An Additional A

New RestaurantAnasofia’s Mexican Grill
Discovering a new place for lunch or dinner is always a fun experience – and Anasofia’s Mexican Grill in Plano did not disappoint. The food was quite good (the brisket omelette particularly yummy) and the swirl margharita was potent and delicious, but what struck us the most was the staff. The greeter/waitress and the bartender/waiter (owners we think) were so friendly, humorous and welcoming that it made our dining adventure stand out from the ordinary. We both feel motivated to support this relatively new restaurant and will return.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AU REVOIR TO A

A’s been a strange month. Covid has made it impossible to do much together and then Barbara went on vacation (more about that below) and like a snap, July is gone. We’re hoping to get the most out of the next month, including our A & B reading challenges.

New streaming series: America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston

Laura: This new PBS show explores our relationships with outdoor spaces and I find it to be relaxing, educational and enjoyable. A welcome trio! As a former Southern California gal for more than 25  years, I chose to first watch the Los Angeles segment. I was fascinated with some aspects of this episode, particularly the portion toward the end that showed how clueless we are that we are swimming close to sharks. A jaw dropper of a reveal (pun intended)! Next I watched the episode on Appalachia and discovered not only that I have been mispronouncing this area forever but how little I know of this region. When your personal travel days are on hold, being able to “visit” new places and learn new things is a real treat and this show delivers.

New ActivityArctic Adventure in Iceland

Barbara: This has been the year of cold weather travel. First Norway in February and now Iceland. Iceland was a land of surprises for me. First, I had little expectations for the food (unknown why) but it was delicious! The seafood was the best I’ve ever tasted, and they eat a lot of lamb, so I was in my happy place. I tried whale (not bad, like steak with a little fish undertone) and sticky toffee pudding (oh my!) plus had the best hot dog this New York gal has ever eaten (made with lamb, of course). And the landscape was haunting and unusual, from stunning waterfalls to lava fields to geysers and craters and caves, etc. They don’t plant many trees because they want to be able to see nature and I don’t blame them. I can definitely recommend a trip to this beautiful country.

New streaming series: Africa , Season 2 of Moving Art

Laura: Another amazing show. Love this. Moving Art has no words, no plot. Just beautiful and inspirational visuals that provide a 30-minute journey of spectacular wildlife and terrain. For “A” month, I watch the episode on Africa and next I went to Iceland so I could have somewhat of an inkling of what Barbara was seeing. I absolutely love this show! Now, when I just want to totally relax and feed my soul, I will tune in to this show and be moved!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ABC AGAIN

We can’t believe we are starting a 3rd iteration of the ABC Life already! So many things we would not have seen, done or learned about if it were not for the ABC Life. But we needed to loosen up some of our rules and add some categories, to be able to keep doing things we haven’t done before and still fitting them into the alphabet. So, for example, even though we have been to an ART gallery, if we go to one in a different city from the last time, we can count it in our A month. Or when reading a new book, the A can be the author name, the title, or the subject matter as in…..

New Book – Subject Matter – Apothecary

“The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner

Barbara: This book fits into several of my favorite qualities of a book: it is compelling (I always wanted to read one more chapter), it was about a subject I new little of (apothecaries) and it alternated chapters by character’s voice.

Of course, I had to learn a little something about the history of the apothecary. According to Wikipedia, the profession of apothecary can be dated back at least to 2600 BC to ancient Babylon; clay tablets have been found with medical texts recording symptoms, prescriptions, and the directions for compounding. The apothecaries were chemists, mixing and selling their own medicines. They sold drugs from a fixed shopfront, catering to other medical practitioners, such as surgeons, but also to lay customers walking in from the street.

There were ongoing tensions between apothecaries and other medical professions. Often women (who were prohibited from entering medical school) became apothecaries which took away business from male physicians. In 1865 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman to be licensed to practice medicine in Britain by passing the examination of the Society of Apothecaries. By the end of the 19th century, the medical professions had taken on their current institutional form, with defined roles for physicians and surgeons, and the role of the apothecary was more narrowly conceived, as that of pharmacist (or dispensing chemist in British English). However, in German-speaking countries, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, pharmacies or chemist stores are still called apothecaries.

In “The Lost Apothecary” a visitor to England finds an apothecary vial from the 1700s and it leads to unravelling of a mystery from that century. Not a heavy subject, but I don’t like reading only a constant stream of heavier books so I definitely recommend it.

Laura – New TV show – American Anthems

Grab some tissues and get ready to experience a rush of positive emotions. This new show on PBS, American Anthems, actually brought me joy! The program celebrates unsung heroes whose unselfish efforts help improve the lives of others. Each half-hour episode introduces a person who is making a definitive difference and has a country music star (Jennifer Nettles is in Episode 1) write and perform an uplifting, original song that honors these local heroes. The first episode is about a family man who came up with the idea of starting the organization “Stomp the Monster” while undergoing chemotherapy. The scene where he explains why he got the idea to start Stomp was perhaps the most moving moment of the episode for me. Highly recommend this show!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IT’S A WRAP!

The end of the alphabet isn’t ending with the bang we’d like, but you gotta roll with the punches, right? Next month we will be figuring out some ways to change things up or loosen our restrictions, just to make the ABC Life fresh for us. But for now….

Activity – A walk in the park

Barbara: A friend of mine introduced me to the Parr Park Rock Art Trail in Grapevine. I had no idea this place existed. There are 24,459 painted rocks along the trail and it made the Guiness World Record. It was created by Ron Olsen and the Chris Penny family “to spread joy during the pandemic.” The rocks were organized into themes and there were also some that were brought by families and the theme was their family. I understand that people all over the world have sent painted rocks here. What a great project for someone to do with their grandchildren…have them paint rocks to represent their own family and add them to the trail.

I LOVED WINNIE THE POOH’S QUOTE:
“GOOD FRIENDS WILL STICK WITH
YOU UNTIL YOU’RE UNSTUCK”

New Author/Editor: Kate White

Laura: When you are addicted to browsing through cookbooks and love reading a good mystery, you experience a little thrill when you come across The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For by Kate White. This was a fun book to read – not necessarily for the recipes but for the introduction of them by the more than 100 authors, among which were such notable names as Lisa Scottoline, Scott Turow, Harlan Coben, James Patterson, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark and Louise Penny. Some of the author anecdotes were charming, many were humorous and others were more straight-forward. But they all revealed some aspect of the author’s personality. Plus, I now have a slew of unread authors to check out! I’m delighted with this task ahead – no mystery here!

New restaurant – Yo Lobster

We were very excited to try this restaurant. Not only because we love the lobster rolls from the east coast but because our movie group got so many laughs from our reviews of the movie “The Lobster.” But alas, we were SO disappointed. The lobster roll in the picture below looks a whole lot bigger than it was but the main issue was that the lobster was tough and tasteless. I guess our first clue should have been the fact that we were the only diners in the restaurant. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

YO LOBSTER – YOUR FRIES WERE BETTER THAN YOUR LOBSTER!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

W X Y Z ZOOMS TO A CLOSE – PART ONE

Life definitely has a habit of getting in the way of best laid plans and it certainly did for Laura so our last posts of the alphabet will be a little too Barbara heavy. Hopefully things even out next month.

Reading Challenges: (luckily there were no X or Z challenges)

W: Pick at least one word from your book that appeals to you and use while talking to friends.

Barbara – I recently read an article by Susie Dent at the Guardian who talked about words that are no longer in our daily usage such as cacklefarts (eggs), snottingers (hankies) and others but the one word she wants to bring back into usage (and it should be) is respair: fresh hope, the recovery from despair. 

Laura and I have both always been fond of special words. When we didn’t live in the same city, many years ago, she used to call me at work and assign a word to me and we’d both have to use it during our work day. I wish she had given me cacklefarts; now that would have been a challenge. But for this challenge I particularly liked the word jubilant, chiefly because of the definition given it by a character in a book I was reading: “jubilant: makes you feel you finally possess everything you’ve always wanted, you were that happy.” I suspect that is how I will feel if I ever hear I’m going to be a grandma. Another word I liked is in the book I am currently reading, “Young Jane Young” by Gabrielle Zevin. The word is “peeve” as in pet peeve. The reason I liked it so much is that the character in the book hopes to get a pet so that she can say “this is my pet, Peeve.” Boy, do I want to do that!

Y: Challenge yourself to read one book that was nominated or a finalist for any literary award the year you were born.

Barbara: I haven’t done that one yet since I’m in so many book clubs and my to-be-read list is huge, but I’ve got one on my list (you’ll just have to guess at the year)!

New Movie: Val

Laura: The 2021 documentary Val is a compilation of more than 40 years of Val Kilmer’s documentation of his own life and craft. Val and his two brothers had thousands of hours of footage from 16mm home movies they made. Those projects, together with scenes from many of the movies Val was in, present a montage of his life and an insight into the man and the actor. Yes, he comes across as a vain and self-absorbed person but an interesting and intelligent one as well. It’s sad that we now see the results of his bout with throat cancer: he has to press a button on his throat to speak and his voice is unsettling and robotic. (The film is mostly narrated by his son.) But it doesn’t stop him from public appearances, where his fans continue to show him love and respect. I enjoyed this documentary and felt admiration for his spirit. And…I just found out that Val Kilmer used voice AI to speak in the current hit movie Maverick. They were able to dub him with his own voice. When I see this movie, I’m definitely going to pay attention to that remarkable technical achievement.

New Author:  Yara Zgheib

Barbara: I’ve read several books revolving around eating disorders but “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” was the one that affected me the most. It is a heart wrenching novel, more impactful than the movies I saw because it went into more detail about all the different ways it affects the body and your loved ones. The author had anorexia so that could be the reason it was written so realistically and had such an impact.

New documentary – Wrinkles the Clown

This is one that both Laura and I watched together. OMG, talk about disturbing! Wrinkles is a clown that wears a horrible and freakishly scary mask but the thing that makes this story so horrifying is that parents call him to come to their homes to scare their children who are misbehaving. Who would do that?! You can hear how scared the kids are when they play audio of the parent making the phone call to Wrinkles. A child psychologist stated that he thought it was a form of emotional abuse and we agreed with him. Also disturbing were the people, including some kids, who found it “cool”; one preteen made a similar mask and was aspiring to be like Wrinkles. We don’t know about you, but we’ll be checking under our beds for the next couple of days!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WRAPPING UP THE ALPHABET

Things just got away from us in May so we have decided to use June as a month to wrap things up by finishing U V W X Y and Z all in one month, after which we will come up with some new rules for our next round of A-Z and the ABC Life.

Reading Challenges

We did U and V reading challenges and, in addition, forgot to post our completed T reading challenge so we will list the three of them now.

T: Watch a book made into a film or television series.

We were able to do this with books written by Harlan Coben. Actually, there are at least 6 Netflix series based on his books and we loved them because each episode ended with an OMG moment that made us want to go to the next one. We think there are still a couple of series we haven’t seen and we will be sad when they’re gone.

V: Visit a new-to-you library. Wander the stacks. Attend one of their programs. 

We had never explored the Allen Library so this was the time to do it. This library is actually quite big, and aside from literary programs, they also have an auditorium in which they hold performances and lectures. The one we attended was OnStage @ APL: Brasuka. This was described as “Let Brazilian Fusion group Brasuka take you on a musically diverse journey! From samba to reggae, jazz fusion to funk, fiery frevo to tender ballads, this world music ensemble explores multiple Brazilian rhythms and stories.” Having been to Brazil (one of our all-time favorite trips together) this performance hit the mark. It reminded us of our experience at a Samba school in Rio de Janeiro. How nice to find something like this at a library! We will definitely search Allen’s schedule each month. Thank you, ABC Life!

U: Undertake reading a sequel to a book you enjoyed.

Barbara: I had the book Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee on my bookshelf for several years and figured this was the perfect opportunity to pick it up and read it. Having loved To Kill a Mockingbird  I was highly anticipating a great read but unfortunately “you can’t go home again.” There was something lacking in this book and it almost felt like Ms. Lee had not written it. I hate to admit this but I had to put it down before the end.

New restaurant: Jeff’s Vegan

As hard as it would be for us to be vegetarians, eating Vegan style is a step harder. Laura had experience with that when her daughter was younger and went through a period of eating vegan. So, we were skeptical about going to a vegan restaurant. What a surprise! The food at Jeff’s Vegan was wonderful. We tried the Passion Balls which were crispy protein balls with a sweet and sour sauce. They were quite good, and one portion is definitely enough for two. But the star of our lunch was the Health Burger, one of the best non-meat burgers we’ve ever had. If that was what we had to live on we might just be able to live a vegan life. (Of course, we’re writing this as we have lunch at Liberty Burger so what does that say about our will power!)

New Movie: My Father’s Violin

Barbara: I’ve got season tickets to a chamber music group and had planned to go to the last performance of the season, featuring the violin. How upset was I that I had written the date down incorrectly and we were a week late for the concert. So home we went and to make up for it slightly we put on “My Father’s Violin.” This Turkish film did have some nice violin woven through the film but the film itself was, in my opinion, trite with very amateur acting so the evening as a whole was quite disappointing. I’ll have to play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on my Spotify all week to make up for it. Not a bad punishment at all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COMBINING U AND V

Learning Center: UV gotta love these UNUSUAL small-town names

We were searching for a town close by that started with either the letter U or V. While there was, indeed, a long list of names, most were not within a short driving distance of Plano. We finally found one – Van Alstyne – which we’ll talk about below but in doing so we learned about some unusual town names.

Texas has a lot of cool names for towns. (In fact, there even is a town called Cool.) For instance, the town of Venus was originally called Gossip, Texas. NO other information was given about why it had been called Gossip. How could they leave us hanging?! So, we had to make up our own explanation: Since the closest town to Venus is Lillian, TX we think that Lillian and her sister were big gossips but since the town was small and everyone knew everyone else’s business, they would drive a few miles out to an open square of land and tell all the gossip they knew. Eventually that square was incorporated and named Gossip, after the sisters.

Then there’s the town of Uncertain, Texas. According to tradition, when the original residents filled out the application for township they put “Uncertain” in the blank for the name. When the township was given, it then became “Uncertain”. Can you just imagine filling out job applications and where they asked you the name of your city, you could write “Uncertain”? Would you get that interview??

And finally, there is Valentine. Yes, Valentine. How cool would it be to live in Valentine in February! The story goes that a railroad crew had finished laying tracks to where a water and fuel depot would be and the day that they finished was Valentine’s Day, so they named the depot Valentine. In February the Valentine Post Office is “busier than Santa’s elves on Christmas Eve.” because they receive thousands of cards to be re-mailed bearing the Valentine postage stamp. The cards come from all over the U.S. and as many as 30 foreign countries. So, you can actually send your Valentine a Valentine card from Valentine. *(thanks to The Texas Standard article by W. F. Strong for these Valentine facts)

Activity: And now on to the city we visited, Van Alstyne.

We’re not sure how vibrant this city was before the pandemic but there sure were a lot of closures in downtown now. We went into a couple of small stores and Barbara bought some delicious homemade preserves, plus we ate some very delicious pizza (marinara, mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms, chicken and cashews – an unexpected treat) but the thing that really surprised us was that there were 5 or 6 hair salons in that small downtown area. Do the people of Van Alstyne have very challenging hair? Everyone we spoke to was very friendly so all in all we enjoyed our outing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM

From beauty to possible ugliness – this month both were experienced.

TEXAS BLUEBELLS

We must be the only people left in Texas to never have gone into a bed of Texas wildflowers or bluebells to take a photo. This year we corrected that omission. Combined with a nice walk through the trail at a dog park and the day felt beautiful and satisfying.

ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING SCENARIO

Barbara: Now on to the ugly. We hope no one ever experiences a real active shooter situation. But I was able to volunteer to help with police and emergency medical personnel in a training scenario. After receiving my “wounds” (red paint), I received first aid and was transported to a Fire Department’s ambulance. It was so interesting to see how our first responders were trained to handle a possibly fatal situation and I earned a renewed respect for the men and women who do this.

WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TOTALLY UNEXPECTED “T” TREASURES

Sometimes we enjoy heading back to a place we’ve previously discovered on our ABC Life journey. So last weekend we revisited the Coppell Flea Market. We were happy to find out that it was still a good one but the real “treasure” was across the street at a store called TATTERED STYLE.  We met one half of the lovely couple running this store, filled with unusual hand-crafted items. It’s actually two stores: one with the new and some vintage items and the other with antiques. The antiques side had “not so perfect” on their window.

Was Laura feeling “not so perfect” that morning?

What had caught our eye and drew us to the store, were the two 50s style gas pumps. The owner told us that they never were real gas pumps but the store had initially been a Farmers Life Insurance office and they wanted to give it that “nostalgic” appearance. Barbara found a beautiful bowl at the first shop. At first glance we thought it was lightweight like some of the wooden bowls we have seen but it actually was carved from stone and is quite heavy.

On the way home we stopped at another farmer’s market we had been to, this one in Richardson. We were a bit hungry since we started out early, so we noticed a restaurant in the shopping center called TACOS Y MAS. Since its tag line is “Home of Street Tacos” we needed to know what makes a taco a street taco. Street tacos are smaller than the other tacos and usually double stacked to hold the toppings in place. They are almost always open faced and consumed in a few bites (whoever wrote that has a bigger mouth than we do!) They were considered a working man’s lunch. These were yummy and we definitely will return to this particular treasure.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Little did we realize there were so many varieties of Latin American foods in the DFW area, other than Mexican. So, this month we decided to explore a few varieties and “traveled” to El Salvador, Peru and Columbia.

Our first stop was at Salvadorian Cuisine in Richardson.

Our thought was to get a sampler plate, but in retrospect a better way to do this would have been to research the signature dishes of each country beforehand so we would know what to order. The sampler plate here was starch, with a side of starch and a starch chaser. It included a corn tamale, a sweet potato tamale, and a pupusa which had primarily corn or potato in it. Plantains broke it up a bit but this was not our favorite stop.

Next we went to El Portal in Carrollton for some Columbian treats.

We ordered the recommendation of the waitress, which was Bandeja Paisa. This has become so popular in Columbia that it is known as its national dish. According to the Uncover Columbia website  “Traditionally, a Bandeja Paisa consists of two types of Colombian sausage, ground beef, rice, red beans, a fried pork rind called chicharrón, an arepa, a plantain, a slice of avocado (you know, to be healthy) and a fried egg to top it all off.” The sausage we had was quite delicious as were the beans. We didn’t much care for the chicharron and the tiny, tiny steak tasted okay but was definitely not a show stopper. The arepa is a corn patty and should really have been filled with something; on it’s own it’s quite plain. So a mixed review from us.

Our last stop was our absolute favorite.  We went to Peru and visited Lima Taverna in Plano.

We split two appetizers: beef empanadas and chicken skewers. Both were absolutely delicious.  After eating we chatted with the waiter who told us they have been open for 5 years. He was very friendly and brought us a complimentary sample of their “tiger’s milk,” which is what their ceviche is made with. Ceviche is what they are known for and seafood is extremely popular there. We will definitely want to go back, preferably in the evening as they have Latin dancing at night and that would be great to watch.

AND JUST SOUTH…..

Though this is not south of the border, the sampling wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t stop at Southern Recipes down the row from Lima Taverna to sample their pies. We had one coconut meringue and one lemon meringue. Barbara was curious to see if the lemon would come close to the one at S&D Oyster House in Dallas, which is the best she’s tasted. Ironically, when we were kids our mom was known for her wonderful lemon meringue pie but we never tasted it as the thought of meringue was “yucky.” As it turns out the coconut was okay but the lemon meringue had a little too sweet lemony of a taste. As a side note, we were amazed at the pricing on their menu. You wouldn’t know inflation was at work as they were charging a good 50% less for breakfasts than any of the other restaurants we’ve been to lately. So we do intend to come back and see how they fare.

NEW AUTHORS:

Barbara: Matthew Sullivan and Jason Rekulak

I read Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. I love books that take place or revolve around either a bookstore or a library, so this book fit the bill. It kept me interested and wanting to go to the next chapter, with characters that were appealing. Aside from a character study there was also a mystery in it. Highly recommend.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a YA book. I find that when a YA book is good, I just love it and find it charming. This book, while not amazing, held my interest and the two main characters were both awkward and found common ground. It was about friendship and opportunities, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

REVISITING

Last month, we decided that we needed to revisit a few of the places and restaurants we really liked that we had discovered via “the ABC life.” Since we were already heading to Carrollton, we stopped off at A Honey of A Deal. We both thoroughly enjoyed this boutique shoppe and remembered they had unique gift items and great looking clothes. The prices on the clothes have really jumped from a year or so ago, but we each found an item that called our name. Barbara loves her new dish towel and Laura totally relates to her new wooden block sign. And yes, those two were a “honey of a deal”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment