Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Inevitable Year-End Post: Highlights

Jeff and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

Despite a health scare, Spike is cured, and in good shape.

I passed an online Jeopardy test and was invited to audition. It was a lot of fun, although I doubt I'll get the call to appear on the show this year.

I've increased my gym visits by over 162 percent.

I've written more (too lazy to post word counts or pages) and done more creative things  i.e. Artist Trading Cards than I did last year.

Happy New Year.











Saturday, December 28, 2013

Post-Christmas Calm

Things have been quiet for us this week after we got home Christmas evening. We've mostly just been hanging out. Today, we ran some errands: drug store, liquor store, fish market, and we took Spike to the dog park. Temps hit the mid to high forties--it felt almost balmy. The grounds were still damp, but at least there were no more puddles of water nor icy patches.

Jeff made trout for dinner tonight. It was delicious and we haven't had it in a long time. We also got baked stuffed clams casino and some cooked lobster meat for meals/appetizers over the next few days. I'm going to make buffalo chili tomorrow. I'll get it in the crock pot before I leave for two tutoring assignments and it will be done by the time I return.

We'll be staying in on New Year's Eve and are finalizing our dinner menu. I guess I'll make some kind of appetizer with the lobster. The parents of a tutoring student gave me a nice bottle of red holiday wine. It will go well with filet mignon and possibly duck breast. I also want to roast some peppers and make scalloped potatoes. (The potatoes I made for Christmas Eve were delicious--we had the leftovers last night.) I've also got fresh cherries to make a nice sauce for the duck and/or steak. Maybe a side salad. We have a Dancing Deer chocolate espresso cake for dessert; maybe I'll add some ice cream or cherry sauce. Sounds good to me.






Wednesday, December 25, 2013

White Christmas--Light

As we were eating dinner last night, it started to snow. It didn't amount to much; it was more than a dusting, maybe a coating--enough to look a little more Christmasy. I remembered that it snowed last Christmas Eve also. We woke up to snow then.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quiet Moments and Thoughts of Future Christmases

It's Christmas Eve. Everyone but my niece Lindsay and I have gone to church. I called us the heathens.

We're watching Christmas movies on TV. Two of Lindsay's top three are have been on: Elf and The Polar Express. For the record, her third is Rudolph.  I must have seen Rudolph over the years, but this is my first time watching parts of Elf and The Polar Express. But then she's never seen Christmas in Connecticut. The generation gap.

Jeff and I have our own Christmas viewing traditions.This year we haven't seen It's A Wonderful Life. Yet. I know it's on TV tonight, but it's broadcast TV with tons of commercials I'm sure. Maybe we can watch it after we go home tomorrow night.

Tonight is our Christmas dinner with Jeff's family: beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, peas and Caesar salad. (I don't know what's for dessert.) We'll stay overnight and open gifts in the morning. Then it's on to my mother's for a Christmas brunch.

I talked to a few of my friends who don't have Christmas day plans with their families. In some cases, their families are as dysfunctional as mine is. Sometimes it's just distance or work obligations that keep family members apart.

I foresee a future in which various friends stranded without family on Christmas Day come to our home to share the holiday with Jeff and me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

TV Time

At the end of November, Jeff and I downgraded our Netflix membership from DVD's and watch instantly to just watch instantly. We had found that the recent releases we selected would appear on cable a few weeks after we received them. We can always add back the DVD component if we want to see films that we can't access instantly or on cable.

During a week of broadcast reruns, we started to watch Orange is the New Black, a Netflix original. We had the same reaction to the first episode. We weren't sure just what to make of it, but we were intrigued. We watched the first season in about a week-and-a-half. I'm in the middle of a re-watch, to see things I might have missed the first time around. I'm looking forward to the second season.

Last week we discovered that we can watch all the seasons of Homeland on Showtime on Demand. We're on Episode Eight of the first season and it's awesome.

We appreciate good TV.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Prep and Present Waiting and Wrapping

I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year. I went to a few brick and mortar stores, but completely avoided the mall. I got the last of my online order presents today. It was a relief. Now I just have to wrap them.

Tomorrow I'm going to an all girls party at my friend's.  I made ATC's (Artists Trading Cards) for everyone. I'm trying not to be too critical about the ATC's. I am just using them as name tags--they don't have to be perfect. It's been a long time since I've made any. It was fun.

I need to remember to have fun doing creative things.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Seen

I was driving down Route 57 in Weston returning from a tutoring session this evening around 6 PM. I glanced at a deer crossing sign--a silhouette of a deer on a yellow background. Someone had added a bright red light as the deer's nose.

I laughed out loud--a Rudolph crossing. Wish I had the opportunity to take a picture.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season Two Episode Four

Green Eyed Monster

Veronica takes a case behind Keith's back: a woman suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her.

Update on the bus crash: Weevil tells Veronica that he got an anonymous call claiming Curly Moran caused the bus crash to punish PCHer Cervando on behalf of the Fitzpatrick gang. Veronica discovers that the call came from Logan's house.

Meg, the only survivor of the bus crash, remains in a coma. Veronica learns that Duncan's been visiting her every day. One night, Meg's sister Lizzie stops by Duncan's hotel room for help getting Meg's personal files off her laptop. She can't let her parents see them. It's Mac to the rescue; she moves Meg's personal files onto a thumb drive that she gives to Duncan.

Alicia sees the guy from Chicago in Neptune and asks Keith for help. She claims he's an abusive ex; he's also a police officer. In the final scene, Chicago guy tells Wallace he's his father.

The bus crash developments are thought-provoking. The revelation of Wallace's father is also a surprise. But this mystery of the week is weak. The client's too cartoonish and I didn't care for Veronica posing as flirty college girl to see if the boyfriend could be tempted. The mystery is only interesting as a parallel to Veronica's interest in Meg's and Duncan's relationship (and Meg's files.)

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season Two Episode Three

Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang

Veronica has two mysteries this week.

Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas hires Veronica to find proof that his stepmother Kendall has violated her pre-nup agreement. She gets pictures of Logan and Kendall. More importantly, she finds proof of fraud in Dick Casablanca Senior's REIT. Dick Sr. flees the SEC taking off from his office helicopter pad.

Veronica is also trying to find why Curly Moran had her name written on his hand. Curly's the guy who Lamb found dead at the end of the second episode. Veronica learns he was a stunt coordinator for an Aaron Echolls film, which featured a truck veering over a bridge. Veronica is convinced the bus crash was meant for her.

In other developments, Duncan and Logan have a fist fight. Keith takes Alicia to Chicago where a man with a badge calls her Cher, and tracks her to Neptune. Veronica is unhappy with Wallace's interest in Jackie and with Jackie dating another guy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Decorating: 2013

I'm always running behind the times....to quote Joni Mitchell in Just Like This Train.  I had hoped to do the Christmas decorating early this week--Monday or Tuesday. But I had planned to do a thorough cleaning of the living room last weekend. That didn't happen so things got pushed back. (A nice passive way to put it.)

We set up one tree in the window and put other decorations around the living room and dining area. We have many trees: two wax candles, accordion Christmas card holder, glass candy dish, glass tree, wooden tree, and tree facsimile with needles and snow. We have a few Santa's, candles and angels as well.

A few of the decorations that stand out to me: Gummy's angel--Jeff's sister named their grandmother Gummy, and she made three beautiful gold angels--each of her grandchildren have one; a photo of Jeff's father and my stepfather from one Christmas--Jeff's dad Jim is wearing a red sweater and green pants, my stepfather Albert is wearing a green sweater and red pants (this was not planned); a candle of Snoopy in a Santa hat lying on his red doghouse with a wreath on the side.

Having only one five-foot tree, we had to be selective with our ornaments: New York Mets, Merwinsville Hotel, Grateful Dead, beagles, Simpsons, St. Thomas seashell, House of the Seven Gables, Cranbury Park (Norwalk), New York City, Bette Davis, Spike on Santa's lap, hand-knitted ornament from Elaine. Elaine may have knitted the tree topping angel too.

Things look good.





Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"That's a Cute Sweater...

the little dog has on."

That's what a man said to me this evening when I was outside with Spike.

It got me thinking--Spike hasn't objected to his Fido fleece the last couple of days. Later I asked Jeff; he said Spike didn't fight him but was like a dead weight when he put the fleece on him.

Last week we went to Cranbury Park and saw Hunter, a German short haired pointer who used to frequent Taylor Farm. We've seen him a few times in the last few months. He remembers us, which makes me feel good. Hunter was wearing a green coat. His human told us that he had purchased the coat for another dog who hated it. So had Hunter when he was younger.

Hunter is around 10 and Spike is 13. I wonder if they are more sensitive to the cold now. Maybe they realize how much we care about them. Maybe they just got tired of fighting us.

Whatever, it's nice to have a warm dog. Here's a picture of Spike in his Fido fleece from last year.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

First Snow Day

We've had a few snow showers this season, but today is the first snow with any accumulation. One-to-three inches are predicted. No big deal, but you wouldn't know it from the hyperbole of the TV weather broadcasts last night.

The snow started earlier than predicted. In the first hour I was up, the snow covered the roads and sidewalks.

Spike didn't resist when I put his Fido fleece on him. After we went outside, he stood on the front steps for few minutes surveying the situation. We took only a short walk which was fine with me.

As annoying as snow can be (especially for travel) it is also beautiful. I reminded myself to notice at beautiful snow dusted tree branches.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

TCM Catch-Up: Juarez

Juarez is a good film from perhaps the greatest year in American film--1939.

Bette Davis gives a solid supporting performance as Empress Carlotta. She's especially poignant in her scenes despairing of her inability to bear an heir and her confrontation with Napoleon III. Carlotta faints and sees Napoleon as a devil when he attempts to revive her. She runs off down an increasingly darkening hallway, symbolizing her descent into madness. Designer Orry-Kelly also darkened her costumes to symbolize her madness as the film continues (white to gray to black.)

Claude Rains is brilliant as Napoleon III. The film opens with him and his advisers coming up with the plan to set up Maximilian as Mexican emperor. Gale Sondergaard as Empress Eugenie is instrumental in the plan. Rains plays the pompous ass to perfection, posing on a wooden horse for a portrait, while meeting the American minister.

Brian Aherne plays Emperor Maximilian as a well-meaning dupe of Napoleon III. Maximilian is legitimately shocked when he learns that the plebiscite bringing him to Mexico is fraudulent. We see his form of idealism when Maximilian meets the imprisoned General Diaz (John Garfield.) The scene provides a good background of the political situation.

Although Paul Muni is the title character, his Juarez is rather dull--too stately and stoic to make an impact. He has a few good scenes--continuing to walk towards a squad of men ordered to fire on him. Another is when General Diaz discusses Maximilian's offer to make Juarez Prime Minister; Juarez dismantles Maximilian's argument that only a word, democracy, separates their beliefs.

The cast also includes Donald Crisp and Harry Davenport.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Self Assessments

Earlier this week I had to complete a self-assessment as part of a performance review. This is a relatively new process at my current company--only the second year. It had been about 15 years since I went through the process.

Self-assessment can be tricky. You need to blow your own horn, but you have to be realistic. It helps if you can quantify your accomplishments. That's relatively easy to do in my current position.

Another component is identifying the areas you need to improve. That was also relatively easy for me to do. But I have the same weak area as last year. I'm not sure if I've made enough progress there.

The harder self assessment will be of my personal goals for the year. I'm running out of time. Maybe this article will help.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season Two Episode Two

Driver Ed

Neptune is reeling from the bus crash. Many are looking for an easy answer and find a scapegoat in the bus driver. They say he caused the crash to kill himself.

The bus driver's daughter Jessie asks Veronica to prove that her father didn't commit suicide. Veronica proves it to Jessie's satisfaction, but not to Sheriff Lamb's. Seeing Lamb act like an ass to Jessie causes Keith to decide to run for sheriff.

The episode introduces new regular Jackie; she's not very likable. Except to Wallace. He solves the mystery of who hit Jackie's dad's car on his own.

The final scene of the episode is the best. Lamb finds a dead body on the beach with "Veronica Mars" written on his palm.

A few small moments I liked:

"Magic Bus" plays as Veronica sees bus crash tee-shirts, coffee cups and hat souvenirs for sale in a convenience shop

Kevin Smith appears as the convenience shop clerk

When Wallace calls Veronica about Jackie's dad's car, he tilts his head and asks "What you doing?"

Dick telling Logan no girl wants to go to Casa de Killer.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TCM Movie Reviews

Last night we watched The Searchers. Ironically, we've had that recorded on our DVR for about two years, but watched it live on TCM.

We were both disappointed. It's not that there's something horribly wrong with the film. Maybe the hype was just too much. I will say that John Wayne was mesmerizing. At one point, his glare blazed through the screen and almost scared me. Jeffrey Hunter is also good. Overall, we liked the film; it just didn't live up to our expectations.

I'm not a huge western fan. My favorite western is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which also stars John Wayne and Vera Miles (who has a supporting role in The Searchers.) It has a twist on the usual western (print the legend.) I also like Bad Day at Black Rock. That may not be a traditional western, but it's a modern tale in a western US location. Stagecoach is another western that I enjoy--now that's traditional.

A few days ago we watched Bonnie and Clyde. We had both seen it before but it's been a long time. When I originally saw it, I didn't realize how influential it would be in American film. Re-watching it, I realized that it was probably the first time I heard Earl & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I still find the death scene powerful and tragic. But maybe those weaned on torture porn find it tame.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Anniversary Fat Cat!

On Thanksgiving Day, I got an email from Fat Cat inviting us to join them from 1 to 4:20 today for jazz. Today was the its tenth anniversary.

I had a class to teach, followed by a tutoring appointment scheduled to end at 3:30. Jeff walked over to Fat Cat and I planned to meet him about 4. I figured at least I'd hear about 20 minutes plus of music.

Unfortunately, I ran into heavy traffic going from my class to my tutorial. It took me an extra 15 minutes. After the session, my student's father talked to me for about 10 minutes about scheduling. I had had to leave immediately after our first session, and didn't want to rush off again.

Luckily there wasn't much traffic on my return trip, and the band played beyond 4:30.  I got to hear two songs. We had a health pizza, one of the specials. Once Jeff learned it had lots of garlic, he ordered it. Delicious. A nice way to celebrate an anniversary.

Friday, November 29, 2013

In the 56 Percent

I had two tutoring appointments today, and I heard many commercials as well as news reports about Black Friday shopping when I was in the car. I hate the over-commercialization of Christmas. I hate that holiday is just another excuse for rampant consumerism. I hate how the start of the Christmas season creeps earlier each year.

I heard that 56 percent of Americans do not intend to go shopping this weekend. I am among that group. I have no interest in shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. I don't want to wait in the cold to fight crowds and get stressed out.

I just don't get the appeal.

One of the most frustrating recent developments has been the extension of Black Friday to Thanksgiving day. It bothers me on principle, but more importantly it's troubling what this does to retail workers, forced out of their holidays. It was damn disappointing to hear how successful Thanksgiving day sales were.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It's been a tough week for me to be thankful. I've been focused instead on what I don't have--what I'm missing. I know it's a crappy attitude to have, but that's where my head's been lately.

Just taking the time to focus on the good makes a difference.

As usual, I'm thankful that I don't have to travel this holiday.We had a nice visit and dinner with Jeff's family.

I'm thankful for Jeff and Spike. Jeff and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in September. Spike has fully recovered from a health crisis in February.

We have a good life. Can I ask for more than that?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season Two Episode One

Normal is the Watchword

It's been a while since my last Veronica Mars episode post. Now that the movie is in the works, I want to re-watch Season Two and Three before we see the film.

The opening scene has Veronica trying to get back to a normal life; she's not solving mysteries anymore--she's working at a coffee shop, Jabba the Hut (great name.) Keith's on TV, being interviewed about his book about Lilly.

In flashbacks, we see the resolution of one of the Season One finale cliffhangers: who was at Veronica's door in the early morning after her showdown with Aaron?

It was Logan. His appearance answers another cliffhanger question--he was beaten up by Weevil and other members of the PCH gang. They found a drunken Logan when Weevil still thought Logan had killed Lilly. Soon Leo arrives to arrest Logan--PCHer Felix has been killed in the fight with Logan.

Veronica's normal life doesn't last long: Wallace and Meg (among others) have failed their drug tests and have been kicked off the basketball team and cheerleading squad respectively. That's the mystery of the week.

More flashbacks: the case against Logan was dropped, creating more conflicts between the 09ers and the non-09ers. Veronica has broken up with Logan because of his part in the ongoing feud with the non-09ers, and has gotten back with Duncan. Meg is bitter about that development and blames Veronica. Logan is having an affair with Dick and Beaver's ex-Laker cheerleader stepmother.

The episode ends with the journalism students' field trip to Shark Stadium. The baseball team's owner is running for mayor, and introduces his daughter Gia. 09er Dick complains about a bad smell on the bus and gets a limo for the return trip. All the 09ers except Meg take the limo.

Veronica misses the bus, so Weevil gives her a lift. As they drive around a bend, they see smoke, kids rushing from the limo and learn that the bus went off the road into the water below.

The season-long mystery emerges.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Weird Story

Once again Shakesville has given me the idea for today's post: a weird story from my life.

The first time Jeff and I went away together, we drove up to Cape Cod. We stayed in  Dennisport, but headed up to Provincetown for the day. Back in a Dennisport restaurant for dinner, I visited the ladies room. This restaurant continued its marine theme by labeling the bathrooms Gulls and Buoys. I was surprised when I emerged from the stall to see a guy in the ladies room.

"What are you doing in the men's room?" he asked.

I told him, "This is the ladies room."

He insisted that gulls were guys; I disagreed.  "Look, there's a tampon machine; this is the ladies room."

He then asked if I was in the such-and-such bar in Provincetown that afternoon. I was; that's where Jeff and I said lunch.

It made for a good story when I went back to the table.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin Soup

I intended to make pumpkin soup today, but I was lazy and forgot. Maybe tomorrow.

I made a batch a few weeks ago: vegetable broth, organic pumpkin, carrots, apples, pears, garlic and scallions. I didn't have a recipe; I improvised based on what we had. It was pretty good.

This timely post was on Shakesville today. One of the entries describes a spiced pumpkin soup: more ideas for tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Random Sunday Thoughts

It's the coldest day of the season. Yet, winter is almost a month away.

Winter is Coming.

House Stark, will you recover? I heard that the original title of the last volume of A Song of Ice and Fire was supposed to be A Time for Wolves. Starks survive!

As I was driving back home today, I heard a story about trust in news sources. It said that Walter Cronkite was perhaps the most trusted man in America--"Uncle Walter." In this Kennedy-heavy news cycle, the program included Cronkite's reporting of the Nixon resignation.

My brother used to call me "A Walter Cronkite groupie."

One of the most interesting Kennedy articles I read recently is from the New York Times. It discusses the interruption of As the World Turns with the news of Kennedy's shooting.

We watched our second UVM basketball game versus Duke. We weren't expecting much because Duke. But it was an exciting game. The Catamounts came within seconds of a huge upset, losing 91-90. Kurt had seven points.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Morning Girl

Morning Girl is one of Jeff's nicknames for me because I walk Spike in the mornings. When Spike first came to live with us, Jeff had to start work at 8. I worked at home doing freelance work, and had an afternoon job. I've also been a little more of a morning person than Jeff. So, it was only natural for me to assume the morning walking duties.

Currently, I'm teaching classes on Saturday and Sunday morning starting at 9. For the last few weeks, I've relied on Jeff to walk Spike those mornings. Either Spike was still in bed, or I was pressed for time.

Today, Spike got up with me. This is common because each morning he gets a thyroid pill (in a yummy pill pocket), a greenie and a greenie joint care (with glucosamine and chondroitin.) He usually gets his "breakfast" and immediately goes back to bed.

Today, Spike waited for me outside the bathroom as I showered. I quickly dressed and took him for a walk, around 7:15. It's possible that Spike just had to go, but normally he waits by the door if that's the case.

I prefer to think that Spike just wanted to ensure that he and I would walk together.

It makes me happy to think that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years

As someone old enough to remember JFK's assassination, I feel compelled to write about it today. Even though I don't have anything profound to say.

I was in the third grade, Mrs. Owens' class. I remember her going to the doorway to see Mr. Buck, the principal. Then she came back and told us the news. It must have been shocking, though I don't remember feeling much of anything.

We watched TV for the next several days. I think I saw Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV, though there were so many replays that I can't be sure.

I remember the 1960 election at our house. My ten-year-old sister was a Nixon fan; she had a Nixon headquarters sign in her bedroom. She couldn't understand this later as a 17-year-old supporter of Bobby Kennedy. I remember her coming downstairs from her attic bedroom in 1968 to tell us that Bobby had been shot after the California primary.

This has been a kind-of-stream of consciousness post. From the JFK assassination to the 1960 election to Bobby's death. They all blend together for me.

There have been so many mass killings and assassinations since 1963; it's hard to remember how shocking JFK's death was back then. I won't say we were innocent as a country, but maybe we were naive.

I don't know, I was too young.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Work (Out) in Progress

I believe in making goals, plans and to-do lists. But belief is never enough or what Roseanne said.

One goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year is to exercise for at least a half hour every day. I knew all along I wouldn't meet this goal; it's clearly aspirational. I figure if I can meet it halfway--I'll be in good shape.

A big part of the exercise goal is going to the gym--three or four times a week. I take a small notebook with me to keep track of my workouts.  Looking back at my entries for this year, I didn't do as well as I remembered. July was my best month--I visited the gym 16 times. I did poorly in September--only three visits.

Year-to-date, I've been to the gym 96 times. It isn't even close to my goal, but it's a big improvement over 2012--I visited the gym only 35 times all year.

Small steps. Maybe I'll get there eventually.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Netflix Movie Night: 42

I expected to like 42: a baseball movie with good triumphing over evil.

I did like it, though I know the struggle against racism continues. And I'm sure the movie whitewashed (pardon the pun) much of the bigotry and racism.

A few things stood out for me:

I didn't know from where I recognized the actress who played Rachel Robinson until I saw the credits: it was Nicole Beharie from Sleepy Hollow.

The racist Philadelphia manager was played by Alan Tudyk, my beloved Wash from Firefly.

"Robinson round third, headed for home sweet home." This was a line written by Wendell Smith, the black sports writer who cannot sit in the (all white) press box.

A young boy catches a ball that Jackie throws from a train. I asked Jeff if he was going to be someone famous, such as Hank Aaron. In the end credits, he was identified as Ed Charles, a member of my beloved Mets, the 1969 Miracle-Mets version.

I also loved one of the end credit songs with the line," Life is a ballgame, but you got to play it fair."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seen and Photographed

As I've mentioned before, there's been a lot of construction and repair work going on in our neighborhood. It has curtailed Spike's current favorite morning walk route, but we were able to take it today. Down the hill around the hospital, up the next street and back home. It was a sunny day, warmer than I expected, so the walk was a pleasure.

I stopped to take this photo:

 
 
This owl is sitting on a lawn of a multi-family house near its parking lot. I suppose there's some kind of story behind this owl. I've tried to imagine it, but haven't come up with anything good yet. 



Monday, November 18, 2013

Catamount Basketball

I used to watch a lot of professional basketball, but not college ball. That's changed. Our nephew, Kurt, is now playing for the University of Vermont.

Tonight was the first time we were able to catch a game on TV. It wasn't a good night for Vermont--losing by 21 points to Providence. At least Kurt got a decent amount of playing time and scored five points.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hampton Court Memories

I wasn't feeling well earlier this week, so it was a good time to catch up on some DVR recordings. I wrote about a few Bette Davis films I saw. I also watched a show about the secrets of Hampton Court.

In 1982, I went to London with my father, sister and a few of my sister's friends. My sister Joanna was good at finding tours and bargains. We got a good fare but didn't spend much time with the tour group. Joanna had lived in London for a year and was able to show us around.

Anne Boleyn's home, Hever Castle, was closed when we visited London in November. Of course, we went to the Tower of London, but we also visited Hampton Court Palace. We took the train from London one morning. I must have heard about the influence of Charles II, William and Mary, and Queen Anne during the tour, but I only remember the Tudors. I loved seeing the intertwined H and A that remained in the gateway despite the workers' best efforts to remove all traces of Anne. I also imagined Catherine Howard running down the Haunted Gallery in her attempt to reach Henry. I remember our gift shop purchases: I got an Anne Boleyn paperweight and a Six Wives of Henry VII tea cup. I think Joanna got a Six Wives dish towel.

We stopped for lunch at a local pub around the corner before heading back to London. It was one of the best meals we had that trip.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Moon Over Taylor Farm

Today we got to Taylor Farm about 4:45. It was already growing dark. It was warm, and we saw a few familiar faces. Nice, if not as nice as Dog Park Friday.

We saw a beautiful full moon:

 





Bonus Photo: Here is Spike resting on the ride back from Vermont last Sunday:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Joanna's Song Parodies

Last weekend when we were in Vermont, I suddenly remembered the lyrics of a song my sister (and perhaps her husband) made up about an imaginary restaurant, Pork and Cork. I don't know what triggered my memory.

Joanna had a talent for parody. I remember a lyric about her lawyer to the tune of  the Spiderman cartoon,

"Is he bald? Listen bud, he's so bad he wears a rug."

Her song that I  remember best was written for Jeff's friend after Jeff's bachelor party; the tune was "The Ballad of Jed Clampett."

      Listen to a story about a man named Jed
      His plane was late, so he didn't get fed
      He started to drink without any food
      Later that night he was acting crude
      Puking, that is.
      Well, the next thing you know, ole Jed's puked up his guts...

She definitely had a flair for music. I miss her songs.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dog Park Afternoon

It's been over a week since I went to a dog park with Spike--his birthday to be precise. We were busy, then away, then I wasn't feeling well and it was cold.

I decided today was the day. It had warmed up to around 50 degrees, and I had some free time. Spike got excited as we approached Taylor Farm. He started what I can best describe as a high-pitched squealing. He even barked as we pulled into the parking lot; he couldn't wait to get out. I was happy to see him so happy.



Here's a photo of the afternoon sky.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hitchcock Revisited: The Girl

I watched Hitchcock the other night, and today I caught the other 2012 Hitchcock film, The Girl.

Toby Jones looks and sounds more like Hitchcock than Anthony Hopkins, but he seems more distant. I like Imelda Staunton, but her role as Alma is much smaller than Helen Mirren's in Hitchcock so I won't compare the performances.

I didn't like this film; it just left me cold. Hitchcock is an ass (at best); Alma apologizes for her husband's actions but is unwilling or unable to do anything about it. And I don't know why, but I just couldn't care much about Sienna Miller's Tippi Hedren.

Overall, a disappointment.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TCM Catch-Up: Storm Center and Payment on Demand

Storm Center 1956

It's always a pleasure to see a Bette Davis movie for the first time. By my count, she's made 87 films, and I've only missed about six of them (not counting television movies.)

Bette plays the town librarian--Alicia Hull. She appears in the first shot, striding purposefully to the free public library, then greeting the children, directing the custodian, telling the assistant where to find a book and discussing a new children's wing with a member of the city council.

Alicia's problems start when she is asked to remove "The Communist Dream" from the library shelves. She agrees at first, but finds she can't do it. Alicia loses her job, is personally attacked as a Communist and becomes the town pariah.

Unfortunately, the story gets too melodramatic; the town too suddenly realizes the error of its ways. It could have been a much better film.


 Payment on Demand 1951

Bette is great as Joyce Ramsay. In the opening scene, she clearly establishes herself as a snobby society matron. Watching her sweep around a train on her gown reminds me of a story of how director William Wyler made her shoot and re-shoot a scene looping part of her riding habit to capture the feeling of the old South in Jezebel.

After her husband David suddenly tells her he wants a divorce, she relives her marriage through a series of flashbacks. Joyce cheats a friend by steering lucrative legal business to her husband; Joyce refuses to move to a farm because her children will have to play with farmhands; Joyce maneuvers an invitation to a society event; Joyce lies to the cheated friend who desperately needs financial help. Next, she blackmails her husband into giving up all his money to save the reputation of his paramour.

This is another film hurt by a weak ending. Joyce is disillusioned by her new role as a divorcee This happens after only two weeks or so--and is a bit heavy-handed. After the marriage of their daughter, David tells her he wants her back. She says she'll be waiting. This comes out of left field, as she's shown no regret at her behavior, only fear of a lonely life.

Still, I was glad to see this movie again after several years. The acting was very good, especially Bette and Jane Cowl as a society matron turned lonely divorcee.

Monday, November 11, 2013

HBO On Demand: Hitchcock

We watched Hitchcock last night. It's more of a story about the making of Psycho than a biography.

I enjoyed it on that level. I didn't realize what a departure Psycho was from mainstream films of the late fifties.  It was fascinating to see how wrong the studio was about the film's profitability, and the controversy about the flushing toilet.

Hitchcock as a person was an ass. I wasn't interested in watching him be a jerk to his wife, but Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were both good.

Hitchcock was made in 2012. Ironically so was The Girl, detailing the making of The Birds. I haven't seen that film yet. Apparently, Hitchcock was more of an ass in that.

Droopy

I've been exhausted all day. I guess I didn't get enough sleep in Vermont and it's catching up with me. As the day continued, I felt achy and chilled. So I took it easy; I unpacked, did four loads of laundry and started to work on my new SAT manual.

I hope going to bed early will help me feel better.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vermont Getaway

Jeff and I hadn't been up to Vermont in years; I'd forgotten how much I like it. During the drive up, I looked at villages nestled in valleys and tried to imagine myself in them. Snow showers started as we approached our motel in Quechee. That was a bit of a shock; I hadn't prepared myself for snow.

We didn't have much time to explore. We checked out Quechee Gorge Village Friday and today (we didn't have time for the antique mall on Friday.)  Yesterday before the wedding, we drove over to Woodstock and did a little shopping.

Instead of taking highways the whole way home, we selected a different route. We took I-91 down to Brattleboro and then took Route 9 West (also known as The Molly Stark trail) to Bennington, where we picked up Route 7. We stopped at Hogback Mountain for the 100 Mile View and finally found a restaurant in Lanesborough, Massachusetts around 3 PM for a late lunch.

It was a long day. Our drive up including a quick lunch stop took four-and-a-half hours. Our return drive: nine hours. We spent about 45 minutes at Quechee Gorge Village and much longer than expected at lunch. We also made a few wrong turns. Early nightfall made the drive seem longer and less enjoyable. It was a relief to get home.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vermont Wedding

Today we attended a wedding at Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock, Vermont, luckily without the snow in the linked photo. I usually don't care for wedding masses, but this was a beautiful ceremony.

Onto to The Parker House in Quechee for dinner and music.

Congratulations Jess and Jared.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Heading to Vermont

Sometime in the next hour, Jeff, Spike and I will hit the road for Vermont. Jeff's best friend from high school is getting married tomorrow. Of course we're attending, but getting here was a little rocky.

I teach a SAT small group tutorial on Saturday mornings. I don't like missing sessions, but this will be worth it. I secured a substitute back in September.

Next, what about Spike? Jeff found a conveniently located, dog-friendly motel, but we had to figure out what to do with him during the wedding and reception.. A friend of Jared (the groom) has offered Spike the run of her house during that time.

What to wear? Jeff has a few suits, but I had nothing. I'll spare you the details of my shopping angst and frustration. I ordered a dress (actually two dresses to compare sizes) and it arrived two days earlier than expected.  The wedding isn't formal, so I should have many opportunities to wear the dress again.

On Tuesday, I learned that my substitute has some family problem and can't teach this Saturday. I started to stress. I had done everything I was supposed to do, but now wondered if I would miss the wedding (and today with Jeff and Spike.) Luckily, the office manager assured me she would find a sub, or reschedule the class.

Just waiting now for Jeff to finish a phone interview and we'll be on our way. It's a nice day; I'm looking forward to the drive.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Netflix Movie Night: The Kiss of the Vampire

When we were reviewing Netflix for Halloween movies, I added the Hammer film, Kiss of the Vampire to our queue. I used to go to the Saturday matinees every week and often saw horror movies; this was one of those movies. I've seen it since then, but not in many years.

The movie holds up for the most part. It is mysterious and atmospheric, with a haunting score. The sets are stunning--from the spooky woods to the almost-deserted Grand Hotel--to the eerie but beautiful castle. The opening cemetery scene is memorable, as well as the masked ball.

But, there are a few buts. Why was Gerald so oblivious to the creepiness of the Ravnas? Why did the Ravnas try to convince Gerald that he didn't have a wife? How could they pull that off? Why didn't they convert him at the same time as they converted Marianne? Why were the vampires so whiny?

Still, I was glad to see the film again.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shattered

Last night as I was cleaning up the kitchen, I picked up a small piece of pottery from Key West with a rooster painted on it that I use it as a spoon rest. As I was dried it off, I started thinking about the Key West chickens. It was nice to have the spoon rest--something I see every day--to remind me of our visits.

 About ten minutes later, I picked up the dish towel and heard a crash. I had forgotten that I left the rooster spoon rest in the towel. I found three large pieces and thought that I might be able to repair it, but then I realized that another piece had shattered into tiny pieces. I actually teared up. An overreaction to be sure, but I don’t have much from Key West.

Why do I break the things that are hard to replace? One of life’s household mysteries—along with what happens to missing individual socks?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Winner of Face-Off (Season Five) is....

Laura.

Laura first appeared in Season Three and was consistently strong throughout her season, making it to the Final Three.

This year in the veterans versus newbies, three veterans made it to the finals. Laura, Roy (Season Three) and Tate (Season One.) The challenge was Swan Lake in a specific historical setting: Laura--Italian Renaissance, Roy--Ming Dynasty, and Tate--Industrial Revolution.

All of the make-ups were awesome. I did think Laura's was the most beautiful.

Congratulations, Laura.

Congratulations Mayor-Elect Rilling!

Harry Rilling has defeated current Mayor Richard Moccia of Norwalk to become the  next mayor of Norwalk, CT.  According to News12, Norwalk has only had a Democrat as mayor for four of the previous 26 years.

I had no idea I lived in such a Republican city.

I'm glad to see that change.

Happy 13th Birthday Spike!

Today is a happy day.

 


Sorry the photo is off center; it's hard to focus with a beagle walking towards you. It's the only picture today that captures what we call "happy face."

Yes, it's a happy day, but I can't help but think about how it could have been...If I hadn't seen Spike keel over, if we hadn't gotten Spike to the vet's when we did. Luckily, we did take care of Spike, and he's fully recovered.

Spike's had a good day. We had breakfast with duck bacon. Later we took him to Cranbury Park. First, Spike played with a few other dogs. Then we went for a walk along the trails.





 Later, I'm making filet mignon for dinner. Spike will also get a celebratory Frosty Paw for dessert.

We love you, Spike. Happy Birthday.

Monday, November 4, 2013

TV Time

Now that the baseball season is over, we have more time to watch prime time television. But we watch too much TV anyway, so maybe we should take this opportunity to turn it off.

But not tonight--we watched Sleepy Hollow. I've only seen three episodes, but I think Jeff's caught them all. We watched the pilot as a lark; it was interesting, and not as silly as I expected.

Haven't gotten into any other new shows this season, and we lost a few that we did watch. We liked Copper. Unfortunately, the season finale was also the series finale. Copper had a good mix of complex, gray characters in an unusual setting: the 1865 NYC neighborhood of Five Points. I'll miss it.

I watched The White Queen over the summer. I was disappointed with the witchcraft angle, but the show got better as it went along, The last two episodes were very good. Apparently, it was only intended to last for one season. The series ends with Henry VII winning the crown. The Tudors started with Henry VIII. I'd love to see more of Henry VII's story.

Our favorite reality show is Face-Off--now in its fifth season. The twist was veteran contestants competing against newcomers. I think an all star format would have been fairer. I also would have preferred to see the runners up from the previous four seasons. Two of my favorites, Tate and Laura, returned. Each had made the final three in his/her season. Tomorrow night is the season finale with the final three contestants: Tate, Laura and Roy. Roy was another season three contestant with Laura. He should have made final three that season. I like all three but think Laura and Tate are both stronger than Roy. We'll have to see what happens.

.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Year-End is Fast Approaching

Got this article in my email today. Most of it doesn't apply to me--I don't worry about holiday festivities; I don't overbook myself; I don't host any celebrations; I don't bake.

But I need this message: don't write off the year yet.

It's November 3rd: most of my goals are as far from completion as they were on January 1st.  But that's not a good reason to give up. I still have two months to go. Plus any kind of progress is good.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Evening at Taylor Farm

As I mentioned here, last night was possibly the final dog park Friday of the year. It was a beautiful, mild night. I'm just sorry that I had to leave before everyone else.

Here are some photos.







Friday, November 1, 2013

Mixed Bag

I'm tired and should be in bed, but I'm still winding down and couldn't let the first of November go without some kind of post. I expected to be home around nine tonight, but it was after 10.

I had a mammogram and breast ultrasound today and all was well. I don't worry despite my family history. But I was several months late with these tests and needed to get them done.

Jeff, Spike and I went to probably our last dog park Friday for the year. Next week with the daylight savings fall back, it will be dark by 5 PM. Tonight we had a good turn-out for this time of year: ten people.

I left the dog park because I had an teachers meeting/cocktail party. That was disappointing. The "scrumptious" appetizers promised weren't close to scrumptious in my estimation. More importantly, the 7 PM sharp meeting started at 7:15 and went a half hour later than promised. Many blew off the post meeting get-together at the Southport Brewing Company. Either they had too far to drive or it was too late. At least it was a good idea.

Last month I considered whether I should try National Novel Writing Month again. I decided against it. Instead I'll do National Blog Posting Month. I did well with it last year; I wrote 35 posts for November, though I missed one day by posting at 12:01. I will also do some other writing.  I'm thinking 500 words per day besides the blog. I know I won't make it today and didn't do it last year, but I've got to try.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!



I saw this painting on the window of The Silver Ribbon as part of Westport's Halloween Window Painting Contest. As a beagle fan, I especially appreciate it.

We don't get trick-or-treaters, but Jeff got candy just in case. He carved a pumpkin, put a tea light in it, and placed it in the window.  The reflection is eerie; it reminds me of the original version of Halloween. We also lit our eyeball candle.

We mostly celebrate Halloween by watching scary movies. We started one night last week. We checked out Netflix instant films, and started with Dead Snow. I'm not a big fan of zombies, but figured Nazi zombies could be interesting. Unfortunately, the film was sub-titled and we weren't up to that. Our next selection was Legion of the Dead about Egyptian tombs and mummies and the like. But this Egyptian tomb was in California--pretty hokey.

Next we watched an oldie but goodie, Black Sunday. We laughed a bit about the two doctors visiting the family tombs, accidentally knocking over the cross, breaking the window over the witch's coffin, removing the witch's death mask and dripping blood onto her face. Whoops, my bad. The movie remains atmospheric and intriguing.

Tonight we watched a newer film, Insidious. It creeped me out at first, but I got into it. We just finished The Awakening--an atmospheric ghost story. Bonus: it stars Issac Hempstead Wright--Bran from Game of Thrones.

Extra bonus points: Vincent Price on TCM.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Update: Veronica Mars--The Movie

I wrote about the movie here a little over six months ago.

Monday night, I saw this clip on Jezebel.

I am not "losing my shit."

Don't get me wrong; I can't wait to see this. It's one of the few upcoming films to tempt me into the theater (Catching Fire is the other.)

But what about the murder mystery? Isn't that more important than who wins the coveted title of Veronica's boyfriend?

Obviously, I think so.

I realize that the trailer is named: Veronica Mars: Love Triangle. Maybe mystery trailers will be forthcoming.

I was excited about Logan and Veronica (LoVe) in Season One. I liked when they got back together at the end of Season Two.

Veronica and Logan were boring in Season Three, as were Veronica and Piz. If I had given much thought to Veronica's post Season Three love life, I would not have expected her to stay with Piz. I would have thought of him as rebound guy. Maybe she and Logan would have ultimately ended up together, maybe not.

Veronica is too much of a fascinating character on her own to focus on who she's dating.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A year ago today...

Superstorm Sandy struck: a winter storm-hurricane combination, unlike any storm seen before. As I wrote before, we were lucky. We didn't even lose power.

My biggest problem was when I had to go to a student's house a few days later. Fallen trees blocked some roads. The alternate route my student suggested took me twenty minutes out of the way. I also made a wrong turn. Part of my route home (in the dark) included a road without power to its streetlights. A driver stuck at an intersection suddenly pulled out in front of me. I screeched to a halt, barely missing him. It was scary.

But ultimately, a near-miss accident is nothing.

Sandy caused 285 fatalities and damages estimated at over $68 billion. In the US alone, it affected 24 states. While we were able to quickly put Sandy behind us, many others have not. Damn, there are many who haven't been able to put Katrina behind them.

I appreciate how lucky and blessed that we are.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Construction Zone

We live across the street from Norwalk Hospital on a bus line. I don't expect quiet streets and bucolic scenes. But lately it seems like which ever way I go, I'm in a construction zone.

The hospital is undergoing a 95,000 square foot expansion. It started about a year ago and will take another year-and-a-quarter if all goes well. I'm already sick of the dirt, noise and extra traffic.

There is also work involving digging up roads two blocks from us in one direction and one block in another. Another three blocks down the hospital hill is a major construction project. (I have to admit that it isn't disrupting traffic, and I'm looking forward to that new residential, retail and restaurant development.)To add to the upheaval all around us, our condo complex is doing a  project that requires a lift that takes up ten parking spots. Yesterday its scaffolding in the front of the building blocked our main entrance.

I can't wait until it's all done.





Saturday, October 26, 2013

RIP Marcia Wallace

As I was driving home today, I heard that Marcia Wallace had died. I watched her on the original Newhart show, but mostly remember her as Edna Krabappel from The Simpsons.

I loved Edna. She was a disillusioned teacher, a romantic, a realist and knew the difference between DC and Marvel comics (her explanation for breaking up with Comic Book Guy--he understood completely.) In other words, Edna was a well-rounded, gray character. Marcia Wallace gave her life with her voice.

The New SAT Manual is Here!

I was surprised to get a delivery from UPS yesterday; I hadn't ordered anything.

It was the latest revision of the SAT Manual. I had read they would be issued on October 15th, but the office didn't have them when I stopped by that day. I later heard that the office would distribute them at a meeting two weeks from now.

I was psyched to get the new manual although not this excited.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Red World Series 2013

Well, it has to have a better ending than the Red Wedding.

We're watching because we're baseball fans. But we're not watching with the same intensity and urgency than we would be if the Mets were playing (or even the Pirates, this year.)

I prefer the National League to the American; I hate the designated hitter. But I have trouble rooting for the Cardinals. In the American League, I usually root for the Red Sox (which may be related to my anti-Yankees stance.) But in this ALCS, I found myself cheering on the Tigers.

For now, go Sox. Interesting factoid I heard tonight: the Red Sox have not lost a World Series game since Game 7 against the Mets in 1986.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Visits to Cranbury Park

Tonight we had dinner with my mother. We always take Spike along, and when we have time we stop off at Cranbury Park. Cranbury has a large field and hiking trails that welcome dogs off leash.

We had about a half hour today to explore the trails.



Last month on a visit, we met another lemon beagle. We had never heard of lemon  beagles before we met Spike and have only encountered three or four since then.





Spike's coloring was similar when he was younger.

It was fun to watch them play, but unfortunately Spike was more interested in humping than normal playing. As for the other lemon beagle, he wouldn't stand for it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Views from Taylor Farm

I didn't get the idea of a cell phone camera at first. Now I love it. I often see
things that I just decide to photograph. (I admit the subject is usually Spike, but not always.)

Here are a few photos from Taylor Farm from the past month. The first picture of Spike is from Jeff's birthday.





 
 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Birthday Musings

Today is my father's birthday; he would have been 89.

My father died three-and-a-half years ago. I don't miss him on a daily basis anymore, but I do miss talking to him about baseball (who would he be rooting for this year?) music, and family trips and events. He always had a good memory and I'd love to compare notes with him about memoir pieces/essays that I want to write.

My father was dealing with health problems for about the last ten years of his life. I remember after a tough year, Jeff and I and two of my cousins went to Key West with him to celebrate his 80th birthday. He was always chatting up or making friends with people we'd meet in restaurants and bars. On our first two nights in Key West, new friends gave him cakes to celebrate his birthday. I thought his official birthday dinner at Martha's Steak and Seafood was a letdown. The food was good, but he had only his family to celebrate. He didn't have the opportunity to make any new friends that night.  

I got my love of singing and my skill at trivia from my father .

Jeff and I just toasted him tonight.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Hike at Oak Hills Park

I've lived in Norwalk for 25 years before learning that Oak Hills Park has a nature trail. I just knew it as a golf course with a restaurant and a few tennis courts. About two months ago, I joined a group The Friends of Oak Hills Park to save the park woodlands from being destroyed for a golf driving range.

Jeff, Spike and I hiked the trails for the first time this week. It's no Devil's Den or Lake Mohegan, but it's a nice local place for a short hike. Spike especially loved it--it was apparently full of intriguing scents. I'm happy we learned about it.






Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Autumn Hike at Lake Mohegan

After a tutoring session yesterday morning in Trumbull, I suggested that Jeff and Spike meet me at Lake Mohegan for a hike. It was a nice day, dry in the mid-sixties--too cool for Spike to swim, but perfect for a hike.

Before Spike came to live with us, we hiked Devil's Den in Weston--it has over 1,700 acres. One summer, we completed our goal of hiking all the trails and loved it.

But now, why would we hike without Spike? One of our go-to places is Lake Mohegan--it offers hiking and swimming for dogs. At 170 acres, it's only a fraction of the size of Devil's Den, but we appreciate the opportunity to explore it with Spike.

Here are a few photos from our hike:






Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday Afternoon: Merwinsville and White Silo

I unexpectedly had Sunday off, so Jeff and I visited his parents. Jeff hadn't seen them in a month--it was even longer for me. We did our usual routine--took Spike to Southbury dog park before seeing Jeff's parents. We had lunch and hung out for a few hours.

We left a little earlier than usual to go to the Columbus Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Show at the Merwinsville Hotel . We didn't buy anything but it was fun to look at paintings, photographs, pottery, jewelry, etc. and support the hotel. Details on the hotel's restoration here.

This photo shows one of the sculptures displayed on the front lawn. I was also intrigued by the Front of the Mt. sign just down the street from the hotel.



 


 
 
We made one more stop on the way home at White Silo Farm and Winery. White Silo had a glass art show. We tasted some wines including a new sparkling raspberry and had a cheese plate at an outdoor table.
 
Here are some photos I took from our table:
 

 
 
 
 
 
It was a nice way to end our afternoon.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Heard

Last Sunday, I was working through the channels on the car radio and heard this song and was intrigued.

I went to college with a Valerie June (not the same one) but it helped me remember her name.

"I'm lazy and disorganized."

The title of this post is one of the few quotes I remember from the 1986 movie, The Fly. The other quote, "Be afraid. Be very afraid," became the film's tagline.

Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife said both lines. Veronica said the first when she found her ex showering in her home. He had let himself in with an old key she had given him. He claimed she must not mind because she hadn't changed her locks. She hadn't change the locks because she was lazy and disorganized.

Damn, if that doesn't describe how I deal with housework.

I'm a smart person; I'm a flexible person. I can juggle multiple projects and switch gears when necessary. So why does it take me so long to clean the kitchen?

I am an inefficient cleaner. I know I'm not alone. I remember a conversation with a friend. Her ex could clean their whole house in two hours. He said it was because he stayed in the room until he was done. My friend and I would start in one room and then find ourselves doing something else, etc.

If nothing else, this post gives me a chance to play this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Baseball Blues: Cardinals Beat Pirates in Game Five

I've never considered myself a Pirates fan. But I do enjoy an underdog story. That's why I was rooting for the Pirates this year. They had a winning season and made their first playoff appearance in 21 years.

Ironically, in the Pirates' last playoff appearance in 1992, I was pulling for the Braves. The Braves had been the underdogs--bad for a long time--on their way up the standings. 

Now it's the St. Louis Cardinals v. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

I root against the Cardinals. That team was the Mets' nemesis in the National League East when I first started to get into baseball in the mid-eighties. And I can't forget the Mets defeat to the Cardinals in 2006 NLCS Game Seven.

By default, go Dodgers.

Now, Jeff doesn't root for any LA team. It's going to be a weird series for us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TCM Catch-Up: Kid Galahad

This is Bette Davis' only on-screen pairing with Edward G. Robinson, and one of a handful of Bette's with Humphrey Bogart and Jane Bryan (separately.)

Bette is second-billed as Louise aka Fluff, Nick Donati's (Robinson's) mistress. Nick is a boxing promoter. Wayne Morris plays Kid Galahad, Fluff's nickname for bellhop Ward Guisenberry. When a boxer shoves Fluff aside at a party, the Kid knocks him out; the boxer just happens to be the heavyweight champ.

Nick decides to manage Kid Galahad to help him get revenge against rival promoter Turkey Morgan (Bogart). Turkey had paid off Nick's fighter to take a dive and also manages the champ.

The Kid and Nick's sister Marie (Bryan) in love, which infuriates Nick. Fluff has also fallen for the Kid and leaves Nick. Will Nick take revenge on Turkey as planned or on Kid Galahad?

I was happy to get the chance to see this movie again; it's been years. It's not a great film, but I enjoyed it.

A few things stand out. After the champ shoves Fluff, the Kid says he never saw anyone treat a lady that way. Bette's wistful expression at being called a lady is touching.

I like the scenes between Fluff and Marie. They know they are both in love with the same man, but there is no rivalry and no catfights.

It was fun to see Ben Welden as one of Turkey's henchmen. He appeared in another Bette Davis--Humphrey Bogart film of 1937, making Bette the "Marked Woman" of the title.

I like a few silhouette shots near the end of the film and the final shot itself as Bette walks down the dark alley from the arena after the big fight.

Friday, October 4, 2013

In Jeopardy

When I auditioned for Jeopardy last May, the show reps told us we could be called to appear as early as August and would be eligible as contestants for about a year-and-a-half after our auditions.

Apparently Jeopardy has started its 30th year (another anniversary.) It is bringing back champions from the last three decades. I like the idea, but realize that it makes it less likely that I'll be called in as a contestant.

I'm still hoping.

Another Holiday

I got an email from a local liquor store chain advising that today is National Vodka Day.

Who are we to fly in the face of tradition? We just poured a taste of our favorite.

Happy Vodka Day.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Freudian Slip?

On Tuesday I wrote in my journal about the government shutdown. But I wrote "government shitdown" instead.

Maybe I'm on to something.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Netflix Movie Night: Olympus Has Fallen

We watched this movie last Saturday. I kept forgetting to write about it--that may say it all.

I can suspend disbelief when watching television shows and movies. For example, I liked Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I probably could have just watched this and shrugged it off.

But.

First the general/Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (I don't care enough to look it up) gives up the nuclear codes to terrorists almost immediately. The President orders the Secretary of Defense to give up her codes. The President swears they'll never get his, but apparently gives them up to save the hostages. He's shocked (shocked) that the head terrorist didn't keep his word. Stupid.

Too stupid for us to care what happens to him.

21 Years; 1,250 Games

The Mets may be done, but baseball goes on. On Monday we watched the American League playoff game to determine the second Wild Card team, but weren't rooting for either team.

Yesterday was different: we rooted for the Pirates over the Reds in the National League Wild Card game. The atmosphere was electric at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the stands a sea of black.

It had been 21 years since the Pirates last appeared in a playoff game. In Game Seven of the National League Championship Series, the Atlanta Braves scored two in the ninth to advance to the World Series. It was the slow-running, ex-Pirate Sid Bream who scored the winning run. It was an exciting game with a wild finish. It was also the end of an era in Pittsburgh.

In August, the Pirates improved their chances to make the post-season with a trade for Marlon Byrd. Marlon had played 1,250 games in his career before making his first post-season appearance. Marlon made the most of his opportunity by leading off the second inning with a home run.

Keep up your magic season, Marlon.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall at Fodor Farm

We followed up a great Saturday afternoon at the beer garden by spending the next afternoon at a fundraiser at  Fodor Farm. We've lived in Norwalk for 25 years and often drove by the dilapidated farmhouse without knowing anything about it. Recently, Fodor Farm has served as a community garden. The buildings are also in the process of being restored.

It was a beautiful day for Wine on the Farm, Food in the Barn. We walked along the wine trail, and saw a tree farm on our way to taste sparkling wine and rose. White wines were poured near the main farmhouse, which we explored. Red wines and food were served in the barn, which now has a full kitchen.

We enjoyed Fat Cat pizza with fresh tomatoes from the garden, meatballs, jerk chicken wraps. jerk portobello sandwiches and salad and listened to The Chester Ludlowe Jazz Trio.

A nice dog park Friday made it a great weekend all around.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Saturday at the Sono Marketplace Beer Garden

One of my students canceled a tutoring appointment on Saturday afternoon. Jeff and I took Spike for a walk around the dog park. Then, I got the idea to stop off at the beer garden at Sono Marketplace.

Sono Marketplace opened last January. We've shopped there a few times and eaten there once. The beer garden is a relatively new addition. Jeff mentioned that this could be our last chance to visit. It's only open on weekends, and we don't know how long the nice weather would last.

There were no open seats at the bar. We settled in a patio-style loveseat. The Fall Festival was going on with face painting, games, and make your own scarecrow directly across from the bar. It was a gorgeous day: relaxing to just chill out (and forget about all the things I should have been doing.) It was fun to watch the kids run around and play, and check out what people were wearing (ranging from shorts and sandals to leather jackets and boots.) A nice way to end our afternoon.

From a Window (or Happy Birthday Jeff--Part Three)

I recently saw a photo which included a Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas album. (I think it was in the hard copy of this article.) When I think of Billy J. Kramer, I think of this song, and I borrowed the title for this post.

For Jeff's birthday dinner, we took the window table at the Spread. It isn't a window per se, but a large wall-sized opening with a ledge about a foot high across the bottom.

We were virtually outside and there were a few tables out on the sidewalk. I felt guilty because we could have eaten outside and taken Spike along with us. (But, we wouldn't have been able to go to Guvnor's Brewery with Spike.) We watched people and a few dogs walk by. All the dogs were cute, of course.

Jeff had a snack sized plastic bag with pieces of steak and duck to take home to Spike and he had placed it on the ledge. A yellow lab walked by and did a double take when he smelled the food. I said he looks a little like Bonzo, one of our friends from the dog park. The guy walking him turned around and said it is Bonzo. That unexpected encounter just made my night.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Birthday Jeff--Part Two

We headed to SoNo around 6 pm. We remembered that there was a new brew pub on Washington Street so we stopped at Guvnor's Brewery. They didn't offer a sampler yet, but the bartender Jennifer let us try a few beers. We each selected one and shared a Scotched egg. I'm not a fan of hard boiled eggs, but this version is pretty good.

Nothing on the Pasta Nostra menu impressed Jeff; Bluedini looked more like a take-out place than a nice restaurant. So, Jeff selected The Spread for dinner. We had heard good things about it, but forgot about it when we had discussed our options.

It was a good choice. I had figs with walnuts and hangar steak with chimichurri sauce. Jeff had truffle risotto balls and duck breast. We also tried some cocktails: a Tea Bag for Jeff (this does not reflect his political views) and a Fog Horn for me. We took warm chocolate cake home. Jeff opened his presents and Spike got a Frosty Paw.

A good end to a good day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mets Secure a Winning Road Record

We just watched the Mets' final road game of the year against the Cincinnati Reds. I was rooting for the Mets because I root for the Mets. I also want the Pirates to get the best record they can to improve their playoff chances. Then I heard that the outcome of this game would determine if the Mets had a winning or losing road record.

The Mets won 1-0, ending the season with a 41-40 road record.

Yeah, that's all I got. It's been a tough year.

Happy Birthday Jeff!

I'm off today and Jeff is working at home, so I made him a nice breakfast (the type we usually only have on Sundays.) I made scrambled eggs with smoked Gouda cheese, onions, garlic and peppers (from our friend Kevin's garden.) We also had duck bacon (Spike's birthday gift to Jeff) rye toast, and fresh strawberries and blackberries with a splash of my mother's homemade raspberry liquor.

For lunch, we had gyros at Nik's (dining al fresco) and took a quick walk around the dog park. The weather's been great all week. Today, it was around 70 degrees, sunny with wisps of clouds stretched across the sky.

Tonight we'll go out to dinner. Jeff's narrowed it down to two choices: Pasta Nostra or Bluedini BBQ, They are close to each other, so we'll drive down to South Norwalk and Jeff will decide then. He;ll open his presents when we return.

It's been a nice day so far. Jeff deserves the best.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Day of Autumn

According to this, autumn arrived at 4:44 pm yesterday. I don't understand how it can pinpoint the moment exactly, but I like it because I know where I was at the birth of the 2013 season. Jeff, Spike and I were at Taylor Farm Park. It was beautiful: sunny, barely a cloud in the sky, around 70 degrees.

Jeff threw the ball for Spike and we watched him run across the field. The dogs become more active in the cooler weather. It's especially rewarding for us to see Spike so happy and healthy, after our scare back in February.

This morning was the first full day of autumn and the first time I had to wear a sweatshirt on our walk. I am looking forward to this season. The only drawback is that the days are getting shorter. Soon, dog park Fridays will come to an end.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The End of the Road

A few weeks ago, I calculated that the Mets could have a .500 season if they won 17 of their last 21 games. (Unlikely, but the Mets weren't even mathematically eliminated from the National League East until sometime last week.) Unfortunately, the Nationals then swept the Mets in a four game series.

In 2012, we had the Mets' first no-hitter and a Cy Young winner.

This year? It's been tough.

Matt Harvey dominates, but ends the year injured. Zach Wheeler pitches his first games in the majors, but is shut down early.

We're hard core fans; we will watch the Mets to the end of their season.

We'll watch the playoffs (as will the Mets, unfortunately.)

My fantasy match-up this year is Pittsburgh v. Kansas City.

Hey, it could happen.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dear CNN:

I watch New Day most mornings. I appreciate that you cover more hard news than most morning shows. I can deal with three or four minutes of entertainment news.

But I cannot handle the ongoing "news" about Miley Cyrus.

Okay, I'll give you the coverage of her performance at the Video Music Awards; people were talking about it. Before the VMA's I had heard of Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana and unfortunately, I heard "Party in the USA" and hated it. Otherwise, my life was virtually Miley Cyrus--free.

But damn it, the continuing reaction to her VMA performance is not news, her latest video is not news, her father's "breaking" of his silence about her performance is not news (only a feeble attempt to promote Piers Morgan's interview.)

Please stop. Now.

Thank you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

TCM Catch-Up: Snowed Under

This movie was part of Glenda Farrell Day. I half-watched the film then and re-watched it today. This has the potential to be a very good screwball comedy.

Alan Tanner's new play is set to open in a week, but Alan (George Brent) can't finish the third act. His producer (Porter Hall) is starting to panic and enlists Alan's ex-wife Alice (Genevieve Tobin) to help. Alice visits Alan in the cabin where he has retreated to finish the play.

Meanwhile, Pat the next door neighbor (Patricia Ellis) is putting the moves on Alan. Ex-wife Number Two Daisy (Glenda Farrell) arrives with her lawyer (John Eldridge) and the deputy (Frank McHugh) to arrest Alan for falling behind on alimony payments. The whole gang is "snowed under" for the evening, but by the next morning are coupled up, and the third act has been completed.

Snowed Under is a pale imitation of the classic 1930's screwball comedy such as Bringing Up Baby. But it's fast-moving, fun and the epitome of a Warner Brothers B-movie comedy.

I enjoyed watching Genevieve Tobin. Her Alice is smart, caring, charming and sophisticated. I had only seen her before in The Petrified Forest; she was excellent as the bitter Mrs. Chisholm. It was nice to see her in another film.

More Anniversaries

We didn't feel like cooking last night when we got back from our mini-getaway. We ordered a pizza and drank a silver anniversary lager (1988-2013) from Brooklyn Brewery. It seemed appropriate (and it was tasty.)

We watched the Mets and found that it was broadcaster, Gary Cohen's 25th anniversary with the team. Gary listed some of his favorite Mets memories from the last 25 years and SNY shared some of his calls.

This year is also the 30th anniversary of Wheel of Fortune, and the 50th anniversary of both General Hospital and Doctor Who. I previously cited another another 50th anniversary.

I realize every year brings myriad anniversaries, but wanted to share a few from 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anniversary Getaway

Yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary. We had hoped to celebrate it with a special trip, but realized earlier this year that it wasn't a good possibility. Jeff is in the final weeks of a project with Diageo and I'm in a busy SAT/ACT teaching and tutoring season.

We still managed a mini-getaway: one night at Interlaken Inn on the pet-away-package. Our original plan was to leave around 9 am--to get the most out of our two days. Well, we were up too late Wednesday, left most of the packing to the last minute, and didn't want to rush. We left around 11, instead. As usual, we stopped in Kent for a little shopping (didn't buy anything) and grabbed some lunch.

When we checked in at Interlaken, the clerk Winston recognized Spike, but had to ask our name. Spike is clearly memorable in a way that we aren't.

We sat outside our room, the only pet-friendly one in Sunnyside, sipping champagne. Then we crossed the street and went down to the lakefront, throwing the ball for Spike to chase before we sat down and and enjoyed the view across the lake. It was a gorgeous day.

We had a great dinner at Morgan's--our favorite restaurant--too bad it isn't closer to home.

This morning after a continental breakfast, we headed over to Pet Pourri with our 20 percent off coupon, and then went to Millerton, New York. We discovered the tasting room at Harney & Sons during our first trip to Interlaken. Today we had lunch in the cafe. We also did a little shopping at Millerton Antiques Center and The Village Herbalist.  

We picked up some veggies at a roadside farm stand and made our final stop at Millbrook Winery. We sampled several wines and one olive oil, and bought six bottles of wine before we headed home.

We didn't get to a glamorous destination. We didn't get a long time away. But, we did get an opportunity to celebrate together in a place we love. That's what matters most.