Monday, November 30, 2015

Movie Review Madness - Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

All good things must come to an end. Some go out with a whimper, others with a bang. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the latter – a worthy end to quite a journey for Katniss Everdeen. This film picks up right where the other ended. Katniss is in the once thought destroyed District 13. She’s banged up but recovering. Peeta is still in isolation after being brainwashed in the Capitol. Hammish, Gale, Plutarch, and Finnick are there to rally with Katniss and plan a way to get into the Capitol to kill President Snow and free the people of war torn Panem. 

From the movie synopsis blurb - What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions. 

We’ve watched Katniss grow and she’s a bit weary now – tired of fighting, tired of the stress, and afraid she will fail those who depend upon her. However, the girl has gumption and a good team who has her back. In Mockingjay Part 2, she has to dig deep and fight for Peeta’s soul. Will she ultimately choose him or Gale? Was there ever a question?  President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is so evil, so full of snake oil, and he knows better than to underestimate Katniss. Believe me, there’s a Holy Crap! scene that will have you cheering.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss has been so perfect for this role. She embodies character, growth, loyalty, and a stoic presence. She is a true heroine. Josh Hutcherson has grown as Peeta, the baker boy. He and Katniss have been thrown together and their strength and bond has evolved. Woody Harrelson as Hammish has offered Katniss wisdom and strength of friendship. The word strength keeps appearing and that’s the key to the Hunger Games series – it’s been the key to survival after all.  Time to put down your bow and arrow. Time to say farewell to Katniss. The odds have been forever in our favor, after all.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Post Thanksgiving Filler

 Consider this lazy filler. I've been enjoying this "long" weekend.  Here's Ray's turkey - gloriously tasty. It was Norman Rockwell perfect. He also did a ham with a lovely glaze. I did clean up later after we hosted eighteen people.  Plenty of food, laughs, and good cheer.  We are a very fortunate family and all get along. I am grateful
Remember my post about the store REI promoting the fact that they were closed on Black Friday so their employees could enjoy the great outdoors. Excellent idea and promotion. Now that I look back at their ads, they only featured sunny skies. Hmmm.

Here I am outdoors on Friday - now what??  So far - Thursday thru Saturday - we've had six inches of rain.  That's a lot in a short period of time. I'm not keen on a sloshy hike. It's rather cold too.

The heck with the great outdoors. Ray and I did our duty as Americans to help the economy - armed with coupons we spent an hour at Kohl's and got some darn good bargains. Then we parked our butts on the couch and watched television - sports, movies, netflix, whatever mind candy was available.

and we ate leftovers..........see that turkey picture above. This story has come full circle.

Now time for a nap

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Land Safely

Oops - I expected a soft landing on that green grass. Wrong coordinates. Drat

A rock - ouch

A car fender?  really?

Sometimes, life just doesn't go your way

However,for this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I wish everyone safe travels and a "soft" landing

All the best, my friends

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gotta Laugh

Oh the genius of Pearls Before Swine. Always good for a laugh

Happy Week, everybody

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review - Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I looked forward to reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  I read some excellent reviews. I liked the title a lot, and it sounded intriguing. Now I report some ambivalence. Maybe my expectations were too high.

Lotto and Mathilde meet and marry in a whirlwind. They are glamorous, destined for greatness, and are madly in love. We read about the early ups and downs, and start to question this partnership. I wasn't sure if I liked them, and perhaps that is the point of the book.

From the cover blurb - It is with an electric thrill, then, that the reader realizes things are even more remarkable than they have seemed. (oh really hmmm. and I was just thinking less of these people) In an emotionally complicated twist, the perspective shifts, and what began as a story about one extraordinary union becomes so much more. (I didn't really like these people or their friends)
In prose vibrant and original, this is a profoundly moving, surprising, and provocative novel about the yoke joining love, art, and power, and about the influence of perception. 

The writing was very good, and the book did have some twists and turns that were unexpected. However, I did not finished it in stunning silence.

Instead I kinda said, "hmm."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Movie Madness - Spectre

Spectre is the latest James Bond movie and it does all the usual Bond stuff. In the overall scheme of movies, it gets a solid B for entertainment. However, I’m going to be picky in this review, and give it a C.  The last Bond movie, Skyfall, was truly a great movie – it had mystery, drama, action, and many holy cow! moments.  Compared to it, Spectre is a yawner and that’s a shame.  The rumor has floated for a while that Daniel Craig is ready to move on from the franchise. Frankly I think it shows. He’s still a decent actor and did the James Bond thing, but he lacked that extra sparkle, pizzazz, edgy humorous smile, and verve.

Cars – well, heck yeah – the Aston Martin gets an A+. No question
Opening credits – always Bondesque and these were good
Bond Theme sung by Sam Smith “Writing on the Wall” – heck yeah – the kid has a voice and this is a worthy song – A
Shaken not stirred reference – check
Bond Girl – pretty enough and yet a tad bland. Frankly, too too young. She had a pretty pout and could run in heels, but was not a standout
Opening chase scene and blast in Mexico City – very good opener. Well filmed and dramatic.
Balance of plot line about the Spectre organization and blah blah blah blah – rather boring
The new Q – this is a bright spot – the kid does a good job and injects some humor into the movie. The gadgets are okay. Back in the “olden” days, they were crazier. Technology now is almost ahead of Bond movies.
Moneypenny – attractive, but didn’t get to do much in this film. Generally her give and take with James adds something. Unfortunately, it must have been left on the cutting room floor.
Missing desperately – Dame Judi Dench as M. Yes, she left us in Skyfall and she’s sorely missed. Her crisp diction and toughness with James gave him some soul. Her scenes always crackled.  Ralph Fiennes is adequate.
Villain – Christoph Waltz – alas. He did his best with the part, but Javier Bardem set a high bar in Skyfall. Sorry – Christoph – just not wacko enough.

Are you seeing the theme? Skyfall truly added to the James Bond lexicon. Spectre is very pale in comparison.  I admit I saw this movie right after the Paris bombing tragedy and frankly it set a pall over the movie. I was sensitive as to the violence, the explosions, etc.  What used to be so “crazy” in the Bond films is now unfortunately on the evening news. I had high expectations, but had to settle for mediocre. As for the car………..oh yeah, still awesome.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Philly Fall - Radiant

 I visited Dad on the most perfect November week possible. Warmer than normal and the colors were still blasting absolute glory

 From the front porch around 7 am

Crisp air and sunshine. Tough to beat

I've been back in Texas two weeks now. Dad reports he's doing much better.  Getting out and about with some friends. No more visiting nurses, so he has to do his exercises on his own. It's quite positive.

Let's have a good rest of the week everybody.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What to Say?

Heartbreaking horror

When, how, will the madness ever end?

Words fail me. I looked for a quote that seemed appropriate, but dismissed then all as too simple for such complexity.

Somehow, this image - one picture - summed up thousands of words and fears for me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

No Excuses - Financial Responsibilty

No excuses.  You can't say "Oh, I'm poor because of bad luck". It's not Friday the 13th every day.
Instead it should be  -  Save a Penny or Dollars Saturday or Sunday every weekend.

Ladies - I am talking to you. I was raised by a mother who should have been that housewife in the 1950s-60s with the apron, cooking dinner and raising kid - totally dependent on her husband. Well, yes - she chose to stay home and raise kids in to the 1960s but my mother was a domestic engineer and financial wizard. I give her credit for everything I have today, and no matter your age, you can do it too.

Budget - boring but necessary.  My mother had envelopes with the titles Grocery, School, Utilities and Fun.  She busted up my dad's paycheck into these envelopes and that's what we lived off each week/month.  Nowadays, if you have a fancy phone, you can create the exact same idea in your notes section or with free financial tools.  Pay your bills on time and be sure to plug money into savings or a 401K. If you don't have the money in hand, you won't miss it. If your company matches 401K, then maximize your contribution - that's beyond necessary in this day and age. It's "free" money - do not squander the privilege.

Sacrifice - I'm sure there are things my mother wanted, but she had been a child of the depression. (Don't roll your eyes here. That was a serious time and absolutely an awesome example for how to live today) and knew how to postpone gratification. Whether it's just you or for a family, you do not have to own the latest and greatest thing immediately.  Save and buy when you aren't going to be in debt. You will better appreciate the treat and not be drowning in debt. Set that example for your kids. Nowadays, too many people buy too much and spoil their kids. It's okay for them to have to wait for a treat. They will be better people for it - they will appreciate you, the item, and it will make them fiscally responsible.  It's up to a parent/parents to teach their kids how to respect money. You are doing them a huge favor. Trust me.

Save for the Worse Case Scenario - My mother was sure that my father would be gone by age 55. That sounds horrible, but his father had died at that age. She was very afraid of losing him, but for practical sake she wanted to prepare for her future and for the kids. Thus she made sure to bank as much as possible. As it turned out, she passed at age 60 and he's still going strong at 84. Nonetheless, you just never know.

So - be sure to sock away money in case of death, divorce, ill health, etc.  You need a cushion. It might seem morbid, but it's smart money to salt some away for disaster.

Debt Free - pay off credit cards each month. Use coupons.  Put money in 401Ks or IRAs or something that keeps you from spending every dime.  Constantly compare/contrast and reassess your dollars.

Fun - now I'm going to say spend some money too. Just don't go into debt for it. You have to have some fun - travel, get that big TV, whatever. Life is short - it's all about balance

Ladies - be bold and ask for a raise. Numerous studies show that women are timid about asking for what they are worth. Do not under value your skills. Present your case with confidence and maximize your value. You deserve it. You work hard. Receive the proper compensation.

I truly reflect on my mother's example and admire her and my dad for giving me and my siblings a good life and a good example. Believe me, we were spoiled enough. But I also paid for my own college education. I bought my own townhouse at age 28. I've never been in debt. And my husband and I are partners in a fiscally responsible marriage.

Bad luck is an excuse. Rolling the dice is a gamble. Take charge of your money. Don't let it rule you.

I recommend reading columns or checking out financial tools from

And a friend of mine has a very good blog

Good, wait. It isn't luck. It's personal choice.  Stay smart and vigilant with your money!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday

Follow the yellow leaf road

(The picture doesn't do justice to how the sunlight made this a golden path)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Philadelphia Freedom - Veteran's Day

Cool replica of the Liberty Bell at Philadelphia Airport.

Let Freedom Ring

Salute to Veteran's Day

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's a Darn Dish Towel

Oh yeah - this sweet old senior looks harmless.  But inside his heart is a design diva extraordinaire.
(By the way, he's no longer using the walker. He's graduated to the cane in just the week I was home. I shall take full credit)

Are you tired of Dad stories?  Too bad. Here's one.

So, I do laundry and include the kitchen towel that hangs on the oven door that is near the kitchen sink. (Don't question the kitchen design. Think cramped space).  Anyway, I say, "Let's change things up." And I go to the towel cupboard and select a totally different one that's tan and has a design. "There. That's spiffy."

Dad is sitting at the kitchen table. I go do something and come back.

"Well, I don't like that towel. It's muddy looking."

"Okay. What do you want?"

"Get a brown one."  I remove the "muddy" one and get a brown one.

"That's too dark. Get the lighter brown."  I go and there are a selection of "lighter" ones. I bring him three to choose from and he does.

I hang it. I think it's just like the one I put in the wash.

"Now, that's perfect."

"As long as you're happy, Dad."

He gives a satisfied smile.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Black Friday Boldness Coming Right Up

Now that Halloween is over, we can contemplate Thanksgiving and then the super crazy season.
The Dallas Morning News story title says it all "REI's gutsy Black Friday idea: We're Closed"

REI's quote is "You shop, we're going outdoors."

The outdoor merchandise and travel store is giving their employees the day off and paying them to go outdoors, use their gear, and have fun with their families or friends.

Wow and good for them.

I admit I enjoy shopping. However, the whole Christmas season shopping season has expanded into Thanksgiving Day itself and become insane. Frankly, for me I have a certain amount of money I plan to spend on a certain amount of people and there are plenty of shopping days before Christmas for me to spend that dough. I assume that holds true for most folks.

With online shopping, more and more people aren't even stepping into real box stores. It's all about sitting in your pajamas and clicking a screen. It's up to the USPS, UPS, or Fed-X to deliver. Talk about lazy genius.

So, I hope that the Seattle retailer spurs a trend. Let's backpedal from this huge push for Black Friday insanity. Let's reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving and enjoy our time with families and friends.

Let's get outdoors!   (A waddle around the block will do us good after our huge meals)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stand up Straight

I am in PA again with my Dad. He had his back surgery two weeks ago and yesterday the staples were removed. Now the goal is to get moving. He needs to wean from the walker and use his cane. He needs to do his leg exercises.

And he needs to sit up straight, and stand up straight.

We all do.

That's a lesson I'm learning with my time with Dad and the physical therapy nurse. Posture helps a lot with your overall health.

We writers and readers spend far too much time hunched over our computers, laptops, or tablets. Make a conscious effort to straighten up. Be sure to stand and stretch every thirty minutes or so. Best to take a twenty minute walk a day, if you can.

Hey, it's Friday. You can slack off a bit - get outside and roam. Your future back and self will thank you.   Cheers everybody

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Basement Step Blues

Crappy picture, but trust me these basement steps at my Dad's house are steep. The railing is "okay" and yet feels a tad precarious. The top fluorescent light takes forever to flick on (if it does at all), which adds to the bad horror movie atmosphere.

These are the steps down to the washer and dryer in the unfinished section of the basement. The finished section is total retro stuck-in-the 60s with panel walls, off color stick-on tiled floor, leftover saggy furniture, and a television with an antenna (I don't think it works). It's the land that time forgot and is musty.

The unfinished section has always creeped me out. The hulking furnace groans in the corner. Thousand leggers roam the concrete floors, and huge spiders could stroll by. One meager light bulb flickers overhead. Shadows are eerie and noises echo.

Something always creaks, crackles, or whistles. (and no, I don't mean my knees)

I managed to swallow fears and conquered laundry here in PA. (Once again up to help Dad - more stories to tell)

But the words, "Go to the basement" bring a chill down my spine.

How about you?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Movie Review - Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies is an excellent film. It's a winning combination - director Stephen Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks. Both are at the top of their game in this Cold War telling of a story based on true events. It's 1957 and both the US and the Soviet Union have spies on both sides of the ocean. One man, Rudolph Abel, is caught in Brooklyn and tried for espionage. Tom Hanks, an insurance lawyer, is called upon to defend him. Ultimately, Hanks as Jim Donovan, seeks a fair trial for this man who's being railroaded toward the death penalty. The judge already has him convicted, as do American citizens.

Abel neither confirms nor denies his innocence or guilt. Acted with subtle grace by Mark Rylance, he appears to accept his fate and trusts Donovan. The two grow to respect each other. One point Donovan makes to the judge is that Abel could be used as a pawn if the Soviets catch an American spy. We'd have trade material.

Hmm. Meanwhile, we watch as Gary Powers and other pilots are trained for top secret flight missions over Russia to photograph locations. What happens to Gary's U2 spy plane? Is he broken in regards to giving US intel? Does Rudolph Abel ever break? Are they high stakes swap material? And is a poor US student caught up in the mess in Berlin as the Wall is erected.

Oh it's spy vs spy and cat and mouse game with deft negotiations by Donovan. Tension mounts and Bridge of Spies proves to be a thrilling political action film. Well filmed and acted, this is just the start of the fall movie season. Salute the standing man, and ask, "Do I need to be worried?"

Don't duck and cover - open your eyes and enjoy this film.