Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates were also in the cast, how bad could this be? Well, it is not bad. It is more like your five year the first time you put her on a bicycle. You keep urging her to keep going, even when she falls off. You keep telling her to get back on. You know she can do it. But there is a lot of frustration, sputtering, a few good strides, and a lot of falls.

McCarthy plays a down and out young lady who has lost her job and her husband. She launches out on a road trip with her hard drinking grandmother (Sarandon).  

The story has promise, the cast is so seasoned and talented. The film will be moving along and then will just slow to a crawl as if it is not sure which way to turn. It is hard to explain. Let's just say it never finds its mojo. However, it is still worth seeing. I would advise you to go knowing this is not McCarthy at her best. 

It is still funny. The talents of Sarandon and Bates are still as strong as ever. Every up and coming star stumbles and hopefully this is McCarthy's hiccup.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A "Normal" Day at Walmart

I walked out of the house with a grocery list, a bad cough, and an even worse attitude. Somehow looking like death warmed over and sounding like three pack a day smoker did not give me a break from the ever present question - "What's for supper?" Rather than argue my case I dragged myself out of my chair with an air of disbelief which was totally lost on everyone else. 

Since our town is now down to only 2 grocers and Walmart is the closest to us I decided why not make this a sporting event while I was at it. 

What happened to the friendly AARP Walmart greeters? I do not think Sam would approve of the lady on duty. She was leaning over the check out line divider chatting up her pal about the latest church gossip. Meanwhile the rest of us were left to procure our own buggies from the line of those semi attached by visible child safety straps or mysterious invisible latches that eventually released themselves after several tries. All the while the "Greeter" had yet to acknowledge our presence, much less welcome us.

The store was mad. Had I missed a holiday or an impending weather disaster? The aisle to the bread was blocked by the carts of two folks discussing the recent death of one of their spouses. By the time I got there they were discussing the funeral service. I decided I would get bread on the way out. At the meat counter I found a young lady in her teens standing there holding up two packages of beef as if she were offering them to the gods. A closer look showed she was actually only chewing gum and clueless about what she was looking at. I politely excused myself as I reached beside her and picked a beef roast - that I could identify.

After getting fresh vegetables, jam, peanut butter, chicken, pork, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and nuts, I went back to see if the bread aisle was clear and indeed it was. 

I found a checkout line and started putting my items on the counter. The cashier was friendly and did not give me the evil eye when she saw my shopping bags. When I heard the screaming of children behind me I turned to see a very harried mother. I started counting the youngsters with her and I looked twice. There were eight under the age of twelve. And one could tell from her exhaustion and their shared red hair they were all hers.

As I gathered my bags into my buggy and thanked the cashier I watched as the youngsters were raising hell and the mother had that look somewhere between exhaustion and total resignation. Perhaps my life wasn't so bad. I walked out the door by the greeter who still did not feel the need to greet, past the bench with the little lady dressed in pink who was talking to herself, right by the card table of the Church of Bethel Chapel without leaving alms for the poor in Haiti, in front of the over-sized pickup truck with the confederate flag on the back window (I was warned by the horn playing "Dixie"), and behind two red neck women arguing over whether Jeff Gordon was gay or not.

My world and welcome to it. I'm going back to bed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter 25 A Wedding So Spectacular One Could Hardly Imagine

I am hard at work on my second book. It is back from the editor and I am going through it for a thorough reading and then it will be sent to some "Fresh Eyes" for their comments.

In the mean time here is a bit of Chapter 25, A Wedding so Spectacular One Could Hardly Imagine

 . . .This mother of the bride wanted the event to be a special and memorable occasion for all. Every time she saw something in a magazine, on television, or at another wedding, I would be given the task of researching whatever the dream item of the day was. This got interesting because sometimes I had a vague description from a television show, sometimes a picture from a magazine, and the worst, the phone number of another mother of the bride. . . .
. . . . My favorite were the miniature bottles of liqueur decorated with a ribbon embellished with the bride and groom's initials that I found most amusing given this was going to be a Southern Baptist wedding.
    The most elaborate proposal was that of the ornate personalized boxes that would be placed under every guest's seat in the church. At the end of the service as the bride and groom were being presented as "Mr. and Mrs." each guest would be instructed to reach under their seat, pick up the box, and open it, releasing a butterfly creating a "romantic scene of beautiful butterflies for the bride and groom as they walked down the aisle". 
    Now in order to create this phenomenon of butterflies, a chrysalis had to be placed in each of these boxes that was at the exact age to mature and come out of its cocoon at this precise time - like within a few minutes.When it came down to it, neither the chocolates nor the liqueurs nor the butterflies made the final cut. By that time all the attention was on the invitations and the list. Those were the traditional engraved invitations. After all this was a formal wedding. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cruel Reality

Last Friday morning I flew down to Miami, met some friends who had flown into Fort Lauderdale and we drove down to Key West for a long weekend. My original plan was to leave Key West on Monday morning and travel to Miami's South Beach for several additional days of rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, the friend I was going with to South Beach had a death in her family and at the last minute was not able to go. Therefore the South Beach leg was cancelled. Maybe I should say postponed. No doubt we will make it to South Beach for a girls' weekend yet.

All that said, Monday night, or rather Tuesday morning, about 1 am in the morning I crawled into bed after my return trip from Key West. Later that morning I awoke to one thought - reality sucks. I put the idea that instead of cleaning house and washing clothes I could be sitting at a cafe at South Beach sipping a glass of wine, out of my mind. Yesterday while I was changing linens on the bed I had the fleeting thought of the lovely art deco buildings that line the avenues of South Beach, but I quickly dashed the thought. By today, I was about over it. 

Well that was until I received a text message. I looked at my phone. Hum, that's odd I thought. The text was from USAir. When I opened it I found a status alert that my departing flight from Miami was delayed.  Needless to say this was the original flight I was on when I planned my trip to South Beach (before that itinerary was cancelled). However, all those - my plans and the flights - were changed two weeks ago. 

What an evil thing to occur. Just when I had accepted reality and was back to my humdrum life, a simple text for a moment, reminded me that reality is so overrated.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Grand Seduction, a movie review

I hope I am wrong but I doubt you will find this film in wide release. We found this at one of the smaller theaters we frequent. The Grand Seduction is actually a remake of the 2003 French-Canadian film La Grande Seduction  which I did not see. Whatever. This version is the delightful story of a tiny, very tiny, fishing village harbor in Newfoundland that has seen its economy, once based solely on fishing, dry up (so to speak). They are trying to woo an industry to save the village but are met with one major road block - they need a resident doctor. And of the 120 some residents, not one is a doctor. 

As luck would have it, in a very circuitous fashion, they find a candidate. And the story line begins - the village comes together in a mad plot to convince the doctor, by hook or crook, that he wants to stay in Tickle Cove. This story could have become a farce but instead it is a well written enjoyable comedy. The antics are hilarious and the dialogue subtle and witty. Under it all is a good story that is not as predictable as one may initially think. Instead of tiring of slow scenes, expected antics, or throw away jokes, this little film is full of warmth, charisma, and diligence. 

Tickle Cove is located in Newfoundland (where the movie was filmed as well as Labrador) and the scenery is beautiful. The cast and the setting bring an authenticity to the story. Brendan Gleeson plays Murray French, the townsman who leads the charge to entice the Dr. Paul Lewis, played by Taylor Kitsch. 

On this rare occasion I agree with the New York Times who said, "Ah, those wacky foreigners and their impossibly charming villages. . . .The latest entry in this tradition is “The Grand Seduction,” and it’s adorable." They go on to say, "Under Don McKellar’s direction, they might have you investigating the possibility of relocating to Tickle Head yourself."

I hate it when I agree with the NYT, but this time they got it right. if you can find it, the 113 minutes is well worth your time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three Woman Walk into a Bar

I am back. Unfortunately my travels to "far away places" are over - or at least those that were on my calendar. Now my attention is focused on the upcoming birth of our first granddaughter and a call back to reality as I continue my search for a job.

That said, this past weekend I enjoyed several days in Key West with a group of girl friends. There were seven of us and our esteemed "cruise director" had made us reservations to stay in a very nice bed and breakfast in old town. 

The B&B was large with 8 or 9 bed rooms and a wonderful shaded court yard with a pool. With the weather being around 90 with 90% humidity the pool was a wonderful respite each afternoon when we returned from our daily adventures. Somehow there was always a nice breeze in the courtyard even though it was completely closed off with a nice high white wooden fence and shaded by several large trees. 

For breakfast every morning, the inn provided an array of yogurt, cereal, toast, bagels, and the most delightful homemade cinnamon rolls. We commandeered  a table large enough for the seven of us to sit around and enjoy our breakfast including fresh coffee, diet cokes, bloody Marys and mimosas. The later two we provided for ourselves. Needless to say, I am sure we also provided much entertainment and amusement for the other guests as they "quietly" enjoyed their morning meal, juice, and coffee.

Naturally in the afternoon and after dinner, the table was our meeting place to solve all the problems of the world with bottles of Corona and hors d'oeuvres (we had picked up on the way in from the airport). Once again, the other guests gave us looks as they passed by - some of disgust and some of envy. 

 One evening three of us found a bar (not hard to do in Key West - trust me) and settled on some bar stools waiting for the others to meet us. As we sat there a gentleman next to us struck up a conversation. It was obvious he had been there for a while. He told us he have been down here all week with his girl friend but they had had some sort of "spat" and she had left him and gone home. He seemed a little confused over the issue.

He asked us the usual questions.

"Where are you from?" We responded Virginia, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

 "What brings you here? A girls weekend.

"Really, how do you know each other?"

This is when we just laughed. I said, "Well there are seven of us. I am a friend of hers [pointing to my friend sitting next to me]. And she [pointing to the third one of us] is her step daughter."


"And," I continued, "also with us is another stepdaughter. But she is by another wife, who is also with us."

I could tell he was confused. "See we have wife number one and her daughter, the daughter of wife number two who is not with us, and the current wife number three."

"So who are you?"

"Oh, I'm just a friend. And there is also another friend and the girl her son is going to marry."

"OK, let me get this straight, there are two ex-wives here?"

Here we go - who's on first. "No, we have one ex and the current one."

"And, you all get along?"


Just a little later the rest of the crew joined us. We noticed that our "friend" had left. Maybe he figured when he heard our story he had had enough to drink. But it was the truth. Come to think of it, if the folks back at the B&B thought our merriment, conversation, and repast was quite interesting, I wonder what they would think if they knew what our story was. Looking at the time we were having, no doubt they would assume we made it up.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

While on vacation I planned to bake peach cobbler for dinner one evening. We were having 20 or so guests over for a casual get together and I thought that would be an appropriate addition to the meal. Knowing how popular the dish is and how many folks would be there I decided I would make three. We had brought a basket of sweet South Carolina peaches with us.

It was my day to make the grocery store run, so I gathered the list of items we needed for everything we were preparing and headed to the store. By the time I got back it was already after 2:30. Quickly I unloaded the bags, carefully making small piles on the counter of different ingredients I had purchased for the different dishes. Seemed everyone was going to prepare one of their "favorites" that evening. Since I knew I had to make three cobblers and realized what that entailed I thought it best I start on my part asap. 

Another reason I set about post haste to bake my cobblers was that another guest, an older woman, had visited the house where we were staying much more often than I had and in some ways felt as if the kitchen was "her" kitchen. She never said it but it was evident that she laid claim to that space early on. I had no desire to be in her way when she commenced making her famous potato salad.

I pulled out the pans I needed, preheated the oven, lined up the ingredients, and started peeling peaches. I would be able to bake the first two together, then follow that with a larger one. Anyone who has made a cobbler knows it is not a difficult recipe at all. However, it does involve several bowls to peel the fruit, mix the fruit with the sugar, mix the cobbler, and the pans to bake it in along with various and sundry measuring cups and spoons.

I had my peaches peeled for the first two cobblers, the fruit mixed, and was mixing the cobbler itself when she walked in the kitchen. "Well, well, well, what do we have here? Looks like a cobbler. Well isn't that nice." As I continued to put the first two together and get them in the oven I explained that I was trying to get them baked early so I would be out of her way. And, that I was going to bake three.

"Three cobblers? Well, we will certainly have enough for everyone and plenty left over."  I just continued with my baking. As I turned around after putting the two in the oven I saw she had taken it upon herself to start washing the paring knife I was using. "Oh, I still need that," I said pointing to the knife.

"Oh, I was just going to help. I know baking is such a mess and since we all have to use the kitchen," she stopped and smiled broadly as if to remind me where I was. "I just thought I would help."

I took the pairing knife and started peeling the peaches for the third cobbler. When I turned around again, she was washing the bowl I was using to mix my cobbler. "Wait, I need that. I am not through." I gently took the bowl from her hands and washed the soap out of it, dried it off, and moved it back to the table where I was working.

"Well, I'll just clean these," she said starting to pick up the measuring spoons and cups.

That was when I about lost it. It was three hours before guests were going to arrive. The dinner was very casual. I had made a concerted effort to get in the kitchen, get my baking done, as well as cleaning up, long before she needed to start. After I mixed the fruit and the sugar in one bowl, I mixed the dry ingredients for the cobbler in the second bowl to which I would add the milk last. I started cleaning up the various pieces of equipment I was finished with.

"Can I wash this now?" she asked holding up the large baking dish holding the melted butter for the third cobbler. 

"No, that is for the third cobbler. I will mix all that as soon as the first two come out of the oven. I promise I will clean this all up as soon as I am finished. 

"Oh, my my, how could I forget. You did say you thought we would need three cobblers tonight. What was I thinking?"

When I removed the first two from the oven and put the third one in, I found her looking at the deep dish fruit pies. "Well, I've never quite seen such as these. Mine generally don't look  like these, but then I use my family recipe that we have used for generations. It always wins at the county fair and all." 

That evening I came in from the porch to find her discussing my cobbler with another lady. The guest was very complimentary and said she liked my cobbler. I thanked her and told her I could not take the credit, it was the South Carolina peaches that made it so tasty. Then the older lady piped up, "I told her you added Amaretto to it."

"Excuse me?" I asked. "Where did that come from?"

"Well, she said there was some different flavor and I told her you used Amaretto."

I looked at the guest and smiled. "I'm not sure where that came from but there is some almond flavoring in the cobbler."

Then the older lady added, "Well I saw the almond flavoring bottle on the table this afternoon and assumed that you used that instead of Amaretto. Amaretto is almond, right?"