Saturday, December 27, 2014

What I'm Reading: Total Recall

I've read many of Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski mysteries. For some reason, I stopped somewhere in the middle. (I've also missed a few of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone alphabet mysteries.)

I've been checking out books from the retirement home's library for my mother. She used to exclusively read true crime, now she's reading standard mysteries. I checked out Total Recall for her. Even though I hadn't read it, I suspected she wouldn't like the book, because I told her I liked the author. It's almost her tradition to find fault in food I make or things I like.

Well, she didn't care for it. But I decided to borrow and read it: I liked it.

VI is a great character: a lawyer turned PI, a feminist, an opera lover, a cook, a dog lover; a liberal if not a progressive. VI is smart and tough.

Total Recall weaves together the WWII past of VI's friend Lotty, Chicago politics, an insurance claim and the recalled memories of a Holocaust survivor.

I have two quibbles. The wealthiest characters in VI's mysteries are always the worst, most evil villains. The second quibble is with the mystery structure itself. I heard this in a writing seminar: the primary and secondary cases have to be related. If I ever write a mystery, I would have two unrelated mysteries. Oh maybe, there would be some kind to thematic relationship, but not the perps themselves. You can break the rules if you can make it work.

Two Good Days

We've had two days of unseasonably warm weather--around 50 degrees. More importantly, Spike has been in much better shape; he's not wheezing as much and seems stronger.

Jeff and I took Spike to the dog park the last two days. It had been a few weeks since his last visit. He clearly enjoyed his time there: sniffing out new scents, greeting other dogs and humans, even running around a bit.

We have to take things day by day, and enjoy all of Spike's good days.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Challenges

I had wanted to write about the Winter Solstice, my friend's girls only Christmas party, and Festivus----for the rest of us. But I never got around to posting. It was a busy week; I felt as if I were just running from one appointment or chore to another. I took my mother to two doctors' appointments--found out that she has two vertebrae fractures, and needs to get a MRI next Monday. I picked up one of my mother's repaired hearing aids and dropped off a second broken one. I did her laundry as well as ours. I had four tutoring sessions. I finished my Christmas shopping, and did our food shopping.

On the 23rd, I had my last tutoring session, and planned to finish cleaning and wrapping all my presents. But then Spike had a bad evening--he was wheezing loudly and often.We actually got into the car to go to the emergency vet around 9 PM. But then Spike stopped wheezing. We headed back home, but were ready go to the vet's if Spike got worse.We barely slept that night. The next morning, we took him to his regular vet. He had to have the pericardial sac aspirated again. Spike feels better after the aspirations. As the doctor describes it, it's buying him more time and making him more comfortable.

I'm tired--exhausted--and scared. I didn't want to go ahead with our family Christmas Eve plans. But we were committed. I had promised to make a salad and twice baked potatoes. I had a mishap with the first batch of potatoes. Jeff shopped for more. While he was out, I finished the salad, packed and finished cleaning the kitchen. We managed to have a nice Christmas--marred by a few comments about Spike's health (some well-meaning, some insensitive--but not anything we wanted to hear at Christmas.)

As I write this, I hear Spike wheezing again. It's tough to hear him struggle.I want to comfort him, but it's frustrating that I can't do much to help him. I can love him, but that's not enough.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Soup's On

After procrastinating for a few weeks, I finally made this curried red lentil soup. I must have clipped the recipe when Jeff inexplicably was a subscriber to Martha Stewart Living a few years ago. I had used part of a can of coconut milk to make a variation of the coconut chicken from this book.  That gave me a good reason to finally try the soup.

We loved it although I made a few variations. First: no cilantro because Jeff is allergic. Second: I didn't have any safflower oil. I didn't bother with the idea of pouring half of the soup through a sieve and then pureeing the rest. It seemed too much, especially because I like texture in my soup.

I'll definitely make it again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Anniversary

I was waiting to get my oil changed today and caught a newscast that today is the 25th anniversary of the first Simpson episode. It's also the origin tale of Santa's Little Helper. 

I'm sure I didn't watch the premiere episode. I hadn't even heard of the Simpsons because I didn't watch Tracey Ullman. When Jeff first put on The Simpsons, I thought it would be silly or immature. It didn't take the show long to make me change my mind.

We're still watching. The quality of the show has deteriorated, but some of the individual segments are good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who Cares about GWTW?

This morning I checked out Jezebel and found this article. Then over to this critique.

Lots to think about.

Monday, December 15, 2014

75th Anniversary

I heard on the radio that today is the 75th anniversary of the film premiere of Gone With The Wind. The film used to be among my top ten favorites. I always preferred the book to the film (which is usual for me.) There is so much more detail, so much more history, so many more memorable characters in the book than in the film.

Despite my preference for the book, the film has much to offer. The scene in which Scarlett is searching for Doctor Meade among the dead and dying Confederate solders is beautifully shot. Another beautiful (though problematical) is a quick shot near the beginning of the film: two small slave boys rotate a giant bell to signify quitting time for the field hands. I love all the Twelve Oak barbecue scenes; they provide an overview of antebellum society among the plantation owners.

The acting is quite good. While I don't think Leslie Howard looks like the Ashley of the book, Howard does a decent job. Similarly, Olivia de Haviland is too strong-looking for the slim, child-like Melanie, but her performance makes up for the physical discrepancies.

I read somewhere that Margaret Mitchell pictured Basil Rathbone as Rhett. That would have been an intriguing choice. I haven't read the book in several years, but I do think Rhett is described as bigger than Rathbone. It could be that I just see Clark Gable in the part. Fan magazine polls at the time would not accept anyone but Gable.

Let's finish up the main cast by reviewing Vivian Leigh. She deservedly won her first Oscar for this role. But she was classically beautiful. In the book's first lines, Scarlett was described as not beautiful. But you forget that because of her charm. I watched screen tests of Paulette Goddard; I think she could have been a great Scarlett.

It's harder for me to watch the film than it used to be. (That is the topic of a post that I started in 2012.) I appreciate the positive qualities of the film, but now watch it more critically. That's the point of the other privileged post.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What We're Watching--Marco Polo

By chance, I read yesterday that a new series was released on Netflix--Marco Polo. I had to work early this morning so we only watched one episode of 10 last night. Tonight we watched two more episodes. We're intrigued.

I read that this series was designed with the production values of Game of Thrones. It certainly looks good to me. I'm enjoying the acting as well.

One of the last scenes we watched was one in which a "loving" uncle broke the bones in his niece's foot so he could bind her feet to make them beautiful. That's only one of his crimes.

I want him dead. Because he's fictional, I don't have to worry about mitigating circumstances or the sanctity of  life. He's much more barbaric than the Mongols.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Here Comes the Sun

It was still cold today, but the winds have died down and the sun came out. It was actually quite pleasant.

Spike must have agreed. He took me on a long walk today: down the hill, around the hospital, up to Blue Cactus (his favorite deli), over to our cross street and back down the hill to our home. I was worried he might get too tired when we were four or five blocks away from home, but he was strong and energetic

It gave me hope that Spike felt well enough for such a long walk (about eight block lengths.) He's not ready to give up on himself; we won't give up on him. Spike is awesome.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Countdown: Two Weeks to Christmas

I'm always behind schedule. Cue one of my favorite Joni songs. I need to jump start my Christmas spirit.

Last night, Jeff and I discussed the gifts we've already purchased (only a few, unfortunately.) We looked through some catalogs to discuss gifts for some family members. We also made a few decisions.

I brought the Christmas decorations from the bin today; I also washed the holiday towels and napkins. I didn't have time to decorate tonight, but I did place a few candles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Canine Cardiac Condition

It's been a rough few days.

Spike saw a cardiologist yesterday. He has a tumor on his heart. It had been bleeding into the pericardial sac around his heart. The vet drained the sac on Monday.Yesterday's sonogram didn't show any more bleeding.

Now, it's wait and watch and see what happens.  He could be fine for several years, he could bleed into the pericardial sac again and require another aspiration. He could suffer a heart attack. We just don't know.

We just have to continue to love him.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Spikie's in Heart Arrest."

That's what the vet told us today: bedside manner much?  She's my least favorite doctor of our practice--and not just for her dramatic statement today. (Couldn't she have told us in a less shocking way?)

Spike is diagnosed with pericardial effusion. He had fluid around his heart aspirated. Fluid around his stomach remains. Tomorrow a cardiologist will do a sonogram.

Spike is 14 years old. I expect health problems; I've tried to prepare myself for his decline, for his death. But today's diagnosis threw me. Besides his bad leg, Spike has seemed healthy and strong.

Please let Spike pull through this.

Day of the Lunas

We have two Luna's living in our condo building supporting this list. (Just disregard the dead "joke.")

Both girls have been barkers. Today was the first time that black Luna didn't bark at us. She and Spike had a friendly sniff-around the other day--I guess that was enough. Or maybe it was the Santa-inspired coat that she wore today.

White Luna came out a few minutes later, barking up a storm. I've been trying to cultivate her, to get her to trust me. I've made progress, but we still have a long way to go.

TCM Movie Night: Nicholas and Alexandra

I recorded this film on Spike's birthday (11-5) but Jeff wasn't up to a 3.25 hour film. I watched it this weekend when Jeff was away. I've seen it probably twice before. I like well-made historical films--this is one of them. The acting is stellar. One of the things I like about this film is that it portrays a history of the Russian Revolution from a personal perspective.

A few facts I learned from the TCM introduction:

Nicholas was Michael Jayston's third film role
Alexandra was Janet Suzman's first film role
Lawrence Olivier recommended Tom Baker for the role of Rasputin.

In his introduction, Ben Mankiewicz said that this was a prestige film that has been forgotten. That's too bad, because it holds up: it is a good film.

I like to think about how small differences could have made major changes in history. For example, what if Fidel Castro had made it a major league pitcher? Would the Cuban revolution have occurred? If so, how would it be different?

In this film, in this part of history, what would have been different if Alexis, the Tsarevich, had not been ill with hemophilia? Surely, Rasputin would not have gained his influence over the royal family. I don't think Nicholas would have been a good ruler, but things might not have turned out so badly.

I hope that this film will be re-discovered.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Life Jumped the Track...

As I lie awake around five am this morning, I was thinking about all the things that I needed to do today and in the next few days. It's so easy to get distracted and off-track, which got me thinking about this song and its line in this post title.

That got me thinking even more--what is my life's track? The American stereotypical track is to grow up, maybe go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have children. I did most of that. Am I on track enough?

Why am I still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up?

When I later checked my email, I found 12 Days to a Happier More Productive Life.  I especially like Day 2: Work on your List of 100 Dreams. That should get me on the right track.

Monday, December 1, 2014


It's hard to believe it's December 1st when the temperature rose to 65 degrees. By tomorrow morning, it will be more seasonable--in the thirties.

Driving home on Friday, I saw the first Christmas trees of the season--selections of trees for sale as well as trees strapped on car roofs. Tonight I saw the first displays of Christmas lights.

I complain when Christmas items start appearing in stores before Halloween. But it's December; the holiday season is here. The pressure is on; I've got to focus on Christmas shopping and decorating. At least I don't have to bake. Try to enjoy the season without letting holiday stresses get to me.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Post on November

November sucked.

Succinct, if not eloquent.

I managed a post daily. (I never promised you a rose garden--in other words--long or eloquent posts.)

I failed at my other writing goals So badly, I don't want to describe it. We'll just leave it there.

Catamount Basketball

Today I went to my first college basketball game: the University of Vermont Catamounts against the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. Unfortunately, the Catamounts (our nephew's team) lost by 16 points. I don't think the Catamounts were ever in the lead.

We've watched a few Catamount games on TV over the past few years, so I've recognized a few players. I used to watch NBA basketball, so I think I can get into the college scene. I used to think it would be too mercurial. I used to think that I couldn't remember the changing players.

Now I have a reason to remember.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is that I usually get a four-day weekend. This weekend I worked two hours. I wanted to work more, but the only other student who was interested is the one that I meet on Sundays. I have plans tomorrow--we're going to a basketball game--more on that later.

We've been lucky to avoid long travel at Thanksgiving, and we've never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. That means we avoid much of the holiday stress. It's sad that one of the first things I mention about Thanksgiving is stress. Ideally, holidays are a time of celebration with loved ones. Unfortunately, they often bring stress and discord.

I've had a good weekend. I was a bit nervous about snow on Wednesday, but it wasn't as bad as I had feared. Thanksgiving Day itself was very nice. Yesterday and today consisted mostly of errands and chores. Not particularly sexy, or exciting, but most days are neither. I'm happy for the calm.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Laundry Day and Christmas Specials

Last night was our last night pet-sitting. I want to be a good guest, so we washed the sheets and towels and changed the bed. (I didn't want to wait until all the towels were dry, so we left them in the dryer.)

We visited my mother next, after Jeff picked up sandwiches for us. My main job for my mother was laundry, specifically her nightgowns. I wish that I had ignored her when she said she didn't need another nightgown; I should have just gotten her one. Go for the next opportunity.

I was too tired when I got home to do my own laundry. I'll have plenty of time tomorrow. At least we've already sorted it.

After dinner, we watched Frosty the Snowman. I suppose it's a classic, but I immediately noticed how primitive the animation was.The story was also primitive. The following show--Yes Virginia--was much better.

I don't like to generalize, but maybe there's a reason I didn't watch those old TV Christmas specials.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Thanksgiving

Instead of a big family get-together, Jeff and I had dinner with just his parents and one of their friends. We ate early--at 12:30--and were back in Ridgefield for another night of pet-sitting before 4.

We took the dogs on a walk. It was quiet and peaceful. Only two cars passed us on the road. We passed houses that looked empty.

I took this photo to try to capture the calm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saturday Night Movie: Pompeii

Well, it's Wednesday. I guess our Saturday night movie--Pompeii--wasn't all that memorable. We didn't expect much. We started to watch the movie, then realized that a UVM basketball game was on, and watched that instead. After the game, we returned to Pompeii.

I had never thought about gladiator fights in Britannia, but I guess it makes sense that the rulers would import their own forms of entertainment, and there is evidence to support this.

But, that's just the set-up. I saw the rest of the movie as a second-class Gladiator. A commenter on IMDB compared it to Gladiator, but also to Titanic with its love story set against a disaster. I wonder if that's how it was pitched?

Overall, a mediocre film.

Hunkered Down

I got up early this morning because I hadn't packed yet. It was already raining. I had hoped to be out of the house by 9.  Surprise, I made it by 8:50. By the time I made it to my mother's health care facility, the rain had turned to sleet and my windshield was getting more foggy. I didn't stay long because within 20 minutes the sleet had turned to snow. I had to head further north to take care of Jake, and the snow would only be worse.

I made it up her just before 11; Jeff arrived about an hour later. I was so glad to see him; I would have just kept worrying if he had arrived later.

We just took the dogs out for a walk before it got too dark. And we're hunkered down, except for a short walk later tonight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Waiting for the Snow

The temperature peaked at 65 to 70 degrees yesterday. Yet here we are under a winter weather advisory, watch or warning (I can never keep them straight.) It's going to hit tomorrow--the busiest travel day of the year.

We're heading up to Ridgefield to Jake-sit. It's just for two days, but damn the timing isn't good with the snow. If we stayed home, we'd probably get one to three inches. Up there, we may get four to six inches, or more. I don't relish shoveling out my car.

I plan to head up there as early as possible tomorrow. At best, I'll be driving through the rain.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm Tired

Madeline Kahn says it best (even though we're tired for different reasons.)

What's Cooking?

I went food shopping on Friday, along with running errands and doing laundry for my mother. I decided to pick up a rotisserie chicken for a simple dinner. I served it with Stovetop Stuffing and dried cranberries and a side salad with romaine, carrots and avocado.

We were a little more ambitious on Saturday night. I suggested that we do a surf and turf with the leftover filet mignon from Spike's birthday. Jeff got some salmon and we tag teamed dinner. First we had a cup of pumpkin/apple soup that I made earlier in the week. Jeff made the filet mignon and salmon with tomatoes and pesto. I roasted a red pepper, and potatoes with garlic and scallion and sauteed garlic and scallion to pour over the fresh spinach.

I had also found a beer based fondue when shopping and thought we could pair that with a beer based mussel dish. Usually we cook mussels with wine, but I remember a meal in a French restaurant beer garden on North Main Street in Norwalk that unfortunately no longer exists. That was Sunday's dinner: mussels with beer; a beer based fondue with garlic bread and apples. We also had a romaine salad.

Since Jeff also bought a lobster tail, we decided to add that to a Trader Joe's Japanese Style Fried Rice for dinner tonight. Jeff also added some carrot and ginger ferment and some fermented hot sauce and some red pepper,

All of our meals were delicious. Not sure what we'll come up with for tomorrow night's dinner.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"I'll Bet You $23.80."

I can't believe that I forgot about this line when I wrote about the 1930's Nancy Drew films in this post. As described on this Nancy Drew site, $23.80 was the weekly paycheck for WPA workers. WPA in pop culture again.


Today I saw possibly my first bumper sticker of the 2016 political season: "I'm waiting for Hillary." Nothing against Hillary, but I was more impressed with this car magnet. "I like big mutts and I cannot lie" with the silhouette of a large dog.

Loved it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Working Out

With my visit to the gym today, I made it four times this week. Although that's been as aspirational goal of mine for the year, I've only done it twice.

Celebrate the small victories. Who knows where they may lead.

Bette's Twins

Bette Davis played twins twice: in A Stolen Life in 1946 and in Dead Ringer in 1964. Both aired on TCM recently.

I watched parts of A Stolen Life on Thursday between visits to the laundry room. Good twin Kate is an artist who falls for Bill (Glenn Ford,) Selfish, scheming twin Pat accidentally meets Bill just before his date with Kate and takes her place. Bill and Pat marry. Later a sailing accident creates the opportunity for Kate to steal Pat's life as Bill's wife.

I wish that I had recorded the movie, even though A Stolen Life is not one of my favorite BD films. I don't care for Glenn Ford's pompous, pipe-smoking Bill. The happy ending is too pat and too abrupt.

I haven't re-watched Dead Ringer yet, but I've probably seen it more times than I've seen A Stolen Life. The set up is similar: a scheming twin steals the boyfriend of her sister. But the film takes place several years after that event. Good twin Edith is a struggling bar owner; scheming Margaret is a rich widow. The twins reconnect at the husband's funeral. Later Edith creates her own opportunity to steal a life by killing her twin.

A Stolen Life is more of a romance, and Dead Ringer more of a mystery. The mystery aspects are more realistic. Neither film is great, but they are great vehicles for Bette.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Time's Irony

It's been a long week. I didn't work many hours, but had other things going on. I've been spending time with my mother as she recuperates and running errands for her. I had a docent meeting this week. I hope to be a part of new docent training programs going forward.

I can't believe that it's almost Thanksgiving. In some ways, time is passing so quickly. We've been inundated with catalogs for so long that I didn't realize that Christmas shopping season is already in full swing. I had thought that I had a good handle on shopping, but I guess it's just another thing I'm behind on.

I've been seeing store Christmas displays since late September (next to the Halloween décor.) Maybe the displays helped mess up my sense of time.

Onto to Thanksgiving... we are having dinner with Jeff's parents. It will be a quiet day--just the four of us. We'll be Jake-sitting too. He's a sweet boy; I look forward to seeing him again.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Day in the Life

I decided to write a day in the life post, even though today wasn't particularly interesting or productive.

I had many things to do, but no specific appointments. This can be a problem for me, because it's easy to let time slip away--to sleep a little later--to read a few things online--to linger over my journal and coffee.

Today I fell into all of those problems. I didn't get up with the alarm at 7, but was sitting down with my coffee and journal by 7:30. I remembered that I wanted to check out the price for a house I like that I pass on the way to the gym. Then I got further sidetracked looking for sales price information about our condo complex. I ended up journaling and checking things online until about 8:30. Spike was up for a long walk today--about nine block lengths. I'm glad that he felt strong enough for that walk and that he didn't want to take it the last few days when it was much colder and windy.

I got to the gym around 10:15--I concentrated on leg work, but also did a set on the ab roller and a half hour on the cross ramp. While I was at the gym, I decided that I really didn't have to go food shopping today, since I had planned dinner with things we already had. I got home at 11:30: showered and started laundry. For the rest of the afternoon, I did laundry, read and wrote some emails, and made pumpkin-apple-carrot soup. For dinner, along with the soup, I made bourbon old-fashions, baked ham, baked sweet potatoes, kale with sautéed garlic and onions, and a salad of avocado and red peppers. Jeff did the dinner dishes but it was still 8 PM before I put all the laundry away and changed the bed.

We watched some TV; I wrote a few more emails, and then this entry.

I regret my slow start and getting distracted this morning. I would love to have an extra hour about now. I'm glad that I got to the gym--my third visit this week--I think I could be back on track--I'm glad I made the soup. I'm still trying to find the exact mix that I did a few years ago--one soup was awesome. I regret not writing or doing something creative.

Overall, an okay if boring day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Favorite Seinfeld Episodes

For the third time in two weeks, I woke around 4:30 AM and had trouble going back to sleep. Rather than worry about finances or stress about to-do lists, I thought about my favorite Seinfeld episodes.

I have the So Long Seinfeld edition of Entertainment Weekly, so I could check episode titles as well as refresh my memory.

1. The Rye--this is my hands-down, all-time favorite episode. When George appears at the Rosses' window with a fishing rod, I was reminded of some of the classic gags of I Love Lucy. Then George thinks he succeeds and turns around to see Susan and her parents; I couldn't stop laughing. The episode also included a Beef-a Reeno eating horse, a bad result from oral sex, and mugging an "old bag." Hilarious

2. The Boyfriend--with guest star Keith Hernandez. We get the lowdown on helping someone move, a Mets inspired spoof of JFK and some great George work to extend his unemployment benefits

3. The Little Kicks--Elaine dances--a full-body drive heave set to music--plus Jerry as a movie bootlegger.

4. The Sponge--introduces the term, spongeworthy. How many sitcoms discuss women's faithfulness to their birth control?

5. The Outing--are George and Jerry gay?  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

6. The Pen--Stella! A visit to the parents is reduced to 20 minutes when you subtract showers.

7. The Opposite--I love George becoming the winner for once. He meets a beautiful girl and gets a job with the Yankees. Whoda thunk it?

8. The Conversion--George becomes a Latvian Orthodox to impress a girl. It's not the religion that sacrifices squirrels.

Numbers 2 through 8 are not in any particular order. If I had to name a top ten, I'd pick the final two from this list. I'll have to think about this more:

The Virgin
The Contest
The Puffy Shirt
The Marine Biologist
The Strike (Festivus--I think the other titles are self-explanatory.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Failure

I found this quote today in an issue of The Week.

Failure is success in progress. -- Albert Einstein

The second quotation was posted in a classroom in Darien High where I taught a SAT class this summer.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy

It's not just the solar vortex

Yesterday I read about the Omega Block. I couldn't stop thinking about Anthony Zerbe.

Regardless of what they call it, it's very cold. I put on my long winter coat, hat and warmest gloves. Jeff dressed Spike in his Fido fleece. It was a sudden change. Last week it was in the mid-sixties. The forecasters warned us that the cold was coming. We had a nice respite while much of the country got slammed.

Even with today's cold, it could be a lot worse. We could be in Buffalo--with three feet of snow and four more on the way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not Quite the Day from Hell, but...

There was some good news today. We had a meeting about my mother's
recovery; she is progressing, despite a few problem areas. She will remain in the health care center for two more weeks. At that point, there will be a re-assessment.

I was annoyed because the meeting started about 25 minutes late. After waiting five minutes past the start time, I went to the nurses' station. No one seemed to know what was going on. One nurse said she'd find out and let me know. About 15 minutes later the social worker arrived and apologized for being late. I can deal with lateness, but I don't like the feeling that no one knows what's happening.

Later I got the run-around about my mother's mail. I was told two weeks ago, that no-one can touch her mail. OK, I got that. But then security collected her mail. One day I picked it up and took it to her. Another day, Security delivered it. Now, she hasn't gotten mail for a few days. One guy from Security complained about all that they have to do--they're not supposed to touch the mail--but are asked to deliver it anyway--so it's a low priority. I'm happy to pick up the mail myself. I'm there about three times a week and Jim may be there on other days when I'm not--we can cover picking up the mail. Today I consulted about four people and no one could find the mail.

I went up to my mother's apartment to do her laundry. As I was waiting for it to dry, I used the toilet and it overflowed. I couldn't find a number for housekeeping, called the main number, and someone promised to send housekeeping to help. After about 20 minutes, I called again, asked for housekeeping and got a voicemail greeting from Environmental Services (talk about euphemisms.) Worse than that, I got a message that someone would respond within 24 hours. Lucky for me the toilet just overflowed and stopped and didn't explode. It reminded me of the facility's security department message: we don't check this voicemail regularly. WTF? Thanks.

My mother doesn't have a plunger or a mop, because she has housekeeping services. But what about when things happen after hours. Hell, my problem happened around 2 PM. The toilet overflow wasn't bad, I mopped up the water with towels, and can take my own Swiffer and clean. But this is not the best way, especially with the fees my mother is paying to live there.

To top the day off, I made a wrong turn and was late to my first tutorial. Then I stepped in a puddle.


Sunday, November 16, 2014


Yesterday I emailed a friend to see how she was doing with her writing goals this month. She hasn't been able to write every day as she had hoped. My reaction was ambivalent. She's my friend and I want her to succeed in her endeavors. On the other hand, there's the adage that misery loves company. I don't feel as bad about my own failures/shortcomings if she is also having trouble achieving her goals.

I don't expect that the second half of the month will be easier for me than the first half. I'll just try to keep moving forward. At least I've been thinking about the story that I started (only about 300 words.)

One positive for me in the last week is that I've worked out at home when I couldn't get to the gym. That's been a problem area for me for a few years. It helps me feel better physically which helps me in other areas.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Medicare Miasma

OK, a slight exaggeration, but I love hyperbole as well as alliteration.

Yesterday, I discovered that my mother couldn't get a nasal spray that will help her hearing because all her medicines have to be authorized by Medicare. My attempts to order a prescription renewal were doomed to fail. One of the nurses told me she would have to take care of this.

The nurse said I would either be hugging her at the end of this or throwing tomatoes at her.

We'll just have to wait and see, but she was really pushing for the former.

Seen: A Mystery Hawk

Yesterday when I was returning from my mother's follow up appointment with her surgeon (all went well) I saw a hawk perched on a traffic sign heading into her health care facility. At first, I thought it was an osprey.

This morning I looked at some photos online. and realized that an osprey was all wrong. But I couldn't figure what kind of hawk it was. It was light colored--white to gray--with a rounded head. The photos that looked the most likely, were birds from other areas of the continent. Others had the wrong coloring.

I also looked at snowy owls; the head reminded me of owls, but that was wrong too. I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes open. I saw other hawks today and tried to look at them in flight. But ultimately, driving required my attention.

Friday, November 14, 2014

WPA Murals in Pop Culture

Last night we watched Elementary. The main plot was about a murderer of participants in a math quiz/scavenger hunt. A secondary plot concerned Joan Watson's interaction with Holmes' new assistant Kitty. As part of the secondary plot, Watson was investigating why a man known for finding values in real estate was interested in a dilapidated building.

The kicker: the dilapidated building had a WPA mural that had been painted over because the artist Diego Rivera was a communist. The mural's value far exceeded the building's value. The mural also had a great historical value.

I get a kick when I hear "SAT" type vocabulary words on TV shows. The reference to WPA was something similar, but more important. It reminds me that not everyone had forgotten the legacy of WPA art.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Miscellaneous Musings

Business Names:

When we were visiting Jeff's parents a few weeks ago, I saw a truck for a company called Quinn-tessential Floors. I told Jeff that that person had the same sense of humor as I did; maybe it's more accurately called a sense of wordplay. After all, this blog is called Coll-ection.

Quinn-tessential definitely beats the Honey Do Man. I don't like the idea of a honey-do list. It reminds me of the stereotypical nagging wife, who's always after husband with a list of chores.

Destiny vs. Dynasty:

Apparently Jeff and I were in the minority; we watched the World Series (at least part of every game.) I love baseball and liked that the series went to seven games, but couldn't get too excited. Despite my disdain for the designated hitter, I found myself rooting for the Kansas City Royals. Game 7 was a bit of a disappointment. I've no use for dynasties unless the Mets can manage one.

Another Mets Silver Lining:

There was a lot of coverage about Jacob deGrom winning the Rookie of the Year Award. But I missed the announcement of the Gold Glove winners on November 4. Congratulations center fielder Juan Lagares.

Thursday Night Television:

Jeff and I have been watching Elementary since the beginning. We started watching The Big Bang Theory after it went into syndication.Tonight we watched the line-up between those two shows.  Well, we half -watched--while doing other things. The shows were pretty poor. Glad to know we haven't been  missing anything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"I Could Use Another Week Like This."

That's what a woman said to me at the dog park yesterday. We had a beautiful day--sunny, around 65 degrees. That's great for November. Alas, we won't get another week. Today was still warm, but it's growing colder and colder as the week progresses.

Spike enjoyed his day at the dog park.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Culinary Hits and Misses

Cooking can be a monotonous chore, especially the day to day--what should we have for dinner routine.

But as chores go, I enjoy cooking, especially when I have an afternoon free. The free days used to be Sunday winter afternoons. Now I often work on the weekends, so I find my cooking times on other days. Luckily, Jeff has taken on some of the Sunday afternoon cooking.

If I have to pick one dish as Jeff's specialty, it's ropa vieja from this cookbook. One weekend he was really into cooking; he made ropa vieja on Saturday and coq au vin on Sunday. On Monday, I made a flank steak and black bean chili. Good eating. Jeff likes to make recipes as originally written.
Ropa vieja and coq au vin provided us with two to three meals. Same with the chili. When I had a cold, I made a chicken orzo soup. I had been thinking of carrot pumpkin, but I wanted the comfort of a chicken soup.

My recent cooking attempts have not been as successful. Last week I made a vodka sauce but used coconut creamer instead of heavy cream. First I looked for an organic heavy cream. Then I checked out recipes online. Many listed coconut milk or other dairy substitutes I think that was my big mistake. The sauce didn't look right. It didn't taste bad, but just not as good as it normally does. I doctored part of the batch by adding more vodka and coconut creamer, thinking that was my problem. The sauce was better, but not up to my normal standards.

Yesterday, I made a ground buffalo and black bean chili. I've made this several times before, but yesterday used dried black beans. I soaked the beans overnight; I thought that would make the dried beans equivalent to the canned beans I usually use. I started the chili in the crockpot on low at 11:30 and then went to visit my mother. When I got home around 3, the beans were still hard. I put the crockpot on high. We ate around 6. The results were disappointing. Some beans were still hard, the consistency of the chili was off. I won't use dry black beans again. I don't get what went wrong, but it just isn't worth figuring out.

Edited to add: how could I forget Jeff's stuffed pumpkin? It didn't have a fancy name--I think it was pumpkin stuffed with good things. It had cheese, bread and spices and was delicious.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Congratulations Jacob deGrom!

Tonight the Baseball Writers' Association of America named Jacob deGrom as the National League Rookie of the Year. deGrom joins other Mets pitchers and rookie of the year winners Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden. Impressive company. Last week deGrom won the Players Choice Award for NL Outstanding Rookie

Once again the Mets have suffered a losing season. deGrom is this year's silver lining.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nano Regrets

Today I was thinking that I should have tried nanowrimo this year. I'm in a LinkedIn nano group and have been reading posts. I'm also in a group that receives email  from my local ML's. I don't remember what ML stands for, but a ML is some kind of nano leader/liaison for the region--in this case--Fairfield County, CT. I miss the camaraderie of the nano write-ins.

But I have to face facts. I've barely kept up with the  nablogpomo goal of one post a day. Outside of my posts, I've only written 322 words. The nano write-ins have been held on Saturday and Sunday, when I'm unable to attend because I usually work.

So what do I take from all this? This wouldn't have been a good year for me to nano.The 50K word count would have been too stressful for me. But I like the camaraderie. I need to go to retreats or create my own, as I tried this year, but need to do better.

Saturday Night Movie: American Hustle

Last night Jeff and I watched American Hustle. I enjoyed the movie: it was fun. The movie claimed part of it was true. I remember the ABSCAM scandal. The film didn't mention New Jersey Senator Williams. I realized that the name of the Mayor of Camden was changed, but I couldn't remember the original.

I liked the performances, the music, the clothing and hair styles. But overall, I think the film was overrated. While I recommend the film, it was good, but not great.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

To William Castle

I spent many a Saturday afternoon at movie matinees. I saw the occasional Gidget film, but most of the matinees featured horror films. I remember The Last Man on Earth (I was traumatized when Vincent Price sobbed and then killed the infected dog) and The Kiss of the Vampire. Then there were the William Castle films: I Saw What You Did and The House on Haunted Hill.

My mother says that I had nightmares after watching The House on Haunted Hill. Funny, I don't remember that. I do remember the stage show when we went to see that film at the Century Theater in Audubon. We didn't get the skeleton moving across the ceiling, but my best friend's sister Jeanette was called up on the stage. I remember her sniffing a "blood-stained" handkerchief; she said it smelled like mercurochrome.

I recently watched a TCM documentary about Castle: Spine Tingler? The William Castle Story. It was a revelation. I had no idea that Castle worked on both The Lady from  Shanghai and Rosemary's Baby.

I enjoyed Castle's B list  films, Besides the classic House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts was fun. He was a great publicist and the master of the gimmick with fun names like emergo. John Goodman portrayed a movie-maker based on Castle in Matinee and captured his spirit and fun. Like many type-cast actors, Castle may not have fulfilled his dreams, but he made an impact on moviegoers who don't appreciate the blood and gore that make up the current movie horror.

I miss you William Castle.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Week End

I tend to think of Friday as the end of the week, even though most of my tutoring work now takes place on the weekends. I just finished reviewing my notes for my three students tomorrow.

This is usually the time I ask myself what I did this week. I don't have many accomplishments. I only had two tutoring sessions.I did other tutoring administration and prep work. I went to the collaboration seminar. I spent several hours with my mother and dealing with issues relating to my mother.

I guess that's where my week went. With my part-time schedule, I'm the one who can visit my mother most often as she recuperates from her broken hip. I'm also the contact person for the health center. I got two calls from them this evening, despite spending three hours there this afternoon. I have to escort my mother to her follow up visit to the surgeon next Friday in the official transport, because she can't be left alone in the vehicle. So I need to drive up to Redding, then drive down to the doctor's in Norwalk, back up to the health center and then home.  

As for today, I didn't plan on spending three hours at the health center. I was thinking of an hour and a half. But my mother insisted that I do her laundry, although I wanted to wait until Monday. Then I came home and did my own laundry.

Oh what a glamorous, creative life I lead.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Collaboration Seminar

Because of my work as a docent with the Norwalk Arts Commission, I got to attend a Collaboration Seminar by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. I got much more from the seminar than I expected.

The program consisted of four ten-minute presentations by pairs of collaborators. They shared best practices and lessons learned. Some of the ideas were basic, i.e. communication. But the way the speakers presented the lessons were helpful.

I need to write an email about it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Special Day--Spike is 14.

Time to celebrate Spike's 14th birthday.

When we went out on our morning walk, Spike took us all around the block. Usually he heads across the street or next door, and then quickly returns home. I consider a normal block to consist of four street lengths. Because of the configuration of our neighborhood streets, our block is six lengths. I was happy that Spike could easily make it.

This afternoon I took Spike to Cranbury Park. Spike didn't want to cooperate with a photo op. When I got the camera out, be headed to the exit.

Here are the few photos I caught.

Spike is the best. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


There isn't a Senate race in Connecticut this year; much of the focus here is on the governor's race. it's a close one--we may not get those results until tomorrow. I was surprised to hear that Connecticut might have had a record turnout of 55 to 60 percent of registered voters. Beautiful weather helped; problems with delayed registration records in Hartford hurt.

Politicians and multiple PAC's made this an ugly campaign. Watching New York television and listening to NY radio exposed me to negative campaigns of three states (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.) I didn't know half of the candidates.

I must admit I'm mesmerized by John King and his magic map on CNN. Last election, some of the other reporters/anchors struggled with it.

Regardless of the results, my biggest feeling right now is one of relief--no more campaign ads and no more frantic email requests for money.

A Week of Hospitals and Health Care Centers

Last Tuesday around this time, I had just returned from Norwalk Hospital's emergency room after spending four hours there. My mother was heading into surgery. She had broken her earlier in the day. Although she was the fourth person who needed hip surgery that night, she was the only one in good enough physical shape to make it to the OR. The surgeon called me about an hour later, and said everything went well.

I spent many hours over the next three days at the Hospital, including a visit on Halloween as Carmen Miranda. The timing of my walk coincided the construction workers taking their lunch break. I got quite a few stares.

Friday evening the Hospital transferred my mother to health care center at her retirement community. So now I've been visiting her up there--a half hour drive rather than a walk across the street. I'm thankful that she moved back up north. This would be too hard to handle if she still lived in Hilton Head.

At least I missed the vet's visit this week. I had a scary moment Saturday morning when Spike apparently slipped on wet leaves while climbing up a curb. He could barely put any weight on his bad leg. I thought I might have to carry him back home. I had several tutoring appointments, so Jeff took Spike to the vet's. She gave him muscle relaxants and he seemed good as new the next day. We just have to keep an eye one him.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Time, Writing, Discipline and Inspiration

This morning, I got an email from Laura Vankerkam; she mentioned nanowrimo as an organizational/time management issue. I deleted the email, but kept the link open. Then I had to reboot my computer. I forgot about the article when I emptied my trash. Now I can't find the email. Instead, I found this tweet and this post. The post had a link to another.

What's the best balance between discipline and inspiration? Can you wait for inspiration to strike? Can you jumpstart inspiration by discipline?

I think that's why Julia Cameron stresses both morning pages and artist dates.

Years ago I clipped an article by Sharyn McCrumb in Writers Digest called Of Time and the Writer. I found this summary of the article. Funny that was easier to find than the email I received this morning. I know I also have a hard copy of the article somewhere.

So it's day two of my month of writing goals. So far I've failed. Today was a good opportunity for me to write too. Oh well, try again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


A friend recently emailed me about nanowrimo. She decided to use nanowrimo to get started writing again, although she wouldn't try to write 50,000 words.

I had come up with my own writing goals for the month. I had attempted, but
failed at  these goals before. I'll write at least one blog post a day (the blogging version  of nanowrimo) plus write an additional 500 words a day. That's nothing compared to the 1667 daily work count to meet the nanowrimo goal, but it's still hard when I've barely written anything.

I wrote 322 words today; I'm forcing myself to write this post although I really want to go to bed. It's a start, anyway.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Family Visit

Last weekend Jeff's sister Thea and her daughter Jane visited from Seattle. All of the family girls (Thea, Jane, Jeff's mother Barbara, Jeff's other sister Melissa and I) took a trip to the Danbury Mall. First up: a ride on the carousel (Thea, Jane and me) followed by a visit to the Build A Bear Workshop. As Barbara observed, it's a big money-maker. But it's also charming. Jane selected a bunny; a sales associate stuffed it, with an assist from Jane; Jane "bathed" it to fluff it up, selected clothes and printed a birth certificate (with help of course.) She named her bunny Maya (great name.)

For me, the highlight of the visit was several rounds of Uno--I haven't played it in years and it was fun. I want to teach Jane and her twin brother Ian rummikub; that's another fun game.

Time Just Gets Away From Me

The title of this blog post is a variation of the last line from the remake of True Grit as I posted here,

It's been eight days since my last post, and that's my excuse. I've started a few posts, I've had many topics to write about, but I just didn't finish. (I just didn't finish could be the motto of my life.)

I've started a few posts and have several ideas for others. I will make a series of mini-posts rather than trying to capture eight days into one.

Friday, October 24, 2014


is evil. It must be stopped. So says this refrigerator magnet.

The October SAT was on the 11th; tomorrow is the October ACT. I had a slow week and I figured it would be a good time to...clean. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to link to this song.

I'm not good at housework. I'm slow and I get easily distracted.The frustrating thing about housework is that it never ends. I like the look and feeling of a clean place, but it doesn't last for long. I don't mind dusting, maybe because it gives me an opportunity to re-arrange things. But otherwise, housework is either boring or tiring.

But housework is one of those things that has to be done, and if I have the time, it's on me.

I still love that magnet. I think I bought it at the same time I got this one:

No DPF Tonight

Last week at the Halloween party, everyone seemed psyched to meet this Friday. We figured it would be the last dog park Friday of the year.

Jeff and I got salmon for dinner before heading to Taylor Farm a little earlier than normal. We saw Mary who was on her way out for dinner, and then Chris. No one else showed.

Sunset was at 5:58. If people have to work late, that leaves mere minutes for a dog park visit. I get it. But I'm still disappointed. I try to keep Friday evenings open for the dog park. Tonight I didn't go to an open studio event because I didn't want to miss the last dog park Friday.

Maybe dog park Friday means more to me than to anyone else.

Bette Davis on TCM and our DVR

I've been catching up on a few movies on our DVR.

The first is John Paul Jones. Special guest star Bette is Catherine the Great. I had fast-forwarded this film before to see Bette's performance. This time I watched (okay half-watched) the whole film. Bette is fine, but not particularly memorable.

I would like to talk to the person who cast Robert Stack as John Paul Jones. Stack is wooden--he doesn't bat an eye as the "love of his life" rejects him. Instead of a righteous rebel, Stack plays Jones as a spoiled brat who throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way. The best performance is by Charles Coburn as Benjamin Franklin. Overall, a mediocre movie--I hope Bette was well paid for her cameo.

Much earlier in Bette's career is Way Back Home, her fourth film. Bette is fourth billed as the romantic interest of the secondary lead. She is good, but doesn't have much to work with. Frankie Darro is the standout here. He is also memorable in The Mayor of Hell and Wild Boys of the Road.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Back to the Gym

I went back to the gym for the first time in almost three weeks. For the most part, I didn't go to the gym because of my cold. It lingered for about ten days, and my symptoms re-appeared yesterday.

I had been on a roll--I had visited the gym three times a week for six weeks. On each visit, I did some kind of weight work--usually legs one day, chest, shoulders and triceps another, and back and biceps a third. I did ab work every visit. On most visits, I also did some kind of cardio.

I had to scale back today.I did back (but no biceps), leg press and calf raise (but not leg curls and extensions) and some abs.I had to lower my weights on several exercises.Then I did a half hour on the bike because that's my favorite form of cardio.

Just another beginning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

National Nut Day

Here's the background for this holiday. I'm intrigued by these random holidays, even though I suspect that they are the work of industry groups. Through the Dog Lovers group on Linked In, I received this link.

Good information. Jeff had told me that only peanuts were good for dogs because they are not nuts, but legumes. Peanut butter was one of Spike's first treats because he was a vegetarian before he came to live with us. (We thought that was unnatural, and changed that.) He still loves peanuts and peanut butter, as do Jeff and I.

The nut article included a link to this article, which is a good source. We're fine with more of Spike's favorites: carrots and apples.

Leaves Are Fulling All Around...

I've been thinking of this song on recent walks with Spike.

Our summer was mild, the first few weeks of autumn were warmer than usual. Now we're in the thick of fall. The air is crisp; the leaves a mélange of green, gold, orange and red.

It's dark when we get up in the morning, and sunset is creeping earlier each day.

Soon our dog park Fridays will be done for the season. I'll miss them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I've Been Reading

Early this year, I was looking through posts to see what books I read last year--assuming I would post about them. As many people overestimate the amount of exercise they get, I apparently overestimate the number of books I read. for 2014, I made a goal to read at least a book a month.

I haven't come close. In January, I read a short book from a Ridgefield historian. He was selling his books on Main Street one day, and I bought them to support him. The one I read wasn't that good. Next I re read Einstein for Beginners. Next up was Reading Lolita in Tehran.  Most recently, I finished The Red Leather Diary.

I'm reading other things: magazines, newspapers, online news and reviews, but my book list to date is pitiful. I doubt I'll make up eight books in the next 10 weeks.

Wait til next year.

Harpo and Carmen

Our friends Jenn and John have a Halloween party every year. This year it was last Saturday--the 18th. They also have a theme: past themes were angels and devils, Mardi Gras, superheroes and once upon a halloween eve. This year the theme was dead celebrities.

Jeff came up with the idea of Harpo Marx a few weeks ago. He bought a wig, hat and horn and looked pretty good. I was going to go as Groucho. I couldn't find a tuxedo jacket with tails locally. I was also worried whether I could get the eyebrows and hair correct.

I considered some other options--Pharaoh Hatshepset, Boudica, Bela Lugosi. Then I saw a Carmen Miranda hat. That was it. I wore my own clothes--a blue and green flowered skirt with a green, long-sleeved blouse (not exactly right but part of the party would be outside and I didn't want to freeze) lots of necklaces and beads. Unfortunately, some people thought I was the Chiquita banana. Oh well.

Other celebrities were Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Toulouse Lautrec, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, John Lennon and two Charlie Chaplins.  Good fun.

Bonita Granville's Nancy Drew

Over the summer, TCM ran the four 1938 - 1939 Nancy Drew movies starring Bonita Granville and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson. I'm a big fan and have seen the films several times. I recorded and watched them in July and recently re-watched the series.

The series has a madcap comedy approach: book Nancy is serious and responsible, and as my sister complained--too perfect. Granville's Nancy is impulsive and let me repeat madcap. She also plays fast and loose with evidence, something book Nancy would never consider.

The first film Nancy Drew Detective is loosely based on the book, The Password to Larkspur Lane. It seems to be the most serious of the films, but its overall tone is lighthearted. Nancy's attempted rescue of an older woman held prisoner in a nursing home is foiled by Ted's poor attempt to dress in drag as a nurse. His pants leg drooping down from under this uniform gives him away. Of course, they ultimately succeed.

Bonus: James Stephenson, who was so memorable as Bette Davis' lawyer in The Letter, appears here as one of the villains.

The second film is Nancy Drew Reporter. Nancy investigates a murder case while allegedly on an assignment as a student reporter. (She steals the assignment from another reporter's desk when the reporter is away.)

As part of Nancy's investigation, poor Ted winds up in the boxing ring with Soxie Anthens. A clue from the boxing ring takes them to the Mandarin Café. Unfortunately, Ned's bratty sister and her friend (Mary and Killer) tag along by hiding in the rumble seat. They order chop suey even though Nancy and Ted don't have the money to pay the bill. To avoid washing dishes, Mary, Killer, Nancy and Ted sing a medley with a full orchestra (!) The patrons throw enough change to pay the bill. I don't usually care about these musical interludes, but this one was fun. (Compare it to Blow that Horn in After the Thin Man.)

Another scene in drag: this time it's Sergeant Entwhistle masquerading as Grandma. While searching the villain's room, the Sergeant is revealed when his skirt is caught in a trunk and is pulled off, revealing his pants. Damn, if only Ted and Sergeant Entwhistle were committed to their disguises, they might have gotten away,

I loved Nancy's trick after she and Ted are locked up in the electrical room on the roof of a hotel. By removing fuses, they change the sign of the Beldenburg Hotel to the Bedbug Hotel, and they get rescued.

Mary and Killer even come through.They put whistles on Nancy's car, just before the bad guys try to escape in it.The police can easily apprehend the villains.

Nancy Drew Trouble Shooter is my least favorite of the series. None of the regulars come off well: Nancy is especially scatterbrained and Ted is especially clumsy. Carson Drew acts like a lovesick schoolboy at the first sight of an attractive neighbor.Ted is also immediately smitten. Nancy becomes jealous of the neighbor, calling her a "scheming adventuress."

There are many "slapsticky" scenes including a bull whose charge frees Nancy and Ted from a locked building, Ted flying a crop dusting plane, and Ted and Nancy sinking in the boat Ted built, the Nancy. Somehow, no one notices the big hole Nancy makes christening it.

Perhaps the worst part of the movie is Willie Best's stereotypical character Apollo. Apollo's hides a live and later a cooked chicken behind his back, complains about his work, and is so afraid of ghosts that he doesn't realize that he's witnessed a murder.Thank goodness Nancy's around to figure it all out.

The final film of the series is Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. This film also had some outlandish situations, but they were fun. I loved the situations created by Ted as the iceman, despite the silly falling pants routine. I laughed when Nancy ordered 500 pounds of ice just to get Ted's help.

Ted makes a final appearance in drag. He's on stakeout in the basement to try to catch the bad guy, and strips to his underwear to sleep. When the bad guy takes his clothes, all Ned can find is an old-fashioned women's dress. Okay, but why did he don the lady's hat?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Anybody but the Cardinals.

The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series, as I hoped for two weeks ago. Alas, there's no hope that the Pittsburgh Pirates will be joining them.

I want new blood; new teams. The ALCS gave me that. I would have been happy with the Royals or the Orioles. The NLCS--not so much. Two teams that had been there before...recently.

Here I am, rooting for the Giants. Yes, they've won twice in the last four series. But the Cardinals won in 2011. More importantly, they kept my beloved Mets from advancing to the World Series in 2006. The team was also the Mets' nemesis in the mid '80's when I first got into baseball.

I have a long memory--ABC.

Let's Not Talk About Last Week

My postings have been light (actually non-existent) for the last week-plus. I was dealing with a bad cold and didn't want to whine about it--especially after my last whining and complaining post. I had a relatively busy work week. Because the SAT was last Saturday, I could only reschedule one appointment. I just hope I didn't get any students sick. It was an exhausting week.

Let's focus on good things. Friday night we had a nice Dog Park Friday. We know our Fridays are numbered with daylights savings time ending, so we appreciate the evenings we have left. We just don't see our dog park friends that much in the winter months.

Mindful of other opportunities that will soon be gone, Jeff, Spike and I visited Nik's for a Sunday lunch of gyros. Afterwards we went on a loop around the dog park. Reminiscent of another visit to Niks but at the beginning of a season.

Yesterday was a beautiful example of Indian summer: sunny with temps in the 70's. Spike and I managed a brief early afternoon dog park visit before my tutoring appointment.

Hmmm, my good things this week all revolve around the dog park. I guess it all comes down to Spike.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Traffic Tribulation and Construction Conundrum

Spoiler alert: I'm going to complain and whine.

I had a busy day yesterday: I had three tutorials scheduled in Greenwich, CT; Scarsdale, NY and Trumbull, CT; followed by a dinner with my mother in Redding, CT. I had gotten stuck in traffic on a previous visit to the Scarsdale student and owed him an extra three quarters of an  hour. I was glad that I was able to re-arrange my schedule to fit in all three tutoring students. But it didn't work out for me.

As I headed to Greenwich, there was an accident at Exit 9 on I-95 that closed two lanes. I realize that being delayed is nothing compared to what people in the accident faced, but I was upset that my plans were messed up. It took me 1.25 hours to get to my first appointment: it should have taken me 20 minutes. Luckily the mom was understanding when I asked if we could shorten our session to one hour so I could fit in the second session. Mom was awesome: she got me a cappuccino because she felt sorry that I got caught in a traffic jam. Onto to Scarsdale: it took longer than I expected; bad visibility slowed me down., but I got my 2.45 hours in before I headed to Trumbull.

The Trumbull appointment didn't work out; I got stuck in another traffic jam so bad that we had to cancel.

To add to my woes, our condo's parking lot is being repaved. First, the drainage is being improved. Everyday, a new area is cordoned off. Now we have to get our cars out of the lot for the day tomorrow. Tuesday we also have to put our cars elsewhere, maybe for 24 hours. Oh joy. I just learned that we are also being assessed for this. Okay, but let me know ahead of time so I can plan.

Complain and whine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wild Card

Last night's Royals/A's game went into 12 innings and ended around 1AM Eastern Time. It was an exciting game with many lead changes. I dozed off a few times but managed to see the end of the game.

Tonight's NL wild card game is completely different. As I write this, it's the middle of the 9th and the Pirates are down 0-8 to the Giants. I'm bummed: nothing against the Giants but they've won two world series recently. I'd love to see the Pirates advance.

Now, it's over. Sorry, Bucs. I guess I'll be rooting for the Nationals in the NL, and continue to root for the underdog Royals in the AL.

It may not be nice, but the main thing is that I'm rooting against the St Louis Cardinals. ABC.

A Bette Davis Gift

Scrolling through Jezebel, I found this. I had never heard this interview. I saw her in person in the 70's at an event called A Night with Bette Davis. At that time she said these lines from All About Eve were true:

Margo Channing: Funny business, a woman's career - the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing's any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you're not a woman. Slow curtain, the end. (Courtesy: imdb)

I'm glad to see she knew the world had gone beyond the "little woman." I enjoyed this interview and the animation created for it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AL Wild Card

The Kansas City Royals have not made it to the post-season since 1985, when they beat the St. Louis Cardinals. Tonight is a one-game playoff against the Oakland A's who made it to the post-season last year.

I'm rooting for the Royals--let's get some new blood in the American League.

Tomorrow night is the National League wild card game--I'm rooting for Pittsburgh.  I'm still hoping for the fantasy match-up I wanted last year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Another Autumn Visit to Lake Mohegan

It was a cooler than normal summer, and a warmer than usual fall so far. Because of Spike's torn ligament, swimming is especially good exercise for him. Jeff and I took advantage of a warm, sunny day to take Spike to Lake Mohegan.

This may be the first time at Lake Mohegan on a weekday. Spike walked slowly to the beach where he swam after the ball a few times. Unfortunately, he started shivering. I stroked him to remove the excess water; then he rolled in the grass to dry himself. We curtailed our normal hike, and he seemed very tired when we got home.

As always, it's a pleasure to spend time with him.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This Week: Ups and Downs

This title is a good reason to post this song. I started this week feeling very lethargic. That lead to me feeling guilty for being lethargic. Then I had one student mess up a tutoring appointment--she forgot the date--and another who had to cancel because he was sick. It makes it hard to keep my schedule straight.

The second half of the week was much better. Jeff's birthday was Thursday, and we had a great day.

It also helps that I went to the gym three times a week for the last four weeks. I feel better and I'm proud of that because my gym visits have been pitiful this year. I may be on a roll now. Hope I didn't just jinx myself.

I just need to keep things going in a positive direction.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happy Birthday Jeff!

We usually celebrate birthdays by going out to dinner. Last night Jeff said he wanted angel hair pasta with my marinara sauce. This request was flattering; I was happy to make the sauce. I haven't made it in months because I think it's too heavy for summer. I served the pasta and sauce with a salad of romaine, kale, cucumber, carrot, pepper and radish.

Instead of going out for dinner, we went out to lunch at Lumberyard Pub. It's a friendly place with great burgers and chicken wings, and carrot fries--this was my first time trying them and they are yummy.

As we were out for lunch, the sauce was cooking in the crockpot. We picked up one of our favorite wines Shotfire for dinner. We watched the Mets win the first game of the double-header against the Washington Nationals.

Unfortunately, the Mets lost the second game. I'm bummed because they are now doomed to another sub .500 season.

I was hoping for more, just a little more.

Sorry the Mets couldn't make it a better birthday for you Jeff.

Monday, September 22, 2014

First Day of Fall

In about one hour, fall begins. Last week at the gym, I found this quotation in the October issue of Glamour magazine:

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fall is my favorite season; it gives me hope that I can still accomplish many things.

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife

a.k.a. Marge Simpson writes a novel.

I enjoy when TV shows depict writing. My favorite is Lucy's Real Gone with the Wind. Roseanne is another character who has literary leanings. At one point, she revisits her old dreams of writing. I like that they returned to Roseanne's writing in the last episode, even though I don't like what they did with it.

Like Lucy, Marge writes a bad novel. She arbitrarily sets it in Nantucket,  in "whaling times" based on a painting in her living room. Her anger with Homer leads her to write the lead character's husband as a drunken lout. Ned's appearance at an opportune time leads to his role as a romantic hero.

The Simpsons return to a writing theme in "The Book Job"--one of my favorite Simpsons episodes.


Driving home from Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, CT: many No Trespassing signs including one affixed to a house and another along a chain stretched across a driveway. I wondered if hikers along the Appalachian Trail just wandered up to homes in the area and bothered the residents. Otherwise I got nothing.

Somewhere along Route 41 or Route 4, I saw a sign for Thistle Dew instead of a normal address. From what I could see, Thistle Dew was just an average ranch house. I hate when people name their houses, unless they live in historic registered homes. It seems so pretentious. I'm reminded of Upson Downs in the film Auntie Mame. But Mame's (Rosalind Russell) rejoinder was fabulous--her New York apartment became the Burnside Fireside.

Closer to home, I saw a bumper sticker, "Life is short, play with your dog." I can live with that philosophy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Morgan's Tasting Menu

As I wrote yesterday, we went up to Interlaken Inn for our anniversary. We decided to splurge and upgrade our three course dinner to the seven course farm to table tasting menu.

The Chef came out to meet us and ask about food allergies, favorites and things we didn't eat. Then he surprised us. We started with salmon and radishes and faro. The second course was heirloom tomatoes and cheese (I had specifically requested tomatoes.) Next we had octopus and prosciutto with a spicy pepper sauce. Jeff predicted octopus, which was funny. I've had octopus once and didn't like it, but this dish was delicious. It was cooked for five hours so it was tender. The fourth course was lobster (both tail and claw.)

Next up was pork belly with faro, mushrooms and arugula, followed by duck breast. Our dessert was a sponge cake with zabaione and berries, which we took back to our room.

It was delicious and fun--we'd never done something like that before.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Happy Anniversary Jeff!

Today we continuing our tradition of heading to Interlaken Inn for our anniversary, courtesy of Christmas and anniversary gifts.

We're leaving around noon as soon as I have finished a WPA docent meeting. We'll stop for lunch somewhere on Route 7--we'll play it by ear depending on what's open and how hungry we are at the time.

As usual, we booked the pet-away-package. One of the benefits of staying at Interlaken is going to Morgan's Restaurant. We're especially intrigued by the six course farm to table tasting menu.

Here's to a great getaway.

Mets Update

Last night was a good one--the Mets beat the Marlins 9-1; Wilmer Flores had two homers and six RBI's. It was a good comeback after Monday's bullpen collapse. That loss wasted Jacob deGrom's 13 strikeout performance. deGrom also tied a MLB record opening the game with eight strikeouts. Can he be Rookie of the Year?

Ten more games: tonight's series finale with the Marlins, three games in Atlanta, three in Washington, then back home for the final three against the Astros. The Mets have to keep the momentum. Ten more games. Only two losses to give.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Canine Health Update

Spike's been kind of gimpy lately. I've tried not to worry too much; after all he'll be 14 years old in November. Last Friday at the dog park, we threw the ball for him a few times and he was limping severely.

We watched him for a few days, before we decided to take him to the vet's. We learned he had torn his cruciate ligament. It was probably only partially torn before last Friday. I had encouraged Jeff to throw the ball, so I am feeling very guilty.

The initial vet reaction is surgery. But our vet agreed that Spike is too old for this type of surgery, especially because it has a long recovery period. Spike doesn't appear to be in pain, so we don't need medication.

Going forward, walks and swims are good; running is bad.

All we can do is watch him carefully, take it easy and love him.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Saturday Movie Night: 12 Years a Slave

The HBO premiere two Saturdays ago was 12 Years a Slave. I've been thinking about the movie since then.

It's a good film--maybe a great one. I'd have to watch it again to decide. The performances were excellent.

It's an important film--especially for Americans.

It's a harrowing film--it's hard to watch.

I've read some criticism that the film is too optimistic--"only" 12 years as a slave--audiences aren't ready for a lifetime as a slave.

I can't argue with that. But I understand this choice of narrative. It's important to have a true story. Otherwise, some would complain that the film's owners and overseers were too cruel, too extreme. "They weren't all that bad."

Then there's the practicality of getting slave narratives. In many cases, reading and writing were capital offenses, how many narratives could there be?

I have one slave memoir--the story of Harriet Jacobs. To escape, she hid for seven years in a coffin-like garret. Imagine how horrible it must have been for her to choose that option.

We need to read the stories of Solomon Northrup and Harriet Jacobs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Countdown to .500

Last Friday, I looked at the Mets schedule and their win/loss record and figured that the Mets would have to go 15-7 to get to a .500 record. They went 5-1 since then, including a four-game winning streak and a series sweep over the Colorado Rockies.

As of today, they have to go 10-6.

This has been the kind of season that it will be success for the Mets to reach the .500 mark. It will demonstrate that they didn't give up at the end of the season; they will have momentum going into 2015.

Oddly enough in the last two days, I heard two different sportscasters discuss the Mets' chances to reach the post-season. Apparently, the Mets have the same record at the same time in 1973, the "Ya Gotta Believe" year. (FYI, it pains me to write such bad grammar.)

I would love another miracle, but it's very unlikely. Give me .500 and I'll be happy. Give me .500 and I can realistically, optimistically say, "Wait until next year."

It's good enough for me. For now.

Update: Seven of the Mets' 16 remaining games are against the Washington Nationals. This is what made the original projection of 15-7 a tough one As of now--in the fourth inning--the Mets are down 0-6 to the Nationals. Pitcher Bartolo Colon was ejected from the game after hitting his second batter. Oh, there goes Manager Terry Collins.

It's starting to look ugly now. The Mets have only six losses to give, but seven games against the Nationals.

I want to believe. I do believe up to .500.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Goodbye to True Blood

Two weeks ago Jeff and I watched the series finale of True Blood. I still feel ambivalent about it.

We watched True Blood from the beginning. I've always been partial to vampires; they are more sophisticated, charming and more in control than other supernaturals. I was intrigued by the idea of True Blood as a synthetic blood substitute and vampires coming out of the coffin.

In the week before the seventh season premiere, some of the HBO channels showed marathons of the previous six seasons. I caught a few episodes here and there. Watching reinforced my opinion that Season One was the best with the introduction of the characters and the murder mystery.

All of the other seasons seemed to go on too long, or as a friend put it--the shows went off track. In Season Two, I loved the Fellowship of the Sun and  the Godric storylines. But as much as I admire Michelle Forbes, the maenad storyline just went on much too long.

Russell Edginton was the highlight of Season Three, especially his memorable turn on a TV news broadcast. I even liked his werewolf followers I also liked learning more about Eric's background. But I hated Tara's tortured storyline and Sam's family storyline.

Season Four continued the horrible storyline of Jason and the werepanthers. The main plot involved Marnie and the witches' attempt to destroy the vampires. This storyline had the potential to be great. Again it went on too long or went off track. Marnie's possession of Lafayette to kill Jesus was painfully gratuitous.

Season Five was the season of the Vampire Authority--an interesting concept, plus Russell returned, and Steve Newlin is now a vampire. Tara was also turned in Episode One--her journey was intriguing--I've always been a Tara fan. I liked Russell and Steve's romance, and Sam's and Luna's shapeshifting rescue of Emma. The idea of vampires rebelling against mainstreaming was strong, but the Lillith thing was just too much. Terry's story was painful, and I am a Terry fan.

Season Six brought Louisianna's reaction to the extremes of the Authority, with vampire camps. Sarah Newlin returned as one of the camps' main backers. I loved this storyline--it was an organic response to the vampires' actions in Season Five. But...the Bill as God story was confusing. The Warlow story-ugh--the only good thing about it was Rutger Hauer as  a guest star. But that could have been done without the crappy Warlow storyline.

Onto Season Seven. Despite my criticisms of prior seasons, I wanted to see what happens. People in charge of the vampire camps created Hep V, which mutated to create scary, ravenous disease-stricken vamps. Seemingly thousands of them are descending on Bon Temps in the Season Six finale.

Season Seven was the worst. Tara died and her ghostly re-appearances only served to prop her mother Lettie Mae. Now, we're not supposed to care what an abusive mother Lettie Mae was because her husband was bad. Understanding is one thing; whitewashing is another  I hated Violet and her whole Jason is mine storyline. At least she was destroyed.

I hated that Sookie barely grieved her best friend (Tara) and the man she "loved" (Alcide.) While I liked that Jessica and Hoyt got back together, their getting--back--together was too rushed and abrupt.

Now there's Bill's storyline. His seemingly endless flashbacks were snoozeworthy. I hated his manipulation of Sookie to kill him. I was surprised that the show killed him; I didn't expect that.

The final scenes clash in tone. Eric and Pam's infomercial was campy. But as awful as Sarah is, I wasn't crazy about seeing her in chains to be sold off for sips of her blood. The dinner scene at Sookie's was too smaltzy for True Blood. Everyone is paired off--and most of the couples have kids. Sookie herself is pregnant, but the showrunners kept her baby daddy's face hidden, as if they couldn't be bothered to finish her story. Hey, Bill wanted her to have children (that's presumably the reason behind the boring flashbacks) so all is right with the world.

No, it was annoying and a bit insulting to the main character of the show.

I'll miss True Blood but mostly for its good ideas; their execution never seemed to match their quality.

Monday, September 1, 2014

More on Veronica Mars: The Movie

Still thinking about the movie--a bit more critically than I did last night.

I still stand by my statement that I loved the movie. But I think I only loved the movie because I loved the show. Someone could watch the film without seeing the show beforehand, but I don't think that viewer would necessarily like the movie. As a standalone mystery, it's just okay.

I think it was unrealistic that all the characters were still hanging out with high school friends. But apparently that was a choice made because of the Kickstarter funding campaign. Rob Thomas wanted to bring as many TV show cast members as possible.

My biggest problem is the way Veronica blew off her job offer as an attorney. She accepts a job that starts in one week, then gets a few more days before her start date. Then she just stops answering her phone when she sees the firm name on her caller id. It just seemed stupid and irresponsible.

I've read several film reviews today. They are all over the place, but most agree with me that show lovers will be happy.

Veronica Mars: The Movie

I was psyched to hear about this movie. I didn't catch it when it was first released. Tonight we watched it twice.

I loved it. Mostly I loved the ending (spoiler alert) when Veronica decided to stay in Neptune; she had a great speech about rolling around in the mud. I loved hearing the full version of "We Used to be Friends" over the end credits.

On the downside, there wasn't enough Wallace or Mac. I didn't like that their first lines were to prop Piz. I didn't care at all about Veronica's romance with Piz.

Weevil had a little more than a cameo, but I was okay with that. Maybe Dick's role was too big, but it was still a supporting role and he's just comic relief. I could write another post about how he's been whitewashed to be a viable comic relief character. Logan in the Navy also seemed odd.

I had wanted to finish all Veronica Mars episodes before I watched the movie. I blew it, but most of the references were from Season 1 anyway, except for Piz and the sex tape.

Overall, it was great to see Veronica back home.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer Saturday at Lake Mohegan

Today was the best day of Labor Day Weekend, so we went to Lake Mohegan for a hike. The hike was a little unsettling. Spike walked at a much slower pace than usual. That was fine, but then he made what I consider some reckless moves walking down on rocks to get closer to the water. Those moves made me nervous.

Things have changed very suddenly with Spike. When I was away for two days earlier this month, he could no longer jump on the couch or the bed. We've discussed getting him a set of stairs  before, but he would recover and we didn't have to follow through.

Today, we didn't let him swim at the first dog beach area; there were many dogs there and Jeff thought it would be better for Spike to swim without the distraction of other dogs. (Plus the larger dogs get to Spike's balls before he does.)

When we did get to a good spot for Spike to swim, he seemed to perk up. Other people in the area were quite impressed with Spike's activity when they learned he's almost 14 years old.

Their comments made me happy. I tend to focus on how Spike is slowing down, but he's actually doing quite well for his age--according to a pamphlet from our vet, he will be the equivalent of 78 years old.

Spike is awesome.


D.P.F. is Jeff's abbreviation for Dog Park Fridays. I don't remember exactly when it started, but it's now a spring to fall tradition. Last night we had eight people and seven dogs for wine and appetizers. (Just to be clear--no wine and dog biscuits only for the dogs.)

We've had a beautiful summer--only four or five days with temperatures in the 90's. Friday evenings have usually been quite nice.

I don't like to think about the end of dog park season. Last year we met until the first weekend in November, just before daylight savings ended. I hope this season will be similar.

Maybe we can enjoy more beautiful skies like last night:

Simpsons Marathon Continues

Today is the tenth day of the marathon. I can't pinpoint when the Simpsons went downhill; I've never figured out my favorite season.

Yesterday I caught one of my favorite episodes: Season 18's 24 Minutes, a parody of 24 and Springfield's Counter Truancy Unit.  Lisa and her team save the school bake sale from a stink bomb.

I also set the DVR to record The Book Job from Season 23. I had saved that on our old DVR.

Other favorite episodes:

Moaning Lisa and Life on the Fast Lane from Season 1

Season 3's Homer at the Bat and Black Widower

A Streetcar Named Marge, I Love Lisa and Last Exit to Springfield from Season 4

Cape Feare from Season 5

Sideshow Bob Roberts and Homer Badman from Season 6

Radioactive Man, A Fish Called Selma, Bart on the Road and Summer of 4 Ft. 2 from Season 7

A Millhouse Divided and Brother from Another Series from Season 8

Season 11's Take My Wife Sleaze with the romantic line,  "My wife is not a doobie, to be passed around from person to person! I made a sacred vow, on my wedding day, to bogart her for the rest of my life." (Thanks IMDB.)

Trilogy of Error, New Kids on the Blecch and Skinners Sense of Snow (I especially love the title of the latter) from Season 12

She of Little Faith from Season 13

Season 18's 24 Minutes

The Book Job from Season 23

I made this list looking at the FXX marathon schedule as well as The Simpsons wiki.  I may have missed a few and may change my mind depending on my mood. I didn't list any Treehouse of Horror episodes even though I could list some individual segments as favorites. "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?" is one of our favorite quotes; it's from The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show from Season 8.  I love many of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons and all appearances of Troy McClure.

I guess things went downhill from Season 12--that's the last season I had more than one favorite. Trilogy of Error is my all-time favorite episode. I've listed 23 here. Maybe someday I'll select my top 10.