Monday, February 27, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The What Were They Thinking?

I love watching the Oscars, not for the awards because I've rarely seen any of the movies that are nominated, but for the fashions . . . and the chance to critique them, because we all know what a fashion plate I am!

The Best:

Click to enlarge
Sandra Bullock: Although "the experts" didn't necessarily care for her gown, I loved it.  It's classic, the beading is gorgeous, and the cowl neckline is demure - until she turns around and the back dips to her waist.  Also loved the simple pony-tail do.

Glen Close:  Also timeless and classic.  Applause for her realization that, while she still has an amazing figure, women of a certain age don't necessarily need to show everything they've got, so she topped the stunning gown with a tuxedo-style jacket. On the red carpet I thought the dress was black, but the pics this morning show me it was a deep green.  Either way - beautiful!

Penlope Cruz:  The picture of Grace Kelly - from the flowing ball gown to the minimalist accessories to the hair style. She could be a princess.

Tina Fey:  Tina is a bit of a wildcard pick.  I'm not a fan of peplums, even on the skinniest model, but the simplicity of the rest of the dress and the rich eggplant color made it a winner!

The Worst:

Click to enlarge
Meryl Streep:  Oscar fashion a la Scarlett O'Hara, or perhaps the Von Trapp children.  Looks as though she pulled down the drapes and wrapped herself in them, sloppily.

Michelle Williams wore a chenille bedspread, and evidently a twin size, because there wasn't enough fabric to complete the look so the back of the bodice was in a contrasting fabric.

Emma Stone:  Whoever told her that red-orange hair, a fuscia gown and red carpet would be a good look should be fired.  And then there's the ginormous bow drooping on her shoulder.

Viola Davis:  This dress is borderline.  The style was fine, the fit was good, but the fabric/color threw me.  The green was somewhere between lime and pistachio - fine for dessert, but not for fashion.  The sheen on the fabric made it look like vinyl or pleather under the lights.

Hit or Miss?

Kudos to Octavia Spencer for showing off her curves!  I was on the fence at first because I thought the draping may have accented too many curves on the hips and in back.  Then, Jennifer Lopez arrived in a similar white/cream dress with draping emanating from a front starburst pattern.  The curving lines were much kinder to Ms. Lopez's back side, but the impending "wardrobe malfunction" of that plunging neckline was too distracting.  Over all, Octavia won.

Angelina Jolie gets this category all to herself.  What was she doing?  Her black velvet gown was beautiful, but the slit went several inches past sexy into slutty territory and her awkward poses to accentuate that fact were just bizarre!

There was obviously an inside joke between her and Brad, as she grinned at him in the front row as she shuffled around like a gawky teenager at her first prom, trying to strike "the pose".  Perhaps she was practicing the teenage shuffle while her makeup artist was working, which would explain the shiny, pale face and overdone lipstick.

There was one other odd moment - Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez standing with their backs to the camera, then doing a quick flip around to announce the winner (which sparked rumors of JLo's nipple taking a peek, but that has proven to be untrue), then giggling like jr. high girls and babbling incoherenty (like jr. high girls).  But it was nothing compared to Jolie's oddity.

That's my take on The Oscars 2012.  Who was our fav?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wildcats, Aggieville and.... Tomatoes?

If you've followed this blog much at all over the last two years, you probably know two basic things about us:  1) We are K-State fans and 2) we live on a farm we call Green Acres, after the 1960's TV show, because we don't actually farm, and I'm not normally the outdoorsy type. 

Dave and I attended K-State in the late 70's/early 80's.  He left with a degree and I left with a husband and we were both happy. We frequently travel to Manhattan for football and basketball games.  We've had season tickets at various times - even one year when we lived 250 miles away (bad idea!) Our closet is full of purple shirts; we have purple hats, purple socks, purple coats, purple golf bag, purple club covers, there are purple dishes in our kitchen, purple rugs in the bathroom, my dish soap is even purple.  If there is a color option, we almost always choose purple.  How does this connect to Green Acres?  Follow along...

When we moved into Green Acres last year, we inherited a lot of beautiful flowers and a lovely garden spot from the previous owner who, the locals tell us, turned these two acres into a showplace back in the 70's - brick paths leading to immaculate flower beds; shrubs, perennials and annuals selected to have continual color throughout the summer; even roaming peacocks.  There was even a separate and complete kitchen in the basement she used only for canning.  Unfortunately, the house sat empty and the gardens untended for a good many years while the owner was in a nursing home.  Only after her death a few years ago was the house sold and re-occupied.  We are slowly beating back the overgrowth, cutting up the dead wood and rediscovering the brick paths under the grass. I added a few annuals in pots and in the flower box attached to the front of the house, but otherwise we spent most of last summer just discovering what is already here.

Except for the garden. I have never been a gardener - I once planted some tomatoes and peppers in an unused flower bed, but the rabbits ate more of them than we did. We have always lived in town, where the combination of limited yard space and children and dogs wanting to use that yard, kept us from trying anything more.  But, faced with all this space - not to mention all the neighbors asking if we had our garden in yet - we decided to try our hand.  We planted tomatoes, peppers, carrots, green beans, cilantro, cucumbers, lettuce, cantaloupe and watermelon.  We planted everything from seed and we started way too late.  Never saw hide nor hair (nor leaf) of a pepper or cilantro plant - not sure what happened there - the carrots met with an unfortunate weed-eater accident, we harvested enough beans for about 3 meals, and every time a melon got big enough to be recognizable, a dog recognized it as a ball and ran away with it.  However, we had bumper lettuce, tomato and cucumber crops, so not a total wash for our first try.  In the process we learned a lot about soil preparation, planting season and protecting melons from dogs.  This year we are  prepared, we are enthused and we are going purple!

Through Twitter, I met a lovely lady named Kelly (@toesandtomatos), who has recently started her own heirloom seed business. I didn't really know what an "heirloom" seed was but it did make me wonder if purchasing quality seed rather than the 10 for a dollar variety at Wal-Mart might produce a better crop (cause I'm sharp that way!) so I paid a visit to Kelly's website, The Art of Seed.  What I found were some amazing tomato and pepper varieties that I had never seen or heard of - and some of them were PURPLE AND WHITE!  So, in our garden this summer you will find, Lord willing, some Black Cherry Tomatoes alongside Great White Tomatoes. Go Cats!

Photos courtesy of The Art of Seed
We're also going to throw in some Mini Chocolate Bell Peppers because their brown color has a purplish hue - and they're just so darn cute! - plus some regular red tomatoes and peppers as well.

One thing led to another, as things on Twitter often do, and I also met another lovely lady, Jan, (@twowomenandahoe) who had featured Kelly's story on her beautiful purple blog, Two Women and a Hoe (which is a portion of her web-site dedicated to her awesome landscaping business).  If you have any interest in gardening, landscaping or just like to look at pretty pictures, I encourage you to visit both of these sites, meet these women and get inspired to start making your garden/landscape plans.  In spite of what that groundhog said, summer will be here before you know it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Summer of Secrets by Charlotte Hubbard

Welcome to Willow Ridge, Missouri! In this cozy Amish town along the banks of the river, the Old Ways are celebrated at the Sweet Seasons Bakery Café, 
and love is a gift God gives with grace.

Summer has come to Willow Ridge, but Rachel Lantz is looking forward to a whole new season in her life—marriage to strapping carpenter Micah Brenneman, her childhood sweetheart. When a strange Englischer arrives in the café claiming to be the long-lost sister of Rachel and her twin Rhoda, Rachel feels the sturdy foundation of her future crumbling—including Micah’s steadfast love. As the days heat up and tempers flare, Rachel and Micah will learn that even when God’s plan isn’t clear, it will always lead them back to each other.

Last fall I read my first Amish romance, mostly out of curiosity over the popularity of the genre, and discovered a new kind of heroine - a woman  who balances independence and strength with the "plain" ways of her religion, which requires obedience and submission.  Through a blog tour arranged by Tracee of Review From Here, I got the chance to try another story of the Amish life - 
Summer of Secrets, the first volume of the Seasons of the Heart series by Charlotte Hubbard.

The story centers around the return of a daughter lost during a flash flood nearly 20 years earlier. The contrast of the two sisters who were raised in the Amish faith with the sister who was raised by the Englisher couple who rescued her, makes this a fascinating story.   It was easy to empathize with Rebecca as she tried to reconcile the modern lifestyle in which she was raised, with it's freedom, technology and relaxed morals, and the lifestyle  and beliefs of her birth family. I'll confess to being drawn to that lifestyle myself.   Although I know I wouldn't make it a week without computers, TV, and other electrical conveniences, the simplicity of the Amish ways draws me - making this an especially intriguing story. The ending wraps up the major controversies in a satisfying way, while still leaving enough loose tendrils to make the reader curious about the next installment.

Summer of Secrets combines romance, a little suspense and several moral lessons to make a compelling story. One of my favorite lines comes near the end when Miriam, the mother, is being chastised by the church leaders:

"Tis a gift to realize that, just when ya feel you've hit rock bottom, ya have - for sure and for certain - landed on the Rock, indeed.  It's God's own hand you're sittin' in."

I received a free, advanced copy of this book from the author, as part of the blog tour. Thanks Charlotte and Tracee for incuding me in the tour. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is Not a Book! by Keri Smith

A curious, engaging, and creative rethinking of what a book can be, from the creator of Wreck this Journal.

In this uniquely skewed look at the purpose and function of "a book," Keri Smith offers an illustrated guide that asks readers to creatively examine all the different ways This Is Not a Book can be used. With intriguing prompts, readers will discover that the book can be:

  • A secret message-tear out a page, write a note on it for a stranger, and leave it in a public place.
  • A recording device-have everyone you contact today write their name in the book.
  • An instrument-create as many sounds as you can using the book, like flipping the pages fast or slapping the cover.
This Is Not a Book will engage readers by having them define everything a book can be by asking, "If it's not a book, what is it?" - with a kaleidoscope of possible answers.

In January, I read this post on Cheri's Chatter that got me curious about making a Smash Book or Junk Journal, so I went on-line in search of more information.  I found the Smash Books (scrapbooking for the non-scrapbooker) and ordered Amanda and I each one.  It's still sitting on my dresser, untouched, because... as I was surfing, I also found This is Not a Book by Keri Smith.  I ordered two copies of it and Amanda and I are completing them as a mother/daughter project.  (We'll get to the Smash Books later.)

As the blurb says, each page of This is Not a Book declares something else that it could be.  Some are writing exercises:  "This is a time machine. Describe a time in your life you would like to go back and relive"* or "This is a plot to rule the world.  If I could take over the world, I would make the following changes..."** Some are more active: "This is a factory that makes very small books" (followed by a template to cut out, fold and form into a very small book then fill with whatever content you want), or "This is a Random Adventure.  Go outside, walk until you see something red...." Some are just potentially embarrassing (I haven't done these yet, obviously):  "This is a performance.  Select a piece of writing you really like and read it out loud where others can hear you."

One of the first pages instructs you to develop a disguise for your not-a-book.  So, what began as 2 plain red books (see image above) have now been disguised using stickers, wrapping paper, a napkin, markers, and a C.J. Banks shopping bag - among other things.  I can't post a picture because then it would no longer be a disguise, right?

This is Not a Book is fun, creative and makes you think "outside the box".  Have you stretched your creativity lately?  

*In case you are wondering, I chose for my time machine page to transport me to the summer of 1993.  Mitch and Amanda were 2 and 1; I was a stay-at-home mom; my best friend, Wanda, was still living and was just a mile down the road.  I was needed, life was simple and, though the house we lived in was a dump, I was happy!

**If I ruled the world I would: Remove all "reality" tv shows from the airwaves; disband political parties; outlaw Facebook; and name Tim Gunn Supreme Commander of the World and we would all live more peaceful, gracious lives.

Ms. Smith has also created "Finish This Book" which will definitely be our next project.

Dear Reader,
One dark and stormy night, author Keri Smith found some strange scattered pages abandoned in a park. She collected and assembled them, trying to solve the mystery of this unexpected discovery, and now, she's passing the task on to you, her readers.
I collected and assembled them, trying to solve the mystery of this unexpected discovery, and am now passing the task on to you.
Your mission is to become the new author of this work. You will continue the research and provide the content. In order to complete the task, you will have to undergo some secret intelligence training, which is included in this volume. Since no one knows what lies ahead, please proceed with caution, but know...this book does not exist without you.
Yours truly,
Keri Smith

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You Say You Want a Revolution . . .

It is coincidental that the premier of the new ABC show, The Revolution - which, by the way, I vowed never to watch in protest of the cancellation of One Life to Live, but then I caved and watched because it features Tim Gunn - on whom, by the way, I have a serious straight woman/gay man crush - ...  Ok, that sentence got off track so let's start again.

It is coincidental that the premier of the new ABC show, The Revolution, coincided with the beginning of my own personal revolution, in which I overthrow the tyranny of junk food and emotional eating and reveal the thinner, stronger, more stylish me.  At least that's the plan.  And The Revolution has been a huge encouragement - daily diet, exercise and wardrobe tips plus the weekly "hero" who shows their five-month weight-loss/health make-over condensed into five days.

We are now at the one month mark, and doing well.  So basically, this post serves two purposes:  1. To promote The Revolution - it's worth watching if for nothing more than the  fashion tips from Tim - and my new best friend, Nutrisystem.  Nutrisystem is the only "diet" plan I've ever stuck to for more than two days and, so far at least, it's been as easy as a life without lemon cupcakes can be; and 2.  to tell the world (or at least the 4 members who read this blog) that I will do this.  I will learn healthier diet and exercise habits.  I have no dreams of being my pre-marriage/pre-baby skinny self, but I will be a healthy, sustainable size.

Putting this plan "out there" is a little scary - what do I say if I fail? - but it's also a bit empowering (for lack of a better, less cliche word).  Don't worry, this is not about to become a weight-loss blog where I talk about nothing else and give you bite-by-bite playbacks of my day.  I've read a few of those, and they're not my thing.  But I will let you know when Marie Osmond and I are set to shoot our commercial.

Whether it's losing weight, reading more books, or some other goal - have your own Revolution!  Here's our theme song:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mini Review: A Little Night Magic/Lethal

A Little Night Magic by Lucy March

Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, New York, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias, the cook, for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends—Peach, Millie, and Stacy—and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on shaking things up, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends . . . but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical Southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her life than she ever dreamed. As Liv’s latent magical powers come to the surface, she discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, with those she loves at her side . . . and in the cross fire. Can the most important things in life—friendship, love, magic, and waffles—get her through the worst that the universe can throw at her?

I love stories with a magical twist, and this one was a lot of fun.  The magical elements tracked a little farther towards the "dark side" than I like, but the kooky cast of characters and the cozy location made up for it.  And there weren't any vampires or zombies, so it's got that going for it.  A fun, entertaining read. 

Lethal by Sandra Brown

When her four year old daughter informs her a sick man is in their yard, Honor Gillette rushes out to help him. But that "sick" man turns out to be Lee Coburn, the man accused of murdering seven people the night before. Dangerous, desperate, and armed, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won't be hurt as long as she does everything he asks. She has no choice but to accept him at his word.
But Honor soon discovers that even those close to her can't be trusted. Coburn claims that her beloved late husband possessed something extremely valuable that places Honor and her daughter in grave danger. Coburn is there to retrieve it -- at any cost. From FBI offices in Washington, D.C., to a rundown shrimp boat in coastal Louisiana, Coburn and Honor run for their lives from the very people sworn to protect them, and unravel a web of corruption and depravity that threatens not only them, but the fabric of our society.

This one falls under the Prolific Author Rule:  No need for a deep review.  It's a solid, well-written romantic/suspense story.  Just what you would expect from Sandra Brown.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Football Coaches: The Answers

1.  Denzel Washington - Remember the Titans - Herman Boone  
2.  Rick Moranis - Little Giants - Danny O'Shea
3.  James Caan - The Program - Sam Winters
4.  Mac Davis - Possums - Will Clark (I gave you a hint on this one by leaving Mac's first name visible in the pic.  I know it's an obscure movie but I had a huge Mac Davis crush in the 70's.)
5.  Ed Harris - Radio - Coach Jones
6.  Goldie Hawn - Wildcats - Molly McGrath (This one should have been easy, being the only female in the bunch.)
7.  Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - The Gridiron Gang - Sean Porter
8.  Matthew McConaughey - We Are Marshall - Jack Lengyel
9.  Billy Bob Thornton - Friday Night Lights - Gary Gaines

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Puzzling Post: The Coaches

I know I said this puzzle would be posted before the Super Bowl, but I got sidetracked with a last-minute trip to Branson, MO.  But, better late than never, hopefully.  Can you name these 9 football movie coaches?

Click to enlarge
A.  Goldie Hawn
B.  Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
C.  Matthew McConaughey
D.  Billy Bob Thornton
E.  Denzel Washington
F.  Mac Davis
G.  Rick Moranis
H.  Ed Harris
I.  James Caan

a.  Friday Night Lights
b.  We Are Marshall
c.  Remember the Titans
d.  Radio
e.  Little Giants
f.  Gridiron Gang
g. The Program
h.  Possums
i.  Wildcats

10. Jack Lengyel
11. Will Clark
12.  Herman Boone
13.  Gary Gaines
14.  Sam Winters
15.  Molly McGrath
16.  Sean Porter
17.  Coach Jones
18.  Danny O'Shea

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mamma Mia!

The touring production of the Broadway hit, Mamma Mia! stopped in Manhattan last night.  Amanda and I had seats in the nosebleed section, but fortunately, McCain Auditorium on the K-State campus is small enough that even the second balcony still has a great view.  The show was perfect for mother/daughter bonding time - the music of my high school years made "current" so we both enjoyed.  If you haven't seen the live production, go out of your way to find it!

We had sushi at Umi before the show and coffee at Radina's afterwards.  The only down-side would be that, since the show was only in town for one night, we had to attend on a Monday.  By the time we got our coffee and I made the two hour drive home, it was 1:00 a.m.  So that buzzing sound you hear is probably me, snoring at my desk - but it was worth every drowsy moment!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas.  President Kennedy died and the world changed.  What if you could change it back? In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Dave and I read this book together back in December and I've been avoiding reviewing because it seemed like such a daunting chore.  As huge as the book is, in concept, in scope, and in detail (not to mention physical size) it seemed that I should have opinions to write that are equally huge.  And I probably do, if you have an afternoon to sit over a cup of coffee and chat, but trying to put it all into a few concise paragraphs is beyond me.  

Stephen King's writing, as always, is perfection. The research is impeccable.  The characters are engaging, the plot takes endless twist, and the ending is a surprise, yet just what you would expect from King.  If you are a fan of JFK history, or just mid-century history, as I am, you'll fall right into the setting and want to stay.  If you have no idea of anything that happened between 1958 and 1964, you'll probably still fall in and want to stay.  I came away knowing more than when I started, and wanting to know even more.

Dave and I are both fans of time-travel stories, and read-together books that involve so many "what if's" are the most fun - so we both . . . what?  "Enjoyed" seems too small, "loved" sounds so overused, . . . Well, just read it!

Super Bowl of Puzzles: The Answers

We warned you it was a tough puzzle. :)  How did you do?  If you weren't the MVP of this puzzle, check back tomorrow and see how well you know your movie coaches.

1.  Scott Bakula - Paul Blake - Necessary Roughness (1991)
2.  Adam Sandler - Bobby Boucher - The Waterboy (1998)
3.  George Clooney - Dodge Connelly - Leatherheads (2008)
4.  Burt Lancasater - Jim Thorpe - Jim Thorpe: All American (1951)
5.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. - Rod Tidwell - Jerry Maguire (1996)
6.  Alan Alda - George Plimpton - Paper Lion (1968)
7.  Kris Kristofferson - Marvin "Shake" Tiller - Semi Tough (1977)
8.  Dennis Quade - Jack "Cap" Rooney - Any Given Sunday (1999)
9.  James Caan - Brian Piccolo - Brian's Song (1971)
10. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - Joe Kingman - The Game Plan (2007)
11. Sean Astin - Daniel Ruettiger - Rudy (1993)
12. Bert Reynolds - Paul Crewe - The Longest Yard (1974)
13. Quinton Aaron - Michael Oher - The Blind Side (2009)
14. Nick Nolte - Phillip Elliott - North Dallas Forty (1979)
15. Ronald Reagan - George Gipp - Knute Rockne: All American (1940)

or - in short form:
1 - f - F - 24
2 - o - L - 18
3 - a - N - 23
4 - h - O - 19
5 - i - C - 21
6 - l - A - 29
7 - b - G - 30
8 - n - B - 22
9 - k - I - 20
10 - m - D - 25
11 - j - M - 27
12 - e - E - 28
13 - d - K - 26
14 - g - J - 16
15 - c - H - 17