Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shakespeare - Much Ado in a Few Words

If only we could have done book reports like this in school. I could have excelled at literature. Think how easy my interpretation of Shakespeare would been.

Hamlet - He sees a ghost and kills Claudius

Macbeth - 3 Hags foretell Macbeth he will be King, he goes to castle, the woods close in, and he realizes he is doomed

Romeo and Juliet - two lovers are doomed and in some confusion kill themselves

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning to Drive - a Movie Review

Learning to Drive was released in August, yet I had never seen a trailer, heard of it, or read a review until yesterday morning when I saw it on the list of films showing at our favorite theater. Then when we looked it up we were surprised to find it was a New York Times Critics' Choice. More often than not, I fail to agree with the Times. I find their holier than thou way of looking at the world condescending to us mortals. However, maybe Pope Francis being in the country made them kinder and gentler for a week. Whatever.

The story intrigued me. I have always been a fan of Ben Kingsley. Patricia Clarkson is also a major talent, as is Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter who we recently saw in Rikki and the Flash). The basic story is the break down of Wendy's  (Clarkson) marriage, Darwin's (Kingsley) sudden marriage, and the two thrown together during this particular time in their lives. Wendy suddenly finds that she needs to learn how to drive a car - something she never needed to do while she was married - if she wants to visit her daughter Tasha (Gummer) who is working in Vermont. 

Their lives are very different. While Wendy is a well known book critic who lives in a nice brownstone. Darwin is a Sihk Indian who as a persecuted university professor, has been given political asylum in the states. He now works as a taxi driver and driving instructor and lives with several undocumented Indians in a one room apartment. Wendy is as emotionally unhinged as Darwin is calm. Their lives come together during Wendy's driving lessons. It is an intersection of cultures, genders, dispositions, and outlook. Naturally each learn from each other.

The movie is not  predictable. As it moves along you see life from several different perspectives, including that of Darwin's wife (of his arranged marriage). Everyone is out of their comfort zone. Wendy out of her marriage, Darwin in a relationship, and Jasleen (Darwin's wife) in an unknown culture. The story is warm, funny, yet tense and a bit painful. It is well acted, well written, and well done. 

For once I agree with the New York Times, even if I despise admitting it. This is 90 minutes well worth your time.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Postman always Rings Twice

Like most people, we still get snail mail mail delivered to our home by the US Postal Service. And in all honesty, I will say our mailman is the best. For instance, when we have a package too large for our box, which is not unusual, he will come to the side door and put the box and the rest of the mail inside the sun room so it will not be effected by the weather. He well deserves the homemade cookies we give him at Christmas.  But I digress.

Each day my DH gets the mail, brings it in and we have a "sorting of the mail" ritual. No, this is not some formal rite that we all must attend. However, over the years I have noticed the mail is handled the same way.

All the envelopes and packages are divided into piles according to whom they are addressed. Unless I am expecting something, my pile can wait until my next trip to the kitchen. However I will be reminded that my mail is on the table, as if there is some special card or epistle awaiting me.

Alas my pile is fairly predictable. There will be the bills, which I put on my desk, perhaps a notice for magazine subscription or card from my broker (he should know that is a lost cause unless he has found some money for me) which go in the trash, every once in awhile a personal note from a friend, maybe an invitation to an event, but every day over half the mail I receive are solicitations for credit cards from banks, airlines, credit card companies, alumni organizations, etc. which immediately are put through the shredder. 

These "love letters" of promised travel, adventure, couture, and the like are cloaked with pages of small print (literally). They are like sirens calling, "Come hither, enjoy life for today, do not worry about tomorrow." One must look in the shadows of the middle paragraphs for scary words like "escalated interest" and "monthly payments."  

Perhaps I am the curmudgeon, the doubter, the naysayer. So be it, and if so, "I wish you bluebirds in the spring. . . . And in July, lemonade."

For me these are just love letters in the sand, just waiting for the next wave.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Corn Spears - Who Knew?

One of my passions is sterling silver flatware - it doesn't fall far from the tree if you know anything about my mother. But I digress.

I have started an extensive collection of different pieces of sterling flatware in patterns by American silversmiths, especially in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I am trying to piece together a set consisting of 8-12 place settings with the place pieces being in as many patterns as possible. Keep in mind, there are over 40  different pieces for each place setting. And, no, all those pieces are never on the table at one time. A proper place setting only has three pieces to the  right and left of each plate with one or two above. 

Of course "your" foot man removes your pieces between courses and replaces them with the proper pieces for the next course. An example would be if the first course was a soup, your soup spoon (be it cream, gumbo, or bouillon - depending on the dish) would be removed with your bowl. The second course may be oysters or seafood, you would find either of those forks already on the table above your place. When your oyster or seafood plate was removed, you may be served with a small dish of sorbet - to cleanse the palette - and a sorbet spoon would be placed to the right of your plate.  

When that was removed and the main course was served, you would find the proper knife and fork were (most likely) part of the original setting when you were seated. They would be a game knife and fork (if venison or some other game meat were the main course), steak knife and steak fork (for steak) or dinner knife and dinner fork (for most other fare). The round robin of silverware would continue as ice cream, pastries, cake, coffee, (hot) chocolate, and iced tea were served. Then there are the pieces for luncheon, afternoon tea and coffee, pieces for children, and pieces for babies. This does not even touch all the various spoons, forks, servers, tongs, shears, scoops, and ladles, that are the serving pieces and in all the various sizes. 

How daunting the thought, I am moving along and, so far, have 90 different patterns and over 100 pieces.

All that said, for my birthday my DH took me to Charleston to a wonderful antique store that specializes in fine sterling to select a piece to add to my collection. The lady in the store spent over an hour with me moving from case to case discussing different pieces and patterns. Many of the patterns I was familiar with and had seen, some I knew of but had only seen pictures of, and some I did not recognize. There were serving pieces, such fish serving sets - the knife and the fork - which can cost as much as $800 and $900 each. Then there were salt spoons for as little as $25. Needless to say I had a grand time.

In trying to help me decide what I wanted, the lady was pulling out unique pieces and patterns she thought I would like to add to my collection. She showed me a set on nut picks. No, I told her, I did not have any. She had a set of three, each in a different pattern. As I was showing them to my DH, she came over to us smiling.

She put four sterling oblong objects on the counter. "Do you know what these are?"

I was truly stumped. I looked them over closely, noting that the pattern, although simple, looked vaguely familiar. "I haven't a clue."

"They are corn spears," she said. "You put them in the ears of corn so you can hold the corn without getting your hands messy."

"Now I've seen it all," my DH said laughing.

In all my research I had never seen or ever seen reference to such a piece. She commented that neither had she until these came in but she had done some research and they are included in many patterns. In the end I came home with the nut picks. 

My DH always comments that the Victorians never met a dish, food, or condiment that they did not have a sterling place piece and serving piece for, but even the corn spears surprised him. I had to agree. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Simple is More than I can Handle

It is unusual for me to want a sandwich for supper, especially during the week. But last night was an exception. I had seen a recipe for a green tomato BLT as I walked into the local market and was intrigued. Moving through the store I think 1 out of 3 shoppers were as interested because there seemed to be a run on green tomatoes, white corn meal, and sandwich rolls. 

Not caring for sandwich rolls, I had opted for a long french style whole grain loaf I could slice. With that I bought the ingredients for my BLT along with the other items on my shopping list. I say list, unlike most of my trips, I did not have a list so I found myself making very inefficient trips back and forth from one side of the store to the other as I tried to remember everything I planned to purchase. 

After I got home and put everything away I learned that my DH eaten early, so I would be the only one enjoying the BLT. I pulled out the recipe and the ingredients. Never being one to color between the lines or follow the exact instructions of anything, I decided to forego the "Pimento Cheese Style Mayo" the recipe called for and just make a batch of my regular pimento cheese. This involved roasting a fresh pepper, a pot to steam it in, a cheese grater, two bowls, and several utensils. After 15 minutes or so, that was done, and set aside. I moved on.

Now to the easy part - the BLT. Why, I wondered, did we not have sandwiches for supper more often? Think of all the pots, pans, bowls, dishes, and plates it would save. Of course, we would still eat on china plates, only in an emergency could I become a heathen and serve my family supper on paper plates. And, of course, there would be sterling pieces for the fresh tomatoes, onions, condiments, etc. After all, I did attempt to run a civilized household, key word there being attempt.

I assembled the tomatoes, onions, flour, corn meal, egg, milk, salt, pepper, oil, bacon, and bread. After reading the instructions, I put the bacon in the microwave. I have long since given up on frying bacon because of the mess - nuking it on a large plate and with a stack of paper towels works just as well. Uhm, let's see I need a bowl each for the flour, the corn meal, and the egg and milk. I pulled out a cutting board for the tomatoes and onion and another for the bread. An additional plate was needed to "dry" the tomatoes on . . . 

Forsaking boredom, I'll spare you the details. By the time I sat down to enjoy my simple BLT sandwich, I was looking at a counter littered with a dirty pot and pan. There were three dinner plates, four bowls, a cheese grater, two cutting boards, and numerous utensils scattered across my kitchen counter in need of washing. 

Granted my BLT was delicious and I may make it again. However, tonight we are having meatloaf - a greasy complicated dish that involves 2 types of meat, 6 vegetables, crackers, egg, tomato juice, beef stock, spices, and more but only two bowls, one cutting board, and a cookie sheet (that is lined with aluminum foil so it does not have to be washed). I'll pass on simple, I just cannot handle it - there is too much work.

Monday, September 21, 2015

. . . and the Dish Ran away with the Spoon

I had a dream the other night and found myself in a nursery rhyme looking for a job - fully clothed, thank God for small favors.  Neither the butcher, the baker, nor the candlestick maker helped me. Once I thought my talents were broad and my experience deep, but suddenly I had to question my abilities.  I walked around the streets of these characters with (what I can only only assume was) my resume that suddenly was just a blank sheet of paper.

I had no experience for a position blowing a horn, catching fishes in ditches, plucking pheasant, or selling sea shells. Locating lost sheep was no where on my vita sheet. I could not carry a note, so singing for my supper was no good. And, the so called "Muffin Man" on Drury Lane eluded me.

I turned the corner to find all of the Disney Princesses standing at the edge of the woods - like a scene from the most recent Cinderella movie. As I entered the woods everyone was laughing at me. "You're late. You're not suppose to be here." I didn't know where I was supposed to be. Across a wide road I could see the canals of Venice, but there was no way to get there.

It was no better in the land of Grimm than in the grim world of reality. All I needed was a white rabbit and a queen of hearts. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ellie, our Norwhat

Ever since she arrived, my little bundle of fire, has always had an attitude much larger than her small self. I attributed it to her roots in Texas. I had searched high and low among the Norwich breeder elites for a Norwich puppy. Only 800 Norwiches are born each year and the breeders are very picky  about who they will grant title of one to. They also charge what was the sale price of a small Asian car in the late 70's for the privilege of owning one.

I had my mind made up that I was (a) going to find one, and (b) was not going to pay a fortune for the puppy. Finally I found one in Texas. Since my daughter was living there at the time, she drove to the outskirts of Dallas, met the breeder, and chose my little "Ellie" from the 2 puppies still available in the litter. The following week, she and Ellie flew to South Carolina.

Ellie entered our lives, all 10 ounces of her, and we have not been the same since. Now, if you are familiar with the breed, a Norwich is a very small dog, weighing no more than 12-14 lbs as adults with a rather square build. They should be no more than 10 inches tall at the withers, with pin prick ears always at attention and a fox like face. 

Ellie had all the traits of a Norwich puppy with all the personality and temperament. The vet, at her first check up, pronounced her fit and a good example of the breed, although he confessed he had not seen one in years. Within  two years Ellie was no more than 10 inches tall and was built like a tank. However she weighed around 17 pounds. She was not overweight, according to the vet. She also did not exhibit the "square" confirmation of the Norwich breed standard.

I then read about unscrupulous breeders selling Cairn terriers as Norwichs (because as puppies they look almost exactly alike). However, Cairns are not nearly as hard to come by and not nearly as expensive. Looking at pictures of adult Cairns, Ellie did not look exactly like a Cairn either. Her face is that of a Norwich. Her rough coat could be that of a Cairn or a Norwich. Her temperament, brains, and spirit are definitely that of a Norwich. (My DH swears she can do calculus.) So I am not sure what I have.

It's not like I am going to send her back. And, the worse part is, we can never get another one like her. My DH has declared her a "Norwhat".  Most importantly, she is OUR Norwhat. 

Then last week, my daughter informed me that Ellie has her own Twitter feed @elliethenorwhat. So the world can now follow the life of Ellie.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Testament of Youth - a Movie Review

The Testament of Youth was released in the UK earlier this spring. I'm not quite sure when it made its way across the pond, but I did not see a trailer for it until several weeks ago. This is another good film that many movie goers will miss because it will not make the marquis of the multi-plexs.

The movie is based on the autobiography of the same name by Vera Britain. The story takes place in England around the time of World War I. It is a coming of age tale of a bright young woman with plans, much to her parents' dismay, to attend Oxford (not something every woman did in those days). She has no room in her life for a man, something she feels would derail her future. However with the entrance in her life of one her brother's friends and the break out of the War she finds that her priorities change. She feels she much join the cause - do her part, so she becomes a nurse.

Vera (Alicia Vikander) is a lovely but driven and serious young lady who finds herself blindsided by feelings for a young man, Roland, played by Kit Harrington. Taron Egerton plays her brother Edward the person she is closest to.  And Colin Morgan  rounds out the group of friends as the Edward's other friend, Victor,  from Oxford. The story follows the lives of these four before and during the war. 

The screen play is well written and although I did not read the book, the story portrayed in the movie is excellent. It never drags, does not stoop to maudlin mush, and carries forth with the same strength the country showed in the War. The vitality, optimism, and innocence of youth are played out as these young people grow up quickly under the harrowing circumstances of war. 

The scenery and cinematography reflect the mood of the time. Although the narrative is not lighthearted, it is rich in its characters and the story is all the more passionate and embracing because it is true. The tale of war from the young person's point of view at this time in their life who lost so much so early, is what great writers try to achieve. It is at its best when coming from someone who as a young person truly experienced that pain and joy and love and loss.

This 129 minutes well worth your time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Who Died and Made my Insurance Company Lord and Doctor to All

I am a firm believer in national health care. This new system needs some tweaking - OK, this new system (the ACA)  needs a lot of tweaking. Since I am not working we bought our own insurance. All I can say is that I am glad I have a college education, am somewhat literate, and can put one foot forward (most days). Dealing in the land of health care is personal warfare these days with the gloves off. It is the patients and the providers on one side against the insurance companies and the insurance companies are winning.

When I went to get my prescriptions refilled for the first time after we switched insurers, I learned that they denied coverage on two of the drugs. When I called the insurance company I was told that they did not think one of the drugs was necessary, but they would suggest several alternative drugs to my physician to prescribe in lieu. Now, one of the drugs they had denied had been on the market for years and I was taking the generic version - so cost should not have been a factor. I called my doctor in total frustration.

My doctor called me back after talking with the insurance company and said that they had, at first, said that he had to prescribe treatment using the other drugs and see the results before they would consider payment for the current drug I was using. Knowing that it had taken years, and courses of several different medications, to finally find the one that treated my condition with no side effects, my doctor said he had to argue with the insurance company before they would back down. Since when did an insurance company I just signed onto and that has never met me or seen my medical records know what medications I need more than the doctor who has been treating me for 18 years?

My DH went to get his flu shot at our local pharmacy - where we have been getting them for years, 

According to the ACA: 
"Adults 19 years and older who are enrolled in new group or individual private health plans will be eligible to receive vaccines recommended by the ACIP prior to September 2009 without any cost-sharing requirements when provided by an in-network provider as of September 23, 2010."

But he was told that our insurance would not pay for it. He came home and called the insurance company. After waiting on hold for 15 minutes, a young man came back and said that the flu shot was only covered if he got it at the Regional Medical Center (the RMC, our local hospital). So my DH called the RMC and after getting transferred from the pharmacy to outpatient to general information, learned no one knew anything about the hospital offering flu shots to anyone except employees. 

I picked up the phone and called the local Walgreens, after several minutes with the helpful pharmacist, giving him my insurance information, he was able to tell me that, yes, my insurance covered the flu shot, with no out of pocket to me and I could come in at anytime to get it.

Now the kicker is there are 2 types of flu shots - a trivalent and quadrivalent (basically one covers 3 strains of flu and the other 4 strains). Our insurance will only pay for the trivalent, not the quadrivalent. The retail off the street cost difference between the two shots is $4. So in the almighty wisdom of the insurance company, they are saving the $4 by denying coverage of that 4th strain of flu. However, how much will the health care cost be if I come down with that 4th strain of flu that the trivalent did not cover but the quadrivalent would have? 

In reality, probably not that much for them. I will be too sick to fight with them on the phone over their nit picking when they tell me that the only doctor they will pay for is 70 miles away. Of course, if I stay on hold long enough, select the correct menu options, and reach the proper person, I will learn that yes, they will pay for me to see a local doctor. But, that knowledge is only for those who are able to jump through enough hoops, run in the right circles, scale the walls, and withstand intimidation. The rest are lemmings going off the cliff because the insurance company made it so hard for us to get what we are paying for. 

Oh, in their defense, the services are not always denied, you just delayed due to red tape, paper work, layers of bureaucracy and anything else they can throw the consumer's way to get us to give up and not pursue the benefits we are paying for. 

What about the little ol' lady (on insurance but not old enough for medicare) who goes to get her flu shot and is told that, no, her insurance will not pay for it. Is she going to call the insurance company and ask why? If she does, is she going to take no or their company line and back down? Is she just going to go through the winter with no flu shot? Probably not, she will just take $35 from her pocket, pay for the shot, and go home - and pay her premium next month.  

Not all insurance companies are this way. But the ones that are have a front seat in Hell as far as I am concerned. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miss America, Just when I thought our chance had passed, You go and save the best for last

On July 23, 1984 my DH and I were on the New Jersey turnpike (of all places) when we heard the news than Vanessa Williams, the reigning Miss America, had relinquished her crown. We all know the story - a photographer she had worked for as an assistant several years earlier had sold some nude pictures of her (for which she had not signed a release). Bob Guccione, planned to publish them in the upcoming edition of his Penthouse magazine. It was learned that Hugh Hefner (publisher of Playboy) was also offered the photos but refused to buy them because the photographer did not have a signed release from Williams.

I was shocked, not that Williams had posed for the pictures, beautiful young models do that, without her signed consent she had no intention for them to be released or sold; not that Bob Giccione had bought them and was publishing them - he had no shame. I actually had a little more respect for Hugh Hefner because he did the straight up thing. But the way the Miss America Organization immediately treated Williams like tainted meat, a leper, or pedophile. 

Instead of standing behind her, saying that they did not condone her earlier lapse of judgement and that what had occurred to her was totally illegal, they hung her out to  dry. Yes, the organization promotes young women who are pure and represent all thing good, American, and apple pie (God help us) and no woman wearing the crown should ever do anything to sully that reputation. 

However, when they did not support her and she resigned in such a noble way with her head held high, did the organization say, something to the effect of, 'We appreciate your respecting the crown and the rest of the young ladies by stepping down, we appreciate the hard work and all the good will you brought to the Miss America brand this year, and wish you the best?' No, it was more, 'Don't let the door hit you on the way out.'

I have never been a pageant fan and after watching that play out, the Miss America organization loss most of my respect. I watched in glee over the years as Vanessa Williams soared and became, by far, the most successful, talented, and professional former Miss America of all time. And she always handled herself in the way the organization would have been proud. At the same time the organization foundered, lost audience and sponsors. Little girls no longer saw being Miss America as the all time goal of their lives, but, ironically aspired for the success Vanessa Williams had achieved (without the crown). All the while Vanessa gracefully moved on with her life. I never heard her speak ill will of the organization (she may have but  I never heard it.)

Then last night I was shocked (and thrilled) when the Miss America CEO gave Williams a heart felt apology on national television for the way the organization treated her 32 years ago.

"Just when I thought our chance had passed, You go and save the best for last."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Serenity Prayer

My Serenity prayer:

Let me die in peace, without curlers in my hair; knowing my loved ones will not debase my grave site with plastic flowers, and no matter how dear I may be in their hearts, my name will never be added to some distasteful decal on the back window of their car. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - Well No Duh!

Someone once wrote a bestselling book, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". They may as well have said there is a difference between black and white, ying and yang, coming and going, right and left, etc. As any teenager would say, "Well no duh."

Not are we just different, we approach life differently. In fact there are times, I wonder if my DH and I live in the same world or perhaps I am just existing in a parallel universe. Often there is more than just "a failure to communicate" - there is a basic failure to understand why we go about things in such a different way.

All this came to mind when we were hanging pictures in the den. Now a note here, neither of us are engineers or decorators. 

I picked up the rather large picture I wanted to hang. It was a 30 x 48 framed reproduction of an antique bird plate. After looking at the wall, I figured where the picture would look the best, figured where the hanger needed to go, and commenced to nail the hanger to the wall. Hung the picture and stood back to admire work. Done and done. But, not so fast - according to my DH.

My DH would measure the length of the wall and mark the middle point of that measurement. At that middle point, he would stand back and mark a place on the wall that equaled eye level at that middle point. He would then position the picture so that the middle fell just above eye level.  After hanging the piece he would pull out a level to ensure that it was perfectly level and parallel to the floor.

Needless to say, he feels I am careless in my methodology (or lack thereof) in hanging pictures. So I decided to do some research to see if it really mattered how a picture was hung in a house.

I found an article explaining the definitive way all pictures should be hung. Note, you need a calculator, a tape measure, and a hammer. A level nor a slide rule was never mentioned.
  • measure the height of the picture from the back
  • find the distance between the top of the picture and the picture hanging hardware.Take this measurement from the backside of the frame
  • subtract that number from the number you got when you divided the frame height by 2
  • add 60 to the difference
  • measure and mark that spot on the wall.

So for a 24 inch tall frame with the hardware 6.5 from the top, the math works as follows:

24 divided by 2 equals 12
12 - 6.5 = 7.5 
60 + 7.5 = 67.5

In accordance with the "experts" the hanger for your picture should be placed on the wall 67.5 inches from the floor.

Or, you can skip the rocket science, just examine the wall, figure out what looks good, and hang the picture. Just Saying!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Bird in The Hand - With an Injured Leg

Of all my finches (I have 14) my favorites are my pair of Golden Breasted. They are the smallest of the finches, weighing at around 7 grams each. They are just a bit larger than a humming bird. To give you some perspective, an empty very small Gladloc container (the 4 x 3 x 3 size) weighs 22.3 grams. The pair are bonded. After their morning bath you will see them preening each other, they nap next to each other, sleep each night together, and often can be found perched on  a branch side by side watching the antics of the other finches.

So one can imagine how distressed I was to find the little hen with her leg caught in a food net hanging in the cage. Once I freed her and gently put her on the bottom of the cage she immediately flew up. I was heartened - she was OK. Then as she went to light on a branch, she faltered and fell. My heart dropped. I watched as she continued to fly about trying to land, albeit unsuccessfully. Immediately her mate joined her, if nothing else to give moral support.

I removed the pair and put them into a smaller cage. Watching the little hen sit there with her right leg stuck out to her side at an awkward angle was painful to me. When she tried to move she would hop around dragging the injured leg.

While I was standing there upset, my DH, naturally was telling me I needed to get the bird to a vet. And, not just any vet - a bird specialist. I considered. Of course the little bird needed help but a bird specialist was going to cost a lot. Yes, I love my birds, but suddenly I was looking at several hundred dollars to fix the leg on a bird that I paid almost nothing for (but does have a fairly decent value - in finch terms) and a life expectancy of maybe 5 years (we were already 18 months into that.) Naturally there was no question what I needed to.

Meanwhile my DH was on the phone with one of the Vets he knew from the UGA Vet school - an exotic specialist. He put her on the speaker phone. I overheard "surgery","anesthetize", "immobilization", "pain meds", and "cast". "Cast? Seriously," I asked. She explained how the leg could immobilized by wrapping it with tape.

She was in Georgia, so we made an appointment with our local exotic Vet who specialized in birds. And off we went, little injured bird in a small box.

I feared the Vet, who my DH had a lot of experience with and I had never met, would be aggressive with his treatment. Visions of surgery, expensive medication, a cast (maybe traction), follow up, and physical therapy ran about in my head. He came in, gently picked up the little hen, felt the leg, and examined her all over. After he put her back in her box, he sat back and smiled.

My DH started asking about surgery, anesthetization, casts, and medication. I looked at the Vet hoping his prognosis would be much kinder.  The gods were looking down. The Vet said, " Well, first I do not think there is a break and if there is one it is in the thigh where it could not be immobilized.  I would not anesthetize something this small - it would kill her and besides there is no need for surgery."

My DH asked about medication. The Vet answered, "I don't think that is necessary and you always run the chance of an overdose and killing the bird. I would take her home, put her in a glass aquarium so she does not have a cage wire or perches to jump up on. Give her several weeks and let's see how she gets along." When I checked out, unlike the hundreds of dollars I feared, the bill was extremely reasonable.

We came home and my DH's question over the vet's lack of aggressive prescribed treatment was quickly superseded by the thought of a need for a new animal enclosure. He went to work on one as soon as we walked in the door. As usual he was very detailed and exact in design and construction - to a point I feared the little bird was going to get a chill being in the box waiting for her gilded cage.

Once the glass enclosure was completed with lights and heat, I put the little hen in it and relocated her mate to join her for moral support. By this time I was exhausted. Very little I needed to do during the day got done due to this avian medical emergency.

The next morning I checked on the birds. To my surprise, the little hen was sitting on the bottom of the "cage" up on both legs. I watched as she hopped over (on both feet) to the food bowl and ate. I thought back that less than 24 hours before "we" were discussing surgery, immobilization (a cast), and medication. Now I had a little bird that I could watch for a week or two, make sure her leg was strong , and hopefully make a safe transition back to the flight.

Was this much ado about nothing or the benefits of a gilded cage? Who knows? Whatever? The bottom line is that it looks as if my little bird is going to recover.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Real Macaroni and Cheese Does Not Come in a Blue Box

It is sad, actually it is ghastly, to think that a majority of American children think "Macaroni and Cheese" comes from a Blue Box. I shudder to think. As a southern mother, I am proud to say never has one of those Kraft blue boxes darkened my door or entered my pantry.

My children were brought up eating the real deal. Although from two different schools of thought - both my DH's mother and my mother baked excellent macaroni and cheese. However, they were entirely different. Let me explain.

My mother used my grandmother's recipe which was a serious cheesy macaroni dish that had a scrumptious hard cheese crust around the edges. She used an egg base with a bechamel sauce so her dish was easy to cut in pieces to serve.  Left overs could easily be heated up - this was not issue, there never being any left over. 

My mother-in-law made this incredible dish that bubbled with all the butter and cheese in it. She, too, used eggs so her dish could be cut and served. Her recipe called for spaghetti noodles in lieu of the traditional macaroni noodles so there was much more "noodle" to the dish.

I have my mother's recipe and have made it several times. Unfortunately, no one has been able to quite replicate my mother-in-law's recipe although several have tried. It is either not cheesy enough or lacks enough butter. My guess is practice makes perfect and eventually the secret will be unlocked and a (near) perfect dish will be revealed. For now, we just bemoan the absence of her rich cheese dish at every family occasion.

For me, I have launched off on my own when it comes to macaroni and cheese. I have found that there are recipes that, while are not the same as what my DH or I were raised reared on, they or no less enjoyable. In fact mine is richer and cheesier, full of cream and several different types of cheese as well as whole grain noodles. 

My attitude - if you are not going to go rich, creamy, and large, stay home. My DH shakes his head each time I bring my dish to the supper table. "It's just not the real thing'" he will say. Well it may not be, but they all seem to enjoy it and rarely does it last more than a day.

So, all I can say is - Out, out, Blue Box. And I pity those who know no better.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Phoenix - A Movie Review

Rarely, if ever, have I seen Rotten Tomatoes give a movie a 99%, but Phoenix, garnered that rating. There Critic Consensus was: "Tense, complex, and drenched in atmosphere, Phoenix is a well-acted, smartly crafted war drama that finds writer-director Christian Petzold working at peak power." I agree whole heartedly.

I had seen the trailers for this movie at the two indie theaters we go to often. The story line intrigued me. The more I read about it, the more interested I was. Then the reviews came out.

In a nut shell, the story is about Nelly (Nina Hoss) a young Jewish lady who survived the Nazi concentration camps but due to a disfiguring wound to her face has to undergo reconstructive surgery. When she recovers she finds that her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), who has not seen her since she was taken to the camps, thinks she is dead, and does not recognize her. Finally she gets his attention, but not recognizing her, he wants her to impersonate his wife (her) in a scheme to get her inheritance.

Nelly will not listen to, nor heed the  advice of her dear friend Lena (Nina Kunzendorf) who has been with her through the surgery and is trying to get her settled into a new life. Lena is aware of Johnny and the fact that he betrayed Nelly before she was taken away. Nelly's love is blind.

The story is intense, the acting is excellent, the scenery of post war Germany is surreal. The film is  mostly in German with subtitles but that did not matter because the film moves along and the dialogue is easy to follow. The story line is a bit surprising. There were times I felt it was lagging but then by the end I realized that was part of the experience. (And 98 minutes is only so long!). It was almost as if the director wanted the audience to share in Nina's angst. 

This is an excellent film and well worth your time. Unfortunately, it will probably not see a wide release until the award season when the buzz starts and everyone will want to see the film everyone is talking about.

A Walk in the Woods - A Movie ReviewNee

The first thing I noticed in this movie was the weathered look of Robert Redford. My memories were of the heart throb young actor in "The Way Were" that came out when I was in high school. But then in the many years that have passed, he has gone on to win an Oscar and countless other awards as an actor, producer, and director, as well establish one of the most prestigious film festivals around. All the while the rugged good looks still suit him well. Meanwhile, I have aged and have no such credits or awards to speak of. But, I digress.

A Walk in the Woods is based on Bill Bryson's  book by the same name.  In the movie (as in the book) Bryson (played by Redford) is a well known travel writer, who in one of those "I have to do something moments" decides - with no, or little hiking experience - to hike the Appalachian Trail. And, not just part of the trail but the entire trail from Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine - all 2,200 miles of it.

His wife Catherine (played by Emma Thompson) tells him in no uncertain terms he has lost his mind. When she realizes he is dead set on this idea, she insists he find someone to go with him. After getting turned down by all his friends with responses such as (and I paraphrase) 'I'd rather have a colonoscopy', an acquaintance, he has not heard from since his youth, Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte) calls and asks to join him. Katz was not even on his list. They had lost touch over the years and gone their separate ways.

When Katz shows up to join him, Bryson (nor I) hardly recognize him. He is overweight, with an unkempt white beard and long white hair. He limps with what he refers to as one knee that is his titanium replacement and the other is his trick knee. Needless to say, this is not what Catherine had in mind as a companion for Bill on the trail. Thompson plays her character so well as the sensible British wife who thinks her husband has lost his mind or is having some late in life crisis. But she realizes she has said her peace and he is going to do it.

The critics liked the film but were not in love with it. Everyone agreed the scenery was beautiful - it was. Some thought there should have been more to the trail. However, if you read Bryson's book you would know that it is a  humorous look at the hike, not a trail book. There are some stock characters who add much color to the story. And, overall the movie is very entertaining. The idea of these too older men, in their 70's, with no experience, heading out to seriously walk this trail in funny in itself.

The movie is enjoyable and moves along just like the trail - up and down with quite a bit of subtle comedy and some moments that had the entire audience (when I saw it) laughing out loud. Although in the first quarter mile of the trail you wonder how far they will actually get. It is definitely well worth the 104 minutes of your time for entertainment, however I do not see this as an award winning performance for anyone.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fried Chicken, Lightn' Bugs, Hair Spray, Bubba, and Baby

The upcoming Labor Day holiday reminds me that any white shoes I have need to be safely stored until the dawn of next Easter. And in doing so I thought about the other customs, traditions, and beliefs, sometimes referred to as archaic, that are still embedded in our psyche.

  • Wearing white shoes (with the exception of athletic shoes) after the first Monday in September shows that you were either raised reared in a barn, have no sense of pride, or, when it comes to clothes - are totally uncouth;
  • One can tell the status of a family by the ratio of meat dishes over all other types of  food brought by friends, neighbors, and loved ones when a member of the family dies. If you want to get into the weeds, look at the ratio of fried chicken over  ham. 
  • If you want to get thrown out of the Service League (and maybe run out of town in shame) show up as a hostess at a luncheon with store bought cookies or a cake in the box.
  • Some women still frown upon those who put dark meat in their chicken salad and adding grapes is still questionable (however the Food Chanel may justify that one).
  • Down here "Firefly" is a type of British shoe or vodka. "Lightn' Bugs" are the magical creatures that light up the yard at dusk.
  • Don't ask us for directions and expect to understand the landmarks, "Go to the red light, turn right and go a piece until you come to the old Piggly Wiggly. Turn left, and after a mile or two there will be John McDean's Store, it's a Shell station, no maybe Esso, I can't remember. Turn right just after the store and you will see the place you are looking for on the left. If you come to the burnt tree you have gone too far." (Of course the Piggly Wiggly closed 12 years ago and there is a Dollar Store there now, McDean's Store is an Exxon station, and the burnt tree fell down years ago, but we all know where it is - you can't miss that long curve.)
  • Going out in public with wet hair is beneath us.
  • Hair spray was created for southern women and we are in mourning for the aerosol can.
  • A southern woman always has a casserole (or two) in the freezer in case an emergency arises such as a friend or relative suddenly taking ill. This allows us to show up prepared with a home cooked meal.
  • A string of pearls can be worn with anything.
  • We have been monogramming our sheets, towels, and the collars of our children's Peter Pan shirts long before the fad and we will still be adding our initials and monograms to such items long after this whim fades away.
  • Yes, we name our children some odd names, but they are family names we are proud of, so get over it. And, so what if we have the 3rd's and 4th's. Then there are the nicknames - Bubba, Jr., Skeeter, Little Bob."Sweetie", "Baby", "Sport", and "Honeybunch" are truly terms of endearment.
  • And, yes, College Football, is a religion down here.

Bottom line, honey, if you don't get, we really don't care. It's not like our feelings are going to be hurt.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

We Don't Need No Education

Sometimes one has to see the humor in life otherwise the tragedy will kill you. In spending my days searching for jobs I often come across random job search sites. This morning I received an unsolicited email from a forum for those in search of employment with Walmart. After going through some of the posts, the mysteries of the universe or at least what makes our local Walmart tic or their staff seem so dysfunctional was revealed. 

Here are a few of the entries from the hiring pool. I have copied the exact posts (changing the posters' names of course, as if it were to matter)

t***** w****
August 13
i have been trying to apply. i went to all the sites possible, and havent heard nothing back. any tips ya can help me out with? 

J**** F****
5 days ago
Did u pass the question test if u fail it's considered non competitive and u have to wait 60 days to reapply how long ago did u apply ?

Br**** G****
August 26
How do you get passed the assement

M***** Fellion *****
4 days ago
1st....learn how to spell...."How do you get past the assessment?"


e**** a****
3 days ago
I work there 13 years got sick was told no openings so i told to fire me because i did not wanted to ouit.try for door greeter but no postion exsited.but still see people there. Besides all they want are part timers


c**** s****
August 12
nobody wants me here in florida.and its a shame because I am a great worker.sorry im from new jersey

W**** B***
6 days ago
I have the same exact problem


OK, I fancy myself as a writer but I do not possess the talent nor the imagination to make this up. I would apply to work at Walmart, however, I would have to jump off a cliff in shame if I were denied employment after reading these posts. Perhaps there is potential for me as a greeter after all.

The Man from UNCLE - a movie review

I missed the memo that explained The Man from UNCLE was supposed to be a B-rated movie parody of a top rated TV show of my youth. Once again the talent was wasted on my youth. This movie started out badly and just got worst. It was like "Get Smart" just without the talented actors, the brilliant dialogue, and the quirky props. 

Henry Cavill playing Solo was pompous, but not suave enough for the part. Armie Hammer as IIlya was a much better fit for his role, but he seemed befuddled most of the time - as if he questioned why he was cast in the film. Alicia Vikander played the role of Gaby as Gidget trying to be a Bond girl - it didn't fly.

The one scene in the movie that was memorable was a dance scene Gady performed in a drunken stupor for Illya in their hotel room. That taken out of the context of the movie was so well done, we were given a glimmer of hope that the film could be salvaged. But it was not to be.

Of all, the best character was Victoria, played by Elizabeth Debicki, the jewel decked villainess, whose brilliant cool calm actions, always three steps ahead of "the men", had to be ended. And spoiler alert - the writers found themselves having  to write her off in the end. Otherwise the dimwitted inept truth of the lack of talent by Solo and Illya would be shown up by her brains and guile. Now, the writers could not let that happen, could they? It would have been much better for all if the screenwriter had just written a better story from the get go.

We stayed through the entire film knowing it had to get better. At the end, in utter disbelief, we saw the error of our ways. We had wasted 116 minutes and all I got out of it was some sullen looks by Hammer and the entertaining cool charm of Dedicki. Oh, the 1960's clothes and music were entertaining, but not worth that much of my time and money. Guy Ritchie should know better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

End of the Tour - a Movie Review

Rarely do I come to the end of a film and walk out of the theater with one thought - Wow! that was a great film. It was not a great comedy or some coming of age story. It was not an epic period piece with a cast of thousands or scifi with computer aided effects that are unbelievable. The End of the Tour is an excellent movie. It is well cast with Jesse Eisenburg playing the role of David Lipsky, the Rolling Stones reporter who is interviewing David Foster Wallace, who is played by Jason Segel, just after Wallace's novel "Infinite Jest" was released to insane critical acclaim. 

It is the true story of this interview between two very unlikely people over a period of five days based on the book by the same name written by Lipsky. Lipsky, a writer himself - although not nearly as successful at that time - at first sees Wallace as someone to be idolized. After all Wallace has done what all writers dream of - wrote and published a book that is reviewed as one the of  masterpieces of the 19th and 20th centuries. His editor does not know whether Wallace is man or myth given all the stories about his checkered past. Lysky's  first contact with Wallace is anything but friendly, when Wallace tells him to lose his phone number.

But soon the two settle into a relationship although Wallace is very complicated and private. He is terrified of fame and the power it may have. Lipsky's questions at the same time intrigue and scare Wallace. He fears how Lipsky may word the article and characterize his quotes to show him in some untrue way. Lipsky assures him that is not so and plows on. Segel plays Wallace as a big hulking character trying to fit into a world both not his size and that he is unsure of. While Lipsky is very small and lithe and easily makes his way around. Wallace can be endearing but is socially awkward and the price of fame is almost more than he can bare.

One cannot help but feel for Wallace's tragic figure. He let Lipsky come into his world and in some ways his worse fears came to bare- although, many only in his mind. When your mind is so big and your world is so small, it is not hard for there to be constant battles going on.

I knew the basic story line and characters before I went to see the film. But Eisenburg and Segel put so much emotion and energy into the characters - often just with subtle looks and few words. The dialogue is well written, the conversations and thoughts flow, and nothing is wasted.  They played off each other well. There was electricity between them that sparked at times and was charged at other times. When it was all over, the story was played out so that I walked away knowing a lot more about the two authors and a little more about me. 

Yes, Wallace died way too young. But this gives us more of an insight into the brilliance of the man and also how complicated he was. Genius is often troubled. 

As a comic aside, Joan Cusak has a great role playing Patty the lady the publicist has assigned to drive Wallace around on the last stop of his tour.