Weekly Photo Challenge: Weight or Weightlessness

What an appropriate topic for this week’s Photo Challenge. I don’t think much about being weightless, but I do think a lot about weight.  I am not alone in that. The most popular New Year’s Resolution in the world is weight loss.  Let it be known that I’m resolving right this second to lose weight. (Whew, glad that’s over!)

In our small town of Woodlake, California, the Kiwanis Club hosts a “Run for Hunger” event every April. Those of us who have plenty of food, lots of energy, and maybe a bit more weight than we want or need pay to run three miles around Bravo Lake to raise money to buy food to stock the Woodlake Food Pantry for those who don’t have enough food to eat.

Weight

Most of the contestants are fit. Kiwanis feeds them a pancake breakfast after they finish. No one ever turns it down!  This quest for weight watching and keeping in shape begins early here in Woodlake, and is quite well dressed, wouldn’t you agree?

Weight2

The idea of watching our weight is episodic worldwide. We engage in long never-ending periods of various exercises,

Weight 3

trying to remove the effects of depositing morsels of tastiness which take so little time to consume.

Weight4

The trainer we had on our vacation in Hawaii suggested that the only way to lose weight is to pay attention to what we put into our mouths.

I was hoping there was another way, weren’t you?

Click here to see what other people have to share about weight and weightlessness.

Road to Hana: Exploring a Lava Tube at Black Sand Beach

Do you want to camp in Maui? Well you can’t. But you get around that law.  Simply tell the police who come by your tent and tell you to leave that you are fishing. Then it’s ok to spend the night. If you don’t want that much worry, you can head down the Hana Highway to Wai’anapanapa State Park and the black sandy beaches. It’s ok to camp here once you reach it.Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube13

Our Road to Hana tour guide, Jack the Legend, gave us about 50 minutes to hike the half mile trail to the beach or lookout points.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube 15

I stopped to take pictures with Manny.  Carol and Glen toured on, and when I looked up, they had disappeared. I thought they MUST have gone to see the Lava Tube, which looked to me like the most interesting doable of the choices.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava

If you are looking for the perfect spot to pitch your tent my advice is to avoid the lava tube. I followed these legs into the tube. The legs did not belong to either Glen or Carol.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube1

Walking carefully to avoid turning my sandals on their sides in the squishy rocks, I stumbled through entrance.  Sniffing around I didn’t smell anything particularly noteworthy to report, even though my other senses should have been heightened because vision was somewhat impaired. After adjusting to the dark, I glanced around to find Mr. and Mrs. ET.Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube12

I couldn’t believe they weren’t there, so I perched Manny up higher to take another look. He came up with the null set as well.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube3

You can see that this little room housed several visitors scouting out possible camp sites for the next visit. Waves lapped the entrance of the cave, but brought no crabs, starfish or other sea critters. Natural food would be no more plentiful for us here in the warm waters of Maui Hawaii than it is for the whales.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube11

The lava tube features a lovely skylight.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube8

The black-sand beach was created by a lava flow several hundred years ago.  A local warned us that it’s bad luck to carry away the sand, so if you are camping, be particularly careful to clean off all adhesive sand from your tent inside and out.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava tube14

Manny checked out the rocky comfort level. He said in his returned Australian accent, “I’ll give this place a pass.”

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube 17

So we got back on the tour bus and headed on down the Hana Highway.

Hawaii 2016 Hana Lava Tube 18

 

POKE Tacos and the Need for a Strong Vocabulary

All six of us were hungry for hamburgers and Hula Pie, but we had an hour wait just to sit down at Hula Grill – the informal side with chairs and tables in the sand. I made an executive decision and checked the adjoining restaurant. That side served Hula Pie and is run by the same company. The last time we ate there it was delicious and elegant.

Poke Ahi Tuna Experience
Poke Ahi Tuna Experience

The beadboard wall featured an elegant Hawaiian wall hanging quilt. Some of the tables have white tablecloths. Ours had placemats. I looked at the menu; nothing looked totally definable, and the prices were fairly elegant as well.

Ever since I heard the silly guinea pig travelers, the Roadents, arguing about getting fish tacos at the Beef Barn, I order fish tacos almost every time we travel somewhere.

It’s festive somehow. The fish tacos tasted great at Lalanis across the mall from Hula Grill.

Hula Grill Hawaii 9

Hula Grill, the informal side, also has amazing fish tacos. I found the perfect solution at the expensive Hula Grill side – Poke Ahi tuna tacos. I was somewhat irritated at myself for not reading carefully enough to notice that there was a wasabi drizzle on top, but I figured I could cope with a little spice or scrape it off. Hula Grill, the informal side, has spicy salsa so tasty that I purchased some for gifts last time I came here. So I was prepared to experiment.

Poke Ahi Tuna Experience
Poke Ahi Tuna Experience

When the tacos arrived, the red stuff inside concerned me somewhat, but I figured they added peppers or some vegetable. I bit into it. The first thing I noticed was that even though it tasted like fish, the whole thing felt cold and somewhat squishy. I jolted, and probably made a face.

“Is this raw?” I asked my husband.

“Yes, it was in the raw section of the menu,” he answered. He probably thought, “Didn’t you notice that enormous printing in the heading?”

“But there were other things in that section that weren’t raw,” Darrel added kindly.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” I said.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Carol said backing me up.

Poke Ahi Tuna Experience
Poke Ahi Tuna Experience      I’m done now.

I asked for a box, and ate the guacamole. I told the waiter I would go home and cook it. Glen suggested that it might have microbes. Connie made a funny face. She hates microbes.

I waited for Hula Pie.

Poke Ahi Tuna Experience
Poke Ahi Tuna Experience

V told me to leave the boxed microbes behind when we left Hula Grill.

Moral of the story: If you don’t know the meaning of the word on the menu, think twice before you order it, or possibly Google the word to make sure it doesn’t mean “raw fish.” :)

 

 

Whale Watching Off the Coast Of Maui

whalewatching 4

Whale season in Hawaii is November through February. V doesn’t like boats, so I enjoyed whale watching with friends.

IMG_5201
Yes, that’s the original Justin Beaver with Manny enjoying whale watching together.

Whales come here to lose weight, date and have children. Sometimes they are pretty active even though they don’t eat for six months.

Whalewatching2
My best shot all morning

I lose steam after about four hours of not eating, but they blow off steam constantly.

You might not know whether this one is flapping or blowing off steam, but either way, he's active.
You might not know whether this one is flapping or blowing off steam, but either way, he’s active.

With thousands of whales to choose from, I thought I would capture an amazing shot of a whale smiling at me like to the one in the poster.

whalewatching 5

Most of the time you stare at the sea and see nothing but waves.

See the whale? Can you tell it from the waves? OK maybe there isn't one.
See the whale? Can you tell it from the waves? OK maybe there isn’t one.

Eventually you begin to imagine that whitecaps or undulations might be whales just getting ready to surface, so you keep staring. Then you get tired of staring, and turn to your friends and snap their pictures. Carol caught a great shot of a flipping tail splashing water.  I turned away for a second and  captured Darrel and Connie against the sun, which I thought was just as magnificent.

whalewatching 7

I spent most of my time on the right side of the boat, staring at 1:00, which is where most of the activity took place. Then I heard shouts from the other side of the boat, and rushed over there, leaving my perfect viewpoint. About that time the whales at 1:00 surfaced and I got this picture.

whalewatching 8

Then I moved closer to get a better shot, and got this.

whalewatching 9

We had a great time, and loved the trip. Manny is going to write about his take later. He learned a lot as well, and made some new friends.

Some people can whalewatch standing on one foot.
Some people can whalewatch standing on one foot.

And this was NOT a tall tail tale.

whalewatching 10The end :)

Christmas Greetings

Christmas love can happen all year. This family gathering took place in Delaware in November when I visited my mom’s cousin, Hal. Marvin Awbrey sent me a series of children’s quotes about love.  I put the two expressions of love together to send to you. Lots of love to my WordPress friends. Thanks for following. :)
Nov. Dinner at Hal's copy2

Wine and Dining 

Vince shocked me a few months ago when the announced as we drove to lunch in Visalia one beautiful October day that I didn’t like to cook. I had my defense ready.

“I don’t mind cooking.”

Needless to say I lost that argument before it even got warmed up.

Actually I’m a good cook, but Vince is right, if I have a choice of filing, making the bed or writing, I’m not at the stove.

So tonight, inspired by my friend and esthetician Carrie at Creekside Day Spa in Visalia, CA, I decided to wine and dine my husband. Here’s how she explained it to me. First you relax, and don’t expect to have everything done at the same time, and drink wine with every course.  All my life I have not been a wine drinker, so my sophistication level 0. The upside to that is that I have a strong liver and not as many dead brain cells as I might have had otherwise.  But for this evening we started with a glass of wine while I serve a delicious appetizer.

There is no recipe for this, and I don’t know what you call it, but the ingredients are chopped vegetables fried in olive oil until some of them are crispy. I used brussel sprouts – usually not anyone’s favorite, but trust me on this  – you will eat more than you should. Along with that I added in onions, red cabbage, canned corn, broccoli,celery, topped with kale. I sprinkled the mixture with chili powder, salt and pepper and served it topped with romano cheese. I toasted an English muffin topped with the same cheese, and we spooned the vegetables onto the bread, and downed it with a pink moscato.
  This process was somewhat messy and took about 20 minutes, so I had everything started before he came home. I think Carrie’s idea was to have both partners working together in the kitchen. It’s taken us twenty years to work politely together in the kitchen. (He’s bossy, and I leave if he irritates me too much. Then he leaves, and I come back and do it my way. We are working on our social skills, but today I did it my way.)

We ate course #1 then went out into the yard and did a few chores while the soup heated in the crock pot. I used most of the same vegetables in the minestrone soup, so that meant that I didn’t have to chop twice. I added canned tomatoes, black beans and carrots to the soup, which I didn’t use in the appetizer. I have never made minestrone soup because I don’t usually like it, so I looked online, and discovered a recipe, and altered it to match my groceries. It called for white beans, but I didn’t have them. In my older age, I have no compunction about substituting. I can remember being tied to recipes thinking that if I didn’t follow them to the tee, the kitchen god would kick me out of the kitchen, and I’d never have to cook again.  The soup cooked during the entire appetizer process, then I  tossed in the penne pasta for about 10 minutes.
  We topped the soup with Romano cheese too, and let it drip down our chins. A little wine, and who cares?  We chose a red moscato to go with this course. While Vince worked in the yard a bit, I finished cooking the meat sauce for the lasagna.  That was the joy to this process. We didn’t rush through dinner. In fact it wasn’t even dinner time when we started.

Not very fancy, but easy to clean up. The plates came from Target, and my car-guy hubby like them better than our fancy Christmas plates.

I make lasagna at Christmas and Thanksgiving because my Italian husband prefers it to turkey. Can you imagine anyone preferring anything to turkey at Christmas?


When we shopped this week, he snuck some hot sausage into the cart. He wanted it chopped up and mixed into the hamburger. (blick, blah) I can see it here because it’s a little more orange, but I hope I can’t taste it.

recipe book copyI love this little recipe book. The women at our Nazarene Church in Cottage Grove had a going away party for my first husband and me when we went to Bible College in Colorado Springs, and this was their gift to me.  (Even though they knew I didn’t like to cook – pastor’s wives HAVE to cook, don’t they?) This recipe came from one of my best friends, Jan Norris.
Italian Delight copySee it looks pretty good. I didn’t follow the recipe perfectly, though. It has sausage and onion in it, but no garlic, and I don’t measure. The cheesy stuff consists of sour cream, cream cheese, and I used cottage cheese, too, but the recipe doesn’t call for that either, and it does call for green onions, which I never use. I sometimes use ricotta cheese because it’s more Italian, according to Vince.
  Once you get the cheese mixture combined you just have to layer it with the noodles. There are two layers of each.

Finally you add the cheddar cheese. This is the most time-consuming of the process. I don’t like to use a food processor, but I don’t have a good reason for that.

The only problem with Carrie’s great idea is that now Vince and I are way too full, to eat the main course tonight. But it’s done now, 4 hours after I started cooking.

So, you want to come to dinner?  I have plenty.  :) I also have a mess to clean up. Hmmm maybe that’s why I don’t “like” to cook. :)

Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas. Love you all, and wish you were here to taste my dinner. :)

Oops- We Waited One Day Too Long to Trade in Our Car: Eulogy to a Prius

We named her Pris. She was my baby for nine years, and we went everywhere together. She is my subject for this week’s WP Photo Challenge, Oops.

Pris1
See how glazed over her eyes are?

When her heart ruptured, I rushed her to the hospital and she underwent expensive heart replacement (hybrid battery) surgery, and we brought her home. Within just a few months she had another major attack, this time of her central nervous system (touch screen computer system). We took her back to the hospital, and the surgeons told us it would be $1,800 to put her back together correctly. I told Pris that was too much. She was not happy with me.

Her circulatory system was most affected by her central nerve damage. If she was cold we could press on the top of the screen to turn on the front and rear defroster even though the touchscreen buttons were on the bottom of the screen. If she had a hot flash, we could turn down the temperature of the air conditioner on the steering wheel, but her fan automatically came on full blast. (A real oops!) If we got tired of listening to her fan, we could turn it down by turning up the temperature on the steering wheel. That is not a problem in the winter, but when the outside temperature is 110 and her internal temperature is 130… (oops again)

We looked at cars for several weeks while Pris continued to limp along.  She tried to tell us the end was near. She dropped her rear view mirror and left it dangling by its cord. Vince stuck it back on. She complained because it was loose and it rubbed her windshield every time I hit a bump, but I ignored her complaining. She got in a little accident when someone backed into her at a stop sign – or she snuck up to kiss the car. We weren’t sure which, but she had to have plastic surgery. Even with insurance her face lift cost us $500. She showed wear around the door where her insulation started to sag. I told Vince I wasn’t paying for any more plastic surgery. One minute Vince could live with her for a few more months. At other times I could. Both of us should have known better.

Meanwhile Pris got sicker and sicker. One day she turned on her red triangle with the flashing exclamation point. She had leaked out all her oil in 1,000 miles. She was on a 3,000-mile checkup instead of 5,000 miles after her heart surgery. Vince filled her with expensive oil, and she felt better. She turned off her red triangle. He took her to have her oil changed about 500 miles later. Friday, she told us she would not go one mile farther, and she turned on her red triangle again. A sign appeared on her touchscreen to put her into park.

Vince and I finally HAD to agree on a car to replace Pris.  You can read about that in  a earlier post. I could afford something at the Corolla level.  I can’t tell you what he said about the Corolla because his son is proud of his. Vince told me I should get a Cruze when Pris started with her second episode. I could afford that without any help from him. Although I had drug my feet, I finally decided that a Chevy Cruze would work. We bought it after the shortest test drive in history. Vince wouldn’t even go along. He wanted to get on the way to go our Audi appointment, but  almost any car he liked and some he didn’t – an Audi, , ATS, Fusion, or Volt would need his financial help.  He wanted a Porsche, and that required all my contribution and then some. So he quickly agreed to the Cruze.

no name Chevy Cruze

We brought Pris’s replacement home Friday, No name Chevy Cruze. Pris looked forlorn, but if Friday was sad, Saturday was worse. The dealer gave us $700 in trade for Pris – dead or alive.  Vince drove her onto the tow truck. I couldn’t watch, but he took these pictures.

Pris 3 cr

Then she drove away for the last time. The mailbox looks like her cross.  She still looks good for her age – 9.5 years. Bye bye Pris. You were a good girl, and I love you. RIP

Pris 2 cr

For more mistakes aka “WP Photo Challenge – Oops” click here.

Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Wright’s Watertight File Cabinet

Generally file cabinets wouldn’t warrant a blog post unless you sold file cabinets for a living. Not so when you visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ.

B&W FLW file cabinet 3
Where is it? I don’t see a filing cabinet out here!

Wright hated clutter in his house, and what place gathers more clutter than your filing area? So he moved the filing outside.

B&W FLW file cabinet 2 copy

Keep in mind that fire destroyed Taliesin East, his first school that he and his lover established in Wisconsin named Taliesin East.  As the story goes, he and his son were presenting their work at a show in Chicago when the tragedy occurred. When he returned, his new servant had axed his lover and her two children in the heads after he served them lunch. Then he served the architectural students, locked them in their studio, and poured gasoline under the door, and lit it. Most of the buildings burned up and only one person who escaped from that inferno lived. Wright came home to ashes.

When he built Taliesin West, his new file cabinet would never burn. He kept all his architectural drawings within this stone structure, safe from all natural disasters.

B&W FLW file cabinet

I asked why the little wooden handle was there. Wright’s file fort protected his drawings from almost every natural invasion known to man – except an invasion of seeds. This tree established it roots in the cement, and instead of tearing up the cement and eradicating it, they keep the tree trimmed.

For more of Cee’s Black and White Challenges with B or W, click here.

Drawing Your Hand – Would You Choose a Chevy Cruze or an Audi?

For her post today Cathy Tenzo’s blog revealed her hand to the world. For a poker player that might not be so good, but for an artist… Not so good either, according to Cathy. She said that hands are among the hardest things to draw.  I had time to waste while my husband debated about getting ready to go look at cars, so I decided to try sketching my hand.

tchistorygal's hand #1No I wasn’t thinking of punching him. I was actually pleased at the results for a first try. I don’t think I’ll quit my day job, but it was a relaxing thing to do instead of tapping my toes or playing Spidersol. When we got home tonight, I scanned it, cropped it and cleaned it up a little in Photoshop.

After I finished my morning sketch, we sped off to trade in my 2006 Prius with 227,518 miles on it. He backed it out of the driveway, put the Prius into drive, and the nasty red triangle light with a huge flashing exclamation point appeared on the dash. That’s not a symbol for excitement when you see it on the dash – trust me. It appeared three months ago and we had to buy a new hybrid battery. That ! cost us $4,000, but we figured we had just bought us a reliable used car. Moral:  don’t have a heart transplant if you’re 126 years old, or if you’re a Prius with 225,000 miles.

We had waited one day too long. So now you know how long a Prius can last.

He was able to get the car back in the driveway. Then off we went to  driving Vince’s Prius to look at a Camry in Hanford that advertised all the gizmos we I wanted. When we arrived, the salesperson needed to run a quick errand for another customer. He pointed us to the bagel bar – big mistake. I enjoyed a Panera Cinnamon Crunch bagel, but didn’t buy the car. We had another appointment so we scurried off without hurting anyone’s feelings – since the next appointment was set in stone. We started off to an appointment with the Audi dealer in Fresno.  Before we left Hanford I sidetracked us to visit the Chevrolet dealer, since it was right on the way.

What I really wanted was a fully appointed Volt that gets an advertized 106 miles to the gallon. I just feel so righteous when I’m driving a car that squeezes more miles out of every ounce of gas.

Vince does not/did not support my Volt fetish, and wanted me to try a Cruze. I snubbed my nose at its 30 miles to the gallon fuel rating, but I determined to keep an open mind. (hahaa) Jean and I had tried to test drive one in Scottsdale, but not one salesperson came out to help us. That is Jean’s pet peeve, and I wasn’t too pleased either, so we ended our car shopping and stuck to clothing. Back home again, Hanford, CA was the Cruze’s last chance to impress me.

The salesperson, a trained psychiatric nurse, drove out to the extra sales lot and we followed. I’m not saying that he psyched us out, but he didn’t get psyched when we told him that we were on our way to drive an Audi. We went to the other Chevy car lot, but we refused to drive him back so we could head up to our appointment. Psychic Nurse, Michael took a new truck, and we followed him. I popped into the Cruze LTZ RS, and he turned on my heated seat. (The more initials it has, the better Vince likes the car.)  As the car sloshed through the mud in the parking lot dirtying up it’s lily white bumpers, I warmed up, and my personality mellowed. We dashed around the block. I decided that for the difference in price, between a fully appointed Cruze and an Audi, I could live with the Cruze.  We I bought it. Since I really didn’t care it I got the car or didn’t, I was an amazingly ferocious negotiator. I told them it was either a Cruze, Audi or Porshce. I didn’t care which. I was fairly pleased with the results considering that my Prius, RIP, was no longer a back-up. By the time we finished, it was 3:30, and Vince had not eaten anything since his last power bar following his exercise workout. I didn’t have a Snickers handy.

We left for lunch, and got back to the car deal to pick up Vince’s car at rush hour.  Vince jumped out of our new Cruze to head home in his car, but …he lost his car key. Good thing he had eaten!

We drove back and forth between the dealer and Panera during rush hour – yes Hanford, CA has a rush hour that rivals Los Angeles because of the freeway construction. An hour later when we changed seats once again, we found the key. I had been sitting on it after it fell out when he was driving, I’m obviously not the Princess and the Pea.

We are now sitting safely at home with a hot cup of  tea and a neck ache.

So, I’ve revealed my hand today. How was your day today?

 

Metal and Wood

Like pots that once hung from this metal rod around the fireplace in Wright’s Taliesin West bedroom, Wright’s  mother hung onto her son – to excess from what I read. Our tour guide gave credit to his mother’s influence for having them in his bedroom.  A throwback from his Welsh ancestry, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a fireplace for every room. This one used both wood and metal.

FLW metal and wood

Frank Lloyd Wright attended to every detail in his structures from the nails to the accessories. Even the rod and metal hooks to hang pots reflected his geometric design element. However, we all wondered why the wood shelves extended into the fireplace. We also didn’t learn what he cooked in those pots – aromatherapy, maybe?

Famous for using natural materials in the environment, Wright also employed the newest technology into his structures. The Empire State building, built in 1931, pioneered the use of aluminum in its basic structure.  Our tour guide mentioned that Wright used aluminum in Taliesin West, but I was too busy taking this window picture to hear how.

FLW window

Aluminum was used artistically in the 1920s, but wire nails were also coming into vogue around this time. Maybe he used aluminum nails in this door. He based the design on the picture painted by native American on the rocks at the entrance to his complex.

FLW door

If you excel at Trivial Pursuit below is an interesting tidbit about the use of aluminum in buildings built around the same time as Taliesin West.

“Architectural use of aluminum slowly increased in the 1920s, mainly for decorative detailing. Aluminum was one of the white metals popular in the modern movements of architecture and art. When it was proven that aluminum could be shaped by most known methods of metal working, its inclusion in architectural and industrial settings surged. Since it could be rolled into sheets, it was used for roofing, flashing, gutters, downspouts, wall panels, and spandrels; it could also be extruded into lengths of specialized profiles or cross sections for use in window mullions and frames, storefront surrounds, and doors. Because it was a favored color and could be cast, aluminum was chosen for interior trim in public buildings and commercial structures in the 1920s and 1930s.” Metals in America’s Historic Buildings

I hope you enjoyed this journey back to Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ. For more of Cee’s Fun Foto entries click here.

WP Photo Challenge Eye Spy

Frank Lloyd Wright kept odd hours often working in the middle of the night and catching a cat nap during the day.  He had a code so that his architectural students knew when they could approach him. If they spied him sleeping on the bed nearest his desk, they could approach and ask him a question.

If they looked in the window and spied him sleeping on the other bed. Eye y eye, they knew they had better stay out.  

I found it difficult to spy the bed with all the reflections.  

His wife’s open room allowed students to spy on her easily.

I hope you enjoyed spying on the very private life of America’s most famous and controversial architect and his fourth wife.

For more spy stories click here.

Enjoy Multiple Movies While You Vacation

“You’re kidding. You’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird?” my friend Jean said on the second evening of our vacation in Scottsdale, AZ.  I interpreted that to mean, “On what uneducated, uncultured planet did I grow up?” So we went to Target and purchased more movies than we could see in the few vacation days we had left. When we got back to the condo, we  watched the movie most important for my education first.

atticus_and_tom_robinson_in_court

It had every storytelling tip I’ve ever read for writing a breakout novel. The story, narrated by an adult viewing her childhood experiences, illustrated the historic perspective. The youngest character, Scout, through whose eyes we saw the events unfold, brought a fresh innocence to an issue that still refuses to die down. Her childhood experiences still influenced her as an adult.

Conflict makes interesting storytelling. Scout, about six, and her brother Gem, about ten, had plenty of conflicts. In fact Scout had several scrapes in school defending her father. Although Scout had lots of spunk, and was willing to try anything, if it meant she could tag along with her brother, she was also loving .

Scout in tire

In order to be a breakout novel, a book needs internal issues tied to larger issues. In this case the trial of a black man alleged to have molested a white woman provided the requisite controversy. In 1962 when the movie came out, the lack of civil rights in the South was coming to a boil.

At least some characters in breakout novels need to change during the story to keep it from being flat and dull. I think all of the major characters made some changes. One of the characters who changed the most was a client who wouldn’t talk, but brought the family gifts to pay for his attorney fees. When Scout picked him out of the lynching mob and began talking to him, he spoke up and broke up the mob. I think even the steady pillar of a father changed at the end, when he realized that the law couldn’t solve all the problems that society had.

In an excellent book bad things need to happen to good characters, and the more bad things the better. This story had more than its share of obstacles. The father, Atticus, almost got lynched. The villain accosted and almost killed Gem and Scout in the forest. Atticus lost his case, in spite of his brilliant defense. The defendant didn’t wait around for a retrial. One disappointment led to another. The virgin viewer has no clue what is going to happen at every step.

Stories, at least in America, usually need a happy ending to break sales records. This tale didn’t end well for some of the characters, but the family took away some valuable life lessons. Scout made a new friend, and lost her fear of the biggest monster in the neighborhood even as he was confirmed as a murderer.

Jean was right. I must have grown up on another planet. I should have seen To Kill a Mockingbird. The good news is that I’ve seen it now. If you haven’t you must have grown up on my planet, and you should upgrade your education.

We saw two Julia Roberts movies that I would characterize as mediocre. The first one, Secret in Their Eyes is showing in the theatres, so I’m not going to spoil it by telling you too much. You can watch more than enough trailers for that. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the man who was killed in the line of duty. He was never portrayed as a noble character. Therefore, I felt that the sympathy the characters portrayed at the end were not sincere.

good cop bad cop

I’m not sure how I felt about the love situation either. The authors built the drama well, but for me it just hung there, and didn’t move me.  Again it seemed contrived and insincere. The husband remarked that “he,” meaning the past loved one, had been in their marital relationship for twelve years. Really?  We only heard from the husband one time, so there was no build-up of jealousy. We do not have any indication that the two lovebirds were in contact during the intervening years because they didn’t seem to know what had transpired in each other’s lives. So why would the husband make such a random statement?

I think this movie needed some time to work out the bugs.

august_osage_2796696c

The second Julie Roberts movie we watched at the condo. August: Osage County seemed more sincere or believable maybe, but we left the DVD at Diamond Resorts in Scottsdale, AZ for the next guests or employees to not enjoy. I don’t think this movie had an upside. Both Jean and I were shocked that so many stars studded it. That doesn’t sound good. But then neither was the movie, in spite of the fact I like the stars in it. They were just clouded over by a lousy plot.  Don’t waste your $5 to buy the DVD. That’s my opinion anyway.

On what planet did you grow up, and what good movies have you missed?  Which ones have you seen that you would recommend for those of us just joining planet earth in 2015?

 

Where DID We Have Lunch on Monday?

As you recall your trips, do you struggle to remember time markers anyway? My friend Jean and I spent at least thirty minutes one evening during our Arizona trip retracing our stops to remember where we had lunch three days before.

“Take a picture of the restaurant,” Jean said. “So we’ll remember it next time.”

If I have a picture I can at least remember the town. If I have the town – thank goodness for Google! Is that what’s important? Really?

Ciao Grazie in Buckeye, AZ
Ciao Grazie in Buckeye, AZ

In Writing the Breakout Novel I read that novice writers write their novels chronologically. Reading back over my unpublished novels (that would be all of them so far) I notice that I follow that trend. Yet when I journal, I don’t break out my journal until something significant happens, like the transmission goes out in the truck while pulling the new trailer up the mountain highway in the rain at twilight.

As soon as the journal opens and my pen hits the paper, my internal date book flips on, and I chew my pen trying rack my brain trying to remember all the places I ate and places I visited. Did I think I would ever get back to Florence, Italy, Charleston, SC, Chicago, IL, Klamath, CA, or Scottsdale, AZ to eat there again? Even if I did go back, would that restaurant be there waiting for me when I arrived with the same chef at the helm? Would there be no other restaurant other than THAT Arbys  in the same town? Why am I so driven to remember all those places?  By the time I get around to recording what I THOUGHT was the dramatic moment of actual event, usually a juicy story from a tour, the sizzle is gone.

recessed lighting in the theatre room at Taliesin West
recessed lighting in the theatre room at Taliesin West

Actually the dramatic moments of a trip are usually the bad personal moments, like when a fellow traveler spills coffee all over your blouse and suggests that you change it right there in the parking lot because nobody will notice. What’s up with that anyway? No one will notice when I take off my blouse in a parking lot? Really? What alternative universe am I in? Are people really THAT different in other parts of the world?

Frank Lloyd Wright was short, and egotistical. He built short doorways because he figured anything over 5’8″ was a waste of space.

In Frank Lloyd’s world, I think people might have been that different. You have to read the books, though, to learn the gory details. The tour guide didn’t mention the negro servant who axed Wright’s lover and her two children in the head then burned his home to the ground killing a gardener, and three architectural students in 1914 at the original Taliesin home in Wisconsin.

 

The tour guide claimed that FLW initiated the use of floor lighting.
The tour guide claimed that FLW initiated the use of floor lighting.

We saw floor lighting in the movie room, but the stories of the sex camps at Taliesin West never came to light.

It goes against my nature to be a good storyteller.  I have no posterity who might be interested in where I was at any moment. And yet, I record every stop I make in painstaking chronological order. No wonder good storytellers are at a premium, not only in the world of writing, but in the world at large. Most of us are still trying to remember where we ate two days ago. :)

What about you? Where did you eat two days ago? Anything dramatic happening in your life? Which did YOU post on FB?  :)

Using Time Share Points – Scottsdale, AZ

My husband rarely admits envy, but I got a “jealous” out of him when I texted him some of theses pictures. He doesn’t like to travel as much as I do, but he may hesitate turning down trips now. This serendipitous tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West did it!  He loves design, and FLW is his hero.

 
This hands-on training college for architects was a hotbed of controversy when it started in 1932. 

  Trainees enjoyed weekly social instruction from his fourth wife, who believed anyone could learn to design, but if they couldn’t get along with people, they would not be successful. Smart lady!!!
  Students today dine in this room and enjoy dancing, music, drama and movies. I loved the tables and chairs.
  Set up ready for a gourmet meal, we could only imagine the sumptuous courses that students took turns cooking and serving each other.
 So if you travel to Scottsdale, AZ, or other places in the U.S., and want to make Vince jealous, just text him pictures from your Frank Lloyd Wright tour.

  
This might do it too!

Why NaNoWriMo – Deadline Or No Deadline?

I don’t know about other writers like you, but I find NaNoWriMo grueling.  I’ve had a birthday, and today is V’s birthday and his son has come to visit.

 

Other minor interruptions-Thanksgiving, a cold, pink eye, a five-day 5,000 mile trip to DE, and  a trip to AZ planned starting the 30th have ground me into pulp trying to finish writing 50,000 cogent words by Nov. 30th. My breakout novel is destined to be pulp fiction reflecting the state of my brain.

pulp-fiction-poster

 

I wanted to keep up with a commentary on my blog with how things were going and what I was learning as I wrote. But guess what? I can’t sit that long. I’ve run out of procrastination hours. I need to write 5,000 words a day to meet my deadline. I can barely snap my fingers on my mouse hand. I’ve gained another three pounds on top of the ten I already had going into the month. My normal sleeping pattern, which is asymmetrical at best, disintegrated in the wake of the NaNoWriMo deadline.

All deadlines fossilize me. The whisper directly into my endocrine system. “You have to get up to go to Kiwanis, Marsha.”

Result  – I blog all night and oversleep on Tuesday morning.

learning, writing, blogging, reading, pets, dog

“You must go to the store today.”

Result – I dither around the house trying to plan my itinerary, deciding which stops to make when I go into Visalia until it’s time for dinner. Then I call Vince to bring home some take-out from Subway.

In the case of NaNoWriMo my back, shoulders and butt tell me to walk away from the computer, take a long, hot bath – or until I have a hot flash –  and head to bed by 8:00 pm This forces Puppy to move off my pillow to the center of the bed. At 10:00 pm my sore body parts scream at Vince to give me a massage. Puppy gives me a respite if he puts enough smelly stuff on me. As soon as he finishes,  she crowds all ten pound between us and pushes with all her might against my back forcing both of us to sleep on the edge of the king-size bed. Then my brain, or Puppy Girl’s pressure against my kidneys, wakes me up at 1:30 am and threatens to kill itself if I don’t go back into the office and sit down at the computer and start writing again.

kalev7

Vince asked my why I had to do this. After all, I’m retired and still young. (though I’m not feeling it today – pink eye in both eyes) I have a whole lifetime to finish, right? Right? Of course he’s right, he usually is – annoyingly so, but then so am I, so why do NaNoWriMo?

Deadlines motivate me. When I wrote Images of America Woodlake, I started from scratch collecting pictures and information about Woodlake. I worked eight or more hours a day to finish by the six month deadline. About half-way through the writing process the publisher wrote me an email, “You’re doing a great job. We’ll give you an extra five books free if you finish in five months.” I ramped up production to get those five extra books – about a hundred-dollar value – so I had more to give away before I had to buy any to give away to all my contributors.

My amateur diagnosis – there is definitely something wrong with my brain. I guess it’s the reporter-brain training I had as a kid that is just now kicking in.

brainfreeze

Motivations like due dates didn’t work on me when I was a kid taking journalism and working on the school paper. Nothing motivated me to finish something that other people besides a teacher would read.  Going public with my thoughts, narrow as they were, petrified me. I feigned illness if the deadline came, and I wasn’t ready – an unpleasant characteristic flaw of mine. No worries If you’ve known me for more than a couple of minutes, then you already knew there were holes in my perfect persona.

After I missed my first real assignment on the high school paper, covering the first football game of the school year by moving to another state 2,400 miles away, I made sure I stuck to more important beats. In my new school I covered the library. I thought nothing exciting happened in the library because I only talked to the librarian, stupid kid. How dumb was that? I just needed to look between the shelves, but that’s another story. The interview and fear exposing myself during the publication process terrified me for six years, and deadlines did not motivate me to do more than get sick.

 

Deadlines and contact with real humans who need me to accomplish something by a specific date still make me sick, but without them my life would be chaos. Dishes would pile up, beds would be unmade. No one would have clean laundry. I might leave the house, and might not. I would spend the day in bed reading one good book after another until my eyes withered into the back of my head. I would eat until I ran out of ice cream, potato chips and protein bars. Oh wait, I’ve just painted a picture of my life now when I do have a deadline.

chaos

The best thing about having a deadline is that it puts an end to something you are driven to do. They validate saying, “It will never be perfect, Marsha. You can stop now. You made it. You got the sticker for your blog. Now go clean your house and fix a nutritious dinner.”

And I do.

What works for you? Deadlines? No Deadlines? Tell me YOUR stories. :)

Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, FRIENDS!

Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.

Did Kids Really Have Problems Growing Up in the 1970s?

Thank you for responding to my NaNoWriMo title poll. Forty-three percent of you had another idea for a title. yeah!!! Debbie Simorte, a friend and fantastic editor you can find on FB, suggested that since the book is about Jenny more than Wynn (the found puppy), maybe she should be in the title as well. Mama Cormier suggested that the Wynn title and the synopsis makes the story sound too much like Because of Winn-Dixie, another girl rescues and loves doggie book. I checked out on Kindle. Chris from The Story Reading Ape suggested Wynn or Wynn Woods for a title.

Because of YOU the new titles I am considering as of today are Winning Jenny’s Smile or Wynn wins Jenny’s Smile, and maybe  Make Jenny Smile, Wynn.

You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?
You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?

Thank you for participating. Your thoughts help me think about the real purpose and goals of the book. Unfortunately they change as I go along. I’m working on a clearer outline tonight and tomorrow. I used to always write an outline when I wrote, and when I sit down to write a novel, I do just that. Sit down and start writing. What am I thinking????

When I revived my twenty-five-year old novel, I started with a series of great stories that I rewrote to take out the boring, and to go deeper.  I learned that all breakout novels have major personal problems and major national problems. I’m struggling to weave them into the descriptions of funny things that happen along the way, which are not as important as the major stakes, but take up more of my thoughts.

Writing the synopsis helped me solidify my boggy plot, but now I need to go back and make sure that the story moves right along and reconsider which stories help move it and how. I’m asking myself, “Are my problems contributing to the plot or just funny or interesting? What will happen if I don’t solve them?”

As it did during the last NaNoWriMo, my brain gets in the way of my writing. :)

If you didn’t get a chance to respond to the poll about your life and opinions in the 1970s here it is again.

Thanks again for all your comments.

 

Discussions About Answers to Hard Questions Like Race and Politics

     It’s 2:27 a.m. here in Delaware. I’ve been visiting my mom’s 90-year-old cousin, Hal. We talk a lot, so I’m going to publish a post unlike what I usually publish – philosophy and opinions.  Fair warning.
     Hal is an ordinary brilliant chemical engineer who is trying to build relationships with people since his wife died. He has made some amazing friends among international students, mostly Chinese, who are here going to the University of Delaware for post-graduate degrees. I joined him tonight in an hour of one-on-one conversation with one student, a Chinese math professor aged 45. Being with these students makes both of us feel hopeful and positive. They are fun, engaging and excited to learn and talk about many topics with us as they practice their English skills.
12249816_10205174721234668_669262568460925624_n(2)
     I needed a good shot of enthusiastic hope for the future, not hatred and lying that I see in politics and between people in general. Hal and I  had lunch with one of my pretend daughters today in MD. We discussed the dangerous situation in black communities near her. She said that a town close to her, comprised mostly  of African-Americans, was burned by militants. An off-duty firemen friend visiting another friend in that city was shot because he was a firemen. Fear prevails. Accomplishment for the solving the racism problem – 0! I feel like I should have had some words of wisdom at my age for her.
12227628_10205177566625801_3448167650906870076_n
     Hal and I discussed how we thought an abused race of people might fight destructive racism. We both agree that both now and historically the black race has been severely mistreated, particularly by the whites.  But what can they do to make it stop?  For the race as a whole, neither trying to be good, even better than good, nor violence seems to have helped them get very far in the war against racism.  Violence against themselves, their own businesses, makes no sense to me at all as a fight against racial discrimination. Does it to you? And if so, why?
     Neither of us can imagine doing other than what we now do as white people, trust in God, and try to maximize our personal opportunities by working hard and doing the best jobs we can do to provide for ourselves and help others.  We both hoped that our lives would make a dent in the problem. But will that work? Has it worked to solve discrimination?
     In politics especially, it seems that people are getting less and less willing to compromise and work together. Teresa suggested that it might be nice to just wipe the slate clean and start over with all new politicians. It’s a great thought, but wow, that sounds immense. Hal suggested that a benevolent dictator might solve the problem. Ouch!  Who in this world is going to please and do the best for everyone?
     When I look around me at all the problems in the world, and how people are trying to solve them, the fewer answers I have. I feel discouraged and things feel overwhelming to me. I don’t like that feeling of losing optimism. It is not me.
     So there’s my rant for the night. so I probably should sign off and go to bed.  Hope you feel more enlightened about what actions we should take than I do!!!!  :) Tell me what you think.

Streaming Thoughts

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Attila Ovari

Loving Life and Inspiring Others

Cooking with a Wallflower

Streaming Thoughts

Instant Human, Just Add Coffee

Random Caffeine-Induced Discussion Starters

Cee's Photography

Learning and teaching the art of composition.

e-Tinkerbell

Literature, books , sport and whatever intrigues me

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

I used to be indecisive...

...but now I'm not so sure

Lost in Translation

An attempt to convey meanings through words, images and sounds

Dot knows! (elleturner4)

Fab photos, witty asides and light hearted humour....Enjoy!

That's What She Sketched

Daily drawings for better or worse

Ajoobacats Blog

Prolific reader, reviewer and blogger of books and occasionally life

A. Marie Silver's Blog

Just trying to be funny.

Dentist Lincoln Park Chicago

A healthy smile is a beautiful smile

Hoxton Spanish Tutor Info

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: