Kids and Imaginations

When one of my grandsons was younger, I brought a whole truckload of styrofoam packaging home from work. Nothing special. Just something they were going to trash. My husband thought I was crazy, but Caleb had so much fun. First he used them like giant Legos. Built forts and castles. And then he got another idea. Construct a suit of armor. You can tell by his face he was dead serious about getting it just right. That’s when his big sister dubbed him the “knight in packaging armor.”

Kids and imaginations. They go together. Even though he turned 13 this year, he still has one. And I’m betting he’ll never grow out of it.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Meet Joe Black

The movie stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Claire Forlani. The screenplay is loosely based on the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. It was the second pairing of Hopkins and Pitt after Legends of The Fall.

His daughter, Susan, is considering marriage, but her father can tell that she is not passionately in love. He tells her “Stay open. Who knows? Lightning could strike!”

Joe Black (Death) arrives at Bill’s home in the body of a young man, explaining that Bill’s words have piqued his interest. Susan falls in love with Joe. She tells him she has loved him ever since that day in the coffee shop. Joe is attracted to her as well, but he realizes he must set aside his own desires and allow Susan to live her life. Bill makes his peace with his daughters.

This is one of those movies that makes you think about truly important things in life. It doesn’t really matter how long it takes to recognize them as long as you do, because you’ll never be truly content until then. Also, Anthony Hopkins is one of my favorite actors.

Susan meets Joe at an old fashioned diner. One of my favorite places to eat. Especially for breakfast. Everything is fresh and hot. Served with strong, hot coffee and pancakes if you’re lucky!

Yesterday

This is something I wrote a long time ago. One of the first things I ever submitted to a contest. Needless to say, it’s gone through some editing since I won first place with it. A writer never stops tweaking!

These days, I just sit out on the front porch in a daze.  My family doesn’t know what to do with me. To them, I’m an old woman living in the past. They don’t know I can time travel. Snicker all you want, but it’s true.     

Anything can trigger it. A gentle breeze lifting the hair on my arms, the sound of someone’s voice, smells like honeysuckle or roses, children’s laughter. The memories come, faded at first like old black and white photographs of days gone by. And if I concentrate on them long enough, I’m young again, full of hopes and dreams and promises.

It’s a trip. Sparks of emotion exploding into fireworks. An aching lump in my throat. Joy mixed with regret. Bittersweet. Too much to bear sometimes, but I can’t stop myself. 

When I was young, I charged ahead at breakneck speed without savoring precious moments or taking the time to breathe. Learned my lesson far too late. Now I take my time. Close my eyes and watch everything unfold again. 

This is where I want to be from now on…

Purple Sage

I have purple sage growing on the east side of my front porch. I planted it several years ago for a little variety, hoping it would be as hardy as the nonflowering shrubs along the front. June and July can be mighty hot and dry in Texas. But sage blooms gorgeous purple flowers when we do get rain.

A few months ago I trimmed it back because it had gotten a little spindly. Don’t know if that had anything to do with it but when I went outside after a shower, I noticed it had bloomed more than ever before. Isn’t it pretty?

August has arrived

Can you believe it? Just yesterday I was putting out the flag for Memorial Day. Making plans for my grandson’s second birthday. Looking forward to plans for the 4th. Counting the days until vacation. And now it’s August 1st. Where does the time go?

Like it or not, it’s time to start thinking about shopping for school supplies and clothes. Spend a weekend at the lake while there’s still time and the weather’s still good. Go swimming, cook out, make homemade ice cream!

Enjoy it while you can before it’s gone!

Dinner and a Movie Monday – The Bookshop

The Bookshop is a 2017 film written and directed by Isabel Coixet, based on the novel of the same nameby Penelope Fitzgerald.[2The film stars Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Nighy. It was shot in Portaferry and Strangford, County Down, Northern Ireland, and in Barcelona. The cinematography was spectacular.

Set in the late 1950s, the film opens with an explanatory voice-over narration. Florence Green, a widow, has decided to open a bookshop in the small coastal town of Hardborough, Suffolk, acquiring as her premises the Old House, a damp and abandoned property that has been standing empty for many years. After refurbishing it and moving in, she learns that Violet Gamart, an influential and ambitious local resident, had privately earmarked the Old House for her own pet project, a local arts centre – a project that she has no intention of dropping even though the property is no longer empty. Aided by several of the townspeople Mrs Gamart attempts to get Florence evicted, and the shop closed down.

Florence’s business does well enough for her to need help in the shop from Christine, the young daughter of a neighbour. Their best customer is the wealthy bookish recluse Edmund Brundish, who begins to have feelings for Florence as she introduces him to new authors. Learning of the threats to Florence’s business, he volunteers to emerge from his seclusion, to visit Mrs Gamart and tell her to desist. But despite everything, things do not go well.

This was a movie that touched my heart. Florence and Mr. Brundish were drawn together by their love of books. She had the courage to pursue her dream, despite a rich woman’s meddling, and he admired that.

This is a movie I recommend. It made me think about the characters and their story long after I finished watching it. And I loved the music as well.

Quick Apple Cake Recipe

When Mr. Brundish invited Florence to tea, he served a delicious looking bundt cake with it. This easy recipe makes a large cake with quite a few servings. 

Ingredients

  • apples
  • Eggs
  • 2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Light Olive Oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cup Flour
  • 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • Oil for baking pan
  • Brown Sugar

Instructions

  • Combine together eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract and salt. Using a mixer, beat until mixture is fluffy.
  • In small parts, mix flour and baking powder into the egg mixture.
  • Peel and grate apples on a large side of the grater. Mix apples into the cake batter. Stir to combine everything together.
  • Spray baking dish with oil. Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour cake batter into the pan. Bake at 325F for about 50 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool to a room temperature. Enjoy!

Caleb’s Story (continued)

     An unearthly screeching came from out of the dark. Far back into the depths of the mine. It echoed in the air, growing louder and coming closer.

     “Hold him.” Owen handed the baby dragon to Caleth and drew his sword. Chills raced over the boy’s shoulders and down his arms. He couldn’t decide whether to run or hide, so he stood still, clutching Mowg to his chest with shaking hands.

     Floren raised his axe and Misa raised her wand. They stood in a circle. That way they’d have each other’s back. The elf grabbed him by the arm and shoved him in between them. He crouched down and made himself as small as he could. Mowg buried his head in the boy’s chest and shivered like a leaf.

     The first wave of man bats came at them, circling so fast they were only a blur. Somehow Misa managed to zap them with her wand. And as soon as they hit the ground, Owen or Floren lopped their heads off.

     For a while, it seemed like creatures would never stop coming. Calebth wondered how many there could be, but he didn’t dare look to see. And then everything went quiet. A few moments later, Owen grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet.

     Floren aimed a kick at one of the carcasses. “That should be the last of them. Might be a straggler or two, but they won’t hang around. They’re cowards unless there’s a swarm.”

     A terrible odor rose up. Misa pinched her nose. “Oh, my stars. That’s awful. Why do they smell so bad?”

     Floren shrugged. “Beats me. Too late to ask now.”

     “Where is this gold you were telling us about?” Owen said as he wiped his blade clean. “We need to retrieve it and leave this place before anything else happens.”

     “This way.” The dwarf led them farther into the cave. Calebth noticed rocks glittering in the torch light. Floren bent down, plucked one off the ground and held it up for them to see. “I told you so. Didn’t I?”    

     They dropped to their knees and gathered up enough nuggets to fill a small bag within minutes. Owen got to his feet. “That’s more than enough. No need to be greedy. Let’s get out of here now.”

     Floren took them another way out so they wouldn’t run into the goblin brothers who were probably still lurking at the main entrance. They traveled until sunset, stopped at an old abandoned mill and made camp for the night. Misa went down to the river and caught three or four fat salmon. She brought them back to Calebth. “You can grill these for our dinner.”

     His heart sank. The boy knew how to start a fire, but that’s about as far as it went. He didn’t know the first thing about grilling fish. He chewed on his bottom lip and pondered. How hard could it be? A little wild onion, salt, and pepper. Spear them with a sharpened stick and put it over the fire to cook. That’s what Granny always did.  

     He crouched at the edge of the coals to keep an eye on things. It was nice and warm. Made him yawn. He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew Floren had grabbed the stick and was waving it around, trying to extinguish the flames.

    “You’ve ruined our supper!”

      Calebth blinked at him.

     “What’s wrong with you?”

     “I’m sorry. I-I guess I fell asleep.”

       Misa scraped off a spot and winked at Calebth. “It’s just blackened a little on the outside. Makes for a smoky taste.” She scraped off a spot and took a bite. “It’s fine.”

       While they were arguing over whether or not it could be eaten, Owen sat on a rock a few feet away, alone except for Mowg. The little dragon wouldn’t let the ranger get out of his sight. He followed him everywhere, tipping his head from side to side like a puppy and squeaking like he was trying to talk.

     Owen frowned. “What is he trying to say? Can any of you speak dragon?”

     Misa laughed. “Pretty sure he thinks you’re his mommy.”

     “How can that be?”

     “Makes sense,” Calebth said. “You were the first thing he saw when he hatched.”

      Floren snorted and fell over, laughing.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Eilis Lacey is a young woman from a small town in southeast Ireland, where she lives with her mother and sister, Rose. Eilis is unhappy with her life. She sees no future there. Her sister writes to an Irish priest in Brooklyn who arranges for her to travel to New York City.

where she takes bookkeeping classes and meets Italian-American Tony Fiorello and falls in love.When her sister suddenly dies of an undisclosed illness she had kept secret, Eilis tells Tony she must return home. He shows her a plot of land on Long Island that he intends to build a house for them on and proposes. Eilis seems hesitant but agrees. They marry at the courthouse without telling anyone.

Once back in Ireland, Eilis temporarily takes her late sister’s old bookkeeping job and gets attention from a wealthy bachelor. A completely different life than the one she left behind in Brooklyn. When gossip goes round about Eilis, she’s reminded of what life was really like living in this small town. She leaves for Brooklyn the next day because she wants to be with her husband. On the crossing, she offers guidance to a young woman making her own first trip to Brooklyn.

Eilis makes her journey from Ireland to New York in the 1950s, along with approximately 50,000 other immigrants (around a quarter of which moved to New York) as a part of the second minor wave of migration. Many of these citizens were in search of steadier jobs and a happier lifestyle. There were also smaller surges of immigrants from many other countries at this time, leading to modern day America becoming a vast land of many different cultures. You’ll enjoy this movie. Saoirse Ronan takes us through her journey to New York. We see her courage and determination while she struggles to pursue her version of the American dream.

Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name. It has been named one of “The 10 best historical novels” in 2012. The novel and the film have equally been praised for their refreshing perspective on the plight of the Irish immigrant. They both depict a realistic story.

Irish Stew

The ingrediants for Irish Stew depend on who you ask. Traditionally, it’s made with neck mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. Others would add such items as carrots, turnips and pearl barley; but the purists maintain that they spoil the true flavour of the dish. The ingredients are boiled and simmered slowly for up to two hours.

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Please use beef chuck stew meat that is well marbled with fat. Lean stew meat will end up too dry.

Save prep time by prepping the onions, carrots, and potatoes while the stock with beef is simmering in step 2.

  • 1 1/4 pounds well-marbled chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 3 teaspoons of salt (more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups beef stock or broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of Guinness extra stout
  • 1 cup of hearty red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots and/or parsnips (3 to 4 carrots or parsnips)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

The Wall

AT THE VIETNAM WALL

because i never knew you
nor did you me
          i come

because you left behind mother,
father and betrothed
and i wife and children
          i come

because love is stronger than enmity
and can bridge oceans
          i come

because you never return
and i do
i come

          DUONG TUONG Washington, D. C., November 21, 1995

The older I get the more I think about our country and the sacrifices some have made on its behalf. Especially on days like today. I came across this poem, wtitten by Duong Tuong, a Vietnamese writer after visiting the wall in l995. I love its touching simplicity. A child of the 60s, I witnessed daily casualty count on the evening news and saw college students protesting while others burned our flag.

The thing I remember the most was the day my high school principal came over the loudspeaker and requested a moment of silence for a former student who’d graduated only months earlier and had enlisted. He was killed shortly after he arrived in Vietnam.

I remember seeing him in the halls at school. A nice guy. Always smiling. Barely 18. Just a kid. Gone in a minute. Someone I knew. Someone my age. That’s when I realized the war was real.