Troop Zero is a 2019 American comedy-drama, starring Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, Charlie Shotwell and Allison Janney. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on February 1, 2019 and was released in January, 2020 on Amazon.
It takes place in rural Georgia in 1977, where a group of elementary-school misfits led by spunky outcast Christmas Flint join forces form their own troop in the high-and-mighty Birdie Scouts youth group in order to compete in a talent show. The winning Birdies will earn the right to have their voices included on the Voyager Golden Record, which Christmas believes will be heard by her deceased mother – if they can just win the show.
My sister and I watched this last month. It was a delightful move. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Viola Davis and Allison Janney are two of my favorite actresses, but I have to say Mckenna Grace, the child who played Christmas, held her own. The scrapes she and her friends find themselves in trying to earn their badges are hilarious. Each one of them is quirky, peculiar and a little strange, but they learn to lean on one another. I live in the south and the references to life there during the seventies took me down memory lane. You’ll love it.
You don’t think about the south without thinking about fried chicken. I don’t cook it now, but this is how I did when my kids were growing up.
Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast (My family preferred white meat)
Wash the breast. Split them in half lengthwise. Salt and Pepper them. Coat them with flour. Dip them in a mixture of milk and eggs. Then coat them with flour again. Fry in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until golden brown. Serve with mashed potatoes and brown gravy, fresh green beans or green salad and bread to sop up the gravy.
While channel surfing a while back, I happened to catch the end of Close Encounters. Never see that movie that I don’t think of my husband. Especially now that he’s gone. It was one of his all-time favorites. I never really thought about it until today, but now I understand why.
In the movie Richard Dreyfuss plays Roy Neary, an average middle-class guy who loves his family and works hard to provide for them. Only there’s another side to his character. He still believes in magic. In the movie, when Roy experiences a close encounter, he doubts his sanity. But he can’t let it go, because deep down inside he wants it to be true. So he makes up his mind to prove it.
My husband was the same kind of man. He worked hard, took care of his family and lived a quiet life. But like Roy, there was more to him than met the eye. The casual observer never saw his keen sense of adventure. He had a fascination for the mysterious, the unexplained. The idea of travelers from another world was intriguing to him.
He would have loved the chance to do what Roy did. So it isn’t hard to visualize him standing on the runway at the end of the movie, all smiles. Reluctant to leave his life on earth, yet filled with nervous anticipation at the thought of going on an adventure beyond the stars.
I like to think that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. And I’m certain he’s enjoying every minute.
One of my early childhood memories is the torture of nap time. I rarely slept. Instead, I spent my time looking out the windows, whispering to my sister, and willing the time to pass so I could go back outside and play.
It wasn’t all bad, though. My mother used to read to us. I truly believe that’s where I learned to get lost in a good story. With my eyes closed, the blinds drawn, and snuggled under the covers, I visited other countries, other times. Magical places that stirred my imagination.
I’ve never forgotten those stories she chose to share. The beginning of my love of reading and the desire to become a writer.
My sister, Kim, is a great cook. She’s always trying new recipes. This is one of hers. Nothing better than coffee and a hot muffin on a cold winter day!
1 1/2 cups Cranberries, Fresh
1 tbsp Orange, Zest
2 Eggs, Large
1 tsp Baking powder
3 cups Flour
1 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1 cup Powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Vegetable oil
2/3 cup Orange juice
6 tbsp Butter, Unsalted
1/2 cup Buttermilk
Mix orange zest with sugar in small bowl. Set aside.Combine BP, flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.Mix buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Combine all ingredients. Fold in cranberries. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Mix flour, melted butter and sugar to make crumble. Spoon on top of muffins. Cook 18 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean. Combine orange juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over cooled muffins. Crumble and glaze are optional. Can be stored in airtight container for 3-4 days.
I have a lot of keepsakes. Most of them aren’t antiques or collector’s items, but they’re special to me. Why? Because they come with memories attached. And what is more precious than a memory? These Pyrex bowls belonged to my mother. They may have been a wedding present. She used the largest one when she made potato salad. Every time I use one of them, I think about her.
Awakenings is a 1990 film based on British neurologist Oliver Sack’s 1973 memoir and directed by Penny Marshall. In 1969 the doctor discovered the beneficial effects of the drug L-Dopa when administered to catatonic patients who survived the 1916-28 encephalitis lethargica epidemic. Leonard Lowe and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonia and have to deal with a new life in a new time.
Robert DeNiro was nominated for Best Actor for this role. He plays Leonard Lowe, one of the patients. After a trial run with L-Dopa produces astounding results with Leonard, it is administered to the rest of the catatonic patients. In my opinion, he should have won.
He did a remarkable job of bringing the man to life. Through his portrayal, we see the despair and isolation of his condition, and the attitude of wonder he adopts when awakened. We watch his struggle to relearn, his fight to find a place in the world, and the heartbreaking realization that the miracle is only temporary.
It will move you to tears, but it is a poignant movie with a lesson for everyone. Enjoy the wonder of living. Appreciate it every minute of your life.
Apologies. Instead of a recipe like I usually share, this I leave you with this quote. In a way, it’s the same. Call it food for the soul.
Calebth thought about how much he missed his parents and swallowed a huge lump that formed in his throat. “Mowg is in danger. We need to find a way to take him home to his family. He’ll be safe there.”
Misa sighed. “We all feel the same way, Calebth.” But what can we do? We need a boat to take us to Dragon Island. And it takes money to rent a boat. Something we don’t have.”
He hung his head with shame. If not for him, they’d still have the gold from the mine.
Owen pinched his chin between his fingers. “We’re not far from Broadwin. We’ll go there and see if they are offering any bounties. That’s how we can get the coin to pay our way to Dragon Island.
“This is Olog territory. There’s bound to be more troublemakers like the one I just took out.” Floren puffed out his chest. “We’ll have a pocketful of gold in no time.”
Misa burst out laughing. “You mean the ogre who grabbed you and threw you to the ground? I think the fall addled your brain. It was Owen who took care of him, not you.”
“At least I wasn’t standing there, waving my wand around and shrieking ‘Look out.’”
“I saved your hide, you ungrateful wretch.”
Owen stood with his hand on his hips, glaring at both of them. “Enough of this. Why can’t the two of you get along? You argue over everything.” He turned to Calebth. “Get everything packed and ready to go. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
* * * *
Broadwin was a fishing village with a busy harbor perched on the rocky coastline. Owen started at one end and went from first one boat to another, asking about passage to the Island. It wasn’t far. Calebth could see it clearly from the harbor. But one by one, the fishermen turned them down, claiming they were too busy. Or it was too far. Or they were afraid of the dragons.
They almost passed the last boat without stopping. It had seen better days. So did the man who owned it. “Captain Bounty is me name, and this here is my boat. At yer service. For a price, that is.”
Missing one eye, wearing a bandana and a gold hoop, the man reminded Calebth of the stories old-timers told about pirates. The man winked and gave them a grin big enough for his gold tooth to sparkle in the sunlight. “Sixty coins.”
“Is there something we could do to earn money?” Owen asked.
Captain guffawed. “Not unless you want to get rid of the Olog gang. They’ve been causing trouble. Their leader is Uruk. He’s bad enough. But the others even meaner and twice as big. They’ve been terrorizing the village for weeks.”
Misa sighed. “We’ve dealt with him before.”
They thanked the captain for the information and went to the tavern to see if they could come up with a plan. They scraped together enough money to buy a pitcher of ale and took a table in the corner.
They hadn’t been there for more than a few minutes when the gang of ologs burst into the tavern led by Olog-hai and demanded to be served. He glanced over at them and laughed out loud. “Look boys. It’s my little friends from the forest. The ones who couldn’t fight.”
Floren sprang to his feet, clutching his ax. “Okay, fellas. It’s payback time. Let’s get ‘em.” He runs up to one of them, breaks a jug of ale over his head, and knocks him out. Misa joined him, waving her wand and flinging spells right and left.
“What do you want me to do?” Calebth asked Owen.
“Protect Mowg. Make sure he doesn’t get hurt.” The ranger unsheathed his sword and followed the other two across the room.
Owen made quick work disabling one of the ogres, and Misa turned another one into a toad, while Floren cornered Olog-hai. But the ogre grabbed him and threw him into the kitchen. The cook ran screaming from the tavern.
One of them comes after Mowg after he steps on the dragon and he burps fire, singing the ogre’s hide. Calebth grabbed him, pushed him under the table, throwing dishes and furniture. . Owen saw what was happening, knocks him into Olog-hai, knocking them off their feet. Quick as a wink, Misa put them all to sleep with a spell.
“Good job, kid,” Owen said after the fight was. Surprised and pleased with the compliment, Calebth thinks maybe he’ll make a ranger after all.
After the dust settled, the mayor and some of the townspeople showed up and carried the ologs off to jail. The villagers cheered and the tavern owner served drinks all around.
“They’ve been plaguing our little town for weeks,” the mayor said. “You get the reward we offered.”
“Did you hear that?” Calebth grinned at the little dragon. “You’re going home.”
Floren threw his hands in the air. “Let’s celebrate. Another round of ale.”
Misa rolled her eyes. “Don’t be too free with the reward. We need it to pay the captain.”
Calebth was too young for spirits, the tavernkeeper brought him a mug of apple cider.
“Too much ale makes people do silly things.” Owen pointed at Floren. Sure enough, he drank so much he got tipsy. He climbed on the table to sing, got dizzy halfway through the chorus and collapsed into a heap.
“Cider’s good enough for me,” Calebth said. But Mowg licks ale the ale that Floren spills off the floor and burps fire. Calebth grabbed him before it can happen again.
When they got to the ship the next day, Floren came aboard holding his head. “Worse headache I’ve ever had.”
Misa laughed. “You mean hangover, don’t you?”
He glared at her. “You’re no fun at all.”
Before Owen could tell the two of them to knock it off, Captain Bounty came by. “Keep that baby dragon down below. They’re unlucky on a ship. One wrong move and my crew could revolt.”
It’s already been nearly two weeks since I welcomed the new year with my to-do list in hand. I’ve been busy taking down Christmas, setting 2020 goals and getting organized. But it hasn’t all been work. My sister and I did make time to go see “Little Women” (more about that in a later blog).
I usually take a little break from writing toward the end of December and this year was no different, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I’m still learning to navigate Windows 10 and how to self-publish with Amazon. Lots of trial and error and throwing myself across the keyboard, muttering obscenities. But I won’t give up.
As you can see in the photo above, it’s been been been cold, gray and rainy for the past few days, so I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the computer with mugs of tea or coffee, homemade Cheesy Vegetable Soup and Zucchini Bread to keep up my strength. Tomorrow I’m going to try Cabbage Soup.
Sometime soon, I’ll post an excerpt from the next book I’m republishing, Xander’s Tangled Web, a fun little Romantic Fantasy.