Monday, May 23, 2022

Monday Moments - Cedar Hill State Park

Two Mondays ago we decided on a jaunt to Cedar Hill State Park, a mere thirty minutes away. It has a historical farm on the property - Penn Farms. Here's Ray in front of some old equipment. 
Here's the original homestead. The Penns came from Illinois and settled in this area to grow hay grass and farm cattle. A lake and creeks were a good water source, along with some prairie land. 
The Penn Farm was established in 1859, so slaves were a part of the farm life. After the civil war, tenant farmers helped the property. 
As  we walked the property, we discussed the wild land and rustic  conditions. More power  to the pioneer women  who had  to cook, clean,  wash, and bear a zillion  kids. This was twenty miles  from Dallas, so you couldn't just hop in a car for necessities. It would have been a whole day trip by horse and buggy. And we visited on a warm (90s), steamy May day. Whew!

 Tough to keep a fresh coat of paint in these conditions. 

More  Cedar Hill State Park posts will follow. We had a fun adventure. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Finally Friday - Finish the Week with Murder (book review)

 A literary festival on the island of Alderney, UK proves fatal for a few. Ex-detective inspector Daniel Hawthorne, along with author Anthony Horowitz attend to promote a book on a murder solved by the brilliant inspector. 

A Line to Kill indicates that quite a few people on the island had motive to kill a local grandee and more connected to him. I cannot give away any more. This book was entertaining - a riddle  of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and  diabolically clever denouements. (cover blurb)

It was a good read, but I was able to put it down. I could tell that it was almost too enamored of its own cleverness, and I found it  a  bit annoying that the actual author had put himself in the book. As for the ex-detective, I wasn't  drawn into his character. I got the book from our local library, based on a previous read The Magpie Murders, that was quite entertaining. A Line  to Kill did not live up to my expectations. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Wednesday Whatever - Nic Cage - Oh Yeah!!!

 Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.  OMG.  For any serious movie goer, this is hysterical. 

Have you loved Nicolas Cage through the years?  Through good and bad movies?  Like no matter what, he was crazy  or crazy good or Oscar winner good? 

If  so - this movie is for you.  Nic Cage is in on the joke. He was one of the producers and,  no doubt, gave the writers  tips. I can't even remotely explain the plot, except know that there are a lot of Nic Cage references, he actually talks at times to a younger version of himself, and yes he drives like Gone in 60 Seconds, helps the US Government in a plot, and keeps a straight face through the ridiculousness. 

I loved this flick  for my $6.  Pedro Pescal is an alleged arms cartel leader.  Sharon Horgan is the divorced ex that he really loves. Car chases, Nic Cage with that Nic Cage whisper voice.  What can I say?  The man is legend and this movie proves it.  

Truly funny!    When I think back to Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Face-Off, Leaving Las Vegas....a lot of film history.  Trust me - you'll laugh. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Double Trouble Monday - Laura Lippman

It's a double header today for Laura Lippman. I browsed library shelves and found this new collection of short stories, plus a book of essays by Lippman. An immersive experience that proved entertaining. She's considered a top crime writer with her Tess Monaghan series. This collection offers brilliantly crafted stories of deception, murder, dangerous games, and love gone wrong. (cover blurb) Indeed, I enjoyed her clever twists of life on suburban soil. 
cover blurb - Meet the Woman Behind the Books...In this collection of new and previously published essays, NY Times bestselling author Laura Lippman offers her take on a woman's life across the decades. Her voice is wry and relatable.

My Life as a Villainess by Laura Lippman - I felt like I was hanging out with a friend as I read this book. The sharp observations, the humor, the general human foibles. ( P. 111  I managed to eke out an A-minus in gym class, thanks to written tests and the credit given for merely showing up and suiting up, which turned out to be a pretty useful life lesson)   Amen - that's me!

p. 156  Books are by betas, for betas, the wistful girls  on the fringes of things. I know this...currying favor with the brighter, prettier girls, who find temporary uses for my sharp tongue. 

I enjoyed my double header time with Laura Lippman, and appreciated home run writing.  

Friday, May 13, 2022

Finally Friday - The Bad Guys movie

 After a lifetime of legendary heists, notorious criminals Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson) and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) are finally caught. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet -- becoming model citizens. Under the tutelage of their mentor, Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), the dubious gang sets out to fool the world that they're turning good.

Ray and I enjoyed a matinee date on a very dreary day. This animated movie was just really fun with plenty of action, a decent story, lots of laughs, and  excellent voice acting. I am always amused by Awkwafina and her snarky rasp. 

Do The Bad Guys really deserve such a bad rap? Watch and see if they are wolves in sheep clothing. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wednesday Whatever

 My mother took us, as children, to the library weekly. We  could pick from the treasure trove of books, come home, and escape  into adventures. She knew what we were reading. She knew if I'd picked a book above my general age group. 

At the grocery store, she never said no to a Mad Magazine purchase. She knew it had snarky humor, but we were reading, questioning, and thinking. 

I thank my late  mother  for her encouragement. She and my father both let us read the paper, had a variety of magazines in the house, and we could talk about or question something at any time. 

Strange times here in  2022. We need to expand our reading and questioning focus, not narrow in on a singular "feed".  That's my fear - people aren't thinking. Parents have  no clue what their kids are really watching and  how they are feeding  their minds on the phone. 

Read,  talk, think on this whatever Wednesday. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Monday Book Review - The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

 Debut author, Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances. cover blurb)

I really liked this book a lot.  Prentiss (strong and smart) and Landry (strong and challenged), now free, go to work on the Walkers' homestead. They are paid, have shelter and  food, and save to move north hoping to find their mother who was taken from them as children. Isabelle and George mourn their only son Caleb (reported dead in the Civil War (?)  and gain a friendship with these brothers, despite the feelings of the town. 

Meanwhile secrets abound, murder and chaos emerge and Isabelle proves  to be a strong healing leader with a vision for the land and town of Old Ox. 

Water is an underlying theme. Parched land. The sweet taste of water after a day working in the fields. The chance to bathe in a pond, to accidentally happen upon lovers lolling by a creek. Or Landry's fascination with a fountain, and what it means  for all of their lives. 

Beautiful deep writing and quite a vision of humanity. This new writer is a talent with a delicate touch of humor, sadness, and soul.   Sweetness!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Finally Friday

 My brain just hurts this week, so I'm being  lazy on the Friday post.  I have to count on brilliant quotes from writers I admire. 

Indeed, reading has always been a good escape.  Currently it's tough to concentrate.  I'm back from PA visiting my father and still worried for his health.  Despite vax, a rebound from Covid is very tough for a 90 year old.   My brother and sister are beyond heroes. 

I have book reviews to write - a decent queue.  I need to go trim hedges - that's therapeutic. 

Let's enjoy the weekend, my friends. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Wednesday Book Review - Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

 Infinite Country by Patricia Engel is a short book (190 pages) that packs a big wallop. 

cover blurb - Rich with Bogota urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in the U.S., this book is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred. 

Mauro and Elena, grandmother Perla, and kids Karina (born in Bogota), Nando and Talia (US born) are rich characters navigating dual worlds. 

Talia the youngest was sent back to Columbia as a baby and raised by Perla. Mauro gets caught in the US and deported. Elena manages to stay in the US, scrambling for jobs, a roof for her and the kids, and dreaming of a return to Columbia. Mauro only wants to  return to the US. Talia is torn, but knows her best future lies in the states.  

Engel's writing is beautiful and she captures the fears, yearnings, love of countries, concerns for life, and dreams for a better future with her tale. 

I wondered about the matrix of separation and dislocation, our years bound to the phantom pain of a lost homeland...And maybe there is no nation or citizenry; they're just territories mapped in place of family, in place of love, the infinite country. 

I highly recommend Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Monday, May 2, 2022

Monday Moments - Wild Week in PA

Happy Monday!  I am back in TX after a week  (4/19 - 4/26) in PA. Whew!  It was crazy
I had lots of walks around our block and  spring was just blooming
Sat out front and just looked up...up...up

 And good to look down for one lone remaining  tulip. 

After two years, Covid caught up to the family. My brother, his wife, and  sister ended up  with cough, stuffy nose, etc. All are doing fine. Dad had a rough couple of days, but thanks to vax and booster - he came through.  One recovery morning as we were getting him dressed and situated, he began to sing Bruno Mars Lazy Song  "I just want to stay in my bed"    What 90 year old knows that?

And that's why we keep the old man just never know how he'll surprise us. 

Take a walk. Look for surprises.  And also,  have a sense  of humor - that is key!

Friday, April 29, 2022

Friday Flashback to Easter Fun (and Candy)

I've been in PA  visiting my super senior dad and relieving my siblings  from 24 hour care. No doubt I will have stories to tell.  But I've done some filler posts.  Let's flashback to fun Easter and cute girls in lovely Easter dresses - Dakota and Skylar.   Sweetness. 
Makyla is older sister and just growing into a lovely young  lady who loves the arts, etc. She has my heart - truly creative and finding her way. It's amazing. 
The whole family.  We had a fun Easter Sunday - good cookout, egg hunt, and  turns out new twin goats had been born. No pictures, but life in the country (an hour drive for us) yields a whole new world. 

No doubt I will have a Dad story or two in the weeks  ahead. OMG - he's a mess, but he's our mess. 

Until then,  Happy Friday. TGIF and have a great weekend. We zoom into MAY.   How can that be?  


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Whatever - Botanic Garden Fun

That time of year - a stroll at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. I met up with my friend Trish on a gorgeous Thursday - perfect temps, no wind. A miracle day. And the flowers did not disappoint. 
This snowball tree is SO full. 
Pensive moment
Special theme throughout - It's a Bug's Life.   Creepy good
Watch out for the web. 

After our hour long walk, we went to Lucille's, a Fort Worth restaurant institution. Lunch lobster roll. No we aren't in Maine, but dang, they know how to do it right. We had a splendid day. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Monday Moments - boys of summer are back

Opening  Day for Texas Rangers baseball was Monday 4-11-2022 and we were there bright  and early for batting practice. 
A happy Ray had worked hard since  February to get his knee rehabbed enough to make it to Opening Day.  We did take advantage of closer parking  and the ADA shuttle. That service helped a lot!
I received a 20 game package from Omega for my retirement gift.  Sweet seats.  This big screen isn't even the BIG BIG screen.
First day is always fun and full of energy.  The new ballpark is very functional. It lacks the character  of the old one. I read a description, "It feels a bit like walking in a shopping mall."   Alas, that's true. 

 But it does have a roof that closes.  Opening Day temps were wonderful and it was nice  to see blue skies.  But by July, when it's a steamy 100....oh that closed roof and air-conditioning will be wonderful.

Play Ball!

P.S. New glossy ballpark does not necessarily guarantee a winning  team. It  took them four hours  to lose.  (We were long gone home - I believe in the 7th inning  stretch and leave.  Ray's knee was done too)

Friday, April 22, 2022

Finally Friday - Let's go random

 I like this quote. I've always liked Anna Quindlen's writing. Alas, I believe there is one grandchild who likes to read...Obviously I've failed!

Moving on...

Quick book review - The Cellist by Daniel Silva is almost scary in how straight from headlines is this novel.  Apparently he re-wrote the ending in six weeks due to fast changes in the world situation. 

We have Viktor Orlov, a Russian exile, who is killed, in his London mansion, by documents contaminated by deadly nerve gas. An investigative reporter had delivered the papers and now she's gone. 

Who do you call?  The intrepid Israeli super spy extraordinaire - Gabriel Allon, Silva's hero in his thriller series. 

London, Amsterdam, Geneva. Gabriel's group of spies must  work fast to stop Russia's rich from dividing America into further chaos. 

cover blurb - Elegant and sophisticated, provocative and daring, The Cellist explores one of the preeminent threats facing the West  today - the corrupting influence of dirty money wielded by a revanchist and reckless Russia.  

Whew!  This book is a page turner and Gabriel Allon is SO cool. Silva is on top of his game. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Wednesday Whoa! The Judge's List by John Grisham

 Wandered through the library the other day, and picked up this 2021 John Grisham book,  The Judge's List. I wanted something I could count on to surprise me. Grisham is consistent and did not disappoint. 

Jeri Crosby's father was murdered twenty years ago. She's been obsessed with solving this crime, uncovered a suspect, and stalked this serial killer. Indeed, she's tied this man to eight murders and has now contacted Lacy Stolz who works for  the Florida Board of Judicial Contact.  

But how to prove?  cover  blurb. The man is brilliant, patient, and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most  cunning. He knows forensics, police procedure,  and most  important: he knows the Law. 

(Cue dramatic music)

He is a judge,  in Florida - under Lacy's jurisdiction, and he appears to have a list of targets. Folks have crossed his path and wronged him.  They end up with a distinctive rope tied  around their neck with a double clove hitch knot.  Yikes!

How can Jeri and  Lacy avoid his list and bring him in to confess?  Read the The Judge's List and find out. Keep your lights on. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Monday Moments

Monday Moment - I love Fran Lebowitz. Her dry humor can crack me up. She's awesome with words. I loved this Instagram meme from her last post.    Too true.    Gotta read, folks. Gotta read. 

 And this killed me, truly made me die inside.  The Dallas Morning News has a News Quiz on Tuesdays.  Here's the Newsplace for 3/22/2022.  Hello......question mark.  I hope my readers know that what is marked is France.   Their answer was Spain.  From the news, that was the correct answer - extra Sahara dust did blanket Spain.  BUT - the DSM education department (??) picked the wrong country to mark.   Serious duh. 

Texas is busy banning books - is one of them a geography book?  Are there no proof readers at the News?

Yes, I wrote them a correction notice and they did post it on Wednesday.  Huge sigh, though. 

And that's our Monday Moments.  Have a good week

Friday, April 15, 2022

Finally Friday Fun Memoir

I'm on a bit of a memoir kick as I visit my local  library. This one jumped out at me - Stories to Tell by Richard Marx.  I think I've established I like pop cheesy songs. Richard Marx, an accomplished song writer, had a ton of Billboard Hot 100 hits in 1987, 1989, and has written lots of Grammy winners with other artists (think Luther Vandross, NSYNC, Josh Groban, Keith Urban, Barbra Streisand, et al). 

The hair, the videos on MTV, the falsetto (I like guys that can sing high). Richard Marx was/is awesome. 

His memoir was interesting and was a lot about the actual music making and  writing. As he even says, he had a very normal childhood with parents that loved him and each other.  He married young and had three boys and a twenty-five year marriage. That's a good run. It did not end in scandal.  He is currently married to Daisy Fuentes. 

He was not a party boy. He just loved music, loved writing music, loved working with his band, with other musicians, and he seemed to keep connections and not piss off people.  He has a whole chapter on working with Barbra Streisand, and he questions the "bitch" reputation. He said she was a perfectionist, yes, but also generous, thoughtful, and just freakin' talented. They are good friends  to this day. 

Richard Marx, now 57 or so, seems like a stand-up dude and his Stories to Tell were very interesting in regards to the music scene.  I enjoyed this memoir. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Wednesday Whoa - Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

 Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner is a perfect beach read about friendship and forgiveness set during  a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod. (cover blurb). It's breezy, gossipy, trendy, and good brain candy. You don't have to think much. Just enjoy the characters and Weiner's ability to keep summer plots swirling with rumors, failing businesses, infidelity, and a fatal hot tub incident. 

Daphne Berg, a plus-size Instagram influencer, has moved on from college and ex-best friend Drue Cavanaugh. Thus she's shocked when Drue contacts her, begs to meet, and then asks her to be her maid of honor. It's tough to resist Drue, and Daphne is pulled into Cape Cod drama, amidst hooking up with a really cute guy. 

I won't say more. Social media. Society life. Money. Jennifer Weiner creates a frothy cocktail swirl that's easy to swallow. Relax pool or beachside and dive into Big Summer

Monday, April 11, 2022

Monday Moment - Forever Young by Hayley Mills

 What a treat!  Another great library find - Hayley Mills' memoir Forever Young.  I grabbed it off the shelf as my mind floated back  to the joys of Disney classics - Pollyanna, Parent Trap, That Darn Cat!

I loved Hayley Mills (now age 74) - so pretty with those big blue eyes and that delightful accent. Her book reads as if she is talking to you and telling stories. What a  life. Her father, John Mills, was quite the actor in his day, and her  troubled mother was a screen writer. Her sister, Juliet, was also an actress, and there was a younger brother, Jonathan. 

When she met Walt Disney, her life changed. She writes fondly of her days at Disney and her respect for Walt. She grew up there with a seven movie contract, and Walt was quite the business man. It was tough  to escape or film something not "suitable" to the Disney image. Hence, no Lolita!

Parties, dinners, awards ceremonies, vacations - this book is a name dropper's paradise, but Ms. Mills is not bragging. This was her life and it's fun to read whom she was in awe of, and the time her mother fixed her up with George Harrison. Oh my! She also writes of normal teen issues, but alas, she was always being scrutinized. Family life had its turmoil, and  finally she had to battle for her money that had been put in a trust, but not done to her favor back in the day. 

Forever Young is well written and quite interesting as a peep into old school Hollywood. I enjoyed it immensely, and fortunately Hayley Mills came out of it on the good side, now happy with two grown sons, a respect for the positivity of Pollyanna, and a sense of humor about her life. I'm glad she wrote her memoir. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Finally Friday Fun - Happy Birthday David

Today is my brother's (David Crowther) birthday.  Here we are many moons ago. He's five years younger than me. 

Here he is - a happy retired man.  What will you do with your time, David?  Turns out he spends a lot of time helping our 90+ year old father. He's a good son!!!
David is always happy when he visits Charleston SC.  His daughter Lisa lives here. This picture was from an anniversary party for Lisa.   (David, son Jeff, daughter Lisa, and wife Cherie)

 Sail into another year, David. Stay healthy and have a Happy Birthday!   Cheers!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Local Theater Laughs

 Time to venture out last Friday and catch some local theater. Onstage Bedford presented a one woman show Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End.  The authors, Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, had done another show I liked about the columnist Molly Ivins, so I had high hopes. And they did not disappoint. 

In ninety minutes, the actress (Judy Sizemore) gave us Erma - the housewife, the writer, the syndicated columnist, the book author, the feminist, the wife, the mom, the everybody's next door neighbor. The actress gave us the wit and  wisdom of Erma all while folding laundry, ironing, dealing with kids and husband, and answering the door to life insurance salesmen. 

Laugh out loud funny and also poignant too. This was a tight little production and kudos to Onstage Bedford. I was happy to "shop  local" and was entertained. My mom loved Erma Bombeck and I have too. She's one for the ages and this show, At Wit's End, does her justice. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Monday Movie Review - The Lost City

 Last Thursday began as a cold blustery day. I decided I needed some sunshine and stupidity in my life, so off to the movies. The Lost City starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliff, and Brad Pitt filled all of my goals. 

This is old fashioned rom-com fluff with no redeeming  value. But those of us in the theater laughed out loud and enjoyed the ridiculous situations. Sandra B plays a burned out romance novelist. Channing is her cover model, Dash. Daniel Radcliff is the wacko billionaire who kidnaps her from her book tour,  to help translate some ancient parchment.  He's convinced that from her books, his lost city on an obscure island, actually has treasure in a tomb. Are you following this?

Channing/Dash is sure he can save her, but he enlists an old buddy of his, Jack, who's military trained. Jack (Brad Pitt) is a real-life Dash - handsome, daring, and rom-com ready for anything. 

I won't go into more. It's convoluted but all plays well to the casts comedic skills. Sandra Bullock is a treasure and she was awesome in this movie. The cast looked like they had fun with it. The Lost City romp was exactly what I needed. I came out smiling  to a sunny, still blustery day. It was worth my five dollars and worth you streaming when it hits your television. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Sing into the Weekend - Come From Away

The Day the World Came to Town. I read this book and reviewed it two years ago. I was prepping before seeing a Broadway touring production of Come From Away     Alas, my tickets were for March 2020. Whoops!  Pandemic shut down the world. 
Two years later, here's my Playbill for Come From Away. I enjoyed it two Sundays ago. This was a glorious production. Very clever telling of September 11, 2001 when thirty eight planes landed in Gander, Newfoundland. They were diverted due to airspace closures and an American shutdown due to the terrorist attacks. 

The population of Gander (7000) doubled in size and everyone worked  together to care for, feed, shelter, and help strangers who were scared, worried, and stressed. Multiple languages, cultures, food needs, and more needed to be addressed. 

This Broadway show is a complete ensemble - no major standout songs or stars. There is no intermission. It's a small cast that transforms in different  scenes with a clothing change and movement of chairs and tables. There is humor even in dark times. The love and care shine through some catchy tunes and good voices. 

Come From Away is a show with heart that shows the goodness of people in  a tough time. The lessons from 9/11 shine through and are applicable today. It was worth the two year wait to see. Live theater is just SO fun.