Monday, May 30, 2022

Monday Moments - Memorial Day Style

No one is so foolish as to prefer to peace war, in which instead of sons burying their fathers, fathers bury their sons.  Croesus - 6th Century B.C.
As I write this post, the Dallas Mavericks are in the NBA playoffs. After last night, it doesn't look like a good start to this series against Golden State. Good luck Luka and the Mavs
And two weeks ago was prom 2022 - Abby with boyfriend Adam
I had to post this book meme. We had dinners at Pizza Hut so younger son Kevin could get his personal pan pizza that he earned. Fun to hand over that certificate.   Aah - those early elementary school days when the kids were interested in Beverly Cleary, et al books. 

 Plunge into summer - Hope it's a good safe calm Memorial Day for you. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Finally Friday - Parks, Grad, Memorial Weekend and More

Finally Friday.  Memorial Day Weekend signals the beginning of summer, the pool  plunge (already in!), High  School Graduation in Texas (Abby, 18 will get her diploma on Sunday.  Then what? Who knows? She does  not), and Top Gun: Maverick opens up after a two  year schedule hiatus. 

Meanwhile, maybe you'll go to a state park this weekend. Here's more from Cedar Hill  State Park, visited a few weeks ago

Water looked rough and quite  murky at Joe Pool Lake. Alas, our drought  conditions here are bringing down lake levels fast. 
Some  driftwood. Unlike  Lake Mead, I'm unaware of long lost bodies being found (thank goodness)
Not a sunny white sand Florida beach

 Hit the  trails and one cactus chose to show off a bloom. 

Have a safe Memorial  Weekend. With war in Ukraine, reflect on past US wars and those who did not come back. Stay cool in your pool,  on a lake, or  in a movie theater. The first burgers from the grill taste like summertime. Enjoy time with  family or friends, celebrate your graduates, and take time to relax too. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wednesday Whatever - Downton Style

Downton Abbey movie 2019 had a royal visit, a gay butler's secret, and a maid/illegitimate daughter of a cousin inheriting an estate. All presented lavishly. 

Now Downton Abbey: A  New Era is another dessert whipped up by creator Julian Fellowes. It hits all the marks - costumes, posh dinners,  castles and grounds, and some  quips from the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie  Smith).  We get to visit with all of our old "friends" and just  hearing the lovely tones of Carson (Jim Carter) - our favorite bristling old butler - makes one happy. 

In this film, we split time between England and the French Riviera. The countess inherited a villa from an old flame. Questions about her past and fretful moments for Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) ensue. Meanwhile, Downton has been invaded by a film  crew. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) puts up with the fuss (and a charming director) because money is needed for a new roof.  

All in all, if you are a Downton fan, just  sit back  and  enjoy. You'll laugh, you'll sniffle, and like my matinee (11 am) audience of mostly senior ladies, you will applaud at the end. 

Then carry on...if you are lucky, a friend in the group invites you back for a lovely luncheon. 

P.S. It's awesome being retired and out to the movies  on a Friday.  Cheers!

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!