V IS ON THE VISTA

We wanted to start V month with Verve and Vigor, but it didn’t go so vell.

VEGAN NOT FIND A VEGAN RESTAURANT

We thought for V month we would try a vegan restaurant. Laura’s daughter was a vegan for a short time growing up and it’s not that easy a meal plan to stay on. One has to be really committed since restaurants don’t make it easy and so we never tried it ourselves. But nowadays more people are going the vegan path so we decided we’d see what it’s like.

A new restaurant opened, but it was a grab-and-go. Undaunted, we got on the internet and found one that sounded promising – Be Raw. It was a half hour’s drive but we were set on going vegan – at least for a day. However, after driving around the block several times before finding a spot several blocks away we found Be Raw- closed! Aargh! When we walked back to the car we saw we had parked in front of a restaurant called Yolk, so we gave up on vegan and went in for lunch. It was one of those places we’ve all been to where the menu is very tempting but the food did not live up to the billing and we left feeling bloated and dissatisfied. So the Yoke was on us.

THE LEARNING CENTER  

Va Va Voom = The quality of being interesting, exciting, or sexually appealing.

Barbara: I was wondering where that expression came from but never would have guessed that not only did it gain popularity due to a Renault but that it’s only been around since the 50s. I would have thought it started with the starlets of the 40s such as Lana Turner, Gina Lollobrigida, Bridget Bardot, Greta Garbo, etc.

But it seems it was first launched to describe the sound of an engine in the 50’s. However, when Helene Mahieu used the phrase in an ad campaign for the Clio Renaultsport 172 in 1998, the phrase became so popular that the Concise Oxford English Dictionary has just made it part of the 11th edition. So… if Charlize Theron, Bradley Cooper and a Renault were next to each other on the street, which would draw Your Va Va Voom…hmmm?

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UNBELIEVABLE

Hard to accept that our “U” month is gone and a new year is starting. But before we welcome “V” and 2019, we still have some Unposted activities to share.

An UNFINISHED Life

Laura: Starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez, this film is highly predictable and clichéd. It deals with domestic violence, bitterness, lives put on hold and the healing of old wounds, both those you can and can’t see. That said, it was still enjoyable to watch. I really believe timing is so important to how we experience books and films and our reactions to them are mildly influenced by our mood and expectations. In the case of An Unfinished Life, I was ready to just enjoy others working through their problems while I got to sit back and enjoy beautiful Wyoming ranch scenery. Now if only I had been sipping bourbon…

THE LEARNING CENTER

Barbara: Ululations: I know the word “ululate” and have heard it before in songs and movies taking place in the Middle East and Africa and have always been intrigued with it. When the theme from the movie Black Panther was popular on radio, I tried to do the ululations along with the woman in the track but I’m sure it didn’t sound right. So how do they do it? Are you born with the ability if you come from that part of the world, similar to being able to roll your Rs? I pulled up a YouTube video that shows how to ululate but I think I drove all the cats and dogs in my neighborhood into hiding. I’ve decided to leave it to the experts.

        MORE AND LESS:  “U” ZONE

Laura: More URGENCY. I read an article about a woman who was impressed that her recently deceased aunt had everything organized and in place. Since her aunt’s death was sudden and unexpected, her niece was amazed that things were in order and not helter skelter as in her own life. She decided to be more in the now – to start saying “yes” to that inner voice that asks if you should do it now or put it off for later…to put more urgency into her day-to-day life. This resonated with me because of my procrastination tendencies. I have worked on that this past year and continue to fight the urge to delay. However, I now have a different perspective. Instead of putting things off, I will do them “now” – because now is the time I have. I may not have time later so why not just DO IT. I’m talking about little things as well as big things…like walking by a small piece of paper that slipped under the coffee table and picking it up as soon as I see it instead of thinking I’ll take care of it when I come back into the room. Urgency is my new mantra for both the small and big matters in my world.

Less UGLINESS. I toyed with this one but I feel it strongly. Please let there be less ugliness in the world. By that I am referring to our behaviors, our words, our attitudes and our actions. Not the physical aspects of things. However, please keep those ugly Christmas sweater contests going!

Barbara: More UPBEAT. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a “glass half full” type person and I still am, but as we get older I have noticed a tendency to become a bit more curmudgeonly. Something that wouldn’t have bothered me years ago now gets me a bit riled up. Now that could be due to having previously chosen to overlook something so as not to rock the boat and maybe it’s a good thing that I now don’t feel I have to tread as lightly. But I definitely don’t want to be that person who always complains or is grouchy; you know – that person you don’t want to spend time with! So I’m filling my cup back up to 2/3s full just to have a little leeway.

Less UNDERGARMENTS. No, I don’t mean underwear. What I’m referring to is all those awful contraptions that women feel they need to wear to suck this or that in. Either I force myself to eat right and lose those extra pounds or I take the hit and embarrass myself in that dress that hugs my tummy. (Now I just have to stay out of the Spanx store.)

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U’RE NO GOOD FOR US

U was a very difficult letter in relation to activities. Barbara thought she’d try a Unicycle lesson, but one look at the cycle and she said no. We couldn’t find a place to hear Ukulele music, got rained out of the Urban Flea Market and was a day late in discovering there was an Ugly sweater bingo night.

But we’re no quitters, so we did the best we could this week.

TWO URBANS, TWO TURBANS AND TWO BOURBONS

In the spirit of a good old-fashioned girl’s pajama party, we showered, got into robes, put our hair in a towel turban and sipped bourbon while watching two shows beginning with the letter U: Urban Cowboy and Urban Legends.

The saying “You can’t go back again” is so true. When we were younger and John Travolta was in his heyday, Urban Cowboy was the movie to watch. In our memories it was a great film. But watching it again this side of – well never mind what age – we found his character to be a jerk, hers to be a tease and the script to be trite. In fact, we couldn’t even finish it.

Disappointed, we scanned the guide on Amazon Prime and found a series, Urban Legends. This time we were in luck. The premise of the show is to show the viewer three stories and you are supposed to try to guess which are true and which an urban legend. The stories were funny and bizarre and surprisingly we didn’t guess all of them correctly. As an extra bonus, they showed little animated vignettes in between the three stories. Our favorite was of a man whose memory was going. He accidently shot himself in the head and his wife found him sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with a bullet hole in his head. The bullet, in essence, gave him a lobotomy and his memory was back. It was a true story and the tag line was “true but not recommended.”

That show made the afternoon worthwhile. UTTERLY delightful.

USING OUR NOODLE

At a loss to find new “U” experiences we decided to try UDON NOODLES – Udon (pronounced oo-dohn) is a popular, thick Japanese noodle made from wheat flour, salt and water. Both of us love noodles so we set out to enjoy an Udon lunch experience at Ikigai Udon, a Japanese noodle bar in Plano. Here you get to watch them actually make the noodles from scratch and can choose to have your Udon served in soup, with a sauce or in a salad. We chose the Teriyaki Chicken Soup Udon and were offered different toppings (such as tempura flakes, green onions, seaweed). The soup was delicious – flavorful and filling. They also serve tempura, which will definitely be tried at our next visit.

 

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TOO Many THINGS for T

With retirement activities, Thanksgiving and family, there were just too many things happening this month that prevented us from concentrating on “T” projects. So this month’s posting will have to be more cerebral than active.

TWO T BOOKS

THE One by John Marrs

Barbara usually is insistent that we not use words like “the,” “and,” “or,” “of,” etc. as the letter of the month, but in this case the “THE” is emphasized. The premise of the book is simple: a company devises a DNA test that can pick out THE One for you – your soulmate – by matching something in your DNA. While at first glance it appeared that this book would be a quick, easy and entertaining read, it soon became evident that there were a lot of possible scenarios to think about. For example, what if you were in a serious relationship and you found out someone else was your soulmate? What if you were told your soulmate was of the same sex and you were heterosexual? What if you were totally unattracted to someone who was your soulmate? A few people we know read the book at the same time and we will discuss it together, but we all definitely felt it was worth the Trouble and Time to read.

The Chalk Man by C. J. TUDOR

Laura: This novel has made an appearance on several Best Debut Books of 2018 lists. It’s a psychological suspense story that contains elements of mystery, creepiness and childhood secrets. It rotates back and forth between 1986 when Eddie and his friends spent their days riding around town looking for adventure and leaving messages for one another in colored chalk and the present when Eddie gets a letter that brings the past back into the limelight. When I started the book, I was pleasantly surprised that it was well written and the observations by characters rang true. But then, halfway through the book, I began to lose my enthusiasm. I felt the author tried too hard – she threw in way to many things to mix it up, there were a few “now that’s a stretch” moments and her characters weren’t the most likeable. But judging from the majority of rave reviews for this book, I suspect my little critique will not put a dent in this author’s promising career.

THE LEARNING CENTER

Barbara: For some reason I have wondered about Tasers. I’ve seen them used on TV and I know people who have them as protection so I decided to look into the background of a Taser. I discovered it was created by a NASA researcher who named it after a book featuring his childhood hero, Tom Swift. Initially – call me crazy – I thought it would be an interesting experience to see if there was a Taser demonstration somewhere offered by the police and that Laura would have to talk me off the ledge if I volunteered as a subject. I was thinking it would be a small, temporarily painful shock. But after reading about it – no way José. Those suckers are painful. I didn’t realize they sent out little barbs attached to electrodes. Next time someone in authority tells you to stop, I’d listen to them!

 

MORE AND LESS: T ZONE

Barbara: MORE TURKEY: Am I nuts? We just spent the last two days gorging on turkey and all the fixings till my stomach felt like it would soon implode. But I go on record as wanting more Turkey in my life. Why is it each year we love eating turkey on just one day a year? Would I even consider eating pizza only one day out of 365? Of course not! 2019 will be the year of the turkey even if it means cooking and gobbling down just a turkey breast and some stuffing a couple of other times during the year.

LESS TORTILLAS: In keeping with more Turkey, I’m going to attempt a low carb diet so less tortillas, chips, bread, etc. in my life for the next few months. In essence, less of everything I love to eat. Hopefully this will lead to less of me!

Laura: MORE TREADMILLS. It’s that time of the year when most of us focus on recommitting to our “lose weight and exercise more” plans. So once again, I envision myself adding more exercise to my life. I’ve mentioned this before (perhaps even in this blog), but I freaked out when I first read the following question: “If I don’t take care of my body, where will I live?” Frightening thought – but motivating!

LESS TIPTOEING: I waste a lot of time and energy tiptoeing around things. I’m trying to be polite and noncontroversial, and while I maintain that being kind, respectful of others and not ruffling feathers is the preferred choice, sometimes you just have to say what’s on your mind without waiting for the perfect phrasing.

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SCINTILLATING SICILY

A good part of “S” month was taken up with our trip to Sicily with Sights and Soul Travel. While we don’t expect anyone to say “hey it’s S month, let’s run off to Sicily,” you can get a flavor of the country through this list of movies about or taking place in Sicily:

Cinema Paradiso              Divorce, Italian Style

The Leopard                       Il Postino

L’Avventura                       The Star Maker

The Earth Trembles         Salvatore Giuliano

Stromboli                            The Godfather (of course)

Sicily is a beautiful country and we got to sample the food (a lot of fish, even in their pasta), visit the ancient ruins (Greek, Roman, Norman) and stunning cathedrals and enjoy the wonderful coastal towns. We made pizza, were hosted by a Contessa at her palace and watched an amazing life-sized puppet show – and ate, and ate and ate. We loved people watching, especially how the men meet in the squares to sit and talk – whatever village we were in, they were there.

 

SICILIAN SUPERSTITIONS

It’s always fun learning about the culture and hearing little tidbits, such as these superstitions:

*Don’t be the first customer of the day in any shop because the seller will do everything and anything to wear you down and get you to make a purchase. If you buy, you bring him luck for the rest of the day. If not, then you’ve set the stage for a lousy day.

*Don’t put your purse on the floor or you’ll lose money.

*17 is an unlucky number; 33 is the luckiest age.

*Making the sign of a horn 

pointed up means your husband is cheating on you; pointed down means bad luck going away from you.

*Hanging a family portrait flush against the wall means the person in the portrait died.

Ciao Siciliano!

MORE AND LESS: S ZONE

Barbara: MORE SALSA: Last year we went to Brazil and visited a Samba school where we got to participate as well as watch the amazing dancers. I do not know how to salsa dance and the odds of my learning are probably against me since my significant other doesn’t dance but I am in love with the music. I don’t know what the words mean (they can be saying they hate all women named Barbara for all I know) but it doesn’t matter. My hips start moving on their own. So now instead of top 40 or oldies or 70s rock, my radio is set to Latin Hits. There’s nothing like moving to the Latin beat while cooking or cleaning or paying bills; anything really. Luckily there are no hidden cameras in my house. But I do like the reaction I’ve gotten when driving past someone in my convertible; there has been many a double take when they hear No Me Acuerdo.

LESS STRESS: Considering I just retired from full-time work one would think this would be a given. I used to wake up in the middle of the night thinking of things I needed to do at work; my co-workers can attest to the emails received from me at 4 in the morning. But now I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about all the activities I’ve got planned for the week. How can I stress about fun! This has to stop. I’ve got to learn to tell myself I have permission to not do something, to not feel like I’m being judged if I just decompress (and this feeling is based on nothing; everyone has told me I need to do it). Hmm…maybe I’ll go to sleep with Latin Hits playing in my earphones!

Laura: LESS “SHOULD” and MORE “SHALL”. I am tired of creating my own universe of shoulds. For instance, I should donate these books to the library or I should reorganize my closet. Yes, I should do those things, but I really don’t have to. These are tasks of my choosing and no one is waiting on their completion but me.  Certainly no one dies if I still have pants in my closet that I haven’t worn in five years. But when my mind connects the task with “should”, then it carries a weight of expectation and commitment. So I am switching to “Shall,” which is a more energizing and positive word.  Shall implies a choice, while should sounds like a command. I realize it’s just a matter of semantics and a tweaking of an attitude, but whatever floats your boat (or since it’s S month, your ship)!

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SAMPLING “S”

S is going to be a busy month so we are Sampling as many S activities as we can before we take a vacation. After this month, we’re going to definitely need a Siesta.

2 Points

SAMPLING SPIRITS AND SAVORY BITES

We’ve found that our city’s newsletter, “Plano Profile”, is a great source for activities that fit right into the ABC Life. (We’re sure you have something similar in your city.) This week we discovered that the Shops of Willow Bend was promoting a new area named The District as part of their effort to reinvent the mall.

To introduce new restaurants and entertainment, they hosted the Plano Wine and Food Festival. After paying a small fee, we received our wine glass, 10 tickets for wine Sampling and 4 tickets for food Sampling. Pooling our resources, that gave us a taste of 20 wines and 8 foods! Of course we started with the S wines and couldn’t resist ending with some Sugar in the form of Fried Oreos.

Soon we’ll be Sampling some larger sized clothing!

2 points

SAMPLING AFTERLIFE SCENARIOS

Ever wonder about the afterlife: does it exist and if so, what is it like? SUM: Forty Tales From the Afterlife by neuroscientist David Eagleman is a fun, thought-provoking book that presents 40 short (few pages each) stories that offer a glimpse into what comes next. These tales are not serious but they do challenge us to ponder and appreciate the many possibilities that could exist. The point is that none of these stories are probable, but then again, what is?  It’s a good book for a discussion with a few friends – and that’s just what we did after reading it. Barbara was particularly intrigued by a tale where you do the same things you always did but suddenly realize the world is only made up of the people you’ve previously met. Although this is comforting it becomes a bit alarming when you realize that there will be nothing new ahead since there are neither any new people nor experiences for you. Laura was haunted by the tale that your new world is populated by all the different versions of yourself that could have been. There are some more successful versions and some less successful. Good ones, bad ones. And realizing what you could have done had you made different choices only leads to misery in the afterlife. This book is best read in spurts to allow for some time to reflect.

2 points

SAMPLING SCRAPS OF LIFE

Capturing moments of your life is an appealing pursuit and scrapbooking is a great way to do it. While Barbara has created many online photo books of her travels, we’ve often wondered about the art of print scrapbooking. The end products always seem nice but we had heard that it was time-consuming and rather costly. Was this something we would ever do? One way to find out was to visit our friend Belindy, who is an avid scrapbooker. Our visit was an eye opener and appealed both to Laura’s creativity and reinforced Barbara’s belief that people who were into scrapbooking were really into it. Belindy had all the tools of the trade – special papers, books of stickers, shelves of albums and boxes of photos. Her finished scrapbooks were beautiful and reflective of her thoroughness and attention to detail. Scrapbooking can be overwhelming but Belindy gave us advice on how to get started. Laura is already planning a Thanksgiving project with her granddaughters and Barbara may attempt a book or two with old printed photos of her kids when they were young. We dashed off to Hobby Lobby to take a look at some scrapbooking materials but our local branch had closed! A momentary setback but a scrapbooking attempt is definitely in our future.

Let us know if you’ve scrapbooked and what type of books you’ve made!

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RUNNING OUT OF Rs

Barbara: Time got the best of us and we didn’t have the opportunity to do one of the things we had wanted to do – go to the Heard Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary to visit the Texas Reptiles exhibit. I thought I’d do some Research into what would possess someone to have a Reptile for a pet. While there were a lot of reasons posted on the pro side (less costly, no need to walk them, etc.), I still couldn’t relate. Who could look at this face and say “that’s something I just can’t wait to cuddle”?

If you have a snake or other reptile in your house, please comment and let us know why you love it!

Laura: RICK Bragg: My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South.  I thoroughly enjoyed this September selection of the Non-Fiction Book Club to which I belong. Bragg’s sense of his people and home is so strong that you can’t help but be drawn into his world, gaining an up-close view of the South, its climate and cuisine. His observations of people in general and of mundane situations are hilarious, and he had me laughing and crying at various moments. Reading this book invoked a strong sense of nostalgia in me and I found myself transported back to my own people and place, to a childhood spent in New York, with loving parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, bountiful food, laughter, good-natured ribbing and some hilarious adventures. To my surprise, not everyone in the book club felt the same way, with a few strong dislikes. But just about everyone agreed that Rick Bragg has a beautiful way with words. This was my first Rick Bragg book, but it won’t be my last.

MORE AND LESS: R ZONE

Barbara: More RETIREMENT. My Facebook friends might ask how I could possibly have more Retirement. As one commented: “Could you milk your Retirement anymore?” The answer is NO. I am pretty excited about it, although a little apprehensive as well. To go from a workaholic who is answering emails well into the evening to a woman of leisure with less than 10 legitimate emails a day is a frightening prospect. But people are reassuring me that I will never be bored. I’m starting to think they are Right as I already have a couple of freelance work assignments plus several organizations I am joining plus this blog (I did say I was Retiring, didn’t I?) Now I’m Raring to Reinvent myself!

Less REGRETS. Life is full of what ifs. What if I had gone back to live with my parents after college to save money so I could have been an Educational Psychologist? What if I had learned to swim when I was younger? What if Laura and I had been more aggressive when a publisher wanted to run with one of our ideas? But if I stop to think of how those what ifs would have played out, I realize that so many of the things I love about my life would never have happened. So I’m banishing Regrets from my world – except tonight when I have that delicious dessert at the restaurant and Regret it later; I’ll start tomorrow.

Laura: More REVISITING. Whether it’s watching an old movie or relearning a game, revisiting what once brought you happiness is a good thing. While adding new experiences is what the ABC Life is all about, there is comfort in the familiar and I need that – more than I realized. Hubby and I used to play backgammon often but somehow, over the years, our weekly matches slowly disappeared, pushed aside by busy schedules and other demands. So we’re dusting off the backgammon board and studying the Rules. With terminology such as “Raccoon” and “Railroad Tracks”, I can hardly wait to Restart!

Less RECIPES. No wait – I appreciate a good recipe. Why wouldn’t I…when I love to eat and enjoy cooking? But there are limits and in today’s information flow, there are just too many recipes out there. I feel like I am drowning in them. Surely my life would be simpler without having to look through every recipe that drops in my inbox or stares up from a magazine – and thus is born the 21 Recipe Roundup! I am on a mission to put together 21 tried and true recipes and then just cycle through them. That’s at least a month’s worth of recipes, when you figure in leftovers, dinners out and the occasional take-in urge. Those 21 recipes will simplify my life and just think how much time I’ll save not searching for another. If you have a tried and true recipe you’d be willing to share, just leave a comment and help this recipe wary woman!

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