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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Good Banker and My Favorite Store

Here's one of my favorite stores










2nd entry for the olivejuicebags.com contest


Here is my second attempt to win for the olivejuicebags.com contest. You remember I showed you my favorite bag and this is my second favorite.:) I think it will go very well with my favorite outfit - jeans.:) I love the dark color and hope that you too will go there too and find your favorite bag. All you need to do is post about the contest on your blog and send them an email every time you do at: olivejuicebags@comcast.net. They're holding this contest until August 31, 2009.

No, I didn't get to the movies today and probably won't get there tomorrow. It's very frustrating when you are only one in a group and no one wants to go to the movies. I could probably go every weekend, but the movies out there just don't entice us enough to make the trip and hand over the $10 for the ticket and buy the popcorn and soda. By the time three or four people go to the movies you could spend almost $50. When you're making money that isn't that much to spend, but when nothing is coming in except a piddly little retirement check that is half of what you thought you would get and your husband is running around trying to get money from his clients to keep us alive, somehow movies become a luxury and not a need.

What did we do instead? We went to Stew Leonard's my favorite food store up here, next to Whole Foods. Why do I love this store? When we walked into the store they had samples of two kinds of soup, clam chowder and vegetable minestrone. You all saw my vegetable soup so I tried theirs and it was almost as good as mine!:) As we walked around picking up different cheeses and rolls we got to the produce section, which takes up about a fourth of the store. They wind you around the aisles so you can't really know, but it's pretty big. We found some fresh herbs and not only did I have a question about which herb it was, but I wanted fresher sage. A produce guy came over after one of the behind the scenes kitchen people went out of her way to ask him. He immediately told me what the name of the herb was and went into the back to get me some fresh sage! In Stew Leonard's you get service like you were paying a much higher price.

Here's an example of what they will do for you in Stew Leonard's. One time this summer we wanted cole slaw to go with our meal. There was no cole slaw there and I went to ask the kitchen help if there was any in the back. The woman, who was just about to go off duty, told me she was going to make more tomorrow, but if I really wanted it she would make it tonight! So she made an entire batch right there on the spot just because I wanted it. This is the norm at Stew Leonard's. It's the reason why people come from New York to Connecticut to go there. Sure the prices are great and the quality is outstanding, but the service is the reason, I think!

As we went around the produce area we found a sample of salad with dressing, and there are juice machines set up where you can get a drink of juice - as much as you want. Usually on Sundays they have samples of cookies and cakes. Today they had a sample of apple pie. But we've had everything from sausage on a pretzel to slices of filet mignon as samples. You never know what you will find there. Plus we love their dairy products. Stew Leonard's has their own dairy farms and they show you the cows on video when you're in the dairy aisle. They also offer what they call "naked" chicken, pork, and beef. No hormones or antibiotics are fed to the animals like organic and it's delicious. Besides that their cooked food is fantastic. Tonight we had BBQ ribs and fried chicken. Yummy!!! You can also get food from steam tables and we added a container of mashed potatoes that we scooped ourselves.

To leave the store you have to pass the candy area and they have a scoop where you can get your own jelly beans. The help never checks on whether you have taken a nibble or not. In times past they had a large table filled with undyed pistachio nuts, the non-red kind and you could stand there and eat as many as you wanted as you put them into the plastic bag. Now they still have it, but they've made it much smaller. But the best part of Stew Leonard's is that after you check out you can get a free ice cream or coffee for every $100 you spend.:) They have an ice cream place and a coffee place too. In the summer it's cooling, and it's also good if you're starving and have to face the trip home. It's probably about forty-five minutes to an hour away from us. There is one closer in New York State, but we don't like it as much. Also, in Connecticut you pay less sales tax.:)

I was looking at my husband's copy of The Forward, and I started reading the Editorial. It's called The Good Banker, and it's about Leonard Abess the banker who gave away $60 million to his employees. This took place about a week ago, but with the economy the way it is, highlighting this amazing feat doesn't sound insane. Mr. Abess seems to be that rare person who is a genuinely kind human being. Instead of keeping the extra money and adding it to the millions he already has, he gave it all away to his employees without being there to bring any publicity to it. As it says in the article that I hope you will read, he had a video shown to the employees after he sold the bank where he told them to expect a "windfall" and that they shouldn't worry that they were going to lose their jobs. Then he had the checks distributed to everyone without his being there for the hugging and kissing.:) This was just a bonus to pay them back for years of service. Go read the article to see how it has affected these people.

As the editor of The Forward says, Mr. Abess is doing what President Obama is doing on a smaller scale. He is redistributing his wealth to people who deserve it and need it. He is not going to horde it as greedy corporation CEO's have done in the past. He is graciously giving his employees his surplus money. He has just become my second favorite person in the news with Sully Sullenberger being the first one. Michelle Obama sat with Mr. Abess on Tuesday night when President Obama gave his Not State of the Union address. This is how someone who doesn't need the money can help people who really need the money or would greatly benefit from the money. I would hope that more people will follow this model and that our country will become generous enough to share its wealth with deserving people who don't have enough. I would love your comments on this. Would you give away money if you could afford it?

Now for something completely different, as Monty Python used to say. We bought a whole "naked" chicken today and I'm going to roast it tomorrow. Roasting a chicken is a little tricky, because it seems so simple, but it has to taste good and not be too dry. Ina Garten has a great recipe for roast chicken where you barely have to do anything, but it's delicious. I added a few of my own ingredients to this, but you can find hers in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. She only uses thyme and she doesn't use the other vegetables. But she does have a note in the margin to use vegetables. I have cooked this for my family before and it was a big hit. But you can improvise and add or subtract ingredients. The important thing is the cooking time and make sure it's done. The juices need to run clear. I use a thermometer, though to be sure.:)
Here is the recipe:
Serves 4 w/leftovers

1 whole roasting chicken about 4lbs or more (Ina uses a 5 lb one)
4 stalks of celery - cut in thirds - eyeball it. You might need more as you go.
baby carrots - as many as you need. Buy a whole bag. I like the organic for flavor and just because I like organic vegetables.:)
2 whole heads of garlic
1 lemon
sprigs of sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano
extra virgin olive oil - about 1/3 cup
salt and pepper
roasting pan - 13"x9" -- You can line this or use non-stick surface
1 large sweet onion - cut in half and then slice one half. Cut the other half into quarters
aluminum foil
kitchen twine to tie the legs
low sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
You start with a great chicken and of course it's cleaned and washed and dried. Once it is ready you need to put it in a pan. The pan shouldn't be too large, but it should fit your chicken with space around it. You want to keep the chicken off the surface of the pan so you can put vegetables underneath it. I use celery, carrots and sliced onions. You are building a little shelf for your chicken to sit upon. So season it well with salt and pepper all over including inside the cavity. Rub the seasonings into the chicken. Then take at least eight to ten cloves of garlic - peeled and flatten them a little. Take a small knife and make sure it can slide under the skin on top of the breast. Start placing the cloves of garlic underneath the skin. You want to space them so they are evenly distributed. Put some under the skin of the drumsticks and the wings too. Next is the stuffing. Then take the other whole garlic clove and cut off the top. Cut an x on top of it. Stuff it with the skin on into the cavity. Then take the onion quarters and stuff them in too. Stuff in the whole lemon too. Then take a few sprigs of each herb and place them into the cavity too. It doesn't matter if they stick out. When it is all stuffed then tie the legs with kitchen twine so they cover the stuffed cavity. Take the oil and rub it all over the chicken top and bottom. (You can also use butter, but I have found that it will brown better with the oil.) Pour the chicken broth into the pan until it covers the vegetables - about 2 inches. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil. Roast for an hour covered. Then take off aluminum foil and roast for another half hour or more. Juices should run clear. It should be at least 165 degrees. Use a thermometer in the breast and the drumstick to make sure it is evenly done. You may need to leave it in longer than a half hour until it gets to the desired temperature. While it is cooking check to see if the vegetables are getting too browned. If they are then add more broth. You can also baste the chicken every twenty minutes or so. Then take it out and recover with the aluminum foil for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes take off aluminum foil. This chicken does not need any gravy. Before you serve it take as much of the stuffing out of the cavity as you can. If you want to make gravy you only need to pour off the fat and warm the liquid with flour. You can strain the liquid and then pour it back and cook until it gets thicker and gravy-like. I guarantee you will love this chicken!!!

I'm all set to make it tomorrow. The best is that this is all chicken and great for someone who is watching their weight. I'm going to serve it with the largest baked potatoes I have ever seen . You can pop the potatoes into the oven as the chicken is cooking and they will be done at the same time. We usually put sour cream and chives in ours and I bought fresh chives that I will snip to put into the sour cream. Also add a salad and a vegetable, but you really don't need the vegetable. Serve the roasted ones with the chicken.

Okay, never expected to give you my roast chicken recipe, but enjoy it and until the next time, welcome to my new readers and I hope that if you posted a comment that I got to answer it. I try to answer all comments and will try to get a way to see if there are comments so I can answer in a more timely way. I'm not looking forward to more snow. They're predicting it on Monday and starting tomorrow. Hope you have a great rest of the weekend.:) Monday I will highlight a new blog. Could it be yours?:)


Why I Love Lions



A Fortunoff's Store







Wouldn't this make a great postcard?
First of all, this is my post for Postcard Friendship Friday. It isn't a postcard, but it would make a great one, I think!

The title of this blog is Why I Love Lions. Now that doesn't mean that I'm ready to go and hug one, but I do love pictures of them and I collect statues of all kinds of lions. I've been doing it for twenty-four years ever since I turned a certain age. Here's the story. I wouldn't get out of bed the day I turned this age and this was a problem. I had small children ages six and three. So staying in bed wasn't really an option. My husband had lost his patience and called my mother who lived across the street to come over. She strode into my bedroom and demanded I get out of bed. Now you have to realize that my mother even in her sixties, was a very formidable woman. She had a voice that when raised could break glass.:) Even though I was so much older, it reminded me of when she would shout me into or out of a chair. She was powerful and even my father, not here anymore as is my mother passed on, was afraid of her voice.

So she used that voice to get me out of bed, but I didn't budge. This birthday took the heart out of me. I felt old and tired and couldn't face the day. So my mother bribed me. She told me she'd get me anything I wanted and suggested we go shopping in Fortunoff's, a large department store that had not yet expanded to where it is today. That is another story I will address after this. So I got dressed and we went to Fortunoff's leaving my husband to watch both of the girls. His plan had backfired!

At Fortunoff's we went directly to the jewelry section, because anything to me meant jewelry. And by the way, after that day, I decided that the best birthday present is a piece of jewelry and my family knows it.:) So I browsed the glass counters and found the perfect present, a gold lion pendant! My mother bought a gold chain to go with it and when I placed this necklace around my neck something changed in me.:) My birthday is in July and I am a Leo in astrology. Leos are powerful and of course our symbol is the lion as in the constellation. When I put on that necklace I realized that I was entering a period in which I should be proud to be my age. I was strong and powerful and my experience only made me better. I was healed!! From that moment I have only taken off my necklace once, and that was when I had to go into the hospital to have my gall bladder removed. It is my symbol and keeps me strong. Whenever I lose hope or feel powerless I touch my necklace and feel better. I also have a lion ring and postcards of lions, stuffed lions, and a glass lion given to me as a present. I am a Leo hear me roar!!!

Sadly, to bring this back to the present, the store where I bought my lion necklace is going out of business. It's another example of an end of an era. Fortunoff's began in Brooklyn with a small store and I started going there with my mother when I was just a girl, since we lived in Brooklyn. When Fortunoff's moved to Long Island, we followed it out there and shopped there frequently. It was my favorite store, because it had everything. At the time there was no Target, and WallMart had not moved into the cities. So this store with everything from jewelry to cooking ware and linens, plus a restaurant for a light lunch in between shopping, was so great! You could spend a whole day there and still not see everything. Then Fortunoff's started expanding and moved to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and eventually one of them moved to where I am now living, White Plains, NY. Recently, the Fifth Avenue store went out of business. It had become the flagship store, though the Long Island store was the main one. Now the White Plains store is going out of business. It occupies the top floors over a Cheesecake Factory and a Whole Foods store as well as Morton's Steak House and a maternity store. There's a huge parking lot on every floor. I can't imagine what it will be like when only the first floor stores are left.

My daughter and I went shopping there today when we saw there was a Going Out of Business Sale. But they were only discounting ten per cent. Plus, though we like the store, their service in this area hasn't always been great. But we did get some fun things and one thing I really needed - a new pot. So it was a successful trip and we had fun, but there was a sadness to it. More people than I'd ever seen in that place crowded into the store after it had been practically empty the last time I'd been there. I'm hoping that they will start discounting things further as they get down to the wire. Though I am not looking forward to the day it leaves.

It's another example of how this economy is affecting everyone. It's just sad when it's your favorite store! But it's even worse when the store carries the last good memories I have of my mother. My mother and I went shopping a few months before she succumbed to the cancer that was eventually going to invade her entire body. But on the day we were in Fortunoff's we had a great time shopping for ourselves and my family - the last good day we ever spent together.

On another note, I have still not written the chapter on Amber's party and keep envisioning it though. I know I just have to put fingers to the keyboard and write it. I'll let you know when it's done.

Meanwhile, have a great weekend and welcome to my new readers. Please leave a comment and I'll try to answer as soon as possible. Don't know what we'll do this weekend, but will probably post before the end. Until then enjoy!!!




Thursday, February 26, 2009

Win an Olive Juice Bag


I just came across this and wanted everyone who blogs to know about it too!

Olivejuicebags.com Announces the

Bag-of-the-Month Contest

The bag pictured is my favorite handbag! They are giving away one a day as long as you post about the contest each day and send them a link to your post. So here is my first one and I'm going to post about this every day until the end of the contest.:) These are very ecologically sound bags, since they are made from cast off material and the company is good to its workers too! Go and pick out your favorite bag if you're a woman, or men give the link to your wife or girlfriend and let her decide.

To enter the contest all you need to do is send your link every time you post to:


Each day they will feature a new bag to give away. So start sending your blog links and let's see if we can win a one of a kind bag. Thank you to Lesley from More or Les(ley) who posted this on Blog Catalog. See more about olive juice bags here.

Until later....have a great day!!!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook and Twitter: Could They Be Destroying Your Brain Slowly?



From Cpaphil Vintage Postcards

























In the last couple of days my decision to post about Twitter and how Facebook affects us seems to have increased. I have still not signed up to Twitter and seriously I don't see myself doing it. I don't even update my Facebook that much. So why would I want to Twitter? Yet it seems that the country is going gaga over Twitter. Even politicians are Twittering and actually some of them were being rude on Tuesday night when President Obama was speaking. I mean here is the first speech the new president is giving to a joint house of Congress with the Supreme Court present and what are these Republicans doing? They're Twittering and one even had his staff member send out a tweet to apologize for the first one. What could possibly be so important you have to tell people during a "Not State of the Union Address" as Rachel Maddow and John Stewart referred to it? Shouldn't they be watching the address too?

There is an article in the March issue of The Sun magazine, which has awesome articles. I thought they would have it online, but they have the February one now. You should definitely check this out. The article in the March issue is about how the internet is changing the way we think. It's called "Computing the Cost" by Arnie Cooper. It's an interview with Nicolas Carr who discusses how the internet has actually rewired our brains and we are thinking differently. You can get this magazine at any bookstore and after looking at a typical issue you might want to even subscribe to it. Or you can wait until they post this issue online, probably when they send the April one. My husband does and there's always something worthwhile to read in it.:)

A couple of posts ago I talked about how we might have a discussion about this subject. If you remember the article: "Why Facebook is for Old Fogies". On the heels of that article comes several more about the effects of Facebook and Twitter. Here is one : "Are Twitter, Facebook Health Hazards? and another "Twittering brains withering, expert warns" and one more in The Daily News, "Are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter eroding attention spans?" If you are interested and want to see more go here.

So armed with all this information I would like to know how you feel about it. Please leave your comments and I will try to answer as many as I can. A lot of people have been waiting for this post, so I hope that you will chime in with your opinion.:) Personally, I like Facebook, but it can get tedious. I love my friends and I love hearing from them, but sometimes answering all the requests and making sure you've saved the rain forest and the oceans is also time-consuming.:) I am personally addicted to Scramble.:) Also, I do love meeting all the people there and being able to network with all of you cool guys!! Looking forward to your responses.:)

Now for the blog I am highlighting today it is going to be: Cpaphil Vintage Postcards. I love to visit this unusual blog, because Marie, the author always has something different and exciting for us to see. She will link a vintage postcard to an event or an experience and it becomes very personal or she'll give us the history of it. One of her entries is about the French flag. Did you know that the original French flag had green instead of blue? That is only one of the fascinating things you can learn on her blog. The one after that was about a Napoleon question and Marie posted the answer she received from the historian David Markham so we could all learn about the history too. Marie has a large assortment of postcards and I am looking forward to viewing as many as I can when I have time. She offers some of them for sale, and she also encourages people to send her any that they have. It makes me want to dig into my souvenirs to see if I have any that I can send to her.:) Once you have visited this blog you will want to go back there every day. Just seeing those beautiful postcards and learning more about their history brightens my day!

The last thing I want to talk about is American Idol. It was the second week and there were twelve more hopefuls tonight. It's sad that when it comes to actually performing some of these people pick the songs that make them sound the worst. Don't they listen to themselves? Or are they doing them well in rehearsal and then messing up when they're in front of the audience? I admit that four judges is a bit much. Three was daunting, but imagine facing four of them? Also, they don't always agree and that creates tension. All I can say is no matter what the pundits say I loved Adam Lambert. He brings an energy and a voice that I sorely missed in most of the contestants tonight. Plus he is really good looking and that doesn't hurt.:) For the girls I am mixed, but I did like Allison Iraheta. For a sixteen year old she has some voice!! And even though he is doing the same shtick I liked Norman Gentle or Nick Mitchell (his real name). He is funny and every time I see him he makes me laugh. I've seen that quality in only a few people on the stage and most of them went on to do great things. When he was just starting out Gabriel Gottfried had that quality. I saw him at Catch a Rising Star in New York City and I thought I'd burst my stomach I laughed so hard. He did crazy things I'd never seen anyone else do. He got on TV and now is pretty much ensconced in comedy lore.

You have to applaud someone who wants to do anything for a laugh. Nick Mitchell is that kind of person. It is a bit schlocky, but it's his personality and he has great timing. He might have changed the song though. Simon was really getting disturbed about him. I don't care, but it would be fun to see what a comedian on the show might do to it. Might spice things up a bit.:) It's all up to the voting. We never vote until the last couple of shows. So we won't have any say in this. :) Here's a page where you can find out everything about American Idol.

But for sheer comedy I can't end this without talking about Gov. Jindal who has proved to be the most entertaining politician since Sarah Palin.:) There is no question that he reminded me immediately of Kenneth on "30 Rock". It was his delivery and his open eyed wonder that did it. He didn't look like a governor. Instead he seemed more like some IT guy who stopped by to see if he could fix your computer. He spouted lies and nonsense and did little for the Republicans but bring them more embarrassment. It's odd how much they can take!!

Until the next time. I hope you have a great rest of the week. One more thing I wanted to tell you. A friend of mine sent me a link to this great movie site. You can watch movies for free, like hulu.com. These are first run movies still in movie theaters like "Revolutionary Road" and "Australia". The name of the site is ParadoxCentral. You register and then you can watch all of these movies for FREE!!!!! I can't wait to take advantage of this soon. Enjoy!!!!


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars Have Come and Gone!


Sean Penn

                                                            Slumdog Millionaire

  





            Kate Winslet




 


                       Congratulations to the 
              Academy Award Winners                           
   

                                       
                                                                 
Heath Ledger                        

Happy George Washington's Birthday - belated - the real one on February 22nd.                                                                                                                                                                 
Every year I look forward to watching the Academy Awards. It's been with me since childhood. It's a fascination of mine to watch the beautiful women in their exquisite gowns parading up to the stage accepting their award and to watch the men in tuxedos try to look normal as they squirm uncomfortably in their custom-made jackets, probably longing to rip them off and sit there in their shirtsleeves.:) So it was the time to watch the Academy Awards and I settled down with my family to begin the marathon. 

I expected Hugh Jackman to be great and he was! Even with that giant stage he shined with his dancing and singing. Was this the greatest Oscars I've ever seen? Maybe not. There have been funnier ones with other hosts, but the opening number was very well done. It wove the names and the events of each nominated film into a number done entirely by Jackman until Anne Hathaway joined him for a duet. She has such a beautiful voice that I hope someone decides to make a musical with her in it. I am a sucker for musicals.:)

The rest of the program went along as usual with a few exceptions. One of them was the use of past winners to extoll the virtues of each of the main categories for the actors and actresses. They did it for Best Supporting Actress and Actor and Best Actress and Actor. For Best Actress I couldn't believe how Sophia Loren looked up there. She must have had a lot of work done, because she is much older than I am and she looks fabulous!! There's so much more, but I'm only going to dwell on this a little bit more. 

As I told you in my last blog, I knew we'd go see "Slumdog Millionaire" and for me the second viewing helped me to see why it deserved to win the Academy Award. Yes, "The Wrestler" was amazing, but the director only had to deal with a few people and settings. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was also incredible, but again, aside from the make-up and costumes, the director had pretty comfortable settings to deal with and practically no children. "Milk" was great and certainly deserved a win as well, but I'm glad that Sean Penn won for Best Actor. For further information on the Academy Awards go here.

When you see the amount of people that Danny Boyle, the director, had to deal with and the expanse of space that he used, the movie seems almost amazing. Then add to that the children he had to work with who had never been in a movie! Directing children and getting those performances is why he got the Best Director award. But seen in total with the music and the fact that this is India and especially, Mumbai, this is a magnificent achievement. I lived in New Delhi, India for about a month and though I am sure by now it is changed - we were there 38 years ago - I am also sure that some things have remained the same. At any rate, I was able to see the things I had missed on first viewing. The music was much more evident to me on second viewing. It's not that I didn't notice it, but with so much to see on screen the music is supposed to be almost invisible in a good movie. It is a force that moves the action along and I could understand why it won for Best Song and Best Score. 

(Warning- if you haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire" don't read this next paragraph. There are spoilers. Skip to the next paragraph.)

We as Westerners are not familiar with Indian music, but the combination of rhythms was unusual and it was so catchy I found myself tapping my feet in several places. The person who wrote the score, A. R. Rahman, was able to capture the exuberance of childhood as well as the pace of a city. The music ties the whole movie together. But the best part is the homage to Bollywood at the end, the dance number, where Jamal and Latika are finally together after they share a beautiful movie kiss and then everyone joins them in this celebration dance! It has no reason to be there and that is why it tickled me.:) I loved it!! In fact, it sort of made the movie for me. it's like you are there with the two of them celebrating their freedom, and there's no one to stop them now from living their lives. It's very joyful and that is the essence of this movie. I'm not sure if watching it a third time I'll get this feeling, but if it's a true Academy Award film it deserves a third watching. Of course, it will probably not make my list of never miss movies: 1. Breakfast at Tiffany's 2. Rebecca 3. One Fine Day 4. Sleepless in Seattle 5. You've Got Mail.  And one other thing: They played my favorite song, Moon River tonight as a backdrop for one of the categories. 

I know I said that we would talk about the Facebook and Twitter thing, but the Academy Awards swept everything away. I'm not forgetting about that. Hope you read the article. 

Until the next time, thank you again to my readers and I will highlight another blog in my next post. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thoughts on a Sunny Day!


        Is this you?
     Entrance to Old Skool in Daegu, South Korea


The weekend is here again and I'm looking outside my window at the sunshine I usually miss.:) This week has brought with it new aggravations and yet when I see the sunlight it lifts me. We've been underneath clouds for so long, both in our lives and with the weather. I just watched President Obama telling us that the Treasury Department was going to tell employers to take less money from our paychecks and that would give the average working family $65 more a month! Whoopee!!! Now we can all go out and buy more crap like we used to buy. 

Don't you want that little statue that would fit perfectly on the shelf in your living room? Or aren't you dying for a pair of the latest boots, but you just don't have that extra $65? Or maybe you could go out to dinner once more a month? Or maybe you could pay off one bill more? Seriously, is this all we're getting? I'm wondering how this is going to stimulate our economy. 

So my daughters and I took advantage of the sunny day and went driving around our area. We parked at one of our favorite coffee spots and sipped Starbucks nonfat mocha lattes. We watched the seagulls swoop over the small parking area and noticed as they sat on the roof how fat they looked. These gulls have been eating well over here. The Ryebrook Shopping Center is about a mile from any water, the water being in Port Chester and Rye. But somehow the seagulls have decided this is their home. Swarms of them hang around the shopping center and perch on the top of the light poles and on the roofs. It calmed me to see these birds whose only activity was to search for food and report the findings to their friends. 

The rest of our day consisted of deciding to go to the movies and then changing our minds. We decided to go to Costco instead. The choice of movies didn't work for my daughters. I was just in the mood to see a movie and going into the movie theater to find out the times didn't help. You know when you enter a movie theater the first thing you notice is the popcorn smell. For me it is all about that smell and buttered popcorn. I don't need much of it, but a movie without popcorn, although I have sat through several of them, just isn't the same! (This is totally off the subject of what I'm saying here, but try buttered popcorn with Twizzlers or even non-pareils. It's also good with M & M's and Reeses Pieces.:) ) But we had to tear ourselves away from the temptation of the aroma of freshly popped popcorn, because we couldn't find a movie to see that we agreed upon or that was showing conveniently. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, there are a lot of movies I want to see, but they all have their drawbacks. One of them is that they are almost all of them depressing. We all like to see up films and especially now with the news so bleak it's difficult to see a down movie. 

So we went to Costco and picked up yet another Wii game, Guitar Hero, which my daughter wanted. Costco at 5:30 PM on a Saturday night was filled with people. But they didn't have any of the samples they usually have, because it was so late. If you go earlier you can usually get a sample of food of almost every kind from entree to dessert.:) Did I mention we were starving?

We stowed our purchases and drove back from where we were, Danbury, CT to near where we live, White Plains, NY. We wound up eating at an Italian restaurant in the middle of the city and it was a good meal. If you're near White Plains try Zanaro's . What I liked about it was the level of service for this type of restaurant. Also, the white tablecloths and cloth napkins and we had two servers who introduced themselves to us and alternated to take our orders and keep us happy. I'll definitely go back there.

Now for the post script on Bernie Madoff. The investigators of his case have been looking into his business for the last thirteen years and found that Madoff has not ever bought any securities at all!!! If you have one of those Smash-me Bernie dolls you might want to use the hammer now.:) For those of you who want instant news here is the headline:

Trustee: No indication Madoff bought securities
Officer running the probe says no investments made for at least 13 years

updated 2:35 p.m. ET, Fri., Feb. 20, 2009
NEW YORK - The trustee in charge of untangling the mess left behind by Bernard Madoff told a packed auditorium Friday there was no indication the disgraced money manager had bought securities for his clients for over a decade.

“We have no evidence to indicate securities were purchased for customer accounts” in the past 13 years, said Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC...More

This is so unbelievable that I had to link you twice in case you lost track or fainted or started screaming incoherently! How can this have happened with the SEC supposedly investigating his business interests? Could there be someone helping him to keep this bogus Ponzi scheme continuing? This is beyond belief! I hope they can convict him of this heinous behavior. 

Now for the blog I am highlighting today. Usually I don't highlight a blog on the weekend, but I didn't blog for a few days and thought I'd do the highlight now. The blog I am telling you about today is The Lotus  Sutra Chronicles. Marilyn, the author of this blog is a western woman who is living in South Korea. She brings joy, peace, and beauty to her blog. That is why it is usually right up near #1 on the networked blogs each day! She brings the culture of South Korea to anyone who reads her blog. In one week she told us about kimchi and showed us pictures of the stone pots in which they used to make it, showed the surgical masks that people wear in Daegu to combat the deathly dust that comes off the agricultural lands, gave us information about children's graduation from school and showed us the paper bouquets they are given when they graduate, informed us of the art show for Korean artists, and treated us to the amazing art of the artist Karma. There is a corresponding photo with every blog post too. I have posted one of her photos here, the one of the nightclub with President Obama's picture by the artist Karma on it. Can you imagine a nightclub in Korea during the Bush administration? I imagine the graffiti art would be a little more graphic!!!

Please go and check out this outstanding blog. Marilyn will entertain and inform you and her photos are always outstanding.:) I've never thought of going to South Korea, but her descriptions of life there in Daegu where she lives is tempting me!

Another topic was on my mind for today, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. It has to do with using Facebook and also Twitter. I'm going to talk more about that either tomorrow or Monday. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with an article you will enjoy. I'd love to hear your comments and maybe we can make this more of an interactive thing with me responding to your comments too. I try to respond to all comments as soon as I can. Thank you to any new readers and I appreciate all of my readers as well.:) Maybe I'll make it to the movies again. My daughters want to see "Slumdog Millionaire" which I have already seen. Here is the article: 


Let me know what you think. Until then hope you have a great rest of the weekend.:)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crazy Things Are Happening All Over

                                                      Smash - me Bernie doll
When Bernard Madoff became the most hated man in the United States for his scam using other people's money in a Ponzi scheme, no one would have thought that anyone would make a toy out of him. But in researching the information for another scam artist, Allen Stanford, I found the toy above. Yes, the Australians have come out with an action figure of Bernie Madoff. 

I have to laugh, because this is so ridiculous. The man has not even had a trial yet and there is an action figure about him. I wonder who would buy it! How many kids have a Bernie Madoff figure on their list for their birthday? I can only guess that someone who is looking for a gag gift for an adult birthday might buy it. Well, I went back and read the article and here is more about this toy! It is called "Smash - me Bernie".  The toy's inventor, Graeme Warring has been living in San Francisco for three years and made it for his friend who was scammed in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Here is what you are supposed to do with it:

"In an unusual twist, the Madoff toy comes with a golden hammer, so the buyer can gleefully smash the figurine into pieces." Then you are supposed to bury the pieces.

So it is supposed to bring you catharsis. Mr. Warring has had a great deal of publicity for this toy including showing it at the New York Toy Show and appearing on Fox News actually smashing the toy on the air. So if you were one of those people who lost money due to Bernie Madoff by all means go and buy this toy. It only costs, wait for it, $99.95. Yes, for that price you get to buy a toy and then smash it to pieces and bury it. What fun!!! Can I have ice cream with that?:)

So added to the gold standard of scammers is a lesser one, Allen Stanford.
He got people's money by claiming that his method was 100% safe and protected. Hah! Now where is this Allen Stanford? No one knows. He took the money and ran. Why would people just believe that these two men had all of this security and responsibility for their money? They just gave money to these two men's firms. Stanford's firm, Stanford Financial has had it's assets frozen by the court 

All of that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and so I have to wash it out with news about American Idol! If you saw Tuesday night's show you know what a train wreck most of it was. Why do these people decide to sing these songs? I felt sorry for some of them, especially the really young ones, like Stevie Wright who started out of tune and off the beat. I didn't like most of the girls, but I liked Alexis and admired her for singing Aretha! It takes a lot of guts to do that! People wonder where she gets all that soul and I imagine that being a mother at her age has given her a little bit of that. There is a story there about why she is alone and has her baby. I'll be looking forward to learning more about her. So here's the results if you haven't been able to get to a computer or missed the show or lost your TV signal like we did - due to a few snowflakes  on the satellite dish, here they are.

It's Michael Sarver, the cute blue collar worker, Alexis Grace, my favorite woman singer, and Danny Gokey with the gravelly voice, who had just lost his wife a month before he auditioned for American Idol. Here is more about last night's results show. I don't even vote until it gets down to the last four or five contestants.  Television Without Pity has a great funny recap which you shouldn't miss. This person has gotten it absolutely right. Seriously, you have to read this!

If a writer were going to make up a talent show such as American Idol, I don't think that any of the things that happened on Tuesday would be there. This year's addition of parents in the pit was too much. Everyone looked so uncomfortable. Does a twenty-something need parents there? I felt sorry for the guy who had no parents and didn't even get to go into the pit. No one could believe that this was real. In fact, the first two items on today's blog would probably not be believed either if you put them in a novel.:)  

Let's face it, if we put the whole last eight years in a novel it might not be believable. I just read today that more information about torture is coming out and guess what? We had officials in our government who tortured two prisoners and possibly more to death!! Rumsfeld knew that prisoners had been tortured to death! Here is another must read so you can believe that this actually happened. In the article that is linked here you can go and read the original document from the DOD (Dept of Defense). It is not surprising to me. He had to have known. He was the Secretary of Defense. All of these documents must have come to his attention. 

In the middle of all this Facebook has apologized for changing their Terms of Service and put a little message on our home page telling us that they are sorry for the confusion and they are going back to the original TOS until we can decide on a better plan. They want everyone's input. So campaigning worked. Yay!!!

On the writing front I haven't been writing much at all. I keep thinking about the party scene for Amber's Party and I get stuck when I think about what it will be like. I feel kind of guilty writing it as I've said before, so it's going to have to wait a little longer. And so far, I am still waiting to hear about my first novel. How long can fingers stay crossed before they start to bend that way naturally?:)

Welcome to my new readers and I hope that you will comment on anything that you've read here. I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible. Until next time when I will once again highlight another blog. It could be yours. One more thing - If you are an author and would like to visit my blog I am open to hosting anyone who wishes to stop by here. Let me know. :) If you have a book and would like it reviewed, I am going to start reviewing books here. They might be adult or YA or even MG. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy President's Day!

                                                                                                              











The photo above comes from "The Yellow Goat".
It shows a Good Time ring. 

First of all, Happy President's Day to everyone in the US! When I was a child we used to celebrate the two president's birthdays on two separate days. So we'd get off school on February 12 for Lincoln's Birthday and then a week later we'd get off school for Washington's Birthday. No one cared if they fell in the middle of the week. Now these holidays have to be on Mondays. So we get these four and five day weekends. We used to only get off for each day. There was no President's Week holiday. So tomorrow is President's Day which starts off President's Week. It's only February 16, so technically it isn't Washington's Birthday until next Sunday on February 22. It's all so complicated because people have to go on vacation and want a neat and tidy way to celebrate. I've seen all of the holidays moved to Mondays so we can have that vacation. 

Now what will people do this year when half the country is worried about either keeping their job or getting a new one? Will there be a lot of people on vacation? It seemed like the movies were a little emptier last night. We got a parking space when we usually have to drive around and look for one. It was eerily empty compared to the norm. So I'm consoling myself with the idea that people were on vacation. I mean, some people must be going on vacation here. But the rest of us have a choice of going to yet another sale this time for President's Day or going to the movies to celebrate the holiday. Stores like Bloomingdales are practically giving away things. My daughter got a pair of boots for half price. It's unheard of to have such a sale, but even stores like Bloomingdale's have to make money.:) I guess they're hoping they can lure shoppers with these amazing bargains. I think they lured a few, but it wasn't a madhouse as it should have been with those prices. In some cases the clothes were cut by 75% and if you had a $25 off coupon it was more. But I'm not buying anything yet, unless one of two things happens. One is that my book gets published and two is that I get a real job.:) 

So I told you I'd highlight another blog today and I've decided to shine my spotlight on "The Yellow Goat" which is an awesome blog about brand new products. In some cases they aren't even on the market, like the ladle that has a built in base so it can stand upright when not in use. The link to the website says that they are not in production yet. One reason I like this blog is that the products are so unusual and varied. Every Monday the author gathers together the products that she liked the best during the week. Then these are listed and though there used to be a poll the author just said there wouldn't be any polls anymore. I'll kind of miss them, though they were not well attended. 

I like this blog, because of the colorful photos that show the new products and the quantity of unusual and innovative products within the week. Just on Sunday alone the author posted three times and each post was a great addition. What I also like is how the products aren't too expensive. For Valentine's Day the author designed a ring that holds a photo. The idea is that you can keep photos when you had a good time inside a ring on your finger. So now it's not enough to have photos in our wallets and on the wall, post them on facebook, store them in our phones and on various websites, and keep them on the hard drive of our computers. Here we have the ultimate luxury of remembering a good time wearing a Good Time ring.(See photo above) I think it's a great idea and a real conversation starter. No more searching in your phone or your bag for that photo, it's right on your finger.:) Go check it out and read the earlier posts too. There's so much to see and buy here that I'm sure you'll be there for a long time looking at all the great and unusual products that are there. So remember to pop into this blog and see for yourself what I am talking about here. I think you'll love it and want to become a follower.

Say the Word Contest

Okay, this is for the writers here. Susan Taylor Brown is going to interview Jeannine Garsee and Susan is running an interview contest named for the title of the book: SAY THE WORD. Here is what you have to do:

  •  Send her an interview question for Jeannine Garsee. The person who sends in the best interview question will win the book.      
To find out more about the contest go to "SusanWrites.

So that's all for today. I'm going to try to get to sleep earlier. Until the next time, we've got one more holiday and I hope you enjoy it. I'll probably go to the movies and see a movie I really want to see.:)  I'm thinking I'd like to see a romantic comedy if there are any out there. I'm sick of adventure and mystery. But I might still see "Revolutionary Road" to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. i just looked up "New in Town" with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. and it got an 18% on rottentomatoes.com. This makes me sad, because as I told you romantic comedies are my favorite kind of movies. What I don't want to see is another animated feature. :) Maybe we'll go and see "Confessions of  a Shopaholic" which is probably one of the crassest things I've ever seen. They release a movie about indiscriminate spending and shopping in this kind of economy! 

All my US friends have a great holiday! Don't do anything George Washington wouldn't do. 




 




Hope You Enjoyed Valentine's Day!




I really hope that all of you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. My husband came through and bought me a bouquet of handmade chocolate roses. He says that he'd much rather not see flowers die gradually. He also bought me and my daughters a giant milk chocolate heart. It had two covered small chocolate hearts that were eaten so that's what those holes are.:) It's so beautiful I don't want to eat it. You can see one of the roses is eaten and it was delicious. There is this place in Briarcliff Manor, NY called The Chocolate Chalet where they still make chocolate by hand and they do such amazing work. I found it when we needed to get candy and they had these awesome constructions all made of chocolate. This place even has little boxes for nurses and doctors with chocolate stethoscopes and nurse's caps. They have a chocolate piece for almost every occupation and the taste and texture of this chocolate is so yummy. I wish I could give all of you a taste. You can order the chocolate to pick up. I don't know if they ship it, but give them a call and see if they will do it. These are the nicest people and even if you can't get there take a look at their website to see everything they make.

Usually, he buys flowers and occasionally he'll go out of his way and buy a really unusual chocolate. Like the year he bought us all Jacques Torres chocolates because he was in Brooklyn near his store. They were incredible. But the bouquets of roses he buys are also gorgeous. However, this year he didn't want to watch the flowers die, so he got the chocolate. I'd rather have the chocolate, because it lasts longer than the flowers and it's not so sad when it's gone.:)

The best thing though is that he buys me and my daughters a present every Valentine's Day even though he doesn't believe in it at all! He says it's a holiday made up by the greeting card people to get business. With all the e-cards, though, I haven't gotten many greeting cards at all lately. I sent out e-valentines to my friends and one to my husband. I think it's a greener way of saying you like or love someone than a real card. Also no mess and wondering what to do with it when it's finished. Can you throw away a Valentine card? Yet we delete cards all the time on the computer. 

So with such a romantic start to my day I thought we might have a romantic evening. Well we went out to dinner to a place close to us and decided we'd go to the movies afterward. There aren't too many movies out that are appropriate for Valentine's Day, but my husband didn't care. You know what his idea of a fun movie to see on Valentine's Day was? "Waltz with Bashir", the story of a war crime that has not been publicized and took place in the 1980's in the Palestinian refugee towns of Shatila and Sabra in Lebanon, actually a massacre. I won't say more about it now, because it would be better if you go see it, not to know what it is about. Also, it's really a very well done cartoon with some live action. If you you've seen "A Waking Life" it reminded me a lot of that film which is also animated. The movie is hypnotic between the sound of Hebrew and the lullaby-like music in the background I could barely keep my eyes open during some scenes. If you are wondering why it is so difficult to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine and why they fight so vehemently over Gaza, this film will help you to understand  how the Palestinians feel. I know it crystallized a lot of the thoughts I had about this conflict.

Again, I will highlight a new blog tomorrow. I know I said that in my last blog, but I'm serious.:) Until then, thank you to my new readers and have a great weekend. Here it's going to be President's Day on Monday when we celebrate George Washington's Birthday. It seems fitting that they finally passed the stimulus bill and President Obama is going to sign it on Tuesday. Yay! 

Friday, February 13, 2009

It missed Friday the 13th

At about 10:00 last night I read a small article on AOL news about a plane crash near Buffalo. A plane crashed into a house in Clarence Center, NY and there were 48 people on it. All of them were killed in the crash and a man in the house in which it crashed was also killed. 49 people were killed, probably the worst air crash in Buffalo's history. It was horrible and I felt an instant sadness for so many reasons. The first was that I had lived in Buffalo and this was about 10 miles from Buffalo. The second was that it was such a blow after the beginning of this week when as I showed in my cartoon of the plane landing on the Hudson, it was a blessing that all those people survived, 179 people are now living and having dinner and thinking about what they will do for Valentine's Day. But the 49 people who didn't survive this crash will not be doing any of those things. Unfortunately, they left behind families who will have to mourn their loss. This was a senseless loss, because it happened in such a normal setting.

If any of you have ever taken a commuter plane you know how normal it all is when you do. The flight attendants start serving drinks and in about an hour you are picking up your tray tables and getting ready to land. It's like being on a train or a bus. It is inconceivable that this could have happened. You know what the frightening thing is for me is that I had taken several of those flights from LaGuardia Airport in Queens and not from Newark, N.J. I should probably add that as a third reason I felt a chill down my spine when I read that article. What could have happened? No one knows. They won't know until the place cools down and they can read the different boxes that hold the answers.

What I wonder were the thoughts of the passengers when they realized that they weren't going straight anymore and saw the roof of that house as they plunged straight down from the sky? They didn't have time to send any messages or call. It came so suddenly. I know I'll be interested in knowing the answers myself. 

What I hope is that the news media gives these families some distance until they can comprehend the devastation that has just entered their lives. But it will be a continual presence probably all through the weekend. This is the first of the videos of the crash on YouTube. If you look up Clarence Center plane crash you can find more:



You can see how the fire engulfed the whole place. I wonder how those 2 people who survived did it. Where were they in the house? I think we'll hear all about it tomorrow. 

Have to go now, but wanted to give you a little taste of this horrible tragedy that will be unfolding this weekend. It has done the impossible and pushed the economy out of the news. Happy Friday the 13th. 13 is my lucky number so I am expecting a great day!!

Will continue highlighting more blogs when I get a chance to read more. One good thing is that I am writing more now. I sent my children's picture book story out to a publisher yesterday on a dare. Someone dared me to write a query letter and I did. Also tonight I wrote something for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Yeah for writing more!  Actually there are so many excellent blogs around that it's hard to choose which one to highlight. I am also hoping to start inviting authors here for a stop on their blog tours. That will be exciting. Stay tuned and welcome to my new readers. Please leave a comment about anything.

I wanted to let all the writers know about the great website that Children's Book Insider has put together. 


Visit the Home of the Fightin’ Bookworms!

Go over there and take a look. It has everything a writer needs and it's very user friendly. There are videos and articles and a forum. You'll love it if you're a writer. It has everything for writers in the different stages from beginner to very experienced. 

Until the next time when I hope we will have more answers about this horrible tragic plane crash, have a great, great day!


Monday, February 9, 2009

I Don't Like Mondays!



A friend sent me this cartoon and I loved it. So I'm sharing it with you. I'm sure that pilot had a little help.:) For anyone who doesn't know, this is about the pilot who landed that jet in the Hudson River. 

I wanted to welcome my new readers. It's wonderful to find so many people are reading my mixed up meanderings. 

Technically it's Monday morning, but there are still a couple of hours where I can think it's Sunday night. I should be sleeping, but too many things need to be said.  

First of all, hope all of you enjoyed watching that "What a Wonderful World" video. In this crazy unbalanced world we're living in I thought it would be comforting to listen to Louis Armstrong and watch those cute animals. Did it help anyone?:) So here is a follow-up to that. A friend of mine found this on YouTube. He said she comes from France and her name is Christelle. Go check it out. She really sounds amazing. Louis would have loved her.:)

Secondly, my heart goes out to all the people in Australia who are suffering from the bush fires. This is very sad and similar to what happened in California this summer to so many of my friends there. I hope that this will stop and you can go back to your normal lives. Until then, stay safe and hope for rain. I am posting this for anyone who wants to give to the relief fund for the people who were affected:


http://www.bendigobank.com.au/public/specials/bushfire_appeal_feb09.asp

So now for something a little lighter. As you remember I talked about going to the movies on Sunday and sure enough it was as I thought. Here's what happened. My husband wanted to go see this horror movie about a boy and a 12 year old girl who happened to be a vampire. It's called "Let the Right One In" 

You should know that I hate horror movies, and this one is in Swedish too with subtitles. So my husband went to see this by himself and I felt guilty, really guilty that I didn't go see it with him. But lucky for me, my daughters wanted to see "He's Just Not That Into You" and we went to see that! I should probably bet on myself. :) What a great movie! I just checked and it's #1 for the weekend. How could it fail? First of all, it has a great cast. Almost every one of the people in this movie has been a star of  their own movie. The other thing is that it moves along at a pretty good pace and tackles a subject that most women don't have a clue about changing. How can you know when a guy likes you or not? They all seem to like you and say they'll call. Then you wait for the call that never comes. Or you call them and they never call you back. 

Several different couples go through various relationship chaos and in the process at least one woman learns how to read the signals that men give off when they meet someone. It's based on a non-fiction book written by a guy who wanted to give all the clueless women a way to root out the guys who were just not into them. The director, Ken Kwapis, intersperses real life interviews with women with the story and does it very successfully, much like Woody Allen does. It's a feel good movie with some of my favorite movie people: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Connelly, Justin Long (the Mac guy), Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin (from Big Love), Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore. All of them get screen time and the story for each weaves through the movie. Though they are vignettes the movie is not choppy and everything seems to mesh together as the characters are related in some way either as friends or acquaintances. It takes place in Baltimore and it's good to see how some of the old neighborhoods are being refurbished. This is a part of the movie too.

If you go to the link I provided you will see that it was up by 66% this week. The audience was pretty good for a film of this type and a lot of them clapped. I was one of the clappers.:) I know the actors can't see or hear the claps, but it's our nature to applaud when we like something, so we all do it. Yet when I looked on rottentomatoes.com for the rating it is only 43%. What is wrong with those critics? Don't they know a good movie when they see it? Yes, it's superficial, but it is about a very serious subject. A lot of people have been in a lot of trouble due to the wrong signals. Women have been dumped and don't know it! Women keep going for the same wrong men. Isn't it time to clue women into the way men think? Or should we continue to have so much wasted effort put into lifeless relationships or ones that never even get started? This is a way more serious movie than the critics give it credit for, though it also is basically a romantic comedy. Go see if for yourself and see if you agree with me.

I'm still working to try to get education back into the Stimulus Bill. NYSUT, the New York State Union of Teachers is sending out free faxes to Congress people and I sent one. I posted it here for you. When you go to the website you can find out your Congress person and send them the fax. We cannot allow them to stifle education. Go ahead and send a fax and inundate their offices with the faxes and emails. Here is the website:


With so much to do I haven't written anything at all in the past couple of days. Hope to remedy that this week. I'm still working on Amber's Sweet 16. I don't want it to be unoriginal, but I'm not sure if I want it to be so over the top. It will probably work itself out if I could only get time to write it.  Also looking forward to meeting my new in person writing critique group  on Wednesday night. That should be a lot of fun! 

Hope you had a good weekend and wishing you a Happy Monday. Now that I'm not working every day is basically the same for me. It's just the people around me, at least one of my daughters and my husband who change their schedules on Monday. :)

Until the next time, please leave me a comment about anything.  


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Too Much To Do and Too Little Time

I haven't posted for a couple of days, because I was involved in my real life. My real life is kind of boring and I'm desperately trying to find a way to make some money. I'm sure that a number of you are in this same position now and some of you may be getting there soon. The economy is rapidly disintegrating. The only stores I have visited in the past couple of weeks are Starbucks and Stop and Shop. We went to TGI Fridays tonight, because my husband had the Triple Stacked Burger for lunch and really raved about it. I am happy to say that it didn't disappoint us at all! Of course, if you're a woman you might want to share with a friend, because this is a big, big burger to eat by yourself. Imagine a cheeseburger with ham and on top of that 2 crisp pieces of bacon on a huge roll served with fresh made potato chips and a brand new sauce I've never tasted before. TGI Fridays is now our new favorite place to eat.:) Also watch The Ultimate Recipe Showdown for a really fun program. We love Guy Fieri so it was a natural to watch that too. Also check out Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Both are on The Food Network.

Now that I've got your mouths watering for this, I will put in this little disclaimer for the vegetarian readers of this blog. I am a carnivore, because I like eating meat and chicken, but I respect the dietary requirements of everyone. So if you are offended by reading about this dish, I apologize. 

By the way, I just found out from a Facebook friend that her 6 year old son has turned vegetarian. She says he's been leaning this way since he could eat food. I wonder if there is a reason why such a young boy would feel this way. I've always loved vegetables. In fact, when I was trying to lose weight I would eat whole cucumbers. It made some of my friends a little uncomfortable, but I love cucumbers! In fact, I love almost all vegetables except raw onions and raw peppers. But there's a BBQ restaurant here called Q's that make a potato salad that I love and it has both raw onions and raw peppers in it. So I guess it must be that the ratio of the potatoes, mayonnaise, peppers, and onions is exactly right! 

I'd like to talk about the endless time you have to spend on Applications from Facebook. I know that a lot of them are saving the rainforest or the ocean, but they take so much time and it requires sometimes over an hour to finish all the requests. I have one friend who I really like very much, who sends me these every day. This friend means well and wants to save the rainforest and jungle habitats. So I go along and send back the animals, and with the ocean ones, the fish, and with the sea garden one the plants. The pictures are cute and I like the idea, but I don't get to do what I want to do most of the time. If this happens to you let me know. Maybe we could figure out a way to do this without it taking up so much time.

I've been reading PW Daily and the job losses in the publishing world are staggering. I hope there will even be a publishing industry at the rate things are going. So far, I haven't seen anything about the publisher where my novel is currently sitting. I'm imagining my pages sitting there lonely and neglected. I'm hoping that I'll hear about this soon! It's driving me a little nuts.:) 

The films I'm going to see this weekend are probably "Doubt", "The Reader", or "He's Not That Into You". My guess is I'll probably see the last one first. My daughters want to see all three, but I have a feeling with all the drama this week around the passing of the Stimulus Bill and the uncertainty about our lives, we'll all want to see something a little lighter than the other two. By the way the Senate has passed the Stimulus Bill tonight

My daughter followed this like a soap opera all week long. To some degree with the constant interruptions of the Republicans and their amendments and the way they "chattered" on the news programs as President Obama said last night, it was quite a show. Really, we found ourselves watching constantly last night. CSpan must have gotten many more viewers, since they televised the whole thing. Every vote for every amendment and every Senator's talk. I couldn't believe that some of these Senators could want to cut things like Education and money for health organizations. It's amazing how little some of these Republican senators care about people. Cutting Head Start would be a big mistake.

In my past life I was a Reading teacher. Actually, I was a Literacy Specialist for Kindergarten and first grade. The funny thing is that the amount of attention and experiences a child has before they come to kindergarten the better their chances of learning to read. Children whose parents had put them either in pre-school or who had gone to a Head Start program were better able to follow the program and learn to read. While the ones whose parents hadn't put them in pre-school or Head Start had a difficult time, unless the parent had worked with them at home. Then there were the children who had language difficulties. If they didn't know English or English was their second language they had a big problem. The oral language has to be developed to learn to read in that language. But with Title I at a bare minimum many of these children had a hard time adjusting without any help. I was teaching in a charter school and the language teacher came infrequently. These children needed basic skills like learning their alphabet and knowing the parts of a story. These are things that most children know or that they learn in Head Start. When you are thinking about improving our education system you have to go back to pre-school and make sure that children have a good foundation for education.

It's like a house you are building. You want to make sure that you have a good, strong foundation so your house will be straight and last awhile. With education it's the same thing. You need to read aloud to children and show them attention to have a good foundation. They need to know the sounds of letters and be able to identify them. They need to be able to listen to a story and know the beginning, middle, and end of it. They need to know about the different styles of stories, fairy tales, picture books. They need to know the simple task we all know of how to read a book. All of this can be easily learned in Head Start. So I'm hoping they will keep that in the bill.

You can see I'm kind of passionate about this topic. Let me know how you feel or if you've had any experiences you want to share. I will highlight another blog, probably tomorrow or Sunday.

Until later, have a great weekend.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rooyt3ptNco

I loved this and wanted you to see it too!


Monday, February 2, 2009

Revisiting India and Clint Eastwood

As I mentioned this weekend for anyone who follows my updates, I went to see "Slumdog Millionaire" when everyone else was watching the Super Bowl and the pre-shows to the Super Bowl. We were recording it, so I could come back and watch the best parts of the show for me, the half time and the commercials. More about that later. 

"Slumdog Millionaire" brought me back to when my husband and I spent an amazing month together in New Delhi, India in the early 1970's. We didn't go to Mombai, then called Bombay, but we did get to Old Delhi and we drove along the roads in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. What can I say about the movie? It's like a roller coaster ride starting with a hard look at the lives of children living in crushing poverty and rushing you through their lives as they struggle to leave that poverty behind. But most of all it is a love story and the two young stars light up the screen. 

I'm sure you remember the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with Regis Philbin that is currently being revived. I was actually in the audience of that show with my daughter and we had a lot of fun. There are so many rules they make you follow, and the studio is so much smaller than it looks at home. Well, this young boy about 18 from Mombai gets on the show and wins the big prize. What happens to him and does he connect with his love? I won't tell you that. But what I will tell you is that the camera captures the essence of the Indian experience. The colors and the sounds can be filmed, but you had to be there to remember the aromas. They are indescribable, but this movie brought them back to me. Imagine the first whiff of an Indian restaurant and add humidity and heat so intense your hair either curls or straightens the minute you hit the air. 

I guarantee you will be laughing and crying at the antics of the characters in this film. Danny Boyle is an incredible director and he brings modern India to life as well with his depiction of the haves and have-nots living side by side. Traffic was never easy when we were there. Indian drivers use their horn to signal, but the amount of cars has tripled at least and imagine what that is like. Every kind of transportation is seen here and so many chase scenes they're uncountable.  Danny Boyle, the producer and director, has combined the sensibility of a Bollywood extravaganza  with a good old fashioned love story. But the heart of this movie is Frieda Pinto, whose luminous smile lights up the screen just like Audrey Hepburn's did and for me that is really a compliment, since Audrey is my favorite actress. My advice is to go see this unusual and dynamic movie. I think you'll love it, even if you didn't go to India. :) If I find some old pictures I'll post them here of when I was much, much younger.:)

You'd think one movie would be enough. So what did we do today? My husband and I went back to the movies and saw "Gran Torino". I was putting off seeing this one, because I knew it was going to be gritty and depressing, but to my surprise it wasn't at all. My husband wanted to see it, because he is a big, big fan of Clint Eastwood. We've followed him from spaghetti westerns through the Dirty Harry's and have seen practically all of his movies. This one requires that history to fully appreciate it. When Clint Eastwood comes on the screen he is a snarling tight lipped old man you'd rather skirt than talk with at all. It's the Dirty Harry look he's perfected. Again, if you've never seen anything of his you can still enjoy this movie, but a lot of his expressions made me laugh and smile a little. They were so Clint Eastwood and no one else could have done this movie. Imagine an Archie Bunker type person who lives next to Asian neighbors whose lives collide with his one night. What happens to him as the families interact is the heart of the movie. 

The movie is also a coming of age for the young neighbor who tests Eastwood's patience. It was that part that I liked the most, because I'm a YA writer and love to see kids grow up in a story. The actors playing the male and female neighbors are excellent. I hope to see both of them in another movie. Except for Eastwood there are a few other male actors who you might recognize as character actors. Yet the story rests on the skills of Eastwood who carves out the character of Walt and though it is Eastwood on the screen, it is Walt that we see. Clint Eastwood's skill as both a director and an actor can be seen in the nuances of each character and how he shows us a working class neighborhood and the circumstances that occur when change explodes into the lives of the people living there. It is also an indictment of the racism and discrimination that lay beneath the surface of our society and extend to all races in an invisible barrier. Go and see it for yourself, but if I had to choose which movie to see, I'd see "Slumdog Millionaire" first. It's a feel good movie.:)

Now a little about the Super Bowl, 3 D commercials, and Bruce!!!  When we got home we knew that the score was 23-20 in favor of the Cardinals. So we decided to watch the half time and then skim through the game to see the last minutes of the 4th quarter. Watching Bruce Springsteen at half time was as good as seeing him in concert. We saw him at the Meadowlands this summer and he is so fantastic in concert. We had seats directly across from the stage. I'd say it was a football field's length. But with the jumbo screens and Bruce himself we felt like we were much closer. Springsteen gives his all at every concert and the feeling of the crowd is so joyful and contagious that I don't know anyone who doesn't love one of his concerts. Plus he stays on stage for over 3 hours and sometimes for 4. So Bruce onstage for only 12 minutes? Not possible. But he did it and the crowd went wild. His antics were pure Springsteen and loved the getting on his knees and sliding down the stage. Seeing Clarence again was also great! But getting to sing 4 songs in that little bit of time was genius. I'm always wanting to hear "Born in the USA" and I was so excited to hear that one finally. 

But as great as Bruce was when we saw the big runback before half time which gave the Steelers a score and then when Holmes caught that touchdown pass in the end zone on his toes? I'm not a football fan, because I sometimes find it grindingly boring. But this game was anything but boring. And the best was the fumble at the end giving the Steelers the ball and the win. I can safely say that before I watched the Super Bowl I didn't care about the score or who won. But I did kind of want the Steelers, since Mr.Rooney had supported Obama and that was okay for me. In fact, Rooney even thanked President Obama in his acceptance speech for the Lombardi trophy. Congratulations to the Steelers!!! They definitely deserved this win!!!

We had missed the 3D commercial for "Monsters II" and "Chuck in 3D" so we saw them too. We found a set of glasses at the supermarket so we were prepared. It reminded me of when I was a kid sitting in a movie theater with my first 3D glasses. You know they have hardly changed them.:) Looking around at people wearing 3D glasses makes you wonder if you are in some bizarre future universe. But it was worth it. The commercial for the movie was delightful! I loved the first "Monsters" and this one looks even better. The commercial for "Chuck in 3D" made me think about watching it. The only problem is the glasses have to be on and they need to be a little bit more comfortable to watch for more than a few minutes. We're keeping our glasses in case they run more 3D commercials. I never thought I'd see it on TV as a show. It's not coming until March though.:)

Do you agree with me? Leave me a comment. I love to hear from my readers. Until the next time....

 

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