Thursday, November 29, 2012

Booking Through Thursday

Today's question is really three --can you imagine yourself NOT being a reader?  How does it shape your life?  Your perception of it?

The answer to the first question is easy. In a word, no.  When I was small, before I could read, I was fascinated watching my mother read.  When I learned to read, it was my favorite pastime.  I loved to go to the local library, especially in the winter, grab a few books and go home and read.  Of course, there was not much television -- we only had three channels -- no internet  or social media so books were my way to explore the world.  Some of my favorite books were about children in other countries and other cultures.  I managed to work my way through most of our required reading lists all through elementary school.  As I grew, my taste in reading changed and I had to have my share of things like "Gidget" and any number of other romantic sorts of things but even those were "educational" in a sense.  We were required to read for school in addition to our regular texts and I enjoyed it.  After I got out of school, I continued to read for pleasure and, in fact, found my daughter' s name in a book.  There has never been a book far from my hand, or my purse.

How does it shape my life?  Well, I am a strong believer that "knowledge is power" and where better to attain knowledge than from books.  It doesn't matter if you are in a directed classroom or doing independent learning -- if you have a book and the desire to learn something then you can do anything. I also use reading as a stress reliever.  I find nothing more relaxing than sitting down with a good book, a cookie and a cuppa, allowing myself to be transported to wherever the book is set and just get lost.  I find that an hour with a good book is probably as good as any drug.

How does reading shape my perception of life?  In the first place, when I read, I not only see the world as being wide open to me, I realize how small I am and how much there is out there for me to learn.  I also realize, when reading historical things, how far our society has come and how our life is so different than it was  when this country was founded and even beyond that.   The one genre that has made this possible more than any other is blog reading.  I find it fascinating that I can log on to the computer and read blogs from all over the world written by women of all ages and learn their concerns, their likes, their dislikes and what they do.  I find they aren't so different from me.

I feel like my world would be quite narrow if I didn't read -- regardless of what I read or how I get the information.  I can't imagine being in that situation.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Reading Challenge

It is pretty evident that I am not going to be able to finish the 2012 Reading Challenge with the 25 books that I had as my goal.  I came closer this year, and will be able to add a couple of more, but will fall short by a couple.  Next year will be better -- I think.

I just finished the latest book in my queue -- "The Little Stranger" by Sarah Waters.  It was reasonably lengthy -- just shy of 400 pages -- and took me a little longer than I had wanted it to.  I have read two other works of Waters, one of which I enjoyed, so I thought I would give this one a go and I have to say that it did not disappoint although it was a bit draggy in places, I thought.

It is the story of Caroline Ayers and Dr. Faraday with subplots concerning Caroline's mother and brother, Roderick.  It is a tragic story of a tragic family and it all started with the death of the eldest Ayers child -- Susan.  It is clearly a ghost story but it is only implied who the ghost is and the involvement of the ghost is vague -- not to be believed by most of the characters involved with the family.  I would like to say it ends well and, in regards to the parlor maid, Betty, it does but the ending is bittersweet and leaves the reader wondering about the stability of Dr. Faraday in regards to his attachment  to the house -- The Hundreds.

It is a good read -- I was able to stay with it and, at the end, couldn't put it down but that is usually my reading style.  It was "scary" enough to be a ghost story but much more psychological and frightening in a whole other way.  I will say, it makes me very glad that I am not privileged to own an old -- really old -- English manor house.  I think I would move after reading this.

I recommend this book but maybe on a sunny day.  If you are affected by SAD, the gloominess of the setting in this book might be just a bit much.
All Too Familiar --

It is post-Thanksgiving -- that time that we all sit and commiserate over what we have done (eaten).  We are loping toward another holiday that pretty much centers around all things excessive -- food, alcohol, shopping -- not  necessarily in that order.  We are all looking toward the New Year, as well, replete with it's resolutions.  I am not good at any of this.  I don't overeat on Thanksgiving because I cook it and once the marathon cooking has taken place, I can't be bothered to eat it.  I don't drink and I don't like shopping so all the "fun" stuff of the season is wasted on me.  Resolutions?  Eh, just something to be broken as soon as they are written.  Again -- not my gig.

However, there is one thing I need to do.  I need to lose weight.  Between my weight and the hard flooring I live with, my feet and knees are aging at an alarming rate and something must be done.  Would I like to wear smaller clothes with a better variety?  Of course.  Would I like to think I had never let myself get to this point?  Uh, yes -- it is a bit embarrassing.  Can I blame it all on heredity?  Well, that is a question, now, isn't it?  I come from a family of short  people.  For the longest time I was the tallest child, measuring 5'5.5" in my prime.  I kept that honor until my youngest cousin was born and she grew to an adult height of about 5'8".  I have now  lost about  1.25" inches which only makes the weight issue more of an -- well -- issue.  My father claimed to be 5'10" -- he was really 5'8" and my mother was 5'1".  So, we are a bit vertically challenged.  My weight would be perfect if I were, say, 6'8".  If you look at body shape -- well, I look just like my father who tended to be a bit Alfred Hitchcock--ish -- as did his father and my son has followed suit.  Overweight? Yes but the body type is there regardless of weight.  Not much to be done about that. But, working within the parameters of things I cannot change -- I still have to solve the weight issue.

I have successfully lost weight twice in my life -- rather large quantities of weight --so you can see this has been an ongoing issue for me since my early 20's.  Each time I have lost weight I have done it by calorie counting.  Yes, a calorie counter (small, grocery store checkout line sort of book) and a spiral notebook were my weapons of choice the first time.

The second time was similar only with a bigger calorie counter and the added assistance of informative labels and the internet.  I have been trying to just "watch" what I eat which I do quite well -- it just doesn't limit me.  I have tried Weight Watchers online but can't do it because I resent having to pay to use the system plus I think the system just encourages diet foods full of junk we don't need.  I don't eat artificial sweeteners because they make my heart do disturbing flippity flops.

So, I will be starting calorie counting again.  I won't use a spiral notebook this time but rather the Lose It! app for my Nook.  It is easy and I usually always have my Nook with me so it is a good way to log what I eat when I am out.  Calorie counts for fast food are readily available now so there is no excuse for not being able to do it.  I won't be waiting until the New Year -- my New Year starts today.

Exercise -- yeah, well, that is an issue as well.  Arthritis limits what I can do but I think I will go back and do things old school -- sit ups, toe touching, that sort of thing.  I have a Tony Little Gazelle and a tv in my room which is ok but my knees can only take so much however, they can take the 30 minutes a day that is recommended so we will see.

I will let you know how it goes.  Maybe I will add a sidebar to show my calorie counts.  You won't find my weight up there, no sir, but maybe I will post the weight loss.  Maybe that is just too boring.

However, I am now off to eat my cup of raisin bran and half cup of milk.  I have already put it in the calorie counter so I guess that means I have officially started my new project.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Let the Decorating Commence!

It is Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  The food is gone, the moment passed, it is now time to move forward, head on, into Christmas!  I am a bit more organized this year.  I have completed the shopping for my grandchildren.  My own children are all grown up and really prefer money so that is easy.  The Hubs usually gives me a list -- mostly mail-order things so that is good.  All in all, I think I am doing ok.

I was a bit annoyed yesterday, however.  I allowed myself to go to Target and Michael's late yesterday afternoon -- something I never do on the day after Thanksgiving and for a brief moment I thought I was   "late" with the holiday.  Naturally things were in a horrible disarray but that isn't what was so perplexing.  The problem that I was having was the complete lack of Christmas-y things to begin with.  Usually Target has an abundance of wrapping and decorations and this year there were only two aisles dedicated to the holiday.  Maybe the company should re-evaluate their huge remodel and go back to the days of less glitz and more merchandise.

I was also annoyed at Michael's.  I went looking for small beads for a cross stitch project and their needlework department in this particular store is appalling -- I could practically hold all the products in my arms! So, off  to Joann's I went and I realized that I really need to visit my cute little local needlework store which isn't so local.  It is The Stitch Niche in Arlington -- not far but not around the corner, either. Going there takes up a morning by the time you figure the drive back and forth with the traffic and then the time spent in the store which is never really short.  It is one of those stores that you can't walk into, pick up what you want and leave.  It lures you in.  It is one of those charming, magical places that is small, packed full of merchandise and, while it it is well organized, you still have to look through things to find what you what you want and that is like opening Pandora's box!
Anyway, I digress.  

Today will be spent decorating the house.  We put up the Christmas Village which has now become the Hubs project -- thank goodness -- he is much better at it than I am.  All that is left to do on that is the accessorizing and decorating the tree that is in the middle of the "village".  For the last couple of years I have been putting up a "big" tree in addition to the tree in the village but since we will not be home for Christmas this year I decided to dispense with that tree and just add a few little decorations around the house -- a few candles, some decorative hand towels in the guest bath -- that sort of thing.  I usually hang stockings -- a couple of generic, monogrammed ones made from blue velvet for Hubs and me and then I hang two handmade (from a kit) stockings that my grandmother made for my children on their first Christmas.  My son was only 20 days old when he first used his -- my daughter was three months old so these have been around for a while, used each year and are showing their age but each year when I hang them I remember my grandmother and smile and that is what it is all about.

So, now that the morning tea has been consumed, it is time to get busy.  I will be done with my part long before the Hubs is done with his -- he definitely has the more labor intensive job.  Perhaps photos will follow.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, November 23, 2012

First Movie of the Christmas Season

After a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving meal with family, after everybody departed for their own homes, after the dishes were loaded in the dishwasher and the remains of the meal properly put away, the Hubs and  sat down to enjoy the first movie of the holiday season.  I had originally decided to watch my favorite, all-time movie "The Bell's of St. Mary's" with the iconic Bing Crosby but, as we scrolled through the guide on the TV I discovered "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story".  I own the DVD but we decided to DVR it and watch it later.   However, when "later" got here I was so sleepy I only got halfway through it and had to retire. any dedicated Christmas  movie watchers would do -- we finished it this morning!

This was a made for TV movie and was, I suppose, the pilot for the series "The Waltons".  Most of the cast was the same as the TV show, save the character Olivia Walton who was portrayed by the great actress Patricia Neal.  John Walton was played by Andrew Duggan and Grandpa was played by Edgar Bergen.

I enjoyed this movie much more than "Spencer's Mountain" which was also based on the life of Earl Hamner, Jr.  It was set in the same time period as the TV series and I have always been a big fan of Richard Thomas so I thought it more realistic.

So, that is the start of my Christmas movie watching.  I don't know what will be next -- stay tuned to find out!

As far as today is going - I am stitching! All day! Leftover for dinner, Hubs is putting up the Christmas village and I am just allowing myself to sit and enjoy a hobby that I usually do in snatches.  This is the project -- and I am zipping right along with it and having a wonderful time!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I am not going to lie, Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday.  It is a ton of work for so little reward.  We have had some pretty miserable Thanksgivings in the past and that always seems to be in the forefront of my mind each year as I boil mounds of potatoes for salad and stand on my feet for hours chopping and compiling and trying to please everybody.  However, with that said, I love the smell of the house after all that effort, I love the gathering of the family under my roof -- a couple of hours with my family together at home is worth all the effort and, of course, it is the kick-off to the best season of the year -- Christmastide!

So, after we gather together this evening, say our prayers for all the blessings we have been granted this year (and there have been many) and try not to eat ourselves into oblivion, the Christmas movie watching will ensue.  I have a rather sizable stack of Christmas-y DVD's and I love to go through them each year and enjoy a few to get me into the spirit.  I am not sure what I will start with, maybe my favorite "The Bell's of St. Mary's" with it's infamous Nativity play scene.  I will see what the Hubs would like to see and go from there.

Then tomorrow -- yes, it is Christmas full steam ahead.  Hubs is already working on the Christmas village set up -- improving it and making it easier to do -- pics will follow.  I think by Sunday all will be set up and ready to go.  This year I am determined to get everything set  up early enough so that I can actually enjoy it, not be in such a rush and not be so late so that I feel like I have to take it right back down!

Now, I just have to find Tuppy -- my elf on the shelf -- I know he is here somewhere -- Tuppy, where are you?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

And the Oscar Goes To----

I love movies.  I have always loved movies.  My family loved movies.  As I child, I spent many hours at one of our neighborhood theaters -- the Olmos -- watching movies with either my parents or my cousin, JLSHall.  There were many Saturday evenings that we walked to El Rancho Mexican Restaurant, across the street from the theater, had dinner and then went to the movies.  It was all so exciting but what was even more exciting was having my mom pick me up from school and, instead of going home, we went to the movie where they had been for the afternoon and were finishing up the film.  I saw "Porgy and Bess" one of those particular times.  I have to say that all of my dates with my husband were to movies with the occasional exception of a school dance.  So, without a doubt, movies have been a huge part of my life.

It is rare that I actually go to a movie theater these days.  They are too expensive and, quite honestly, I have never liked crowds so I prefer to watch my movies via Netflix or cable stations.  I do enjoy on-demand viewing as well and that is how I saw a movie reviewed  by my friend Gill at That British Woman.  

The movie, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", was one that I had been wanting to see anyway but after Gill had reviewed it she  asked her American followers what they thought about the all- British cast and whether we appreciated the typical British humor and I felt compelled to watch the movie and let her know my opinions.  Actually, it was a great excuse to watch something besides sports!

I enjoyed the movie completely but then it was a showcase for many of my favorite actors.  I love Judi Dench and Bill Nighy.  I loved Celie Imrie in that comedy she used to play in -- can't remember the title -- and she was just as enjoyable in this film.  Maggie Smith -- what can I say -- she is in a class of actresses that I fear is never to be repeated -- well, except for possibly Meryl Streep.  

The humor didn't escape me but then I have watched enough  British television and movies in my life -- not to mention talking with my son-in-law -- that I have a good working knowledge of the language differences, the dry sense of humor, the sarcastic nuances.  

It was a great movie and I will watch it again which brings me to the subject of "watching it again".  Joy and I used to watch movies, in a theater, over and over.  Sometimes we would sit through them twice, sometimes we would make it another Saturday outing but I can't remember the number of times we viewed "West Side Story" or "The Longest Day".  My favorites were the musicals and my poor husband had to endure "Funny Girl" about three times -- and now I have it on DVD and he retreats.

Recently I have been  watching a lot of movies and, when I get "down" or nostalgic or don't feel well,
 I tend to revisit the movies of my youth.  The changing seasons make me a bit sentimental so, it comes as no surprise to me that my recent viewings were older choices. 

The Hubs and I enjoyed watching "Spencer's Mountain"  (1963) with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara.  It was based on the writings of Earl Hamner and was the movie that the television series "The Waltons" was based on.  However, it was more modern day than the television series and I have to say I much preferred "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" (1971) with Patricia Neal and Richard Thomas.  It took place in the depression era, as the television series did, and I just preferred it.  "The Homecoming" is in  my queue of Christmas movies that I watch each year.

Another movie that we watched was a favorite when I was a young teenager -- "The World of Suzie Wong" with William Holden and Nancy Kwan.  It is the story of a beautiful Chinese prostitute working in Hong Kong.  Her path crosses that of William Holden, an relationship ensues, a tragedy occurs and there is still a happy ending as only could be found in a 1963 movie.  One might ask why I, as a thirteen year old, was watching a movie about a prostitute -- well, trust me -- it was completely benign and not at all unsuitable for a 13 year old -- by today's standards, it was absolutely Disney.  I have seen this movie any number of times and it is still a tear jerker for me and I enjoy it every time I see it.

I really enjoy watching vintage movies -- especially when the weather changes.  The only thing better than curling up to watch an old movie is curling up with a good book! I will talk about that next time.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Promises, Promises...

Yes, there will be a new blog entry this weekend.  During my blogging hiatus, I have been doing some moving watching, some book reading, some cross stitching and lots of baby sitting.  I was running out of things to talk about so I sort of had to actually DO something so I would have something to blog about!

So, I now have a few things to talk about so I will be reporting before the end of the weekend!

Yay!  Miss me?  I missed you!