Tuesday, August 31, 2010

bring it on

Oh. My. God.

My six and one half year old daughter has signed up for cheerleading. Totally.

I blame myself and my love for a certain film, which we have watched together definitely more than once. Or twice.

But mostly I blame Sparky Polastri and his darn spirit fingers.

I do think she'll have a blast, as probably all the kids will actually do is run around and jump and yell. Right? Right?

Just don't drop the spirit stick kid . . .
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Monday, August 30, 2010

good morning good morning good

Good morning, good morning, good morning . . .

After a while you start to smile now you feel cool
Then you decide to take a walk by the old school
Nothing is changed it's still the same
I've got nothing to say but it's OK

THE BEATLES, Good Morning, Good Morning (Lennon/McCartney)
Good morning, good morning, good morning . . .
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

still misbehavin'

I caught Easy Virtue on cable again and re-worked and updated my original review for Associated Content. I have recently added Jessica Biel to my mental list of actors to watch and this film is definitely fun on repeated viewings. It takes two to tango . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

sea grape

It can be a hedge, a shrub, or a free-standing tree, and I seem to be seeing the versatile sea grape everywhere I go.

I love the big round leaves of the plant no matter what form it's in.

I feel a bit like a sea grape myself these days. Mom, daughter, caretaker, worker chief cook and bottle washer . . .

According to Wikipedia,
The fruit is very tasty and can be used for jam or the fruit can be eaten right off the tree.

I might have to bring a basket for fruit on my next walk . . .
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Friday, August 27, 2010

the mushroom that dared . . .

. . . to grow in the middle of a stretch of well-manicured Palm Beach grass.

And another frequent encounter on our morning walks . . . M. Escargot.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

slip sliding away

Today was an early dismissal from school day, so we took the opportunity to drive north to meet an "old" friend—a kindergarten classmate on vacation with her family. So the kid got her first ride on a water slide and took to it like the proverbial duck to water . . . slides. School in the morning, water slides in the afternoon. Somebody's liking Florida . . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2 + 2 = uh oh

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

You never know what you might see . . .

or what you might meet . . .

while walking home . . .

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Monday, August 23, 2010

this isn't a food blog, but . . .

. . . I have been enjoying being able to cook more, now that I can tailor my schedule the way I like it. Tonight's experiment: farfalline with mushrooms and artichokes in a pink sauce.

First the sauce: Mario Batali's marinara, some alfredo sauce and artichokes and mushrooms. Sort of a modified flag of Italy. Pretty, huh? And what a fun way to mix some leftover sauces to make something new and tasty.

The pasta: some designer striped baby bow-ties, or farfalline.

The finished dish: yum!
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

tiny lizards

. . .  are always running across our path. At least twenty or more, on our morning walk to school . . .

Tiny Lizards
On the wall
Make me feel happy
Make me smile
paraphrasing Tiny Bubbles

Florida Lizards

Saturday, August 21, 2010

mexican chocolate ice cream

The ice cream maker and our first ice cream was a huge success! My mom and I loved the bit of spice that the cayenne and cinnamon added to the chocolate. My daughter not as much. She's more of a chocolate purist, I guess.

So what's next? Coconut? Pistachio? Maybe papaya . . .
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Friday, August 20, 2010

that old black magic

We went to see Nanny McPhee Returns this evening. We love the highly-colored, over-saturated first movie, where Emma Thompson played a slightly sinister Mary Poppins-like nanny who can whip even the worst brats into shape. The first movie was written by Thompson and populated by her wonderful British actor friends Colin Firth, Derek Jacobi and Celia Imrie, to name a few.

She returns as writer and producer in the new movie and her star-studded supporting players don't disappoint: Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans, Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I am usually for some reason doubtful about, pleasantly surprised me yet again with a good British accent. And the kids are obnoxious only when called for by the script. In fact, the kids are a hoot, as well as the various CGI-enhanced animals.

 My first experience with stadium "lounge" seating
All in all it was great fun. There were admittedly slow, even risqué parts, for a "children's" film. Some plot points included: poverty, class-ism, wartime danger and death, dementia, fraud. Ifans's character spends the movie trying to swindle his relatives in order to save himself from having his kidneys removed—graphically, possibly—onscreen. There is definitely a Pythonesque touch to this subplot, of The Meaning of Life variety. But Thompson and crew pull off even some grisly jokes with good humor.

The movie got me to thinking how the truly great children's stories have something sad, even tragic about them. Something scary, too—especially in the best ones. The orphan Dorothy Gale and her bland Kansas existence always hover in the background of The Wizard of Oz. Snow White loses her mother in childbirth and spends most of her story trying to survive her homicidal stepmother. In Charlotte's Web the wonderful spider is trying to save "some pig" from slaughter, as children learn about nature, birth and death at the end of the book.
Thompson isn't afraid to explore the darker side of her fairy tale. Maybe she should consider adapting some Angela Carter next . . . My favorite Carter is her feminist retelling of some of the most classic fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber. One of the stories, The Company of Wolves, has already been filmed by Neil Jordan. But I wonder what Thompson could do with The Bloody Chamber, a riff on Bluebeard, or The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, a version of Beauty and the Beast.

The previews before the movie just underlined the fact that most movies made for children are cartoons. Some computer-animated 3D about two wolves (yawn), a super-hero spoof voiced by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey & Brad Pitt (maybe), a computer-animated Yogi Bear (why?) Why shouldn't there be more filmed movies, with good actors, like Nanny McPhee Returns? Are the Brits the only ones even considering real actors for kids' films these days? There was a preview for the upcoming latest Narnia installment, that at least is 50-50 computer effects and actors. Nanny McPhee had its share of special effects, but the overall impression was one of watching a movie, with actors whose personalities carried the day.

Bluebeard, by Edmund Dulac
As much as Shrek is an ever-popular member of our home movie catalog, and we are also big fans of anime and classic Warner Bros. cartoons, I have to say that I inwardly smile when my daughter wants to see a movie like The Secret Garden or A Little Princess or even Night at the Museum.  I guess they just seem more like "movies" to me. And I love movies.

So I recommend checking out Nanny McPhee Returns. Here's to Emma Thompson making more movies with her talented friends. And Maggie Smith in anything. And let me know if you find out where Maggie Gylenhaal got her wardrobe. I could wear any and all of it happily.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

no explanation necessary

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

the magpie effect

previously published on Associated Content.

All that glitters . . . musings on the Rachel Zoe Project

I have always liked things shiny. Baubles, bangles and beads. Is that the reason I find myself, like the proverbial magpie, drawn to watch the Rachel Zoe Project? I share this impulse for bright things with the celebrity stylist, who said in her latest installment, (paraphrasing here) that "it doesn't matter how great the dress is, it's all about the jewels." Looking at the results of her styling efforts it's hard to disagree. The jewelry, which she considers "the most fun," was the best part if the show, and I suspect, the best part of her job. She actually looked animated, practically giddy as she sorted through tens of thousands of dollars worth of gaudy gems to adorn her clients, as opposed to her perpetual glum demeanor when faced with finding a designer gown (or just trying to get a sample delivered.) Trying to select the "right dress" is almost always agony for Zoe and her staff.

It would be easy to make fun of her, and her cockeyed world and its values. Many do, but what is probably most surprising is how willing Zoe herself is to poke fun of her image (which she is also so desperately trying to promote.) Watching her deadly serious depression at the LA "downpour" that might ruin her clients' red carpet moment—well it's hard not to snigger. But the tiny woman takes her job seriously and she does want her charges to look their best. It may be a superficial world that she inhabits, but it is true that a "great red carpet moment," the right dress (matched with fabulous baubles) might actually boost the career of an actress whose latest films may not have been huge at the box office.

Most of what Zoe does is behind the scenes, and I suspect, still off camera, as what the audience gets to see is a lot of worrying and kvetching, but not a lot of actual legwork or even schmoozing of new clients. The editing of the show wants to add the drama by hinting at troubles with previous assistant Taylor (drop that - she's gone and bringing her up is boring) and intimations of her marriage possibly suffering as a consequence of her pursuit of success. We are only two shows into the season and her husband Rodger is whiny and downright pissy about wanting to be a dad and his fear that her clock is losing ticks by the moment. There is also a lot of proclaiming on his part of his masculinity and weariness of always being surrounded by girls and gays (protest much?) Do we need this storyline? I might be a tad more sympathetic to "his story" and the human angle the show is trying to push if he didn't (I assume) let his wife style him with white flowing scarves and get his hair cut like Justin Bieber. Who needs it, just get back to the clothes.

No offense to the domestic discord or bliss that may occur in their white-on-white world (their furniture reminds me of Sex and the City's Charlotte and her horror that her husband Harry might sit his naked butt down on her pristine white furniture), but the real appeal, the real "story" of the show is the suspension of disbelief that Zoe and her career can actually exist and the vicarious thrill of imagining playing dress up with all of those designer samples. Even though she is proving her clout this year by trotting out some of her bigger-name clients (Demi Moore, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz), it is mostly the inexplicably eternally stressed Zoe that fascinates.

What was the most interesting moment of the second episode? After all the flurry and build-up of Zoe and crew to dress four women for the Golden Globes, after Zoe's frantic rushing around to fit each actress, she didn't hang around all the lights and cameras but quietly returned home in time to watch the pre-show on television, with her buds, just like any other fan, albeit insecure that her husband might make fun of her and her love of fashion (he did and does in his soliloquies) or not like her work (he actually was quite supportive.)

Suddenly it all seemed like one big dream. Is Zoe delusional? Did she really do all or any of what we just watched? Who's to say that Jennifer Garner didn't dress herself? It's the most ephemeral of careers to fairy-godmother these Cinderellas. No wonder Zoe has decided lately that she might also like to go to the ball.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

first day, first grade, new day, grade a

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by you know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

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Monday, August 16, 2010

why am i the only one who's nervous?

We went to my daughter's orientation today at her new school. Her first grade teacher was super-nice and the school looks great. There were tons of forms and a few fees that took me by surprise, but somehow I wasn't unprepared for the lack of preparedness or availability of information for new students. Seems to be the way things work in our country's under-paid, under-staffed school systems, no matter where you live. But they're all nice people presumably, and we'll figure it out as we go.

My six-year old girl will have to function more independently from the get-go - I can't even walk her to her classroom. She will "pay" for her lunch by punching in a key code on the cafeteria line. It should be interesting. I remember crying through my first semester of kindergarten, but it was my first time out of the house and out from under my mother's wing, so my growing pains were more severe. I hope. Anyway, we'll work it out.

Up very early tomorrow, quick breakfast (for her) and then we walk to school. Shades of Tom Sawyer, Florida-style. School's out early, 2pm (?!) so I signed her up for the part-time after-school program, which will give me a few more hours of my own and give her the opportunity to socialize a bit more with her new friends. There's a music program that's offered, but I'm still debating whether to go for that or not. One day a week, baby-violin lessons. Could be interesting.

But I'd have to get her a violin . . . And so it begins . . .
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

the oven works!

When I got here it semed as if nothing worked—the oven wouldn't turn on, the washer leaked every time we hit the spin/rinse cycle. It was very frustrating and a bit daunting to have to deal with these domestic inconveniences on top of everything else that was on my plate.

But the washer just had a loose hose in the back, luckily an easy fix,  and the display on the oven is busted, but the oven works fine (and I'm not about to pay $595.00+ to be able to see the clock work.)

Appearances, as they say, can be deceiving, and it's best to take a breath and try again.

Today muffins, tomorrow eggplant parmesan?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

happy birthday ann

Friday, August 13, 2010

five days and counting . . .

. . . until the kid goes back to school. She's actually keeping the countdown. Last week, I was probably ready to start a countdown of my own, as she was finding an infinite variety of ways to get on my very last nerve—but as it stands now, I am actually the one who's sad that our summer vacation is coming to an end.

"But you're in Florida" you say, "It's a year-round summer vacation." Somehow, I don't feel that it will be like that. We'll see. Now I have to get everyone adjusted to a new routine. That's a job in itself, along with the twenty or so other jobs I have. But it will all work out. I'm looking forward to walking her to school every morning.

"How Little House on the Prairie of you," you might add. Damn right. Downsizing, simplifying, trying to find a little peace and hopefully burn off some of these eating-out-too-much calories—that's what I'm all about these days.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

you can't make this stuff up

Never underestimate the power of one more proofing round. It may transform the whole image you are trying to create.

Or is it just me that sees this as graphics gone very wrong?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

it's a . . . clustertab!

I'm trying out Firefox's Cluster Tab add-on, and so far, so amazing. I love grouping and organizing stuff, so would have loved this anyway. I have been trying various methods, some of my own invention, to group large numbers of unwieldy tabs, lately, without the desired effect. I don't have over 100 tabs open at any given time, like some folks, but the amount of "live" websites I need and want on my laptop has increased exponentially recently: tabs for work, social tabs, banking and spreadsheets, email, recreation. These are a few of my favorite things . . .

I tried out some of the other tab-sorting or productivity add-ons, and none quite did the trick. Group/Sort Tabs just didn't group or sort in any way that was useful for me. FoxTab was attractive, but basically a visual approximation of Safari without the usability. I've been hearing about Tab Candy, which is still in its testing phase. It looks cool, but I didn't really want to wait, and am not sure I want such a visual interface—I can still just use Safari, after all. So I tried Cluster Tab, which was ready to go. Now I can group (and regroup) my tabs in whatever combinations I so desire, pull them out and send them back as I need. I can also share clusters online, which opens up all sorts of possibilities. And no, this is not an advertisement, but it is an encouragement to give it a spin.

I've stated before that my favorite type of invention is something that improves on something you're already using, and this little number certainly fills that bill to a tee. Hmmm . . . a cluster tab of all my favorite websites that begin with a tee. . . Excuse me . . .
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

in my room

First step the Beach Boys . . . as I get accustomed to my Florida lifestyle.

I grew up at the Jersey shore, so this isn't much of a stretch, actually.

Jimmy Buffett next?

There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it's dark and I'm alone
But I won't be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

Beach Boys, In My Room
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